I feel like I've been talking about food, gardening, and harvesting a lot lately. Well, it is August, folks. It's to be expected. Still, I felt it was time to get off that one-note tune for at least a few days.
So here's a tiny frugal tip, with credit to the redoubtable Amy Dacyczyn: Stop doing so many dishes. When my husband isn't traveling, we run the dishwasher a lot. More than twice as often as when he's away on business. I think this is because with more than one person in the house, we're each more likely to clean up after ourselves so as not to leave a messy table for the other. And so, with the dishes promptly put in the dishwasher, it's not so easy to re-use a plate or a glass that is essentially clean after a single use.
So I suggested that we try a rubberband trick. He'd put a red one on his glass, and I'd use blue. That way we could easily distinguish our glasses and have a visual reminder to use our own more than once if it's not dirty. Presto! The dishwasher filled up a little more slowly, so we ran it less often.
Now, I'm sure there are some folks out there who would be scandalized by this re-use of glassware or plates. In a restaurant, I want a clean plate. In my own home, where I know who's touched it, what's been on it, and who ate off of it, I'm pretty laid back. My dishes don't need to be autoclaved between meals. Granted, if it looks dirty, it gets cleaned after the first use. A few crumbs on my plate from my morning toast are no bar to putting my lunch on it, in my book. It's a meal, not invasive surgery.
Anyway, this works for us. It probably saves us $1 or more per week in detergent and hot water. And it costs us nothing but a little more of our attention. If it seems like you're constantly doing dishes, you might give this a try. If you wanted to take it to the next step, you could mark a bowl, plate, cup and mug with different colors of electrical tape for each member of your family. Then each person would be responsible for their own dishes, and could decide how often and when to wash them. Just watch out for someone lazy sneaking uses from the clean freak's personal set!