Jan222013

112 Comments

20 Things I Never Throw Away

PicMonkeytrash

You’ll want to pin this one for later! Click on the image.

Everything has a purpose—sometimes two or three of them!  For most seasoned Survival Moms, some of these “reuse” ideas are already habit.  But for those of us fairly new to frugal motherhood or the Survival Mom lifestyle, here are 20 things I never throw away:

For Storage:

2-liter bottles, gallon vinegar jugs, etc.Use to store water (room temperature or frozen). Be sure to date and rotate every six months.

Huge coffee containers—I refill with whatever needs to be moved into rotation: brown sugar, instant oats, flour, powdered milk.  These fit into my everyday pantry a lot easier than 5-gallon buckets.  I can also fit about a dozen Ramen Noodle packages into one to make them less accessible for my tiny, four-legged nemeses.

image by tew

image by tew

Plastic peanut butter jars—The large ones can nicely fit a couple of bags of split peas, chick peas, or other bean varieties I don’t usually buy in bulk. Or, if I’m moving longer-term food into rotation, these are perfect (and I can see what’s in them).  Also great for storing treats like dehydrated corn (which the kids eat like candy!), venison jerky, chunks of rock candy, or opened pretzels.  I hate when that half-eaten bag goes stale!

Plastic food tubsPerfect for leftovers—especially ones I’m sending home with guests.  I also use the tiny sour cream tubs to store homemade lotions and my fledgling attempts at homemade yogurt. They’re also nice for dividing up paint and paste for craft project because tossing them is cleanup.

Empty spice jarsRefill with your own dried spices at the end of the growing season.

Fancy wine, vinegar, or other glass bottlesI make my own fruit-flavored vodkas with the cheapest, bottom-shelf stuff.  Then I pour it into pretty red wine vinegar bottles, attach a recipe for a fancy drink, and give as hostess gifts. Fun meets frugal.

Mason Jar boxes—Okay, I’m probably not a genius, but I sure felt like one when I discovered this.  I almost feel like I should whisper it to you.  If you slice the plastic down the very middle and just slide the new jars out the slit, you can restock the box with filled jars, label the side of the box with masking tape, and stack as high as you dare. The boxes are pretty stable, especially with the added support of the stretched-tight plastic. And it’s a lot cheaper than buying those plastic storage stackers.

Cardboard —Yes, you can store linens and off-season clothes.  BUT you can also store valuables at the bottom, label the box “winter sweaters” or whatever, and stack that box at the very back and bottom of the closet until you can afford that 36-gun safe.  I’ll bet no burglar is going to rummage through your sweater box.

Baby food jars—We don’t have babies anymore, but the jars are still in faithful service.  My husband screwed the lids into a scrap of 2×4, which he then mounted to the wall of the garage.  The top is a storage shelf.  He can unscrew the jars from the lids to access the screws, nuts, bolts, nails, and other “boy things” stored in the jars, which he can see without rummaging through drawers.  He could actually be a genius. (Tip: Use two screws instead of one; our prototype featured jars that spun in a circle every time we tried to unscrew them.)

Food Items:

Bacon FatIt just makes everything taste better! Strain it through a rubber-band-secured cheesecloth into a canning jar, and some Southern cooks swear you can keep it forever.  Mine never lasts longer than the next pot of beans, jar of green beans, or fried egg breakfast.

image by Robert S. Donovan

image by Robert S. Donovan

Chicken carcassWe love the homemade broth for chicken noodle soup the next day.  When I’m feeling ambitious, I freeze or can my own broth for later use.

The bottom thing you cut off of celery stalksI tried this last summer, and it seemed to work until the sun baked everything in the garden. You can actually grow celery!

Everything else—compost or supplement your animals’ feed.

Miscellaneous:

Egg cratesFirst, I used them to store fresh eggs.  Then I poked holes in the bottoms of the Styrofoam kind, filled with potting soil, and used them to start seedlings.  Lots of folks are willing to save these for you.

Dryer lintA few cycles is all you need.  Store in a Ziploc baggie and toss into your bug-out bag.  You have instant fire-starting material with almost zero weight and very little room if you squeeze out most of the air.

NewspaperSo many uses! Shredded up, we use it to mulch the garden. We keep it to start wood fires and do paper mache crafts. We wrap Christmas ornaments for storage and dry windows with it at car wash fundraisers. The kids make origami hats and torment the cats with it. Occasionally, we read it first.

Outgrown clothes—I admire those of you who can turn these into lovely quilts.  The rest of us just send them to the consignment store for extra cash or donate to worthy causes (or cousins).  I salvage the buttons from clothes too stained to pass on and use to repair current items or complete craft projects.

Outgrown toysWhether it’s the church daycare, Goodwill, the Disabled American Veterans, or the Make-a-Wish foundation, someone is bound to do good things with the toys we no longer enjoy.

LabelsWe save box tops, Campbell’s labels, and Capri Sun pouches because our public school gets cash for them.  In addition, I keep the recipe suggestions from many packages and file with the rest in my recipe card box.

Hair clippingsOkay, I don’t actually cut my family’s hair and keep the clippings; I had to ask for some from my own beautician.  But either way, you really can sprinkle some clippings on new garden shoots to keep the deer at bay.

What do you never throw away?

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Kris

Kris is a busy mom, wife, and teacher. She makes her little homestead on two sprawling acres in Tornado Alley with her husband and 3 children.

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(112) Readers Comments

  1. Huge coffee containers…doesn’t the smell/odor stay in those and get into whatever you try to store in it?

    • I find a good hot wash (no dishwasher here :-( ) and a vinegar/h2o rinse and air dry/ gets the coffee smell out. I love that they have a nice snug fitting lid for storing dry goods. I also love the “handle” feature on the Folgers cans. They make a perfect scoop for chicken feed.

    • You can wash containers out with basking soda. Let the bakig soad form a thin paste on the container and let it sit for several hours before you wash it out. There shouldn’t be a smell.

      I don’t buy coffee in those containers, but I buy the large Kraft mayonnaise jars that are wonderful for storage of cereals, oatemal, etc. I wash them out with the baking soda method above -as well as any glass jars I save. BUT if any odors (especially from pickle or sauerkraut jars) remain, place a couple of coffee beans inside and let sit for a few days. The coffee beans remove the odor but leave no odor of their own.

