4 Week Frugal Challenge – March 2013

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If I were Martha Stewart, I might say “Paper towels are a good thing”. While I’m most certainly NOT as creative/able to cook/organized as Martha, I do agree.  The use disposable items has greatly reduced disease and sickness.  It’s also eased the workloads of many women.

However, disposable products have also raised expenses, increased waste and added one more stop at the grocery store (plus one more item to load and unload). Just how bad is it? I tried to research the average paper towel consumption for an average person/family.  This post was right up my alley with the mathematics, while others were very generic in giving estimates of 1 roll per week or day.  Of course one roll could hold 44 towels of 106.  In general the consensus seems to be it’s too hard to calculate without actually documenting a study on the topic of paper towel usage.

Sure- a paper towel is relatively small and organic, so it will biodegrade in less than a month’s time. But, it is still draining the resources of many families today because we are desensitized to the significance of small things. I want you to look at both the small and the big picture of paper towel usage.  Sure- a roll of paper towels may only cost $1, or $.50 or be free!) but how many does your family use in a week, month, or year?

Let’s go to some extremes for a moment and pretend we are a paper towel loving family of 4.
napkins for meals (16 meals per week at home x 4 = 64/7 days) = 9
to clean the kids’ faces after 2 meals a day = 4
to clean the table from spills during meals = 4
for fresh produce washing = 3
to clean counter during and after cooking meals = 8
the occasional spill or mess during the day = 2
for every bathroom wash  (say 5/day/person to account for weekends/holiday) = 20
for hand washing/drying before meals (16 meals per week at home x 4 = 64/7 days) = 9
I could keep going, but I’ll stop there at a total of 59 paper towels per day.  Yes 59 per day!

My challenge to you for the next 4 weeks is to try your best to go without using paper towels.  To make it more manageable let’s give a paper towel allowance – say 4 paper towels a week.  Yes, I said 4 paper towels, not 4 rolls of paper towels.  This will allow for some cleaning of really icky messy stuff or for cleaning after cooking raw meats.

You can purchase an 18 pack of wash cloths at stores like Walmart for right at $4.  Buy them and stack them on the counter where the paper towel roll would normally be.  When someone reaches for a paper towel they’ll naturally find the wash cloth and use it instead.  Simply toss them in with the laundry and reuse.  You can also go through your closet and drawers to find old t-shirts and socks that could be cut into wash cloth sized rags.  In most cases you’ll find that the cloth will do a better job than a paper towel, and probably even replace two paper towels per use!

If you run out of the wash cloths and rags too quickly, don’t stress! Pull the paper towel roll back out, but be sure to put the cloths and rags in it’s place as soon as they’ve been washed.

Next week I’ll share some of the math for why I believe using reusable cloths and rags instead of disposables can make a big difference in your family’s finances and a huge difference in the livelihood of so many others.

So far this year I’ve challenged you to 2 different tasks.
Decide on your daily priorities and devote time to them early in the day.  When we do this we find there’s still plenty of time left for
“fun” things.
February – bite the bullet and make your own laundry detergent (and use it for 4 weeks) if you haven’t already done so.

There are 9 more to come after the March challenge!

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