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Posts Tagged ‘Containers’

Make an airtight diaper pail for less than $5

23 Feb

Homemade, airtight diaper pailsFor me, the benefits of cloth diapers (saving money, avoiding blowouts, and reducing trash output) easily outweigh the inconveniences (washing, stuffing, and storing the diapers). However, storing three days worth of smelly diapers requires several effective diaper pails to keep the house from smelling like a litter box. Diaper pails can be surprisingly expensive, though, so you may want to make your own like I did. Why spend $30 on one bin when you can have a whole fleet of them for less than half that much?

For less than $5, you can make a diaper pail that will easily hold a day’s worth of diapers; I use three of these bins in different locations around the house so we never have to carry a dirty diaper very far. It is a simple matter of buying two identical trash cans and making minor modifications so one trashcan can serve as the lid for the other.

Tools and materials:

  • Two FNISS wastebaskets from IKEA ($1.99 each as of this moment)
  • Cabinet knob
  • Foam pipe insulation
  • Utility knife
  • Drill
  • Duct tape or gaffer’s tape

Read the rest of this entry »

 

T-shirts make perfect carboy covers

11 May

Carboys wearing t-shirtsCarboys are large bottles typically used for one or more stages of fermentation for homebrewing cider or beer. Some people prefer glass carboys, and other people prefer plastic ones.

The unavoidable issue is that both types of carboys are typically transparent. Ultraviolet radiation can pass right through the clear walls of a carboy and ruin the brew inside.

My solution: put a t-shirt on your carboys. An old undershirt or two can give your brew a more consistent flavor and a longer shelflife.

Here comes the science: ultraviolet radiation has a shorter wavelength than visible light, and its higher energy content allows it to break chemical bonds in all kinds of substances, from beverages to DNA (this is why it gives people sunburns and/or skin cancer). “Skunked” beer is caused by sunlight, and any other source of ultraviolet light will also affect the flavor of any brew, usually for the worse. This why brown bottles are the best for the long-term storage of homebrew: the dark color blocks most of the ultraviolet light from reaching the liquid inside. For this reason, I keep my more transparent glass containers (green, blue, and clear bottles) inside another opaque container, such as a cardboard box. Putting one or more t-shirts over a carboy will reduce the amount of light that reaches the brew inside. A white shirt will reflect the most light. However, a thick shirt of any color will still absorb the light and protect the contents of the carboy.

As for the choice between glass and plastic carboys, there is good reason for the debate between these two options. Glass does not absorb colors or odor and will last indefinitely with proper care, but the glass bottles are heavy and expensive, which increases the cost and risk of dropping one and breaking it. Plastic carboys are lightweight and convenient, not to mention cheaper. Of course, colors and odors may linger in a plastic container, and the plastic will weaken with age and may split easily after over a long period of time. Neither type is a perfect solution for everyone. I use both without preference and have not observed any differences in flavor or consistency between the two bottles.

 

Reuse cardboard boxes with style by inverting them

15 Feb

Box stepsIf you want to stay organized on the cheap, reuse the trash that comes through your home. Here’s a favorite trick of mine: take any cardboard box apart and refold it inside-out. The plain interior of most cardboard packaging makes a great exterior for a reusable box. After inverting the box, I usually apply packing tape to any tears in the cardboard and slap on a few labels to make it recognizable. A plain box with

Lots of people reuse shoe boxes, but I suggest you take it another step. Any box that enters my house may end up with some weird reuse, from storing holiday decorations to controlling messy projects to organizing small parts in my workshop.

My favorite reusable box is the kind with tabs that tuck in to keep it shut, known as theĀ ”roll end tuck top box with dust flaps and cherry locks” (according to the fabulously-named boxmaster.com and others). They come with all kinds of products: I salvaged some recently from a baby carrier, a power saw, and a PC motherboard. The boxes are usually made of strong corrugated cardboard, and their folded design makes them great for reuse.

The tuck-top boxes are especially appropriate for refolding and reuse because they are held together by friction and clever geometry, which works just as well when they’re inverted. That’s a big advantage over cereal boxes and other everyday specimens where you’ll tear through some glued seams to invert the box, which then requires packing tape or other repairs to reuse it.

 

Magnetic bottlecap rings are like wine charms for bottles

19 Apr

Labeled magnet, ring, and finished bottle cap holderI often pour one glass of cider and recork the larger bottle for later. This has one drawback: no longer do I know what type of cider inside the bottle. Without caps, my blank bottles are impossible to tell apart.

My solution? With a magnet and a steel ring, I can attach the cap to the neck of the bottle. These things are require no tools to make, and they are infinitely reusable. I keep several stuck to the fridge in case I have a bottle-labeling emergency of some kind.

How to make one: Stick the magnet on the ring, and drop the ring around the neck of the bottle. The magnet will hold the cap there as long as you like. Magnetic or ring-based charms could also help people identify their bottles at a party.

