Frugal or Foolish? Second and third re-uses for items

marylizApril 14, 2009

Something I just added to another thread got me thinking that I should start a new one. Here's the idea: How do you save money around the house (and keep yourself organized) by re-using something, perhaps even more than once?

Here are a few examples:

1) After we eat all the yoghurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, etc., we wash the containers, then use them to store food in the freezer. If the lid gets too wonky to seal well, I throw it away, but I have another use for the bottom. I drill a few drainage holes, then it becomes a plant pot. Those last for a few years, or until I give away the plant inside. The lids can also be used as a target for dog agility class. (You put a treat on it so that it is more visible to the dog.) I always throw a few lids into the dog's bag of leashes and collars, for when we go to dog school each week. If I lose one at class, it's no big deal. There will be another in a few days.

2) At the office, the printer spits out a cover sheet for every print job, even if it is just a single piece of paper. Wasteful, if you ask me. I bring home the cover sheets, and print on the back side with my laser printer. Even after printing on the second side, there is still plenty of blank space left on the cover sheet side, so I cut the paper into smaller pieces and use that to make lists. Then, after the paper is covered with printing and writing, it gets shredded and added to the compost pile.

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I'm always losing bookmarks, so I recycle the blow-in cards in magazines by trimming them to retain the decorative parts and use them as bookmarks.

I washed two sizes of lightweight Styrofoam trays and use them on my food scale to hold food without adding appreciable weight.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 3:02PM
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My (female) boss used to collect printer and photocopy paper that was thrown in wastebaskets. Extra, not needed, etc. She'd turn the pages over to the blank reverse, then cut them with a paper cutter into fourths. Stack up about twenty sheets, staple a corner and you have a free memo pad.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 5:49PM
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My MIL (deceased) came up in the depression and she saved everything..she washed out plastic bags, cereal box bags, and hung them to dry, also aluminum foil and plastic wrap..she would reuse a paper plate if it had not been "too" dirty..until it was..she saved the rubber bands from fruits and vegetables..and the onion bags for picking mushrooms..stamps for missionaries to sell..envelopes..reused name it..

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 7:39PM
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have you asked your IT dept about the cover sheets? there's usually a setting that can be changed so it won't print them anymore.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 9:24PM
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The lids can also be used as a target for dog agility class. (You put a treat on it so that it is more visible to the dog.) I always throw a few lids into the dog's bag of leashes and collars, for when we go to dog school each week. If I lose one at class, it's no big deal. There will be another in a few days.

Here is why this works: You have a genuine pre-existing need, and you have a system for keeping these objects integrated into your life.

When you really use them, and you have a functioning system to incorporating them into your life tidily and effectively, these are great.

Me, I throw it all out.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 10:18PM
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Thank you for your awesome insight, Talley Sue! If I weren't constantly propagating plants, I probably wouldn't have a use for a yoghurt container without a top.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 9:10AM
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OK, this may sound a little weird, but when I'm done with the pickles in the pickle jar, I save the brine (juice) and put carrot sticks in the jar until they've all been eaten. Delicious, if I may say so!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 8:37PM
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Claire, Not weird to me! I love Wickles (horseradish pickles); they are pricier than other pickles so I save the brine and refill with bread & butter pickles that I have drained. After about a week the B&B's taste like Wickles. B&B's are often BOGO, so I make out pretty good as far as pickles go.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 9:26PM
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Nothing wrong with being frugal AND caring for the planet when possible. I reuse the slender plastic bags that the newspaper comes in as a catch-all for those items that cannot go down the garbage disposal (banana peels, egg shells, potato peels, etc.) Plastic grocery bags are reused for my husband's daily lunch, then used again to line wastebaskets.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 12:11AM
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Empty tissue boxes. I keep an empty with a full tissue box on their sides next to my bed, so I can put the used tissue back into the box when I'm done. (Obviously there's no room for a wastebasket.) Stacked two high, this configuration just fits into a table I have there and saves a little space. Putting the tissues back from where I got them makes it easy to dispose of them.

I also put an empty tissue box on top of my dryer for a receptacle to stuff the dryer lint into. It's compact, and when it gets full, I throw it away.

I bought some beautiful embroidered velvet drawstring bags on clearance several years ago, and we reuse them every Christmas/Birthday. It's always fun to see what we can find to put in them that would suit the givee, and they're very elegant.

Some freebie dog food advertising bracelets (stretchy rubber band material) were taking up space in a drawer, making me think they were clutter. I was obviously never going to wear it as a bracelet, so I put the band on my drink mug. It made it easier to grip, and I have an easily identified mug now.

