Author Topic: Napkins and other Household Expenses  (Read 7211 times)

prof61820

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Napkins and other Household Expenses
« on: September 21, 2013, 07:30:31 AM »
My wife and I are now debating whether it's cheaper to use cloth napkins or stick with paper (we were both raised in paper families).  When we started discussing this topic, cloth napkins seemed a bit too "fancy" to me but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it could be a cost saver (and my wife was correct).  Can someone help me with my "right brain" math?

Are there any other basic household expenses we should be critically thinking about as well to produce savings?
« Last Edit: September 21, 2013, 07:36:11 AM by prof61820 »

chardog

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Re: Napkins
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2013, 07:34:38 AM »
They don't have to be fancy/formal napkins.  I am sure you can find something that suits your taste.

Thanks for posting.  I just realized we have some simple cloth napkins in the drawer that we don't use that often and are still buying (economy) paper napkins for daily use.  Think I will see how just using the cloth ones works.

shusherstache

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2013, 07:41:48 AM »
We have plain white napkins that I bought from Target and people get really freaked out about using them when they come over because they're afraid of ruining them.  They're inexpensive but add a level of class to even the lowest potlucks, and bleach removes all indiscretions.

SavingMon(k)ey

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2013, 07:47:22 AM »
I got pack of 10 white ones. I think they cost $10 without the coupon I had. Nothing super fancy. They do get a little "deformed" so when folding they are not perfectly rectangular anymore, but we don't care. We've been using them for years and they are just fine. I never buy paper again. I even put one in my lunchbox.

Left

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2013, 07:57:27 AM »
I use a cloth one, and then if it gets to bad, i put it in the toolbox and use it to wipe off grease :S
I don't know why people think it's classy, except maybe fast food=paper and restaurant=cloth... because it didn't seem like until the last 20 years or so (I have no memories before then :D) but it seems like most people used cloth napkins at home. Everyone in the older generation (parents, older) seems to have them at home somewhere, whether they use it or not is another thing. I hate how paper napkins tear when wet and they don't really "absorb".

But I also carry around a cloth napkin and use it as a handkerchief, wait are they the same thing? It's handy to clean my glass lens, wipe rain/sweat or dip it in water and cool myself down when its hot.

friends/coworkers think i'm odd, I refuse to wear a watch but carry a napkin :D. But I don't need a watch, I got a cell phone when I really care about time. Most of time, I just don't care what time it is.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2013, 08:05:00 AM by eyem »

NinetyFour

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2013, 08:06:23 AM »
I haven't purchased paper napkins in years, many years.  Ditto for paper towels.  Kitchen washcloths and towels (cloth) are so cheap, why would you go disposable?  I think anything that you use once and then pitch is an assault on your net worth and also on the earth.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2013, 08:28:59 AM »
If you can't get your head wrapped around the actual cloth napkins, I agree with durangostash94: dish cloths.

I was raised using paper plates and paper towels as napkins for practically every meal. When I got married, I started using my actual dishes (imagine how high-flautin' I felt eating off of regular old plates!) and using simple little dish cloths that could then be tossed in with the regular laundry. They do not make any different in the laundry load - it is really great.

When they get too worn, then they're used for kitchen cleanups, and have greatly reduced our paper towel usage. We buy maybe a few rolls of those things a year now for the really gross cleanup.

I would use real cloth napkins if I had guests over, but for general family meals, the cloth dish cloths are just fine.

