Yes, I do. I wash plastic bags. Not the carrier bags you get from the supermarket. But the sandwich bags you buy on a roll, and the re-sealable freezer bags. I turn them inside out, put them in a pillow case and then run them through the washing machine with biological powder. Then I give them a rinse and let them air dry using a system of tall bottles I keep for the purpose (these used to contain things like port and posh lemonade).
It isn't just about saving money because really that's a very small amount. It is far more about the waste. Although I have to admit that I do resent paying for the bags then just using them once.
There's a lot of other things that are a bit wasteful too. Like cling film. When did we stop just putting a plate on top of a bowl to keep food fresh in the fridge? I remember our fridge being full of leftovers like that when I was a kid.
So I started doing it again. And you know what? It keeps food fresh, maybe not as long as cling film but long enough. I don't like to eat leftovers after about day three anyway. Plus you can put another bowl on top. I now buy a whole lot less cling film than I used to.
Which got me thinking. What else could I do that saves money, and is better for the environment?
Put aluminium foil, shiny side out, behind the radiators. The theory is that this then reflects more heat back into the room. There's no end of places that will sell you radiator foil for the purpose either. One of the cheapest places I could find this was at B&Q, where a roll that will cover 2.5 square metres costs £8.98. Or there's a variety of sellers on eBay selling it for about half that.
Does it work? The jury seems to be out on that one. I searched a number of forums on the internet and came to two conclusions. First, a surprisingly large amount of people like to talk about radiator foil. Second, this wasn't helpful. In short, some people found it made a difference, some found it made such a small difference it was hardly worth the effort and other people thought it a total waste of time.
What about lining your curtains with thermal curtain lining? You can buy some fairly cheaply from eBay for around a fiver including VAT. Or there's this alternative I found on the internet. Sew a cheap PVC shower curtain to your existing curtains, and then sew the lining on top. And the draughts are kept out!
I've written before about making your own laundry detergents and the like. Well I don't actually do that myself right now but I do cut in the powder with soda. That's just common sense really, as it works as a water softener too.
I love this recipe though that I found for DIY stain removers recently. Apparently chocolate stains can be removed by mixing egg yolk with lukewarm water and rubbing it on the stain. Well I haven't tried it yet myself, but I always have plenty of eggs to hand so next time I'll give it a go.
By the way, Iceland sell half a dozen free range eggs for a £1, and I've found that my local corner shop often has special deals on where you can get a dozen free range eggs for £1.39. It really is worth shopping around for affordable free range as really and truly you don't want to support battery hens.
Baking soda works well at getting stains out of coffee mugs. But, I've found that an even better alternative is a half a scoop of biological washing powder. Soak the cups in that for five minutes and then just wipe them out. They come out shiny clean too.
I've worked hard over the last two years to make sure I don't waste food at home. Supermarkets on the other hand waste food on a daily basis. And there's a group of folks who exploit that to get their food for free.
Now, I've got two good bookcases and a set of drawers from Freecycle. I've also got three really lovely Lloyd Loom cane chairs rescued from the dump. I'm not averse to casting an eye over skips as I drive past. But honestly, I really don't think I could quite do something that's known as Freegan. A sort of play on the word Vegan meaning someone who doesn't eat animal products. A freegan eats free food. And they get it by rummaging around in the bins behind supermarkets.
ScavengeUK is a site dedicated to folks who are keen to find something for nothing and can offer some good advice on how to go dumpster diving. Tips on other sites include aiming for small to medium sized stores, as the big ones are more likely to lock up their bins. Also, take a torch, rummage after dark, and don't ignore No Trespassing signs. Oh and give anything you find a good wash. Honestly, none of that makes me inclined to want to try it at all.
So now you know my little secret. Is it a penny pinching step too far do you think? Or quirky but acceptable? And go on, confess. What secret little money/environment saving things do you do?