Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Re-using plastic bags

In today’s economy we poor must find savings, even micro saving, where we can.  I re-use plastic bags over and over many times. I read about people throwing away plastic bags after only one use because the bags have had raw meat in them.  The plastic industry has created this fear of contamination in order to sell more plastic bags.

Don’t get me wrong, you should be very careful about raw meat contamination.  Thats why we have soap and water.  Long before the invention of plastic made life so convenient people had to be very careful about contamination too.

Here’s the thing.  We are told that plastic bags once containing meat are not safe to re-use because of the dangers of cross contamination.  We are told to use it once and throw it away.  we are told there is no need for going to the trouble of washing up when plastic bags are so cheap.  Lets face it, nobody really likes doing dishes.

This is the same consumerism idea behind using plastic plates, cups, and cutlery.  The plastic industry is using our own dread of a chore against us.  When someone doesn’t want to wash dishes its easy to convince them that disposables are perfect for eliminating that chore.  If the plastic industry had its way there would not be any re-usable glass, ceramic, or metal dishes. Everything would be one time use.

Doesn’t using soap kill germs?  Isn’t that why we wash dishes?  I wash and dry baggies many times before actually tossing them.  I also add a bit of vinegar to the water as a disinfectant.  I toss a bag only because it has torn or has a hole in it.

Several years ago I made myself a baggie drying rack.  I used a simple piece of wood as the base and some dowel rods.

Food and kitchen 2015 633

I’ve never tried to figure out how much money I saved by washing baggies but I believe it would be alot.  Re-using baggies means the savings can be put toward other needs….. like food or medicine.

I figure each time I wash a baggie I’m saving about twenty cents for a gallon size and saving about ten cents for the quart size.  I save even more when I wash one of the food vacuum seal bags.  Over time that adds up to quite a bit.

How about you.  Do you wash plastic bags too?

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16 comments on “Re-using plastic bags

  1. Randal Oulton
    September 21, 2015

    My grandmother and mother always washed their baggies, and I do, too. Their savings helped put me through university so I figured if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. Except they washed them by hand in boiling hot, soapy water — and I do them turned inside out in the top rack of the dishwasher, just tucked in between other things. They are good for at least 10 uses per bag; total immoral waste of resources to throw them out after a single use. Here in Canada, milk comes in very tough thick plastic bags, and many people also wash these milk bags, using them as the best-ever freezer bags with twist ties. They are good for *decades* as freezer bags, they never wear out.

    • Na Na
      September 21, 2015

      I didn’t mention it in my post but I use very hot water too. As hot as my hands can stand it. Very interesting about the milk bags. How long has it come that way? I’m wondering if its something that eventually may spread to the states.

  2. Susan
    September 17, 2015

    Thank you once again, for your voice of reason! I had always thrown away my baggies (and foodsaver bags) that had held meat, without really thinking about it — just because I had always heard that you should. I will begin washing those bags thoroughly and re-using them. I made my own drying rack with some very old Tinkertoys I had when when I was a child (MANY years ago!) I also re-use tin foil by washing, drying, and folding up.

    I like Brillo pads, but found that those copper pads (Chore-Boy and Scotch-Brite both make them) are more cost-effective. They never rust or splinter, and are fantastic for stainless steel. You use your own soap, rinse and set on a dish to dry. They last a long time, and are much easier on the hands than steel wool.

    Keep up the good work, NaNa — yours is the first blog I look at every day, and I’m always pleased when you have a new post!

    • Na Na
      September 18, 2015

      Thank you.

      I like your tinker toys upcycle to baggie dryer idea. I re-use tin foil too. Hmm… doesn’t the copper pad oxidize and turn green from water? Or is it not a real copper? I’ll have to check those out.

  3. Nathalie
    September 16, 2015

    I do wash my Ziploc-type of bags and reuse them. I’ve been lazy with the ones containing meat and most of the time, I just throw them away. I agree with you, though, that soap and water will probably do the trick. After all, we wash bowls, plates, and knives that were used to hold and cut raw meat and we don’t think twice about it.

