Repurposing, Recycling and Cutting Back

I have come to the conclusion that my Everyday Cheapskate readers are very smart. Just take a look at a sampling of the latest batch of tips I received.

photo via PaisleyJade

MUSICAL COASTERS. Friends give me their old CDs, which I use to create gifts. Using cotton yarn, I crochet two small doilies the size of the CD. I then put a CD or DVD between the dollies and sew them together. I make sets of four or eight coasters and give them as gifts. I usually try to pick the yarn color that will go with my recipient’s decor, otherwise I use a neutral color. To launder, I don’t toss them in the washing machine as the CDs may break, but I do soak them in soapy water, rinse and stand on end to dry. Joyce, Michigan

FROZEN STORAGE FOR BAGS. After wrapping meat tightly in plastic wrap and then in foil, I write the contents on a piece of paper and place the meat and note inside a zip-type freezer bag. When I remove the item from the freezer, I store the empty bags in the freezer. I have no need to continually buy expensive freezer bags, and I always know where to find one. Lucy, email

MEATY CUPCAKE LINERS. I use flattened, large paper cupcake liners between hamburger patties when freezing. No cutting waxed paper and no corners sticking out. Sharon, Arkansas

FRESH-FROZEN STRAWBERRIES. When I have too many strawberries to eat, I hull, wash and spread them out on a jelly-roll pan. When they’re completely dry I freeze them on the pan. Once frozen, I put them in a zip-type freezer bag and store in the freezer. I use these for making smoothies or for topping on ice cream. Gretchen, email

NO MORE CATALOG SHOPPING SPREES. With the popularity of online shopping, catalogs might not be as big a budget problem as when I was younger, but I was able to break my catalog habit relatively easily. When the catalog arrived in the mail, I would browse through the merchandise and then fill out the order form (omitting the payment information). Then I’d stick the order form in the catalog and put it aside, preferably out of sight. I did this with each catalog that arrived in my mailbox. This worked like a charm. I am now to the point where I toss catalogs without opening them! Doris, California

ROOTS-ONLY COLORING. I have found two hair colors that work for me, one for summer and one for winter. I clip coupons for the brands I like, but what really works for me and saves me so much money is that I only color the roots as my hair grows out. Coloring just the roots allows me to need only half of the hair color, preserving the rest in the original containers for next month. And using half gives me just enough solution to cover the roots. I figure I have saved thousands of dollars over the years. I haven’t used a salon to color my hair in over 25 years. Cathy, Florida

Question: Turning CDs into coasters is not very common. What is the most creative thing you have repurposed and turned into something that was useful or enjoyable? Discuss in the comments section below.


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  • Jean

    Over the Door Shoebags-these are perfect for storing cleaning items, microfiber cloths, etc. I also use one for storing scarves, sport socks on the inside of my closet door. Another one holds winter hats and mittens, gloves, on the inside of the coat closet door.

  • grammasusan

    I crocheted my clothes pin bag from old VCR tape. It has held up through rain, snow and sunshine for over seven years and is still as strong as ever. The same tape, crocheted in a large rectangle, makes an excellent drainage mat for rain and snow boots.

    • I’ve got to see this! VCR tape? Instructions … please!

      • grammasusan

        My grandchildren helped me by unwinding the broken tape, we wound it into a ball. Aluminum hooks work best, I used a K hook and made a chain approximately 28″ long, then built on the initial chain to about 15″. After reaching the desired height I began decreasing from the center on each side (as though I were making an armhole opening for a vest).When the opening reached a size large enough for a jacket encased arm to comfortably reach in I began increasing each side until the opening was closed, I added another 4″ then crocheted the back, bottom and top closed. I strengthened the opening with single crochet stitches all the way around. I use a large hook to attach to my clothesline. The VCR tape is an iridescent black and is attractive and very sturdy. I’ve made several bags for my Amish neighbors and they have stood up as well as mine. My neighbors recycle large, sturdy plastic lids by punching holes in the lids with a hot awl. They thread sturdy twine through the holes and attach wooden clothespins to the twine. In winter I hang all of the small items like socks and skivvies on the contraption while still inside and attach it to my line when I take the larger items outside. My fingers are still functional now when I come inside and no more dropped socks due to frozen fingers.

  • batmenj_5

    Our boys go thru eating spurts of eating corndogs. When they do, I save the stick, wash it good and use it for a coffee stir stick. Works great and can be thrown away when needs to be replaced.

