12 Ways to Save Money with Reusable Stuff in a Disposable World

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)


By Daisy Luther

Here are 12 ways to save money by replacing those convenient disposable items with reusable ones (that are also surprisingly convenient). | The Organic Prepper | Frugal Tips | Green Living

We live in a convenience-driven society. Fast food businesses thrive while home cooking flounders. Trips to the pharmacy can now be undertaken without getting out of your car, using the handy drive-through. Standard cleaning products are quickly being overtaken by disposable items you toss in the trash after one use. We’ve been brainwashed by the marketing companies to believe that the simplest things are wildly inconvenient, and that in our time-crunched society we must pay for shortcuts.

All of this convenience has a high price tag. Not only are you spending money unnecessarily at the check-out counter for all of that convenience, but the planet is getting buried under mountains of rubbish. The average American produces 1600 pounds of garbage per year.

Did you ever stop to think about how many disposable things you buy? We do our shopping monthly instead of weekly, and this makes it a lot more noticeable on our bill when we load up with things that will be thrown out. I just checked the price, and a 6 pack of good quality paper towels would add about $8 to my bill. If you’re in a position in which every penny counts, that $8 could be buying you a necessity like food. Even if you have no concern about the landfills, you probably want to save money, right? Pennies each week add up to dollars each month, and hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.


From a preparedness point of view, having items that don’t have to be replaced on a weekly basis only makes sense. If you are unable to go to the store for a long period of time due to a personal financial crisis or some other type of upheaval, you won’t have to worry about running out of paper towels or diapers if you don’t use them. On the other hand, for power outages, I do stock a stash of some convenience items to make my life easier, since we also have no running water during those times. However, they’re for emergency use only, and are rarely pulled out of the stockpile.


A dozen things you’ll never have to buy again

It probably goes without saying that if you’re on a strict budget, you should not be buying silly things like cleaning wipes for the counters, paper plates, disposable dusters, and, for crying out loud, disposable toilet brushes. However, there are lots of other conveniences that can be just as easily replaced with reusable items.

Here are 12 things that you don’t need to spend money on during your regular shopping trips.   Once you make the initial purchase, you won’t need to replace these items for a very long time. Trust me, you won’t even miss the throwaway version once you get used to the higher quality reusable products.


