3 Steps to a Paperless Kitchen

3 Steps to a Paperless Kitchen

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Are you on a quest to purge paper and plastic from your kitchen?  Good news: creating a paperless kitchen is easier than you think.

3 Steps to a Paperless Kitchen

Reducing kitchen paper is a great way to reduce overall household waste, and it will save you money at the grocery store.

By the way, if you’re also ready reduce your dependence on plastic in the kitchen, here are a few of my favorite ways to do that:

Going paper free in the kitchen doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and it doesn’t need to happen overnight.  You can ease your way into a paperless kitchen by replacing one product at a time.  You can do it any way you like, but I suggest the following order.

  1. Napkins
  2. Paper plates
  3. Paper towels

3 Steps to a Paperless Kitchen
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1. Napkins

At my house, we started with napkins.

Think about it: if there are five people in your family (like mine), that’s five napkins times three meals per day.

Side note: We homeschool and my husband works from home, so we eat most meals together, at home.  Yes, we eat out occasionally and Mr. Native Texan and I have a weekly date night.  But you get the idea.

For simplicity’s sake, five napkins times three meals per day times seven days per week comes out to 105 napkins per week, more than 400 napkins per month, and over 5000 napkins every year.

I knew that replacing paper napkins with cloth napkins would be a big step in the right direction for reducing our household trash.  What’s more, cloth napkins are prettier to look at than paper napkins, and they work better.

Plus, the cost of paper napkins really adds up.  Especially if you prefer a substantial paper napkin that actually has a chance of absorbing anything.

I love cloth napkins so much, and have so much to tell you on this topic, that I’ve decided to devote an entire blog post article to all my best tips for switching to cloth napkins.  Coming soon…

For now, I highly recommend starting your paperless quest with a good set or two of cloth napkins.  Give your paper napkin stash to a friend, donate them to charity, or use them up if you must.

3 Steps to a Paperless Kitchen
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2. Dishes

This one is kind of obvious, and yes, it does create more dishes.  But hey, that’s what kids are for!  Just kidding.  Not really.

Seriously, it all depends on your outlook.  For me, it’s worth a little extra time every day to load the dishwasher or to hand wash a meal’s worth of dishes.  Banishing disposable plates, bowls, and cups from daily use adds up to some serious trash reduction.

And yes, dish duty provides a valuable opportunity for training kids in responsibility, diligence, and basic life skills.

Furthermore, I love the atmosphere created by the simple act of setting a nice table.  When everyone grabs paper plates and plastic cups, what does that say about the meal?  About the time together?

On the other hand, when you take the time to lay out cloth napkins with real dishes, it sets a completely different tone.  Meal time matters.  Our time together matters.

This year, I finally replaced the set of dishes gifted to us at our wedding over 16 years ago.  We used that same set of dishes for 16 years!  My 13 year old son has eaten meals from these dishes for his entire life.

Picking out a new set of dishes felt so exciting.  I took my time tracking down exactly what I wanted: sturdy white dishes with a lip instead of a wide, unusable rim.

We entertain a lot, so I bought an ample supply: 20 dinner plates plus 20 salad plates.  The entire set cost about $200 and will last my family for a good 10-20 years.

3 Steps to a Paperless Kitchen
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3. Towels

This is a big one, which is why I think you should save it for the final step in your quest for a paperless kitchen.

Replacing paper towels felt much more challenging to me than replacing paper napkins and paper plates.  It’s just so easy to grab a paper towel!

However, paper towels create a ton of unnecessary trash, which means we can make a big impact by replacing them with cloth rags.

My family started with the bathrooms. First, I purchased a separate set of cleaning cloths for each bathroom (pictured above).  This allowed us to eliminate paper towels and cleaning wipes from the bathrooms, which was a step in the right direction.

Next, we gradually channeled old towels and washcloths into our household rag bin to beef up supplies.  I also slowly increased our stash of kitchen towels and dish rags, and began to train everyone to reach for cloth rags instead of paper towels.

As we got better and better at using cloth rags for household cleaning and wiping up spills and messes, I still faced two challenges.  I just couldn’t get over those last hurdles of draining bacon or drying raw fish without paper towels.

Finally, I figured out how to drain bacon on a cookie cooling rack.  We cook our bacon in the oven, on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Now, we just pull the bacon out of the oven and place a cooling rack over the cookie sheet.  Then we use tongs to slide each strip of bacon from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack.  That’s it!  It solved my bacon-draining problem.

Truthfully, I still struggle with raw fish.  In theory, I use an old rag to pat the fish dry before cooking.  In practice, it still sort of grosses me out to end up with a wet, fishy rag.  Therefore, I don’t dry my fish as well as I should even though I know it’s such an important step.

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We’ve come a long way

Every Sunday after church, we deliver pastured eggs and other farm products to a growing group of friends and farm customers in our church parking lot.  We jokingly refer to it as the RBC farmer’s market.

Just a few weeks ago, my middle son (age 9) began selling bouquets of cut flowers that he grew himself, supplemented with wildflowers from our farm.  As we gathered materials for packing up the flowers and sending them home with our friends, I couldn’t find a single paper towel.  No problem: we used wet newspaper to wrap around the cut stems. 

It was such a great feeling to realize we had zero paper towels in the house!

In all transparency, I later found one random roll in the basement.  And I’m pretty sure we still have a huge package somewhere, a leftover oopsie order from years ago via Amazon Subscribe & Save.

But I rejoice in the fact that we moved to the farm about a year and a half ago, and no one has looked for or missed those random paper towels (that may or may not be hiding in the garage).

So what do you think?  Do you have what it takes to create a paperless kitchen?  Could you live without paper napkins, paper plates, and paper towels?

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Kathleen | Roots & Boots

Let's get real! I’m Kathleen Henderson, your Natural Living Mentor. I’m on a mission to help families see the joy in real food, while finding natural remedies and creating a nontoxic home. Learn more about my story >>


  1. Bonnie Hennessy on 10/24/2019 at 10:42 pm

    good info. I started using cloth napkins a while back. They were in a closet and from my mom. just plain white with a little embroidered flower in the corner. I love them! I love letting my grand children use them. The only time I use paper plates is when family comes and stays for a week during the holidays. Seems the day is filled with preparing food, eating food and cleaning up afterwards, repeat. Paper towels is the hardest. I cut up flour sacks into paper towel size sqs. and they sit in a basket by the sink but when it comes to certain things, paper towels are so quick and easy. If I put them away the cloth would get used more.

    • Kathleen on 11/05/2019 at 9:10 pm

      Yes, paper towels were the hardest for us to break away from. I feel your pain!

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