Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Do You Do With All Your Newspapers?

Some days I feel overwhelmed with all the paper that comes into my house. Newspaper subscriptions, free local newspapers dropped off at my driveway, the never ending junk mail,  I can't keep up! 

I have a few bins in my garage where all these papers go - until the bins are full. Then it is time for me to deal with them. Now of course I can send them to the curb for recycling, but I prefer to to stretch my dollars and use the newspapers for something else I would have bought instead! So, today I thought I would show you some of my favorite ways to use all that paper:
  • Fire logs. I wrote a separate post about how to make your own logs out of newspaper. You can see it here. They burn just like a real wood log! This is where I use the majority of my newspapers and junk mail. More so if it is a cold winter.
  • Starter Seed Pots. I wrote a separate post about how to make your own seed pots. You can see that here. One of the good things about using newspaper to make seed pots is you can just drop them right in the garden (or into a bigger pot) when the time comes. No need to purchase those expensive peat pots!
  • Garden Mulch. This one is so easy! It keeps the weeds out of your garden and the moisture in. Doesn't matter if it is the vegetable garden or the flower garden! Spread out the newspaper on bare ground between your plants and cover with mulch. I usually use two or three sheets together to make a thicker barrier. If you want, you can wet them before you add the mulch.
  • Packing Material. Run the paper through the shredder and use the strips to pack fragile items for shipping. In addition, I routinely pack away my Christmas things in newspaper. If something delicate needs to be packed, I usually wrap it in tissue paper first. I have found that I can get at least two to three years of packing duty out of the newspaper before I need to replace it.
  • Fire Bricks. I mentioned making these in a post for the series Cooking without Electricity: Alternative Fuel Sources. At the time I wrote the post, I didn't have a chance to make these. I have now corrected that error! I must say they are a breeze to make and burn quite efficiently! They can be used in a Kelly Kettle, volcano stove, to start the charcoal grill, or even as fire starters when camping. Here is how you do it:
    • Shred your newspapers or junk mail. You can shred by hand or machine. There isn't any difference in the quality of the bricks. Be sure not to shred any credit cards or other plastic in the batch you will use to make the bricks.
    • Place the shredded papers in a pail with water. Soak the papers well. If you shred by hand, you may have to soak them for a few hours. If you shred by machine, you don't have to wait that long. 
    • The papers will reduce down a lot. Stir and let them soak for a few minutes to a few hours. Stir again. Break up any lumps. The lumps are not saturated with water yet. If you had to break up a lot of lumps, wait a few more minutes and stir again.
    • Compact the shredded papers together (allowing the water to drain out). There are a couple of ways to do this.
      • Get a mold. You can purchase a paper brick mold on You can see what they look like here and here. I wanted to reuse something I already had (an old cookie press) to save money. When filling, compress the papers every so often then add more. Your brick will be bigger this way. Add the top and squeeze the handle. Remove the cookie cutter and squeeze the handle until the brick comes completely out.
      • You could also use your hands to compress the paper, the same way you would make a snowball. It isn't hard, I have osteoarthritis and I did just fine. 
    • Let them dry completely. They are going to take a couple of days to dry. If you used the mold from Amazon, it could take a few weeks. That's it! You now have some paper fire bricks that you can use to cook food or use to help you start a fire. Here is a picture of one I did with the cookie press and one I did by hand.

Looking for new ways to use (and store) these papers is something I do quite often. Here are some web sites I found to do just that:

Consider the many different ways you can re-use newspaper!  I bet it will help you save money!


  1. A cookie press? Genius. Will try this for sure as our home office produces many bags per week of shredded paper.

  2. Fire bricks! What a great idea. Thanks for passing along the information. I will tell my wife. She's really good with that sort of thing and I bet she'd love making and using fire bricks. Do keep us posted. I love reading your blog.


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