Updated on 08.26.14

Go Green and Save Money: 6 Disposable Items to Stop Buying Now

Trent Hamm

When you go to the grocery store or to the department store, many of the things you buy are disposable – they wind up in the trash. Packages. Plastic wrap. Boxes. Bags.

It’s just trash, right? If you look a bit closer, though, you’ll see something else in there.


Each time you toss something in the trash, you’re tossing away some sort of value. Part of the price you pay at the grocery store goes to cover the packaging and the portion of the item you’ve thrown away.

A better approach? I argue that as a strong rule of thumb, the less you throw away, the less you spend.

6 Ways to Save Money and the Environment

Paper towels

You can get thirty rolls of Bounty on Amazon for $48.39. Each roll has fifty six sheets. From what I can observe, the average paper towel usage requires about two sheets, so let’s just say you get 30 uses per roll, times 30 rolls, means 900 uses. Each use thus costs about $0.05 – and you can’t recoup the cost. Once you use it, it’s gone. Alternately, you could buy fifty pounds of cotton rags for $30.00. Assuming each rag weighs an ounce, you’d get 800 uses out of that batch – about $0.04 per use the first time through. But wait! If you’re using cloth, you can just toss ’em in with the wash and wash them again. Let’s say you could wash all of the cloth in four loads for about a quarter a load – $1 and you have a fresh new batch of 800 cotton rags. That means each subsequent use is one eighth of a cent. Assuming you’d use these things five times a day, over the course of the first year, you’d save $57.96, and in every subsequent year, you’d save $88.97. Paper towels are just throwing money away.

Ziploc bags

Instead of using Ziploc bags, use plastic containers. Buy two large sets of Rubbermaid containers (like this set, giving you 24 containers for $21.99) and you’ll have more than you ever need. Then, whenever you’d ordinarily use a Ziploc bag, grab one of these containers and use it instead. You can freeze stuff in them, keep stuff in the fridge in them, and keep stuff in the pantry in them. When one gets dirty, run it through the dishwasher, effectively replacing it for less than a penny. How does that compare to Ziplocs? You can get 20 quart Ziplocs there for $3.70, making them $0.19 a pop. The large Rubbermaid set above costs $0.92 a pop. After ten storage uses, you’ve dumped $1.90 into the Ziplocs and $1.02 into the Rubbermaid, and the difference grows rapidly from there. Ziplocs are just throwing money away.

swiffer the quicker picker upper! by (nutmeg) on Flickr!Swiffers

My wife got a starter pack of these as a bridal shower gift. Frankly, I don’t get it. You get a poor mop that requires you to buy special pads to replace the head? Come on. Pick up a PVA mop (like this one for $12) and just dip the end in a mix of a half gallon of hot water to one half cup of white vinegar. Cleans like a charm. The low-end Swiffer starter kit costs about the same as the mop, but the cloths are ridiculous – 72 pads for $64.99? You can either blow $0.83 per mopping with a Swiffer or roughly a cent (for the vinegar) with a regular mop. Over twenty moppings, you’re comparing $16.60 to $0.20. Swiffers are just throwing money away.

AA batteries

We have quite a few devices around our home that eat batteries, from the remote controls for our Wii to a plethora of kid’s toys. In short, we were going through AAs like Pac-Man goes through dots. After doing the research, I found that investing in rechargeable batteries would save us significant money in the long run – and I was right. We’ve about passed the break-even point in terms of the cost of the battery charger and rechargeables versus the cost of all of those disposable batteries, and from here on out, it’s downright cheap. Dead batteries are just throwing money away.


Everyone has a box of Kleenexes at home, right? We do, but they’re strictly for guests only. It’s much cheaper to just grab a handkerchief, blow away, and toss it in the wash. Let’s say we’ve bought that big batch of cotton cloths I mentioned above in the paper towel section – they cost about $0.04 per use the first time through and an eighth of a cent each time thereafter. You can get 570 Kleenexes for $8.17 on Amazon, adding up to about about a cent and a half per use. Thus, after only the third use, the handkerchief catches up in price, and thereafter, every eight uses saves you eleven cents. Kleenexes are just throwing money away.

Paper plates

Paper plates are vastly overpriced. You can get reusable plastic plates for $0.20 a pop on Amazon, as many as you want. Use them for picnics and keep them in the closet for large events where you have dozens of guests. Paper plates? Any remotely sturdy ones will cost you a dime or so, meaning the plastic ones are covered after just two uses. After that? It’s saving a dime a use compared to paper. Paper plates are just throwing money away.

These are just a few of the many tips that will help save you money.

What’s the moral of the story here? You save money – often pretty quickly – by buying stuff that’s reusable instead of stuff that’s disposable. Plus, reusing stuff is much more environmentally friendly, too.

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  1. Kim says:

    in reference to the Rubbermaid containers to replace ziplocks.. go one step furhter.. buy your food (yogurt, cottage cheese, etc) in plastic containters, and reuse those.

  2. smgirl says:

    I agree with everything here except the kleenex. I’m sorry but blowing your dirty nose into a cloth and washing it just absolutely grosses me out. I would never do that! Everything else you said makes complete sense but the kleenex idea is just simply too gross for me. I would much rather save the money elsewhere and use no name tissues.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I agree completely – except about the Kleenex. In ordinary day-to-day situations, I’m sure a pocket handkerchief works well. However, as an allergy sufferer who always gets slammed by multiple winter colds, there’s no way I’m giving up my tissues.

  4. Nick says:

    Nice post. I agree with everything here. The cotton rags is a good idea. ALL of these are much much more environmentally friendly.

  5. Michelle says:

    Hankies are much rougher on the nose too. I’d rather spend a little more and get the nice lotioned Kleenexes and save my poor nose than use a rough hankie. And my kids are much more willing to let me wipe their noses if they aren’t all red and raw from wiping too much with a rough cloth.

    I really like my Swiffer. To me, mopping with a bucket is just taking dirty water and rubbing it on the floor. I think it’s gross. I don’t care what you add to the water, when you dump it out, and it’s all grey/brown, I keep thinking about how that’s what I just put on my floor. That’s another thing I’ll pay for to feel comfortable in my home.

    But I agree with everything else!

  6. J. says:

    the only item i’d disagree on that ziplocs have their place, especially in the kitchen. for one specific example, you can marinade meats with much less marinade using a ziploc than using a rubbermaid type container. the sturdy ones are washable many times over (though not in a dishwasher!)

  7. c says:

    Nice post- Would you/any of the readers know if the plastic Ziploc or the other plastic containers contain BPA… thanks

  8. sir jorge says:

    You assume that there is infinite or large amounts of space in our kitchens. While some of this stuff does in fact save money, there has to be the assumption that there is space to store these plastic items, and of course stocks of paper towels to save some money in the long run.

  9. Josh says:

    One thing about the swiffer. I have a swiffer, but instead of using the disposable cloths, I use paper towels and cotton rags. That means that the swiffer base with your cotton rags idea gives you an efficient wall/corner duster for cobwebs and such.

  10. stef says:

    I too agree with about everything. I even make my own menstrual pads, yet am more grossed out by the idea of using a handkerchief. But one comment on the swiffer: Sure, you can mop, and i do, but as someone who lives with hardwood floors and a cat, a dusting between broom and mop is necessary. But instead of buying the swiffer pad, I just cut a rectangle of fleece fabric and put that on the swiffer; it works like a charm and I can wash it. I also made dusting mitts of of fleece.

  11. Andy says:

    Simple but effective idea here. Another thing to do is champion this concept at work. Get people to reuse and buy non-disposable crockery/cutlery. It is amazing how the savings add up.

  12. Jeff says:

    You fail to weigh the cost of running a dishwasher, washing machine, or even doing dishes.

    Paper plates and zip-loc bags ahoy!

  13. Vanessa says:

    I too reuse the plastic containers that yogurt, cream cheese, etc… come in. However, these should only be used for storage and not in the microwave, as the majority of them are not microwave friendly like the way most Rubbermaid/Glad containers are.

    I have also taken to recycling Ziplock bags, especially when I have just used them for a few hours taking cookies or carrot sticks to work. Obviously, I don’t recycle those that contained meats, dairy, etc….

  14. a. says:

    I personally save a lot of money by using adult size cloth diapers instead of toilet paper. :)

  15. George says:

    From an economic point of view, Trent’s right on. From an environmental point of view, more research is required. For instance, cotton production is not kind to the soil and paper is renewable where plastics might not be (depends on their base ingredients).

  16. margo says:

    I agreed with you mostly until the end. I think the money “wasted” on Kleenex is worth the convenience and hygenic benefit. I really don’t want to add to the possibility of spreading germs by having the non-sick people in the house handling the sick people’s used hankies.

    Also, disposable plates: we buy and use these strictly for when we don’t want to wash dishes, like for large events or picnicking. I’d rather spend the money to pitch a paper plate that will, at least, degrade in a reasonable amount of time than buy more flimsy plastic that will eventually get thrown away.

    Similarly, as my collection of Ziploc and similar containers grow nasty (holes from oils, tomatoes, etc. being microwaved), I am slowing replacing them with glass containers. My grandmother has some with plastic lids she’s used since the ’60’s.

    And, the Swiffer. Got any knitters or crocheters in your group of friends? There are many patterns online for making reusable cotton Swiffer pads. I love my Swiffer for its design, lightweight frame, small size for ease of use and storage. Those “regular” mop pads go bad eventually, and again, I’d rather be tossing a cheaply homemade all-cotton knit cover after it comes apart than more weird plastic crap.

  17. Michael says:

    Furniture, houses…

  18. BonzoGal says:

    How is it more ‘gross’ to toss a used handkerchief in the wash than it is to toss in underwear/panties? You may not see the fecal bacteria in your underthings, but it’s there- and detergent and water take them out, just as well as they take out boogers.

    I’m trying to talk my husband out of paper towels- he uses them to clean up after cooking- we go through about a two rolls a month! I have to stand in the kitchen and mop up spills, etc. with a dishrag, but if I’m not there he grabs the paper. (And if I don’t buy it- he does. Sigh.)

