What packaging from purchased products can you reuse?

Recycled Packaging

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Zipper Bags Double as Freezer Bags

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.

Easy Toy Organization

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.

From Generations Past

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.
Deb C.

Two Very Creative Solutions

  1. I save the inner packaging from cereal boxes. I've used them as substitutes for plastic bags on occasion, but my favorite use is for pounding chicken cutlets. These bags are sturdy enough that I don't break through the bag, and all the raw chicken juices are contained instead of being spread through the kitchen.
  2. Bread bags can be used for more than storing leftovers. I keep several with the snow boots. Slipping one on over socks and before the boots keeps kids' feet dryer and helps them get the boots on and off more easily.


Recycled Packaging Makes Crafting a Little Easier

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

Creative Uses for Recycled Packaging in the Lunchbox

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 buy whipped butter that comes in the shallow, long containers. These containers are perfect for one lunch's worth of taco filling, macaroni salad, etc.
  • Yogurt cups with lids hold side dishes, condiments, or even a single cupcake (the lid keeps the frosting from going everywhere).
  • Bread bags hold home baked cookies and muffins, and they can also be used when it's time to clean the litter box out.
  • Cat litter in buckets is great. I've reused them as planters, as laundry and dish buckets when camping, and to pack small items when moving. And I keep one handy for cat litter. I just buy litter in bags or boxes and then empty it into the plastic bucket. There's also a re-purposed cat litter bucket doing wastebasket duty in the laundry room.
  • Those lunchmeats that come in the plasticware are a definite favorite!
  • My local Chinese place uses high quality plastic containers when they send my take-out. I don't order take-out often, but the containers get reused over and over when I do.
  • I also have found that I can run my plastic forks, knives, and spoons through the dishwasher safely, so they get washed and reused if I buy take out or otherwise end up with plastic flatware. I have a basket that holds a bunch, and I can just reach in and grab utensils for my bag lunch.
  • Margarine or butter tubs are the same size as many of the round containers from take-out. They hold about two servings of any entree, so they are nice when my partner and I pack lunch together a couple days a week.

Susan in Irving, TX

Use Recycled Packaging when Sending a Kind Gift

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.

Help with Composting Table Scraps

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

Fun Ways to Save Money and the Environment

Oh, recycled packaging is a fun area! There's lots of ways to save money and the environment.

  • Reuse bread loaf plastic packaging for sandwiches instead of buying baggies. They can be used any way you would use store bought baggies.
  • Reuse quart or half-gallon cardboard juice containers to start seeds. Wash out the container and dry. Lay on side and cut off one long side. Fill with potting soil and start your plants from seed.
  • If you rinse out and flatten tinned cans, you can sell these at the scrap yard for a few cents a pound, and you know they will be recycled to make new tins.
  • Aluminum beverage cans are very saleable. I walk the dog and pick up every discarded beverage can in my path. Every month I stop at the local scrap yard on my way to some other errand, and sell my bags of aluminum cans.
  • Two liter clear plastic soda bottles make great slug traps in the garden. Cut off the neck of the bottle, put in some slug poison crystals, and stick in a shady spot in the garden. The slugs climb in, eat the poison and croak. The bottle, on its side, protects the granules all summer, so they aren't wasted by rainwater or eaten by domestic pets.
  • The red plastic mesh bags can be cut in half, scrunched up, and held with a rubber band to make pot scrubbers.
  • Use large brown grocery bags to hold your paper for recycling. When the bag is full, pull another bag over the top to seal. You'll have a totally recyclable package of waste paper for the recycling man to take.
  • Cardboard boxes are recycled to ship eBay packages.
  • Bubble wrap can be used over and over for padding shipping containers.


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