Everyone loves at least two things: 1. saving money and 2. Planet Earth. Right? Well, at least we hope most people love Planet Earth! Anyway, I personally hate a full trash can in my kitchen and I go to lengths to ensure that things stay tidy and not wasteful. Here are a few tips to keep things clean and green and might even save you some money!
1.Have a few bins. Rather than just having one large bin for all your trash, have several smaller bins so you can easily divide the trash up. Have one for pure, unadulterated landfill trash, one for plastic and cans, one for paper products, and one for plastic grocery bags. It might seem like a lot, but you’ll actually be more apt to recycle paper and plastic and you’ll have those plastic bags on hand to reuse, rather than just throw them out.
2.Grate ahead of time. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve let carrots and celery die a slow death in my fridge, turning flaccid and gray before finally hitting the dust. It can be an inconvenience if your grocery doesn’t sell individual carrots and you have to buy a bag of carrots or celery when your recipe only calls for one stalk or one carrot. So, rather than letting them languish in my fridge, I grate them up and freeze them in bags. Shredded or chopped carrots, celery, and onions are the traditional flavorful base for many, many soups, casseroles, stews, and sauces. You can either take whatever is left after your recipe and grate it all together or do it separately, pour into freezer bags, write the date on it and what’s inside, and pop in the freezer. Simply thaw it out before you use it! The vegetables do loose their fresh crunch after they’re frozen, so you couldn’t use them in a fresh salad, but they’re absolutely perfect (and save money!) when whipping up a sauce!
3.The sponge game. I feel like my sponges play a twisted game of musical chairs in my kitchen. I always keep one strictly for dishes. After I wash the dishes, I place it in such a way that it can air dry completely to prevent mildew or nastiness from forming. Occasionally, I’ll pour boiling water over it to freshen them up before I start cleaning my vegetable noodle maker. But, sponges can do a lot more than just dishes. After a sponge has started to become tired-looking and I’m ready to replace it with a new one, it becomes the one that I use for everything else– counter top, stove top, oven spot cleaning, etc. etc. It works much better than paper towels at cleaning off burnt-on muck from your stove or oven. I only keep one of these double-duty sponges in my kitchen and simply throw it out when the next dish-only sponge gets tired looking, and thus the story goes on! It’s also a great idea to keep one in the bathroom, too!
4.Rags, rags, rags! I hate using paper towels, it’s such a waste of a resource and money! But, like a lot of modern inventions, there are a few things they do really, really well. Instead of using paper towels to wipe up every little spill or smear, I use rags. Where do I get them? My T-shirt drawer! Every few months a shirt will become a little too worn, tear, or get a stain and is beyond wearable or for donation. Instead of tossing it, I cut out and discard the underarms/sleeves and cut the broad flat sections into square or rectangular rags. These guys are perfect for really scrubbing some tough dirt, completely washable, and totally reusable. I keep them neatly folded under my sink and throw the dirty ones into a little box so I can wash them all at once. At this point, I have about two dozen that I keep around and I never throw them out ’til they are complete tatters. Since I use them with cleansers and on tough burnt-on oven grime, I never use them around food– even after they’re washed. But, you’ll still find your paper towel usage severely decrease with these rags on hand!
5.Try to contain yourself. Keep those plastic take-out containers you get from Chinese food delivery and delis! Rather than throwing them straight to recycling, thoroughly wash them out, dry them, and put them in your cabinet. It might seem like a laughably frugal thing to do, but they are enormously handy when you’re sending leftovers home with a guest. It’s a wonderful gesture to send some food with your guests when they leave after dinner– a few cookies, a slice of pie, etc.– and those plastic containers are perfect. You never have to worry about getting them back and they’re meant to hold food– perfect, I say! I also keep those plastic forks and spoons around, too, when I don’t end up using the myself– those are great for taking out on a picnic or to work!