Life with sturdy, non-disposable things is nicer, don’t you think?

by Kristen on January 9, 2013 · 102 comments

in Green and Frugal

Would you rather store your leftovers in these?

Or in these?

Would you rather eat your meals with these:

or these?

And which is a more lovely water bottle?

I’ve been thinking about this because often, a frugal lifestyle is associated with misery and deprivation (green living is often thought of this way as well.)

But really, a life full of disposable items isn’t super fabulous.

I mean, there’s a reason luxurious restaurants use real flatware and real glasses and cloth napkins, and it’s not because they’re going for that deprivation feel. ;)

I don’t care what Kleenex says, I like having real cotton hand towels in my bathrooms.

I like my well-made, meant-to-last kitchen tools.

And I wouldn’t trade this for a paper towel in a million years (unless I’m draining bacon.)

Most of these things require a little bit more work (you have to launder towels, you can’t really throw away your Pyrex containers if they happen to house something super disgusting, you have to wash real dishes, and you have to fill your canteen with water).

But honestly, it’s not THAT much work.

-Filling a water bottle takes maybe 30 seconds.

-Washing plates and silverware is quick business if you own a dishwasher. It’s not the plates and silverware that take time…it’s the pots and pans and measuring cups, so I don’t think disposable plates and silverware would buy me much time.

-Washing kitchen linens doesn’t take long either….even with daily usage, I only have to do about one load of kitchen towels and washcloths each week.

And given that non disposable items are less expensive, better for the environment, and flat-out nicer to use, I’m quite willing to invest the bit of extra time they require.

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Joshua’s 365 post: Big Tree, Little Tree

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{ 102 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Economies of Kale January 9, 2013 at 7:49 am

I agree! I love my stainless steel drink bottle and reusable plastic and stainless steel containers for leftovers and lunches. I’m saving up for some Pyrex containers with leaf-proof lids, but they are expensive!

Do people really use disposable plates and cutlery at home? I wouldn’t be able to live with producing that much waste every week, I feel guilty throwing out yogurt containers because I know I can make my own.

It’s so great when being frugal and being green overlap :)

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2 Julie @ Kid Deals Chicago January 9, 2013 at 10:08 am

I actually do know some people who use paper plates for dinner on a fairly regular basis. We had 20 people at our house last week for our baby’s baptism and I cringed to use disposable plates and silverware but I didn’t have enough “real” plates for everyone.

I can’t remember the last time I bought paper towels. We just use old towels and cloth diapers and they work just as well. It was a difficult transition at first but now it is second nature.

I am trying to move away from plastic food storage containers and plastic cups for the kids. I like the idea of stainless steel cups (we have water bottles already) but they are pricey. I’m trying to make this switch a priority for this year.

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3 Economies of Kale January 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm

We would definitely have to use paper plates if we had that many people at our house too! I think we only own about six plates.

But I can’t imagine using them on a regular basis.

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4 Renee CA January 9, 2013 at 11:08 am

You can use jars for food storage. Free! I love the straight-sided ones and have been known to buy one brand over another because it came in a better jar. I also bought some heavy duty plastic lids for mason jars to be used just for storage (not canning). They come in two sizes where canning supplies are sold and online. (Got mine at Walmart)

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5 Chloe January 10, 2013 at 2:49 am

Yes, I use food jars sometimes too. I always save the ones I think are shaped well!!

I keep brewed ice tea in a large apple sauce jar, for example.
I make batches of brewed tea in a 1/2 gallon mason jar, and once it’s been out for a couple of hours I store it in the fridge.
So thanks for the tip about the storage lids for canning jars! I had no idea! That’s great!

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6 Sarah January 9, 2013 at 7:55 am

I couldn’t agree more! We don’t use paper products in our house (well, except for toilet paper-can’t get down with the “family cloth”). It’s amazing how shocking this is for our guests! People are shocked when I hand them cloth napkins to use with dinner, or cloth towels to clean up kitchen spills. Really, these things are just tossed in the wash with the towels, so I see no extra effort. In fact, I find it less effort as I don’t have to hunt down paper or plastic plates/cups/cutlery/napkins at the grocery store!

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7 Kristen January 9, 2013 at 8:07 am

I’m with you-I will die using disposable toilet paper, that is for sure. I’ll just be green in other ways!

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8 Chloe January 10, 2013 at 3:03 am

I’ve been off paper towel for years!

But I never really thought of toilet paper as being wasteful, I guess because my father worked at a toilet paper factory, and I remember going for tours there when I was little… and they would show us these HUGE cubes of used paper… like printed paper (not other tissue! lol)… and that’s what they were making the toilet paper out of. This was in the 70s. So recycling paper to make toilet paper is nothing new.

