Have respect for the humble paper towel tube. That’s the word from a reader named Toby, who supplied me with a long and creative list of uses for paper towel tubes.
From school projects to frugal travel assistance, those cardboard tubes are a pipeline of convenience, with money-saving potential. On vacations, cardboard tubes are invaluable, Toby said.
For example, she stuffs dozens of plastic grocery bags (carefully folded) into the cardboard cylinders. Recycled from past grocery store shopping trips, stored plastic bags are useful for carting around wet bathing suits, dirty clothes and even barf bags during family vacations, Toby said. “You have your portable mess kit,” Toby said.
Over 20 bags can be neatly stuffed into a single paper towel tube, which saves valuable space in tight-packed suitcases during family trips. During a recent far-flung, three-week vacation through Iceland, Greenland and Scotland, Toby traveled with nonperishable spices, coffee and other odds-and-ends that were stored in ziplock bags and then tucked into cardboard paper towel tubes.
“This way the [non-perishable items] didn’t crush and I was able to store so much,” Toby said, who saved money by preparing some of her own meals while staying in rented homes in Europe.
And on the domestic front, she also puts cardboard tubes to work. Children’s art projects, school certificates and other paper items are tightly rolled, then stored in the empty paper towel tubes.
It’s the same concept commonly used by galleries to carry and mail posters.
“You write the child’s name and date on it with a Sharpie. That way it’s identified and I have all their art work saved,” Toby said.
Filled with artwork and school papers, the tubes are neatly tucked into boxes, cabinets and drawers, thereby saving space and creating an organized system. Likewise, Toby also saves empty egg cartons, plastic milk containers and other items that are in hot demand for school projects.
And after her children are well-stocked, she typically donates left-over materials to various teachers. Recycling of common household items is also a hot topic in the frugal community.
For example, Dawn at http://www.frugalforlife.blogspot.com/ advocates these money-saving recycling tips:
- Create funnels from the top half of plastic bottles
- Use empty butter and whipped topping containers to store food.
- Clean windows with old newspapers (no lint or streak).
And Pat Veretto , another writer, put together a fun list of “Silly Things People Do and Buy.”
Her list includes:
- Consumers who toss away large, empty bags of dog food or empty grocery store bags, but then spend cash on boxes of new plastic garbage bags.
- Homeowners who throw away hoses with holes, but later purchase “soaker hoses,” which are essentially garden hoses with holes.
- People who buy “planters” for seeds instead off using the bottom half of two-liter soda bottles.
*This post originally ran November 29, 2005