“Greening” your kitchen (the frugal way!)

Green kitche
I’ve been anticipating this post from fellow blogger Michele, of Frugal Granola, on ways to eliminate disposables with simple and homemade options. I appreciate her perspective on simple living (check out her series), and I think that her resourcefulness is a wonderful example. Read on for some of her great ideas (I love the sandwich wrap!)…

During our first years of marriage, we always assumed that we were “environmentally-responsible” people. After all, we sent out plenty of recycling each week! However, as we began discovering more healthy ways of eating, the truth set in: We had a lot of unnecessary waste!

In creating new grocery lists full of whole grains, fresh produce, and healthy oils, we automatically eliminated much of the “budget-busting” packaged foods (like crackers, pastas, and bottled sauces). Our recycling bin was no longer full of these boxes and bottles! Easy fix.

As I added more organic foods, whole grains, raw milk, and free-range meats to our diet, I looked for a way to make our new grocery budget goals a reality. Something had to go!

I realized the wastefulness of many items in my home, which I had previously considered “necessities.” These products were not only filling my garbage can, but were also cutting into my grocery expenditures!

;We used handfuls of paper towels regularly for cleaning, and paper napkins accompanied every meal. Plastic baggies and wrap also seemed to disappear quickly. And what about those disposable water bottles and baby food containers, sold by the case?

I knew it was vital to eliminate these items from my home (and my grocery list!) But, I refused to run out and buy the latest “green” gadgets to replace my disposable products. I looked at what was already in my home, and determined to find homemade solutions.

I easily replaced the paper towels first. My husband had some old T-shirts, which I cut into “rag-sized” pieces. I folded these up, and stacked them in a drawer by the sink. Now, instead of reaching for a paper towel to wipe up the high chair, I pull a rag out of the drawer. I keep a lidded bucket under the sink for the dirty ones to wait for laundry day. (An old yogurt container works great.)

I also found another option close at hand: the stack of Gerber prefold “burp rag” cloth diapers! (They were no longer being used for our daughter’s feeding times.) I grabbed a handful for all my bathroom and kitchen cleaning needs. (I purchased these from our co-op, Azure Standard, but I have seen them in most department store baby sections.)

I have a small assortment of fabric scraps boxed up in our family’s closet. To replace paper napkins, I decided to make some cloth napkins. I pulled out some larger pieces of pretty fabric, and cut out 12″ squares. I just “eyeballed” it, using a large pair of scissors and a measuring tape. (If you have nice quilting supplies, such as a cutting mat and rotary cutter, you could use these, of course.) I cut in fairly straight lines, and adjusted any unevenness when I hemmed each edge. Remember, they’re just napkins; precision isn’t necessary! 🙂 I made enough for meals at home, as well as stashing in lunch boxes. (Make sure you choose fabrics that don’t have to be ironed; you’ll appreciate it later!)

For water bottles, the stainless steel bottles looked enticing, until I saw their price tags! I started using small canning jars (half-pint or pint) for short outings. For longer trips, we use larger jars (quart or half-gallon), placed in the cooler with our food. The canning lid and ring works perfectly to prevent leaks. (Although, condensation may form on the outside of the jar.)

I have also reused jars from store-bought products, which have “screw-on” lids (which I originally saved years ago for freezer jam). I typically keep the jars cold in a soft-sided “cooler” or lunchbag, with an ice pack. I will often add ice to the jar, also. Even my toddler daughter does well sipping from the jar like a cup, if I help her hold it. My husband already had a stainless steel thermos (from our Costco membership!), so he has continued to use that as a water bottle.

When we used baby foods, I learned to grind up foods in our food mill hand grinder, which I bought from our co-op. I have also used a potato masher or even a fork, to make baby food, if the grinder wasn’t available. I didn’t buy any special “baby food freezer trays.” I just put the food into ice cube trays, and then popped them into freezer containers, once they were frozen. For traveling, the ice cubes easily transferred to small containers or jars.

As our daughter has gotten older, we now pack snacks and lunches in the diaper bag. My homemade reusable sandwich wraps are a perfect replacement for plastic baggies (or pre-packaged snacks). I was able to make them with fabric remnants and old baggies, for very little cost. They are perfect for holding her favorite snacks, such as a leftover blueberry pancake or waffle, sourdough bread with butter, or a homemade tortilla with hummus. Obviously, I can use them to pack sandwiches in my husband’s lunch, as well!

Instead of plastic wrap, a plate or cloth placed over a bowl works well in the refrigerator. (Or, transfer leftovers to glass jars and reusable containers.) I recently took a cheese tray and a loaf of bread to a potluck, and I just wrapped them up in large tea towels. For another potluck, I poured a marinated cucumber salad into a half-gallon canning jar. Then, when I arrived off the bus, I just asked the hostess if I could borrow a serving bowl for the evening.

I continually remind myself that life existed before such “novelties” as plastic wrap and disposable baby food containers. I know that I don’t have to rely upon a manufacturer’s newest creation to live well. Choosing to look around at what I have on hand, along with making wise purchases, allows me to be a faithful steward of what I have been given.

Michele enjoys living an abundant, yet simple life. She is the joyful wife to Calvin and mother to Gen. You can get to know her more at her blog Frugal Granola.

Image credit (from an interesting green kitche/pantry photo slideshow)

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  1. Love, love,love this post! These areas I have been looking to cut as well but needed a little practical advice to get me going. Thank you! I am off to check out your blog!

  2. Thank you for the perspective and sharing your great ideas! I want to try the sandwich wraps and cloth napkins.

  3. We are watching the winds of the tropical storm today… How do you make homemade sandwich wraps? The link did not work. Thank you.

  4. Such practical, useful ideas, aren’t they? Michele’s great that way!

    Sorry about the link, Sharon! It’s working now. Let’s pray the tropical storm stays away…

  5. Thank you for the link. The tropical storm is here but it really not much compared to what Rita was. We still have electricity 🙂 I made a whole bunch of healthy cookies since my son got into my supplies of store bought things. I made a big pot of beans and froze them today with the intention of making tortillas and having beans on them using the grill. Since we have electricity I made a big pot of soup that could be easily heated if electricity went out. Of course this another topic. Thank you for the info. This is something I have been trying to do.

  6. Thank you for all the tips Michelle. About two years ago, I ran out of plastic wrap and quickly realized how well a plate or towel can cover a bowl. I haven’t looked back since. 🙂

  7. You are so inspirational, please take a sec to check out my blog, you’ve won an award! 🙂

  8. Fabulous post!
    I’ve used my dh’s old flannel shirts to make hand towels in the kitchen, and we use them as napkins, too! My grandmother always used quart jars for water on road trips, and so I’ve always done that, too, without even thinking about it!

  9. We use many of these ideas in our home already, but I know I need to do better about not using plastic bags/wraps. I also liked the canning jar idea to replace a water bottle. Thanks for the article!

  10. Great post! I have done many of these things for years, but you gave me a few ideas (love the homemade reusable sandwich bags!)

    I recently hit the jackpot on cloth napkins. I was at a garage sale and this lady had a basket full of cloth napkins (about 30), I kept looking at the basket, and finally asked her how much she would take for the whole thing. She gave them to me for FREE! Garage sales are a good place to look for things like this, because people get these things as wedding gifts and such and NEVER use them, so they are willing to sell them cheap!

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