  1. Coffee filters  We love coffee in our family. There’s a pot on for most of the day every day. Not only do we have a conventional drip coffee maker, but we also have a Keurig for a quick cup in the afternoon. Here’s the awesome thing: you can get reusable filters for both for well under $10. We’ve replaced the throwaway paper filters for our coffee pot with a little mesh basket like this.  They also have a pointy version if your coffee maker uses the cone type of filter. For the Keurig, you can get a 6-pack of reusable pods. This saves money by allowing you to use your own high quality coffee at a fraction of the cost of k-cups. I keep these filled and in the fridge so that I can have a quick cup of afternoon coffee without spending 75 cents for it.
  2. Napkins This is a no-brainer.  We have a lovely collection of cloth napkins, many of which have been purchased at yard sales or thrift stores. I don’t get fabrics that require ironing (made that mistake before!) and we simply toss them in the hamper just off the kitchen when they need to be washed. I think they look so much prettier on the table than the paper kind. If it isn’t yard sale season, you can start out with a dozen for less than $1 apiece. Some people like to stick to white so that stains can easily be bleached out.
  3. Paper towels At the brokest point of my life, I decided that paper towels were completely unnecessary when they meant the difference between buying a roast that would feed my family for several days or not. I use – gasp – towels. I’m a big fan of the barmop type of towels for cleaning. They’re very absorbent and soak up big spills quickly and easily. You can also use this easy  tutorial to make your own unpaper towels for an even lower cost.
  4. Feminine hygiene products Avert your eyes, gentleman readers. Breaking news: tampons and disposable pads are actually not necessary for life as a woman. Women had monthly cycles well before Tampax formed a company to convince them that a disposable product was imperative. There are lots of different options, including fabric pads, feminine cups, and natural sea sponges that just get rinsed out and reinserted. You can get washable, waterproof bags for storing the used pads if you are away from home that are designed to keep moisture and odor contained. These are all actually much healthier than commercial tampons and pads that contain all sorts of toxic “absorbent” materials. If you are a DIY kind of person, here are instructions to make your own pads.
  5. Diapers With baby number 1 we lived in a tiny second story walk-up with no washer and dryer, so I used disposable diapers. With baby number 2, our circumstances had improved and I cheerfully embraced cloth diapers. The cloth diapers today are so much better than the ones our grandparent used. They have liners, snaps, different sizes, and all sorts of conveniences to make a mama’s life easier. In fact, they look a lot like disposables. You can often pick these up secondhand since they can’t be used for other purposes like the old-fashioned foldable diapers. While the initial purchase is an investment, if you’re committed to using cloth, you will save hundreds of dollar throughout your child’s diaper days.
  6. Baby/Cosmetic wipes Umm….use washcloths. I don’t have any links or snazzy how-tos or advice, except that we have black washcloths specifically for removing makeup so that you don’t see any mascara stains.
  7. Dryer sheets Replace dryer sheets but still have soft clothing with those nifty dryer balls, or even tennis balls. Even a crumpled piece of aluminum foil can be tossed in to remove static cling, and that same piece of foil will be good for up to 6 months. You can make your own dryer balls using 100% wool yarn. I like to scent them with a little bit of essential oil so that I get a lovely clean smell without  the nasty dryer sheet chemicals. (My favorites are a mix of Basil and Lavender – trust me, it’s fresh and delightful! (Use the coupon code DAISY for 10% off your order from Spark Naturals.)
  8. Lunch bags Everyone is enamored with the pretty lunch bags that almost look like purses, but you can take it a step further. Get rid of the plastic sandwich and snack baggies and use fabric ones that can be tossed in the wash. You can even make your own in about 15 minutes. Of course, only you can judge whether or not these will make it home. If your kids toss them in the trash or lose them, the fabric version will be exponentially more expensive.
  9. Shopping bags In our area, many of the stores now charge for shopping bags. At 10 cents a pop, this can add up over the course of a year to well over $50. (It could be far more depending on how much you buy). Stash some reusable bags in your car so that you always have them available. You can buy 10 of them for less than $15.  Making your own from old t-shirts can be a fun (and free) project to do with kids.
  10. Swiffer covers We live on a farm. A dusty, dirty farm.  With a cat and dog that come in the house. This means our floors need to be dust-mopped every single day. I like the convenience of a Swiffer, but not the expense of the disposable covers for it. With these machine-washable covers, I can use a fresh one each time I dust-mop. Also, check out this super-easy-peasy version you can make from a sock. (Finally a way to make use of those lonely, single socks!)
  11. Water bottles Did you know how many water bottles get thrown out each year? More than 22 billion!!!!! That is almost an unfathomable amount. Purchasing water in individual bottles is awfully hard on the budget, too. If it isn’t too toxic, you can filter your tapwater and fill your own bottles. If you must purchase your water, go with the 5-gallon refillable jugs, and dispense it into your own, BPA-free bottles. My kids are older, and we use glass bottles with a neoprene sleeve for protection.
  12. Batteries With flashlights, remotes, and other gadgets, we go through about a kajillion batteries a year, although less than when my kids were little and had battery operated toys. We use almost exclusively rechargeable batteries. These have to be purchased far less frequently, need a simple recharging device, and can save you a bundle over time. This charger works for everything from AAA to 9V and even works on non-rechargeable batteries, and you can also get a solar battery charger to rejuvenate them for free.

When every penny counts, don’t throw away money

If your budget is tight like mine, every penny counts. Be sure to spend your money wisely by investing in reusable items, making the ones you can, and hitting the thrift stores to channel our frugal grannies.

What reusable products do you use in your household in place of disposable ones? Please share in the comments below so that we can revisit this topic in a second article!

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • WOW!