  19. Michele says:

    It’s $4.00 here to do a load of laundry plus the dryer sheets and detergent. $0.25 a load, I wish.

  20. Great job, Trent. This article really hit home. For two years, I used paper bowls for breakfast and dinner thinking I was helping the planet by using less water. I also used a boat load of paper towels. I stopped doing all of that back in January when I started reviewing the monthly costs. Fortunately, I never purchased that Swifter sweeper I’ve been looking at. Now you can bet I won’t. Very timely post from you…as always.

  21. Anne says:

    I’m with Rebecca on the kleenex front. There is no way handkerchiefs would get me through the allergy seasons (like right now, hello leaf mold).

    I also really agree with margo on the glass containers. I’m slowly building up a nice collection. Glass = no need to worry about leeching chemicals.

    My suggestions: stainless steel water bottles, refill “pretty”/small soap containers from gigantic bottles from Costco/Sams, and one I’m not doing but know I should be, washable/reusable feminine hygiene products (think Divacup).

  22. Melissa says:

    My problem with using rags vs. paper towels is, where do you keep the soiled ones while waiting for a full load for the washing machine? Our laundry room isn’t big enough to be able to have a pile waiting. Our dirty clothes are in hampers in our bedrooms, but somehow I can’t put soiled/wet rags in there too.

  23. Brendan says:

    Some interesting ideas. To me, the “frugal” ideas only make sense when they are at least as functional as more expensive alternatives (disposable or not) since the reason I buy things is generally to meet a need. By that metric, there is no alternative for kleenex to me. When I need them, I tend to need quite a few (allergies or illness) and I am not willing to use a rough product if I have a choice.

    Washable plastic plates is a good suggestion for something like a picnic, but not for disaster prep where the point is to avoid needing to wash.

    Also many of these ideas require more personal infrastructure to deal with the maintenance. Basically, each category of cleaning cloth that you use requires its own receptacle to avoid cross contamination. So, you need another hamper for dirty cloths: one for handkerchiefs, one for mop cloths, dish cloths, etc. It’s just not sanitary to mix them in with standard laundry (esp if they were used on something like raw meat or filthy floors). The cost of maintaining this infrastructure may not be trivial, if you live in a small apartment.

    Re: Michael’s comment: not true of all furniture, but certainly true of Ikea. :-) Pay more, buy something that will last.

    Another idea: use cotton barmop cloths rather than sponges for washing dishes and then wash them. This is actually more sanitary than sponges.

  24. RazzBari says:

    Melissa – can you hang a lingerie/sweater mesh bag somewhere in your kitchen, broom closet, or anywhere else you would generate dirty rags? The mesh would allow them to dry somewhat, and the bag makes it handy to toss in the next appropriate wash load.

  25. Kristi says:

    On the rag vs. paper towel thread – I’m a big believer in kitchen towels vs. paper towels. They’re about the same weight, have similar absorbencies, and a towel is so much more practical when you’ve got a mess that requires multiple wipe and rinse cycles.
    My favorite cleaning rag is simple – old t-shirts. They’re soft, absorbent, bleached of dyes (so they won’t stain surfaces), and reuseable until they fall apart. I usually cut them into 12″ squares, and store a bunch in a plastic bag in the laundry room. Soiled rags are stored in a small mesh laundry bag (so they won’t rot) and get tossed into the laundry any time I’m doing a larger load with things like bathroom rugs or mop pads. (My Bona reuseable mop beats Swiffer anyday, and that’s coming from a former lover of all things Swiffer).

  26. Ryan McLean says:

    Those are some great tips. I especially agree with the mop thing. I also just “don’t get it”. Why spend $20 a month in pads and special fluid when you can buy a cheap regular mop for $5.

  27. TJ says:

    I agree with all of these. And while we do use hankies in our home, we also have tissues available. One thing that is important to note, is that with a virus, you risk exposing others while using a cloth hanky. So it’s important to know when to use a hanky, and when to use a tissue.

  28. Agree and disagree.

    You make some interesting points on a few items, but the bulk of the conversation also comes down to convenience and time management.

    Alloted space might actually cancel out if you assume that many people will buy these supplies at costco in bulk and need somewhere to store them. Of course, a few rolls of paper towels don’t have the same smell as twenty pounds of used kitchen rags.

    Rechargable batteries? Yes. Hankies and a cabinet of mismatched tupperware? No thanks.

  29. Pete says:

    We’ve been trying most of these [with the exception of the kleenex thing…]

    We also stopped using sponges altogether in the kitchen and use dishrags now. Takes a little getting used to, but I’m happy with the change so far.

    We still use some paper towels, but not NEARLY as many.

    As far as where to keep the rags and whatnot until laundry time… In the washer. Then when laundry time rolls around, that’s the first load that gets done. Rags and bathroom towels. Works out great for us, but then again, our laundry closet is attached to our kitchen, so I can throw the rag into the washer from the sink if it’s open. Might not be so convenient for others.

  30. Mule Skinner says:

    We are currently experimenting with rags vs paper towels. The rags are all white so we launder them with tee shirts and other whites, with a bit of bleach, so they get sterilized as well as washed. When I was a kid we used hankerchiefs instead of tissues – I prefer not to carry around a pocketfull of snot.

  31. Roger Johnson says:

    I LOVE the idea about rechargeable batteries. I convinced my wife of this a year or so ago. It was great. Between the RC cars, and the wireless xbox controllers, it was a great savings having them. The big problem we have is keeping track of them. Any ideas on how do do that?

  32. Cory says:

    Brendan – unless you plan to pull the dirty rags out of the hamper and re-use them, why be concerned with cross-contamination.

    The germs that may be on them (even from meat cleanup) aren’t immortal and a quick washing with a little bleach followed by fully drying them will kill pretty much everything that they might have gotten on them.

  33. Debbie M says:

    I don’t know what kind of handkerchiefs you guys are using but mine is easier on my nose than disposable tissues. But then I think the tissues with lotion are gross because they feel slimier than regular tissues (now, with more boogers!). So maybe I’m a weirdo.

    I also like that if I accidentally leave a hankie in my pocket I don’t have to re-do the entire load of wash like when I accidentally leave a tissue in my pocket.

  34. ryan says:

    I agree with all except the swifter. We use vinegar in the little bottle and reusable rags. Combines the ease of swifter will the economically and environmentally sound practice reusability.

  35. G says:

    I too will also have to chime in about how a handkerchief would not be able to replace kleenx for me. One little (or large for that matter) handkerchief would not be able to hold the amount of mucus I can produce. That’s definitely not something I want to fold over and store in my pocket so I can throw it in the hamper when I get home at the end of the day.

    On a different note I really like those static-cling dusting swiffers. But yeah, the mop swiffers seems like a total waste.

  36. Nate says:

    I just moved into a new apartment(for the first time on my own) this helps tremendously as I decide what to buy and what not to buy. Thanks Trent!


  37. Dave says:

    My old roommate had the exact same comment about the Swiffer. It’s a “disposable culture,” he said, and we should just get a regular mop.

  38. Heather says:

    Great tips, Trent. As energy, raw material, water and transportation prices increase, the cost of disposable goods will only increase.

    We also use cloth for everything. My washer and the sun work great, so no cross-contamination worries.

  39. Stephanie says:

    i got my hankies from hankettes, a company that makes organic cotton hankies as kleenex alternatives. they are the softest things in the world — way softer and gentler on my nose than any tissue i’ve tried. AND i have allergies — that’s why i got them… i was tired of going through so much kleenex!

  40. Stephanie says:

    PS great post, Trent!

  41. Stephanie says:

    PPS — someone mentioned this but I’d like to second that Divacups are another great alternative to disposable menstrual products for women…

  42. Don says:


    You might try different colors of tape, or simple lables, on different sets of rechargeable batteries. That way the set for the camera, or the remote, or whatever, will stay together and will (hopefully) wear out at the same rate.


  43. J says:

    Anne (and anyone else interested in the Diva Cup), I just wanted to say you should take the leap on the Diva Cup (or whatever brand suits your fancy). I use a Diva, and I LOVE it. I had a tiny bit of trouble with it during my first period of use, but after that…smooth sailing. It is so comfortable and easy…you couldn’t pay me to use tampons again. It is well worth the cash for this alone, but to think that it is more environmentally friendly and more economical in the long run…it’s a win-win situation.

  44. cv says:

    I think a lot of these are great ideas, but I do agree on the infrastructure point. If you pay $1.75/load to do laundry, even assuming that you hang things to dry, then it changes your costs a bit.

    With things like this I try to keep in mind the frequency with which I use some of these items. With paper towels, it’s probably a good idea to switch to cloth, since we use them regularly. I will say that I use the half sheet size, and I find that one (half) sheet is enough in many cases. Maybe with young kids the messes are two-sheet size.

    On the other hand, we’ve been going through the same $4 pack of disposable paper plates for at least a year now, mainly for camping trips and such. $4 a year is worth the convenience to me. I do try to buy paper, which is biodegradable.

  45. djc says:

    One that gets me really annoyed is the commercials for the toilet scrubber with a disposable head. What I do is use a regular toilet brush with a leakproof plastic holder, and put a little water and sanitizing cleaner in the holder. That way the brush cleans properly and doesn’t get icky. Every so often I throw the solution down the toilet and put fresh in.
    I agree with the posters who prefer hankies – I had my mother send some fine lawn cotton ones from England and I much prefer them to Kleenex. I also will dry my hands with a clean hankie in public restrooms to avoid using paper towel.

  46. Amy says:

    Ugh, no name tissues. They’re okay for the occasional wipe, but during a cold or allergy attack, repeated rubbing with low quality tissues takes its toll on the nose/skin.

    Another pair is aluminum baking trays or similar vs. ceramic, durable plastic, etc. for potluck dishes. Once I let myself be convinced to take a disposable tray to a picnic (“so that you don’t have to worry about getting it back” vs. someone making off with it), but the dish ended up only half eaten, and eager cleaner-uppers completely threw out the rest while I wasn’t paying attention. I was pretty mad since it was the food as well as the tray! Never again – I’ll keep track of both.

