A Cyber Monday deal on my ebook, plus some Q&A!

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

Before we get to today’s questions, I have a Cyber Monday deal on my ebook, Reuse, Refresh, Repurpose.

Buy a copy today for just $2 instead of the usual $4!

Reuse, Refresh, Repurpose is filled with 20 thoroughly-photographed ideas for breathing new life into old clothes. Some of the ideas are really simple and require almost no effort, while others are a little bit more involved.

I decided to make this super simple, so you do NOT need a coupon code.

Just click right here, add the book to your cart, and the discounted price will automatically show up. Easy-peasy!

Now for a few questions….

I have a question of curiosity for you. Do you consider it wasteful or “un-green” if I reuse plastic grocery bags? I use them as garbage bags throughout the house and as poop bags for when we walk the dogs. Is that wasteful or eco-unfriendly, and if so, is there a better product for garbage bags and poop bags?



Since I don’t own a dog, I can’t really speak to that part of things. But I will say that using grocery or produce bags for poop bags doesn’t seem to be any worse than buying bags for that purpose, and I can’t imagine wanting to walk my dog and carry the poop in something reusable (blech.)

As far as the garbage bag issue goes, I do understand that. Though some trash cans, like the one in our office, can go without liners (and can then be dumped into the larger kitchen trash bag on trash day), it’s nice to have liners in some of the other trash cans that get more messy.

However, even with faithful reusable bag habits around here, we still seem to end up with enough bags for that purpose.

If we didn’t use reusable bags at the grocery store, we’d end up with a LOT of plastic bags around the house…really, way more than we could responsibly use. (by way of example, that photo up there is from one week’s worth of groceries on vacation a few years back.)

If we needed that many trash bags, I’d be more concerned about the amount of trash we were producing than I’d be about our trash can liner choices, you know?

So, yes, I can see a place for plastic grocery bags as trash can liners and as poop bags, but I’d venture to guess that the average household brings home more plastic bags than they can actually need for reuse purposes.

How do you balance being a homeschooling mom and also having friendships and/or accountability and/or biblical community? Right now I just have one daughter (age 2), so I’m able to get together with other women for morning walks or lunches or just a sit-and-chat coffee date pretty easily, and I just parent my daughter as I do those things, but as our family grows (both in number of kids and age of kids), I expect that I’ll need to devote more dedicated time to parenting and schooling, and I wonder how I’ll fit in those encouraging times with other women, and I’d love to know if and how you do it!


Being a homeschooling mom does make that trickier, but then again, a mom who works outside the home would face similar challenges.

I don’t necessarily think I have this down perfectly (I’m always trying to find the right balance!), but here are a few ideas that have helped me.

  • Do some your friendship-maintaining via phone or email. This isn’t as lovely as face-to-face conversation, but it’s better than nothing! You can share prayer requests and check how the other person’s day is going this way. And of course, you can also pray for a friend without being there in person.
  • Find friends who are also homeschooling moms. You might be able to take field trips together or if your kids take an extra-curricular class together, you and the other moms could chat.
  • Have friends over to your house. If you’ve got multiple kids, meeting at Panera won’t be that relaxing, but at your house, your kids can play while you and your friend talk.
  • See if there’s a way to be with a friend while you’re doing something you’d do anyway (if you need to go to the gym, go at the same time as a friend, for example.)
  • Remember that the stage of having children at home is temporary. (It’s a pretty long sort of temporary, but still, it’s just a season!) So, you might adjust your expectations for a while and remind yourself that you’ll have more time for socializing during other phases of life.


Readers, what are your thoughts on reusing plastic grocery bags? And if you have any tips about carving our friend time when your life has a lot of other demands, do share.


  1. Molly says

    Stephanie! I am here to tell you to reuse those plastic bags to your heart’s content.
    We have two cats, and there is no way that I would let their poop just “hang out” in the alley garbage bins. That’s unsanitary and gross in so many ways – more rats would show up, more racoons, and can you imagine the stench as months’ worth of poop gets stuck to the bin itself?
    We also use plastic bags as trash bin liners – I figure that it’s better to reuse something, and give it two lives, than buy specific trash can liners, right?

    • Joy says

      I almost exclusively re-use bags. For leftovers, I place them in a pie tin or plate and cover with a grocery bag. I reuse bread bags for freezing homemade bread. I reuse produce bags for sandwiches, etc. I do have some cloth bags that I use when my stash of plastic is getting large, but I figure it is better than using plastic wrap, trash liners, ziplocks, etc.

  2. Jill says

    Although, I like use the cloth grocery bags, I also like the plastic bags. I use them as liners in the trash cans around the house. I also volunteer at a food pantry and donate my excess bags there. We double the bags to make it stronger with all the cans.