    Thanks, Daisy. I printed off the instructions for the snack bag and the unpaper towels.
    Never thought of using the microfiber for the dust mopping. We live on a dirt road and the dust is terrible. I do use old wash cloths on my swiffer type mops. Sometimes just dry and sometimes for a quick clean up (like after canning peaches) I use them wet.


  • Hello. Daisy,

    with the cleaning wipes that replace the papertowels, how do you keep them clean looking. I clicked on the link on Amazon, and saw that they only come in white. With all the juice and crud that gets on my counters, it won’t take long for these reusable wipes to look very dirty. How do you deal with that?? Thank you in advance for any ideas .

  • I’ve been into recycling and re-purposing items for most of my life, but you had some ideas here that I hadn’t thought about – so Thanks, Daisy! To share as well, I recently purchased men’s and women’s white cotton handkerchiefs – the kind we used all the time when I was young! And I also purchased a dozen of the large cotton bandannas (so many uses!). These were inexpensive and of course only need to be washed, instead of throwing them out! I also save old white cotton t-shirts. I wash them in hot water (with bleach and soap) dry them and roll them up for easy storage. I keep some in the First Aid box and the rest serve as rags for cleaning projects that are especially messy (bikes and car maintenance, painting,etc). I use old worn washcloths for dusting and general cleaning. Thanks again for sharing your ideas!

  • I was recently introduced to Norwex microfiber products and fell in love with their economy as well as their cleaning ability. Chemical free cleaning with reduced environmental waste is a plus for all. Still very new to USA, but very popular in Europe….check out youtube for more info. I would promote these products, even if I was not one of their sales consultants 🙂

    • Love the Norwex cloths, mops, etc. The cleaning products are quite expensive. Have begun making my own cleaning products. They work as well or better. Can get hundreds of recipes from interest. Just some ideas.

  • I’m right with you! I do a couple of things differently, though. I don’t buy paper towels and don’t make coffee, but I buy a package of the coffee filters (made in USA) for about a dollar and it lasts me a year or more. I will use one to grease the cast iron skillet or pick up something gross the dog leaves me. Can even use one to strain kefir to make kefir cheese. Since a package lasts me so long and is so cheap, I don’t feel too bad about using them.

    I cloth diapered 6 babies and really found the flat, prefolds to be more useful and easier to clean and handle than the newfangled 🙂 ones. I bought the diaper service quality diapers from an amish/mennonite lady who had a little store. I found them useful for bra stuffers while nursing, used the newborn size for liners when the baby got bigger and then used the large size prefolds and burp cloths.

    Since I take compost out to the chicken yard for them to go through first, I always took the string and staple out of the tea bag before putting into the bucket. Now I only use loose tea (organic Frontier cheapest at Vitacost) and make my own blends like chai and orange spice.

  • My mom grew up on a farm with no electricity or running water. She always used worn out cotton underwear and t shirts for cleaning rags.

  • Daisy, just wanted to say thank you! I knew about some of the reusables you mentioned, but did not know about the women’s reusables. I am going to buy some this coming Monday, and will expect them beginning of next month.

    Others of the reusables also have hand craft patterns to make. If you knit or crochet, you can find free patterns for dishcloths, washcloths, swiffer-style dusters, dustmops, and so many more household cleaning accessories.

    If you sew, almost all of the cleaning accessories have patterns you can find. Second hand, thrift shops, garage sales, church or community closets all have different types of fabrics you can buy very inexpensively, and remake for your own family’s needs.

    Actually, if you use the women’s reusables, you can do the same thing. Get free patterns and make your own!

    I am looking for some of the other reusables you mentioned, so my family saves time and money to better prepare for hard times. Thanks again!

