Dylan and I have worked very hard to spend as little money as possible these past few months, and I’ve got to say, we’ve come a long way! I was pretty inspired by the calculations I made of how much we will be saving by using cloth diapers and wanted to see if there was anywhere else we could use reusable cloth items to shed a few dollars from our budget.
I noticed we were going through a TON of paper towels. We moved into our new apartment in the middle of May and we bought two of the large packs of paper towels and by the end of June we were running low again. We stocked back up in July and again by the end of August we only had a few rolls left. When you’re already stretching every penny you have, dropping $30 on paper towels every month and a half or so is really hard. I remember thinking, “Well, this is something we need, so we don’t have a choice.” But we did!
And a paperless kitchen is what we chose! So far, it honestly hasn’t been a hard transition at all. It only took a few things for us to prepare/get stocked up on and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.
So how do you complete the transition, too?
- Get your family/roommates on board. I was very surprised by how supportive Dylan was when I mentioned the idea of a paperless kitchen to him. We both knew it would come with more laundry, but if it would ultimately keep more money in our bank accounts then we were okay with the extra work. But, had Dylan expressed any kind of disinterest or annoyance with the idea, it would’ve made things harder. I told him the minute I bought all the napkins that it meant that we had to be 100% committed. We were not in a place to waste money, and if you’re looking to switch to cloth for budgeting purposes as well then I doubt you are either. Get that commitment from your family and others you live with so that you don’t buy napkins and have everyone not use them.
- Calculate how many napkins you will need. This is all based on personal preference. We wanted to do laundry at most 2 times a week, so with there being only two of us I figured we’d use about 6 napkins a day (this might seem like a lot, but we eat every meal at home) and so I knew we would need at least 42 napkins a week. I cut that right in half and bought as close to that as possible. The napkins we decided on came in packs of 6, so I bought 4 packs and have a stock of 24.
- Decide what sizes napkins you want. We decided on two different sizes: smaller, wash-cloth-sized napkins for meals (the 24 I mentioned above) and larger, kitchen towels for drying our hands after dishes, rinsing food, etc. The larger kitchen towel is changed every day and so I purchased six of those. In retrospect, the kitchen towels are not a necessity, but they do make things easier when you want to dry your hands somewhere but don’t want to use a napkin that you’ve calculated into your daily meals.
- Think about how you want to store them. You want them to be in a location that is both convenient and also a reminder for your family as you make the transition. I will say that learning to reach for a cloth napkin and not the paper towel roll is a hard habit to break. Dylan and I used to catch each other mid-rip when we were in the early stages of our transition, and so you’ll definitely want them to be in a convenient location. We had a lined basket from our wedding that we washed and now store the napkins in, and the basket sits right next to the paper towel holder. We could probably move them to a different location now that we’ve broken the habit, but having them right next where we were used to reaching anyways made things easier. For our kitchen towels, we had extra space in a drawer for them so we just folded them nicely into the large drawer.
- Decide where you want to put the dirty ones. We had another basket laying around (seriously, I’m not even sure where this one is from… but it’s perfect for this job!) and it is our dirty napkin holder. We put it right under the sink so that it’s super easy to discard every napkin after each use. I’ve seen other people use small laundry hampers and laundry bags, and those work just as well! You just want it out of sight so that it doesn’t attract bugs or weird looks from your guests. 🙂
- Buy the cloth napkins. And no, don’t go buy the expensive ones that are meant to be used at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not only are they too expensive, but they are not durable for every day use. Dylan was actually very particular (who would’ve thought!) about the fabric of the napkins. I wouldn’t have minded microfiber cloths, but he was absolutely against them. So we went with good ole wash cloths! I bought the ones that came in a pack of six for about $3 a pack. We got ours from Target, mostly because I was worried that if we ordered some online, Dylan wouldn’t like the material of them. So if you don’t care, Amazon definitely had some good deals! But if you are looking for a specific material, I’d check out some at either Target or WalMart first.
- Break the old habit. This one will take time so be patient! We’ve spent our whole lives using paper towels, so that’s not going to change overnight. Just be consistent and encourage each other, and soon it will be like second nature.
Other things to mention:
We do still keep paper towels on hand. BUT in the two months that we have been “paperless” we’ve maybe used half of one roll. We only keep it on hand for drying up greasy foods (like french fries, hash browns, etc.) and for potential guests who may not enjoy our cloth napkins. But on a week to week basis, we don’t use any paper towels for cooking, eating, or cleaning. It’s all cloth!
It’s okay if these get stained. Because they are going to replace so much of your daily towel use, they are going to get stained, and that’s okay! These don’t have to be the napkins that you serve your guests with, so who cares if they gain a few new spots. It doesn’t mean they aren’t usable anymore.
Think about the colors of the napkins. I chose the colors I did because they matched my kitchen pretty well, but in retrospect, white napkins weren’t my best call. They are definitely going to stain quicker than darker colors. And as stated before, that’s definitely okay! But if it bothers you, get darker napkins that won’t show stains as quickly.
Think about the environment. Even if you’re not on a budget, or if you are and need a little bit of encouragement, just think about how much waste you’re saving the planet! I’m not a huge recycle queen, but I do feel good about myself when I think of all the paper towel rolls we haven’t used just sitting at the grocery store still and not at the landfill. And that makes me feel pretty darn proud.
And that’s all guys! Seriously, only 7 steps. It’s not a hard choice and it’s been a great experience for us thus far. Leave a comment or question below! We’d love to hear about your transition or ideas. 🙂