I use shot glasses to put daily meds/vitamins in. Since I really hate taking them, I do it all in one shot. Reusable and portable too!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 2:01PM
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A topic I love, Maryliz! I've developed a lot of the habits everyone has mentioned except with pickles. We just moved from the US to Germany, and pickles aren't too big here. Dang.
Germans really seem to be into the repurposing, which has been great. Always tough to make new friends when you seem like a yahoo! ;)
I frequently try to share the efforts my husband and I make into my blog. Here's a list of five easy things we do if you're interested.

Here is a link that might be useful: 5 ways we pinch pennies by reusing

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 4:00PM
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Costco sells mesclun in clear plastic rectangular containers that I use to organize just about everything, from washed vegetables to organizing cheeses, to keeping control of small or odd-shaped packages in the freezer. Being shaped for stacking and see-through, they are also handy for shelf items like office supplies. Not to mention starting seeds.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 6:56PM
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Claire - great idea about the tissue box on top of the dryer for lint. I have an even better idea - take that box when it's full and use it to start campfires!

We have a fire ring in our backyard & usually use cotton balls coated in Vaseline as fire starters, but a tissue box of dryer lint would be even better! THANKS for the idea - I'm off to find a small box to put on the dryer, I don't have an empty tissue box right now.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 10:24PM
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Mommabird, I thought you were going to say to use the lint for nesting birds! Campfires are good too though, and we have a firepit that I might have to try this out on next time...

Speaking of fires, I melt down the ends of old wax candles when I have them into paper cupcake liners, and use those for starting wood in a fireplace(pit).

We use the dehumidifier water for our plants.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 11:29PM
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I do the same thing with pickled products. Of course it would be cheaper if I always made my own seasoned "brine" with garlic and spices, but sometimes I want immediate gratification with Italian pickled vegetables, etc. from the store. When used up or half empty or so, I add back raw carrots, cauliflower, celery and so on when I have extra on hand or am chopping something to cook for dinner.

Same with a few deli products that seem to have unique seasonings--a few of the olive or pepper items that I really crave--I can buy just a few ounces and mix with either raw vegetables and/or a generic pickled product and let sit in frig for a couple of days, and the result is then both cheaper and usually more nutritious, and I can take it for lunch.

I use shoe boxes for tons of things--out of sight in cabinets, good for organizing bills, paystubs. I use other boxes, including the shallow tops, for drawer organizers--lots of times the commercial combo organizers have compartments that are too small; or, I may use a narrow box alongside such a product. I use printer paper boxes for storage in a lot of our closets. Also, I have several storage closets which are a certain depth and width and I have collected boxes from work that are the exact depth and width to put 2 side by side and give me a kind of modular storage system--it also works for clutter control, a bit, because I keep only what will fit in those units and keep one or 2 "slots" vacant and make myself stick to just that space.

I don't re-use paper nearly as much as I would like. But, I do compost all our shredded paper, all paper towels after a couple of uses (like, use for drying homegrown lettuces in a bag, then use for cleanup, then compost) and compost a lot of our thin cardboard boxes (like cereal boxes).

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 12:02PM
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I actually wash my Viva paper towels in my front loader if I haven't used them for anything too gross. They turn out quite nice, and it's great to get a second use out of them.

In the bathroom, I keep a roll of ''select-a-size'' paper towels between the sinks for drying hands on. When I'm done, I'll use them again and wipe the sink/faucet dry, which keeps the bathroom looking pretty good for unexpected company. (These would be considered for washing in the front loader.) Sometimes I'll use them to wipe down the toilet, which of course I throw out after that! The paper towels work out great, especially for guests who never seem to want to use the guest towels, and no one ever has to wonder how clean the towel is. I realized I could do this one day when a paper towel stuck in a pocket turned up in the washer, and was quite intact and soft enough to reuse.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 3:37PM
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When I get junk mail, envelopes, those endless restaurant and car wash coupons,I use them as scratch pads. Great for menus, grocery lists, to do lists, etc. Just place them near a phone and have a pen handy.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 4:43PM
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I've started saving jeans and dress pants that aren't really suitable for using, but still have a lot of good fabric. I want to make some quilts. Dd starts kindergarten so I'll hopefully have some time to get back to my hobbies this fall.

I save things for crafting like chop sticks, soft drink lids, individual plastic cups from applesauce, etc. My kids have a great time inventing.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 11:59PM
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ronbre, we always joke how our mom (also grew up in the depression), would save a wrapper from gum if she could wash it and reuse it.

She would wash and reuse aluminum foil till it fell apart, she'd use the waxed paper inside cereal boxes to wrap our lunches, and the list went on and on.

I save and reuse things that I will actually reuse. I don't keep things, just "in case" down the road I may need it. I don't want to end up in a clutter mess.

