On the Path to a Paper-less Kitchen

One of the principles of both environmentalism and of frugality is easy: “Don’t waste.”

If you don’t waste it, you don’t have to buy more. You don’t have to use up more resources. You don’t have to throw more away.

In that mindset, a few months ago I started avoiding the use of paper towels and napkins, among other paper products. In fact, I went so far as to go out and buy a pack of bartender’s cloths at Walmart for several dollars.

The Bad Penny's

I’ve also salvaged dish cloths, including many my mother-in-law gets during Christmas from her 3rd grade students. It’s not a pretty picture, but you can see my towel drawer above.

I avoid using these for the really icky things – the mice the cats like to kill and leave for us, blood from hamburger meat that gets on the counter. In the case of the blood, I don’t trust that our washer gets hot enough to kill any pathogens involved, and as for the mice, well…the thought of something touching my counter that picked up a dessicated mouse – no matter how many times it’s been washed – is just really disgusting!

I keep a small plastic wastebasket under the sink, and I throw the used cloths in there (another reason not to use it for hamburger blood!) When I go around collecting laundry, it’s just another stop.

To be honest, it’s so ridiculously easy, I don’t know why I didn’t do it before. It really doesn’t add any strain to my workload, because normally the small cloths will nicely fill up the last little bit of the washing load. And it sure beats going up to the Sam’s Club every couple weeks to buy another pack of paper towels!

But does it save money? Definitely.

We were buying about 4 – 12 packs of Bounty paper towels at Sams Club every year.   That’s $60 a year of paper towels. We were going through about a roll every week.

In the past six months since we’ve started using cloth, we’ve only had to buy a pack once – when we moved into this house. We still have about 5 rolls left. That means we’ve used about a roll a month! We’ll only buy one pack of Bounty in the entire year, saving us $45 (and considering our grocery budget right now, that’s a large amount.)

Of course, we have to look at the cost of the cloth, too. I can’t remember exactly how much I paid for our 10 bartender’s cloths, but I want to guess it was around $7. The rest of the towels were given to us or we’ve had them for years. Washing doesn’t cost any extra, because I’d be running that load with or without the cloths, so there’s no need to add anything for that.

This year on paper towels, we will save a net amount of $38 compared to last year. Next year, we’ll spend even less since we won’t have to buy more towels. Not to mention the amount of trash reduction! (It scares me to picture taking three of those 12 roll packs and just throwing them away. That’s a lot of trash!)

I’m keeping my eyes open for more dishcloths that  people are getting rid of!

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6 Responses

  1. Did you quit using paper handkerchiefs as well? I think I haven’t bought a pack in 20 years…

  2. If you know how to crochet, they’re not terribly difficult to make. I usually recommend using the #10 cotton instead of the thicker “Sugar and Cream” stuff.

  3. @astrid – no, I haven’t gotten brave enough to do hankies or “family cloth” (toilet paper) yet. I cloth diaper, and I’m starting to build a supply of cloth pads, but I figured I’d save that information for a different post, lol!

    @mub – that’s a good idea! I’ve got TONS of #10 cotton. You can see I used the Sugar ‘n’ Cream stuff to make a bright dishcloth for my husband – he hates sponges. 😛

  4. I’ve really made a concerted effort here recently to use dish towels to dry my hands, the counter top, etc. instead of always reaching for a paper towel, or worse, a napkin! As your analysis points out, the cost per roll really adds up over a year’s time and anything you can use to substitute for the paper towel is helpful.

  5. The same princple applies to cloth napkins–cheaper and classier. They are easy to find at thrift stores, or to make from cheap material. Growing up, each member of my family had their own napkin ring, so they didn’t even have to be washed everytime.

  6. I know I already commented, but I’m kindof a flake! Use TWO strands of the #10 cotton or you’ll have a sad floppy dishcloth. The ones that my mom and grandma make are a combo of SC/DC, but when I make them I usually do one or the other because I stop paying attention and lose track of what I’m doing.

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