Before You Throw That Away!

By Mia Cronan

How many times have you thrown something in the garbage can, only to wonder if there was something else that could have been done with it, but you didn’t have time to think it through at that moment? If you’ve run into that situation, you might find some helpful hints in here to get you thinking along those tracks.

If your kids have drawers full of old t-shirts that no longer fit, or they’re torn, or they’re simply ready for the rag bag, it may still be difficult for them to part with the sentimental ones. Maybe it’s a t-shirt that has a favorite team logo on it. Or the shirt might be from a team on which your child played. T-shirts with cute sayings, fun pictures, or a commemorative phrase can be special and hard to part with, too. If this is the case in your home, consider taking those shirts and making a great gift for your child by cutting 12 inch by 12 inch squares out of them where the logos are and making a quilt by sewing them all together. The quilt can last a lifetime and bring back memories on a daily basis. Twenty of those squares can be sewn together, with four-inch strips of neutral fabric creating frames for each block, to make a four-block by five-block quilt. And we all know how soft a t-shirt gets after several thousand washings!

Until a clothing dryer manufacturer comes up with a machine that doesn’t eat socks, there are many things that can be done with the orphans. If you have kids, you can sew buttons on them for eyes, and embroider noses and mouths with yarn. Fashion a puppet stage from an old box, using fabric scraps for curtains, and watch them have a great puppet show. They also make good rags for cleaning hard- to-reach places, especially silver pieces like candlesticks.

Christmas cards make great To/From gift tags for the following year. Cut out the image on the front of the card and put the information on the back. You can secure it by punching a hole in the top and using a ribbon to attach it to the package.

Teach your children a little about charity. Old toys don’t have to be tossed. If your child is involved in picking out some things that he is willing to give up, put them in a box and go to a charity to give them away. Your child will learn about those folks who have very little and the joy of giving. It will also make way for all those new Christmas presents that Santa left under your tree.

A fun, inexpensive way to enjoy old catalogs and magazines is to use them for craft projects for your kids. If you’ve got stacks of magazines that have to go, but you hate to just toss them, have a little fun first! Have your kids cut out interesting pictures with safety scissors, and use them for collages or even photo bingo! Using multiple pictures of the same thing (i.e. dogs, houses, cars, etc…) you can make bingo cards and have a keepsake game that the kids made themselves.

It might sound silly, but crumbs from the bottom of snack bags make wonderful casserole toppings. Saute them lightly in butter, and place them on top of a casserole during the last five to ten minutes of baking time. Potato chips, corn chips, and even pretzels work great for this.

Cardboard oatmeal boxes are wonderful containers for small objects, such as toy blocks and building pieces. Or, in your tool shop, they can hold paintbrushes and other tools. For a decorative touch, you might use contact paper or paint it and decoupage it once the paint is dry.

Velveeta Cheese boxes make perfect drawer organizers. They are the perfect size for pens, pencils, scissors, markers, etc. Or you can use them in the refrigerator to hold the extra fast-food packets of ketchup and mustard that you don’t want to throw away. In the pantry, they can hold the packets of gravy mix and other sauces, to keep them organized.

If you prefer your bread soft and fresh and tend to toss the bread that gets hard, consider this: Stale bread is great for French toast, bread crumbs, and casseroles like strata. You can also make bread cubes, seasoning them as you go, then store them in an airtight container. As a last resort, make friends with your neighborhood birds by tossing it out the back door!

Over-ripe bananas can be frozen and used later, if you remove the peels first. They can be used in banana breads, muffins, and banana milk shakes. Likewise, with apples, peel out the bad spots, cut them up, and bake them with apple juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

All it takes is a little creativity to use those things you might otherwise discard without a thought. You know what they say; a penny saved is a penny earned.

Mia Cronan is the mother of three daughters, ages 4, 2, and 6 months, living in Pennsylvania. She also co-publishes a Web site for stay-at- home moms, called Main Street Mom. The site offers support, inspirational stories, comedy, money-saving tips, a nationwide playgroup listing, and much more. Subscribe to the free weekly newsletter by writing to [email protected].

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