5 Ways to Avoid Buying Trashcan Liners

What's Hot

2 Types of Black Marks Might Vanish From Your Credit File SoonBorrow

6 Ways the Obamacare Overhaul Might Impact Your WalletInsurance

7 Dumb and Costly Moves Homebuyers MakeBorrow

This Free Software Brings Old Laptops Back to LifeMore

Obamacare Replacement Plan Gets ‘F’ Rating from Consumer ReportsFamily

Beware These 12 Common Money MistakesCredit & Debt

21 Restaurants Offering Free Food Right NowSaving Money

17 Ways to Have More Fun for Less MoneySave

House Hunters: Beware of These 6 Mortgage MistakesBorrow

30 Household Uses for Baby OilSave

25 Ways to Spend Less on FoodMore

Nearly Half of Heart-Related Deaths Linked to These 10 Foods and IngredientsFamily

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outdoors in WinterFamily

10 Ways to Save When You’re Making Minimum WageSave

Boost Your Credit Score Fast With These 7 MovesCredit & Debt

7 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years EarlierBorrow

The Most Sinful City in the U.S. Is … (Hint: It’s Not Vegas)Family

The True Cost of Bad CreditCredit & Debt

10 Companies With the Best 401(k) PlansGrow

This Scam Now Tops ID Theft as the No. 2 Consumer ComplaintFamily

6 Stores With Awesome Reward ProgramsFamily

6 Ways to Save More at Lowe’s and The Home DepotSave

6 Healthful Treats for Your DogFamily

New Study Ranks the Best States in the U.S.Family

Thousands of Millionaires Moving to 1 Country — and Leaving AnotherGrow

Strapped for College Costs? How to Get the Most From FAFSABorrow

6 Overlooked Ways to Save at Chick-fil-AFamily

Ask Stacy: What’s the Fastest Way to Pay Off My Mortgage?Borrow

Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top DollarAround The House

8 Ways to Get a Good Price on a Shiny New AutoCars

Ask Stacy: How Do I Start Over?Credit & Debt

Secret Cell Plans: Savings Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Don’t Want You to Know AboutFamily

30 Awesome Things to Do in RetirementCollege

14 Super Smart Ways to Save on TravelSave

The Rich Prefer Modest Cars — Should You Join Them?Cars

You’ll Soon Pay More to Shop at CostcoSave

10 Ways to Save When Your Teen Starts DrivingFamily

Here are some easy ways to get by without ever having to buy trash bags.

When I lived in Seattle my under-sink trashcan was quite small. I could get away with this for several reasons: I lived alone, cooked frugally, and took enthusiastic advantage of the city’s single-stream recycling program. Generally it took a week or more for the can to fill up.

Being an illegitimus frugalis, I never bought a single kitchen trashcan liner. Why should I have, when plastic shopping bags were so ubiquitous? Even though I toted at least one reusable bag everywhere I went, the plastics had a way of accumulating:

I picked them up while walking home. (Once I also picked up some free ice cream this way.) 

People gave me things inside shopping bags.

Sometimes I bought so much (usually from the used-bread, used-meat, or dented-can bins) that the order wouldn’t fit in my cloth bag, so I’d have to accept an additional plastic one.

I gleaned them while on vacation. My relatives tend to use plastic with happy abandon. Folded-up bags take up practically no room in a carry-on.

Thus I always had at least a few dozen bags on hand. That is, until Seattle’s ban on plastic shopping bags took effect in July 2012.

Alternative bag sources

I had my backlog o’bags, and it was still possible to get more – discarded on the street, say, or from the Walgreens just over the city line. But I also had a secret weapon: my absolute inability to throw something away if I could get one more use from it.

Here are some of my frugal trashcan tips:

  • Open your next package of toilet paper at the top, with scissors. When the paper is used up, line the trashcan with the empty bag. (If you buy jumbo packs of paper towels or toilet paper at Costco, the big plastic outer wrap can be used for larger amounts of garbage.)
  • Getting new socks, underwear, or T-shirts? Open that package from the top as well.
  • The mail-order pharmacy sent my maintenance meds in soft, collapsible (and non-recyclable) envelopes that fit the bathroom trashcan perfectly.
  • Bags that held pet food or cat litter are stiff enough to stand upright in the kitchen trashcan. (I didn’t have a pet, but some of my neighbors did. As an inveterate dumpster wader, I’d pull the bags from the recycle bin.)
  • If you live in a non-recycling area, throw trash into a box and toss the filled carton into the dumpster or garbage can.

These practices may seem penny ante to some, and may very well be – I don’t know how much you actually save because I’ve never bought a box of plastic trashcan liners.

But it isn’t just the savings. I’m just as interested in giving that plastic one last use before it gets discarded. Imagine if millions of more people did this.

One more shot

Now I live in Anchorage, Alaska, where plastic bags are handed out as freely as insincere compliments on Ladies’ Night. Some stores give you a nickel per reusable bag, but I still see a lot of discarded bags floating around or impaled on winter-bare tree branches. Ugh.

My hostess is an avid recycler, so I’m back to generating very little garbage – and to lining the bathroom trashcan with shopping bags, toilet-paper packages, and the like.

Incidentally, those women’s magazines’ household-hints sections are correct: An empty tissue box does a great job organizing folded-up plastic shopping bags. The other items live in the bottom of or next to the trashcan, waiting for one more shot at usefulness.

Readers: Do you reuse bags or other items for trashcans? Got any other ideas to share?

More stories on DonnaFreedman.com:

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!


Read Next: What You Should Do — and Not Do — When Meeting a New Dog

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 2,038 more deals!