Also, when I was in high school, my environmental science class had a field trip to the sewage treatment plant! There they explained that sludge was collected – and it was a great deal toilet paper! And it was taken out, treated and then used for something further…

So I guess I always have felt like toilet paper is a valid use of something, in between it being used for other things! :o)

BtW: I’m going to be thinking about “the family cloth” now! … what a concept! ha ha Surely even in the dark ages people got their own cloth to use! :o(

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9 WilliamB January 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Unlikely to be cloth, which most couldn’t afford to use that way. They were more likely to use a hand or leaves. In the past couple of centuries add to the list old paper (before wood-pulp paper, both fabric paper or parchment were *far* too expensive to be used for any sort of waste product), corn stalk leaves and corncobs (ouch!) to the list.

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10 Kate January 9, 2013 at 8:20 am

Another facet to this is by paring down the products you use on a regular basis (eg cleaning products, hygiene and beauty products, paper goods) there’s less to buy and less to keep track of so you don’t run out. I find this saves me a lot of mental energy.

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11 Theresia January 9, 2013 at 8:44 am

Well, I will reluctantly admit that our family still uses paper towel. Less, as of lately, but we still buy it. I’m working toward not buying it at all. I LOVE my Pyrex containers and I am always on the lookout at garage sales for solid, leak proof containers. We have a couple of stainless steel drink bottles, but we don’t use them often (use plastic reusable cups with lids usually) because I can’t get past the metal taste (reminds me of my ole girl scout canteen!). Am I just buying the wrong ones? Recommendations? I’m new the trying to live more green and on less. Thanks for the great blog!

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12 Kristen January 9, 2013 at 10:46 am

We like our stainless steel Klean Kanteens. I don’t know if maybe the cheaper ones have a more metallic taste?

I’ve also seen glass water bottles that come with a protective cover…people who hate metal water bottles seem to swear by them.

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13 Rebecca January 9, 2013 at 11:05 am

I am one of those “can’t drink out of metal” people and I LOVE LOVE LOVE my glass water bottle from Lifefactory. I have the classic 22oz container and love it. Its super durable too, has taken many drops and tumbles and never a problem. I only hand wash it because I don’t have a dishwasher, but its always in use anyways. They make little kid sizes with a sippy top and baby bottles too.

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14 Karen January 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm

we use Aquasana glass water bottles. you can also buy a neoprene case to go with them. we got a set of 6 from Amazon for $20.

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15 Chloe January 11, 2013 at 8:42 am

Yeah I confess I still buy paper towel, because well, we have a cat that has a catbox, and the occasional coughed up hairball. :o(
But 1 regular roll will last a few months around here, even though I sometimes also use it to clean windows, and use it to wipe grease out of pans.

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16 Dogs or Dollars January 9, 2013 at 8:55 am

I agree! With caveats. ;)

I can not stand those tin food containers. Not being able to see whats in the container = bad juju. And they (or mine at least) were ridiculously hard to open. Glass all the way.

My other addition would be cloth napkins. We have a set of ‘un paper towels’ that we use for our regular dinner napkins. Not fancy, just the right size, and I even have enough to use for parties and get togethers.

So much better.

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17 Kristen January 9, 2013 at 10:45 am

Yeah, I don’t use those containers for long-term storage. I just use them for packing things in Mr. FG’s lunches.

For fridge storage, I swear by my Pyrex because I really need to be able to see what’s in the container.

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18 Dana Brown Ritter January 9, 2013 at 9:06 am

I’m with you on everything except the glass food storage containers. If it were just me, I would be with you on that, too. A paralyzed husband + glass = I would be doing a lot of cleaning up, or I’d have to heat every single thing up for him. No thanks. :)

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19 Kristen January 9, 2013 at 10:45 am

I think that’s quite understandable!

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20 Jen January 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Glass doesn’t work for my 90 year old mother who is pretty frail, either. After she dropped and broke a couple and then cut her foot trying to clean up, I brought the last of my plastic ones to her, and took her glass ones home.
I do think the glass conrtibute to less food waste–my husband is MUCH more likely to eat leftovers he can see!

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21 Rebecca January 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

Loved this post! I’d love to know where you got you’re measuring cups. Mine have seem their better days and I’d like to get some to last next time :)

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22 Susan January 9, 2013 at 9:33 am

I have changed quite a few items in my house from disposible to non disposible and love it! I bought these glass containers with plastic lids that have snap down lids on all 4 side, I love them and want more. I was given multiple cloth napkins from my mom who cleared out her stash of them. I use them for kitchen towels as well as napkins. We no longer buy paper plates either. Dryer sheets I think are a wash of money and they are not good for the envirnoment, so I made and now sell my own wool felted dryer balls. I love them……..and so does one of my dogs.

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23 Susan January 9, 2013 at 9:36 am

Oh and for Christmas my daughter bought me a Lifefactory water bottle that is made of glass and has and rubber mesh covering the outside. I love it it is 24 oz and I fill it up at least 4 times a day. Wonderful gift, have to say my favorite of this Christmas.