I throw away lots of carboard milk cartons and always feel a pang because I'm thinking maybe, just maybe, there is something else I could be doing with them beside the obvious, like plant seedlings. I also feel pangs when I throw away certain types of containers with odd shapes. I always think back to seeing people on TV making all these neat craft items, but I know I'll never find the time or energy to do these crafts. So I throw the stuff away and then it haunts me.

One thing I just recently learned from a rose gardener and that is you can recycle your magazines, even the shiny paper ones, by burying them in your garden. They fall apart and nourish the soil. I always did this with newspaper but didn't realize I could do it with magazines.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 12:49AM
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I've put hard boiled eggs in the brine of a pickle jar too. This may be a Southern thing, not sure. LOL

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 12:59AM
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When I clean the lint out of my dryer filter, I throw it in the backyard. The birds and squirrels pick it up and use it in their nests.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 1:15PM
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Knitters and crocheters, save your yarn scraps for birdnests. One winter an old oriole nest blew out of a tree and I could identify several projects in it! Mrs. O had the prettiest nest in the neighborhood!!

In my last house, I started lots of flower seeds -- I used the little Pot Maker shown in the link below. Early in February, I'd start making them while watching TV, so that by the time my seedlings were ready to be potted on, I'd have about 1000 little pots ready for them.

Here is a link that might be useful: newspaper pot maker

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 8:23PM
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I, too, am the daughter of a depression-era mother...and I am married to the King of Composting, so we find reuses for many items. Since it is the start of gardening season, the most recent reuse project has been collecting discarded sterile plastic saline bottles from my work (hospital), cutting off the top and bottom and using them as mini-greenhouses for our broccoli, cauliflower, etc. in the garden...also protects from rabbits and cutworms. Plastic soda bottles would work, too.
As others have mentioned, DH is fond of using junk mail and scrap from the paper recycling bin for scratch paper. The only problem with this is that I sometimes miss out on the fact that he has information noted on these papers and re-recycle them. I am the obsessive-compulsive organizer of our household and sometimes view myself as the last barrier between order and chaos!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 9:16PM
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I have 4 kids so we do try to be frugal whenever possible!

We save printer paper that is only printed on one side for scratch paper. We save school notes that are one sided so my kids can draw or do math problems on the other.

We save big plastic yogurt containers and such for leftovers. Why buy tupperware?? And with these containers I can sent leftovers home with family when they come over for a big meal.

I also save grocery store bags and pack my kids school lunches in them instead of buying those small paper bags.

We save napkins from the bags of fast food restaurants. We also save the condiment packets and use them when needed or to pack in school lunches.

I save some sales flyers for my kids to do crafts with. I also save some egg containers and some cereal boxes for the same thing.

Sometimes we stuff newspaper inside some food boxes and tape the top shut. Then my kids play store with those items till they are falling apart and we then recycle them in our recycling bin.

When a board game is missing too many pieces to use anymore we still save the pieces and my kids use them for crafts or to invent new games.

I save all gift bags we receive presents in and most of the tissue paper. We then reuse them to give gifts.

If my kids get a present they don't really like or my dh or I get a present I don't really need (and we have no gift receipt) they go on a closet shelf and are re-gifted to someone different for a birthday or holiday.

If my kids tear out the knees of a pair of pants then I cut and sew to make them shorts or capris for that spring and summer.

If my kids get a stain on anywhere but the sleeve of one of those long sleeve t-shirts then they wear it under a regular t-shirt for a new winter shirt.

When I get address labels in the mail from one of those places that try to get you to donate money I save them and actually use them! I have never paid to get address labels made.

When we are expecting rain we put a few buckets outside to catch the rain and then use that water later to water plants.

Speaking of water we have all made a conscious effort to save on our water bill by turning off the water when brushing our teeth and only turn it on to rinse our toothbrush instead of leaving it on the whole time. We also all try to turn the shower off as we lather up with soap and shampoo and then turn it back on to rinse off.

If we have pencils that are too small to write with anymore, but have good erasers left we save them so we can still use the eraser.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 11:13AM
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I throw out very little garbage. Anything organic (egg shells, coffe grinds,potato peels,, etc), goes in a compost pile in the back corner of my yard. Useable paper gets stacked up near phones for messages and scratch pads. Junk mail gets mixed in with newspapers for recycling. I put out very little in trash collection. I consider it my duty to the planet.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 1:14PM
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I saved the plastic bins baby wipes come in when DD was in diapers. We usually just purchased refills but every now and then we would purchase a new box of wipes.

I use the bin and store leftover plastic store bags in them. It keeps them handy and contained.

I also use the Foodsaver and reuse the bags. Starting out I can freeze whole meals, then individual servings, then a cup or so of chopped fruits/veggies, then minced garlic or onion- then they go in the trash.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 12:51PM
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