1. Switch from paper napkins to cloth napkins - We have been using cloth napkins ever since we received them as a wedding gift ten years ago. I found some new ones recently in the clearance section of Kohl's and I retired some older, stained napkins to use in place of paper towels for smaller spills and to wipe messy little hands and faces.
2. Switch from paper towels to old bath towels - Do you have old towels in the back of your bathroom closet that you're not using anymore? When you have really big spills, grab an old bath towel instead of a massive amount of paper towels and then just toss the towel in with a load of laundry.
3. Switch from paper tissues to flannel cloth hankies - Flannel is so much softer on my kids' little noses. I use flannel hankies during sniffle season. I cut up some old flannel receiving blankets that we no longer need. A quick stitch around the edges should hopefully prevent fraying.
4. Switch from parchment paper to silicone baking mats. I have been using a Silpat Nonstick Silicone Baking Mat for years. There is an initial investment. I've seen silicone mats priced at $14-$20 depending on the brand and size, but parchment paper is pricey too and your investment will eventually pay for itself. You can use a coupon from Bed, Bath & Beyond if you decide to purchase a baking mat.
5. Instead of using aluminum foil or plastic wrap to cover casseroles and leftovers, store the food in re-usable containers. I love my Pyrex Glass Storage Containers with the blue plastic lids. I have 4 different sizes. They are microwavable (except for the lid) and dishwasher safe. There is an initial investment, but I have seen similiar containers at yard sales or thrift stores and at Bed Bath and Beyond where they regularly offer 20% coupons.
6. Use plastic store bags for trash bags. Even though we try to use cloth grocery bags, we still end up with some plastic. Use them for your garbage.
7. Skip the sandwich bags and use re-usable containers in your lunch tote.
8. Switch from disposable cleaning cloths and mops and use old t-shirts, towels, flannel or micro-fiber instead.
9. Save the paper plates for your really BIG parties. From May-October, we eat outside on the patio for many meals and it would be so easy to use paper plates each time. I found these compartment plates at a yard sale for a couple of bucks and they are great for those times when you might grab paper plates, like picnics, patio dinners and small family gatherings. I also don't have to worry about breaking them on the patio. But I will admit that when I'm expecting a big crowd (20-30) for a family get-together which might be once or twice a year, I'll use paper plates.
10. Re-use glass jars instead of buying plastic storage ware. I learned this one from my Nanny. She is always sending food home in pickle jars when we visit. Cracks me up every time. I re-use pasta sauce jars for my homemade chicken stock , or my Roasted Roma Tomato Sauce, or my homemade sugar-free applesauce and store them in my freezer. Just leave an inch at the top, because of expansion from freezing. I also re-use #5 plastic containers that we get with Thai take-out; that can be a controversial concept for some people. I don't microwave any plastic containers.
Sometimes reaching for disposable paper products seems easier, but it doesn't take much more effort to use products that are re-usable or recycled. You save money and resources. What paper products do you avoid and what did you substitute them with? Let us know in the comments.
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