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24 Denise @ My House, My Rules January 9, 2013 at 9:52 am

I fully agree. Sustainable is always better. I will admit I use the plastic food storage containers as they are just easier and safer for transportation, but I also use them for years until they literally fall apart. I don’t consider them to be disposable. I make me feel better knowing we aren’t contributing very much to the landfill each week!

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25 Sarah January 9, 2013 at 10:18 am

Thanks Kristen… a little encouragement helps! I’ve been living the non-disposable life for several years now, and I’ve been feeling like I’m losing steam a bit lately with it. This was a great post to re-motivate me and convince me not to buy that roll of Bounty paper towels I’ve been thinking of getting. :)

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26 Andrea January 9, 2013 at 10:22 am

I love that you’re in agreement with me on this one. When my husband moved in with me, he swore by using paper everything. I hated it! It wasn’t what I grew up doing, and it made me feel cheep. His thinking was we didn’t have to do dishes. (which meant I didn’t have to do dishes) Finally he got it that we were waisting money more than we were saving.

And now, he’s got me using glass to-go mugs for my morning coffee, and a stainless steel container for my water!

Seems like the more green we are, the more green in our pockets!

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27 Amy January 9, 2013 at 10:36 am

Hear, hear, Frugal Girl. You know what I’m so disgusted by? That show about the Dugger family (with about 20 kids) – they use disposable (paper/styrofoam) dishes as every meal! It makes my heart bleed when I think of not only what they’re contributing to landfills, but also what they’re teaching their children about conservation and clean (read: green) living. I shouldn’t get so zealous about others’ actions, but when it comes to something as simple as this, it really irritates me. Thanks for being on the ‘other side.’

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28 Dianna January 9, 2013 at 11:03 am

I really wondered if I was the only one bothered by that. The other thing that totally bothered me was that they have a soda dispenser right in their home that the kids drink from whenever they want and get new styrofoam cups each time as well. To each his own I guess.
We love our Kleen Kanteens and own 6 or 7 of them now. They are a great investment. We buy about 3 rolls of paper towels a year. I cut up old t-shirts and such that are no good to even donate for cleaning rags. If something is extra greasy or something, we can just dispose of it.
I love my Pyrex too, will only use plastic if sending something back to college with my daughter (I would never see my pyrex again). Kristen has always said that the clear containers will help with food waste and it is very true. No mystery containers anymore.

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29 Eveline January 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I could not agree more. Even with Michelle’s explanation that they write the name of the child on the plate so they can keep an eye on who finishes their plate, I’m sure sitting with them and actually seeing what they put in their mouths would work just as well. But maybe that’s just me….

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30 Shannon January 9, 2013 at 11:29 am

I couldn’t agree with you more. It seems people are sold on ideas rather than reality.

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31 Jewlz January 9, 2013 at 11:45 am

I use all of those except for the plastic storage containers. I just can’t seem to get moved over to anything else. My husband works in a rough environment and we have young kiddos, and so it’s just not feasible to use heavy glass containers. And for here at home, I just can’t afford to change over everything at this point. For the most part, I try to stay away from plastics, but right now, I will stick with them for storage. But at least I’ve put in the other steps! LOL I’m even considering going over to cloth napkins. I guess we will see.

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32 Renee CA January 9, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I cut up some dish towels a little smaller than washcloths and serged the edges to use as dish cloths and to take the place of paper towels. But they also work great as napkins for little ones. Sometimes I dampen them and set them on the high chair and show them how to wipe their little fingers on them. They learned to use them really quickly! The older ones tell me if I’ve forgotten to give them a “nakin”.

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33 Diane January 9, 2013 at 11:50 am

Ouch! I bought those red-lidded containers last year to pack full of homemade toffee for Christmas gifts. I found them at the Dollar Store and thought they were a good, airtight, reusable, frugal-ish, festive-looking solution. I filled about sixty containers for my customers, friends and family. I had a few left over and haven’t touched them since. Now, they mock me every time I open that particular cupboard. Seeing your lead photo produced a small pang. Sometimes it seems the best solution for a particular situation is disposable, but I guess the point is to use them as little as possible. Now, what the heck do I do with the leftover containers?
P.S. I just retired, so I had more time and less money this year. I used cellophane bags that I had on hand. Still plastic, but less of it. Sigh. In the immortal words of Kermit the Frog: “It’s not easy being green.”

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34 Renee CA January 9, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I’m sure the occasion will come up that you need to take food somewhere or send some home with someone. I save plastic yogurt containers (don’t make my own yet, sorry!) and cottage cheese containers, etc., just for this reason.

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35 Ted S. January 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Ditto. If I am going to throw away cottage cheese containers (I make our yogurt), then I am at least going to use them one more time by taking my work lunch in them. I don’t reheat in them, use a regular bowl for that, but it makes me feel that at least there has been at least one reincarnation of that wasted plastic cottage cheese container.

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36 STL Mom January 10, 2013 at 6:48 am

Diane, don’t feel bad! Most gifts get wrapped in material that is immediately thrown in the garbage. At least your containers might have been reused a few times before they were (we can hope) recycled. Think how much more waste there would be if you had bought a package of toffee for everyone — and I’m sure it would not have been nearly as delicious!

