Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Recycling Socks and Sugar Bags

When I started this blog nearly six years ago, its tagline was "Living Graciously on Limited Means". I meant to write about simple living - making do, mending, purchasing with an eye to the environment, cooking from scratch, and the like. But blogs, like books, have a way of ignoring the author's intentions and going in their own direction.

Apparently this blog really wanted to be a kind of country diary with cycling and crochet accents - and that's okay. But we're still living as simply as we did six years ago, and recent income changes have meant that we're earning even less than we did then. The upside is, we've had years of practice at tightening our belts. Our current situation is just a good reminder to drop some excess life-weight and find ways to slip that belt over another notch or two.

Today's post was written in that spirit.

Note: Simple living and recycling aren't always pretty; sometimes they're merely practical. So none of the photos here are intended to be Pinterest-worthy - but I do hope that someone may find them helpful.

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"Drizzle with icing" must be one of the most delicious phrases in the English language. ("Top with chocolate" is a close contender.) If you like to drizzle icing on your baked goodies (who doesn't?), here's a quick tip for a reusable icing bag.

Take an empty confectioner's sugar (or other sturdy plastic) bag, and cut a large quarter-circle around one of the lower corners, like this:

Fill half-way with icing, twist top to close, and snip a very small piece off the corner:

Squeeze to drizzle the icing. Perfect for jazzing up some birthday breakfast scones:

This little bag can be washed and re-used many times over. I've been using mine for a couple of years now - the plastic seems indestructible.


Other uses for sturdy plastic food bags (or used freezer zip bags):
  • They make a wonderful non-stick barrier between a rolling pin and sticky dough (e.g. tortilla dough or pie crust). Cut away any zippered portion, then cut carefully along one side and across the bottom of the bag so you can open it out flat. Roll your dough, repositioning the plastic as needed. When you're done, wash the plastic and save it to use again.
  • Cut bag open as above, and use to line smaller pans (in place of butter, foil, or waxed paper) for easy release of non-baked bars and treats. (Don't put anything hot on the plastic.)
  • When shaping hamburgers, center the meat on one half of a plastic bag piece, fold the other half over it, and press with a plate. The plate will stay cleaner, and the burgers peel right off the plastic.
  • To make a bowl of leftovers airtight, drape the plastic over the bowl and hold it in place with a plate or a rubber band. (You can also use a towel and a plate.)
Best way to dry a just-washed piece of floppy plastic bag: Lay it out flat on one half of a dish towel. Fold the other half of the towel over the plastic. Press gently on the towel with one hand while drawing the plastic out with the other. The towel will absorb most of those peskily persistent water drops. Drape the plastic over a rack to finish air-drying.

(This technique also works for intact zipper bags. Dry the outer surfaces first, then turn them inside out and repeat with the inner surfaces. Air-dry until no moisture lurks in the corners.)

Some might say that all this repurposing of plastic wouldn't be necessary if we didn't buy plastic-packaged things in the first place - and they would be right. It's something we're working on. But I'm happy to state that we haven't bought any plastic wrap for at least five years. This may not save the planet, but it's one small step towards simpler and more sustainable living practices. And it saves us money. Kind of a win-win.

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What can you do with a hole-y sock?

I've learned to darn my pricey merino wool socks, but cheaper cotton and bamboo socks don't seem to mend as well. Yet I don't like to throw them away - so here are some ways I keep worn socks out of landfills.

Above-the-ankle socks:
  • Cut off the feet and use them for dusting or cleaning (just slip one over your hand)
  • Use the ribbed cuffs to protect long sleeved tee shirts when cooking or slicing things that splatter. I keep a stash of cut-off sock cuffs in the drawer next to the stove, and slip them on as needed. (Many people would just push up their sleeves, but my wrists get cold in winter. The cuffs therefore serve a double purpose: they protect my sleeve hems from getting stretched out while keeping splatters off my sleeves.)
  • Speaking of cold wrists: sock cuffs, while not pretty, make great wrist warmers in a pinch. Mr. M has even been known to cut the toes from worn woolen socks, cut a slit for the thumb, and make rough-duty mitts for himself.
New Life for an Old Sock: Mrs. M's Cooking Cuff

Knee socks:
  • Cut off the toe and/or foot section and use as above for cleaning or dusting.
  • Wear the leg section as leg warmers - this works especially well under shorter socks in winter time.
Don't be afraid to cut up your old socks, by the way - the cut edges may curl, but they won't fray.

