But with a little bit of planning and a desire to reuse, I am able to turn items that would normally be considered "trash" into practical, everyday staples. I'm also able to make use of my waste in some very green, eco-friendly ways, which not only make me feel better about my impact on the environment, but also save me some "green" in the process. Here's how you can, too:
1. Use cereal bags as wax paper
My family goes through a lot of cereal, so the amount of cereal bags we have really adds up. Each can be brushed out after use (no need to soap and dry) and stored flat. Use as you would wax paper (and cut, if needed).
2. Use cereal boxes as cookbook/magazine holders
That's right—save the cereal box, too! Cut off the rectangular top, then cut a slant on each side from the middle of the top to about half of the way to the side with nutritional information. Cover the box with contact paper or a combination of fabric and Mod Podge. You'll have a stylish, stand-up organizer that can be used to hold cooking magazines, books and loose articles.
3. Use brown bags as paper towel substitutes
For foods which require transfer to paper towels to absorb grease after cooking (think pan-fried meats in oil or anything from a deep fryer), repurpose a brown paper bag instead. Cut along the seam and lay flat on a plate, allowing the food to rest on what was the inside of the bag (not the outside that may have an ink-stamped store logo). The absorbency of the bag is greater than that of a paper towel (not to mention sturdier, which is handy if you’re transferring items between plates).
4. Use citrus bags as potato scrubbers
Wash and dry the empty plastic mesh bag that once held oranges, grapefruits or limes. Then, cut the mesh bag into a large circle, twist the ends until the center folds over, and gather with a twist-tie. Keep by the sink for scrubbing potatoes or other hard-skinned foods. Remake and replace these as often as you buy bags so you always have a fresh scrubber.
5. Use pie pans as foil covers
Aluminum foil is often used for loosely covering a casserole in the oven or food on the grill. But if you're out, use a clean foil pie pan turned upside down instead. Even if it doesn't cover the food perfectly, it will still prevent overall charring.
6. Use butter wrappers as pan greasers
To grease cookie sheets when baking, I repurpose butter and margarine wrappers, which I keep in a designated margarine box in the door of my refrigerator. I grease with Crisco (which is cheaper than an aerosol spray and has so many more uses), and the paper helps me keep my fingers clean.
7. Use a wine bottle as a rolling pin
No rolling pin? No problem! Take the chilled bottle of wine from the fridge, and use it to roll dough with ease (an empty, unchilled bottle with the label removed also works well).
8. Use a broccoli band as a soap pump saver
Those thick rubber bands used to hold together bunches of broccoli are stronger than any rubber band purchased at an office supply store. Use these as conventional rubber bands (cut each horizontally to get a little more stretch). My favorite use, though, is to wrap one around the top of a pump soap dispenser at my sink; it aids me (and especially kids) in just using a half-pump of soap so there is less product waste.
9. Use baby food containers as junk drawer organizers
Tupperware-style baby food containers (like the rectangular ones made by Gerber) can easily be lined up side by side and front to back in a kitchen drawer to help organize small items like chip clips, measuring spoons, a citrus corer, corn-on-the-cob holders, stamps, batteries and more!
10. Use coffee grounds and egg shells as a soil booster
I don't have a full compost pile in my backyard, but I do dump egg shells and coffee grounds into my flowerbeds to help enrich the soil. I add this waste regularly, and then mix it into the soil once a week. It’s easier (and cheaper!) than Miracle Gro.
Once you start repurposing products, you'll look at what you buy—and what you waste—in a whole new way. Repurposing these items in the kitchen helps me get more mileage from things I buy anyway, helping me save money over time.