20+ Cheap Alternatives to Disposables

Are you tired of constantly buying costly disposable products that also contribute to the massive waste problem? Fortunately, there are many simple and cheap alternatives to disposables that can help you reduce your environmental impact and save money in the long run. In this article, we’ll explore 20+ easy and affordable alternatives to disposables that you can start using today.

Vintage turquoise, grey and white "Blue Heaven" dinner plate, matching cup and saucer with stainless flatware, cotton napkin and vintage Scottie dog napkin holder on a turquoise background - a cheap alternative to disposables.

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Cheap alternatives to disposables

Cloth napkins

One of the easiest disposable to replace is a paper napkin.

I must have at least 50 cloth napkins – assorted colors and prints to match various dinnerware patterns, and to switch around for the seasons. There’s also sets of white linen napkins – probably 2 dozen that were my mom’s, to use for formal dinners.

Napkins get tossed into the wash with the rest of the laundry, and hung out on the clothesline most of the year, or on the drying rack in the winter. It’s no extra work or money to wash and dry them!

And once they become stained or tattered, they become…

Rags to replace paper towels

A package of 6 rolls paper towels lasts me over a year, and I use the kind where you can rip off a half-sheet. And more often than not, I cut or rip that half into two squares.

The only time I use a full sheet of paper towel is when I need to absorb the remaining grease from cooking bacon or when I wash windows or mirrors. I tried using newspaper for window washing, but I don’t get newspapers anymore and when I did, the ink left black marks on the white vinyl around the windows.

Old cloth napkins, face cloths, hand towels and tea towels all get recycled into rags for dusting, cleaning, gardening and washing the cars. I will do a small, separate load of laundry if I have a bunch of rags that still have some life in them. When they are beyond hope, they get cut into strips to tie up plants in the garden.

To clean up kitchen spills, sponges are a cheaper alternative to paper towels. Sponges get run through the dishwasher at least once a week, and fit into the silverware holder, or lie flat on the top rack.

Real plates, cups, mugs and glassware

It’s been over 15 years since I bought paper plates or throw-away plastic cups. Once in a while, paper plates are handy when bringing food to a party or as a palette when I am mixing fabric paint, but otherwise I use the real thing.

Everything goes into the dishwasher, except the vintage Blue Heaven dinnerware pictured above and my set of bone china. Most dinnerware, cups, glasses and mugs are dishwasher safe – just be sure to check the label or the underside of the plate or mug.

I found this dinnerware at the flea market, and it cost $1.00 per plate. At home, I had a solid turquoise blue covered casserole dish from the same pattern. My mom bought the pieces of the set back in the late 60s – with S&H green stamps. Some of the pieces are solid blue, and others have the blue and grey geometric pattern.

If you scour flea markets and yard sales, you can find some really cool dinnerware that are great alternatives to disposables!

Blue plastic reusable picnicware.

No more flimsy plastic utensils

Instead of flimsy, disposable plastic, I have some heavy plastic utensils which I had gotten a long time ago. When used for bringing lunch to work, they get run through the dishwasher with the rest of the load.

For dining on the patio, the alternative is heavy duty plastic plates, bowls, tumblers and wine glasses – along with the heavy plastic utensils – all of which are dishwasher safe. So far, the set I have has lasted over 20 years, and shows no sign of wear. For all other meals, the real stuff comes out!

Bittersweet calico cotton market bag with measurements is a cheap alternative to disposable plastic grocery bags.

Cloth shopping bags

Cloth is the perfect replacement for plastic and paper bags from the store. Stores here in Connecticut now charge 10 cents per bag, so I keep a dozen cloth grocery bags (that I made myself from upcycled fabric) in the trunk of the car.

I was given yards and yards of tulle (netting), and used some to make reusable produce bags.

Collage of nine different alternatives to disposable products.

Other reusables that are cheap alternatives to disposables include:

  • refillable pens
  • gold mesh coffee filters
  • handkerchiefs
  • beeswax wraps to replace plastic wrap
  • refillable water bottles
  • metal straws
  • rechargeable batteries
  • to-go coffee cups with lids
  • or a thermos
  • a lunch box instead of a paper bag
  • containers to replace plastic bags
  • silicone baking mats instead of parchment paper
  • Reusable cotton rounds instead of disposable cotton pads
  • a safety razor instead of disposable razors
  • glass or metal food storage containers instead of plastic ones
  • cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers
  • reusable makeup wipes instead of disposable ones
  • a cloth shower curtain instead of a plastic one

So as you can see, there are many great alternatives to using disposable products that are both cheap and eco-friendly! By making small changes in your daily habits, you can save money, reduce your waste output and contribute to a more sustainable future for our planet. From using cloth napkins and towels to buying reusable containers and water bottles, there are countless ways to make a positive impact. So next time you’re tempted to reach for a disposable product, consider one of these affordable and eco-friendly alternatives instead. Your wallet – and the planet – will thank you!

What disposables will you eliminate from daily use?

Click on the photo to read:

White towels hanging on a clothesline to reduce laundry costs
Brown paper lunch bag, apple. Bring lunch to work and save money!
Food mill, wooden pestle, stock pot, tomato, parsley and bottle of red wine

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