    I made myself a bag drying “rack” by reusing a bathroom toothbrush holder cup that we weren’t using and chopsticks (free with the sushi I had bought). My other one is an old wooden mug tree that I got at Goodwill for $1.99. They work well but don’t hold as much as your rack so I might try to make the same as yours.

    I make pot scrubbers with the mesh bags that come with onions, oranges… my last one lasted me a whole year! I used it to scrub all my pots and pans clean, including my cast iron pan and when it got too gross, I just threw it in the dishwasher.

    • Na Na
      September 18, 2015

      I’ve been saving my onion bags but hadn’t yet thought about what I would do with them. Thanks for the idea.

  4. Sarca
    September 16, 2015

    Yes, I used to! Not with raw meat, mind you, but everything else. Wash out the Ziplocs by hand with hot soapy water and a little bleach. They were good enough to be reused for a lot of things. We did this when we barely had two coins to rub together and Ziplocs were expensive. We have gotten away from the practice, and instead go to the Dollar Store to buy a box of generic ziplocs for $2. Good enough. I’ll reuse them particularly if I use them to store shampoo and ablutions when we travel, and reuse them again for the same thing for the next time we travel.

    • Na Na
      September 18, 2015

      Is that the $2 for an 18 pack at the Dollar Store? I remember the boxes used to have 40 for two dollars a few years ago.

  5. Dorothy cripplewing
    September 16, 2015

    I reuse all my plastic bags too. I found a coated metal card holder that I use to dry the bags on. I did purchase a wooden one for my son for drying the gallon bags….he laughed at the gift but I did notice he was using it later on. I just use soap and water on them and rinse well. The vinegar is a good idea as it cuts any grease and is an acid that can slow bacterial growth.

    • Na Na
      September 16, 2015

      Sometimes my gifts appear to be very strange to others too. Laughing until they realize how practical some of them really are.

  6. Frugalwarrior2
    September 16, 2015

    never. I wont waste my time and resourses. I do however pick up icky pet messes w/ them. If you use shopping bags you can avoid taking the groc. bags, Also plastic absorbs and then releases later so you really cant clean them w/ soap or vinegar.
    love so many ideas but this one I’ll pass on.

    • Na Na
      September 16, 2015

      Yeah, we all have our preferences for our finances. I’m curious though, do you also throw away any plastic mixing bowls and glad ware if its had meat in them one time? What type of cutting board do you have? Is it wood or plastic and how do you sanitize it? Would you consider washing and reusing baggies that have held foods other than meat if it saved you money?

      I take cloth grocery bags with me to the store and the cashiers want to treat them like they do plastic. One item, one bag. So I pack my own groceries while everyone behind me waits. Sooner or later they’ll get the idea the reusable bags hold many items.

      • Frugalwarrior2
        September 16, 2015

        Don’t use palstic bowls I have metal and some of those 1950’s mixer bowls. Also big on corningware and corelle. I recycle all the plastic containers regardless of whats been in them-so much clutter. I sanitize the plastic cutting board w/ bleach. I have dollar store spray bottles w/ 2 parts bleach to 4 parts water (preschool standards). The wood is cleaned w/ the same and several times a year rock salt and bleach.
        Cloth grocery strore bags are too flimsy for me. I use vinyl bags w/ heavy handles. They can be machine washed or sprayed out and rinsed. I mostly go to Aldis w/ them and get produce. No recycle of any sandwich or gallon bags. 1 and done.
        I buy a lot of things used and thats ok but I am super picky about food born illnesses esp now that I have a crappy immune system from being diabetic.

        • Na Na
          September 16, 2015

          Thanks for answering.

  7. Linda S.
    September 15, 2015

    Yes I do! Grandkids laugh but I just tell them, “Wait til you’re paying for them”. I like to use SOS pads on my stainless cookwear but I cut them in half so they don’t rust so quickly. I can get three cups of tea out of a tea bag. Every little bit helps. Thanks for sharing & I love your little drying rack.

    • Na Na
      September 16, 2015

      I used to cut SOS and Brillo pads too until several years ago when I discovered I could put them into a baggie and freeze to prevent the rust. There is no need to thaw to use again. Just put hot water on them and start using. When the soap runs out I add some dish soap and keep using until they become too thin to be useful. Give it a try. I think you’ll like it better than cutting them.

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