Saturday, October 8, 2011

31 Days: Day 8 - Wipe Your Mouth Please

If this is your first visit I welcome you to my little corner of the world!  You might want to start at the introduction of this series.  It explains what 31 Days of Change is, and has links to each day's post as they occur.  Just click on the 31 Days to Slash Your Budget Painlessly button at the top of my sidebar on the right.

In a previous post I talked about the rising cost of paper products, and focused on the price of paper towels.   In the same way, the cost of paper napkins is also on the rise. When you think about it, every time you throw away a paper napkin, it’s like throwing money in the garbage.

Cloth napkins are often thought of as “fancy,” something only for restaurants or special occasions, but they are really practical.  Unless you have an unusually messy eater in the house, you can instruct everyone to leave "their" napkin at their spot at the table, and use the same one for the day.  That way you will only go through as many napkins per day, as you have members of your family. 

If that makes you squeamish, think about your dish rag.  You use it all day too, to wipe your table, your counters, etc.  Besides, you're not sharing germs if you keep the napkins straight.  Of course if company comes, do them a favor and get out clean napkins :)  If you choose to use a new napkin at each meal you will obviously need more napkins.

You can always purchase napkins, but they are pretty pricey.  Most are about 20" x 20" square.  I decided to make my own.  I bought 2 yards of fabric for six napkins (20 x 20).  If you want to make smaller napkins, you can, but I like to use napkin rings at times, and this size is nice for that.

 My fabric for this set was 2.97 a yard, so I paid about $6.00 for 6 napkins.  Next time I think I will look for a mark down sheet.  You could get a lot of napkins out of a sheet. 

Another consideration is fabric content.  Cotton is great for absorbency but polyester doesn't wrinkle as badly.  I will look for a cotton poly blend.  Many sheets are just such animals.  Another tip is to look for dark colors, or patterned fabric to hide stains.  Napkins are going to get stained.  I will throw mine in a bucket of  water with some oxiclean, but if some stains do persist, the pattern or dark color will hide them.

If you want to make your own napkins, I've got a couple of tips to make it faster.  It's the simplest of sewing and a great beginner project if you've never sewn before.  First prewash and dry your fabric to shrink it.  You don't want it shrinking after you sew it or it will pucker.  My fabric was about 42 inches wide.  I folded it in half lengthwise, then trimmed off the selvages.  If you don't trim them, they tend to pucker the hem.  Cut along the folded edge so that you have two long pieces.  See my tutorial on sewing kitchen clothes for rags here.

Next, hem down both long sides, turning under edges about 1/4 inch twice.  Then you can cut them into individual napkins.  An easy way to get them square, without having to measure, is to fold the fabric on the diagonal, so that the one edge extends about 1/2 inch or more off the edge like so:

You can put a couple of pins in it along that edge, but I just held onto it and flipped it over, making sure that extended edge didn't move.  Now you will cut as shown below about 1/2 inch from the hemmed edge. 

This allows for the hems along the other two edges, so your napkin will be square after you finish hemming it.  When it's finished and folded, it looks like...well, a napkin!

I buy paper napkins at our local Save a Lot for $1.49 for 250.  I'm not sure how much napkins run at Walmart anymore, but on Bounty napkins are $2.97 for 200.  I'm going to figure my savings as well as the savings of someone buying Bounty.

I will assume each family member uses on average 3-4 napkins a day (which is probably a low figure), without figuring in company, parties etc.  For our family of five that would be 15-20 napkins per day, so my pack of 250 napkins would last about two weeks.  I would save about $39 per year or $3.25 per month.  If I used Bounty I would save about $98 per year, or $8.17 per month.

Now I do have to buy napkins, or fabric and make them.  But since I will probably set out a napkin for each person to use for the day, I would need 5 napkins per day, or 35 per week.  However, I do laundry almost daily, so I can get away with about 15.  At $1.00 each I would spend $15.  They should last at least two years, probably more.

Is this worth it?  For someone who buys premium napkins, it is a significant savings.  And with the cost of paper products on the rise, it will become more and more so.   Paper products use a lot of natural resources too. Even though my own savings won't be huge, I think it's worth it for that reason alone.  Besides there's just something about a cloth napkin that elevates an everyday meal.  Now if I can just train my family to put their napkins on their laps!

If you are benefiting from this series, I’d love it if you would grab my button from the top of my sidebar.  I will be back with another money saving tip tomorrow.   I will keep up a running tally of my savings at the bottom of each new post. Just scroll down to the bottom to see.  Come on back now y'all...ya hear?

My tally so far:


  1. Unless it is a particularly messy meal (ribs, pulled pork etc) everyone uses one cloth napkin all week at my house. If you think about it for most meals you don't get too dirty. Everyone has a napkin ring and puts their napkin back through the napkin ring at the end of the meal. If you wanted you could even get everyone a different ring to help keep things straight. That way if one person leaves their napkin in the wrong place or if you have to pick them all up from the table the different rings still show you which is which. In the same way we use one set of sheets and one bath towel all week we each use one napkin.

  2. I've been meaning to do this for ages. Love, love your fabric choice!
    Pinning this to get around to very soon.

  3. This is a great idea. Actually they used to do this way back in the day. That is why silver napkin rings used to be monogramed, and everybody had their own napkin ring to keep their napkins straight. My mom collects those napkin rings with odd monograms. It's really practical. And if you are teaching your kids to wash up before and after dinner, they should be fairly germ free.


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