Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paper Plates No More

Lately, I've been trying to be both a little more green and save some money. A while back, we made the move to cloth napkins. This has been going very well for us. We still use paper napkins on occasion at dinner or lunch, but generally, we are using the cloth napkins. My husband was uncertain that it would work, but with nearly daily laundry, we rarely are without napkins in our napkin basket.

After my son's birthday party, I identified another opportunity to save money and be a little more green. Paper Plates. (Although, really, most of them are other materials, I just still think of them as paper plates.) Purchasing disposable plates was an infrequent expense since we bought larger packages of plates, but a still something that we used regularly enough for the assorted picnics, parties and more.

I will not question that using a paper plate is simple and easy. But, when I think about the number of plates that we purchase, use and dispose of, it really can start to add up. Here are some of what I saw as the pros and cons:

Save money over time
Easier to store
Better for the environment
Always have on hand, don’t have to remember to buy before the next picnic/party/gathering
More durable/less flimsy when serving heavy or wet foods

Initial outlay to purchase reusable plates
Have to wash (but I have a dishwasher)
May not have enough if the crowd is large
Have to replace any that are broken

I struggled to find what I was looking for. I knew that I wanted something that was reasonably lightweight, making them easier to use and store, and something that was durable.

At first, I thought that I would try to go with plastic or melamine for the plates. The problem I was finding is that they were all expensive. One of my goals was to save money by moving to reusable plates that I could use for feeding a crowd, spending the type of money that I would have to to buy these was not going to be a savings. I decided to keep looking and hope for a clearance sale.

While visiting my brother's house after a family wedding, I noticed that he was using some of my old Corelle bowls that I had given him when he graduated college and I was getting married. The bowls had been part of a set and I remembered how the plates were durable and reasonably thin and lightweight.

Then, after my Kraft Homestyle House Party back in September, I found myself with some coupons for the Pyrex store, which also carries Corelle dishes. We have a store at the local outlet mall, so I made a trip to the store. They had stacks of plain beige on clearance. It turns out that it was a color they were discontinuing - who discontinues beige? I had about five coupons that were each good for one item, so I walked up to the register to ask if I could use all of the coupons in one transaction or if I had to break it up. She said that she could use them all in one transaction. The clearance stickers on them were all different prices, but she charged me at the lowest price for all of them. When she rang up the coupon, she wound up taking the discount on not just five items, but all of my plates. I purchased 24 plates and 4 bowls (the bowls are for everyday use - they are the perfect size for oatmeal and ice cream) for just under $40, plus tax.

Understandably, it will take me a few picnics and parties to recoup my cost, but every time we use them, we are throwing away that many fewer plates. After a few events, we will start to save money. Plus, since we frequently have a weekend full of guests when we do have a party, they will get multiple uses on a single weekend.

Do I think I am completely done with disposable plates? No. I still think that I will purchase cake plates to coincide with the themes at our birthday parties. But, overall, I will purchase and use a lot less paper plates. I also think that I will try to pick up a few more plates over time. I just didn't want to spend anymore than I did and 24 should be enough to get me through most events that we have. Plus, I still have my everyday dishes if I need a couple more.

My next goal in an effort to live green and save money - find silverware for using at the picnics and parties. I got the idea from a friend who has a large tin full of silverware that she uses exclusively for gatherings. It would be nice not to have to worry about purchasing all of that plastic cutlery. So far, what I have found is a little more expensive than I want. Part of my challenge is that I pretty much just want the components of a three piece set, but I need service for 24.

This post shared at Frugal Friday.


Christy said...

I rarely buy paper plates - usually for when the crowd is over 30 and even sometimes not even then. It is fun and really washing plates is super quick - I love that it is a frugal, green, healthy and easy step! You will be glad you did. I would keep a look out for silverware at garage sales - they don't need to match!