Several years ago, the cost of paper towels increased. One day I was at a friend’s house, something spilled and I asked for paper towels. My friend told me she does not buy them. She said they were a waste of money. I was surprised, but I immediately started my frugal wheels turning.
I realized if we stopped buying paper towels and paper napkins I could save a little each week – and a little each week adds up over years of time. I started by getting some cloth napkins. I already owned one set I used for nice dinners, but I added to my collection until I have enough for every day.
I also stopped buying paper towels.
I do keep one roll in the house, put high upon a shelf that I can use if something really bad happens (like a stomach virus going around the family). I found that if I stored it under the kitchen sink (or worse, on the kitchen counter) they would rapidly disappear. Making them difficult to access solved that problem.
We also played around with using cloth baby wipes when I was using cloth diapers, but I had a hard time keeping them moist without them getting a musty smell to them. I researched and learned that I could use baby shampoo and some essential oils in the water to keep them fresh. I still prefer to use store-bought wipes, but if I am in a pinch, I can use the cloth ones with no problem.
Some will argue that I am using water and electricity in washing and drying these items, and it is, in fact true, but I am usually just adding them to loads I already plan to wash, so I do not see any expense effect at all.
If you decide to make the switch to cloth napkins, try to purchase ones that are patterned or dark-colored. White ones do not clean as well as I hoped and stain quickly. You can often find sets of cloth napkins at a local Goodwill or thrift store or at a discount store.
[Editor's note: Our family's first stash of cloth napkins was from the clearance shelves at our local Target store - super handy since we had a gift card from a holiday that we used to pay for them. Make sure you let family members know you're switching to cloth too; my Nana passed on some cloth napkins that had been in the family for generations that she'd had stashed in a closet as she thought no one wanted them! Check online for easy DIY tutorials for making up cloth napkins from other items around the house that are worn out in spots, but could be reused. ~MK]
Malia Russell is the blessed wife to Duncan, thankful mother to five children, ages newborn to 21 and an author, conference speaker and director of www.homemaking911.com and www.wheat-n-things.com. Visit her site for inspiration, encouragement and practical help in your roles as a godly wife, mother, homemaker or home educator.