Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saving Money: Making Toys from Recyclables & Getting Rid of Those Pesky Plastic Bags

In this economy we could all use a little help. Last year Steve and I went to a free Internet seminar, as we were considering selling things over the Internet. We were in a group of ten people and had to do an exercise where we took a regular paper clip and came up with as many different uses for it as we could. While in the beginning it sounded silly to us, our group actually came up with over 50 different uses (yes 50) for a common paper clip. I came up with another use the other day when the zipper pull on my jeans broke. It was a great learning experience because it gave us a whole new perspective on what you can do with regular items. I took it a bit farther and started looking at the items I recycle to see if I could give them a new use too.
With prices up and wages down, the groceries and bills get paid, and the animals get fed. But frills are out of the question, at least for the moment in our house. Don’t misunderstand me; I absolutely love going shopping for my pets and can spend hours in a pet shop. I’ve put these ideas together to help make our household a little happier in these lean times and I thought I would share them with you. 
We are great recyclers, but I kept feeling that I could do something else with all the tubular medicine bottles we have around the house. I tried to get the pharmacy to refill my prescriptions using the old pill bottles, but there is a law in Minnesota that won’t let them. So I started making cat toys out of them. I wash them first, and then I put a few grains of rice in them, which makes them rattle and let the cats have them. While they don’t roll like a ball, the cats still chase them around the room and have mock battles when they capture one from another cat. I also have some tubular bottles from something else I buy and they are about 3-1/2 inches long by about 1 inch in diameter, with indented grooves about ½ inch from each end. I use a small nail and poke holes in the grooves and fill the bottle with catnip. The holes in the grooves, let the smell of the catnip out, but the bottle is strong enough that the cats can’t get through to the catnip. Sometimes I even tie a few pieces of rawhide around the neck of the bottle before putting the top back onto the bottle to give them some added distraction. You can use any white plastic bottle as long as it is small enough and you can poke holes through the plastic. If you have dogs in the house, make sure you supervise the cats playing with these bottles, in case the dog might try and take them away. You can even make catnip toys from recycled fabric from shirts and cotton jeans. The nice thing about cotton jeans; they won’t fall apart the first time your cat claws them with their back feet. If you want stuffing, use fabric from the jeans to make the toys plumper.
For Skye, I take old pairs of cotton blue jeans and take the side seams and the inseams out, so I have two pieces of fabric (the front and the back), then I tie the matching sides of the bottom of one leg together in a knot and make about three to five more knots in the legs of the jeans to make a tug. I will warn you though, I did this several years ago with another dog, and he could not or would not differentiate between his “tuggies” and the jeans on the laundry line. I also make tugs for Skye out of old towels, though I try to use towels that are 100% cotton, as their fibers are safer. But do not ever leave your dog alone with these toys; they should be supervised at all times.
I knit and I found out that you can knit with the plastic from grocery store bags. I cut off the bottom seam, and take a scissors to cut the bag horizontally, starting at about 1” from the bottom. I keep cutting around the bag and by the time I am done I have one long plastic strip. Then I get my knitting needles out and start knitting. I’ve tried knitting with about a size #8 US, but have found that a pair of size #12 US or larger actually work better because of the bulkiness of the plastic. I can knit all sorts of bags that are usable at the grocery store, or for hanging on a door hook to keep all the extra toys or pet supplies in when they are not in use. 
Some of these ideas are not unique to me; I just put them all in one place for us to share. We are all feeling the pinch these days and our animals love us no matter what we are feeling, this way we can recycle and our pets can keep putting smiles on our faces with their antics.

1 comment:

  1. In times like these, where money is tight, you offer some great money saving suggestions. I recently resorted to making my own pet toys and my pets love them better than the ones I used to buy in the stores! Great suggestion!


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