I reuse the zipper bags that everything seems to come in these days, including cheese, sugar, nuts, rice, candy, etc. I rinse them out and let them dry. Then I use two of them to freeze portions when I buy the big economy packs of meat. Using two bags helps prevent freezer burn. After I use the portion of meat, I throw away the inside bag, but save the outer bag to reuse again.
As my mom did and my grandmother before her, we wash out and reuse cottage cheese cartons, butter and whipped topping tubs, yogurt cups (the ones with real lids), and any other plastic container that comes our way. These are great for everyday use and especially to give leftovers to family/friends. You don't have to get them back!
Used drink bottles make great powered drink "pitchers" that kids can pour themselves. If your kids like chocolate milk, pour some milk into a clean one-quart drink bottle, add chocolate powder/syrup, and put the top on. Shake well to mix.
My mother was a "Depression baby," and she could she get the last smidge of use out of anything! She used Parkay margarine, and the sticks came wrapped in foil-type paper instead of regular paper. After we finished a stick, she would wash off the foil and use it to wrap up my Dad's pickle in his lunch box. She would also wash off untorn, used foil, smooth it out, and save it for use another day.
I have used oatmeal canisters in the past to store toys, such as preschool snap-together toys, Legos, toy figure sets (like the green army men), etc. They can even be covered with paper and labeled or decorated.
We save just about any plastic or glass item that a product comes in for reuse before recycling. I clean out empty jars, plastic containers with lids (margarine and yogurt), and plastic trays (like microwave meals, fruit/shrimp trays, etc), and put them in a box where I keep craft supplies. Some are used for storage solutions (my daughter loves to keep her plastic jewelry beads in glass jars) and the rest are readily available for making up crafts and games with the kids. I love using the trays for messy crafts like paints and glitter. They can simply be rinsed clean and put in recycling. I don't waste water and soap scrubbing a good item clean for food use again, and the item served another purpose before hitting the recycling bin.
Michelle in Etters, PA
There are several items I buy not only for the item itself, but also for the reusable packaging. I may even pay a few cents more for something that comes in packaging that can be reused. Some of my favorites:
I always use the hard plastic clamshell packages that salad blends and bakery cookies come in to send meals, cut up fresh fruit, homemade sweets, etc. to a friend or church member that needs a meal. They may have just got out of the hospital, had a new baby, etc. There is no worry about getting the container returned this way.
I compost table scraps and use a plastic cereal container to collect them in. In order to keep the container relatively clean, I line it with plastic food bags, including cereal and chip bags or any bag that is the appropriate size.
In fact, I have a drawer in the kitchen where I store all types of plastic bags. Re-using boxes from quart and gallon size resealable bags, I label them for food and non-food use. Zipper bags are washed, dried, and placed in the appropriate food box until needed. Ditto for all other bags, which are then placed in the non-food box.
I put my plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and wax paper boxes in the same drawer. I even keep a small stash of plastic ties, a Sharpie, and rubber bands in there. It sure is handy.
Bonnie in Arkansas
Oh, recycled packaging is a fun area! There's lots of ways to save money and the environment.
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