by Tammy Taylor
Here at our ranch we don’t use many disposable items. Paper towels were eliminated years ago and we simply use washable rags instead. Paper plates certainly have their uses and we use them from time to time when it makes sense, but even for a moderately-large gathering my preference is to use real dishes. I’ve written about how we’ve kept our landfill-bound trash down to a bare minimum with the elimination of most disposable goods and utilizing both composting and recycling but what about repurposing? There are items that have lived past their current uses that can still be used for other purposes before they hit the trash.
Glass jars almost always receive a second life around the ranch, primarily the wide-mouth ones. There are many pantry uses for them of course but the most beneficial second use for them for us is for storing leftovers. Almost all of my leftovers are placed in the fridge in these glass jars. Since they are see through we don’t cry over something delicious being moved further and further to the back of the fridge until it grows into a science experiment gone wrong! Since I didn’t have to buy the containers (they were saved for me by family members) I’ve saved money on both the storage as well as the food itself by not allowing it to go to
Here’s another jar example – my honey LOVES peanut butter and for us it almost always comes in a plastic screw-top jar. Once the last of the peanut butter has been scraped from the jar, then what? Well the label is removed and the jar is washed before it goes on to its second purpose. I use these handy peanut butter jars in the freezer to hold my own homemade broth. Since making broth is ridiculously easy, inexpensive and healthier to make I try to have my own broth handy at all times. After making my broth I simply allow it to cool, skim the fat and pour the broth into these jars (leaving proper freezing expansion head space). Then I label the top of the jar with duct tape and a sharpie pop it into the freezer. Although I’m not a big fan of plastic I’ve not been successful storing glass in the freezer, so until a better option presents itself this still saves me tons of money on broth.
I also use these handy plastic peanut-butter jars to freeze beans after I’ve cooked a big slow cooker full of them. When I’m ready to use them I just pull them out of the freezer and place in the fridge the night before I need them and let them thaw overnight. That way delicious and homemade food is ready to pour into a microwave-safe container, heat and complete my meal in a hurry. And there’s precious little landfill fodder leaving this house because of it.
After they’ve served their time as a peanut butter container and then a freezer container there’s yet another use for them – my city-raised grandbabies love to catch things with them. I had Rancher-Man drill holes in the top of different colored lids and I scrolled each grandbaby’s name on a lid with a permanent marker. Now they have non-breakable containers to catch ladybugs with, guaranteed to provide hours of country fun for them. I’m always surprised at the things kids latch onto sometimes but this is always the first thing they reach for and they spend hours running around making their own ladybug playland. Since they all have their names on their own jar there’s no hard feelings that one of their cousins has the wrong jar. This is by far my favorite use for these jars!
And lastly let’s talk about socks. Working on a ranch we are pretty hard on socks and go through them pretty fast. What to do with them when they are no longer useful for socks? This one is easy: After a too-far-gone sock is clean I cut it into a large square and use it for various other cleaning tasks. I’ll cut off the toe and heel and split the remaining band in half for a square-ish piece of very absorbent terrycloth fabric that can be used to clean, oftentimes in the place of paper towels. We just throw them in the regular wash and reuse them for quite a while.
When these rags have put in hard labor as cleaning cloths and become overly stained I shift them to garage duty for their final use. There Rancher-Man uses them with his grease gun or to wipe down something incredibly grody and it finally hits the trash afterward. That’s quite a few extra uses for a simple sock!
What do you like to repurpose before it hits the trash?