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A napkin alternative

Admittedly, this is more of a green thing than a frugal thing since napkins aren’t terribly expensive. But, they’re not free and so using less of them will save money. Plus, you can feel good about saving some trees by cutting down on your napkin usage(personally, I’d much rather give up napkins than toilet paper!).

A lot of frugal books and blogs that I read suggest using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. That is certainly a cheap and green alternative, but my preference is to use damp washcloths. My children, dear though they are, tend to get very sticky when they’re eating. Napkins, whether cloth or paper(well, especially paper!), just aren’t very good at taking care of stickiness, but a wet washcloth is perfect for the job.

I use cheap white washcloths that come in a package at places like Target or Walmart. They do eventually wear out, but I’m quite sure that they pay for themselves before they become full of holes. A package only costs a couple of dollars and it doesn’t take long at all to go through a couple of dollars worth of paper napkins.

Washcloths can become stinky pretty fast if they’re not taken care of properly, though. To keep them from smelling bad, I let them dry every night by hanging them on places like the oven door, or over the kitchen sink(leaving them in a wad by the kitchen sink is a very bad idea). Then in the morning, I throw them into the laundry basket, as I don’t ever use the same washcloth two days in a row.

I do line dry most of my laundry, but to kill the bacteria that like to live in washcloths, I use my dryer. I just make a separate pile in my laundry room for kitchen towels and washcloths, and once a week I do a load of those and then throw them in the dryer.

Additionally, every so often I soak the whole bunch in a bucket of bleach and water. This makes them white again and kills any bacteria that have tried to make the washcloths their home.

So, give it a try, at least for your young(and sticky!) kids! The trees and your wallet will thank you. 😉

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Saturday 6th of March 2010

Kristen--I know this is an old post to comment on, but I just found your blog recently. Love it, by the way! So what do you and your husband do for napkins, assuming you are not as sticky as your children? :) And what do you do when adult friends are over for dinner? I've thought about the washcloth thing, but my kids are 12 and 14, so thankfully they aren't as sticky anymore, so I'm looking for something a little more grownup. Thanks in advance for helping.


Wednesday 10th of March 2010

Cloth napkins are a good alternative for people who don't want to use washcloths. My husband and I do use paper napkins sometimes, though, and when we have company, we usually have paper napkins. We compost the napkins after they're used, though, so they don't make it into the trash. :)

The Frugal Girl » Monday Q&A-Temptation and Seasonal Buying (not in that order)

Monday 31st of August 2009

[...] best way to save on paper towels is to avoid using them as much as possible in the first place.  Ditto for napkins.  Not ditto for toilet paper, unless you own a bidet or something.  [...]

The Frugal Girl » Monday Q&A-Paper plates, wheat grinding, and tea towels

Monday 30th of March 2009

[...] I’ve posted before about how we reduce our napkin usage…you can find that post here. [...]


Wednesday 17th of September 2008

Found your blog from the carnival of trash on Fake Plastic Fish. Great post! I have been thinking about switching to cloth napkins for a while now, and this gives me another reason to try them.

I'm going to point several of my friends to your post because they have small children and I know they deal with this sticky issue all the time. This is just a GREAT idea and I know they will appreciate it. Thank you.


Tuesday 16th of September 2008

Well, we hardly ever eat out, so we don't run into this often at all. :p Side benefit of being frugal, I guess...eating at home is usually green as well as being cheap!

I'm on vacation right now, so we're actually eating out a few times. Last night we ate at Outback, and all we got was cloth napkins, so we didn't even have to use paper then.

The bottom line, though, is that I go out to eat SO infrequently, I don't worry myself about the paper napkins that much. If I ate out every day, I'd probably take it more seriously.

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