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Do you have any tips for repurposing socks, sugar bags, or any other items that might otherwise be thrown away?

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  1. Richard saves the Styrofoam that comes with meat and uses it underneath flower pots. (And the computer made that Styrofoam with a capital letter, how funny!)
    Anything that comes in glass jars...I save the jars to use for storage, or else I recycle the glass. Glass is easily recyclable but I wonder how many recycle it? Glass is forever, I think, from what I have read.
    You are such a wonderful person for this planet, I am glad to know you!

  2. Oh, and of course, we recycle everything we, tin cans, paper, Styrofoam, 1 and 2 plastic, all we can!

  3. I already use old socks to dust with, but I like the idea of using them as cuff covers when cooking.

  4. What great ideas. Thank you. :) Wishing you a lovely day sweet friend. ((hugs)).

  5. Great ideas Sue and isn't it a good feeling to recycle - I drive my husband mad doing it but once you start, it just is SO sensible for our earth, not to mention pockets. I actually enjoy thinking up ways to reuse and reckon you do too. Guess we are just "down-to-earth" folk. So glad to have discovered you and your site - happy days and cheers.

  6. It's always nice to read you! I remember wearing cuffs while playing outside when I was in kindergarten in the later sixties. That was before everybody had a washing machine and piles and piles of clothing. :-) The goal for me isn't just recycling but cutting back in "things", which is easier if you haven't much money. Cooking from scratch doesn't need as much package ... I do not take any plastic bags in any store (my 2017 resolution). Even if it means I can't buy everything I wanted, or have to carry the stuff in pockets, hands, under my armpits, on my head ... because I left my shopping tote at home or in the car. It's fun though! :-) I started wearing black and dark grey sweaters during the heating period due to soot and ashes. :-)

  7. Sugar comes in paper bags here. Any idea, what to do with them? :-)

  8. I use reusable shopping bags. I guess I'm not very creative in this department. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  9. Wow, Sue! You've given me a number of great ideas! I've been away from your blog for too long. It has been the craziest year for me with a lot of traveling. Thanks for visiting mine ~ it was a delightful surprise! Take care!

  10. I use glass containers to store leftovers in the refrigerator. I started by using glass jars from pickles, mayonnaise, etc. Then I asked for glass storage containers for my birthday and Christmas. These have plastic lids that keep them airtight. They go through the dishwasher and are still fine after 4 years of use. I went onto our local 'freecycle' site and requested canning jars. I was able to acquire 3 boxes of them. I'm using those to store rice and other things in the pantry and refrigerator.
    We have a large recycle can in our kitchen with Recycle written on it so it is easy for people to actually recycle.

  11. Great ideas Sue, I don't use plastic if I can help it and collect all manner of containers for re-use, the trouble is when I open my cupboard everything comes falling out on top of me but how can you throw them away, they WILL come in useful one day. 😊Xx

  12. These are great ideas! I use a few of them and also darn socks whenever possible. We end up recycling much more than goes in the garbage bin. That's a very good feeling.

  13. Great post Sue and very timely for me. I am thinking of writing something similar.
    I love your tips and those scones look Yummy. Sugar comes in paper or thin plastic bags here, but I will look out for some thick ones to re-use.
    Jacquie x

  14. Found your blog today and enjoyed reading it very much. Great tips for socks that I hadn't thought of. I'll be back. ♥

  15. Ingenious, socks as wrist warmers. I like your ideas. We try to avoid plastics but it is not easy with all that pre-packed food. It is small actions like yours that will save the planet, I am sure of it. x

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