  • Why do you need to use a dryer? If the clothes spin out properly, just put them on a clothes airer, and let them dry naturally. I never used a dryer, it just uses too much power

    • Another plus for letting clothes dry naturally – either on the line in summer or on racks in the house in winter – is how clothes seem to last forever. No more dryer lint catchers full on every load. Yes. That’s how much of our clothes are lost with every washing. I’ve got lots of things used regularly that are 10+ years old and still looking good

  • Lovely tips! My sister is recently trying to minimize her family’s waste and I’m sure she’ll be very glad to have your suggestions on mind. Using reusable items than disposable ones is so much better, indeed. Thanks for the nice information and the ideas!

  • I really love this list of suggestions! We did try the rechargeable batteries, and maybe the brand was just no good at the time(Duracell), but we found that they didn’t have enough voltage to supply our electronics and we ended up throwing them all out. Did anyone else have this experience and are they better now? Seems like it’s been six or seven years.

    I have a large supply of cloth nondisposables, and to keep them from rotting/molding before washing, I dry them on the edge of the deep sink (any place will do), and when dry, load them into a plastic basket with holes on the shelf in the laundry room. I have enough to last about 10 days and it makes a very full load of laundry.

  • Hey Daisy…..another great article….and do practice most of your tips….this girl even cuts the tops off the milk bags(we buy 3 litre bags of milk here in Canada for $4.29) they make the best freezer bags on the market….must have saved hundreds of $$ over the yrs.

  • Loved this article daisy, so many small items used and disposed of really do add up … i use disposable wipes only for my little one , everything else is reusable we have metal water bottles, or collapsible roll up water bottles ,i ve used rechargeble batteries for the last 20 odd years …they are cheaper and so much better now, i also have started making my own battery packs from old laptop batteries which work really well for charging other devices, i also have solar panels large and small ..large one charges a lithium ion power bank and the small one charges an old mobile phone battery which then charges cell phones,we never use paper towels ..being british its tea towels for everything and a mop for the wooden floors , its surprising after reading your article how much we do save.????

  • Rubbermaid/Tupperware type containers are washable, and can easily replace the zippy bags. And, if you just can’t fit it in a plastic tub, plastic wrap is a much better option than the zippys. Costs way less and uses less plastic.

  • I made cloth napkins from fabric scraps two years ago. They sit on my dining room table in flower pots. They are used so much they are wearing out. Lol. I also made unpaper towels from old stained kitchen towels we were replacing. I also crochet tawashi dish clothes from yarn. They are washable and, when they start falling apart, easily replaceable. And I never go anywhere without my stainless steel water bottle. I keep shopping bags in my purse. My kids were allergic to the commercial baby wipes so I just used washcloths.

  • About batteries: Daisy, you linked to some rechargeable Nimh batteries, which is good because those are probably the most widely used rechargeable types around. There is considerable difference among brands on how many times they can be recharged, so checking out both reviews and manufacturers’ claims helps. Nimh batteries hold their voltage pretty much steady until they need a recharge, and DON’T CORRODE — unlike alkalines which have a steady decline in voltage over their one-time life, and then if not removed in time DO CORRODE.

    Tip to save your gadget from alkaline battery corrosion: Spraying some WD-40 on that corrosion will loosen it up so that with Q-tips, round toothpicks, and cotton balls, you can clean out that corrosion and restore your gadget most of the time. It helps to store your gadget with the battery compartment down, so that if corrosion does happen, it’s less likely to affect the rest of your gadget (whether an electric razor, a camera, or a whatever).

    Some gadgets work just fine, even with the slightly lesser 1.2 volts that Nimh batteries produce, but some gadgets don’t. Only way to find out is to try.

    Final battery tip: the most compact way to carry around spare AA or AAA batteries is in a silly little Tic-Tac transparent plastic box. Three AA or four AAA batteries will fit inside very well, and the lid keeps them from falling out and shorting out against something metal inside your pocket, purse, ditty bag, or whatever.

    Oh, regarding cleaning up after pets in the house. Both my sets of grandparents in their early years lived in rural farm homesteads before electricity became available. Both grandmothers absolutely prohibited cats and dogs from coming into, let alone living, in the house. The critters had warm places to sleep in cold weather with blanketed bedding in the barn. That eliminated the hair cleanup problem in the house.


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