    • or line with a used bread bag.

    • Collect empty icing tubs from bakers and ice cream stores. I use them for storage, gardening, and seats. No smell there. Calves will lick them clean! Sort off. ;>

  2. That is an amazing list.

  3. If I kept all of these containers we would need to live outside and use the house just for storage. I would say everything within reason. :-)

  4. I love the cardboard box of “old sweaters” idea. Now I just need to find something valuable to hide in them. ;-) There must be something left that the kids haven’t completely devalued! I remember my mom using bacon fat for EVERYTHING. It’s great in savory dishes…not so much in chocolate chip cookies. My husband disagrees. He loves it in cookies too.

    • bacon grease, YES in the cookies.. and crumble some of the bacon in them too. I guess I agree with your husband. Bacon choc chip cookies are awsome. Also, the grease even from your burger can be used when you find burger on sale, cook it and put in mason jars, pour in the extra fat until it is completely covered with fat. Store in the fridge for a couple of weeks without having to can or freeze it. When you buy pre cooked chicken, like KFC put a bone bowl in the middle of the table. Add water after dinner and cook them down for soup broth. The herbs and spices they use make a tasty broth. Oh, and one from my childhood, bread bags got used to line our winter boots to help keep our feet dry. They couls be layered in an emergency with socks to keep warm too.

  5. My neighbour gives me the cat litter buckets (Max scoop), they hold about a gallon of anything. I clean them and use then to store my homemade gel laundry soap (make a 5 gallon batch each time), toys, crayons, Christmas ornaments, compost under the sink, sand for icy days, bathroom stuff under the sink etc. They stack up really nicely too.

    • I use the containers that pool chemicals come in (parents have a pool) to store homemade laundry detergent (gel). I wash them out well first and they work great! Now I’m wondering what else I could store in them….hmmmm We’re cleaning out our garage soon, I’ll have to think up uses for them quic

  6. All can food jugs rinse the out metal has so many uses i make little weapons

  7. I EVENTUALLY throw these items away, but not before they are well used: Aluminum foil, as long as it has not held chicken or other meat, I wash with soapy water andhang above my wood stove to dry to re-use again. The foil can be used two or three times to wrap baking potatoes or to cover oven-baked dishes.

    I re-use Ziploc freezer (because they are thicker plastic) bags by washing and hanging on three pronged towel drying rods above my wood stove (or just hanging them on something). Again, as long as no meat was stored in them, they can be used until the cows come home. The older ones are used primarily for packaging up things around the house or things to take in the car for the kiddos -like small toys or books, etc. Most can be used at least three or four times.

    I never throw away plastic grocery/department store bags. I live in a rural area were we have no garbage service and so must take everything to the dump. Rather than purchasing small and medium sized liner bags for wastebaskets, I triple or quadruple the number of bags (place each inside the next, and then the next, etc.) and line the wastebaskets. When one is full, I pull it out, and the next one is ready underneath. I see people buying small wastepaper liners at the grocery store and wonder why.

    We also use the plastic grocery bags to tie to our orchard fence (along with empty tin cans) to blow around and make noise to keep moose and other animals away from our orchard area.

    I also keep a small box beside my desk, so that when I am going through the mail, I can throw junk mail and discarded envelopes into and use as fire starter for my non-catalytic wood stove. Not only does it help stasrt the stove, it cuts down on the amount of trash that we must haul to the dump.

    I re-use the scenic side of each calendar page of my previous year calendar. Somebody usually gives me at least one Thomas Kincade calendar or another beautiful one, and I use these to wrap small packages or to make decorative cards.

    At our house, we always think before we toss. Most things can be re-used for SOMETHING. The trick is not to become a hoarder!

    • I hate those little bags. They are not heavy enough when full. I have a few tenants that use them and they blow out of the dumpsters on windy days and guess who gets to pick them up?

  8. I use only the dryer lint from all cotton loads, like towels. Sweaters that are part acrylic will give lint that is both hard to light and potentially dangerous. Acrylic fibers can become sticky when burned, a few of the ashes blown and stuck to skin coult be very dangerous.

  9. Great information. I use 2 liter bottles to store lots of things. Just date and rotate. Easy to store in cool dark place.

  10. Thanks for such a great list! One thing about donating to Goodwill & such: when we moved, we tried to donate a lot of stuff in good condition (toys, clothes, furniture, kitchen stuff) but when we went to Goodwill & the Rescue Mission, they picked through everything saying they only take new and like new things.

    It was such a dissapointment! Here we thought we were doing good by supporting a charity & trying to pass on useful things. Might want to call before you go. Also, at least in our area, they no longer come out to pick up large things like furniture.

    • They do this because most locations have a limited amount of space, and need to put items out that will raise cash (to not only pay for the location and staff, but to support the cause). While I respect that you probably brought nice things over, I’ve seen people unload junk – ratty, busted, falling apart – that really belonged at the curbside for special pickup.

    • DAV is the best to donate to they will take anything. I never go to goodwill anymore they made me mad when they wouldn’t take a set of bunk beds that I knew someone could use.

      • It must depend on the location because the Goodwill that we donate to takes everything. It’s the second hand baby store in town that makes me mad!! They once turned down a stroller in excellent condition because, they said, the fabric was from last season!! I ended up just giving it away to a needy mom I met out in the store’s parking lot.

        • Our Goodwill does a booming business, and they’ll take anything that isn’t complete trash. They take our donations at a covered doorway, then we go inside and treasure hunt! Maybe it depends on the area? A friend in a nearby city stopped donating when his told him that all clothes had to be professionally drycleaned first.

        • That’s so retarded to turn down a stroller because of the color or style of fabric. They need run out of town as they obviously only hope to appeal to riuch folks when it’s poor ones that need secondhand stuff. Kudos for giving it to the lady in need.

    • Due to federal laws regarding toys no one in the Jackson, Mississippi area will take anything except new toys in their original packaging.

    • One of those weird wonder if questions, if stored water was bad (smell, stale, rot, etc.) could you use a water purifier to reclean it? I am thinking in the situation where SHTF and you have to grab a stored supply of water and the container missed the rotation, etc.

  11. Could you clarify the “date and rotate every 6 months” for the water statement? This isn’t the case with water jugs that are bought for that purpose, is it? Thanks!

