Wait! Don’t Throw These 11 Things Away…

As a homesteader or prepper, it’s important to recognize the value in trash. What’s that saying—one man’s trash is another man’s juice jug? Something like that.

There are several crucial household items that often—out of laziness or lack of ingenuity—end up in the trash can. While this habit contributes to the nation’s landfills, it also doesn’t allow you, as an expert homesteader, to reap these items’ endless benefits. Read on for eleven commonly tossed items that can be repurposed on your homestead.

cofee can pixabay

  1. Coffee Cans

Almost every homesteader will have to purchase coffee at some point in time. It’s a great way to get yourself going on those chilly October mornings when you want nothing more than to crawl back in bed. Furthermore, it can’t be grown in most northern climates, so buying prepackaged coffee grinds or beans is a must for most preppers.

Don’t hurry to throw out your cans! Aluminum or plastic cans are best for repurposing (cardboard ones tend to rot). Hang onto them and use them to scoop feed for livestock, collect small pieces of hardware or leftover paint, or as extra pantry storage. They can even be used as makeshift planters in the spring!



  1. Pallets

Pallets have gained a lot of popularity for their multipurposing abilities in the last few years (thanks, Pinterest). However, there’s a reason why homesteaders are flocking to the warehouse parking lot in droves. Pallets are excellent to reuse.

Pallets can be broken up and used piecemeal for any project that requires scrap lumber. They can also be used to stack feed bags or other valued items you don’t want getting wet. If you don’t already have access, in most cases, they can be scrounged at little to no cost from lumber companies, hardware supply shops, or farm and garden stores.


 glass jars pixabay

  1. Glass Jars

Don’t throw out that old baby food jar quite yet! As long as you make sure to sterilize them, any kind of glass jar can be reused. These could include food jars, mason jars, or bottles that once held wine, beer, or liquor.

If you plan on canning any food inside recycled jars, try to only use those made of tempered glass. Attempting to can food in old pickle or baby food jars could cause spoilage and breakage inside the canner. It’s not fun trying to remove glass shards from hot water!


 shredded paper

  1. Shredded Paper or Newspapers

No matter how far back in the woods you live, you’re likely to receive your fair share of junk mail. Don’t toss it in the trash! Shredded paper and newspapers are excellent additions to your farm.

Paper can be added to your compost to help it break down more quickly. It can also be used as animal bedding. It works best for chickens, as pigs or other livestock are more likely to taste it. If you shred glossy paper from magazines or newspapers, keep in mind that it should be mixed in sparingly. Chickens have a hard time walking on glossy paper.



  1. Grass Clippings

Whether you’ve just finished mowing your lawn, or you’re raking leaves in the fall, this type of litter is definitely the good kind. Feed the clippings to your rabbits or chickens and watch them go crazy for the crunchy treats.

If you feed clippings to chickens, just limit how much you give them (they can have a hard time breaking it down). Never, under any circumstances, feed grass clippings to young chicks, as they aren’t developed enough to process it.

Don’t have any livestock? Grass clippings can also be added to the compost to help speed up decomposition.



  1. Plastic Containers

If you’re like most people, you’re probably trying to reduce how much plastic your household consumes. If you have leftover milk jugs or even tubs that were used to hold deli meat or ice cream, these can be reused.

Try using tubs to store leftovers or freeze large batches of soups or sauces. Plastic bags can be reused as trash can liners or to organize your closet.



  1. Silica Gel Packets

Have a handful of silica gel packets left over from your last department store purchase? You’re in luck. Silica gel packets can be placed inside a gun cabinet or safe to help control moisture. Moisture wreaks havoc on firearms and ammunition. The silica helps to absorb moisture and moderate the humidity inside the case.


 egg carton

  1. Egg Cartons

If you have chickens, you already know how invaluable egg cartons are to any homesteader. Save any and all egg cartons and collect them from friends and neighbors. Store them in a dry location so they don’t mildew and reuse for multiple seasons. Egg cartons can also be used to store small items such as nails, earrings, or tacks.


 lemon peel

  1. Citrus Peels

If you enjoy munching on oranges, lemons, or limes, don’t think the enjoyment has to stop once breakfast is finished. Citrus peels can be recycled to use as zest for various recipes, scents for homemade candles or potpourri, and as cleaning agents.

