Though I don’t reuse every single thing that comes into my house, I do try to make the best of free materials that come my way. It saves me money because I don’t have to buy containers for anything! Some of my favorites:
- Grocery bags. We use these as liners in trash cans or for carrying lunches to school. I also use them for dirty diapers so my squeamish kids will take them the outside trash. Between shopping trips, I often use up all of my bags.
- 5 gallon buckets. Once I use the original contents, I save the empty buckets for storing flour. No canister has ever been big enough for how much flour I use, and I don’t have to spend $5 for new buckets, either! I have a few extra buckets outside that I use as mini trash cans when I pull weeds. Even better, the kids do the weeding and can keep track of how much they’ve gotten done.
- Mason jars. I’ve often been given canned goodies as gifts, so I save the jars and rings. For temporary lids, I use old Parmesan lids. They work great for salad dressings, syrup, etc. I once turned a couple of jars into rustic soap dispensers.
- Other glass jars. Jars from bulk olives and jalapenos make great medium-sized canisters.
- Ice cream buckets. These are especially great for food storage items like beans and pasta. On car trips, we take a bucket with a lid for the child who gets carsick. Once he’s thrown up, he puts the lid on until we have a chance to wash the bucket or throw it away.
- Milk jugs. Since they’re not super sturdy, we rinse them out, fill them with water, and shoot them! They’re actually really great targets because it’s easy to tell when you’ve got a hit. 🙂 Adding a little food coloring to the water makes it even easier to see.
- #10 cans. We have some food storage, and as we empty these cans, I use them for various food items. They’re a good canister size, and since they’re not on the counter, no one sees them. They don’t look the nicest, but they’re sturdy. I use the plastic lids that I buy from the cannery.
- Extra mugs. I organized my bathroom cupboard with these for small items like cotton swabs, razors, and alcohol wipes.
- Cocoa containers. These work like small canisters, so I use them for nuts and seeds that I’ve bought in bulk.
- Large plastic containers (from animal crackers, pretzels). This is my favorite use for any container. I love to buy Lindor truffles in bulk, so I store them in a couple of these big plastic containers. They look pretty on that high shelf away from the kids.
- Plastic shoe boxes from Walmart. Though this one isn’t technically a “reuse”, it’s worth mentioning because it’s a little unconventional. These shoe boxes cost $1 and are perfect for storing loaves of bread or other baked goodies. (An actual bread box usually costs $10-15, even at Walmart.) I have never actually used them for shoes!
For the most part, I reuse any sturdy container and almost all glass ones with lids. I don’t keep a lot of flimsy plastic (like sour cream containers) because they don’t hold up as well and aren’t transparent. I hate opening one and finding something moldy instead of sour cream.
To get containers ready to use, wash them out well. The large pretzel/animal cracker containers are not dishwasher safe, but everything else is. I recommend hot water and a razor blade for stubborn labels and rubbing alcohol for removing Sharpie. The beauty of glass over plastic is that it’s much easier to clean, and no one will tell you you’re going to get cancer.
If you’re looking for ideas for storing food long term, look here! I know I’ve only scratched the surface on how to reuse things.