Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Disposing of the Disposables


Now well into our second month of cut rate living I've realized how far we've come in regard to ridding ourselves of disposable household items.

How far is that Donna? You might ask.

Far. Really, really far. Like, way out there. For example, we no longer purchase any of the following: napkins, plastic baggies, aluminum foil, wax paper, parchment paper, Q-tips, hand wipes, paper towels, plastic wrap, SOS scrub pads, paper plates, cups or silverware.

We did not accomplish this overnight, it took time, the real motivator was money and lack of it. With a grocery store budget of less than $40 /week, which includes all household non-food items like cleaners and disposables, it came down to this. Did I want to spend our money on paper towels or more fresh veggies?

The cucumbers and spinach won out. So here is how we get by without those items mentioned above. We use dishcloths for paper towels and napkins, we re-use plastic containers that come to us free with some of the groceries we buy (like cottage cheese), we recycle every plastic bag that comes through our door like with any packages that arrive or with any veggies or fruit we buy. I use nifty nylon scrubbies, a handmade gift this past Christmas, over and over. Like the dishcloths. they are washable. And speaking of dishcloths, the one in the pic above was made by Martha Witcher in Metamora Illinois. Handwoven and gorgeous, her items are high quality and meant to be used and washed over and over. Their durability is fantastic. Check her blog out HERE.


I've also become very creative with newspaper. There are three free ones we get every week. I cut them up into strips and use them to coat cast iron pans and baking wear with butter or oil, I use half sheets to wash windows and mirrors, I use whole sheets to drain greasy food like fried chicken.



We never need aluminum foil since we have so many left over plastic containers to store food (and I hate the stuff) plus I use our glass canning jars to keep quite a number of things fresh in the fridge. Yes, I do wash dishes often since we don't use any disposable dishes, but it's only a matter of keeping a sink full of hot soapy water. I wash, or simply rinse, dishes as soon as I dirty them.

In case you're wondering though, we still buy toilet paper, we're not complete barbarians.


So, tell me what disposables you live without and what you use in their place.

26 comments:

  1. I buy those huge packs of microfiber cloths once a year---first year, I use them as dishcloths. Second year, they are moved to the "paper towel" category--cleaning up spills, etc. Third year, they become floor rags/cleaning cloths. I get a 10 pack for about 6 dollars.
    I don't use plastic wrap--I have those old timey covered refrigerator dishes. If meat or something needs covering to roast, I use a bigger COVERED roasting pan.
    I can't live without TP either-LOL! Everything else is a marketing scheme that worked really really well.

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    1. Good use of those microfiber cloths! I also cut up towels as they become inadequate for after shower use and use them for all kinds of things. It's amazing how many good glass dishes with lids from the 50's and 60's I can find at garage sales and thrift shops. We have become a very disposable world.

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  2. For greasing of pots, pans, irons for wafers etc. I use a silicone brush bought real cheap at a clearance sale years ago. It is washable and goes into all nooks and crannies where no paper ever go. I knit dishcloths that we use instead of disposables. Shopping bags? No way! reuse, use free crates or bring your own fabric ones. Alu foil is one thing, I hate as well. We use a real small amount for covering the cakes about to get too dark in the oven, and we re-use it untill it breaks from being folded and heated repeatably. One roll has now served us for almost 10 years ;) What do you use for this purpose?

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    1. I guess I don't worry so much about cakes getting too dark, Keith is such a sport he'll eat pretty much anything I cook or bake. I used to use tons of the non-stick aluminum foil in the oven but now I just use elbow grease on the pans instead. My flappy arms can always use more exercise.

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  3. We are also making efforts to cut the disposable products out of our lives at my house. Some days we do better than others, lol. We go through about two normal boxes of foil, plastic wrap, and parchment paper a year, and we get every possible use out of them. Foil gets rinsed a few times and reused until it tears, and then goes to the recycling. Parchment paper gets reused likewise, although the last use is for a firestarter. Plastic wrap is the only thing that goes in the trash, but it is saved for special occasions when we need the tight seal.