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37 Michele January 9, 2013 at 11:54 am

We have always used cloth napkins and towels. We even used cloth diapers for the kids. They are cheaper and better for the environment.

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38 Battra92 January 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm

What do you use for measuring cups? I weigh most things but do need a scoop and sweep set after my wife broke a couple of our Rubbermaid ones. I’d love the All-Clad ones and I’m sure I’d keep them for life but I just can’t justify $50 for a set of measuring cups!

I think non-disposable items are fantastic except in certain cases of things that stain or something that will walk away from me and never return. Instead of buying disposable plastic items, I acquire them through other methods. On Thanksgiving this year, my entire stock of cottage cheese containers walked away to various in-laws never to return. Oh well, just an excuse to buy more cottage cheese at Aldi. ;)

I keep a couple disposable knives on hand (usually saved from take out) because they don’t scratch non-stick pans when you need to remove that stuck on muffin.

Also, I used to think paper towels were essential and they are in certain cases but we have reduced our paper towel usage by leaps and bounds by buying a dozen of these towels from Ikea: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/10100909/

Seriously, if you live near Ikea buy yourself a dozen. If you have a friend or relative who lives near one, ask them to send you two dozen or more. I’ve used them to strain potatoes for hash browns lined colanders with them instead of cheesecloth. Great product and so simple and cheap! I’m apparently not the only one who likes them as I’ve noticed Julia or Bridgette using one on Cook’s Country but they recommend some super expensive kitchen towel that you can’t bleach clean. ;)

I’ve actually even heard of people cutting them in half and hemming them to make cloth napkins!

By the way, you mentioned draining bacon. I use a cooling rack over a sheet pan and then save the grease. ;) I will put newspaper down on the rack if I’m draining chicken or french fries or something else where I won’t be saving the grease.

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39 Renee CA January 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I wash out yogurt, cottage cheese containers and put them in a bag on my panty floor. Last year the bag was full and I was shocked to see how many containers their were! I took a picture and put them on craigslist for free and they were gone by the end of the day. Didn’t ask the guy what he was going to use them for!

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40 Lindsey January 9, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I use them for starting seedlings every spring.

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41 Renee CA January 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I use a dish cloth to line the bottom of a large bowl when I make salad. Wash and chop the lettuce and stir around to dry with the towel. I think it works better than a salad spinner. Sometimes I chop more lettuce than I need, fold the tops of the towel over to cover it and store in frig. Keeps pretty well for a couple of days this way.

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42 Jen January 9, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Our food pantry takes plastic 16 oz. or larger containers which they use to divide up large bags of beans and rice, or to portion out soup leftovers from restaurants. If you have a big stash, you might check with a food pantry. Since my husband makes his own yogurt we don’t have nearly as many as we used to, but still some.

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43 Renee CA January 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Good idea. Thanks.

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44 Jen January 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Stainless steel from a restaurant supply. I bought a set for less than $5 about 20 years ago and they’re still going strong with almost daily use!

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45 Battra92 January 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Something like these? http://www.webstaurantstore.com/tablecraft-725-heavy-weight-measuring-cups/808725.html

I’d like to buy one set and let my proverbial future grandchildren fight over them. :P

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46 KimN January 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I’m with you most of the way on this one. This last year we did away with paper napkins/towels and I never miss them. We’ve never used paper plates/cutlery despite my hatred of washing dishes. I also love my cloth diapers. However, I do not like the metal water bottles (ick) I prefer my plastic one and so does the rest of the family. I also like those plastic containers for freezing. I reuse the heck out of mine until they are completely unusable and then recycle them so I don’t feel bad about that. I don’t like freezing things in glass containers personally.

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47 Tara January 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Kristin I couldn’t agree more. But I have an additional reason for why I feel this way. I was raised almost entirely on disposable items. We RARELY used real plates, napkins or anything else. It was paper plates every night for dinner or anything else. I remember absolutely hating it and vowing as an adult to almost never use disposables. As an adult I realize now why I felt that way. While I completely understand the occasional need to use disposables (for large parties and what not) there is a lack of reverence for the every day and a general feeling of lack of care that comes with the disposables. As a small child I felt that dinner was something to get over with rather than to enjoy and relish with the people I was with. The paper plates only added to this feeling. In my house now dinner is a time of coming together and spending time-if only for 30-40 minutes. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way because my children much prefer our lovely plates at dinner and actually complain if they don’t get one for whatever reason. It sets a tone. It’s contributes an attitude of slowing down and showing care. I hope I’m not opening up a can of worms to debate this-I’m not saying all people who use paper plates are uncaring toward their family. Just that it’s something else to consider as a benefit of not using toss-away items.

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48 Renee CA January 9, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Using real plates and utensils also gives kids the opportunity to help out – setting the table, cleaning up, loading the dishwasher, or washing by hand.

