Upcycling Ideas: Frugalista Confessions

by the FGFG team

The kitchen is the perfect wellspring for ideas in upcycling–reusing an object to give it higher purpose. There are dozens (perhaps more) throwaway objects-twist ties, nubs of old bread–that pass in and out of our kitchens. Our frugal side wants to find new uses for them.

We all have our secrets, and these overshares are nobler ones in pursuit of injecting reusable and “upcycling” into our own kitchens. Used objects can have other lives after their initial purpose is done. You might be surprised how the seemingly mundane such as a cheese rind, old sponge, or a bottle cap can have a surprising second act.

Rethink a cheese rind to add flavor to soups and stews

I have a hard time throwing food away, especially when I know it’s taken a long time to make and/or it’s traveled a long distance to reach my plate. Or when I know I can ultimately put it to good use. That explains the collection of Parmigiano Reggiano rinds hoarded away in my refrigerator’s cheese drawer, waiting patiently for me to make a soup or stew that would benefit from their savory seasoning (umami!). I recently used a hardened Parmigiano Reggiano rind to season kale and white bean soup, then served the softened rind to my son. It reminded me of being served the onion from the bottom of the sauce pot by my grandmother. -Analiese Paik

A milk creamer doubles as a rubber band holder.

I have a cow-shaped dairy creamer in my kitchen that has pride of place on the windowsill above the sink. So while this piece of pottery primarily functions as a receptacle for milk (resembling a regurgitating cow), renamed the “choking cow” it has become a holding pattern for every rubber band that enters the kitchen. If I have many colors, they become markers for wine glasses at a party. The bands also stand in for chip clips to seal packages. Wrapped around the edge of a jar, they make opening sticky lids a breeze. Secured around either ends of a cutting board, they create a non slip surface, and a less wasteful alternative to using a damp paper towel. -Melissa Roberts

Glass jars of every shape and size. Perfect for shaking up a salad dressing.

I’d prefer not to think of myself as a hoarder. That begs the notion of psychiatric treatment and an intervention. But I do tend to keep jam and jelly jars of all types and sizes. I’ll whip up homemade salad dressings and keep in the jars in the fridge. Who needs store-bought, anyway? Right now, I’ve got an awesome Meyer lemon caesar dressing. Yum! –Eileen Weber

Old sponges can be reused to control moisture in potted plants

My mother was a recycler long before recycling and reusing were in vogue. One of her many tips I carry forward is reusing sponges to help control moisture in potted plants. Simply rinse a sponge well to rid it of detergent residue, cut it to fit the diameter of a  planter pot, place it at the bottom of pot, and cover with soil. I often use several sponges per pot since I have a tendency to overwater. The sponge base will soak up and hold the water which will then be slowly released back into the soil.-Amy Ulness

Bottle caps stand in for stone chips in planters

Other things people can recycle from the kitchen are plastic bottle tops.  My mom (like Amy’s, a recycler before there was a movement) always hoards these.  Instead of buying little stone chips, she uses them in saucers to raise the plants up a bit so they aren’t sitting in water. -Elisabeth Rose

A used egg carton is an invaluable aid for this little card shark

The amount of packaging that we all dispose of is tremendous, even IF you make a concerted effort to recycle every little bit that you can. We all are still disposing vast amounts of cardboards, metals and plastics-recycling bins full of it. With that in mind, I am trying more and more to 1. buy in bulk, 2. save what really doesn’t need to be thrown out and can be used again (just like my grandmother, who had tins labeled “rubber bands” ,”paper clips”, “extra paper”) or 3. up-cycle an item, giving it a new purpose.

Along the lines of up-cycling, my younger daughter was having a hard time holding all of her playing cards one night when we were attempting a family game of Spades. Her hands are still a bit small to grasp them all and be able to fan them out. So….I took a cardboard egg carton, turned it over and sliced cuts along each of the egg-holders. What once cradled eggs, now gracefully holds a hand of playing cards! -April Gaulbault
Corks perform double duty as safety guards.

Here is one thing I use corks for. I have pretty full drawers and I seem to always be looking for things in a hurry. This means quickly digging through the drawer with my hand. In order to prevent impaling myself on one of the many sharp items in my kitchen drawer, I stick sharp tips into corks and store them that way. Pictured above are a meat thermometer and a chestnut knife. Corks are also great to use in crowded tool boxes for awls, ice picks, etc.-Renee Allen


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