    Right now we are using paper plates, because our septic system needs repair and the less water we use the better. As soon as it warms up a little more we will be carrying dishwater out to water plants instead of putting it down the drain.

    I am saving old newspapers and cardboard with the intent of using it as the base layer of an experimental lasagna garden this year.

    Aside from the kitchen stuff, we don't usually buy disposable products at all. Any plastic or glass containers we get are either used until they fall apart, break, or pick up strong odors, and are banished to the recycling.

    We have come a long way in the past few years

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    1. Great job Amanda1 it really takes time and effort doesn't it? We use cardboard in the garden here and as starter sticks for our rocket mass stove.

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  4. I still buy and use most of that, but I buy it at the Dollar Tree and that helps save a bit. I work 9 hours a day and commute 3, so I need the convenience. Though I will say that the mesh bags that onions and avocados come in make great scrubbers.

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    1. Oh man Lisa, I understand how hard it is to work lots of hours away from home and then be so wiped out at the end of the day you pretty much do what you can to survive. Years ago when it was just me and my two oldest kids and I worked long long hours, we all survived on take out and processed food. Easy and quick was my motto then. Hang in there.
      Love the idea for using the mesh bags for scrubbies. Hadn't thought of that. THANKS.

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  5. I dont think paper plates are used much in the UK other than for parties. My waste is baking paper, so I dont have to wash the enamel baking sheets. We use enamel basting pans for roasting rather than foil.

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    1. Paper plates are far too common here in the US. You see them for everyday use, parties, even the occasional restaurant will use them to serve desserts. I'll admit though, I went though my own tonnage of them when we had four kids at home and I was working away from home full time.

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  6. I do use canning jars and glass storage. I don't save the plastic ones, not real sure I like the chemical breakdown on my food. When I'm in need of disposables I order palm leaf ones from Webstaurant.com, they're at least biodegradable. We are about as chemical free as you can get, I even make my own deodorant, moisturizer and first aid salve. I still buy paper towels (and TP!) but try to use cut up sheets and towels, it's no biggee to throw them in the wash even after one use.

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    1. We were certified organic for years, only et that cert go because of the high cost, crazy paperwork and the fact our government was certifying too many without proper proof they were indeed organic. So, that said, I try to avoid many chemicals too. Since we don't use a microwave I feel safer reusing the plastic containers (I may be a fool here) and also make my own deodorant. Use only essential oils for first aide (love that tea tree oil for cuts) and only use almond oil for moisturizer. Sometimes at age 57 I wonder if any of this, all only started in the last ten years, will make any difference, but I do feel lots better, so that must count for something. I hope.

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    2. I'm 63 and haven't been doing this for a super long time but I feel lots better too so we must be on to something! Funny thing though, I quit smoking 14 years ago and since then any perfume or scented candles give me an immediate headache but the scents from essential oils don't.

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  7. What newspaper comes our way is always used for various purposes, and ends-up on the compost. We don't have a lot of waste.

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    1. I didn't imagine you would Cro. You always struck me as a sensible guy. Me though...one slow learner. :)

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  8. No paper plates. Alum foil for limited broiling and a 50 ft box last me forever. User friendly zip bags that get reused until the seams break. Husband would go through withdrawal without them. I too us microfiber cloths for everything from dusting to bathrooms. I use strips of newspaper (husband has large collection of old ones) for windows. We haven't gotten a newspaper in over five years but this is one time his pack ratting has paid off. The ultimate solution is I don't clean as often or as deep as I used to. Having only two humans in the house helps . It is the two house dogs and five cats that bring in the most dirt. I have this weird rationalization factor that I would rather clean my barn than the house and no one comes to visit anyway. Call me crazy pretty much.

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    1. If my kids didn't visit every week it's unlikely I'd clean either. My tolerance for dust increases as my age does. I'd rather write or hang glide. I don't hang glide yet but I plan to. Just sayin'.