  • Cindy

    I took the top off a computer desk and now i use it for a sewing table. Can use 2 machines on it because of the curve. It was a lot cheaper than buying a sewing desk/table. It makes a great work table with room underneath for storage.

  • Diane

    Coloring Hair Roots Only can save even more by buying her hair color and toner at the Beauty Supply store. I can color my roots about 6 times using 1 oz.color & 1 oz. toner mixed. I use the little brush from an old frosting kit or you can use an old toothbrush.

  • Michele

    When socks get worn down or have holes in them, we add them to the sock spider…a toy for our dog made up of our old socks tied together. It’s great for tug of war and we don’t buy expensive dog toys!

  • Pamela

    While at work the other day I really needed some dental floss. No one seemed to have any. So I used the string that comes with a tea bag. Another bonus – I used the peppermint tea bag and got “mint” floss. Worked rather well.

  • Darlene

    I love cats and purchase the kitty litter in the big sturdy boxes (arm & hammer). I save the boxes; glue the opening shut and spray paint (non-toxic) for marvelous blocks for the kids in our nursery at church. The kids love it and parents have asked me to save boxes for them to convert for their own kids. The “blocks” hold up well and when played out can be tossed without guilt. I love being able to recycle these heavy duty boxes! Meow!

  • Bev

    When fabric lunch bags first came out I made my own from the bottom of denim jeans (or other pants). A piece of velcro held the top folded down. My children enjoyed decorating their bags with puffy paints and even my “white collar” husband used one. When the bags are soiled, just throw them in the wash. My kids are grown, but the bags are still around!

  • Laura in Texas

    When my teenage son moved back in with me, we took old CDs & drilled small holes on opposite sides of the CD, strung the CDs together with ‘S’ hooks making them long enough to fit in his window. We made enough to fill the window & hung them using fishing line from a spring type rod. The CDs moved when his fan was on, catching the light, throwing colors all around the room. We did this when the internet providers gave free CDs to stores so customers could pick them up so they were easy to come by.

  • Someone may have posted this but you can use cds to scare away birds from your plants or trees. Just hang them from some fishing string in the trees or tie onto plants or plant cages. The sun shining off of them scare them away.

  • Maryann

    Instead of buying expensive facial scrubs from the department store, I use plain old sugar. I have it in a covered shaker container in my shower. I sprinkle some into my hand and gently scrub my face and neck with it, then rinse off. Works just as well as the store-bought ones, and I won’t run out because I always have it in the house. Also I don’t have to worry about fragrance in it, which can sometimes be a problem for me with my asthma.

  • Deborah Groom

    My tips are for crafting. I create rugs and wall hangings from disgarded clothes. Old worn out t-shirts can be torn into strips and pulled through a burlap backing to create pieces of art. With a sharpie marker you draw a design, you don’t have to be an artist. Cartoon flowers will do. Put the burlap in a large hoop and you can use a crochet hook to pull up loops of the fabric. There are lots of website to show rug hooking (not latch rugs). I create with strips of old wool skirts, but have made rugs with sweaters, yarn, and even highlights of garbage bags. If you want it washable you can use verel which is the material in cubicle dividers and use t-shirt material. There is a great Yahoo rughookers group that can direct you to instructions. I think of it as scrapbooking with fabric. I have wall hangings with bits of baby blankets and clothes my son wore. Instead of having them in a box I can see them as flowers and oceans and enjoy them as art. I have some examples at in the set labelled “hooked rugs”. Enjoy.

  • Deborah Groom

    I had some shiny surfaced tiles left from a project. They ended up being great paint palettes for painting. The paint goes on in blobs for the kids to paint (or me) and then rinses off easily. No need to stain your plastic or look for other containers. Let dry and they are good for the next project.

  • I use the little plastic holder from bread wrappers to make dividers for file cards in my recipe box and other files I use tape or glue to hold in place. I also have used my old dryer sheets to cut out flowers in my sizzix die cutting machine for scrapbooking! I found a yard sale that had a bunch of old scarves and purchased a whole bunch for 25 cents! I used those to make fabric flower(cut from my sizzix) pins for gifts, whoo hoo!

  • Rhoda

    Instead of buying tooth paste roll-ups I use a bobby pin. It works as welll and costs much less.