  3. WilliamB says

    Stephanie – since you need something for your dog, reuse is better than new.

    I suppose an ideal solution would be to use reusable bags yourself and get bags from someone who would never use reusables … but we live in the real world, eh?

    There are some other sources that may be available to you. In my area the newspapers always come in a plastic bag and many of my pet-owning neighbors use those bags for their pets. Other ideas include produce bags from the grocery and used (or unwashable) ziplocs. For small house trashcans you might use bags from other sources, such as cereal bags, bags that hold mini-bags of chips (a good source for yours truly), maybe bags from dry cleaners, bags that mail-ordered clothes come in, I’m sure there are other possibilities as well.

    But remember you don’t have to be perfect and conservation is not an all-or-nothing proposition.

  4. says

    for me it`s difficult to schedule in friend-time, when I`m so busy with school, life in general and my boyfriend. My closest friend circle consists of 5 people, including me and my BF, and the three others live in other parts of the country, so we only meet 3-4 times a year, but when we do, we make the most of it. We usally meet over a weekend;which have included horsebackriding, BBQing, roadtrips, celebrating graduations etc. we also celebrate New Years Eve together, and next summer two of them are getting married, so we`ll probably be helping out a bit before the wedding as well. it`s really these few times we meet I cherish the most, because I have so much fun memories!

  5. Katie says

    I definitely re-use platic grocery bags – especially as garbage can liners. They are actually perfect for small trash cans like the one in the bathroom. But I also agree that if you ONLY use plastic bags at the grocery, you will end up with too many (especially when you let the grocery employees do the bagging – they always double-bag and put like, one item in each bag). I have one or two re-usable bags that I take with me (plus, those things can fit a LOT of stuff in each one. They are easy to pack too. So that leaves me only taking home a few plastic bags every week or two, and that is just about how much trash we make. If the bag inventory starts to build up, I’ll try to use the re-usable ones more.

  6. Julie says

    I think when it comes to bags, a multi-layer approach is best. I try to always use the re-usable bags for groceries and I try to remember them for regular shopping but I forget a lot — I just don’t think to take my own bags in to Kohls or JCPenneys! LOL But most of the time, I remember. And the fun part is, if you have a thrift store you can get these bags pretty cheap! I don’t know why they have so many, but they have tons! I actually need to go buy a few because the darn things are just so handy! I DO reuse the plastic ones that come in, too. I use them for dirty diapers that are just TERRIBLE, trash can liners, and also for poop. But as another poster mentioned, I tend to try to use the smallest bags possible for the small jobs. The bigger ones go in trash can ‘baskets’ where the liner doesn’t always have to be trashed. An example is we have an open weave trash can in our living room. It looks great, but little things like popcorn or cereal would fall out without a liner. It’s not a ‘messy’ can so we don’t throw the liner away every week but rather just leave it in and dump the contents into the bigger bag. We keep the liner in until it starts to get messy and then we throw it away. The only room I find where the liner gets thrown away pretty often is the bathroom. But all the other rooms take a while for the liner to get dirty since usually its just tags, tissues or random pieces of paper or some cereal. (I have a toddler who LOVES cereal! LOL) That gives a TON of live to those shopping bags from retail stores!

    As for the ones we don’t use, check your local stores. MANY of them have bins up front where you can recycle ALL plastic bags! Our local recycling allows them for recycling, too! So, many of ours get recycled back to the store they were from (Kroger) or go to the center to be reused. No matter which method you do or if you do what we do and do a mixture, you’re doing some good because anything more than one use is a good use!

  7. says

    In Canada at some of the dollar stores you can buy biodegradeable waste bags. Even some of my grocery stores have started to use these so that you can bring your produce home in them. They are almost as tough as regular plastic. I would suggest using those for the readers doggie issue (especially if you can get them free with your produce). Cheers!

    • says

      in order for biodegradable bags to degrade they need air, moisture & sunlight things they don’t get in land fills. So if you are going to throw the poo in the trash can you may as well reuse one of your grocery bags.

    • Michelle says

      In my city (Canada) our garbage is composted, which makes these biodegradeable bags ideal. I find the plastic grocery bags way too big for dog mess. Of course, if you have a large dog, you need a large bag! Do many American cities compost?

      • Kristen says

        Yeah, it’s fairly uncommon, except in places like, say, Portland. I think it would be awesome if it caught on around the country, though! So much biodegradable stuff gets thrown into the landfills when it could be used to make lovely soil.

