Money-Saving Tips for Re-Using Plastic Bottles and Bags

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From those plastic shopping bags to plastic water bottles, you can save money and help the environment with the tips offered here. Even if you're trying to reduce the plastic that you bring into your home, some food manufacturers utilize them in the packaging process, making it inevitable. What to do? Rodale News offers these tips, and we've included some of our own:

Plastic Bags

Some stores now give credit if you bring your own bags. So save those plastic shopping bags and take them along. In addition, you can use them to replace traditional trash can liners.

If you have plastic bags used to package bread, cereal or pasta, save them and reuse them as lunch bags. However, do not use them to heat food in the microwave, and toss them in the store recyling bin when they become worn.

Zip-Top Bags

Useful for packaging up mini snacks and children's lunch sandwiches, these bags can be reused. A clever tip: Wash them in warm, soapy water and hang on a clothesline to dry.

What to do when they wear out? Toss them in the store recycling bin.

Plastic Cups and Tubs

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Butter, yogurt and pudding are just a few examples of foods packaged in plastic cups and tubs. You can save them (wash them out ) and use as pet dishes. Cut down on their use and save money by buying large-sized packages of yogurt and pudding, then re-package into smaller servings with the saved cups and tubs.

Another trick: Turn into planting containers for your children to plant tomatoes and flowers in the spring. Just poke holes in the bottom to make them into plant pots. Encourage your children to be imaginative by drawing pictures on them.

Another idea: Sock-keepers for the lids! Cut holes in the center, poke socks through the star and put in the laundry.

Should you use for freezing? Rodale News advises against it because of the possibility of leaching.

Plastic Bottles

Plastic bottles can be used for a wide-range of purposes. Use small ones to make mini bottles of filtered water for children. Keep them in the fridge. And remember: You should prepare for disaster by always keeping gallon jugs of water in the house. Replace regularly to keep them fresh in case the water goes out. Keep enough on hand for your family, pets and flushing toilets as well as washing.

You can even make mini-greenhouses from larger ones by cutting off the bottoms. Then place the cylinder over plants to protect them from frost in the garden.

Plastic Boxes

Do you have clamshell-type containers that contained berries, cherry tomatoes or salad greens? Make mini-greenhouses for starting seeds under lights or on a sunny windowsill. Rodale News says: "Put small pots or flats of potting mix into the container, plant your seeds, water lightly (the soil should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge), and close the lids. Keep the lid on for a week or more to help prevent your soil and the tiny seedlings from drying out; be sure not to overwater them or you may have rot problems. Once the seedlings are big enough to touch, take the lid off and let the seedlings grow freely."

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