Posts Tagged ‘recycling’


Using old cooking oil on New Year’s Day

January 1, 2011

Yeah, I know. I don’t care. I have a life too, you know?

Broke out the barbeque for the first time this summer, on New Years’s Day. It’s a charcoal grill, so that means a certain amount of boy scout ingenuity is required to get a good fire.

I’ve never liked firelighters or lighter fluid for this purpose. They smell funny, and although I suppose all the petrochemicals have burned off by the time you put the meat on, I find the taint of plastic off-putting and inappropriate.

Hitherto I have used crumpled newspaper and kindling to lay a conical fire in the approved manner. This can be a bit slow and I find it a little nerve-wracking. Today I had a brainwave. I have egg cartons, and I have old cooking oil. (Of course I have a jar of old oil from frying chicken in the fridge. Who doesn’t?) What would happen if I put a half centimetre of crummy rancid friend chicken oil in each egg cell, built a charcoal pyramid atop it, and lit the carton?

What happens is that you have a damned good fire. That’s what happens. How virtuous. Better than recycling it this way.

Oh yeah, don’t put fat down the drain either.


Containers — who needs them?

July 15, 2009


There was a time when I felt we really ought to containerise things in the pantry. But we never did get enough containers.

And now I’m glad we didn’t. Here is what we do instead.

Kathy’s mother gave us a bag of bag sealers she had bought from a door-to-door salesman. They are so handy that every one is in use, and I bought some more. You can get a dozen or so for about $3 from Plastic Box.


A couple of years ago I bought 60ft of twist tie. We still haven’t finished it (after all, a length of twist tie is re-usable). I don’t know how long it’s going to last, but I do know it’s doing good work on bags of pasta and legumes and rice and in the freezer.

We have a fine collection of jars — too many in fact. And I used to scoff at Kathy’s propensity to wash and save plastic food containers from ice cream, hummus, cream cheese and what have you, but they turn out to be just the right size for leftovers and lunch boxes.

I feel pretty good about this. I admit it’s a bit ugly, but we’re avoiding using some resources and reusing others. When things stay in the bag, you can see what they are and check the expiry date easily. And there’s nothing to be sad about when a plastic tub or a jar cracks or breaks. It cost nothing after all.


There is no spoon

November 28, 2008

On the weekend I put a new tyre on my bike. I had to. The old one was so worn that patches of the red underlayer were showing through the black rubber. There is no such thing as a second-hand bicycle tyre, and it is not frugal to endanger your health by skidding off your bike, so a new one was quite justified.

It is customary to use a special tool to pry the tyre off a bicycle wheel. In our last move, I must have misplaced mine. I ransacked likely areas of the house, but I just couldn’t find them.

Suddenly I remembered what Dad used to do when I was kid: he used old teaspoons. So I did too. Worked a treat, problem solved, spoons went back in the cutlery drawer.

I think one underlying frugality principle is illustrated here: using things you already have for a new purpose. Hence the common pattern in tips “you can use an X to make a handy Y.”

I get a big kick out of this kind of thing these days. I have a feeling we’ve been brainwashed by marketers into believing that every activity requires its own special, purpose-built product. This is why I feel almost naughty when I find a new use for something, and why other people can be unreasonable and turn their nose up at a perfectly good solution.

Done anything smart recently?


Plastic bag reuse

November 25, 2008

Old shopping bags become bin liners. We do not ever buy bin liners.

Smaller plastic bags from the supermarket or greengrocer wrap vegetables in the refrigerator, but also serve in place of gladwrap to cover food before serving.

More sturdy bags are used to gather the recycling. They are also handy for packing clothes on a car trip. Suitcases are hard to stuff in the boot, while plastic bags squish happily. Small carry bags make ideal rubbish receptacles, and I try to have a few small plastic bags in the car for emergency use.

On longer trips with a suitcase, plastic bags segregate dirty clothes from clean.

Ziplock bags from the bulk food section of the supermarket are washed. Then we reuse them in lunchboxes, to seal small opened packets, or (my newest discovery) to marinade or brine meat in (you use a lot less marinade that way).

Of course where we can we use a tough bag of our own, eg at the market, or at Pak’N’Save. So we don’t get as many plastic grocery bags as we might, but enough pile up through incidental purchase that we still have quite a collection (stored in another plastic bag, naturally).

I cannot recall paying actual money for a bag for quite some time.

How do you reuse plastic bags?



November 18, 2008

It is clearly a sign. Yesterday artandmylife mentioned Freecycle, and today, someone on a mailing list I subscribe to suggested it.

I had vaguely heard about Freecycle, but more or less forgot again, assuming it was one of those North American interwob things that would never get traction here. Wrong! There is a Wellington Freecyle group, and it seems to be quite active. I have just joined, because I have a bunch of things cluttering up the place that need good homes. And who doesn’t like freebies?

The Wellington Freecycle(TM) Network is open to all who want to “recycle” that special something rather than throw it away. Whether it’s a chair, a fax machine, piano or an old door, feel free to post it. Or maybe you’re looking to acquire something yourself! Nonprofit groups are also welcome to participate too!

One constraint: everything posted must be free.

Wellington Freecycle Group


Making do with what someone else had

November 17, 2008

My own philosophy of frugality is to not make do with what you can buy in the stores. Purchasing things brand new might give some people a buzz, and good on them, but to me it means paying too much money for stuff that has probably already been manufactured and is sitting on a shelf somewhere. This is wasteful, inefficient, and therefore not green.

I’m therefore happy to buy stuff second-hand, and love snooping about in recycled-object stores for useful junk. It means that old objects are given a lease of life, I get a bargain on a product I would otherwise be paying a premium for, and something doesn’t end up costing ratepayers to go into a landfill.

And here’s a great example.

These cups are great for soup. “Regular” soup bowls are difficult to use if you’re sitting on the floor next to the heater in the winter, they’re difficult to eat out of when you’re in bed with a cold, and they’re broader across the top so the meal cools down too quickly.

These cups also good for cereal, if you’re a cereal kinda guy.

Costing us $2 each at St. Vincents De Paul, these little beauties now take pride of place next to the other 4 we bought in Dargaville a year or two back…