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Debra Caffrey is the Education E-newsletter Editor for FredParent. She also writes, blogs, and assists with events. She is the proud mom of 8-year-old Aidan. She is passionate about cooking, meal planning, and smart grocery shopping, and is excited to share her ‘Practical Pantry’ with you.

 

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Practical Pantry

paper towels 1

I will admit it – I’m addicted. To paper towels. Being a super frugal homemaker who’s trying to make steps towards creating a greener home, this is a terrible addiction to have! Most people use paper towels probably more than they should, but I use waaayyyy too many, especially for my small family of three. No, seriously - I go through a roll faster than you can imagine. I always have a good supply at the ready, and don’t think twice about ripping off a whole piece for the tiniest task.

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Lately my conscience has been eating away at me for this. Not only does the production of paper towels require a tremendous amount of trees, but discarded towels contribute to a few million tons of trash each year. If I’m going to say I’m serious about reducing waste from human consumption (which I am!), then how can I continue to be so careless with my overabundant use of paper towels? Plus, it’s a pricey addiction. My family pack of paper towels costs $12.99, and I usually buy at least one pack a month. Why not save money while trying to save the environment?


The worst part of my paper towel use has been how we use them as napkins. Three meals a day times three people, plus snacks. Sometimes, I’ll rip a paper towel off the roll to use while having a snack have out of habit, even when my hands don’t need it. It’s been a mindless habit that I decided has got to stop. While I may not be ready to give up paper towels while cooking or cleaning, I recently decided to make the switch over to cloth napkins for our family, and let me tell you – it’s been a wonderful thing!


I invested about $14 and bought a bunch of inexpensive dishtowels. There are plenty of choices out there if you’re making the switch to cloth napkins. There are microfiber towels, washcloths, traditional cloth napkins from the dining section of any store, bar mop towels, or you can buy material and make your own! I have a few friends who do so, but not being a sewer, I figured cheap dishtowels would be the right choice for us. They are the size of a washcloth, but thinner and a bit sturdier.

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Next, I purchased a few inexpensive mesh laundry bags – the kind you’d put lingerie and other delicates in to go right into the wash. I hung one by a hook on the wall of my laundry closet to throw dirty towels into when done. I didn’t want a big pile of dirty cloth napkins accumulating on top of my washing machine or any other inappropriate place, and I realized that in order to make the system successful, we’d need to make the process of laundering them easy. When the bag gets full, I throw them into whatever next load of laundry I’m planning to do. They are so small, adding some into your regular laundry doesn’t affect much.


Finally, I needed an efficient place to store the clean ones. Since my 9-year-old is in charge of setting the table for meals, he needs to be able to access them easily. I hung another small mesh laundry bag inside a lower cabinet door right next to our kitchen table and folded the clean towels neatly inside. Now, whenever Aidan needs to set the table or get a napkin for other uses, he can easily take one.

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The thing with change is that sometimes in life, you don’t realize how important the change was until you’ve already undergone it. That’s how I feel about this recent switch to cloth. It has opened up my eyes to how mindless and careless I’ve been about using paper towels. It’s also inspired me to see what other ways I can make our home a little more environmentally friendly while also saving a few bucks. Sometimes change can seem overwhelming when you view it as all-or-nothing, which is my typical, albeit, negative take on things. But small changes and baby steps still lead in the right direction!

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