Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you want 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.
Dana asked, “Do you buy things like paper towels, paper plates, napkins, trash bags…etc? I spend a lot of money on these things, and feel like it’s kind of a waste of money, but I don’t want to give up these conveniences. I work part-time and believe they are huge time-savers. Please tell me your feelings.
I do buy some of those things, but I try to avoid them as much as possible, not only to save money but to reduce the amount of trash our family creates. I’m not as good as my pal Mrs. Green, who produces almost no trash at all, but I try to do what I can within reason to limit the disposable items that come into(and out) of our house. I’m on the fence about global warming, but regardless of the truth or falsity of those claims, I don’t think we can continue to throw stuff away at the rate we do and expect to keep our planet healthy. All of that trash has to go somewhere, and I want to limit my contribution to the landfills.
To that end, I don’t ever buy disposable plates or cutlery. I have a dishwasher, and really, it takes very little time to load the plates, cups and silverware. The time-consuming part of dinner cleanup(in my opinion!) is putting the food away and dealing with the dishes I used to cook the meal. Loading the plates into the dishwasher takes very little time, so I don’t at all mind using real plates. I think eating on real dishes is a little nicer, too…it gives your dinner less of a “choke this food down really fast so we can run off to soccer practice” feel.
I use very few paper towels…instead I use washcloths and rags made from old t-shirts(a post on that is coming!). Really, the only time I use paper towels is when I cook bacon or some other greasy food that needs to be placed on an absorbent material. So, I buy a roll occasionally, but it takes me a LONG time to use even a small roll.
I’ve posted before about how we reduce our napkin usage…you can find that post here.
Using cloth alternatives to napkins and paper towels really doesn’t take a bunch of extra time. The washcloths and rags just get thrown in with my regular laundry and since they’re so small, they hardly impact the amount of laundry I have to do.
I definitely do buy trash bags, but I don’t have to do it very often because we don’t produce a lot of trash(I don’t think I’ve bought any since I started posting grocery pictures). We compost all of our fruit and vegetable scraps along with our egg shells. This means we rarely have stinky garbage, so we don’t have to take the trash out very often. In addition, we don’t buy food that has a lot of packaging, and we don’t use disposable items like paper plates, so it takes a while to fill up a kitchen-sized trash bag. And of course, we recycle everything we can(and I don’t have to use trash bags in the recycling bin!).
By using fewer disposable items, you will not only save money by not purchasing those items, you’ll also save money because you won’t have to buy so many trash bags to encase those disposable items. And your life will be a little greener too.
One final thought…when you spend extra money to save time(time that’s used by you working), that money is eating into your take-home pay. If you spend even $25 a week on disposable items, that’s $100 a month out of your after tax take-home pay that you’ve just lost. I don’t know how much you earn or how much you spend on disposable items, but you might want to do some number crunching to figure out how much money you’re spending on those items, and how much time they’re truly saving you. And then you may want to think about how many hours you have to work in order to pay for the paper plates, paper towels and napkins….depending on your situation, thinking about it like that could be really motivating.
Mo asked, “How do you grind your own wheat? I’m kind of wow about that.”
Um, those of you that have been walking about with visions of me getting comfy with a grindstone should know that I have an electric wheat grinder. So, please don’t be too impressed when you hear that I grind my own wheat. All I have to do is turn the grinder on and pour the wheat in…the grinder does the rest. It just sounds like a hard project.
I have a Whisper Mill, which I got as a wedding gift 11.5 years ago, and it’s still going strong.
Someone(I can’t remember who!) asked, “Do you ever cover your bread with plastic wrap while it rises? I’ve had trouble with the dough sticking to tea towels.”
I don’t personally do that, because I try to use as little plastic as possible(see question #1 above!), but it’s what Cook’s Illustrated recommends. I do occasionally have trouble with the dough sticking to the tea towel, but that generally only happens when I’ve let the towel get too dry, or I’ve let the bread rise too long.