By getting creative, there is usually never ‘just one use’ for an item. Sometimes, it even gives you a better result than buying the specific thing you’re replacing. From jars, sheets and even house plants, here’s 7 easy ecofrugal swaps you can make at home (instead of buying new).
Sometimes our first thought is to head to the shops and get what you need. Sometimes that might take you 20 minutes to drive there, another 20 to purchase the item you want and another 20 minutes to get back. That’s a whole hour you could potentially save by using something you already have at home.
Once you start making these ecofrugal swaps around the house, you’ll be saving a day’s worth of time at least! Now that’s some great compounding on top of some already great ecofrugal decisions.
What does ecofrugal mean?
Ecofrugalism is a concept that incorporates both frugal mindset, which can save you money, and eco-friendly practices, which can save the environment. It’s a way to buck the trend of consumerism, to get creative with what you have and keep items useful. By being ecofrugal, this helps toward a more circular economy, reducing the need for new items.
This post first appeared on FIRE Your Own Way.
7 Easy Ecofrugal Swaps
1. Glass Jars
Whether they’re from your coffee, spaghetti sauce or last night’s curry fix, keep those jars! Give them a quick rinse and pop them (lids and all) straight into the dishwasher so they’re ready to go for all sorts of new uses.
- Storage: You can reduce the amount of packaging and plastic in your pantry by storing everything in jars instead. We use them for almost everything – flour, sugar, beans, rice, even cereal! They’re also great in the fridge for homemade sauces, jams or liquid leftovers out of a can such as coconut milk or tinned fruit. Of course, you can also store non-food items in them such as pens, clips or utensils.
- Propagating: If you’ve got any plant babies or have just been given some clippings, glass jars are fantastic to propagate plants. Pop in the clipping, add water, and boom – you’ll have roots in no time!
- Room Diffuser: This works particularly well with glasses that angle in at the top. Fill halfway with water, a teaspoon of witch hazel and 20+ drops of your favourite essential oil(s). Grab a handful of bamboo skewers, popping them in pointy end down and voila – homemade room diffuser.
- Paint Pot: Small glass jars are great for a little paint pot. Whether you’re doing doors and skirtings, or a small personal piece, they’ll work a treat and wash out easily too.
- Drinking Glasses: While they won’t be the most stylish, glass jars certainly work well as a drinking glass!
- Savings Jar: Drop those coins in! Whether it’s for a holiday, house deposit or your next parcel of shares!
Homemade hankies can be made out of any cotton-based material. Old bed sheets or sewing scraps work great in particular. No more empty tissue boxes right when you really need one!
If you’re handy with the sewing machine, you can even hem the edges and have them look really professional. Alternatively, you’ll usually be able to pick these up cheap and pre-made at an op shop.
The best part? You don’t have to only use them to blow your nose. Try these alternative ecofrugal uses for clean hankies next:
- Make-up Remover: Pop on your favourite face cleanser and use them to remove your make-up. No more single-use make-up wipes to buy and throw out!
- Clean Those Glasses: You’ve usually got a hanky in your bag or back pocket, so it makes perfect sense to use these to wipe those lenses, rather than on your clean t-shirt. Also good for phone and tablet screens.
- Wrapping up Food: If you’re packing a dry lunch such as biscuits or fruit, you can easily wrap and tie them up in a hanky rather than plastic.
- For Hot Days: Hankies are actually amazing for wiping away sweat, and in turn can also help you cool down, if you dunk them in water and drape them around your neck.
- Impromptu Napkin: You’ve just had a take-away feed, with all sorts of food dripping down your hands only to realise – no napkins! No problem, the hanky’s got you!
3. Old Sheets
There’s nothing worse than rolling over in the middle of the night and hearing a rip. (Not that kind!) Torn or old bed sheets make fabulous upcycled and ecofrugal items in a wide range of ways.
A simple place to start is to make them into a set of hankies as above. Or why not try:
- Rags: Cut them into small strips to use as rags. Whether you’re working with grease, cleaning out some super dirty areas or mopping up a spill. Use them, soak them, then pop them in the wash to use again and again.
- Drop Sheets: Sheets work so well as drop sheets when painting. Whether on the floor or covering furniture, they don’t scratch and they cover a lot of space. Bonus – they stay put and don’t fly around like those horrible cheap plastic sheets. Get a little paint on them? No worries! Turn them into rags down the track.
- Moving Furniture: Whether you’re moving furniture to another room or a whole new house, you can use sheets to drag heavy objects along the floor with little strength required AND no scratches. Or wrap around furniture to stop them scratching against each other.
4. House Plants
It’s no doubt that house plants are on trend at the moment, and why not? They supply us with fresh air, lighten up the home and can even lower your stress. The downside is, with their popularity, we’ve also seen a rise in their price tags.
Plants we used to purchase for $6 a pot 5 years ago, are now at Bunnings for $60 – that’s a whopping 900% increase!
