A big part of homesteading is learning to find creative new uses for old items. That helps you become more self-sufficient while putting less strain on the environment. If you’re like most modern homesteaders, you still visit the grocery store and participate in mainstream life, but that doesn’t mean you have to participate in the modern phenomenon of living a disposable lifestyle. Our not-so-distant ancestors would save everything, from paper scraps to bits of strings, to reuse later. While that may be a bit extreme for most people, there are a few commonly discarded items that can easily find a new purpose on any homestead.
1.) Food scraps. All of your vegetarian foods and eggshells can be used to make dense plant compost. All of the trimmings and peelings you acquire while making your evening meal should be collected in a container and brought outside to a compost station. Remember to add some type of paper and some yard waste for the best blend. Mix it every once in a while to evenly distribute the nutrients and keep it from smelling. The compost can be used to beef up your garden, yielding even more vegetables and home grown goodness.
Some other uses include:
Animal feed. Chickens and pigs love vegetable scraps
Cleaners. Citrus peels make great garbage disposal deodorizers and orange peels repel cats.
Cleaning solutions. You can also turn citrus peels into all purpose cleaners to use all over the house.
Root vegetable ends, like onions or carrots, can be frozen and used later for stock making.
If you eat a lot of bone-in meat, you can save the bones and freeze them for stock. Remember that store-bought stock costs at least $2 a container and is loaded with sodium. Homemade stock is free if you use meat, bone and vegetable scraps to make your stock, the cost is zero, you’ll have no packaging waste and you’ll enjoy a much more flavorful meal.
2.) Glass jars. Every time you empty a jam, peanut butter or other type of glass jar, keep it, along with the lid. Wash them thoroughly and set them aside. They’re perfect for storing dry goods or mixing homemade salad dressings in. You can even keep leftover soups in them.
Some people use them to store arts and crafts materials, screws, or other small objects. Glass jars are great because they are safe for use with food, they’re easy to clean and they’re readily available.
3.) Plastic food containers. You can use plastic food containers a lot like you would use a glass jar. You can store leftovers in them like you would Tupperware, or you can use them for craft pieces, office supplies and more. Just remember that you can’t microwave them!
4.) Wine corks. Real cork is 100% recyclable, and some retailers have collection bins for recycling. If you don’t have one of those nearby, you can use the corks in other creative ways. You can create coasters, trivets and other useful household items or you can add a magnet to the back for a quirky kitchen addition. There are even wire cork savers to turn your collection into a display piece.
5.) Plastic grocery bags. If you’ve switched to reusable bags, congratulations. However, don’t feel bad if you haven’t. Plastic grocery bags can still be useful around the home and there are plenty of facilities available to recycle them. I personally use them as trash can liners in the bathrooms.
You can also use them for cleaning out the litter box or to hold wet items like swimsuits. If you mail things frequently, you can load the box with plastic bags rather than packing peanuts. You can even use the plastic bags to make your own reusable grocery tote.
Remember that homesteading means something different to each person. Whether you’re striving to live a more sustainable life or to get off the grid and be entirely self-sufficient is a personal decision. Hopefully these tips help you think about places in your own home where you can reuse or repurpose something that you might have otherwise thrown out.