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49 Beka January 9, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Hmm, I guess I’m in a minority here too. I was really good at the whole “green” thing before we had kids. I even stuck with it – cloth diapers and all – until I had number three. Now, between schooling my kids, cooking almost non-stop (we have food allergies in the house and everything has to be made from scratch), not having a dishwasher, and not having a whole lot of money, we use some things that I guess people think are unpardonable. We use paper plates usually once every day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I prefer to use real plates, but right now, it’s just one more thing to have to fit in my schedule, which is already beyond hectic.We still use real cloth napkins, because they’re easy enough to just throw in with the day’s wash, and they work better for cleaning up the kids. I use a mix of paper towels and regular towels, depending on what it’ll be used for and how the day is going. And I have a mix of pyrex containers for leftovers (which I do love!) and regular plastic ones that my lunch meat comes in. I can’t afford to buy all kinds of stuff when my lunch meat already comes in something perfectly usable. We use them till they break, so I don’t feel bad about it. One day we’ll be more green around here. When my day is not packed with all kinds of cooking, cleaning, schooling, and chasing after three young children. I agree, though, with the original point that things that are reusable are generally a lot nicer than disposable!

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50 Steph January 13, 2013 at 8:30 am

Hi Beka,maybe some thing has to give as it sounds like you are overscheduled and stressed out. People’s lives are too complicated at times it seems. I’m not from the US and didn’t realise that using paper plates and disposable cutlery as a daily thing was something that people did. I must admit I’m a bit shocked. Sounds miserable to me.

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51 Susan January 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I use Glad disposable containers because my son kept losing the expensive containers. I just keep putting them through the dishwasher until they break (which usually takes an entire school year.)

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52 marie January 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I used to use reusable water bottles, I used to have a Nalgene one, and I’ve had a couple other ones, but I started to worry about germs breeding in them and pretty much stopped using them and started buying a case of water every week.

My question is, what is the proper, “safe” way to clean the bottles if you do not have a dishwasher? How often do you wash them? For example, I have a cold right now so I don’t even use the same mug twice for fear of germs or bacteria.

I use regular flatware, dinnerware and drinkware without any fear because those are easy to clean and dry, but with water bottles, I worry that they don’t get completely dry inside and that bacteria will just stay in.

For other stuff, I use cloth dish towels and had towels. I use the occasional paper towel to clean up after my cat or if I cook bacon or something like that.

I do use regular toilet paper and facial tissue.

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53 Battra92 January 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Soap, water and a bottle brush should be all you need. Soap, even the plain old non-antibacterial types will get rid of the germs. It doesn’t kill them but rather removes them from the bottle by adhering to them and causing them to slip and slide off of the surface and down the drain.

Average hot water heaters heat to approx 135 which isn’t enough to kill germs. If you are truly worried and paranoid about sanitizing you could soak your dishes in a weak bleach solution of 1 tbsp bleach per gallon of water. But unless you have an immune system issue, this is far overkill. You can wash your dishes just fine with plain old dish soap (yes, even the non-antibacterial stuff) and hot water.

A lot of the germaphobia is caused, in my opinion, because companies want to sell you more and more products to kill germs.

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54 WilliamB January 9, 2013 at 7:06 pm

“A lot of the germaphobia is caused, in my opinion, because companies want to sell you more and more products to kill germs.”

Hear, hear!

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55 Claire January 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I want to second everything Battra92 said.

I did a quick google search and found that people find that buying denture cleaner and using that in the nalgenes works wonders. Sure, you’d have to buy it, but I’m sure it would be less expensive overall than buying bottled water (and a whole lot easier to transport).

Are you concerned because you cannot reach your hand into the bottle to scrub and dry it? If that’s the case, you could just use a different bottle with a lid for water….like one of those plastic coffee travel mugs or even a re-purposed wide-mouthed jar. Both have lids, both can travel, and both can be taken apart and fully scrubbed to your liking.

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56 ~Dorthey January 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm

The Bottles will Full dry if u tilt just slightly on a Dish Rack

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57 Lindsey January 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Some hospitals are now using a vinegar solutions for cleaning (not sterilizing instruments, obviously) and our Cooperative Extension has some literature showing it will kill germs quite effectively. I wash our containers as best I can. Then I put enough water with vinegar in the sink to cover the entire bottle and let it sit for a bit, like through a movie, and then rewash with soap and water—no mold, no bacteria, cheap and earth friendly.

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58 Lili@creativesavv January 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I am afraid to say, I am on the other side of this issue, for part of this, and here’s why.

We do reuse plastic containers (dairy and deli containers), and will reuse plastic cutlery that we obtain for free, because they’re FREE, which is the price that we can afford.

We do have several glass casserole dishes with lids that I use both in cooking and food storage. But they are dual purpose. I bought them for cooking, and am delighted that I can also store foods in them. And I have inherited a stash of vintage Fire King glass bakeware and food storage with glass lids — again, inherited, so free to me.