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  9. I buy TP & the odd roll of paper towels - car towels/nose wipes - but no aluminum foil, wax paper, plastic wrap, paper plates, napkins, kleenex, lunch bags or individually wrapped lunch items. I do use Zip Lock bags for storing meat in the freezer - they get washed & used until they die & then get recycled with all the other plastic. I wrap my wet recyclables in newspaper and my presents too. I don't like to store left-overs in plastic containers so I dug out the old canning jars. I try to buy bulk when I can & use old bread bags to haul it home & then store it in the jars. I knit my wash cloths but prefer the dollar store round dish scrubbies that have rough fabric on one side & smooth on the other for dishes. Micro-fibre cloths clean everything else. Oh, I also knit my own dust-mop covers so they can be washed instead of tossed out all the time. I DO buy Q-Tips. And how the hell do you clean ears or put polysporin on owies without Q-Tips????

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    1. Well...we clean our ears with wash cloths (putting Q-tips all the way in your ear is known to cause more issues than they solve) we don't use any antibiotic creams, and I use a glass dropper to apply tea tree oil, a super natural antibacterial, antifungal,to cuts or scrapes. Or I just use my freshly washed finger. With larger abrasions, I'll apply the tea tree oil to the bandage , then place it on the wound. It's one of the few essential oils that can be applied "neat" or without dilution.

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  10. Be careful of microfibre use, when washed the nano fibres end up in the sewage system, then in the creeks etc, then out into the ocean embedding themselves in all manner of digestive systems and vital organs along the way. Also polar fleece clothing etc is doing the same thing.

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  11. What a lot of lovely practical ideas.
    I knit my facewashers and dish washing cloths from op shop cotton yarn, my teatowel drying cloths will outlast me as they are tough linen.
    There are people making beeswax cloths, which are used as a wrap or cover instead of clingfilm, easy to use and easy to wipe clean and make a good seal when pressed onto themselves. I have 6 and they are awesome.
    You can cover baked goods with brown paper bags to stop them getting too dark when cooking, my Nan used to do this with her Christmas cakes. Leave them 2 layers and fold or cut to sit on top when needed, you can use 2 deep if needed for long baking fruit cakes.
    There are tutorials online for making scrubbies out of the plastic mesh vegie bags, quite easy.
    Hope everyone has fun trying some of these ideas and coming up with more ways to save money and resources and cut down on pollution.

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  12. Like you, Donna, TP is a must-have formus as well. We store leftovers in glass containers we have had for years now, as we also do not like storing leftovers in plastics, but we do recycle any we use.Limited use for plastic wrap, but it is in our pantry and same goes for parchment and wax paper. Use to reusable scrunchies which are placed in DW often as are sponges. Things not bought are furniture sprays and household counter cleaners.

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  13. Hi Donna, I love your writing style. Congratulations on your ingenuity. TP is a definite must and always will be! $40 a week, my gosh, that is quite the challenge. I have slowly been getting rid of the disposables as well, but haven't gotten as far as you have. That dish cloth is beautiful. I'm slowly replacing plastic with glass and I rarely use paper towels, just those J-cloth towels that can be washed and re-used over and over. I use baking soda and vinegar for nearly every cleaning task and also those free newspapers for the windows. Though I do use foil to cook most of the meats in the house...don't know if I could do without that.

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  14. Hi Donna, I am catching up on your blog and was delighted to see you are using my handwoven towels in your kitchen. Handwoven towels are eco friendly because I weave them using high quality long lasting yarns that really do hold up to washing and drying. I use my handwoven towels in my kitchen everyday, they are 10 years old and still going strong. Best to you and Keith!

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  15. Hi Donna, we are trying to rid ourselves of a lot of unnecessary items as well, I've started making my own all-purpose cleaner (citrus peels and white vinegar, let it steep for 2 weeks, strain and add water to fill spray bottle)

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