Thursday, August 21, 2008

Simple Frugality: Do Fewer Dishes

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!


Anonymous said...

We (or at least I) reuse cups - I only have 1 for the whole day. My husband used to do that, but somehow has fallen off the wagon. But I never thought of reusing plates and other dishes that are essentially clean when you're done. Great idea!

Kate said...

I try to re-use plates. It's not so hard when I'm the only one home.

The electrical tape works well for larger families because it's pretty tenacious. It won't come off just because it gets wet. It was used to distinguish between all the students' personal knives when I was in culinary school. Most students customized their stuff with two or more colors so that there was no confusion. Should work just as well on plates and cups.

Anonymous said...

This post made ma laugh. I've been using dish reduction science for years. When I married and got a stepfamily, I trained them. We use Fiestaware dinnerware in different colors, and different glasses from tag sales, etc. (we each picked out our own special one). Everyone has a color and the dish is reused if not too dirty. When I first proposed this method, it met with lukewarm responses; giving it a name, dish reduction science, did wonders for its appeal.

Kate said...

So, henbogle, does everyone adhere to the principle? Or do you see clean plate snatching going on? I like your PR campaign for this idea!