The Tightwad Gazette and ten uses for “trash”

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Hello again. Happy Monday! I’m still taking it easy from having baby #3, so here’s another oldie but goodie from February 2012. > > >

Since launching Smallish I’ve been amazed and blessed at the ways friends and family (and even strangers!) have jumped on board. Each week someone new tips me a book title (or an actual book) or an article or a quick video pertaining to one of Smallish’s three focal points. It encourages me to have so many people looking out for content and ideas. So thanks, people. I appreciate the help so much!

Recently a sweet friend passed me a book called The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. Actually, the book is a compilation of articles published in a newsletter that circulated in the early 90’s, (when I was busy obsessing about horses and doing my best to get out of wearing a dress to church every.single.Sunday).

I politely said “thank you” and expected to flip through the volume in an evening, you know, skimming titles with one eye and watching Downton Abbey with the other. Once I cracked the cover however, I was surprised to find that I couldn’t put it down. Oh dear. What does it say about me that I devoured a how-to manual on thrift like it was a fast paced novel?! Don’t answer that.

Seriously though. I tore through the book, reading every word. The information was fascinating, well-researched, funny and—although decades old—still largely relevant. I dog-eared about 15 pages that held frugal secrets Smallish readers would appreciate.

To give you a taste of the fun little frugal ideas from The Tightwad Gazette, here are ten alternate uses for household “trash”:

Toilet paper tubes: Use to gather unsightly loose electrical cord on kitchen appliances, lamps, entertainment centers, etc. Just make sure to hide the cardboard tube, too!

Milk jug rings: Use to keep socks together when laundering. Replace ring around soiled socks before tossing in hamper. (I’ve noticed that these jagged bottoms to the plastic tops of milk jugs are less common than they once were, and I’m not sure if the rough edge would tear at the cotton of the sock. It’s a great idea though!)

Dried-out bread: Save “caboose” slices or old bread in a plastic bag in the freezer until you need to make bread crumbs. Grind up in a food processor, toss with butter and season. (I am happy to report that I’ve been doing this for years. It works great and I am rarely short on toppings for casseroles. I even use the bread crumbs to coat chicken breasts.)

Crayon bits: Place a variety of colors (paper off!) in a muffin tin and melt in the oven. Cool. The crayon pieces will meld into a scribble “cookie.” Each one has unique colors and patterns—great for cheap stocking stuffers!

Carrot peels, Onion skins, Celery leaves: Use to season chicken and turkey stock. You’re going to throw them out anyways and they have all the great flavor of the actual veg! (Note to self: remember this tip in a couple weeks when I’m boiling the turkey bones from Thanksgiving.)

Old Yellow Pages (or junk mail catalog):Use for a gluing surface if you’re into crafty crafties. Once the top page is used tear off for a fresh surface.

Mesh produce bags: Cut off metal clip and knot. Use to store soap bits. The mesh and soap combine to form an effective cleaning agent when washing hands.

Tuna fish can: Use to make cookie cutters. Cut off bottom of can and shape with needle nose pliers. (Alright, I’m not so sure about this one. I’ve never been a fan of tuna-sugar cookies.)

Old cloth diapers: Obviously these make great cleaning rags; however, I have found their best use is for washing windows. Because they are highly absorbent they beat paper towels and newspaper for a streak-free final wipe.

A metal coat hanger: Make a baggie dryer by bending it so the hanger stands alone with two triangle sides to air the plastic bags out. (This tip should make the hearts of that odd breed I mentioned in this post beat a little faster!)

 So what do you think? Good stuff, huh?!? There’s more where that came from, like this one on Seeking the Minimum Level and the Art of Leftovers Wizardry.

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  • Christy King
    March 4, 2014

    We use toilet paper tubes to contain our Silpats (silicone baking sheets) too. Most of them go to the gerbil though 🙂

  • Evans
    March 7, 2014

    So glad you found Tightwad Gazette. That was our minimalist bible back in the 90″s. I first saw Amy on Phil Donahue, pre-Oprah day,s and was hooked. I also read a lot of Don Aslett until Elaine St James wrote her books. I love the new movement toward minimalism on line I would have loved the company when my daughters were small and I was living in my small house in order to stay home. Minimalism is not new but sure more fun with friends.

    • Evelyn
      March 11, 2014

      Its a great book! The new wave of minimalism interest certainly makes for good company on the way 🙂

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