  47. Alice says:

    Growing up we used sturdy ziploc bags to carry sandwiches or cut-up fruit to school. My mom would wash them out with the rest of the dishes; eventually they would wear out or get holes, but until then they were great space-savers in the backpack. I think a judicious use of re-used plastic bags makes more sense for carrying food around then bulky tupperware. Otherwise, these are all great tips.

    I also second (third?) the divacup recommendation. I’ve been using them for four years now and I’d never go back.

  48. JMO says:

    Reusable vs. disposable seems to be a matter of cost vs. convenience vs. comfort level. Example: I’m not going to stop using disposable toilet paper – yes, it costs more, but the convenience is worth it to me, and I’m not comfortable with the idea of storing, washing, and reusing rags instead.

    That being said — although I live in a small space and won’t commit to 50 lbs of cotton rags or a proper large bucket/mop/broom, I’ve been very successful at applying the reusable approach to feminine hygiene products:

    A box of 40 tampons costs about $7. Assuming you use maybe 3-4 a day, and have a period lasting 6 days, that box should last about 2 months, so you’d spend maybe $42 a year on tampons.

    Or you could pay $30-40 up front for a DivaCup or Keeper that will last you maybe 10 years. Bonus: You can wear a cup overnight without worrying about TSS, not so with tampons. I love my Keeper and don’t know how I ever got along without it.

    A box of 24 disposable pads costs about $8. Assuming you use 2 a day (one during the day as a backup for tampons, and 1 overnight), and have a period lasting 6 days, that box should last 2 months, so you’d spend maybe $48 a year on pads.

    Alternatively, you could pay $80 up front for a set of cloth menstrual pads (12 pads and 24 liners), roughly one month’s supply. Assuming you’ll be menstruating for a while yet, this will pay for itself soon (even sooner if you make your own out of scrap flannel). Bonus: cloth pads are way more comfortable than plastic disposables.

  49. Why I love disposable stuff: I hate junk, clutter, stuff, maintenance, bulk. I buy very close to nothing which is not consumable/disposable, and I believe that every purchase should have a ‘disposal strategy’. By buying only disposable you ensure you are not adding clutter. You compartmentalize expenses, so e.g. cleaning messes (i.e. paper towels) is not divided up into the up front cost of rags, plus laundry detergent, water bill for the washer, electric & gas bill for the dryer, cost of storage, your time/effort, etc. Very difficult to track. Sorry, but 50 lbs. of rags sounds like my biggest nightmare. In a five years, you have 50 lbs. of dirty old rags. Gross!!!

    This is very contrary to the ‘old school’ Depression-era frugality of saving everything. I believe those days are obsolete because manufacturing/labor now is very inexpensive, and also increasing synthetic materials are also very inexpensive, more eco-friendly, …

  50. Susy says:

    Glass containers are even cheaper than plastic and they last forever (not to mention they don’t add PBA to your food). I use rags for almost everything (cat & dog puke however still gets a paper towel). Buying at the farmer’s market gets rid of tons of packaging for me as well (and using cloth shopping bags).

    I still use kleenex’s though, can’t make myself use a hanky.

  51. Maureen says:

    Glad to see toilet paper wasn’t on your list. I’ll keep my kleenex too, thanks. Ewwww!

  52. Lurker Carl says:

    Most disposable products aren’t frugal but some are very practical. There are some clean-ups I don’t really want to wash and are better tossed out. Household chemical spills require paper towels instead cloth rags. Those of us with allergies can’t fathom using hankies anymore than someone would want to keep a wet washcloth in their back pocket. I won’t give up toilet paper either!

  53. kristine says:

    Please add in bottled water. An environmtnal nightmare! A filtered pitcher and non-disposable water bottels are the way to go.

  54. gsb says:

    Frugal Bachelor, I’m just curious to your buying disposable strategy. Are the products you buy all recyclable and environmentally friendly? While it may be easier and leave you with less clutter to deal with it is really so much better to go disposable than to spend a little more time/effort to wash some rags??

  55. Carrie says:

    I’m on the fence about swiffers.
    I have the simplest model – It doesn’t do any fancy spraying to wet disposable cloth. I found that the swiffer picked up lots of stuff left after sweeping, but I was having trouble justifying the disposable nature of the swiffer cloths. My alternative – buy several microfiber cloths – these pick up just as well as the swiffer cloths, are about the same size so they fit the siwffer easily, and can be washed and reused. And, if I wanted to use it for a mop, I second what someone else said – a spray bottle in my hand does the job!

  56. Sarah says:

    I too use microfiber cloths on my Swiffer (got it as a wedding gift too!), they just stick to the Velcro easy as pie. I refill the bottles too, with whatever I have handy and cheap at the time. It only takes a funnel….
    Also, feminine hygiene products….I use re-useable cloth ones and the savings are awesome. So…if I’m willing to toss those in the laundry, I’m certainly not going to sniff at hankies in the laundry. That’s what your HE sanitizing wash is FOR folks!
    I think what you’re seeing here (in part) is how dependent our society has become on disposable items. For lords sake! The pioneers often didn’t have enough dishes in their own household and had to SHARE plates, forks and knives with one another. We’ve got to toughen up a little. Get extra, mismatched flatware and plates from a local thrift store, and only bring them out for the big parties if you must (we use them all the time and no, we don’t look like we live in “redneck house” either). If Martha Stewart can get away with it, so can I!

  57. Brenda W. says:

    As a registered nurse, let me just reinforce the unappreciated ability of soap and water to get rid of germs and viruses. Realize advertisers have made us all think we have to ***KILL*** these dangerous microbes to keep our families safe, when all one really needs to do is get them somewhere else (like down the drain).

    Soap and water does this perfectly! As an RN, I am exposed to many germs far worse than the ordinary cold or flu germs the average family might deal with in hankies. Washing my uniforms after every shift takes care of those germs just fine. And I use cold water … there is nothing magic about hot water getting rid of more germs … the soap is actually the part that is so important … its chemical activity is such that via friction germs, dirt, etc get suspended in the water and then washed down the drain.

    To help put the concept of cloth hankies in perspective, realize the same germs that would be on those are also on the plates, cups, silverware that sniffly family members might have (germs that are in the nose are also in the mouth and in saliva).

    Trent … thanks for a great post … I must admit I’m already doing all those things EXCEPT paper towels. There are times I think I keep Bounty in business all by myself. Thanks to your post today, I think I’m going to change that. I already have a large supply of rags (which are really just worn out kitchen towels). Thanks for the impetus I needed to change this habit!! (but like Susy of comment #38 … I think I’ll keep paper towels around for the occasional dog puke!!)

  58. Laura says:

    Simple, yet brilliant! For the past several months, I have been washing and reusing the quart and gallon size ziploc bags. They last for about 6 or 8 uses!

  59. doctor S says:

    I do not know about the whole hanky idea but I definately agree with the food containers. My biggest struggle is trying to be frugal and looking for any help I can get. Great post.

  60. kristine says:

    Brenda makes a good mention about rags- why in the world buy them? Flannel PJ rags are perfect for dusting furniture. Old towels are good for everything else.

  61. Bella says:

    Thank you Brenda! Glad to hear what I alway tought: advertisers really are only frighten us more so we buy MORE!
    I love glass containers! I even find it more enjoyable to eat in them, they are easier to clean (hewww, grease and tomato, or curry, on plastic) I even got several Pyrex containers with lids for 10$ (5 containers and 5 lids). Great!
    I use the Diva Cup since almost 3 years now, love it.
    I bought, last year, cause they were on sale, 8 rolls of paper towels. I still have quite a few. I mainly use them for dog puke.
    Glad you didn’t mention toilet paper too! I guess I’m not there yet…
    For kleenexes, I think toilet paper is just find and about 10 times cheaper than kleenexes:
    Kleenexes: about 1.29$ for 100: 0,02$
    Toilet paper: (kirkland) about 0,50$ a roll, 1000 sheets, lets say you use 4 to replace a kleenex: 250 uses for 0,50$ 0,002$
    humm. And they are fine.
    I never liked the idea of fabric hankies. I use to think of people reusing them all day long… but one use could do it. Plus, you can alway upgrade to silk on occasion, or old clothes cut down to hankies…
    I don’t like swiffer either: Can’t imagine all those chimicals staying on my floor. For their static electricity attraction properties, I can always use blue microfiber rags from the dollar store: they work just fine and are tough to wear out.

  62. Brooke says:

    we are switching from plastic storage containers to glass. the best is WECK. they sell them online for relatively cheap, they’re airtight, and they’ll last forever (not to mention they’re really nice looking too.

    we use rags instead of paper towels and it drives me CRAZY. for the majority of jobs you use it once and it’s wet and nasty. you don’t want to rinse it out. even if you do you are stuck with a wet rag. we live in a city apartment with no washer/dryer or laundry room so there is no where to hang them to dry out. what we end up with is a big pile of wet nasty rags that sometimes starts getting moldy by the time i get around to washing them (mostly because my husband is “supposed” to wash them since it is his thing, not mine and he never does, so i end up doing it).

  63. steve says:

    brenda beat me to it.

    people are irationally/emotially afraid of germs. Of courseno one is advocating sharing your hanky with anyone! Where did anyone get that idea? Use your own. If you want you can have Kleenex available in the house too. No one is going to shoot you for that.

    In most cases, it is not necessary to bleach your laundry just becuase you have some dirty rags in it. All that clorox into the envrironment is really bad–chlorine is one of the most mutagenic chemicals out there. I just wash my rags in with the appropriate batch of clothes, with cold water and detergent. A couple kitchen towels and cleanup rags in with my jeans is not going to harm them. 99.99% or more of any germs on them are gone after that. Then they get dried–I happen to line dry. Most bacteria need moisture to survive-dry clothes will terminate most of them, of the very few that are left after laundering. Of course if you do them in a dryer they are all gone. Very few germs will survive that.

    However I do not use a dryer.

