Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to throw away and recycle fewer items from your kitchen by repurposing kitchen containers for other uses around the house.
The best part about this mission? It saves money AND the Earth, and it keeps you humble when everything isn’t new and coordinated in your home (at least that’s what I tell myself). It only takes a little forethought.
Consider all the non-food things you might dispose of in your kitchens:
- glass jars
- plastic bottles
- cardboard boxes
- styrofoam trays, egg cartons, etc.
- plastic bags
- plastic tubs
- wrappers of all kinds
I’ve already talked about food waste and just a few simple ways to cut down on that, and we’ve discussed my many uses of plastic bags, as well as how to re-use bags and containers without washing them. I bet many of you already wash and reuse ziploc-style bags, whether you’re supposed to or not according to the manufacturer. Now let’s brainstorm together about ways to repurpose any of the above items (and more!).
To make this work, you need to plan ahead. It’s hard to tell when you might need a little jar or container of some sort. See if you can find a place in your home where you can keep containers awaiting a use.
Here’s my classy organizational system for setting things aside:
I’m always ready to store something, no matter what the occasion!
Added Bonus: Free is my favorite price to pay. I could spend plenty of money on storage containers instead of reusing what I already have, but I’d rather spend it other places.
Save Your Jars!
If you’re trying to cut down on plastic storage containers, there’s no better substitute than glass, especially when it’s free. I save ALL my glass jars, and every time I think I’ve got too many and it’s time to start recycling them, I end up making a huge batch of chicken stock or dehydrating some nuts (this was my weekend activity) or sending some soup to a friend who just had a baby (tomorrow!). Now I’m almost out again! I save jars from:
- spaghetti sauce
- peanut butter
Most of them get used for food, but some end up in other parts of the house like this:
I also use a plastic lid as a palette for my budding artist:
We have a bag of lids in our camping gear to put under candles, too.
Kids are truly simple beings. Some of my kids’ favorite toys are just household objects, like clean laundry or a stack of coasters. We have some seriously free toys in our house:
- Plastic cups from children’s meals at restaurant become bath and beach toys, as do caps from shaving cream or laundry detergent.
- Oatmeal canisters become drums.
- I made this toy from an oatmeal canister with a slit in the top and a bunch of caps from milk, juice and water bottles:
It serves as an “in and out game” toy for 8-18 mos., then a small motor skill toy for toddlers (putting the caps in the slot), then a sorting by color and counting manipulative for the preschool set. And all for zero dollars. 🙂
Oatmeal containers are also great for storing homemade crackers, croutons, and cookies. If you buy potato chips in a can (Pringles), you can wipe that out and store cookies perfectly without breaking them. Great for mailing to relatives, too!
Free Toy Storage
Your kids may be getting some gifts in the next few weeks. I always disliked the toys that come with many parts and no container, because there’s the challenge of “how do I store this without losing any parts?” I can usually find something in my stash:
They’re great for baseball gear…
These styrofoam trays are my nemesis. I get way too many from the reduced produce section at my grocery store, and we can’t possibly do enough paint projects to use them all as palettes (plus you can just rinse them clean). We made one into a manger and use some as trays for works like this color sorting activity, but I’m at a loss for how to deal with the rest. Help!
Free Sandwich Containers
This idea is from Tanya, a reader here at KS. She fashioned these sandwich boxes out of the bottoms of juice and milk cartons. She doesn’t feel too badly if her children accidentally throw them away like she might with an expensive stainless steel version. Aren’t they great?
UPDATE: I almost forgot one of my favorites – Parmesan cheese containers! If you use real Parm like I *should*, this won’t apply to use, but here are the places I reuse the green-topped bottles:
- filled with baking soda under the sink for cleaning
- fertilizer shaker in the garden, also for dusting tomatoes with baking soda/dry milk mixture (label WELL with big black X so no one thinks it’s food)
- full of sunflower seeds for snacking
- with the label still on – full of flax meal for sprinkling on salads
I encourage you to think out of the box trash can this month, start saving items that could be repurposed, and share your ideas in the comments for other ways to get free containers save a few things from the landfills.
See all of Decreasing Disposables in December here.