kolorado

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2013, 09:53:38 AM »
I made all my own cloth napkins when I got married. No way was I going to be out $5 a month on paper ones for the rest of my life! And some bargain fabric or a cotton blend flat sheet from a yard sale, thrift or even Walmart can be used to make simple squares(14X14 or 16X16 work well). It's faster on a machine but you don't have one, you can do a simple rolled hem on a square by hand with a dollar store sewing kit in less than 20 minutes while you listen to music or chat with your SO. Of course, the simplest thing ever if you care more about monetary savings than aesthetics, is to cut up your old t-shirts for napkins. You don't need to hem cotton knits since they won't fray.
I also make my own knitted dishcloths from $.50 sale cotton yarn(make 4/$1). My bamboo needles cost $3 with coupon and I learned the simple stitches I needed on Youtube.
I make drying cloths out of 100% cotton t-shirts. Years ago I bought about 30 all cotton t-shirts at a yard sale(for $.10 each) and made a stash of drying cloths that I still have. At least a dozen cloths are in my stash drawer, never used, waiting for the other ones to wear out enough to rotate out.
I made my own cloth and fleece covers for my swiffer and steam mop from an old terry robe, old towels and a thrift store fleece blanket. I figured out my own patterns based on the disposables and some common sense.
Here's my favorite thing though that will probably show you just how committed I am to textile recycling and disposable avoidence: I turn holey athletic socks into cleaning cloths. If you cut open the ruined socks and trim them down to squares or rectangles, then sew several of them together  like a pillow case with right sides in, then turn and top stitch, you get a very fluffy and absorbent cloth for clean-ups. I use them every week for cleaning my bathrooms and woodwork. And they look so much better than ratty rags.
I make my own laundry detergent with Borax, Washing Soda and Fels Naptha. It costs me $.01 per load. I do use commercial detergent for whites though since I've found the homemade seems to make whites dingy. Seems to have no effect on the darks though.
I made hankies too about 3 years in to running my own house. I hate linty tissues. And if I had a cold, lotion tissues or not, my nose would be raw and bleeding by the second day from wiping it with a paper product. Hankies completely eliminated that problem. I made mine from an old sheet and the rolled hem option on my serger.
We cloth diapered here too, and I made over half of what I used from t-shirts, flannel and PUL, as well as Mama cloth. I even made cloth nursing pads when my baby shower gift box of disposables ran out.
I cut down and hemmed old stained and torn towels for hand-towels.
I made window quilts for our old bungalow house. Amazing how much warmer the rooms were with that extra layer over the glass.
Next up: insulated drapes for the entire house from sale $4 twin sheets sandwiched over $.65 mylar emergency blankets. They're going to crinkle when moved but should really be a step up from the mini-blinds and much cheaper than any other insulated curtain product I can buy. I can't afford to do all window quilts right now(in my old house I used all recycled materials so they were free to make, don't have enough materials now to do this house)but maybe someday.
One last tip for anyone who wants to recycle fabrics for household use, you MUST run the material through a hot wash with no soap and then in the rinse cycle with 1/2-1 cup of white vinegar. This is because of all the oils and residues left from commercial detergents, softeners and body products on the fabric. If you skip this step, you will not have the absorbancy in your finished product that you want. And of course, when you wash your finished items, go easy on the detergent and skip the softeners. ;)

NinetyFour

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2013, 10:10:58 AM »
Wow--that is all really impressive.  Think of how much stuff has NOT gone into landfills because of your creativity!

Tami1982

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2013, 10:17:19 AM »
So many great ideas kolorado!!  I love it! 

When I bought my home  I purchased two sets of white dish cloths of Walmart.  I think there are 12 or 16 per set, and each set was only $4.  They also have colored ones for the same price, but I prefer white.  I use them as napkins, cleaning rags, kitchen towels, everything.  Then when they are dirty beyond repair they become canning towels - for use when doing things like blackberries that will stain EVERYTHING - and ultimately my garage rags.   I've been very happy with them.  My friend uses the sets colored, because she wants her napkins one color and her cleaning rags another so they are never cross purposed.  I don't mind, so I just wash them all in hot water with bleach:)  I can't imagine how much that has saved me.  Plus, when canning season is on I go through towels like CRAZY.  In one day I might use 20 of them to avoid any risk of contamination.  It's nice to have a good stack of 30 towels ready to go.

I got a stack of bandannas free from work 3 years ago and those are my hankies. They were a little rough at first, but with washing they have become butter soft and are way better than any commercial product.

I am super intrigued by your sock cleaners Kolorado - I think I could use those to fit my dusters! 

I also make my laundry soap - I believe following the same recipe as you and it's amazingly cheap!  I haven't noticed any dinginess with my whites, but to be honest I have very few white items with the exception of my wash cloths.  Have you tried line drying in the sun?  Sun bleaching can be very effective!

lcg377

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2013, 10:37:30 AM »
I've seen cloth napkins at places like Pier One go on clearance for just a few cents each.  We've used the same cloth napkins for about 13 years now, and some of them we even inherited from my MIL, so I'm not even sure how old those are!  Some are fancier than others, but the cute little prints hide stains well and seem "fun" instead of fancy. 

kolorado

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2013, 11:04:30 AM »

I also make my laundry soap - I believe following the same recipe as you and it's amazingly cheap!  I haven't noticed any dinginess with my whites, but to be honest I have very few white items with the exception of my wash cloths.  Have you tried line drying in the sun?  Sun bleaching can be very effective!