    PS the most effective way to clean your kitchen floor I have ever found is to simply use a mop with ample changes of water and soap, then when everything is clean but still is wet, take a dry bath towel and “skate” over the floor with it, taking up all the water and drying the floor.

    Then thow the towel in with your next load of jeans on a cold water wash. People you really do not need Clorox unless you are trying to sanitize something for food production, like making beer or something. Soap and water works fine.

  64. Amber says:

    The only thing I use paper towels for is my floors. I think mopping is gross so I get down on my hands and knees with vineger water and paper towels. I use Viva because the are tougher and I can use only two on my entire kitchen. I’ve never bought facial tissues. I use toilet paper-it’s the same stuff in a different package and I usually use less tissue that way. As for dirty rags and not enough space. I bought one of those inexpensive drying racks that you can hang on the wall and I have that up in my laundry room-I wring them out and hang them up until they are dry and then toss them into the towel pile to be washed.

  65. steve says:

    “Infrastructure Cost?”

    Compared to cutting down a tree, shipping it to a pulping plant, pulping it, separating the lignin from the cellulose, washing it with water, pulping it, laying it out in sheets and drying it to make paper, then shipping it to your door so you can blow your nose/clean yur counter/whatever with it, reusing a cloth by throwing it in with the laundry you are doing anyways is very inexpensive, monetarily and environmentally.

    Trent’s example of buying 50 lbs of cloths is just that, an example for the sake of argument. How about buying as many cloths as is the same volume as your average paper towel purchase at the supermarket? That would be a hefty amount, yet would last you 15 years. And you just use a few at a time, and wash them as you go along with your normal washing. People seem to be stretching to find a reason to resist this idea for some reason. Probably due to 30 years of advertising from the newly created “convenience” industries.

  66. Kate says:

    Melissa – I use only cotton and linen towels & dishcloths in my home. I bought a small metal container I put under my sink to hold dirty linens, and keep them separate from clothing. After they’ve been used enough, I let them dry (so no mold or mildew or smell) and then put them in the container. It’s easy!

  67. Aaron says:

    On the swiffer note: A swiffer used with microfiber towels is an awesome sweep/dusting device, it virtually sucks the dirt in. You can use the same device and just fill the spray bottle with a water/vinegar mixture to mop. I prefer the microfibers over just “rags by the pound” because i think they do a better overall and suck up more liquid.

    If you are going to switch to rags/microfibers, DO NOT was them with fabric softener, it reduces their ability to absorb liquids.

  68. borealis says:


    It would be helpful if you put these frugal activities more in perspective. So you save $8 or $16 a year by using handkerchiefs…. that is minuscule compared to an interest rate savings on a mortgage.

    I think the Aloe laced Kleenex are one of the greatest inventions of the decade — my nose’s pain is worth $100 a month over what it used to be.

    Be sure to put frugality in perspective — the difference in how you pay your credit card or whether you eat out or eat in is much bigger than many of these suggestions.

  69. Rob in Madrid says:

    handkerchief, good lord I haven’t used one since I was a kid! Used to take them to school!

  70. elizabeth says:

    I was surprised that you didn’t include disposable razors on your list. My son and husband both use safety razors. Instead of tossing the entire razor every few uses, they simply change out the blade. No plastic razors and no plastic packaging in the landfills.

    I plan to buy a safety razor for myself one of these days and put an end to my own use of disposable razors. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get my daughter to switch.

  71. Somebody beat me to it, but, why on Earth would you buy rags? In my house, old clothes that are not fit for the thrift store are made into rags. I have not bought paper towels regularly since my son was a baby, and he’s 7 1/2 now. Besides cleaning, single-use hankies (blow and toss in the hamper–no recycled snot hanging around!) I use them for washing my face at night and removing makeup. Because I have very sensitive skin, I need a clean cloth every time I wash my face. I also use them in my old Swiffer, like lots of other people! As far as what to do with them while they dry, I just hang them over the towel rack, oven door, or faucet until they are dry enough, then toss them in a small plastic basket I keep in the kitchen. (I bought it at the dollar store.) I have a similar basket for the clean ones, which lives under the sink. I don’t even waste time folding the clean ones–just toss them in there!

  72. IRG says:

    Interesting post as always with a good perspective on what things cost in terms of $ and the environment. And how easy it is to overlook the waste involved.

    Only one quibble: In calculating costs for laundry, there is cost of water, electricity,gas (for washers and dryers) time, detergents and, in some cases, what you have to pay per load. No way is that only $.25 per load. No way.

    In some cases, it is NOT more economical to have all those cotton rags around and wash them–and dry them. I live in a NYC apartment and I don’t have room for bags of dirty rags–and there’s nowhere to hang them dry in the apt. Don’t have enough space just for weekly laundry.

    And the cost of laundry is high, when you have to pay for each load. (A neighbor once figured out what she had spent in ten years on the laundry. She could have purchased several expensive washers and dryers!)

    As for germs, frankly, you should be careful. Especially if you have to share your washers with hundreds of people as we do in our building. I’m using hot water and bleach not just because I’m worried about germs on my clothes, but to disinfect the machines I use. (And those front-loading hi-efficiency machines? They breed their own brand of germs…air them out between washes.)

  73. Jules says:

    I’m not a fan of hankies, either, but that’s just because I forget to wash them. Otherwise–yeah. Who needs that crap?

  74. katy says:

    Trent, wonderful piece as always.

    Just one thought. paper towels are mandatory with a puppy!

  75. Matt says:

    $36 for 8 cotton hankies at hankettes.com….. that’s an awful lot of Kleenex, and you’d probably have to buy more than 8 hankies if you’re an avid user where switching would actually be economical. :)

  76. Stephanie says:

    yes, the hankies ARE expensive… $26 for 8 for the natural, undyed ones… but worth it in my opinion, because as someone mentioned, non-organic cotton is quite environmentally damaging. (plus they are just SO SOFT!) for me, i balance the cost with environmental aspect, which is why this post makes so much sense to me. disposables are never a good thing for the environment, or the budget.

    i DO use paper towels though, for cleaning kittie litter boxes… no way i’m washing cat poop in the washing machine — that is where i draw the line ;) though thanks to your post, Trent, i will try harder in other areas with the paper towel… cleaning regular messes with rags.

  77. Dave says:

    Borealis said: “It would be helpful if you put these frugal activities more in perspective. So you save $8 or $16 a year by using handkerchiefs…. that is minuscule compared to an interest rate savings on a mortgage.”

    Agreed, but does doing any of these things put a great imposition on one’s lifestyle? Sounds like for most people on the thread, except for the Kleenex thing, probably not. I personally think its not about deprivation; each person needs to pick and choose what to be frugal on without affecting the way they live dramatically.

    Generally speaking, most people have the money to pay the mortgage, car payment or credit card. Many times, it’s all the nickel and dime stuff that makes it more difficult to make these larger payments. Often times, little thought is given to these little purchases and how a few $$$ can be saved here and there. If the savings can be directed towards debt payment and not just absorbed into other areas of spending, it goes a LONG way in paying off the larger stuff. Nice post Trent!

  78. Laura In Atlanta says:

    “then when everything is clean but still is wet, take a dry bath towel and “skate” over the floor with it, taking up all the water and drying the floor.”

    LOL . . . I’m glad that someone else out there does this!! I always feel a bit silly doing it, but gosh it DOES make a difference. ;-)

    Good tips, Trent . . . but like many others, I’m disagreeing with you on the kleenex tip. No way I want to carry nasty stuff around all day with me. Tis worth the money spent to be able to toss it away . . .

    The paper towel/rag tip though? Brilliant. I am going to put some thought into that one. ;-)

    Laura in Atlanta

  79. Amanda B. says:

    Just for the record:
    Paper Plate + compost pile = biodegradable
    Paper Plate + plastic trash bag + anaerobic environment (land fill) = NOT biodegradable!
    You can’t claim paper plate are “green” if you don’t give them the opportunity to degrade.

  80. i’m with you on everything but the handkerchiefs. ick.

  81. Meika says:

    A post full of great reminders of things we could be doing differently – thanks!

    Don’t have time to read all the comments, but I’m surprised by some that I’ve read on hankies as I’ve found them much easier on my nose than kleenex. We have kleenex around the house now(and thanks, Trent, for reminding me that there’s an alternative), but I began using hankies at least sometimes specifically to deal with allergy seasons. My nose drips like a faucet all day long and I can go through a box of kleenex in a day, but a hankie will keep me for hours, if not all day. And if I have to go to the grocery store or anything, I’d be reusing the same ten tissues I managed to shove into my pockets, which were falling apart by the end of the trip – now THAT’S gross. A hanky might get a little damp, but it’s nothing compared to those nasty, overused kleenex. Especially because (sorry to be so graphic, but it’s relevant) allergy snot is so watery that it’s just not that gross. I might choose the kleenex for a bad cold – but maybe I hsould just invest in more hankies and switch more often!

  82. Meika says:

    And – I just checked out the “mixed cotton rags” website and noticed that they’re cut from ladies’ dresses and men’s dress shirts. So here’s another idea – cut up your old clothes that aren’t in good enough shape for Goodwill and use those for rags (poor people don’t want to wear things with huge armpit stains, either). I think I’ve read that this is how our grandmothers made tea towels and stuff.

  83. femmeknitzi says:

    We joined a large group of friends last weekend on our annual camping trip. Picnics and camping trips are the primary culprits of disposable usage. I found that it was easy to go paper and plastic free, even when camping.

    We were one of the only families not to bring plastic utensils, bottles of water and other wasteful items. We just bring one of those big rubbermaid spigot coolers that you see on the back of work trucks, fill it up with ice water and that was enough for me, my boyfriend and our dog for three days.

    Then we bring a tackle box full of actual utensils, cafeteria trays that we found in the attic, microfiber dish cloths, camping cookware and a nice gray tub to make clean up easy.

    If we can survive without disposables while camping, it’s super easy to do it at home.

  84. Brona says:

    A very sensible post. One thing though, for the Kleenex users: if you must use disposable tissues, at least try another brand. Kimberly-Clark (Kleenex) uses virgin old-growth forest to make their paper products.

