This also teaches Brady how to think "outside the box" or "outside how to use the box" and leads to creative solutions. I've already seen him use household items in creative, non-intended-use ways, and he encourages me to recycle and save stuff for bath toys.
1) Print on the back of printer paper. Every scrap of paper that has one blank side, I reuse when printing coupons, recipes, notes, etc.
2) Donate magazines to a friend, library or doctor's office. I'm not near as good about this as I should be, but I am going to try to do better. At least I do recycle them.
3) Instead of buying outdoor toys for sand, digging or water play, use things you already have: cups, plates, bowls, old colanders, spoons, Frisbees, etc.
I always keep a box of these kind of toys in the trunk of my car and a plentiful amount outside. Below are pictures of when Brady was 2 and 3 years old. I used to take the box out at a local park with a gravel play area and also to a local sprinkler park. I would always bring enough that other kids could join in with him and they always did. Nothing is more fun for kids than a bunch of cups and spoons along with water or sand.
5) When my husband and I got married and moved in together, I didn't have a bedside stand. But an old wooden filing cabinet filled the bill and an unused detached dishwasher in the kitchen became my filing cabinet. Why buy more stuff when you can find non-traditional solutions you already have?
6) Just about anything can house pens and pencils for easy access, which I find helps Brady when he has the idea to write something. This vase holds Brady's pencils for homework. They are always available for him and sharpened whenever he needs them. An old jar works great too. And old cups and jars work great for plastic utensils and writing instruments at the office!
7) And old can makes a great laundry room trash can, especially paired with a re-used grocery store bag! Even a box will do!
8) I save all the puffy envelopes I get from friends and family, or freebies and samples I get int he mail. I never have to buy a puffy envelope. Just tape a blank sheet of paper with your new addressing information to cover over the old and you'll save money and trees!
9) We use old milk or water jugs to fill our animals' water outside. It'd also work for bird feeders or potted plants.
10) Brady's Prize Store is made out of three shoe boxes taped together and a few sticky notes.
11) His shoes are also stored on a shelving unit out on our back patio. That also helps him be independent as he can easily find and put away his shoes when he comes in or goes out.
12) Frozen meal trays make a great snack tray for kids either at the table or when you're on the road in the car or going on a picnic. They don't break and typically already have convenient divisions.
13) Lots of people save and reuse butter or Coolwhip containers, but I much prefer containers I can see through. So I save salsa and hot-food containers, and salad containers from fast food restaurants.
14) I save and reuse Brady's chocolate milk jugs from fast-food restaurants. It is cheaper for me to fill one up with milk and add my own chocolate sauce for his lunch box than buy 6 of them for $3.50. I also use small butter dishes and condiment containers to pack food for his lunch and also plastic utensils.
15) Boxes are good for everything and perfect for organizing! This chocolate covered cherry box (a Christmas present from hubby) was perfect for my "will be used in the near future" recipe cards and this small box on the left holds quick items to pack for Brady's lunch.
16) I store my homemade bread crumbs in an old clear-sided potato salad container.
saved mesh bags. They work just as well as store-bought scrubbers.
19) I buy only dish soap on sale (usually for around 50 cents a bottle) and then mix it half and half with water in a reusable hand soap pump. You'll also notice a dish soap bottle with just water in it. We don't have a spray hose for our sink, so I just fill up a couple of those (I need to get a bigger one! But for now I use two smaller ones) with water and squirt it when I need to rinse down the sides of the sink.
20) I save old chip containers, pickle jars and creamer containers for throwing away greasy, yucky stuff so that it doesn't leak out or smell in the trash can.
21) The same as above for sand and water toys, use old cups, empty plastic containers, spoons and pots as bath toys. I don't think I have ever purchased a bath toy for Brady.
22) Use old toothbrushes also as scrubbers. I have some by my sink, my washer and dryer, and outside for the old bottles I collect and clean.
23) Tissue boxes work great for storing plastic grocery bags, napkins, paperclips, buttons, small toys, dish rags, anything you have a lot of you need to store.
24) Alltoid or other mint tins are great for coins, paper clips, rubber bands, twist-ties, etc. Perfect for the office or desk at home.
25) Come spring time, I am ready to plant some tomato, squash and pumpkin plants ahead of time from seeds I saved from last year's garden. Egg cartons work great for this.
26) And lastly, my favorite, is Brady's "Invention Party Bin." I'm not sure if we'll actually have the invention party that he, well, invented. He seems to have lost a little interest. But if we do we have several boxes worth of things that we'd normally throw away that can be used to "invent" whatever comes to kids' minds. Things like cardboard pieces, plastic lids, plastic bags, containers, twist-ties, washers, string, bits of hose, whatever we can think of, we just toss it in the bin. Even if we don't have the party, Brady can get out the bin whenever he wants and make something new. Fun, fun!