I was able to sun-bleach when I live in NJ(amazing for diaper stains, like magic!), but in CO, our water must be too high in iron to come out with sun-bleaching. Arm&Hammer Free and Clear seems to keep things white enough for me, but not as white as they could be. I used to have all white linens in NJ because I knew I could keep them white. Now I'll be slowly changing everything here over to tan to save myself the aggravation of watching my whites get grungy. ;)

KulshanGirl

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2013, 01:51:20 PM »
I bought two 10-packs of the thin, cheap white washcloths that you can get in the babies/kids section of IKEA.  Those are our napkins.  I also have a dozen large birdseye cotton flats (from a cloth diaper place) that I never used that are our dishtowels.  They dry SO fast on the line.  I do have half a dozen cloth napkins that I only get out when we have guests who might not want a washcloth.  I buy about one roll of paper towels a year for camping.  I use coffee filters to cover things in the microwave and most other times when you'd want a paper towel.  I have had the same package of those forever since the old coffee pot broke and I started using a french press.

I love being mostly paper free.  :)

KulshanGirl

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2013, 04:10:52 PM »
I have a few prefolds as well for dusting.  I love those too! 

avonlea

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2013, 04:24:43 PM »
Wow--that is all really impressive.  Think of how much stuff has NOT gone into landfills because of your creativity!

I agree.  That post was full of awesomeness, kolorado.  I am definitely using some of your tips!

prof61820

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #15 on: September 21, 2013, 05:04:00 PM »
Thanks everyone for your help today.  Thanks Kolorado for a lot of other wonderful tips.  We are definitely going the cloth napkin path.

nikki

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #16 on: September 22, 2013, 02:57:52 AM »
Erm... I just use hand towels as napkins--hah! I keep one on the shelf above my desk (which is also the only table in my tiny one-room apartment) until it's too icky to wipe my face or hands with, then I use it to clean the kitchen counter or whatever. Then into the washer it goes!

You guys *are* fancy with your special linens ;)

BZB

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #17 on: September 22, 2013, 08:26:51 PM »
Thrift stores often sell cloth napkins for very cheap, if don't want to sew your own. I got my household napkins at thrift stores, and we don't have many matching ones - definitely NOT fancy, but highly functional. I prefer the cotton ones to the polyester blend ones - they feel nicer and I don't care if they wrinkle.

SavingMon(k)ey

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #18 on: September 22, 2013, 08:38:27 PM »
Thrift stores often sell cloth napkins for very cheap, if don't want to sew your own. I got my household napkins at thrift stores, and we don't have many matching ones - definitely NOT fancy, but highly functional. I prefer the cotton ones to the polyester blend ones - they feel nicer and I don't care if they wrinkle.
+1 on all-cotton.

Dicey

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #19 on: September 22, 2013, 08:42:17 PM »
Oh, prof61820, your question made me laugh! I just finished posting a pro-Costco comment on another thread. 

However, I have always used cloth napkins. When I got married, my husband's house had giant packs of Costco napkins and paper towels. I am working my way through them and then we will switch to cloth napkins (complete with napkin rings for multiple uses) and cloth towels only. Funny thing is we've been married almost a year and I still haven't gone through half of them.

As to the cloth napkins, I found most of my stash (primarily cotton and some linen) either on sale or at garage/yard/estate sales. Definately worth the tiny effort to wash and re-use rather than buy paper.

Monkey stache

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #20 on: September 22, 2013, 08:55:11 PM »
Thrift stores often sell cloth napkins for very cheap, if don't want to sew your own. I got my household napkins at thrift stores, and we don't have many matching ones - definitely NOT fancy, but highly functional. I prefer the cotton ones to the polyester blend ones - they feel nicer and I don't care if they wrinkle.
+1 on the thrift store. I buy packs of 4 for 99 cents and they're actually pretty nice.

SavingMon(k)ey

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #21 on: September 22, 2013, 08:56:39 PM »
Speaking of napkin rings, they are fun to make (a ton of possibilities) and may be a great gift with some cloth napkins for a friend or relative who may be open to that switch. Just had that idea for Christmas. :)

blake201

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #22 on: September 22, 2013, 09:47:21 PM »
Very impressed by Kolorado's creativity as well!

I started trying to turn clothes destined for recycling into rags to replace paper towels but just tearing them up didn't work—they were too flimsy. Next time I'm going to sew them into thicker layers.

We do already try to use cloth napkins as much as possible and I don't think they increase our laundry costs at all, as they just add in to the same loads we're already washing.

Freckles

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Re: Napkins and other Household Expenses
« Reply #23 on: September 23, 2013, 12:28:34 AM »
Kolorado, maybe add dollar-store oxy clean to your detergent mix?  I use what you use to make my own laundry detergent with the addition of generic oxy clean and I haven't noticed dingy whites.