  85. megan says:

    As far as mopping goes, I’ve got to put in a plug for a steam mop. (I’ve got a Bissell, I’ve also heard Steamboy is good). Easy to use (looks like the Swiffer), cleans with steam (no chemicals), cleans very well, and the reusable pads go in the wash. My floors look great, and now that it’s so quick I’ll mop every other day. I’ve had mine for about 1.5 yrs and I’ll never go back to the bucket and mop.

  86. Sally says:

    ok – I agree w/most on the kleenex. Hankies w/snot in them all jumbled up together – that is just too ewwwwy for me. I find the Swiffer wet to be an awesome thing! It’s so much more sanitary than moving around the same old smelly germs from the last “cleaning” of the floor.

    I prefer glass plates to paper any day. Glass for drinkware too.

    The paper towels – I can’t commit to no paper towels – sorry – they are very convenient and help me save time – I already do enough laundry and space would be somewhat of an issue. Besides unless I am looking in the wrong place – most of the dish towels that I use are very absorbent

  87. Sally says:

    ok – I agree w/most on the kleenex. Hankies w/snot in them all jumbled up together – that is just too ewwwwy for me. I find the Swiffer wet to be an awesome thing! It’s so much more sanitary than moving around the same old smelly germs from the last “cleaning” of the floor.

    I prefer glass plates to paper any day. Glass for drinkware too.

    The paper towels – I can’t commit to no paper towels – sorry – they are very convenient and help me save time – I already do enough laundry and space would be somewhat of an issue. Besides unless I am looking in the wrong place – most of the dish towels that I use aren’t very absorbent

  88. Kevin says:

    I hate Swiffers, they never work well for me and you have to use about 3-4 pads each time to get our whole floor clean (kitchen, living room & 2 bedrooms all hardwood floors).

    Good idea by the first commenter to reuse containers bought at the store, my grandmother used to do this all the time – so we’d constantly have butter/margarine containers stacked up with leftovers in our fridge.

    We’re trying to convert from paper towel users – our problem is not enough rags as they tend to get dirty before we’re ready for another load. Thanks for the link, I may have to buy some of those.

  89. Kevin says:

    For someone that asked about BPA – here’s the info from Rubbermaid’s website (including the product Trent linked to):


  90. Nanc says:

    You can go to the fabric store and buy a yard of flannel for a few dollars and cut it up to make hankies. They are nice and soft and you can get about 9 hankies (12″ x 12 to 14 “) out of a yard of flannel. Kids think they are great to have their favorite character on the hankie.

  91. Dawn says:

    I’m with Megan. I use a Shark steam mop to clean my floors. No harsh chemicals to buy, the steam sanatizes. The pads are reusuable. It’s small, lightweight and a breeze to use.

    I also use Handi-Wipes. I get a big bag from BJs and they last me a year or two. They don’t take up a lot of space like rags would. I use them constantly to wipe down the kitchen and to clean the bathroom. Though, I still use way too many paper towels for other things (stove top, mirrors etc.)

    Hankies? No thanks. I don’t want to carry around snot in my pocket all day.

  92. Lissa says:

    I hate cleaning. Period. If using disposable items makes the task more tolerable, I’ll pay whatever the price. Sorry, but I can afford the Swiffer pads a lot easier than hiring a cleaning service. Those don’t cost me hundreds of dollars, even annually!

    Oh, and the Clorox Toilet Wand is just the best invention since sliced bread IMHO. I don’t care if you’re against it, but it makes the task easier AND cleans it better than any brush/cleanser I’d used before. Combine it with the wipes and drop-ins, and the cleaning is a snap.

    Anything that helps me do a job that I hate and despise is worth the cost.

  93. luvleftovers says:

    Sorry Trent, but hankies are DISGUSTING! My ex used these and we fought constantly about them. The cost savings is not worth the spread of disease and the ICK factor of having to wash them. (I eventually refused to do so.)

    My Mom has severe allergies. She couldn’t stand how much she was spending on tissues. One day she used a table napkin and it was soft enough. Now she buys the economy size package and saves at least 50%.

    As for paper towels, I prefer sponges or rags that can be sterilized in the microwave, but keep a roll of the 1/2 cut towels, which I often tear in half again. This way, I only use about 4 rolls a year.

  94. Des says:


    When you are deciding whether to order a burger or steak, do you always choose steak thinking “Well, the difference in cost really doesn’t mean anything compared to my mortgage”? How about when choosing a car? To cite an overused example: If you were buying a DVD player and found out that 5 block away the same DVD player was being sold for $100 less, would you travel 5 blocks for the one on sale? Now, if you were buying a $30,000 car and found out that you could save $100 by walking away from the sale and buying it 5 blocks away would you? A dollar is a dollar whether you’re buying paper towels or paying your mortgage.

  95. Jessica says:

    Others might have mentioned this already (I didn’t read through all the comments) but I use the swiffer, but instead of the official swiffer cloths, I use an old rag that attaches very easily … I use the vinegar and water solution (sprayed directly onto the floor from my spray bottle) and swiffer with washable rag … I just can’t stand reusable mops and buckets of dirty water — doesn’t feel like you are really cleaning!

    And I agree that the kleenex idea could gross some out, although we don’t use a lot of kleenex in our house. (we actually use toilet paper for nose blowing needs, which I suppose is just as bad)

    Paper towels are our worst offender. We use tons of them, and I have thought on several occasions that we could save money by using rags or cloth napkins. We will definitely be switchin to a cheaper method soon (plus, when you run out, you can’t just go do a load of laundry – you have to run out to the grocery store! and I always forget them for some reason when I am shopping!)

  96. Jessica says:

    PS … Trent, someone mentioned putting these type of posts in “perspective” with other, bigger, money saving ideas. I have to disagree with that poster, because A) You DID put it in perspective by giving estimated cost savings … $50-$80 per year in paper towel savings is pretty clear on the impact that will have on your budget. also B) these tips are great because they are hassle free and completely in your own control. You don’t have to renegotiate with creditors, fill out lots of paper work, worry about if you have equity to refinance your mortgage, shop around for lower interest rates. All you have to do is buy something different at the store. Simple, instant gratification. Certainly bigger savings techniques have their place, but so do these simple, easy to implement savings techniques. Thanks for the ideas, Trent.

  97. PF says:

    We just installed cork floors and the cork sites that I saw recommended a microfiber mop. I purchased one from amazon with several replacement pads and it works just great. The pads go in the washer. I spent quite a bit on it, but like someone else said, I hate cleaning and I have very little time for it. This product makes mopping a snap. I brand I purchased is the mystic mop.

    I use mesh bags as someone else mentioned for all my microfiber cleaning rags that go in the washer. I have a mini hamper (just a small plastic caddy) in my kitchen that I empty to the laundry room every couple of days.

  98. SwingCheese says:

    My husband and I recently switched to hankies instead of tissues, and it has worked out really well for us. We also had quit buying paper towels a few years ago, opting to use (and reuse) socks with holes as rags. I recently began buying paper towels again, though, as we had a sick cat and I just got tired of hand-rinsing the socks after clean-up.

    I’d also like to agree with those who have mentioned the germ-free environment that advertising is trying to sell us. I always have to laugh at the bathroom commercials especially – it’s great that your toilet bowl is completely germ free (I guess) but do you really *need* it to be? Are you performing surgery in it or something? I have found that washing clothes regularly (rags along with sheets, towels, jeans, etc.) seems to work just fine for us. I have never had trouble with cross-contamination or anything else for that matter. (We also live in an apartment.) Over the last few years, any illnesses I’ve had (and there aren’t many, just colds) can be directly traced back to my interaction with students and/or other teachers who have come to school while ill.

  99. Meg says:

    Another disposable item women can stop buying — tampons and pads. Menstrual cup and reusable pads are not only healthier for you, it’ll save you buckets in the long run. Some people might get a bit squeamish about the idea of having to clean them, but let’s face it, you have to deal with your menstrual blood either way just the same. Might as well take the extra five minutes a day and the cash that goes with it.

  100. drdrew says:

    I’m with Frugal Bachelor on this one. Cents saved is not equal to the clutter and inconvenience it causes. From a mathematical and environmental standpoint, you are somewhat correct (to a point). But as we all know, personal finances are not always based on what’s mathematically right. All of these things cause clutter and storage issues, my time to maintain them is worth a whole lot more than the suggested savings.

  101. Katherine says:

    Great ideas! We are cutting down on our disposables here, too.

    One other you can live without–plastic bags at the grocery store. Bags cost the store money and that money comes out of the shopper’s pocket because we pay for it with higher prices. Bringing your own bag cuts down on waste and some stores give a discount.

    You can make your reusable shopping bag for pennies in less than 5 minutes using an old t-shirt. I have a tutorial at BeCentsAble.net here: http://tinyurl.com/3fqy44.

    Also, we cut up old t’s to us as rags rather than buying new.

  102. Katherine says:

    The link to making your own resusable shopping bag didn’t work because I added a period at the end. Oops. Here it is again.


  103. StephanieG says:

    I’ve been using washable cleaning cloths and mop heads for years now. They add only a little to a large washer load. I still use paper towels for the initial cleanup of pet mess. The cloths are more effective than paper towels. You can clean more mess with one cloth than with three paper towels. If you’re so squeamish you can’t touch them, get some sturdy rubber gloves! Those are also re-usable. I have a pair for, again, pet mess.

    I use Comet to clean sinks, tubs and toilet bowls (except for marble sinks). It’s very cost-effective.

    Check out http://thecleanteam.com. I’ve been buying supplies from them for years now. Those that are reusable or sold in concentrate are particularly good deals.

  104. Nick Wright says:

    Great post. I wrote a step by step guide a while back on achieving independence.

    My first step on that guide was “cancel the trash service.”

    My idea was that if I could get people to look at the things they buy only to throw away in a new light they would start looking at everything differently.

    To those of you who think that blowing your nose on a hankie is gross, google “family cloth.” *slyevilgrin*

  105. Geoff says:

    Another great post Trent, thanks.

