Written by Kristen, Contributing Writer
I don’t know of a single family, and especially those with young children, that isn’t looking to save money in one way or another. Sticking with a family budget isn’t always easy, especially with a growing crew of little ones! One area that is continually a challenge is the grocery bill. We have to eat, and we want to eat well for the sake of our health, but the cost of a whole foods diet can sometimes hurt.
Rather than cutting out important healthy foods, have you ever thought about cutting out some of the disposable paper products you buy on your trips to the grocery store to make your budget more manageable? It can save you a surprising amount of money without really creating a lot of extra work! Let me share some ideas.
Switching from Paper to Cloth
This section contains an affiliate link. Purchasing through the link comes at no additional cost to you and may give the author a small commission. Thanks!
Most of us, when we hear about switching to cloth, will inevitably think of diapers, especially if we have a little one in them! But there are so many other places in our home where cloth can easily be used and washed instead of something else that is used and then thrown away. For instance, have you ever thought about using:
- Cloth napkins? We switched to cloth napkins a couple of years ago after it finally dawned on me that it was silly to continually throw paper ones away. We just bought inexpensive ones from a big box store and usually throw them in with the laundry at the end of the day. You can also use washcloths as cloth napkins, turn inexpensive flat sheets into beautiful stenciled napkins, and make cloth napkins a meaningful family tradition.
- Cloth cleaning rags? Paper towels quickly add up, especially when you use them to clean in the kitchen and bathroom. I’ve found that cotton rags and cleaning cloths work just as well as any paper towel! Old cotton t-shirts, hole-y or mismatched cotton socks, and worn out cloth diapers make great cleaning cloths, and they are free!
- Cloth diapers and baby wipes? For years I was totally intimidated by the idea of cloth diapering until a friend told me how much it had changed since my mom’s generation and how many user-friendly options there are today. Now I can’t believe it took me so long to give up disposables! Cloth diapers and cloth wipes are so simple to use and so economical. It’s estimated that a family can save $2,000 or more per diapered child just by using cloth! Check out Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert (affiliate link) if you are still on the fence. It’s a super resource!
- Cloth “tissues”? I always remember my dad and grandfathers carrying around a “hankie” (usually a folded up red or blue bandana) in their back pockets to use as a tissue during the day. While we still mainly stick with boxes of paper tissues in our house, I’ve definitely seen cloth alternatives at work!
- Cloth feminine pads? This is another option that I haven’t tried myself yet, but plan to after our baby is born. Disposable pads are often made with all sorts of bleaching chemicals, and I don’t like to think of those next to my most delicate skin. Cloth pads save money in the end and avoid the toxins, too. Read what Paula of Whole Intentions has to say about the benefits of cloth pads.
- Family cloth? Here’s one that simply won’t happen in most households, and truly, that’s okay! Family cloth is a polite way of describing the cloth alternative to toilet paper. Our family hasn’t gone that route, and I doubt we ever will, but my blogging friend Anjanette wrote a very convincing case for it!
How Much Will You Save?
The exact amount saved from your budget will obviously depend on lots of factors. How extensively you use your paper products, how large your family is, and general lifestyle habits will all play into the savings. For our family, we’ve saved a tremendous amount of money by not buying disposable diapers for the last four years. With another baby on the way (our third in cloth), the savings continue to add! I can’t remember the last time I bought paper towels, and the only time we buy paper napkins or plates is when we are hosting a birthday party or recovering from a new baby addition. The savings have been very real to us!
But that’s not all. Our small town recently updated how they handle trash pick-up, and my husband and I discovered that we can pay by the bag. Since we use so little disposable products and practice composting and recycling extensively, we were able to drop our trash bill from $20-$25 per month down to about $3-5 per month!
But Is the Extra Work Worth It?
That’s a legitimate question. Frugality can be taken to such an extreme that the blessings of convenience are ignored. For our family, we’ve found that using cloth in place of most disposable paper products adds an additional two to three loads of laundry a week, with most of that being diapers. Cloth napkins and cleaning rags don’t even make up a load themselves! Our children are in charge of folding most of the laundry, and these cloth items are usually the job of our four-year-old. Preschoolers can easily handle folding cloth napkins and diapers, and our daughter usually gets a great deal of satisfaction from completing this job by herself.
Of course there are times when it makes sense to just use some disposable items: parties, welcoming a new baby, periods of family sickness, or times of over-commitment. But for the most part, I’ve found cloth alternatives to many paper products to be a fantastic way for our family to save money without working too hard!
Do you use some of these cloth alternatives to paper products in your family? How has is worked for you? Or is the thought of less paper and more laundry totally overwhelming? I’d love to hear your thoughts!