    • You don’t have to toss the bottle/jug every six months, just empty the water and re-fill them. I use it for watering plants, filling pet water, etc. then re-fill. If you’ve got some water stored that you’ve had longer than six month’s I wouldn’t panic. Just open one and check if for signs of bacterial or fungal growth, such as off smells, or colors, or “sliminess”. If you treated it with bleach and can still smell it, you’re probably okay.

      • I also save Clorox and other gallon sized containers to store water. You absolutely don’t want to drink it, but we will want to do some cleaning or maybe flushing. Just be sure to mark it well “Do Not Drink” on the bottle.

    • When I fill a bottle with water and add a few drops of bleach, I count out six months from the date I filled it. Every month or so I check the dates and replace the water. The water goes flat and doesn’t taste a good (I’ve read) after 6 months.

    • There is no reason to rotate water. Water will always be – water. It won’t rot. It won’t get weevils. Will it get a funky smell? Possibly. Just air it out by pouring back and forth between two containers. If you have doubts about it, “if” or “when” you need to use it, run it though a purifying method – like your solar oven. It’s silly to rotate water. And you don’t need to put chlorine in it if you have city water – it’s already chlorinated.

      • Be very careful what are you advising to people here. There are good reasons to rotate water and it is cheap thing to do, just some work involved. Water does rot and it will over time, as you don’t have sterile environment when filling up. Plastic containers leaks chemicals during time in water and even it is not dangerous, healthy sure not. As last thing – Chlorine is unstable component and it will disappear over time even you put Clorox in water, chlorination of tap water is much much smaller.

        • Water DOES NOT rot, it’s impossible.

  12. I save empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, stuff them with dryer lint and use to start my wood stove.

    • I always take these on camping trips, Charles!

    • toilet paper rolls are also good for starting seeds and then planting. they will compost and also keep out some bugs while the seedling takes hold

      • Be carefulk what they’re made out of as they decompose.

    • I’m excited to learn the toilet paper/lint trick. Thanks! That will come in handy & be free versus the fire starter sticks we’ve purchased in the past.

      • Folks, all ypou need to start fires is newspaper and kindling. No need to store lint and TP rolls. parents did it for over 3o years and hubby and I have for 28 yrs.

    • Hey Charles, Like the fire starter idea!

  13. Ditto on the dryer lint, but after we make some firestarter “balls” as my hubby calls them, we will keep bags of it to stuff into empty toilet paper tubes and hang in trees, the birds love to come get it for nesting material. I figure when the SHTF I’ll have plenty of birds to shoot but until then I can enjoy them LOL

    • That’s using your head. Planning for the future!

  14. I have a lot of boxes with old sheets and towels. Never can have to many rags etc, I cut hve cut them as an experiment about a foot square and then folded them over and sewed up the edges to prevent raveling and used them as alt toilet paper. Just put one of those coffee containers half full of water with a few drops of soap and bleach and after you use the bathroom put in the can. That soaks them well and keeps the smell down. A good wash in some hot water with bleach and good to go again. One day there may be no more toliet paper and I really don’t want to use the phone book or leaves. Just one of those things and skills you need to try out now so you can make sure they work before shtf.
    Plus one day you may need the old material to make shirts, underwear etc,etc.

    • I still have rags made from towels that are over 30 yrs. old! You’re right…can’t have enough rags.

      • That’s what I did..when clearing closets, and drawers, and boxes of worn out or too small clothes–I got a pinking shears/scissors and they are now cut in squares in a box for various uses–rags, can’t have enough.

        • I pick up remnants of flannel and denim when I find them in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart. My kids swear I’ll never have grandbabies, but I’ll be prepared if I need to make diapers, gowns, or lap robes! I also save the legs from decent blue jeans. The material’s sturdy, and a few stitches can turn them into tote or duffle bags.

    • NEVER mix Dawn dish washing soap with bleach. It forms an invisible vapor cloud and can cause pneumonia. This from a friends’ experience many years ago. The Dawn bottle now states the same thing. It did not back then : (

  15. I’d suggest caution and a little Googling (foods poisonous to animals, might want to search plant poisoning as well) before adding ALL food scraps into animal feed. Some foods, like onions, contain chemical structures that cause disease conditions in animals, particularly companion animals. Why cause damage just to be frugal, frugality should be coupled with responsibility and being accountable for what your actions result in.

  16. There are lots of things that can be recycled that get thrown away. We got sick of the hassle of saving toilet paper rolls in the bathroom, all kinds of things in the kids rooms, and paper in the bathroom. The result was the Solecan a recycling trashcan that is convenient and tidy. Check it out at http://www.solecan.com. If you think it is a good idea you can help us out by liking out FB page at http://fb.me/theSolecan. We hope to have it in stores pretty soon! Thanks and happy recycling! We also recycle some hard to recycle items (e.g. GoGo Squeez) via Terracycle!

  17. I save the end of the soap bar. I don’t want to use it now, but the day may come when soap is nowhere to be found and a nice bath or shower with soap would be a luxury. I have a bunch and hope I won’t have to use it, but it may come in real handy.

    • Or you could use your leftover bars to make homemade body wash. Take the equivalent of one bar of soap to two cups of water, heat until dissolved, then cool. It will thicken as it cools. Voila – free body wash!

    • We just squash the end of the soap bar onto the new one.

  18. * Learned this this year, and started doing it. When storing home canned goods, NEVER store with the rings left on the bottles, and NEVER stack anything on top of them. The reason is, sometimes jars do not seal, or they seal, and then heat or some other reason can cause them to “pop” the lid. Bacteria can get in, then, after a while, the pressure from the ring or something stacked on top can cause the lid to re-seal, and the growing begins!!!

    I had a jar of tomatoes that I canned this year go bad. It was mixed in with all the others, and at first glance, looked just like all the others. I picked it up to re-organize the shelf, and, because the ring was off, and I could actually SEE the top of the jar, I could tell that something did not look correct. On closer examination, there was a very fine layer of white who-knows-what growing along the very edge of where the tomatoes were touching the side of the bottle. When I opened it to wash it, there was no noticeable “bad” smell, but I am pretty sure we would have all had some pretty bad belly aches if we had consumed them.

    • I do use the rings, don’t feel safe without them.
      Yes, I check every month my canned goods–if one is bad, you can tell by the aroma.
      But I do check by pushing the lids.