The good thing is you can still fill your home with luscious greenery, without spending a cent. Here’s how:
- Clippings and Propagation: Ask friends, family or neighbours for a clipping of the plant you want. Usually all these require is a glass jar (as above), water and time. You’ll have new roots in no time and can start placing them around the house. Bonus! Turn it into an At Home Date Night!
- Street Finds: Depending on your area, you might be surprised at how many times you walk past a broken piece of succulent or cacti on the ground. Pick them up! These don’t even need water OR glass jars to grow. Just pop them on top of your latest pot of dirt, and those things will grow and grow. Some places we’ve found plants: In a carpark, on the road, on the footpath and even on a train line. Keep your eyes peeled!
- Free Giveaways: Look on Gumtree or Marketplace for people giving plants or clippings away for free. Some people will even pop them out the front of their house with a ‘take me, I’m free’ sign.
- Facebook Groups: Utilise your local Buy Nothing groups or similar, to ask for a specific plant that you’re after. Often someone will have exactly what you want!
- Request as a Gift: As a last-ditch effort, if none of the above work, put it on a ‘gift list’ and tell your family and friends exactly what you’re after so they can give it to you as a gift. This solves the old conundrum of not knowing what to get someone too.
5. Bicarb & Vinegar
These two ingredients are like a power couple. They will clean so much around the house, you can almost remove all of your other store bought cleaners. What’s great is they’re so cheap and easy to buy in bulk.
- Kitchen Cleaner: Just for vinegar. Fill one of those spare glass jars up with orange or lemon peels, then cover with vinegar and allow to sit for 6 weeks. Boom – citrus scented spray and wipe, ready to wipe down all your kitchen benches!
- Unblock Drains: Pour ¼ cup of bicarb down the drain, leave it for 5 minutes, then pour in ¼ cup of vinegar and let it bubble and sit there for 30min to overnight. Then boil the kettle and pour it straight down the drain from as high as you can reach. The height will give more force and help get any extra bad nasties to dislodge and clear the drain.
- General Cleaner: Equal parts bicarb and vinegar will work well on tough stains around the house and even brighten grout on your tiles!
- Shine Your Silver: Soaking your silver cutlery, utensils and jewelry in a mix of bicarb and vinegar for a few hours will leave them looking sparkling and good as new.
- Help Your Laundry: Bicarb and vinegar will help deodorise, clean and soften your fabrics, with no lingering vinegar smell. You can even add a little essential oil or two for extra fragrance!
6. Dishwashing Tablet
Who knew there were even more ecofrugal uses for the humble dishwashing tablet!
- Oven Doors and Racks: Wet the dishwashing tablet and rub it on your oven door. That stuck on, crusty brown and caked on muck will be off in no time. It’s a popular hack, but it really does work.
- Outdoor Furniture: Similar to the oven hack, tablets also work well to clean tough dirt and grime on outdoor furniture. For this one, dissolve the tablet first in hot water and use gloves when scrubbing it all down.
- Dirty Pots, Pans and Baking Trays: If you’ve ever accidentally burnt dinner onto one of your dishes – crack out the dishwashing tablet. After wetting it or soaking it in warm water with a dissolved tablet, those marks should come off in no time.
- Shower Screens: Got soap scum on your glass shower screens? Dip your tablet in warm water and scrub it directly on the glass. It should come away pretty easily, and you’ll have sparkling glass in no time. No bathroom spray or wipes necessary!
Better yet, you could make your own 3 Ingredient dishwashing tablets if you have the ingredients at home.
7. Egg Cartons
- Bin Liner: If you have a small organics or compost bin in the kitchen, tear an egg carton into 4 portions, and place one of them at the bottom of the green bag. It helps to soak up any extra juices, preventing those horrible leaks.
- Compostable Seedling Containers: The bottoms of egg cartons are fantastic for seedlings. Fill with potting soil in each cup and plant your seeds. Keep the carton on a tray, as it will be soggy when watered, but will keep its structure. Once the seedlings are ready to be planted, cut the carton into individual ‘pots’ and plant them straight into the ground – carton and all. It’ll break down naturally, and worms love it.
- Packaging: If you’re sending off a large item, egg cartons can be used as an eco-friendly barrier to prevent damage and give cushioning to the item.
- Fire Starter: What a hack! Fill your egg carton with charcoal in each cup, then set it alight in your weber BBQ, and they should be lit by the time the cardboard has burnt down. Genius.
- Organising: Egg cartons are perfect for sorting multiple small items. Whether it’s sewing materials inside or nuts and bolts out in the shed. You can even write a legend on the underside of the lid for a quick reference when you open it up.
So, there you have it. We hope you enjoyed these easy ecofrugal ideas, and they help you to avoid buying new.
Some of the best things about making these swaps is not only the money saved or sustainable choices made; these swaps also save your time and energy.
So what swaps are you already making, and what’s something new you’d love to try from the list?