How I Saved $600 Last Year By Eliminating Disposables

How I Saved $600 Last Year By Eliminating Disposables

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, I am able to collect a commission if you make a purchase through the link. I only include links for products that me and my family actually use and endorse. 

For 14 years I’ve been a faithful buyer of all things disposable… paper plates, paper napkins, baby wipes, and paper towels.

When money would get really tight (like let’s go count the change tight) I would be forced to skip paper plates and napkins at the store. Other than those times, my shopping cart always had some combination of throw away products.

Then it hit me. I am literally throwing money away. So I started a list (oh I how I love me a good list)... I wrote down what we were spending on each item and what to do to easily replace them in our daily routine.

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Breakdown On What I Was Spending On Disposables

How I Replaced Those Pricey Disposables… And How You Can Too

Nursing Pads

This one required a small purchase upfront. I bought this pack of Natural Bamboo Nursing Pads  from Amazon for less than $15. I instantly fell in love with them! (They even came with a handy zipper bag to wash them in!) They are very absorbent and quiet (and all you nursing mommas know there is no quiet way to slip a crinkly disposable pad in your bra when you’re out in public)!

Now I know not every momma reading this is breastfeeding. but I’m including the nursing pads to show that there are a lot of ways to cut out disposables in every area of your life!

If you’re really committed to cutting disposables in the feminine hygiene area be sure to check out these reusable menstrual cups and washable pads!

Paper Plates

These are pretty easy to eliminate. Simply stop buying them and use the plates you already have… easy peasy!


Honestly these aren’t even missed in my house. Those thin paper napkins aren’t very good at removing globs of barbecue sauce from sticky little fingers anyway. 

The easy replacement is to make (or buy) a set of cloth napkins and use them just like you would the paper ones. The only difference is that the fabric ones actually do a better job cleaning, and when you are done you just toss them in the wash. Now, you can get crazy and iron them… but so far my kids haven’t been too judgy of any wrinkly napkins.

Paper Towels

This one was a slooow process for us. I literally had to wean my family off of using paper towels. It took about a month or two to be able to leave Wal-Mart without a single roll of paper towels.

Here’s how I made the system work for us:

Step 1: Build up a stockpile of rags.

For most of my rags I used my hubby’s old work shirts. Big L goes through them fairly often so they are always extras readily available.

It’s also helpful to keep towel scraps on hand for the rag pile as well. They are great for those messes that need a little elbow grease. Simply rip or cut them into handy sizes. (Mine are about 5″x5″ pieces.)

To keep things organized and sanitary I use a separate color rag and towel for the bathroom. All of the rags are washed very well in between uses, but I’m still not okay with wiping the kitchen table with the rag I used to clean the potty last week. 

Step 2: Designate an area to keep the clean and soiled rags.

The trick here is to find a method that works just as easy as grabbing a paper towel and tossing it in the garbage.

My set up…

My clean rags are in a bin on the counter right under the old paper towel holder and the dirty rags go under the sink in a bin. Our kitchen trash is under the sink, so tossing the rag down there is second nature. You have to be clever like that or you will end up giving in to the Brawny Man and you’ll be buying the Quicker Picker Upper to make your counters Sparkle again… ah, see what I did there?? 

Baby Wipes

This isn’t as weird or gross as it may sound. I see it as being more cost effective than buying disposable wipes but not quite at the commitment level of using cloth diapers. So how exactly is it done?

Step 1: Go through your linen closet and find a bath towel that you can stand to part with. 

Step 2: Cut off the decorative ends (I added them to my kitchen rag pile) and then cut the rest of the towel into 4 inch long strips. Then simply keep folding the strips in half (hamburger style) and cut on the fold until they reach your desired size. (This doesn’t have to be precise, you can just eyeball it.)

I was able to get enough wipes cut out of one bath towel to keep the downstairs changing area stocked. I cut a hand towel to use for upstairs diaper changes.

Step 3: Designate an area to keep the clean and soiled wipes. Then simply toss the soiled wipes into the wash at the end of the night.

I keep a bin under the bathroom and kitchen sinks, right alongside the rag bins. It’s super convenient for me to toss the used wipe down there and then wash my hands.

The nitty gritty of booty cleaning this way…

When we are at home: I wipe Bubby’s bum with toilet paper first and then clean up with a damp homemade baby wipe. This keeps the laundry mess to a minimum… And that’s all there is to it!

When we are out: I keep a pack of wipes in the diaper bag. It may be cheating on the plan but honestly it’s just easier to be able just wipe and toss when we are out and about. I buy one of the Walmart brand wipe packs for about $2 and it will last about three months.

One year after setting a goal of being a disposable free household, I am proud to say we have stuck to it!

It is an awesome feeling to be able to put $50 a month back into our budget by simply changing the way we do everyday tasks. Find some more (coupon free) money saving ideas here!

What will your family do with that extra do-ray-me? Comment below!

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