    • I agree with you, Lori, about taking the rings off after the jars are cooled. I live in an area with high humidity and the rings can actually rust onto the threads of the jar and where it touches the lid. Also, the authority, the Ball Blue Book of home canning, advises to always store food with the rings off.

  19. The ‘sweater box’ idea is definitely a good one! A friend had stuff stored in one of those rental storage complexes, and it was broken into. Her ‘good stuff’ was stored in the very back, and was mislabeled with things like ‘toys’ or ‘off-season clothes’ written on the boxes in bold letters. All the actual toys and clothes were stored in the front of the unit, in front of the expensive stuff. The thieves decided it was too much work, or thought there was nothing there worthwhile, and moved on. They didn’t take anything! The funny thing is, she had a LOT of valuable stuff that would’ve been easily sold, like tools, dvd’s, big flat screen tv! She threw blankets, sheets, towels, in the top of the boxes, valuables down below, and it worked!

  20. For as long as I can remember, I have never thrown out a zipper from anything, especially jeans. Pants will need a zipper. Jean zippers are very expensive. If the jeans are too worn to wear, I get the zipper before the jeans go into the rag bag. If I am donating jeans, the zipper stays in the jeans. Just cut out the zipper around the fabric. Later, you can take the stitches out to free the zipper from the fabric.

    I never throw out a glass jar or plastic container. I use these to send home food, to take chicken food to the chickens. Glass jars can store all sorts of foods, leftovers, and anything you feel the urge to save. I have a glass jar with dice in it.

  21. I keep any misc nuts, bolts, screws and nails. You can salvage extras from items beyond repair.

  22. I’ve become quite proficient at baking. Bananas and apples that are ready to turn or just starting to turn make great breads. Pears that are on the edge of turning make great upside down pear cakes.

    Built a sailor’s chest out of 3/4″ plywood with a 2X2 frame to store my linens. Came in very handy when our HVAC died during the coldest week of winter; had lots of extra comforters to keep us warm. When we want to start a fire, we break out the older files and use them (who needs to shred docs to protect your identity?) before tossing on a log.

  23. Those mess bags that come with onions, oranges, lemons, etc. saved my squash crop last year. There was something nibbling on them. I put a bag around each and the nibbling stopped and the squash continued to grow in the bag (read this tip on the web). I also cut the labels off of the juice bottles. I have found that they are of a kind of plastic. I cut them into strips to use as ties for tomatoes and whatever else needs to be tied with string. This new type of plastic label may have more uses. Meat and mushroom trays make useful paint trays for small jobs. The plastic wrap from large toilet paper packages make useful drop cloths for small projects. The local after school program used to take some of the recycles for the kids projects. I do, at intervals, have to “downsize” and manage my collection.

  24. Here in MN we can’t get hair clippings from the hair salons as the State considers clippings to be a biohazard. The hair salons have to bag the clippings in biohazard bags, can you believe it? Stupid government!

    • good grief!

    • Used pantyhose works too. When done with pantyhose, cut to separate the legs a d just lay them in your garden. It is human scent that keeps animals away.

  25. Empty laundry soap containers. We made more home made and refilled several store bought ones last night. Sure feels good NOT to pay full price for all that expensive laundry soap.
    You all have some great ideas. So true about finding a place to store all the empties.
    I’m also saving and collecting empty wine and colored glass bottles to use for openings for light in a small house or wall art project I’m envisioning.

  26. The dryer lint in the toilet paper tube is an awesome idea, I’ll have to try that. This Christmas a friend made me some fire-starters out of sawdust and wax in cupcake liners. They worked great! I don’t know how she did it but I’m wondering if you could grate the wax, mix with the sawdust, place in the liners and microwave them? I have a muffin tin made of silicon that I could use. Anybody ever make these?

    I also save the jars from mayo, salsa, and Ragu. I use them to divide up the dried fruit that I buy in the #10 cans. I keep one in the kitchen and freeze the rest to keep them from absorbing moisture. My husband can’t complain about my pantry of freeze dried cans (good for 25 years!) because we actually eat them.

    • Winnie – You can check Pinterest or Google for the term “sawdust candle” and get plenty of results. I just repinned one article on a large-can size that first appeared on http://www.mybyrdhouse.blogspot.com

    • I Googled this one time and found several recipes. I didn’t make them, but always intended to. I’ve used some I had bought and they worked great.

    • I taught my Girl Scouts to make fires starters out of dryer lint/shredded paper, cardboard egg containers and old candle stubs. Use a coffee can in a pot of water and melt old candle stubs in the coffee can. Do not melt the wax directly over the flame- highly flammable. Place egg container on old pan with an edge to it in case of leaks. I use an old rectangular cake pan. Stuff each cup with dryer lint or shredded paper or a combination of the two. Carefully drizzle melted wax over each cup. Let harden. Tear apart cups and stash in zip lock bag. Lights a fire every time- even in the rain!

    • Thanks for the ideas! I’m going to try these this weekend.

  27. Found three cases of plastic, newly emptied tennis ball containers with plastic lids in the trash as I was walking by the local school’s tennis courts. The bottom says #1 PET. Just right for storing a couple of cups of dry beans, etc. Need to deoderize them before using.

  28. I never throw away pprescription med bottles. They usually have an oxygen absorber in them and are great for storing matches, beads for crafting, vasolene soaked cotton balls for fire starting and just about anything that you can fit into one. I think these would make good containers for small bartering items as well!