If you have hard water, a lemon rind (ideally with some remaining juice) is great at removing calcium and lime scale build up. It also smells great and can remove bacteria from dirty surfaces such as countertops and cutting boards. Simply rub the fruit over the surface you wish to clean, and wipe dry.


 fabric scraps

  1. Fabric Scraps

Pieces of fabric can be repurposed for use in homemade woven rugs. They can also be used to make dish rags or DIY pet collars.



  1. Bones

Roasted a chicken or leg of lamb? Don’t hurry to throw away those bones. When boiled down, used bones make great soup stock. They can then be added to your compost pile for a boost of calcium.


And Finally…

Remember that, at the end of the day, just about anything can be reused or recycled. Any item you can repurpose is a dollar and an effort that can be saved. With a little bit of forward thinking and ingenuity, you’ll be self-sufficient in no time.

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About Rebekah W

Rebekah W
Although I teach high school English by day, I’m also the proud co-owner of a small, twenty-two acre property in New York (my second job and favorite pastime). We raise chickens, pigs, bees, and vegetables on our “homestead” and are proud to call our little slice of heaven home! When I’m not wrangling chickens or harvesting massive quantities of zucchini, I enjoy writing about common homesteading topics and other subjects.


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    The only idea that is practical is the silica idea because the packets are so small, other then that, most don’t have the space to save all of that stuff. It accumulates real quick and soon the space they occupy are more valuable then the stuff. If I had an acre or two I’d would be doing that, but even then at some point they are just too bulky and you have to start dumping some of that stuff.

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      I do store lots and discard when I see I have no need for them. Still have lots of oats boxes left from storing in buckets for LTS and these are in the attic.
      There is lots of storage space between the 2 X 4s……place a sturdy piece of cardboard down and you have shelving for light items like oats boxes, etc.

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    Thank you, Rebekah!

    Like Lui, I don’t have much room (yet!!!), but I do save a few of most of these items above and beyond what I actually have in use right now. If I have solid plans for the future, I will make room to stockpiles more than usual. Right now I am “harvesting” paper egg cartons from friends for seed starter trays next spring.

    Kat – a 1/3 acre homesteader

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    The plastic coffee cans are great to store leftover paint in.

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      Also make great ‘drip water feeders’ to minimize weeding. Drill small hole at bottom edge of can, fill with water and place hole close to plant base. Slow drip feeds plant while minimizing water for weeds adjacent to them.

      Great for other storage too, small enough to keep small items organized. Also used the cans as concrete scoops for small walkway project, mixing Ready-Mix in large container, then using can to fill in small spaces. Much easier on our backs.

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    I was amused to see that we already save the things on your list. Never really thought about it. Since we have compost piles and chickens, a lot of the organic matter has a re-use. Plastic containers usually get one or two more uses before getting pitched (soaking paint brushes, cleaning small engine parts, etc.)

    To add to the grass clippings, for the past couple of years, I’ve been making silage out of the last mowings of the year. Mowed wet (first thing in the morning), and packed tightly into black plastic bags (themselves inside a tall trash can as mini-silo), the grass clippings are allowed to ferment for a couple months. By then, all the live grass has browned, or the snows have come and the chickens don’t get any free-ranging time anymore. They like the silage (a wad of it every morning). It gives them their ‘greens’, even in the winter.

    Silage is a bit of a bother, but it’s good for the birds (and their eggs). The price is hard to beat too. 🙂

    — Mic
    — mic-roland.com

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    And even the plastic Crystal light plastics have hundreds of uses as do Tang plastics.

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    Silica gel packs are great to save, just remember to recharge them by gently heating them at 250F for an hour or two. I store a bunch of these in freezer grade ziplock style bags to keep them from absorbing moisture before I use them properly.
    After a disaster, I plan to using them to keep FD food dry longer, and I can recharge them in my solar oven (just have to make sure to not get them too hot!)

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