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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle! My Favorite Frugal Ideas for Earth Day (and Everyday!)

Jackson takes out the recycling
I have a confession to make.  I keep empty plastic bags in my freezer. Crazy? Maybe. I prefer to think of it as helping the environment. As good stewards of the Earth, we owe it to God and future generations to waste less and reuse more. Here are some of my favorite (and frugal!) ways to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Reduce ~ v. To use less

Reduce air and noise pollution
by using a push mower
A couple years ago, our lawnmower broke and we went to Lowe's in search of a new one. My husband saw an old-fashioned push mower that he thought would be "perfect" for our smallish yard. I, on the other hand, thought he had completely lost his marbles! A sucker for saving money (the push mower was only $70--much cheaper than a gas mower), I agreed. Besides, as long as he was using it...I couldn't care less what it looked like. Haha! Fast forward to 2012 and let me tell you what I think of the mower now. Genius! Yes, Bill--you heard me right. I was wrong. If you've ever been startled awake by an eager neighbor mowing the lawn (on a Saturday morning at 7 AM!), you would appreciate that our push mower is almost silent. The kids can play in the yard while he mows and not have long-term hearing loss. It doesn't flip rocks or sticks several feet away. You could probably mow barefoot if you wanted. Oh, how could I forget the best part of all? It takes no gas--and therefore no pollution or extra money wasted. Sometimes is really does pay to be wrong. ;)

Reuse Ziploc bags over
and over again
Like I told you earlier, I keep Ziploc storage bags in my freezer. I'm sure if someone opened my freezer and saw the stack of empty bags in there, they would surely question my sanity or wonder if I was one of those "hoarder" people they feature on TLC. Actually, I'm just cheap and freezer bags aren't free (no matter how good the sale and coupons!). If I am going to refill the bag with something similar (pancakes, muffins, granola bars, cooked beans, chopped veggies, etc.) I simply throw the empty bag back in there until I need it the next time. I do have some rules about this, though. I won't reuse bags that I have thawed meat in. If I took a few frozen burgers out and put them in a different container to thaw, I might leave the bag in the freezer. However, if I take frozen meat out and leave it in the fridge or on the counter to thaw...that bag gets rinsed and put in the recycling bin. I'm cheap, but I won't risk illness from contamination. Know what I mean?

Reuse ~ v. To use again

Reuse glass jars for pantry
storage and leftovers
I have a love for glass canning jars (ok--any glass jars) that words cannot adaquately express. Haha! I keep a basket on the top of my fridge to hold all of my empty jar friends. "What do I do with them?" you ask. All sorts of things! I store leftover soup, homemade sauces and chicken stock in them in my freezer. I keep dry goods like oatmeal, baking soda, and nuts in them in my pantry. I even use them as drinking glasses from time-to-time (the pint size--not the quart!). I suppose you could actually use them for canning, too. That's a skill I still need to learn. What's not to love about beautiful glass jars? It's such a shame that so many things are packaged in plastic these days....sigh...

Reuse newspaper for shiny windows

This is a trick I learned from my grandma! Reuse your old newspapers to clean your windows. It can't be the glossy ads. It needs to be the actual "news" part of the paper, and preferably the b&w stuff. I should have chosen a better example piece for this pic. Well...do as I say...not as I did. LOL! Instead of paper towels, spray on your preferred window cleaner and rub it with the newsprint until it is shiny and streak-free. Thanks Grandma!

Recycle ~ v. To make something old into something brand new

Recycle bread heels into bread crumbs
One of my favorite frugal tips is to save my leftover bread heels in a bag in the freezer until it's full. Then I put them on a couple baking sheets in the oven at a low temp until they are totally dried out. I let them cool, throw them in the blender and...presto! Free whole wheat bread crumbs! I add some parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, onion and garlic powders to make yummy breading for chicken, pork, etc. (No measuring--just add and taste until it's right!) You can use the bread crumbs to make meatloaf, meatballs or even stuffed mushrooms. Sometimes I mix panko bread crumbs half and half with my homemade ones, if I want the extra "crunch".

Recycle less-than-perfect fruit
by turning it into yummy juice
I grocery shop on Mondays, so nearly every Sunday the kids and I clean out the produce bins in the fridge, bust out the juicer, and take it for a little spin! Since I don't buy juice (more on that in a future post), homemade juice is a real treat for them. We throw in our about-to-be-tossed-out fruits and veggies and recycle them into a delicious (and healthy!) treat. I always check the markdown produce rack at Meijer, too. Last week I found a 3 lb. bag of organic gala apples for $1 (in great "juicing shape"!) and a giant watermelon quarter for just under $1. The kids love putting in the fruits and veggies and watching them turn into juice. I love that we aren't wasting our expensive produce. Some weeks we don't have enough produce left for making juice. Definitely not a bad problem to have (although my kids would disagree)! ;)
Recycle leftover coffee
into a delicious frozen drink
I have been known to brew coffee and never get around to actually drinking it. Am I the only one who does this? I have friends reading this right now and laughing hysterically because the thought of "leftover coffee" is so foreign to them. I'm not the type who licks out the coffee pot (you know who you are)! Haha! Sometimes I just brew more than I drink and I hate wasting stuff! I got this excellent idea one day (while pouring out a whole pot of cold coffee I forgot about...sniff...sniff!) to pour the leftover coffee into ice cube trays and freeze it. Frozen coffee cubes + chocolate milk + blender = iced mocha! Need I say more?

Happy Earth Day!

Thanks for stopping by today! I hope you picked up a tip or two on reducing, reusing or recycling. I would love to have you join my family and me as we save money and do our part to help keep the Earth happy and clean. If you have tips to share...please post them below! I love hearing from my readers!



  1. Excellent blog! So much fun to read! Love the tips too.

    1. Thanks Lucy!! Glad you stopped by! Please check back often to see what's new and/or subscribe by e-mail.

  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE the iced coffee idea!! I wont need to lick the coffee pot anymore!! And thanks for the bread crumb idea, I've always felt like I was wasting when I throw the ends away! Gotta try that newspaper trick...paper towels leave so much lint!

    1. Iced coffee is SO yummy--and no waste! The newspaper works great on the mirrors, too. :) Thanks for checking out my post today!

  3. So many great ideas! I am definitely enjoying your blog! Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I should have lots of new posts this week, so keep checking back (or subscribe to get updates via e-mail!).

  4. Great blog! I am looking forward to reading more:) keep those fabulous ideas coming.

    1. I've had so much fun writing them all. ;) I LOVE to write! I also love sharing ideas and making yummy food. Lots of good posts coming this week so check back in often.

  5. That is so funny that you mentioned re-using coffee for a frozen treat - we JUST did that last week!! We mixed some frozen coffee cubes with Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk (to die for!). Then we added in some chocolate chips - AMAZING!!!

    Great post Ashley, looking forward to reading more!

  6. I've taken to collecting jars since reading this. I love what it's done for my cabinet, although my husband thinks I'm crazy ;) Thanks for the tip. Keep 'em coming!