  29. I do nearly everything else that is on this forum. except for the foil pieces off the top of yogurt containers, i wash them and save them in a plastic bag. I mix epoxy for different craft projects and its cheaper to by in the tubes instead of the syringe type so with an old popsicle stik or used matches and even a Qtip that I pulled the cotton off the ends I have mixed up epoxy for different projects on that circle of foil. once you get the epoxy mixed and applied, fold over and trash it, I have also used those foils for topping smaller jars or spice containers that I was in process of filling and had to go do somethingi else before I could finish task, makes great cover for cup of coffee and tea as well at picnics outside, but I am talking the half pint cups not the yoplait brand, and they are larger than a standard canning jar lid, so very handy for simple needs, you will be surprised when you start washing those and those foil liners from top of coffee cans after you open them up – you will figure out all sorts of things to use them for, if we open up a metal can of coffee or food (gallon size) we also save the metal lid to use to cover holes in the chicken house where mice seem to love to chew thru or on the floor or on the side of another old building we have use of. I have also wrapped one around a drawer slide that had wore so bad you could n’t hardly close the drawer anymore, so I hammered the lid flat and then hammered it against a piece of square metal tubing to get my edges and then wrapped around that bar that holds up the drawer, it was made from a 1 x 1 ” pc of wood, so after wrapping it took my drill and screwed in a screw to hold it on there securely, no more problem closing that drawer, and sure didn’t want to go buy a piece of wood and have it cut to size to put in because that was in a bad spot to get to so that worked for that, paper bags, boxes, even tissue paper, christmas wrap ribbons, all that stuff I have always saved. we put out a 50# paper feed bag full of recycled mail paper into our special shed for use later. in it goes circle a word books, newspaper, cardboard boxes off food, anything paper that is clean. the messy paper goes out to the compost pile, like paper plates. yes I buy them to microwave food on, do not use styrofoam in the microwave!! styrofoam meat trays and egg cartons have unique uses all their own, perfect for wrapping fragile items in a move. or to put between breakables in your packing boxes. we also buy sheets blankets and tea towels at our favorite thrift store for some of the same reasons noted here. yep I guess you could call me a hoarder but I do feel like we have anything we would need in a disaster right here at home, since we live quite a ways from any city and we utilize all the storage places on the property, we are still modifying places to store these items. but we will get it figured out eventually. also if you get bottled water to drink, save those they make great mini greenhouses to get your seedlings started in, there is a link to start them in milk jugs if you find that you will see how to do the water bottles, and you can put three seed in ea one and they will grow from the initial watering for several weeks, even if you put them outside in March which I did, I sat them in my old grocery cart still in their bottles and when the sun was full and high I took off the lids and still they did fine and did not freeze outside last year, however our drought killed off all my effort quickly even though we watered every day, so doubt if I will go to that much trouble this year, being rural makes the electricity go up when you water so much, so will leave that to town folks who grow and sell at the farmers market. I can get enough stuff from them to can, like I did last year after our garden went away in the heat of the drought. on stored water, we rotate it and refill it constantly, and any that is over 6 months old, why can’t you still filter it and use it to make coffee?? we give pets and plants the water from milk jugs and soap and bleach bottles, we store our water in juice and pop bottles those nice rectangular juice bottles are great!! we use old millk crates and stack them on top of ea other and rotate the water out for coffee ea day and put in bottle for cooling in our frig for ice tea and drinking. no need for ice, which I have not made ice in 3 years now. but we do have an extra refrigerator, it was given to us so we sat it on the porch (thought was gonna have a lot of eggs and garden produce to cool from garden last year) but that thing has come in handy for so many things, special sales of produce and meat and the freezer for extra frozen items we get on sale (milk, fruit etc.) fixing to make some yogurt tomorrow from a gallon of milk that took out of freezer and will make cream cheese from the yogurt. I take the lids off nearly every other bottle that we throw away many times its already been reused many time and I just don’t want to wash it again. nearly anything can be washed and used for packing items since I sell my unwanted still good items online, you would be surprised I have not had to dumpster dive for bubble wrap and foam peanuts by saving those individual water bottles and boxes from cereal crackers meat foam trays egg cartons etc. even plastic bags that I would not wash to use again for food cover up clothing that I list to sell. any old appliance or item with nuts bolts screws and some really unique fasteners and wiring all get taken out and saved for future projects before we throw out the misc unusual metal portions or plastic portions, we look it over to see if we can figure out any other use for it. the old tub out of my recently broke down washer made a nice cache pot for the yard water hoses and the metal is gonna become my new compost keeper. old boots I cut off the leather tops and made hubs a holster for his pistol the other day used my dremel tool to drill holes in it after I marked it to fit the shape of the pistol then took cotton crochet thread and double sewed it and also the old leather coat I had I cut strips and pulled them thru with an old crochet hook in order to attach a belt to go around his leg to keep the bottom of the holster in place. he walks the ranch looking for rocks and deer antlers just as a hobby and a snake (or this winter, we had a badger killed off over 20 of our chickens – which are no longer free range til we make sure the badger is gone, so nice to have a pistol if you are walking in the wild areas) the old part of the boots, drilled holes in the sole and they got screwed into the trunk of a cedar tree for the birds to use. old plastic kids toys like the barn or the house for the strawberry shortcake that I have from our gkids, they went also into the trees for colorful birdhouses for the birds, a wren used one one year, but have not kept up on those. they are still out in the trees thought and add some pretty color to the dreary landscape. our large wood tv cabinet became our blanket chest, I use it just like a shelf on top of my dresser in our bedroom against the wall, we put our extra sofa cushions saved off an old sofa that I made a big case out of old double knit fabric and three together will make a nice bed on the floor for one of the gkids when they come to visit so it sits on top of the blanket chest and in the rectangular frame is our blankets and pillows that are extra but handy if we need them in the middle of night. the rest are at end of hall at other end of house. old cotton sheets are serged into smaller squares for canning strainers, they can be twisted to get most all the juice out of the fruit and rewashed and put back into drawer ready to use again. all threads taken off the deteroriating towels and lint all go into a well used and re washed bread sack that I clothespin to the shelf above my drier, when they get full I tape the end of the bag and it goes into the big paper bags of PAPER that I mentioned above. I buy every old candle I see at all our fav thrift stores, course we only go about 5 times a year so its not a big supply but they come in handy to make fire starters and also go out in the same building with the paper and lint. old roller castors off of worn out items I put on wooden boxes, make a lid, hinge it on, and cover with foam and fabric and makes a nice storage hassock or ottoman, or even boards for dollies with the old rollers attached. have taken wheels off bottom of washing machines and old chairs to do these jobs. I guess I am just too frugal.

    found out those plastic strips that hold a shipment box together that we find annoying and usually just cut them off and throw them away, well guess what, my old iron and teflon pressing sheet and those can be re used.

    I guess I will stop, I have picked up a few ideas from this forum. so cheers to recycling mommas!!

    • I forgot to tell you about the lids I save, off jars, and old medicine bottles and jugs. I save them in a sack and when I drop a dressing bottle and break the lid I always can find another one, this has happened many times as I have RA. and I also do not like the dressing bottles that do not have the smaller hole feature in the two pc lid like the cheaper dressing comes without it so I have one to replace it with in my bag in case it doesn’t have it, nothing makes you madder than pressing a dressing bottle over salad and out comes half a bottle.

      also have made unique toys for the kids out of those colorful juice and milk jugs and even made some deer detterents to hang in the trees out of some of the lids hung with string. plus when you get a unique glass bottle you like that comes with a plastic lid, I can ususally find a metal one in my stash so that I can store in the jar. also some caps make nice buttons for costumes for kids or making crafts with them.

      now if anyone can tell me where to send all these medicine bottles I would be happy. hate to throw them away but have not found a recycle for them yet. way past using them for screws nuts, nails etc. I use vitamin bottles for those and these small pill bottles just add up and no where to get rid fo them. if anyone wants them please post here, will be glad to mail to you. I am sure there must be some use for them.

      ok I am done.

      • I use my medicine bottle to put flower seeds in and vegetable seeds in.

      • Most pharmacies will take back used bottles and they will recycle them.

    • Feed bags work great to collect and fill full of sand or dirt. Put them around your shooting range or build bunker’s with them. Keeps from bullets going where they shouldn’t. Just a thought.

  30. Pingback: 20 Things I never throw away | The Survival Mom™ – gardengalbevy

  31. I’m getting some wonderful ideas from you posts! Love to save those nice little paper bags (or foil ones) that tea bags come in. They make little containers for seeds that I save from fruit and vegetables that I’ve eaten. Then store the seed pkgs in a jar with an oxygen absorber. I also rinse empty, small, individual oatmeal servings bags for the same use.

  32. stumbled on this site by accident, awesome ideas will check it out more often

  33. I save a container each time I empty something store bought.. I then go to Pinterest and try to find a homemade recipe for that product. So far I have made about 50 things. I love trying new things. In the beginning it was a little pricey trying to buy all the ingredients for all my homemade stuff, but now that I have the basics, I can usually count on having what I need for a new recipe.

    We also save big dog food and cat food bags. They will come in handy for something down the road, I’m sure… just dont know what yet lol

    Its not very often that we buy a soda or any other beverage in a plastic bottle, but cut off the top of the bottle and the lid do good for sealing off a product that is in a bag like beans or cereal.

    Thank you all for the great ideas on this list! God Bless!

  34. Toothbrushes. they should be exchanged from teeth cleaning duty every 2 – 4 weeks. I pour boiling water and some detergent over the discarded ones and leave to soak, then dry in the sun. They are so useful for cleaning hard to get to places, (like behind taps) small personal items, like jewelry, anywhere you want to clean somewhere or thing challenging.

    • You throw away toothbrushes every 2-4 wks.? Why on this earth would you do that to the landfill. That’s 12-24 per year. Ridiculous. Once every 4-6 mos. is WAY more than often enough. Wow! What a waste.

  35. Pingback: 20 Things I never throw away « Survival Sherpa

  36. My neighbor uses plastic cat litter jugs to enrich the watering of his garden. His garden is dotted with upside-down cat litter containers that he spikes with holes to keep a constant source of water and nutrients going for his garden. His garden is always lush.

  37. We use bottled water due to our tap being not safe to drink and purchase it in gallon bottles. If you have the kind of gallon bottle that has a screw top, you should keep one or two of them for each female in your family around, in the event you lose power or your plumbing goes out.

    Just turn the gallon jug upside down and cut the very bottom of the jug out with a pair of sharp scissors. (Don’t cut the handle.) This modified jug will work well as an emergency/makeshift urinal for females. The handle makes it so you can hold it easily and it has a wide “opening” to avoid any embarrassing messes. You can pour out the waste, rinse, and reuse the container until your power comes back.

    You can also pour a very small amount of Pine-Sol directly into the container after rinsing if you want. The Pine-Sol can safely mix with urine and destroys its odor effectively. (NEVER pour *bleach* into a urinal, however, as it can create toxic vapors.)

  38. If you live near a recycling facility, you may be in luck…. We normally take home almost as many things as we drop off!

    Plastic cat litter jugs are excellent for storing grains and beans but you need to be sure the litter was the unscented kind. We mix a couple of tablespoons of diatomaceous earth with the grains in case there are grain moth eggs (most bulk grains are infested but the moth larvae won’t hatch out for a while) or weevils. The DE can be rinsed out prior to using the grain or can be left in (it won’t hurt you). It’s a real drag to open stored food and find it has been destroyed by insects, and this never happens if the food is coated with DE.

    The recycler is a great place to get one-gallon glass wine bottles which are excellent for storing drinking water. You don’t have to worry about BPA leaching into the water with glass.

    We rescue wine bottles and use them to make neat borders for garden beds. You just plant the bottles in lines with their necks in the soil.

    Most people package their recyclables in plastic trash bags and toss the whole bag into the bin. We empty the bags and take them home to re-use and never need to buy trash bin liners.

    We also collect used plastic dog and cat food bags. These have multitudes of uses for storage and can even fill in as trash bin liners if you run out of the other kind. You could even build walls out of these bags – fill them with gravel, sand or earth, stack them, reinforce with rebar, and cover with stucco or adobe mud.

    I take every plastic coffee can I can find. As many folks have already mentioned, these have a host of uses. One thing I didn’t see mentioned in the comments is saving urine for the compost pile. The coffee cans make a good way of storing it, and when you carry it out to the pile, your neighbors don’t need to see the yellow liquid it holds. I keep a covered one near my bed – it saves stumbling to the bathroom in the middle of the night. (You will need to dump your can every day or the liquid becomes quite rank.)

  39. Lots of what you have on your list, plus I recycle packaging material/ padded mailing envelopes. I sell books online for extra income and it’s great to be able to save money on the shipping expense.

    I also save leftover wine (is that an oxymoron?) and turn it into good vinegar.

  40. Great list, here’s a few more to add….
    Egg cartons- I mix used coffee grinds with some melted junk wax, pour into each egg space and cool. Can break off a section at a time for fire starters. Can also do same for cheap emergency candles, just put in a wick.
    Alum foil- save your pieces to make cheap solar box ovens. Expect people will need these if EMP strike.
    Beer cans- I save and make penny stoves out of them.
    Tin cans I save to make rocket stoves
    Soap pieces can be melted down and pour into mold for a new bar
    Scrap yarn for lots of things, a square for washcloth, headband ear warmers or leg warmers.
    Ziplock bags and milk jugs in freezer in case of power out
    Dried leaves and flowers for potpourri, and fire starters
    Tooth powder- 6 parts baking soda to 1 part peroxide.
    Shove rags into old pillow cases. Emergency pillow, rags and towels handy
    Found a can of crisco that was too old to cook with (was with camping stuff). Melted it down, added some candle scent. Can use as a candle, just insert a wick, or body lotion that actually helps keep body warmth in and water out ( know a dermatologist who uses crisco on babies with EB)
    Junk mail, newspapers, busted cardboard boxes all rolled up for fire logs
    Cardboard boxes, can be rolled up as tight as possible and fit into a tin can. Pour melted wax in (or keep dry for later use) for an emergency stove
    Refill candle jars- Yankee candle jar that’s empty, I keep adding to it the bottom bits of left over candle. When I have enough, add a wick and pour in the melted wax. I keep adding to it provided I inserted a long enough wick.
    Shampoo bottles good for lots of things – refilling for home made shampoo, conditioner, dish liquid, bleach water, body wash, lemon/vinegar hair rinse……

    I expect when the collapse happens there will be so many destitute wandering the streets. I keep them in mind too

    • Hey, I had not thought of using coffee grounds, I use dryer lint but this would make a great addition. I am guessing you use dry grounds to make these? Thanks!

  41. Things I never throw away:
    jars of any kind (glass and plastic)
    cardboard boxes (sturdy ones)
    plastic food containers
    bread ties
    1/2 gallon square cardboard juice boxes – make perfect bird feeders!
    Plastic jugs – vinegar, juice, laundry detergent (haven’t bought any new in over a year but the bottles get reused for my homemade soap), ice cream buckets, lard buckets, squeeze bottles (ketchup, syrup, etc- great for refilling)
    Big Alum food cans, great for using in the garden or out in hub’s shop
    egg shells – go back to the garden or the chickens
    bacon grease
    all food scraps get eaten by something – none go into the trash.
    the list probably could go on!

  42. Wow! What a list. The best part is I am dongn all these things. Just proves am on the right.. track. We live in the country and had rural trash service 25 dollars a month. I stoped that,and recycle everything but the bathroom trash. Working on my husband to the idea of a burningbarrel for that. I do has one to to add. I am saving all my tin can lids to use as shingles for chicken tractors.

  43. Glass jars, I reuse for food storage, bpa free juice jugs for storing filtered water, or homemade liquid soap.. old plastic soap bottles work great for storing home Made flea preventatives*
    Toilet paper rolls and deodorant tubes, I refill these with homemade deodorant*. Glass bbq and oil bottles, I refill with homemade dressings. And old fabrics and cut into squares to make my own eco friendly sanitizing wipes* for cleaning the house *see blog for recipes :)

  44. Oh and eggshells!! You can grind them and use them for a garden pest preventative or compost. Boil and pulverize for calcium supplement…

  45. Thanks for your post I save everything or recycle what I can’t repurpose. I laughed to myself about the mason jar i did the sAme thing. I find plastic so versitle i use it for everything from storage to starting new palnt ( i keep them for years). I ask all my family and friends for used jars esp. Gallon pickle jars for storing rice, beans , powder milk etc

  46. In our home we can’t be saving all the containers, and jars, etc. I put everything in the recycle bins.
    Usually we fill two big buckets of plastic bottles, jars, yogurt containers, glass,etc and two more with journals, magazines, mail, etc. They pick it up every other week.

  47. I cut the bottom of my lettuce and it grew just like celery. Mine did fantastic (in water) until I planted it (in dirt) and then it died. Boo!! But I am going to try again :) My celery is hanging in there, but I keep forgetting to water it, so I don’t know how much longer it will last under my poor care.

  48. Love the ideas! I save Folger’s containers to hold homemade baby-, glass-, bleach-, hand sanitizing- wipes. I cut an X in the lid and pull from center of paper towels used to make wipes for dispensing. I save plastic ice cream buckets for storing kitchen waste for compost. I have several in rotation. My parents have a pool and use chemicals from large buckets, which I wash out well and use to store homemade gel laundry soap. I save candle wax bits and use to make new candles. I have bought a few foaming hand soaps and saved the containers which I refill with about an inch of cheap shampoo/dish soap/body wash and water…shake and have DIY foaming hand soap on the cheap. There are SO many things to save and reuse…thanks for the article!

  49. My mom likes those “disposable” steamer bags (I think they’re by ziplock), but they seem such a waste!
    Turns out, you can wash and reuse them an average of 10 times (depending on content)!!!
    Doesn’t seem like NEARLY the waste that way! Now, we feel free to buy as many as possible when they’re on sale (after all, “they don’t go bad”…that’s our excuse for buying excesses of paper products too! LOL)!

  50. I save all sorts of things. Glass jars are a MUST in any size since i live in rodent country (rural America). I also save dog hair when I brush out the dogs because it works to keep rabbits out of gardens and helps discourage predators from coming to my coops. I save lint for fire starting, and pine cones from my yard, old wax from used candles, (to make more fire starters). I save old worn out leather gloves & other leather items for the surviving scraps of leather (great for making grips on handles). I save pet treat bags that have foil inside for seed saver bags. I save ALL zip lock bags and rewash them & then use them to keep moister out of items I’m storing in tins (such as seeds). I double and triple protect seeds so its critical they keep out light, moisture and rodents/insects. I also save old crayons, livestock feed bags (plastic woven type) to make berm-constructed walls for outbuildings. I save broken bricks & concrete to use as filler in the motes I make around my coops (digging a ditch & tossing broken bricks & glass into the ditch to deter digging animals). I even save THISTLE stalks because they work great to discourage coons from being around my coops! I cut the nettle and thistle down (not allowing it to go to seed) then I take the stalks and carpet the paths of predators that come down wooded area’s pathways and around my coops. Since coons have sensitive front feed, it makes digging a bit less comfortable for them. :D I save old car oil for quenching metal in the blacksmith shop for hardening. I save scraps of fabric of all kinds until they are less then 1 inch in diameter, for sewing projects. I save the fallen branches from my willow tree to feed horses and other livestock that may be suffering from joint pain. I also use willow branches to promote root growth on other plant cuttings. I save all sorts of plastic containers to be used in container gardening. I save seeds from fruits and vegetables to sprout in jars (also reclaimed) as mini greenhouses. I save newspapers for cage litter for my aviaries and I reclaim dandelion leaves as poultry feed along with lambs quarter & other other weeds. I NEVER use chemical poisons on my yard… but merely learn to identify the REAL use for each unruly “weed”.

  51. I love the list and already do half of what’s on their. As far as a simple fire starter goes. Try a cotton ball and vassalene. Just unroll the cotton ball, take a spoon and smear a layer of vassalene on it. Then roll it back up. Of course it’s a little messy but it will burn from 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of your cotton ball. The heat it gives off can be felt a foot above it. It’s small and easy to pack. I put 12 in a snack size ziplock bag. Then about 10 snack sized bags into a gallon bag. To insure they won’t get wet. So that’s 120 ire starters in a one gallon bag. Not to bad if you ask me. Also, medicine pill bottles are awesome for making tackle boxes, lol. I can fit 3 sm corks with line already wrapped around them, 10 hooks along with lead and swivels. Also have some worms in their to use as bait until I can catch a fish to use a bait. It’s small and all you need is a stick for a poll.

  52. Medicine bottles: we mainly use the large ones in our BoBs. Safely store fishing gear (hooks, lures, weights and at least 100′ of line around a wine cork). We use the big bottle for some of those firecrackers on a string for a perimeter alert – will explode around 70db when string is pulled.
    The small ones I use when travelling for earrings, rings and cufflinks. Matches and Bic lighters fit in medicine bottles. Like another poster said, salvaged buttons and a zipper, needles poked through a denim patch, small scissors and bobbin of thread or two. in a big bottle.

    My favorite are the thick plastic zippered bags comforters and new sheets, pillowcases come in. Love those! I put medical supplies in the smaller ones in my BoB (some stuff is in a freezer ziplock for waterproofing) and basic organization. The large ones work great to store extra clothing and blankets that you don’t want to necessarily pack away for the season change. Just slide it under your bed!

    I have made many, many of the lint and toilet paper rolls! We love to camp and these are super handy!

    Glass jars can also be used to make soy emergency candles and oil lamps.

  53. Where do you store all the stuff you are saving?? I’m also trying to simplify and clutter ends up paralyzing me. We went from a 2000 sq ft house with a 2 car garage to a 1300 sq ft manuf. home and no garage!

  54. I keep all olive, pickle, vh sauce ext… jars and use them for canning and my jam making ext. cheaper to give away as gifts cause mason jars never come back lol i just give them a good wash and sterilize and they are good to go.

  55. I never throw away the little 2 ounce “5 hour energy” (and the clones) bottles. They are great for portioning out booze for bartering when TSHTF. I used them for shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. when traveling by plane. I also use them for other things, but I can’t post it here as it may not exactly be “legal”.

  56. Pingback: 20 Things You Should Never Throw Away | Prepping Ideas - Are You Prepared Enough?

  57. I read all these comments on saving stuff. My daughter asked me why I save junk. I saved those little plastic liners from under bacon. I washed them and dried them. I use them when I am painting something and need an edge to keep the paint from spreading. They are thin and work fine. Also to cut out stencils on them. I was with my daughter when she was painting and i said now if you had the bacon plastic you could easily do that. She then saw it. Also used dryer sheets you can use when sewing and need to sew a picture or patch on something or do needlepoint. I save big glass pickle jars to put corn in to pickle and my hubby uses them for bird seed then he can set them in the cellar. Mice can’t get into them. I squeeze soap pieces together while a little melted and make them work longer. I cut toilet paper and paper towel rolls across in thisn little slices about 1/4 inch. I mash them in and glue them with a good glue. You can make them in different shapes and make snowflakes and stars for Christmas and paint them and put flitter on them. My 2 yr. old grandson was doing one with me and he shaped it in a dragon form. I kept it and will spray it green for my other daughter’s room.

  58. i mevet concidered myself that frugel but i do all of those:) guess im more ahead than i thought…. anymore suggestion? i love finding new ways to reuse things i already use, like kitchen scrap gardening….have a gr8 day

  59. Love all your great ideas! I am new to the whole reuse idea. I have kept things like nuts, bolts, scraps of wood stuff like that. But have never taken it into the house like you guys have. I am fed up with the ever climbing cost of our garbage removal service and am trying to get rid of it. My husband is not convinced. How about used kitty litter? We have several indoor cats.

  60. How great to stumble on this article. I save lots of the things listed and I am considered eccentric by many for saving so much, but I use it all and have great ideas for the rest. I have a hard time getting rid of things with so much life left in them. Besides, eccentric is good, right? My family and friends also save things for some of my special projects. I now have a garage full of wine bottles that are waiting for me to remove the labels. Once the labels are removed from one project, I will bring the bottles to my property, where I am planning to build a retaining wall around a flower bed, or several – I have a lot of bottles.
    It’s nice to know there are so many savers out there!

  61. I never throw away the jars that candles come in because I use the small ones for pretty spice jars in gifts & for small sewing notions in my craft room and the larger ones for mixes that I give as gifts.

    I also never throw away the plastic tubes & lids that toothpicks come in. They are the perfect size for travel sewing kits. I put in the mico-sized Leatherman with scissors, a couple bobbins of thread, needles and straight pins on a small piece of felt, and a couple of spare buttons. I have these in each of my purses, my travel bag, my BOBs, the jocky-box in my cars, stocking stuffers for my kids & grandkids.

  62. My MIL saves eggshells. She keeps them in 5 gallon bucket and lets them break down. Every spring, she uses them in the flower beds. They are a great fertilizer and I think they keep some pests away.

  63. I save the bags from inside cereal to freeze meat in. I also use cut mini blinds to label seedlings.

  64. I never throw away aluminum foil. I wash and reuse. I never throw away ziploc bags. I wash, hang out to dry and reuse. I also keep large oatmeal containers. They hold 3 rolls of toilet paper and are good for storage. I keep all glass containers. Glass lasts longer than plastic and is better for the environment. I also save all corn on the cobs(after eaten or cleaned). They make excellent fire starters. I try to not let anything go to waste.

  65. I save empty plastic prescription bottles, with the snap-on caps not the child-proof. They are relatively waterproof, so would be great to carry things like matches, cotton balls, small sewing kit, etc. They come in all sizes.

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