For the environment, to me it’s more acceptable to reuse a container that I purchased food in, than to throw it in the garbage or have it manufactured into something else (recycled). Repurposing is gentler on the environment than recycling through manufacture.

Now if I NEVER bought any foods in plastic containers, then I would have to consider which containers I would buy for food storage.

I will continue to buy tissues, in part because I wouldn’t want a guest in our house to need a tissue and be told to use toilet paper instead. But also, when one of us has a cold, I want to dispose of germy tissues as quickly as possible, instead of using a hankie (but I do have several vintage hankies I keep for teary eyes).

Where I am with you, is in use of paper vs. cloth, in most instances. You are dead on with how little work laundering takes in the modern world.

We use fabric napkins, again because they were either free to us or I sewed them. (I keep leftover paper napkins from take away places, to use for paper towels, such as draining meat products.) Aside from draining meat, I use rags instead of paper, as in a family of 5, I have an endless supply of rag material. I ran out of my last roll of paper towels a couple of months ago. And I haven’t needed more since then.

Cloth items will almost always be less expensive than paper items. And I think using a cloth napkin is so much lovelier to the touch and eyes than a paper napkin.

Just my opinion and circumstances.

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59 Battra92 January 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Reuse is one of the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) so no shame in reusing disposable items. I even reuse the bags I get deli meat in.

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60 Cheri January 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Yeah! I love being green and frugal!!!!

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61 Jessy Mills January 9, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Hell yes! I loved this post. Most people seem to think I’m crazy with all the plastic I avoid, but really it’s not crazy at all and it’s better for us, the environment and saves money in the end!

XOXO

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62 KalynBrooke | Creative Savings January 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Since we don’t have a dishwasher, I have to wash all my dishes by hand. Such a pain! But I hate throwing away money on disposables, so we just use them for picnics and other casual get-togethers.

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63 SarahD January 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm

I have to say, I really enjoy using all of the non-disposable things better. But I am very thankful for those occasions when I can pull out the paper plates, for example, and be over and done with the dishes. It’s a lot less often than it used to be. But I don’t feel guilty about it when I do, because I know there is a time for everything.

I have cut down hugely on my paper towel use. I use cut up t-shirt rags for almost everything and don’t mind washing them. And I take my stainless steel water bottles filled with tap water on every outing and think it’s awesome.

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64 Leah January 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm

We use both. My husband grew up using disposable for everything! I grew up using disposable toilet paper. I have him away from disposable plates and silverware, but he will not quit using sponges to do dishes and it makes me so mad.

We do use plastic containers, because we’re a house of clumsies. I’ve broken tons of Pyrex in my life. Using glass is wasteful, too, if you know you’ll break it eight times out of ten.

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65 Elaine in Ark January 9, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I gave up sponges for washing dishes last year. I bought some nice kitchen washcloths, on sale, and fell in love with them. They’re better than microfiber cloth, and clean great wet or dry. I went back and bought a second package, so I can use a clean one every day. I don’t miss my old germy sponges one bit.

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66 ~Dorthey January 9, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Understandable about the Glass ;)
But the SPONGE ….Ewwwe there are so many Germs
That live in those didn’t Mythbusters say a Sponge is Dirtier
Than a Toilet ??? I think that’s where I heard that.
Use a Dish rag to wash with then hang up to dry & toss in washer
When u wash the rest of Ur Kitchen Towels :)
Then u won’t have to worry about the Germs in the Sponge & won’t hv to buy them anymore ;) plus the do hv Dish scrubbers at the Dollar store &
So on Target etc.
If We All Just keep on doing Our Part of Being as GREEN as We can be, it Makes a BIG Difference ! ~ Really

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67 WilliamB January 9, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Just microwave the wet sponge for 2-3 min. It’ll be as clean as a brand-new sponge.

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68 Battra92 January 10, 2013 at 7:25 am

It might smell a little funny, though. ;)

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69 Mary H January 10, 2013 at 10:07 am

Sponges can be washed in the laundry same as cloths or rinsed in a little vinegar (antifungal, antibacterial and gets rid of odors).

70 WilliamB January 10, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Mary H, Consumer Reports did a study. Only nuking (and boiling I think?) on hot water de-germed a sponge thoroughly. The other ideas – bleach, vinegar, etc. – didn’t de-bug sufficiently for CR to consider them clean.

My roommate insists on using a dishrag for dish washing, which he insists on doing by hand. I don’t know how often he changes the dishrag so I nuke it when I nuke the sponge.

71 Leah January 12, 2013 at 6:49 am

WilliamB if your roommate is anything like me the rag gets switched out every time I wash dishes. When it gets too raggedy into the rag bag it goes.

Oh, my rag bag. I get all excited thinking about it.

And I don’t reuse sponges. I use it once and purposely use it to clean something so disgusting I have to throw it away. Like cleaning my oven. Sponges make me feel icky.