  106. I honestly do not mind certain disposable things and will gladly pay the extra money for them. I want to be frugal, not cheap.

    Ziplock bags…I use coupons and my “buy” price is $0.01 per bag (sandwich size) but it’s fun to get them for free or less than a penny each. Using plastic containers would be too much of a hassle for my schedule … and would be bulky for my food every day. I take several snack items (cheese, fruit, almonds, granola, etc.) and a container for each one would take up even more space.

    Paper Towels…We try to use regular towels and rags most but when the dogs have accidents in the house the first thing we grab is the paper towels. Again, I go for the cheapest I can find with coupons so the price isn’t as high as you list here.

    Meg @ 12:42 … no way in hell I will ever stop buying pads and use reusable cups/pads. *shudder*

    Kleenexes … I MUCH prefer regular Kleenexes to a cloth handkerchief like my grandfather uses. We have severe allergies in our family and the use of rags would be ridiculous. We’d have to have piles of rags all over the house. I can just see the dogs dragging them everywhere.

    But paper plates … yup … I can avoid those. I can avoid the Swiffer though if I can get one for free I’ll pick it up to try it out.

    I have noticed since I started to coupon and trying to save money that we throw fewer things away. Mostly because I’m buying more natural foods – a whole chicken instead of pre-cooked, pre-packaged chicken slices. :)

  107. Bee says:

    You had me convinced….up until the Kleenex.

  108. Gigi says:

    I’m totally on board with the paper towel thing, old worn towels cut to size work great and aren’t that big of a deal to wash. I also use almost no disposable plates/cups/silverware. If I use plastic cups (usually for times when I’m afraid of breakage), I run them through the dishwasher and use them over and over. Same with plastic silverware. I have a backyard party every year and invite at least 40 people and use only real plates, wine glasses, and silverware, collected over time and at great $ discount. It makes it a much nicer party, and it’s really not that big of a deal to wash up afterward. During the party, after everyone has eaten, I quickly gather the dirty plates, glasses etc and put them in laundry baskets which are stowed under tables out of sight. The next day I take these to the kitchen and run them through the dishwasher. It really doesn’t take THAT much more effort and nice looking disposable stuff isn’t cheap.

  109. I have to send a lot of cds via USPS. I’ve discovered an empty cereal box makes a perfect CD or DVD shipper! I cut the box open, reverse it (so the unprinted side is on the outside), tape the sides (is tape biodegradable? I bet not…oh well) stick on a label and my package is ready to ship! I love to figure out new uses for cereal and pasta boxes. I once made magazine holders out of old cereal boxes too. I cut off the bottom of cola bottles and milk cartons and make planting pots for seedlings and cuttings. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Great post Trent. Keep em coming!

  110. Josh says:

    Most all of the stuff on your list has it’s place. If used in moderation you will likely break even cost wise vs your alternatives.

    I don’t go overboard with paper towels and plastic bag usage and I often purchase non name brands or in bulk. Just use common sense and dont towel off out of the shower with a roll of bounty.

  111. Christine in Iowa says:

    What brand of rechargeable batteries do you use? I bought a bunch of Energizers but already they are useless. I use them in my digital camera, flip video camera and Wii and they hold so little charge that the kids are constantly asking for new batteries for the wii. Also, on my charger, they start losing their charge while waiting to be used. So I can’t just have some ready to go. Any tips?

  112. colleen c says:

    I agree with you on everything but the tissues. YUK — my Dad carries a hankie to this day and the idea of carting around old snot has ALWAYS horrified me. Tissues are one of the great inventions of the modern world! If one hankie results in one extra illness and one extra doc visit, how much are you really saving?

  113. Sara says:

    After being plagued with allergies for the last three years, I have found comfort in my Kleenex with lotion. Sure, it’s expensive, but it helps that I don’t look like I’m on crack.

    I’m going to ask for a handkerchief or two for Christmas, just to try it out, but no guarantees. I stick tissues in my pockets anyway, so it’s not that much more gross, but I’m keeping my tiny bottles of hand sanitizer (that I refill from larger bottles).

  114. Jen says:

    For those of you who think that hankies are gross, you get over it. I used to be a Puffs Plus only girl (lots of allergies, get sick easily) however I started using old clothing as “snot rags” and they are much better on my nose! I do go through a lot when I am sick (my whole family, actually) but they still don’t take up much room in the washer. My son used to pull kleenexes out of the box like crazy, but now he loves his rag!

    If the kleenex makes you queasy, so will the fact that I also use old flannel PJs as toilet paper. I don’t use them for bowel movements (although I hear that isn’t bad) nor do I use them during my menstrual cycle, but they have saved me and the environment so much!

    Another thing I do is use my old soft face towels cut up into 2×2 pcs. as cotton balls. They clean my make-up off so well and are great!

    Not only do we use fabric napkins at home, but we also take them with us when we eat out. One is much better at cleaning your hands when you could use several napkins at a restaurant.

    We use cloth bags at the grocery store as well as cloth produce bags (I actually used pieces of tulle from my wedding dress and weighed them to make sure they weighed the same as the plastic grocery bags). They are so durable and wonderful to use.

    And of course, we use rags for cleaning (with our natural cleaning products). We only use paper towels for the litter box because I am allergic to cats (but having them is great for my immune system!).

    Yes, all of this may sound crazy to a lot of you, but I really care about making a better environment for my kids AND saving money! I don’t like cleaning either, but all of these things are soooo easy!

  115. ken says:

    I bought a rechargeable battery charger and 24 uncharged batteries in 2000. I haven’t bought a single AA battery since and I still have 12 of the batteries untouched. I use them for my mp3 player (got one that uses a AA battery) and everything else.

  116. Cieno Crisis says:


    It’s up to the individual person to try out reusable feminine hygiene products or not, but I really do implore you to read up on it before shutting it out as an option altogether. There’s pros and cons to everything. Personally, I feel incredibly guilty about regular disposable hygiene products that involve non-biodegradable plastic. I’d ideally use all the organic disposable stuff, but they’re so freaking expensive. So the reusable stuff is really not a bad alternative.

    The reusable stuff is

    (1) Cheaper in the long term.

    A menstrual cup like the Diva cup (which is safe to use as long as you don’t have an IUD) will already pay for itself 2/3rds through a year to me, even if I assume that I buy all my disposable menstrual goods in bulk and are like 0.12 cents a piece. I wear pantyliners everyday, and they seriously add up. And a menstrual cup should last you about 5 years at the least.

    A cloth pad is pretty cheap too. Depending on thickness/absorbency/material, they can go from 3 dollars for a flannel pantyliner to a 20 dollar super luxurious night time pad. But really, you should be able to get enough for an entire cycle for 100 dollars. With cloth pads, I break even at a little less than 2 years, and they last an average of 5 years.

    (2) More comfortable

    Toxic shock syndrome can’t happen with a menstrual pad. And cloth pads are far more comfortable than typical disposable pads. I initially started trying out cloth because of my environmental conscience, but I stayed with it because disposables were just very uncomfortable by comparison.

    (3) Better for the environment

    Cotton is still an inefficient water-intensive thing to grow, and it’s used in most cloth pads, but it’s still less waste than disposables. Industry production of disposable products are more water-intensive than rinsing your menstrual cup or throwing your cloth pads into the wash.

    What’s the time cost of Reusable Menstrual Products?

    Well, I like the convenience of disposables, but a menstrual cup or cloth pads are really not that time consuming. Cloth pads CAN be machine washed, they just need a quick rinse before hand. And no, they don’t stain your other clothes. And even if you decide to hand wash a cloth pad, it only takes 3-5 minutes of labour per pad. I personally don’t mind spending a few minutes each day washing them when the payoff is greater comfort for the rest of the day.

    I’m pretty new to reusable menstrual products, and I’m quite surprised that they’re not more popular, because they are really cheaper and more comfortable. I thought they sounded gross at first (I can’t wash my own filth!), but it really isn’t so bad, and I don’t think I can go back to using disposable products. Maybe only while on travel.

  117. Brenda W. says:

    To Christine in Iowa (comment #78),

    After reading Trent’s post back in April on rechargeable batteries (see his link to that post in the post above in the paragraph on rechargeable batteries), I bought the batteries he mentioned (Eneloop) as well as the charger he listed (although I bought a different model of the same brand, the BC700) and I’ve been more than pleased at their staying power. I bought enough batteries to have an extra 4 available. My biggest battery use is a headlight/flashlight for after dark running (about an hour every night) and these batteries work fine in terms of both how long they hold a charge, as well as how long they last while in use.

    Hope this helps.

  118. J says:

    A mop and bucket require a lot more effort than the Swiffer. Sure the disposable pads cost something, but really, I used a mop and bucket for years, then we got a cleaning service, now we compromise and use the Swiffer. It’s great because it’s ready to go in 5 seconds, and you don’t have to deal with a musty mop hanging around the house. Not to mention that you can mop in considerably less time.

    Another great thing that might be “wasteful” is the automatic shower cleaner thing. It works great, although it does cost (gasp) money for the refills — but I don’t have to spend any time cleaning showers any more. It’s done incrementally every day and saves me a lot of time — plus, my shower is always clean.

    But many of the other things in the post make good sense — and will assist people with the cost/benefit analysis of what they are throwing away.

  119. Amanda says:

    I also have to put a plug in for re-usable menstrual products. I’ve been using the cup for several months now, and I will never ever go back to the reusable stuff. The cup is so much easier to deal with, it takes me less time, and it’s cleaner. I don’t feel so yucky with it, as there’s no blood just hanging out all around my girl bits. I don’t feel nearly so yucky, being female now. Love love love my cup.

  120. nancy says:

    We have lots of large family gatherings and plastic plates even if reused can add up. I went to a pottery discount store and bought blue and white dinner plates @ .99 each. We have about 50 dinner plates and 50 dessert/salad plates. They are many different patterns and combinations of colors. Most people are glad to have the sturdiness of the ceramic plates. We have several older and very young family members and usually do buffet serving. Friends often comment that we are using the “good” dishes instead of disposables. A couple of dish washers loads and all is cleaned up. If one breaks no big deal, just buy a new blue and/or white plate. My sister has now converted to ceramic plates. She has bought several sets at auction. We also have several sets of silverware acquired from relatives moving into care facilities.

