Repurposing Items To New Life Before Throwing Away

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.

Repurposing Is An EASY Way To Reduce Landfill-Bound Trash. #TaylorMadeRanch

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 waist, errrr…waste.

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.

Repurposing Is An EASY Way To Reduce Landfill-Bound Trash. #TaylorMadeRanch

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!

Repurposing Is An EASY Way To Reduce Landfill-Bound Trash. #TaylorMadeRanch

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?

~TMR~

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47 thoughts on “Repurposing Items To New Life Before Throwing Away

  1. Pat

    great post! I like to save and use jars again and again. I currently have in my freezer…chopped peppers, onion and tomatoes. I buy this produce at the grocer, usually in the “IFFY” basket. I bring it home and right away, wash , chop and freeze on cookie sheets. Once frozen…I scrape them loosely into the jar and put them in the freezer. Freezing them on the cookie sheet lets me sprinkle just the right amount of peppers or onions into my dish. (just be careful not to leave them out of the freezer too long, or when they are replaced…they’ll clump up again) I hadn’t thought of using the plastic ones for broth. But again…great idea. Like you… I also try to get much mileage out of socks and T-shirts. I like to cut the t-shirts in such a way, that it makes one long strand and I can crochet a rug or pot holders with it. Love chatting about these things with others who are also trying to live frugal and deliberate, when it comes to waste! have a great week ahead! Pat

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I’ve heard of rag rugs and would love to try one sometime with strips of t-shirt material. Lightweight enough to throw in the washer when needed. OOOHHH – I’ve just got to give it a try. Thanks for the push. ~TMR~

      Reply
  2. Shari

    I’ve used my left over peanut butter jars to hold different kinds of markers and colored pencils for crafts. I was thinking with your grandchildren this might come in handy.

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth

    You can actually get one more use out of those socks! You can use them as weed barriers! I use holey socks as cleaning cloths and dust rags. I have arthritis in my thumbs so it makes it hard to hold a cleaning cloth. Solution? Turn the sock inside out (so the terry cloth is in contact with the surface to be cleaned) and poke my hand in! Ta-Da! Anyway, after they get all gross from repeated cleaning use and washing I cut them so that they’re a flatish square and cut out a small hole in the middle, place it on the ground, then plant seeds in the hole! I’ve done this with my tomatoes for several years (holey t-shirts work well too) and it works beautifully!! By the next growing season they’re mostly decomposed!

    Reply
  4. Lynn@Southern Direction

    I’m a jar saver too. I also save every plastic container such as butter bowls. They always come in handy. Why waste what you can use.

    Reply
  5. Candy C.

    Great ideas! I like to repurpose glass jars from the store too but I never thought about the peanut butter jars. I really like the bug catchers you made for the grandkids! :)

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Thanks Candy. It’s so funny that when the grandbabies get together at the ranch the first thing they all four run for are these jars! They’ve kept them entertained for more hours than I can count. ~TMR~

      Reply
  6. Lani

    Reusing stuff is a definite must in this day and age! We recycle all our old clothes while they’re still in good nick by donating them to charity, same too with books and any household stuff. In general, we just try not to buy a lot of things and we plan our weekly meals carefully so there’s no wastage and things thrown out. My best recycling tip is using my kids’ drawings as wrapping paper – makes the most gorgeous and unique gift wrapping!

    Reply
  7. Barb @ A Life in Balance

    I love your sock tips; I need to try those. Thanks for sharing your tips at Fabulously Frugal Thursday!

    Reply
  8. Linda @ A La Carte

    I always take my jars to recycle but I like the idea of them holding leftovers. I really like the idea of the plastic pb jars with broth in them. Great idea! I think you have so many great ideas for reusing items. Thanks for sharing this at TTF this week. Linda

    Reply
  9. Kalamity Kelli

    I love your ideas for peanut butter jars – I have a thing about repurposing plastic containers! My favorite thing to repurpose is my husband’s coffee containers – he drinks lots and lots of coffee and those wonderful containers just need a little help to look beautiful and then organize your kitchen, your child’s room, a teacher’s room – the bathroom – gosh, just about anything!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Those coffee containers are wonderful. I always feel immensely guilty when we get too many of them and have to recycle one. (Yes, we love our coffee THAT much! LOL) ~TMR~

      Reply
  10. Terri

    I LOVE the glass jars (wide mouth especially) for leftovers. I’ve managed to reduce our food waste to about 1% with this simple trick.

    Reply
  11. daisy

    Love the idea of using the wide-mouth jars for leftovers. We buy Corning Ware and Pyrex at thrift stores for the same thing. I have two large plastic coffee containers (found in neighbors’ recycle bins). One is used for coffee grounds and eggshells and the other is kept in our freezer as a makeshift compost bucket. Both are emptied into the garden when full.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Daisy, I love those coffee containers and I love your reuse of them (as does your garden!) ~TMR~

      Reply
    2. CTY

      Daisy–love the idea of freezing the compost items until they can be walked out the the pile. The freezing will also expedite the breakdown–genius!

      Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I agree Holly, there’s easy, inexpensive things we can all do if we just stop & give it a little thought. And we can learn from each other as well – things that perhaps we had never thought of before. ~TMR~

      Reply
  12. Laurel

    I save cracker wrappers, cereal wrappers and the like to rewrap small bits of food (same for the celery rubber band) or a sandwich. the wrappers also come in handy to put in my container for home made bread as it keeps it fresher for another day or two longer.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Laurel, great idea, cereal wrappers are so sturdy and perfect for this use – love it. I’ve also found those wide rubber bands from produce work great to get a stuck jar lid loose, simply slip it around the perimeter of the lid and it gives that little ‘uumph’ you need to grip & turn! ~TMR~

      Reply
  13. suzie

    take your glass jars that have metal lids and spray paint the outside only and screw a small drawer pull into lid and you have a pretty canister that you can use for cookies, etc on your kitchen counter or anywhere in your home

    Reply
  14. Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

    Great post! You might have noticed my post where I repurposed some old work pants into a wreath! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

    Reply
  15. Riversana

    I think one of the best tips I ever found was to save all the odds and ends and peelings of the fresh vegetables I use into a gallon size freezer bag and freeze them. When the bag is full I dump half into the crockpot, cover with water, and cook it until I have time to strain it out. The solids go into the compost, the veggie broth is labeled and stored. Hubbs came home last night and said “mm, something smells really good, babe!” and I had to laugh as it was just the latest pot of broth, not supper itself! I recently lost several glass jars to the freezer, so I’ll be saving the PB jars for broth as well! After that, they head to Hubb’s shop for collecting small bits and things.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Yes, veggie broth – so delicious when using in cooking instead of water! And THEN the compost benefits too. Yea! ~TMR~

      Reply
  16. Nancy W

    Wonderful article on repurposing! I use old athletic socks as a cover on bottles of oil. I cut off just the cuff and slip it ver the bottle. Keeps the bottle from getting oily! Thanks so much for sharing on the HomeAcre Hop! Nancy The Home Acre Hop

    Reply
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  18. Alison Bayne

    Great ideas, as always! Thanks for linking up at the Creative Home and Garden Hop with such a useful, practical post. See you again this week, I hope, at http://mumtopia.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/the-creative-home-and-garden-hop-5.html#.UhpXUNLObZI

    Reply
  19. CTY

    Just found your site & am very excited about it. Oh–what to repurpose next. Socks have so many uses around here. A few favorites–tie into a chain & use a dog tug rags; tie garden plants to trellises (& those used ones will become garden weed barrier thanks to the post above); tie up a coiled ext cord when storing, they untie & retie easily too; use mitt style with warm water & a tiny bit of tree tea oil to clean pet ears; mitt style for dassh boards, “floss” between house radiator, freezer coils & the like; fill with stones for weighing down tarps; place thin pantyhose over vacuum when vacuuming blindly or looking for something small. But my new fav thing to re purpose are dog food bags into totes. Cut a 2″ strip from the top, fold the bag in on itself & duct tape a bottom seam, use the strip to make a handle, secure handle by using nut, bolts & washer (to prevent pull through)–when the bag is worn be sure to salvage the hardware. My main use is for food shopping bags but I use them to tote just about anything, they especially good for wet things. Thanx for listening.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Food shopping bags from dog food bags? Aren’t you clever! It just goes to show ya that if you put your mind to it there are LOTS of places to repurpose things that are both functional and fun! ~TMR~

      Reply
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  21. Karen

    This is a great post! I reuse glass jars over and over for lots of things (I had a post about that last month). I love having them around. I’m not too fond of plastic, but haven’t found a substitute for zip-top bags. I always wash these out and reuse them, unless they have had raw meat in them. They get used until they spring a leak or get torn up. I love your sock idea! With 9 people in our house, socks are always a not-so-exciting part of laundry, and we are forever with spare socks. Thanks for your great tips. I know what to do with those lonely ones now. Thanks for sharing at Wake Up Wednesday!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Sounds like we’re on the same page Karen. I’d love to find a substitute for zip-top bags but I use them like you do – over & over until they spring a leak or if they’ve held meat. ~TMR~

      Reply
  22. Heather

    I always wash out our glass jars to house leftovers & such. One currently has lacto-fermented garlic inside :) I never thought to use the plastic ones, though. Great idea on using them to store broth! I can definitely get on board with that!!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Yeah Heather as much as I hate plastic, I’ve never been successful with glass in the freezer. The peanut butter jars have worked well for me on that front. ~TMR~

      Reply
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  24. Vickie

    Great post! I have been using my plastic peanut butter jars to hold my dried beans and homemade pasta! I haven’t had any problems storing glass jars in the freezer, but I do like the idea of storing broth in the plastic jars also! Thanks for all these great tips.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made RanchTaylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Vickie, I wonder if my glass failures are because I have a large chest freezer, just so much more jostling around? Many folks don’t have any difficulties freezing in glass but I sure do! ~TMR~

      Reply
  25. Shelle @ PreparednessMama

    Great ideas in this post! My husband loves queso dip and it comes in a great sized glass jar. I use them for storing leftovers and herbs. Sometimes I even re-paint the tops with spray paint and make them pretty! Thanks for posting on Front Porch Friday.

    Reply

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