  8. says

    Thanks for the cyber monday special!
    On the doggie-doo issue
    If you have a yard train your dog to go at home (best done with a puppy) then you can flush, bury, or compost it. (DO NOT use the resulting compost to grow edibles)
    That said using plastic grocery bags is at least better than buying bags specifically for the poo. You can find lots of info at this website

    Although as an old maid I can’t answer the second question with any authority, I feel that if you don’t establish/ maintain such relationships through the child rearing years it will be difficult to initiate them at later stages of life.

  9. says

    One of the best “Mom” times when our daughter was that age was our church’s childrens’ choir rehearsal time. The Moms gathered in a different room and just talked about whatever was on our minds. Very helpful and supportive unofficial group.

  10. Nikki says

    We also reuse the plastic shopping bags. I try to use cloth bags when I do my grocery shopping, but will admit we still end up with more plastic bags than I would like. We use them when walking the dog and in bathroom garbage cans. Our local grocery store also has a recycling bin specifically for returning those bags. I tend to take our “extras” back to the store for recycling when I have accumulated WAY too many. :)

  11. Kris says

    I was kinda surprised to hear that others commenting here thought they would end up w/too many plastic bags, but after thinking about it, at least half of my grocery shopping is done at Aldi’s and I use (and reuse) their paper bags. Our curbside paper recycling must be placed in a brown paper bag so their bags come in handy for me. And yes, we too reuse plastic grocery bags–they are great for cat litter and trash ca bags, and our church’s food pantry occasionally requests them, so I find that I tend to run short on them. I haven’t purchased trash bags in years.

  12. Elaine in Ark says

    I use some of my plastic bags (grocery and produce sizes) for the Farmers’ Market. I keep them inside the tote bags and hand them to the vendors for the items I buy. They are usually surprised and delighted!

    Another thing you could do with plastic bags is to cut them into strips and crochet them into kitchen rugs. My mom did that with plastic bread bags. They were quite durable and could go through the washer, but I would hang them to dry.

  13. says

    I use grocery bags for trash too. I do it to save money, so that I don’t have to buy trash bags. I just use small trash cans in my house, so the grocery bags will fit. I figure it’s not any worse than buying trash bags, which end up in the trash anyways.

  14. Bernice says

    I reuse my plastic garbage bags all the time. Different sized plastic bags for different tasks. Big and medium sized bags (the Walmart bags as shown above are big plastic bags in my house) and are used for garbage. I use the small plastic bags for my lunch, and the veggie/fruit bags are used to put wet things that I don’t want smelling up my house until dumped on trash day.

    I also carry plastic bags in my purse and coat pockets. I find I use them in all different situations. Once I gave a plastic bag to a little girl sitting next to me on the train so she could put all her Barbies inside instead of holding several Barbies in her hand. Her brother added his Hotwheel cars. Another time I was waiting in my Dr’s office and overheard another patient searching for a bag to put her stuff into, so she of couse happily accepted a plastic bag. I recently put my Thanksgiving leftover containers in one of my bags to take home. I find myself and perfect strangers in need a plastic bag more times then you would think.

    • Bernice says

      I meant to add, my parents now live in an area where they don’t get grocery bags at the store anymore. So the other day, my dad asked me to get my groceries double bagged so I could share my plastic bag stash with them. My parents like to empty the trash often so the bags aren’t so heavy, so they use lots of my free, plastic grocery bags.

  15. Virginia Dare says

    If you find you having trouble making social engagements, remember the importance of expressing interest and being considerate. If you have to cancel something, do so promptly and try to re-schedule right away when you call. If you are invited to a group activity and can’t make it, be sure to say, “and please invite me again next time” when you give your regrets. That way people know you really do want to come, even though your schedule might not be as flexible. Follow up by asking how it went, to see pictures, etc. And remember to host sometimes. Don’t worry if your house is not perfectly prepared: just clear off the sofa, have a seat, and focus only on your friend (not the laundry, computer, etc.) for an hour.

    I am a new mom (10 months) and before my daughter was born I wasn’t friends with any other moms (well, not any moms with little kids, anyway). I’m so thankful that I got involved with the New Moms’ Group at the hospital where I delivered. We have stayed in touch and are now a Not-so-New Moms’ Group. :-) Some of us have even had second children, but we keep in touch very well via Facebook. I cannot say enough wonderful things about using Facebook to keep in touch with these ladies, and for re-connecting with some of my childhood friends who are now having children. I know a lot of people think Facebook is largely a time-suck, but I find it so useful for keeping up with my mom friends. Nowadays, most of the moms in my group are stay-at-home, and those of us who work don’t get to see them as frequently. We keep in touch with our FB group, and organize outings, with our without our babies.