72 Mary H January 12, 2013 at 1:45 pm

WilliamB, I read a Good Housekeeping article where a lab test showed bleach most effective(99.9%), followed by
microwave(didn’t get all E. coli), dishwasher, and vinegar. The washing machine was least effective so I stand corrected on both counts.

73 Elaine in Ark January 9, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Actually, I love and adore my Rubbermaid and Tupperware food storage containers. I have arthritis in my hands, and there’s no way I could keep glass containers.

I agree with everything else, though!

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74 Patti January 9, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Hi Kristen,

I grew up using those cheap paper plates with those wicker plate holders. Hated them then and still do. My mom didn’t like me asking for a “real” plate bit I used one when I could. Heck, the kids washed the dishes so I didn’t see what the problem was. I refuse to use paper plates as much as possible. I’ve only broken down a couple of times in the forty one years since I’ve been on my own. Paper towels too. A roll will last me for months. Now I do use plastic. Tupperware that I’ve had for a zillion years. I just washed out two pretty jelly jars to store my loose tea. My family laughs but oh well!

Patti

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75 Becoming Annie January 9, 2013 at 4:42 pm

You’ve inspired me to use a canteen (which I had gathering dust in my cupboard) instead of a disposable water bottle in my diaper bag, and it is indeed so much nicer.

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76 ~Dorthey January 9, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Pyrex Cloth Napkins & Cloth Rags for Spills & Cleaning
NO Paper Products Except for Toilet Paper & Menstrual
supplies… Some things just Need to be !!!
Meals with Real Plates, Utensils, Real Glasses & Cloth Napkins
Why Not ? We didn’t have Paper Products as Kids what’s So
Different Now ?
Turn on The Radio Dance alittle Jig & Get the Dishes Done !
It’s Simply Really People Make to much of it :) take the few minutes
& unwind think, Pray ! Be Thankful for What You Do Have !

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77 ~Dorthey January 9, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Pyrex Cloth Napkins & Cloth Rags for Spills & Cleaning
NO Paper Products Except for Toilet Paper & Menstrual
supplies… Some things just Need to be !!!
Meals with Real Plates, Utensils, Real Glasses & Cloth Napkins
Why Not ? We didn’t have Paper Products as Kids what’s So
Different Now ?
Turn on The Radio Dance alittle Jig & Get the Dishes Done !
It’s Simply Really People Make to much of it :) take the few minutes
& unwind think, Pray ! Be Thankful for What You Do Have !

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78 Paula in the UP January 9, 2013 at 4:49 pm

I love my Pyrex glass containers, too the best change I made as far as storing leftovers. I hated when a container would discolor or bubble/ melt. I’m with the don’t care for the stainless steel drinking bottles group, prefer my BPA free reusable cup.

We haven’t made the switch to no paper towels yet although we have cut back. What do you use in the microwave to cover things your heating up so it doesn’t splatter everywhere? I know they make a hard plastic cover for the microwave, but I know having to clean it all the time would drive the family nuts.

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79 ~Dorthey January 9, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I cover with a Small plate ;)

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80 Cheryl January 9, 2013 at 11:56 pm

I use one of the plastic (hard plastic -like a dome) covers, and throw it in the dishwasher every couple of days. Easy-peasy! ;)

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81 The Blonde January 9, 2013 at 5:17 pm

I usually have some paper towels at hand, but 99% of the time I use cloth towels. so much better, and definetely a lot cheaper! those things lasts for yeeears!

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82 janet January 9, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Love this! I have become especially in love with cloth napkins and glass food storage. Cloth napkins are so much more efficient, even for children. I wrote a blog post last spring about napkins. http://rufflewood.blogspot.com/2012/04/wonder-of-cloth-napkins.html

(I’ll have to try a Klean Kanteen… don’t like the metal taste, so I prefer glass.)

jan

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83 Innkeeper Seely January 9, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Too true. But seriously, what did people use to drain bacon before the invention of papertowels?

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84 Lili@creativesavv January 9, 2013 at 8:59 pm

My grandmother used to use newspaper or a paper bag. But I suspect in the really olden days, they didn’t drain bacon, but forked it out of the pan onto a platter, and used the hot grease in the pan to fry eggs in.

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85 Battra92 January 10, 2013 at 7:27 am

Yep, and if you were my Grandmother, she’d eat the grease. ;)

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86 Elaine in Ark January 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Yes, my mother saved bacon grease, too. We didn’t have bacon very often, though. She did use lard, very sparingly. She knew way back then that a lot of fat wasn’t good for us.

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87 WilliamB January 9, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I use fewer disposable than I used to, and hopefully more than I will in the future.

I don’t like glass for tupperware uses as it doesn’t meet my requirement of being nestable. I use a vast number of storage containers and if I had to stack them one atop the other even my spacious kitchen would overflow. (If you scroll down on this page, you’ll see my storage container shelf and that’s only about half the collection. http://www.themrs.ca/2012/03/guest-post-how-to-organize-your-pantry.html) As a secondary problem, glass containers aren’t really square and so aren’t efficient enough for me.

