30 tips for ways to reuse items that you would normally just throw away or recycle, saving money & pinching pennies in the process.
Empty soda bottles, water bottles or vinegar or milk jugs
These can be used for any number of things, but there’s three main ways we use them here.
- Ice bottles: Fill them about 4/5 of the way with water and stick them in your freezer. I have many that I use for keeping the rabbits cool in the dangerous summer heat. (See article: How to keep your rabbits cool in the summer heat.)
- Mini Greenhouse: Cut the bottom off of the bottle and set it over your seedlings in the spring to protect them from a late frost. This is something that my grandmother always did. She would keep a stack of gallon milk jugs and other plastic bottles in her garage and use them over and over again.
- Scoop: Cut the bottom off at an angle to create the perfect feed or soil scoop.
- Watering can for the babies: Punch or drill holes in the cap and fill the jug/bottle with water. You now have the perfect watering can for seedlings. The water comes out gently and in a controlled fashion so you can give your young plants just the right amount of water.
- Weights: Fill jugs with water and use them to weigh down the edges of floating row covers, plastic, tarps, bird netting or frost covers over your garden/flower beds.
- Clothes Pin Holder: Cut a hole in a plastic milk jug on the opposite side of the handle. Make a cut through the handle about a half-inch from the bottom of the handle forming a “hook” to hang it over the clothes line. Fill the jug with your clothes pins and simply slide it down the row as you hang or remove clothes from the line.
Some other great uses for these:
- Seed Starter: When you cut the bottom off, leave a “side” that is a couple inches, creating a small cup. Punch some holes in the bottom for drainage, and these can be used to start seeds in.
- Plant Tray: Use the bottom of a gallon milk jug for a tray under a house plant. (Another trick from my grandma.)
- Self-Watering: Punch holes in the bottle and bury it right next to your garden plants, leaving the opening of the bottle sticking out. Fill it with water to create a self-watering system for your plants.
- Funnel: Cutting the bottom off of a vinegar jug makes the perfect funnel for pouring liquids or even dry goods into a smaller container.
Yogurt, sour cream and other small food containers
- Organization: These can be used for organizing stashes of nails or screws in your work shop. Use them for storing small items in your desk or your kitchen. Not to mention, you can reuse these for food storage for your leftovers.
- Feed Dish: I attached one to the wall of the chicken coop using a screw and a washer for a free oyster shell dish for the chickens. The short containers make great food dishes for chicks as well.
- Starter Pot: Rather than buying these, punch holes in the bottom and it is a perfect seedling pot.
- Straw/Hay Baling String: I save every string that comes off of a bale of straw/hay. This string can be used for everything you need some twine for. It is strong and if you buy hay or straw…it’s free! Use it.
- Feed Bag String: Believe it or not you can save all of those strings that come off of your feed bags. It is a smaller string, yet also strong and can be used for all sorts of things.
Empty Toilet Paper or Paper Towel Rolls
- Seed Starter: Cut the rolls into sections and stand them up in a growing tray for a set of perfect little seed starters. Simply pack them full of soil and plant your seeds.
- Plant Protector: Cut the rolls into sections and place around a seedling in your garden to serve as cutworm collar to protect your young plants.
- Fire Starter: Fill these with your dryer lint and they make a great fire starter for camping or the fire place. You can also pour melted paraffin wax into the lint to make them even more slow burning.
- Cord storage: Roll your power cords into a long bundle and stick them through a roll to keep them untangled and tidy.
- Grocery Bag Storage: I don’t know about you, but I often keep some empty plastic grocery bags in my truck for anything from garbage to picking up after a pet. You can stuff several bags into a roll, set it in your glove box and it will store them neatly.
- Knife Sheath: If you are going camping, or even if you just have a lot of knives in your kitchen drawer, press the roll flat and tape one end closed. Slide the knife blade into the flattened roll before storing or packing into your camp gear. Now there’s no exposed blades waiting to give you an unpleasant surprise. Additionally, banging around in a drawer dulls your knives. If you cover the blades, they will stay sharp longer, requiring you to sharpen or have them sharpened less often.
- Spool: Remember that string that I mentioned above? A paper tube makes the perfect spool to store all of that string you are saving. Cut a notch in the end of the tube. Tape one end of the string to the side of the tube and begin wrapping the string around it. When you come to the end of the string, tuck it into the notch to keep it wrapped. When you have another string to save, tie the end of the new string to the existing one, and wrap again.
- Strings: As mentioned above, keep the string from these bags. It is handy!
- Trash: Save the bags to use as free garbage or yard waste bags.
- Mini tarp: The bags can be cut open and used as mini tarps. We use them for shade for the rabbits, as a cover over a chicken pen to protect new additions from being pooped on in the coop. You can also use them under your paint trays and such when you are painting in the house. The uses for these bags are endless. These bags can also be sewn together to create larger tarps.
- Purse/Tote Bag? Yes, I have actually seen feed bags sewn into purses and tote bags for a fun farm themed accessory.
- Seed Starters: Break the egg shell in half when using the egg and save the halves to use as little seed starters. You can plant the whole shell in the dirt when it comes time to transplant. The minerals in the shell are good for your plants.
- Free Calcium: Save your egg shells and bake them in an oven at 250 degrees for 15-20 minutes to completely dry them out. You can also boil them for 10 minutes prior to baking them to make sure they are extra clean if you like. Once they are dry, pulverize them in your food processor. This powder can be added to your chicken’s feed, your dog or cat’s food or even into your smoothies!
- Compost: Adding crushed egg shells to your compost enriches that already fantastic soil you are creating for your garden.
- Garden Pest Control: Sprinkle crushed egg shells around your seedlings to discourage cutworms, slugs or snails. They all have tender bellies and won’t like those sharp edges.