I use rags most of the year in place of paper towels, but during the holidays I will buy paper towels when I’m entertaining. I usually go through two rolls of paper towels made from recycled material between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. I buy them because I go through rags quickly when doing a lot of preparation and cooking in my kitchen and also because when guests want to help me, it’s just easier to have paper towels on hand.

When the paper towels are all gone, I’m left with the tubes. They can go into the recycling bin in some cities, but it turns out they can be very useful if given a second life. Here are some uses for paper towel tubes that you might not have thought of.

  • Stuff plastic grocery store bags into one tube (can hold about 20) and keep in your car to use anytime a plastic bag would be convenient on the go. (via The Frugal Duchess)
  • Tightly roll up a special piece of children’s artwork and place it in the tube. Identify what is in the tube on the outside of it with a permanent marker. (via The Frugal Duchess)
  • Flatten a paper towel tube, duct tape one end shut, and you have a perfect sheath for a picnic/camp knife. Use toilet paper rolls for smaller cutlery (via Reader’s Digest)
  • Transport paint brushes back and forth to painting class. Just stuff a paper towel in bottom and drop brushes in. (via make-stuff.com)
  • Store cords in the tubes. Wrap the cords and then slip a tube over them for tangle free storage (via Lifehacker)
  • Make pots for seedlings by cutting the tubes into thirds, folding the bottoms together, and filling with soil (via Restoring Simplicity)
  • Make kindling bundles for campfires or fireplaces. Snap twigs the length of the tube and pack in tightly enough that they don't slip back out. Keep them on hand to use to build a fire, or to toss in to revive a dying one. (via The Frugal Life)

Do you have any other suggestions for using paper towel tubes? 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Kitchen recycling tips: Paper towel tubes
Really useful ideas for giving paper towel tubes a second life.