Grandma Yeager would be proud to know that I'm cut from the same roll when it comes to our family tradition of reusing foil. It's not just a way of saving money, but also Earth's resources, as well. According to the Aluminum Association, more than 1.3 billion pounds of aluminum foil is produced in the U.S. every year. Think of all the leftover meatballs that would wrap! While aluminum foil can be recycled, many curbside recycling programs won't accept it for sanitary reasons, so check with your local recycling program for their foil policy. Recycling aluminum uses only about 5 percent of the energy that it takes to produce aluminum from raw materials.
But there's an alternative to recycling foil. Just reuse it. Not only do I save and reuse my foil for wrapping leftovers, but I've one-upped even my grandmother by coming up with some other ways to reuse foil, as well. Remember, though: Foil that has come in contact with raw meat should not be reused for other food purposes.
Give these reuses a try:
Scrub the grill: Used foil makes a great scouring pad for cleaning the gunk off the barbecue grill and stuck-on food from pots, pans and oven racks.
Keep shoes/boots in shape: Stuff balls of wadded-up foil into leather boots and shoes to help them keep their form in the closet.
Sharpen garden shears and scissors: Just cut through folded layers of used foil a few times to sharpen dull scissors instantly. For heavy-duty garden and pruning shears, fold the foil even thicker.
Add texture to paint and plaster: Crumpled-up foil adds interesting texture to painting and plastering projects. Also, keep old foil on hand for wrapping your paintbrushes and rollers during a lunch break and for masking doorknobs and other fixtures you don't want painted.
Foil static cling: Throw a crumpled piece of aluminum foil into the clothes dryer to magically reduce static electricity. A true miracle of cheapskate science.
Photo by G.Flayols/photocuisine/Corbis
Deter pets and pests: When our cat started using our fireplace instead of her litter box, we put a couple of sheets of used aluminum foil on the floor of the fireplace to break her of that bad habit. Cats and dogs hate walking on foil, and they won't scratch surfaces temporarily wrapped in it. You can also hang strips of used foil on strings around the garden to deter birds, deer and other unwanted pests.
Protect plants: Fit a band of used foil loosely around the stems of young tomato plants and other early stage plants to keep away cutworms and other insects.
Polish metal: I think a wad of aluminum foil is more effective than steel wool for scrubbing rust off chrome and steel.
Line a roasting pan: Old foil works just as good as new for lining roasting pans and keeping baked-on grime off the oven.
The perfect 10th wedding anniversary gift: Remember this lucky break for your wallet: Wedding anniversary No. 10 is traditionally celebrated by exchanging gifts made of aluminum. Perhaps some homemade artwork from used aluminum foil? Or maybe Grandma Yeager could have started her 10th year of marriage with a new roll of foil, if only Gramps had been a bit more of a romantic.
Jeff Yeager is the author of The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door. His website is www.UltimateCheapskate.com and you can friend him on Facebook at JeffYeagerUltimateCheapskate or follow him on Twitter.
Also of interest: Take our Can This Be Used Quiz. »