    As for storing wet rags until laudry day, I just hang them on the edge of the bucket, as I do with my dish cloths and wet dish towels. They dry without mildewing.

  121. Chetan says:

    I’m surprised no one pointed this out, but there is a problem with reusable batteries. Most regular batteries have a voltage output of 1.5Volts while the reusable ones have just a 1.2 Volt output, which means they wear down faster.

    This can be a real pain with your camera not functioning just at that critical moment, as I’ve learnt painfully.

    However, there is a point in using rechargeables, so I use those for my remotes (TV, Fans, Home Theater and such) and regular alkalines for cameras and other digital products. And I’ve replaced all toothbrushes with the cradle-charging ones that are plugged in.

  122. Marta says:

    This year my girls are taking bento boxes to school for their lunch. Now we don’t need to use plastic baggies. The bento boxes are smaller than a regular lunch box, yet they hold the same amount or more. They also use a refillable bottle for their drink. We cut up an old sheet; tie dyed the squares and will be using them as napkins for their lunch.

  123. Trish says:

    Do you freeze raw meat in plastic freezer containers? If so, what kind and does that work well?

  124. SubGothius says:

    Another disposable item you can dispose of: plastic razors.

    I don’t mean you suggest going to a straightrazor, either. Old-fashioned safety razors like your dad or grandpa used will give a better shave and are generally a more pleasing tool to use, and all you ever need to dispose of is the actual blade, which is the next-best thing to biodegradable — it will quickly oxidize into nothing but rust in the landfill.

    Don’t know where to start on reclaiming this “lost art”? Here’s your first step: BadgerAndBlade.com

  125. Marcia says:

    I really enjoyed this post. We kind of mix and match…

    1. I use Ziplocs, but wash and reuse until they fall apart. I don’t reuse if there was raw meat, but we rarely eat meat. I also reuse yogurt containers and the like.

    2. We have some hankies but really haven’t gotten 100% on board (but I liked the flannel idea). Dh is pretty good at using them, but during cold/allergy season, we need the tissues. But hankies don’t gross me out. Seriously, once you’ve changed diapers…

    3. We use cloth napkins. I can see that even paying $26 for 8 nice reusable cloth tissues would be good. We pay at least twice that for tissues in a year.

    4. We use paper towels sparingly (there are some jobs where I like to use them). For cleaning/wiping messes, I bought 20 washcloths.

    5. My math on a load of wash to wash cotton washcloths came out to $0.21 per week. That’s if you own your own, regular washer. I figure at most you’ll be going through 35/wk, which is 1/3 of a load, so they fit in with the whites.

    I haven’t moved on to reusable pads and diva cup – I’m on the pill, so I use very few pads, and I never liked tampons.

  126. Allen says:

    @Chetan RE: rechargeable batteries

    I respecfully disagree with you. Yes, rechargeables are slightly lower voltage, but NiMH batteries have double and triple the mAh (milli-amp hours) than alkaline, making them last much longer in high drain devices, like digital camera’s. I recommend trying some of the new Hybrid rechargeables which have remedied the one disadvantage of rechargeables, which is that they tend to self discharge over time.

  127. Mr. Money says:

    Great tips. I’ve been proclaiming that our disposable corporate credit convenience consumption cycle could not last and am now seeing many great tips like yours that save our environment and our money.

    People work so hard, only to turn around and give it all away in exchange for a few saved seconds. It’s rather mind boggling. You just found yourself a new subscriber, keep the frugal tips coming!

  128. Georgia says:

    I buy paper towels, hankies, batteries, etc. at Walmart, Dollar General, or Dollar Tree. I use the 1/2 sheet size paper towels. If you want to use t.p. to blow your nose, try Charmin Ultra Strong. It is a brand I will never stop using, but I get it at D. G. or Walmart. Also, for hankies, I would get them 12 for $2-3 at Dollar General. They are the 100% cotton ones. Actually, I bought about 4 dozen over 10 years ago and they still work fine. I only paid $1.00 per dozen pack. Thanks for the tip on glass containers with plastic lids. I will be looking for some. I could start using some ancient ones – from the 40’s – which I have that also have glass lids. Of course they aren’t as airtight.

  129. Heather says:

    I would never have dreamed of using a Swiffer, even though I’ve seen a couple at the thrift store (they probably got tired of the cloths). However, I haven’t tried just rags. Next time I see one for $3, I’ll snag it. My husband “mops” with a rag and his knees, but it doesn’t get done often because of this.
    As for my reasoning against Swiffer (and other like products), I was appalled at the brand new commercials which showed a woman going from dining room to bathroom, around her toilet and back to the kitchen! Those germs you hardly ever touch are now easily accessible by socks, children and pets. *shudder*

  130. Lukas says:

    No mention of safety razors? I love the reverse thinking that gilette came up with to say, “hey, we make razor handles which are expensive and last forever, and the blades are cheap… but we sell way more blades than we do handles… if we could just somehow reverse this situation, we’d make a ton more money!”

    A decent safety razor is £40 on Amazon (probably less in the US) and blades work out at about 40p each. Even the outdated Mach 3 blades are about £2 each!

    I also think the whole swiffer thing is an expensive gimmick. To Michelle above, surely that’s nothing that can’t be solved with two buckets. One for fresh water, and the second for when you squeeze it out? Pretty much both are going to go grey tho, but that’s from the dirt that’s no longer on the floor!

  131. steve says:

    On a related note, I wanted to share how I extend the life of my dish sponges while making them pleasant to use for a long time.

    Once a week, I put the sponge in a pan of water and a couple squirts of dishsoap over the stovetop and heat the water until it’s just boiling, then shut it off and let it sit and cool down.

    Then I pull it out (with tongs!) and press the hot water out in the sink (use the tongs or a spatula for this so you don’t get burned) and rinse it out with cold water.

    (In winter, I leave the hot dirty water in the pan until it cools before pouring it out so the heat doesn’t get wasted down the drain.)

    It cleans the sponge amazingly well–you can tell by the color of the soaking water, as well as by feeling the sponge once it has been cooled and rinsed– and also sanitizes it.

    My sponges are tolerable again and last a good 2x as long this way, as the boiling water and detergent float off any grease/oil from the scrubby part of the sponge, and clean the rest of it.

  132. Erin says:

    Some great ideas here. I especially like using rags or dish towels instead of paper towels and plastic containers instead of ziplocs.

    However, I’m with those who are grossed out by handkerchiefs. My dad still uses them and… yuck. I do feel badly about the monetary and environmental cost, but I have allergies almost year round and when I get a cold they tend to be really bad colds. I literally don’t think I could have enough handkerchiefs to meet my blowing needs – I probably blow my nose at least a couple of times every hour when I *don’t* have a cold.

    I do feel badly about the waste of the Swiffer too. But it helps me keep the kitchen cleaner. I’m sure many of you will think I am lazy, but we are so crazy busy and it’s much much faster to just grab the Swiffer and swiffer the kitchen than go downstairs to where the bucket is stored (we have very little storage space in our upstairs living area), fill it up with water and cleaning solution, mop, and clean out the bucket and put it back. But I am going to try out the suggestions from people who use cloths over the swiffer and put vinegar water in the bottle, that sounds much better than buying the swiffer pads and fluid.

  133. We use to do the paper thing since water is such an issue in Arizona, but then we realized how much our new dishwasher saved energy over hand wash, I guess I am saying “update your appliances”

    Great post!

  134. Marci says:

    I got the swiffer free at a garage sale, bought one box of refills, and said no more :)
    But… A kitchen towel or old hand towel ties just fine onto the swiffer base and works just great. Flannel cloth also ties on well, or can be sewn to fit with velcro.

    Then the cloth goes into the washer.

    I like the shape and form of the swiffer for my laminate wood floors. It just does a much better job on them, less streaks etc, than a cloth mop. As is great for small spills or quick clean ups after the grandkids are over.

    I’m with you on all the rest. When I do use a Ziplock occassionally tho, I wash it out, hang to dry, and place in the freezer. Odd place to keep them, but it works for me :) Garage sales are great places to find used, but in great shape, tupperware etc. sometimes 5 or 10 cents each!

  135. MrsMoney says:

    How about cloth toilet paper? http://ultimatemoneyblog.com/extreme-frugality-family-cloth

    I know some people actually do this and like it! Crazy, isn’t it?

  136. Denny says:

    I find this it worth replying to this comment: >>>no way in hell I will ever stop buying pads and use reusable cups/pads. *shudder* <<<

    I just can’t understand this point of view. My cup is much more comfortable than tampons and simpler and less expensive – and I don’t have to pour it out as often as I’d have to change tampons.

    Does anybody use anything reusable as a substitute for toilet paper? I find that toilet paper is the single most likely reason I have to go grocery shopping. Almost everything else can wait, but tp can’t.

  137. Carol says:

    I use the swiffer cloths – but don’t toss them. Once a month/every other month I throw the used ones in a lingerie bag and pop them in the wash with my throw rugs. I do use the dryer afterwards, and then just pick off the big balls of lint, cat hair and stuff that forms. Fold them up and put them back in the box. I purchased a big box of swiffer cloths (the dry ones) when swiffer first came out; it’s still half full of the new, unused ones! I only throw out the used ones when they’ve lost their weave.

    The way I see it, ziploc, tinfoil, plastic wrap, swiffer cloths – no one really said they were for one use only, right?

  138. Nick says:

    Most of the list I agreed with, except the tissues and paper towels. Reusing tissues would be rather disgusting to me personally. As far as the paper towels, you left out the cost of detergent, water, gas/electricity, and the time you lose from actually washing them.

  139. Lisa says:

    Trent, this was a great article!! As someone who is sick and tired of basically throwing their cash in the trash on disposable products, all of these suggestions make complete sense. It’s amazing how many ideas not only save a person money while contributing significantly to bettering the environment. Bravo!