Magnetic cap holder on bottleMagnetic bottle cap holder

Where to get the parts: I used magnets from hard drives because they’re powerful and semi-elegant, but any magnet that keeps the cap from flying away under normal drinking conditions should be fine. As for the rings, large ones work best — they need an internal diameter of at least 1.1″ (28 cm) to fit past the flared mouths of most bottles. Split rings (a.k.a. key rings) are fine if they’re large enough. Hardware stores also have a number of cheap plumbing fittings that would work as long as they’re ferromagnetic (made of metals like iron or steel) and will attract to a magnet.

 

Save your corks and put them to use

07 Jun

Corks of various sizesI used to save corks for no particular reason. Wine corks and the occasional whiskey cork went straight into a big bowl. Now that the bowl is nearing its maximum capacity, I have finally found that a collection of different-sized corks can actually be useful.

I put my cider in the largest bottles I have in order to reduce the number of bottles to clean (and fill) at bottling time. When opening one of these bottles, I like to have a way to reseal it so I can keep the rest cold and carbonated in the fridge. Lo and behold, my collection of wine and whiskey corks fits allows me to reseal any bottle I want and keep the contents from going flat.

Even though I use the same metal caps on all of my cider bottles, some of my bottles demand stoppers of different sizes. Wine corks are typically a single standard size, so there’s no need to collect too many of them unless you have a bowl to fill. Instead, look for corks from high-end liquor (cheaper booze uses screw-caps; the use of a cork quietly implies that the bottle is handcrafted or antique or otherwise distinguished enough to justify the price). Different liquor brands use corks of different sizes, so having a variety ensures a snug fit for a wide range of bottles.

Is saving every cork that enters your home overkill? Of course, but it’s easy to save one of each size that you encounter so that you’re prepared for any bottle that strolls in the door. Corked bottles can make homemade gifts such as last winter’s homemade vanilla extract a touch classier.

Recorked bottlesBowl of corks

 

Use name tags to label just about anything

22 Feb

Name tag labelsLong ago, I bought some name tags for a Halloween costume. Of course, I only needed one, so I had dozens of them lying around, begging for a new use. Since then, I have used name tags to label everything imaginable around the house. When I ran out, I actually bought more name tags rather than some other kind of label because I liked them so much. You might have already noticed them on the bottles of vanilla extract I made for the holidays.

Labels make any long-term storage project more effective. My brewing equipment lives in specific boxes, and I store the ingredients inside in airtight containers. Without labels, I would have a lot more trouble taking inventory and selecting ingredients.

The more you use them, the more they help you, too. Using a standard style of label such as a name tag makes it easy for the eye to identify the labels. Using labels consistently means no more forgotten, anonymous leftovers in the fridge or freezer.

To state the obvious: you don’t have to use name tags. Any adhesive label will do, making folders, bins, boxes, and other storage compartments easier to find when you need them. However, name tags can be preferable to blank labels because they add a bit of personality to a practical function. They also have some specific side benefits:

  • Canister with two labelsRemovable, most of the time.
  • Easy to see, easy to read
  • At only two per sheet, these printable labels give you sharp-looking results without making additional wasted labels
  • Same size as Altoids tins (great for storing nails, screws, washers, and other miscellaneous hardware)
  • Absurd humor from personifying everything (“Hello, my name is Vanilla Extract” usually gets a chuckle)
 

Eat your own cereal, not Kellogg’s

10 Aug

Bowl of cerealEveryone I know has breakfast cereal in their house. I can’t assume this is a universal trait, but there’s something wholesome and American about a bowl of cornflakes, not to mention great pleasures in Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs and the like. It’s more fun to eat a breakfast cereal you invented than one someone else invented. I’ll tell you a secret, too: it’s easy.

Having been a near-connoisseur on the breakfast cereal scene in the late 1990s (I’m surprised you haven’t heard of me), my gluten-free diet put shocking limitations on my cereal options. After all, tasty gluten-free cereals are few and far between…and never cheap. It also stinks to buy a $5 box of cereal only to dislike it on the first bite. Desperate, I went the organic-health route and found making my own blend was easy, delicious, and cost-effective. That’s a rare win-win-win. You don’t even have to go gluten-free to see the benefits of mixing your own cereal. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Creative Reuse: Breadcrumb can from empty coffee can

02 Jul

Can labelThink about how many containers you buy and then throw away every week: shopping bags, soda bottles, cereal boxes, all the way down to sugar packets. Since I hate to throw away useful things, I hang onto coffee tins and shoe boxes and film canisters hoping to find a use for them someday. Put a new label on an airtight container and it becomes a new object entirely. The containers accumulate quickly, so you have to get creative to keep them from piling up. I’ll share several examples with you over the next few weeks.

Here’s today’s reuse project: a Trader Joe’s coffee can turned into a container for homemade gluten-free breadcrumbs. Coffee and breadcrumbs are both frequently found in cardboard canisters, so it was an easy fit. All I needed to do was scrub out the coffee tin and relabel it. My “breadcrumbs” consist of the ground-up crumbs from various packages of cornflakes and potato chips blended with costlier gluten-free breadcrumbs. Do you remember what I said about throwing away useful things? I HATE THROWING AWAY USEFUL THINGS. Read the rest of this entry »