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88 Kathryn Grace January 9, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Your pics are like a window into my own kitchen, where any visitor might see exactly the same non-disposable, multi-use containers as you’ve shown here. The cloth towels and plates are of different patterns, to be sure, but the towels are organic and most of the plates came from Goodwill. When our old set became too chipped, we decided to build a lovely collection of resuables rather than opt for plastic-packaged, possibly-made-by-slaves new dishes. Our cupboard is full of pretty things. We think of it as Variations on a Theme.

I love your take on this–showing us how it is not deprivation but giving ourselves nicer things, lovelier to hold, to use and to see. Thank you for a well-done page that made my day–and this is the end of a very good day, I might add.

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89 Ada January 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Ditto!!

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90 Carole January 10, 2013 at 5:56 pm

My church women’s group went to an Amish home that served meals to the public. In the rest room (indoors) they had a stack of hemmed rags with a sign by it saying that they could be used for #1 if people were willing, and there was a receptacle that used rags could be put in. There was also toilet paper available. That was quite a while ago—the health department probably would not tolerate it now.

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91 Randi January 11, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I have to say that I give away a lot of food to people and I buy disposables for that because I don’t expect them to give me back my containers. I also freeze soups and casseroles and don’t want to use all my good class containers for that. I do use my glass containers for immediate leftovers. I also recycle practically everything so I’m not going to stress over using a disposable hand towel in the bathroom or some disposable containers.

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92 Smithfield Consignment January 11, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I have to agree with you and that’s just not living on frugally but on many of the things in life that we don’t do. A lot of it just takes 5 minutes or even 30 seconds.
We do have that time to spare.

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93 Amanda @ The Scacchi House January 11, 2013 at 6:54 pm

I grew up eating off of paper plates and my mother still buys the giant packs at Sam’s, which I will never understand. The only paper product we purchase is toilet paper. =)

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94 Kelly Taylor-Faye January 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Great post. Our family lives, breathes, and works this motto. We built our house /work studio from straw bale. All of our glass, doors, and fixtures are re-purposed. Someone said we were crazy to spend $100 refinishing a 70 year old fir door…I beg to differ. I don’t think a brand new $60 pre-hung, hardboard door made from sawdust (like in every new built house) is going to be around 70 years from now!

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95 Tara "Marinara" January 15, 2013 at 11:39 am

I really liked the comment on how nice restaurants use items associated with high quality which are items we could be using in our every day greener lives.

That wasn’t Larousse Gastronomique under your measuring cups was it?

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96 Kristen January 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm

That was my huge Cook’s Illustrated tome. :)

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97 Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares January 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Yes, yes, yes! I cut up an old shirt and put the squares into a vintage metal tissue box cover. A friend stopped by while I was doing it; I told her about my frugal “Kleenexes,” and offered to make a batch for her as well. Several weeks later, she told me she has been using them and enjoys them so much more than paper tissues. Coming from a friend who doesn’t necessarily share my convictions about stewardship of resources, it surprised and delighted me.

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98 Sima January 23, 2013 at 9:50 am

I store my pens and art supplies in those cheapy plastic containers. My food goes into real Tupperware. It’s BPA free, responsibly produced, and the company warranties their products for a lifetime. It has saved me lots of money on my vegetables (which I no longer put in plastic bags at the store). I like that it stacks easily, and that it’s fairly lightweight, although sturdy, so that my little guy can manage taking it in and out of the cabinets and refrigerator. And unbreakable is a plus in my house!

I’d love to get off paper towels, but can’t get around the slimy feel of wet cloth towels and sponges.

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99 Julia January 26, 2013 at 7:39 am

Just a couple months ago my whole family made the commitment to go as waste-free and nondisposable as possible. Your post here made me think of my 12 year old son’s comment the other day, which was a huge relief as I was worried my teens would resent this. He said, “Mom, now that we’re trying to go plastic free, life is so much better. We eat such good homemade food, and everything is just nicer.” I don’t think he could put his finger on the details of what was “nicer” (besides the yummy food of course,) but he just feels better in general being surrounded by quality products and food.

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100 Naya February 6, 2013 at 11:45 am

Skip the paper towels, eat the bacon fat. It’s good for you!

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101 Atsquared March 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm

I second that! We save our bacon grease by straining it through a coffee filter into a canning jar and storing it in the fridge. It’s delicious for frying eggs, potatoes, etc, or even making grilled cheese! There is a lot of recent evidence that certain kinds of fat that were once deemed unhealthy (such as saturated fat), are actually vital to our health.

In terms of ditching the disposables, I recently invested in a few sets of real dishes specifically for parties. They will pay for themselves in 3 or 4 uses, instead of buying disposables, and I find that a gathering is much more welcoming and hospitable with real dishes.

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102 Kristen March 10, 2013 at 7:51 pm

That’s great. I love real dishes SO much more.

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