    Ever since I found out you were a fan of cloth diapers, I’ve been itching to let you know what a wide variety of cloth alternative products are out there besides diapers. For the Swiffer mop and duster lovers, the internet is teeming with cloth replacements. This is true for the Clorox mop as well. Just check out websites such as eBay, Amazon, and Etsy (a crafter’s website for the handmade and commericial products available.

    Another product I’ve not seen you mention are cloth menstrual pads. Much like cloth diapers, most of them are as easy to use as disposables. Laundering them is a snap and quality pads will last for about five years, saving both money and the environment in the long run. Once they have tried cloth menstrual pads, most women I know have not gone back to disposables, either, because the cloth version is so much more comfortable. When you find a quality brand of cloth menstrual pads, they also serve well to manage light incontinence problems, replacing disposable Poise and Serenity pads.

    Typing “cloth menstrual pads” into a search engine will help you find these products easily. This leads me to wonder why I have not seen these products for sale anywhere besides the interent. What’s up with that?

  140. A says:

    There are many cases where ziplock bags are just more convenient, because they take up less space. However, I reuse bags as much as possible. It’s really simple to wash them out afterwards, and I don’t understand why more people don’t bother. If a bag is no longer usable for food, I downgrade it to use for some other, non-edible, purpose.

  141. julieta says:

    We just went out for dinner, and brought our glass container for leftovers. We bring our own bags to the store, including produce bags, and keep ceramic plates, mugs, glasses and metal serviceware at the office. We reuse plastic bags of food items you buy in the supermarket, so we do not buy ziplocks or use cling wrap. Sure we sometimes forget or get caught in a situation, but that is the exception and not the norm. I personally think that reusing plastic plates or ziplocks is just fooling yourself and supports a corrupted system. Why should we? The more people realize the vicious cycle, the sooner we will get out of it, so why not start now? There is really no excuse in using disposables other than “I am a person that does not use brain power”.

  142. Eagle says:

    I live in a very dusty desert area, and the dry swiffer is a great way to pick up dust and hairs all over. I am sick of buying all the refills and thought about going to a fleece piece of fabric, paper towels or flannel cloth- but what should I spray on the cloth to get the most magnetized action? Is Pledge a bad idea? I’m talking about dusting the floors.

  143. Kala says:

    I agree to an extent, but money isn’t the only factor. Take the mop for instance, using a traditional mop is FAR messier, less effective, takes 3 times as much time & effort, and is very difficult to clean and store. I’m willing to pay a few extra cents to save that much time and effort on a regular basis.

  144. Isa says:

    My parents always reused Ziplocs when I was growing up, as well as reusing the containers that food came in.

  145. Chloe says:

    Alright, so I suppose those are all good ideas, less trash and the like, but did you factor in how much it would cost to wash all those things? The environmetal impact of the gallos of water you use? The energy your washing machine or dishwasher uses up to clean your stuff?

  146. mary says:

    seems to me all this “money” you are saving is then wasted with hours and hours of extra laundry to wash rags, diapers, hankies, etc

    how much soap, hot water and electricity is that costing???

    no thank you. I’m sure it’s cheaper to wash my clothes down by the river and leave them on a rock to dry too. But I don’t live in a Little House on the Prairie and I don’t want to pretend that I do to save a nickel.

    I’ll take the modern conveniences, thank you. I love our disposable society. :)

  147. Linda says:

    I clean everything with rags made out of old clothes, towels, washcloths, etc. I cant remember the last time I bought paper towels. I dont use disposable toilet brushes either, instead, I always use an old rag and throw it away at the end.

  148. bonzadog says:

    “Swiffer pad reversal?” No doubt this has already been covered in the above post, but I don’t have the time to read all 147 posts. Has Swiffer pad reversal been mentioned yet? Use the original side, then flip to the other pad side for extra mileage?

  149. ppp says:

    Swiffer – Instead of using disposable pads, make your own from old towels and rags. Use and launder (along with your handkerchiefs).

  150. alex says:

    i definitely recommend the keeper/diva cup/moon cup, they save loads of money. plus, no worries about toxic shock syndrome.

  151. K Moore says:

    I can’t believe so many people are against his suggestions. LAZY!
    You don’t need 50 lbs of rags, cut up the t shirts that are too sad to donate, have a dozen rags and wash with your dog blankets, bath mat or other non clothing items. I store the rags in a small bucket that I dump out to clean, wash it, dry it and put the rags back.

    You can use a square of toilet paper to blow your nose if need be.

    Try not to buy anything you will throw away.

  152. K Moore says:

    Besides, reusable solutions save you trips to the store, once you have rags you are pretty set. No emergency trips to the store for paper towels. I haven’t bought paper towels in a long time, and I like it!

  153. SY says:

    I’ve lived in apartments with tiled floors, and have found swiffer works like a charm. But here is how I use it – use a swiffer dust mop (it doesn’t have the spray function), with a microfibre dust cloth to pick up all the “dry” dust, dirt etc. Then, replace the cloth with another which has been soaked (and wrung out) in a mixture of castille soap and warm water. It cleans so amazingly well. I use one cloth for the kitchen and a different one for the bathroom. Someone had mentioned in a post above, the wonders of just plain soap and water. I’d like to add natural cider vinegar to that list. And I use Dr. Bronner’s castille soap which is the purest and gentlest form of soap because the glycerine which is formed as a part of the saponification process, is not removed. It is wonderful for all kinds of things – gentle enough for babies, for bathing for people with severe allergies or skin infections, cleaning house (and bathrooms, and washing clothes for someone with allergies. I was told that hospital floors are cleaned with castille soap as well though I can’t verify that. You can get a huge bottle for about $25-30 (I’ll have to check as it’s been a while since I bought one – they last a while). I don’t need anything else for cleaning. I use the unscented hemp variety though you get it in lavender and other natural scents.

  154. Steve in W MA says:

    Those cheap ziploc vacuum bags that work with the manual vacuum pump work great for freezing meet, and you can clean them thoroughly, let them dry, and reuse them a a number of times. I think they are much less wasteful than standard freezer wrap, and are not nearly as expensive as buying an automated vacuum packer, while giving most of the results of the full vacuum packer. If you’re really concerned about bacteria on the reused bags (none of which would survive 10 days of being on a cleaned, dry ziploc by the way) then sanitize them in a 1% bleach solution before reusing them.

  155. Pashmina says:

    I was spending a lot on lotion kleenexes (also an allergy sufferer) but I bought a pashmina scarf and cut it into pieces to make shorter scarves and hankies.

    Pashmina hankies are amazingly SOFT and you can hand wash and air dry them in the bathroom sink.

  156. Elaine says:

    I agree with whatever it is to keep from throwing stuff in the landfill. Yes, it’s better on the budget as well.

    You can all stop using fabric softener sheets/liquid and start putting vinegar in your rinse water. Think of the money you’ll save.

    For cleaning we use vinegar, baking soda, and rags. That’s all. I even make my own detergent.

  157. Elaine says:

    As for plastic bags, containers, etc. We are now using glass containers for food and stainless for a water bottle. Rethink the plastic thing. Check for BPA.

    BPA is even in microwave popcorn bags. Just pop your own in a glass bowl with a little oil, around 6 min. Don’t forget to cover.

  158. lynnie says:

    i have a swiffer vac; it’s rechargable and i only change the cloth 1-2 times a week. i don’t have to bend over to push things into a dustpan, which saves my back. it’s invaluable for me.

  159. ChristineWithRegence says:

    Great tips! For ideas on how you can take charge of your health care costs, check out Whatstherealcost.org.

  160. Steve in W MA says:

    I read about a farm family in VT that even washes, dries, and reuses their paper towels. When I read it I thought for sure that it wasn’t possible to wash and dry a paper towel for reuse, but I tried it and it actually works! a paper towel will actually stand being gently cleaned, dried, and reused.

    I don’t actually do it on a regular basis though, I’m just sharing.

  161. Fawn says:

    I like to use the swiffer, but instead of buying the pads, I use a rag! :D Our house is mostly hardwoods and the entryway and bathroom are tile. I use Murphy’s Oil Soap in a squirt bottle. Works like a charm!

  162. Fawn says:

    Also, I have about 40-50 white rags I use for dirty things such as meat messes, washing floors and bathroom cleaning. I have a basket next to our wash machine that I put them in, and wash them when I run out. I don’t have a problem with them molding or smelling bad. I wash them by themselves, seperate from our kitchen and bath towels. (I think it is nasty to wash cleaning rags with kitchen or bath towels.)

  163. de says:

    Our cleaning rags didn’t make the cut when we moved cross country, partly because we were still using them to clean the house when the POD was picked up. So Ikea has pretty nice kitchen towels for .49 each and I use them exclusively in the kitchen for draining fried stuff, wiping up, drying washed produce etc. Our washing machine is in the kitchen, so I just drop them in there after using them. Easier that hauling home and storing bales of paper towels.

  164. JS says:

    I love my rechargable AA batteries, but one downside I wish I had known about is that they are slightly fatter than non-rechargables (I use Energizer; maybe other brands are different). One of my most battery-sucking devices has you drop the two batteries into a cyclinder and put the cap on, and you turn it upside down to let them fall out. It takes a lot of effort to get the rechargables out, and I’m always worried that they will get stuck.

  165. Chris says:

    I’m a fairly frugal person in spirit, but this type of stuff always seems like overkill to me. In as much as disposables facilitate convenience and sanitation, I use them – they save me time so I can focus on increasing my own productivity. It’s not clear that using non-disposables is a certain improvement, I think it really just depends on how valuable your time is.

    If you’ve really got nothing else going on or you’re extremely tight on cash, you definitely should scrounge. Otherwise, you should dedicate your time to improving your “long-ball” finances, like working for a promotion or a new passive income idea. If you’ve got a job and you work 40+ hours a week in addition to side income projects, just chuck stuff in the trash. The upside of using nondisposables is $300-400 a year on the outside and really won’t change much for anyone above the poverty line.

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