Uses for Spare Napkins

paper napkins

If you’ve ever eaten at a fast food or casual restaurant, you’ve probably ended up with extra napkins. You know how it goes. You go to the dispenser and grab a few but don’t use them all. Or the dispenser is jammed up so you dig at it and end up getting a huge handful of napkins you can’t use. In some places, the server comes by and plops a wad of napkins on your table or they stuff what seems like half a dispenser’s worth in your take-out bag. However it happens, it’s tempting to just toss those extras into the trash with the rest of your wrappers when you’re finished eating. If, though, you can find some other uses for these extra napkins, you can save yourself a little money.

When I get extra napkins, I bring them home and add them to my “stash.” I have a bag in one of my kitchen drawers with napkins from all over the country. I’ve just picked them up here and there and, over time, I’ve ended up with quite a few. I’ve found many uses for them over the years, despite the fact that we use cloth napkins at meal times. Rather than tossing them, here are a few things I do with extra restaurant napkins.

Bug Squashing

When that spider crawls across your floor, you want to squash it. Rather than wasting a paper towel, napkin, or tissue that you’ve paid for, use an extra restaurant napkin. That way, the bug squashing hasn’t come out of your budget.

Cleaning Up Small Messes

Rather than waste a paper towel to clean up a small spill or wipe a child’s face, use a restaurant napkin. If you have a big mess you’ll probably need something more absorbent, but for small messes a napkin is fine.

Napkins For Travel

We like to bring our own food and eat on the road when we travel. Rather than pack a roll of paper towels, we throw in some restaurant napkins for use on the road.

Keep Them In A Car Or Purse

Restaurant napkins are great to keep in your car or purse for emergency use as a tissue, to clean up small messes, to clean a window or dipstick, to wipe off a seat or bench, or for any other situation where you need a quick clean up. When we leave a restaurant, I often just tuck our extras into my purse or into the glove compartment.

As Napkins For Casual Situations

When we have people over for a picnic or barbecue, we typically hand out our extra restaurant napkins. Since we use cloth here at home and a barbecue in the yard isn’t the best place for nicer napkins, we put the restaurant napkins to use.

Send Them To School

Fast food napkins are great for packing in kids lunch boxes. Unlike cloth, you don’t worry if you don’t get them back and it’s cheaper than sticking a paper towel in the lunch box every day. You can also send them along if you’re asked to provide napkins for a class function. It’s cheaper than sending along store bought napkins.

Make Something Out Of Them

If you travel a lot, you may accumulate napkins from different places and unique restaurants. You can use them in scrapbooks or as accents for a photo album. You can laminate them and make items like bookmarks or place mats out of them. You don’t have to “use” them, you can be creative and make something fun out of them,

Leave Them Behind

You can also leave them on the table or near the dispenser for someone else to use. While some people are averse to using other peoples’ “overages,” some are not. I’ve been in some restaurants where the employees will pick them up and place them back in the dispensers and no one is the wiser.

Note that I’m not advocating stealing napkins. There are some frugal sites that encourage people to take wads of napkins from restaurants so they can get out of buying their own. This isn’t a good idea because it will eventually drive up costs at the restaurant for everyone. When the restaurant is going through too many napkins, they eventually have to pass that cost on to the customers. That’s not what anyone wants, especially when there are plenty of ways to save money at restaurants.

However, when you end up with one or two extra, that’s different. Taking one or two extra napkins home because you accidentally got more than you needed isn’t the same thing as consciously walking in and cleaning out a napkin dispenser for home use. If you end up with a couple of extras, it is greener to find a use for them than to toss unused paper into the trash heap.

(Photo courtesy of mynameisharsha)

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2 Responses to Uses for Spare Napkins

  1. jay says:

    We *never* buy paper towels anymore, so these “spares” do come in handy. First vote would be, of course, leave them behind. Your other ideas are great, though, and would just add one more: sopping up the grease, etc. from frying bacon, chicken, veggie fritters, whatever.

  2. Gail says:

    We use cloth napkins all the time, but I like having those leftover napkins for when eating something totally messy that takes an entire napkin for each bite which could really wipe out a lot of cloth napkins real fast. That is about the only reason I use them (plus the ones that stayed in the car are good for picnic lunches, clearing off windshields, etc.). I use rags for paper towels, dish clothes for wiping up stuff, etc. My huband can’t blieve how long I can keep ONE roll of paper towels going–usually a year or two if not more! Most of it he uses in his shop.

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