Plastic ice cream containers seem too good to throw away. They're bulky, so you don't want to save them without having a purpose for them. Some are now available as a square container. This makes them great space-saving storage or gift containers.
Here are a few ways to use them.
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Kitchen compost: Keep them on the counter or under your sink to hold kitchen scraps that you want to compost. The lid keeps odors to a minimum.
Mail holder: Instead of stacking your mail on the counter, place it in the container until you can pay the bills or sort through it.
Travel container: If you're heading to a picnic or a cookout, use the containers for your potluck dishes, such as salads, chips, popcorn or cookies. The handle makes them easy to carry, and you don't need to worry if you accidentally leave it behind.
In the garage: Use a few containers to store car wash supplies, such as car wax, chamois and sponges. They can hold pet food, birdseed, small tools and snow salt, too. Use one for gardening supplies, such as starting seeds or holding garden markers, seed packets and garden gloves.
Craft supplies: Fill them with supplies to use on a rainy day or as a boredom buster, such as crayons, markers, paints, brushes, scissors, chenille stems, craft foam, fabric scraps, yarn, sewing supplies, etc.
Winter gear: Use one or more containers as a simple storage solution for winter hats, baseball caps, gloves, scarves and mittens.
Kitchen storage: Store seasoning packets, boxed gelatin, sponges, instant oatmeal, coupons, plastic grocery bags, recipe cards, batteries, twist ties or cookie cutters.
Cleaning supplies: Store them under the sink and use them to hold scrub brushes, sponges, scrub pads, clothespins, rags and plastic grocery bags. Use one to hold homemade laundry soap, too.
Toys: Organize toys such as small cars, game pieces, Barbie clothes and accessories, blocks, playing cards or flashcards, action figures and Legos. Take one to the beach for sandcastles; one can also be useful as a snowball holder or for a backyard sandbox. Use one to hold sidewalk chalk or Play-Doh. Fill one with activities for kids to do or small toys to play with during car rides, too.
Sock bin: Each family member can have his or her own container. Or place mismatched socks in it until you find their mates. Use one to hold dryer lint, too.
Bathroom organizer: Organize washcloths, tub toys, soaps, deodorant, cosmetics, hair accessories, free samples, toothbrushes, etc.
Gift container: You can cover the outside with decorative adhesive paper, line the inside with tissue paper and fill as you would a gift basket.
• Sara Noel owns frugalvillage.com. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.