Friday, February 11, 2011

Spending Less on Paper Products

  In our disposable society there are a lot of ways we can spend money. Paper towel, toilet paper, facial tissue, paper plates, lunch bags, napkins, sandwich bags, cleansing wipes and more can all be part of the list. So how do we spend less in this area?

  I will be honest for the most part concerning paper products- it isn't the price that bothers me the most, it is the fact that when I use them I am creating a lot of needless trash. So even though I love the fact that I can save money by using less of them I am even happier that I will be not be contributing as much to the landfill.

 Some of these items seem indispensable in our society. What can we do instead? I thought I would share what we do currently do and then how I want to improve even more.

  • Napkins- Instead of paper we use cloth most of the time. I have been able to make our napkins very easily from recycled clothing and other fabric I had on hand. They are not hard to add to a load of laundry. We do have room for improvement in this however. Only some of the napkins that we have (the large ones that I made out of old t-shirts) does Ken like, if there are none of those clean then he will use a paper napkin instead. Also sometimes all of the napkins are in the laundry so the paper ones come out. I need to make more napkins that Ken likes.
  • Paper Towel- We use cloth rags (made from old clothes or cloth diapers) instead. It works great. I do use paper towels if I need to drain oily foods (Bacon, deep fried foods) and we do sometimes use them on trips. I could use cloth napkins on trips instead but I don't know what else I would use for oily foods. Any suggestions?
  • Paper Plates- We have pretty much completely stopped using them. When camping or picnicking we simply bring plastic plates along. When we have parties we use regular stuff and throw it in the dishwasher. It might be a bit more work but I think it is worth it. Same with plastic silverware and plastic or Styrofoam cups.
  • Facial Tissue (Kleenex)- We do still use these some at our house and so what I do buy I try to find on sale or use coupons or both. We are using far less however and we have upped the using of handkerchiefs. I try to always have a handkerchief with me (and I am quick to throw it in the laundry when it needs it- I don't have this rule that it lasts a day or anything gross like that.) and I also have a basket of handkerchiefs sitting at a prominent place in our house so they are handy whenever someone needs them. They take up very little space in our laundry and are easy to fold so I don't think any expense is added there. For a family that seems to often need to blow our nose (Allergies are a part of life...) saving money on tissues is a good thing. I need to get busy and make some more handkerchiefs soon as sometimes they are all in the laundry at once.
  • Lunch Bags- We don't use the little brown paper sacks. I reuse other bags instead and when I finally run out of those (as I don't get them so much anymore as I do usually remember to bring cloth bags to the grocery store) then I will make a lunch sack for Ken. With the kids being homeschooled we don't have the need to use many lunch bags anyway.
  • Toilet Paper-  We do still use it. :-) I was curious if you expected me to say that we don't as that is the case with most paper products. I do try to always get it on sale and use coupons if I have them and they really actually save money. Some people do use cloth toilet wipes and it isn't as gross and weird as you might think. (There is a detailed post on it here at Penniless Parenting.) I don't think I am ready for this step (and I may never be) and I know some in my family aren't but who knows- maybe sometime in the future. I like to at least know what options there are in case I can't get toilet paper someday.
  • Sandwich Bags/ Ziploc Bags- I do buy these occasionally- very, very occasionally. For sandwiches I don't pack them in bags I but them in washable containers. I do use bags for bread, freezing and some other things however. I try not to use them a lot however and what I do use (unless it is meat or some other really sticky/ messy substance) I wash and use again (and again and again...). I wash Ziploc bags as well as bread bags and other food bags (like rice, frozen corn, etc.).
  • Wet Wipes- There are various sorts of these- baby wipes and then the sanitizing wipes that I have seen advertised lately. I don't need baby wipes anymore and I did use them some (when away from home) when I did need to change a diaper but at home I usually used wash clothes (for that purpose only)  that I would get wet and then clean the baby up. I personally much preferred the cloth wipes and thought that they were nicer on the baby's bottom as well. As far as the wipes that are being advertised to wipe counters and such- I don't buy them. I think this nation is a little over obsessed with "sanitizing" and I prefer just to clean with soap and water.
Those are some of the ways that we have saved money on "paper" products. I probably seem extreme to many of you but I know some of you are probably even more "pro" at saving in this area. I still want to improve- not just so we can save money but because I like the idea of using re-usable stuff as much as possible so that we don't contribute so much trash to the landfill. I would love to hear any of your tips and ideas!

I am linking this to Frugal Friday at Life as Mom.


Mary Ann said...

For bacon and greasy foods, I have several older, already stained woven cotton kitchen towels that I use.

We do pretty much the same as you on most other disposable products. Although I do use disposable plates and paper napkins when we have church at our house. I don't have a dishwasher so this seems the easiest option. If we hosted regularly, I may just have to train everyone to use a cloth napkin and to put it in the laundry basket. :-)

I've made most of our napkins out of leftover fabric and we use them every day, I've used them with the kids I care for and find that they work better than paper. Do you have guests that don't want to use the cloth for their children for fear they will make something dirty? I've run into this and while I try to convince them that it really is ok--the napkins can be washed (and it's not like they're white or anything!), I often do end up pulling out the emergency roll of paper towels so they'll feel more comfortable.

Sara said...

We have been using cloth napkins for the past 3 years. Love them!

For greasy foods, I put newspaper on a plate and one paper towel on top and then the greasy food on top (bacon, etc.).

I just started using cloth hankies. I haven't started the rest of the family on these yet. That is one of my goals for the year. Love your idea of putting them in a basket for everyone to use. Will have to try that. I also keep one in my purse for while I am out, at work, etc.

Jackie said...

I think we are similar on a lot of our paper product usage. I haven't figured out how to get around using paper towels for greasy foods either. I just don't think washing grease could be that good for my washer. There really aren't too many times we need them, though. We do still use toilet paper and kleenexes, too.

Amber said...

Those are some really good ideas. At my house we burn tissues in the fireplace - so they mostly aren't going to the landfill and it is nice for the fire. I think toilet paper just needs to be made so it disintegrates in water completely, and that way we'd have it to use but it would also be good for the environment.

Miriam said...

We use and love cloth napkins and hankies and dish towels and rags. I make bacon so infrequently but usually I make it on the broiler pan so most of the grease drips off that way. I don't even keep "emergency" paper towels except in our camper.

I clicked around to your links on family wipes instead of toilet paper and I'm just not sure I'm ready to try that yet.

It feels good to walk right past the "disposable" aisle in the grocery store.

Travis said...

I use brown paper bags for draining things like donuts. For bacon I just put it straight on the plate, I try to drain it pretty well before switching it to the plate.

Greg and Donna said...

I use kitchen towels to drain greasy foods and then wash. We haven't had a problem with the oil coming out. We just switched to towels instead of paper towels. I'm making napkins to replace the paper ones.

Abbi said...

It is so fun to hear what all of you do in this area. We sound a lot alike! Thanks for the ideas for draining greasy things!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin