Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book Review and Random Reuses

I'm no pack-rat. Well, maybe a little.

While my husband was on a week-long business trip a few weeks ago, I received a new book from PaperBackSwap (have you tried it yet? I keep mentioning it. It's awesome) called Vinegar, Duct Tap, Milk Jugs & More by Earl Proulx. I'm not entirely certain how I came across this book and thought to request it, but I'm glad I did. It made me feel somewhat validated.

How so, you ask? I hesitate before I throw things away. I feel weird putting glass jars in the garbage. I hang on to scraps of fabric from projects, certain I can find some use for them when I learn to sew. I hold on to plastic grocery and produce sacks, though the amount of those has diminished since I started using reusable bags. Even that link to my homemade bags reminds me of how I have a hard time parting with clothes. That said, I don't want you to get the impression that I'm one of like one of those hoarder-types of people Oprah does shows about. I simply just give things a second thought before I chuck them into the trash.

So the book made me feel validated - other people do this! And the author goes even further than I do. I've never saved a milk jug for anything - it goes straight to the recycling bin. And I'm always a little skeptical of some reuses, especially when it comes to decorating - like reusing lids from juice cans to make decorations or using plastic six-pack rings to make a hammock. Really, I actually read about that in The Tightwad Gazette (I wrote about this in my review of that book a few months ago. A little too extreme for me). It's all about balance. I found this book much more practical than The Tightwad Gazette when it comes to thrifty reuses.

Why reuse? Well, I wouldn't mention it on this blog if it weren't a money-saving method. I reuse glass spaghetti jars in the kitchen, garage, for crafts, for cleaning, everything! I save sour cream, cottage cheese, and other big plastic containers to save and freeze leftovers. I also use them for holding things I don't want to use dishes for (like certain cleaning solutions, paint, stain, etc.). Yogurt cups work great for holding water for painting. I can totally remember my mom using cleaned out yogurt cups as drinking cups when we were little, since we went through so many (and I know from other people, that my mom isn't the only one who did this).

The other reason to reuse is because it's eco-friendly. No matter where you stand on the environmentally-conscious spectrum, you can't argue with sending just a little less trash to the landfills. Imagine the environmental impact if everyone paused just a moment before throwing something in the garbage.

According to the Mr. Proulx, there are five storage containers you should never throw away (and some of his suggestions on how to use them in the kitchen):
  1. Five-gallon ice cream containers. Use them to hold dry cereal, flour, and sugar to keep those foods fresh longer. Also use them to store partial bags of brown sugar, powdered sugar, coconut, and nuts.
  2. Whipped topping containers. Use these to solve those medium-size storage problems, such as how to freeze extra strawberries. One of these will hold two or three servings of leftovers, depending on your appetite.
  3. Glass jars. Some spaghetti sauces and other prepared food come in glass jars. Reuse these to carry soups and sauces to potluck. Also great for storing dry, shelf-stable food.
  4. Sixteen-ounce cottage cheese and sour cream containers. One of these will hold a large serving of soup or a generous serving of casserole.
  5. Baby food jars. They'll hold everything from vinaigrette for potluck salads to metal cake decorating tips for your pastry bags.
Anyway, this book is full of great ideas - too many to include on here in a single post. There were so many times as I was reading it, I would turn to my mom (since I was staying with her during that aforementioned business trip), tell her about some tip in the book, and we'd both say, "Why didn't we think of that?!" That's why I'm introducing a new feature for the blog called 'Random Reuses'. From time to time, I'll just post how I reuse certain things and how I've implemented some of Mr. Proulx's ideas. And I'd just love it if you tell me some of your ideas...

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