    Maybe there is a moms’ group at your church (or you could start one!). Some of mine and my sister’s oldest and dearest friends are the children of women my mother befriended in her women’s group at church. We are scattered across the country, now, but we still go to each others’ weddings, send cards, talk on FB, etc.

  16. Jenny Fretz says

    For grocery bags, we do a combination of reusable shopping bags and trips without to meet out “wal mart” bag needs! When we are getting low on shopping bags, we just don’t take our bags to the store on the next trip to stock up!
    One thing as a homeschooling mom that I use to keep in touch with friends is texting. I usually spend about ten minutes while my kids do something they can do by themselves sending check in messages to some of my friends and then later on when there is another thing they can do on their own. I read responses. It is perfect because anyone can respond when it works for them and we get to keep in touch.
    Sometimes we sneak out for walks or snacks after we get out kids in bed and our husbands are home but that doesnt happen very often!
    We also have a home school art class at our church that one of the dads teaches and all the moms come and hang out while the kids are in class!
    Play dates are great especially in a confined space- we rarely go to McDonalds Playland so when we do the kids are happy to play for an hour and since it is a confined space and pretty safe- we are able to visit uninterrupted usually!

  17. Courtney says

    I’m not sure if someone already suggested this… but around where I live there are lots of drop off boxes at supermarkets and such to recycle those bags. I’m not sure what happens to them after that, but we often take the majority of ours there if we are negligent on bringing our own bags places.

    • Kristen says

      I do appreciate the whole recycling idea, but plastic cannot be recycled indefinitely, and of course, as with any material, it’s better to not use it in the first place than it is to recycle it.

      So, recycling is certainly better than letting them fly about in nature (which causes a lot of problems for wildlife), but reusable bags are a better option if you’re consistently ending up with more bags than you need for reuse purposes.

  18. says

    On making time for friends… when we had kids and friends did not, we’d always offer to host dinner. Our friends could come over after the kids went down without our having to arrange for sitters or deal with tired children at their houses. Works less well once all your friends start having kids, but if you’re among the first, you’re golden.

  19. Susanna says

    I re-use the plastic bags for doggy poo and trash can liners – my townhome association provides doggy stations with bags and I’ll use those sometimes as well but for back patio pickup/maintenance I use the shopping bags. I also carry food items to work in them. I really need to back off with this since often they tear and aren’t good for anything but the trash plus I don’t need as many as I’m bringing in the house. I also use them for wet stuff- like if I use a dish towel and get it soaked I’ll put it in a plastic shopping bag to take upstairs to the washer.

    single and no kids and I still don’t have active friendships on a regular basis! I work a rotating shift and am usually tired and my days off aren’t the same each week. I try to meet up with friends if I know something is coming up but between my job and them juggling family obligations it’s not easy.

  20. says

    We use reusable bags as often as we can at the supermarket, but we’ve still managed to end up with more than enough plastic bags to use as bin liners and anything else we need them for. I do feel guilty every time I get plastic bags from a shop, but it is impossible to use reusable bags for everything because, as some other posters have said, some things are too disgusting to use reusable bags.

  21. Ilo R. says

    A while back my husband agreed to try something new. In a way to save a little money and get rid of some plastic bags, we decided to only use these plastic bags for all our trash. We recycle everything that we can, to the point of where we were only taking out 1 standard size bag of trash out once a week. Well since we have not started composting yet. It began to smell. So now we take out 1 plastic store issued bag daily. I have hopes to reduce this amount even less when we start composting.

  22. Maureen says

    I don’t know why anyone would want to pack their groceries in those bags … Cloth bags are so much sturdier and easier to transport groceries in … They wash beautifully and keep products well protected … I started using them for thesake of the environment but realized they are so much easier and never rip or leak …

  23. Juliette says

    Just to add to your thoughts about friend time during homeschooling, we are part of a homeschool group. There are about 300 families in this group and we have more options than we can fit into our schedule from this group. There is anything from field trips to park days to moms nights out planned by this group. You may want to do a search in your area and see if there is such a group or even start one. :)

  24. says

    Because I work in a library and do storytimes twice a week, one for 0-3 and one for 3-5 I see a lot of families that have met at the library and became friends. Both groups have stared Facebook pages that are private, invite only, so they can meet at each others houses, the park, or the library on a non-storytime day. They also do ladies nights and play Bunco.
    About the plastic bags the library needs thoughs too especially during the rainy season for people who checkout books and forget their bags :-)

  25. Tammy says

    Sorry if this has already been said as I did not read all the comments, but there are plenty of biodegradeable poop bags on the market.

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