  • cheapbeme

    OK- this may be the height of being cheap but it bugs me to no end to pay so much for toilet paper so I do my own thing. I buy napkins at the Dollar Store for a $1.00. You get 164 wipes with one package. I just keep them in my vanity drawer which is right next to my commode and Viola- instant wipe. BUT I do keep a roll of toilet tissue on the other side for company. They probably wouldn’t understand, ha,ha.

    • Are your paper napkins … uh, flushable? Not all paper product are. One plumber’s bill to unclog the commode could wipe out a lot of savings. Just saying … and wondering 😉

      • cheapbeme

        Yes, they are flush-able. I’ve been doing this for a few years now and have never had a problem. My house was built in the 70’s so the plumbing is that old. Actually, the napkins are not nearly as thick as the ‘designer’ toilet tissue they make and I have seen THAT plug some commodes. If they would just take some of that thought they used in creating such plush toilet tissue and create a Dollar Store gasoline- I would be a very happy Dollar Shopper.

  • glora

    I use old socks to make rugs. Cut them into ‘slices or loops’ similar to the potholder rings you used to make potholders with. Thick socks are cut thinner and thin socks are cut wider. Just take the sock and do not open it, but cut across the width. Starting like crochet with 3 rings, using your fingers to do the ‘crochet’ and working it into a tight circle. Add an extra loop at intervals as it grows to keep it flat and when one is thin and makes it look ‘dented, use a thick one over it on the next round. Colored socks can be interspersed for design. You can make the rug as large or small as you want. Works great at the door to collect all the dirt and keep it from coming into the house. Sounds complicated but really easy.

    • This is amazing … but my mind is getting a little confused. Do you have any pics of this or perhaps a video? I don’t ask for too much! Really this is quite fun and I’d love to know more.

  • vicki

    I save toilet paper inserts and keep them by my dryer. i then stuff dryer lint inside the paper roll and bend down the ends when full (like a coin roller) . these make great fire starters for fireplace and camping.

    • PCB Rob

      I just saw a post on Facebook where the person cut the toilet paper roll insert and used it as a cuff on wrapping paper. It keeps the wrapping paper from unrolling.

  • Denise

    I use peanut butter jars to store craft supplies and dry food supplies (like beans or gravy mix) that I buy in bulk. Wash out by hand as the dishwasher will melt them slightly.

  • Ruth Goodstein

    A friend of mine makes jewelry so I’m giving her my old cupcake baking tins, all sizes. They’re great for holding beads, clasps, etc. Also wonderful for storing earrings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, so they are always separated and easy to find.

  • sccountryblonde

    The most useful thing I have repurposed is worn out pantyhose.. I cut the waist band off and use it on a kitchen trash can to keep the bag from falling into the can. The bag is pulled over the top of the can, turned down, and the pantyhose waist band is put over the edge of the trash can, securing the bag. It can be used over and over again as it is on the outside of the can and does not get dirty.

  • Beck

    I use washed car shammys to dry my floor after I mop it makes it look great and gets the floor dry much faster.
    I also save all clothing that is not appropriate to donate due to being worn to a rag bag. I used those to dust, clean up paint drippings, and pretty much anything else that you use paper towels for. I wash them all in the laundry except the ones with paint those I toss.

  • Betsy

    I cut the tops off of my husband’s old socks when they get holes in them. I slide the top on my drinking glass before filling with ice and a drink. The glass never “sweats” on anything. It’s not fancy but works great!

  • Valerie

    What we do at our house instead of using up so much room in the trash can with an empty coffee can is we fill it with leftover grease from things like, bacon, and so forth. Then, when it is full, we just toss it.

  • Valerie

    What we do to dust those intricate designs on our furnature is to take old toothbrushes and put some furnature polish on them and scrub away!

    • lgj

      I like this better than what I used to do…dipped Q-tips into furniture polish and used them to get into the intricate designs. Would take all day!

  • Rena

    One thing that I like to do to make an old fashioned sense at my house is to take old cans that had held something like soup or beans or fruit and scrub them out well and freeze water in them. Then, once the water is frozen I take a nail and my husband’s hammer and I pound a design onto the can (making small dots on them is a great guideline). Then, I let the water thaw and I drain it ( or use it to make another!). I dry the can and then put a tea candle or some other similar candle in it and I can have them on the table and lit. The light then shines onto the table or on the floor through the holes..

  • Martha

    I save plastic grocery bags for a church that uses them to cut into strips and crochet them into your sleeping mats for the homeless.