Living without gluten, casein, soy, eggs and peanuts. Living with ASD and ADHD. Life is good!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Homemade Laundry Detergent and Other Money Saving Strategies

So, we've been in our new house for almost 4 months. Our expenses have gone up while DH's net income has not. I'm looking for ways to trim the budget, which is really hard to do in the face of our food sensitivities and allergies. You'd think that eliminating certain foods from our diet would be easier on our budget, but it's not. Quite the opposite, in fact. Eliminating gluten, casein, soy, corn, eggs and nuts has made our grocery bills skyrocket. And that's even with me making almost absolutely everything at home in my own kitchen. We've also moved toward eliminating food dyes and nitrates and I've been buying meat from animals that have not been pumped with hormones and antibiotics. It's expensive, but I want my children to be healthy. And thankfully they are much healthier, which cuts back on doctor visits, medications, trips to the hospital and ill-health related expenses both now and later on down the road. Looking at it that way, maybe it all evens out in the end, no?

With the silliness that has become our grocery bills, I've been trimming any luxury I can find. We already don't eat out, don't have a babysitter and don't take vacations (aside from occasional family-funded trips home). Twice a year I get Anna's seasonal wardrobe almost completely at consignment sales and I shop the used uniform closet at her school for her uniforms (one of these days I'm going to fall down and kiss the feet of whoever at her school thought up that idea). Megan gets Anna's hand-me-downs and I sell whatever they don't use anymore. There's not a lot of fat to trim. So what's left? Cleaning products. All those fancy packaged products that line the cleaning aisles in the local stores - they are next. If I can make food from scratch, I bet it's not so hard to make cleaning products from scratch, too.

So far I've replaced scouring products with baking soda and vinegar, which do a fabulous job of cleaning counters, sinks, stoves, dishwashers, tubs, pots and pans...almost everything. Baking soda and vinegar also gets rid of stinky kitchen sink smells and it clears clogs in the sink too. I've also made laundry detergent, and I love it! It works just as well as anything you can buy, the only difference being the price per load (~.30/load vs. ~.02/load). The clothes come out clean and smelling...well, clean. They don't smell like perfume, which is really a nice change.

Then to save more money I throw the wet clothes into the dryer for a couple of minutes to get out the wrinkles, and I hang them up on the clothesline outside. This makes the clothes smell really nice. Happily I don't even have to iron the clothes after they come off the line. The neighbors must think I'm nuts - I'm the only person in this neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods who is hanging clothes on the line. But I don't care. It saves money, it makes the clothes smell nice, and the kids like to play among the rows of drying clothes. That's cheap entertainment right there.

One thing I tried that didn't work so well was homemade dishwasher powder. Maybe it's because our water is hard, but our dishes didn't get clean in the least and the powder ended up all caked on the bottom of the dishwasher and did a nice job of clogging the line. Thankfully baking soda and vinegar cleared the line. But one thing I won't skimp on is dishwasher detergent. I use half the amount that is recommended and the dishes come out perfectly clean.

The other thing I won't replace is bleach. DH hates it when I use bleach, he thinks I'm a little too cavalier with the stuff. But I think it's magic. It cleans and disinfects and a little goes a long way. It will even sanitize water should the need arise. Bleach is inexpensive and I think it's a good thing to keep in the house. Well, away from the kids of course. But handy all the same.

I've only done away with a few cleaning products to save money, but I plan to do more soon, using recipes and tips gleaned from Gayle at The Grocery Cart Challenge. Head on over there and check out recipes for all these homemade products: oven cleaner, dishwasher detergent, dryer sheets, Chlorox wipes, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, fabric softener, baby wipes, drain cleaner, Oxyclean, linen spray, Windex, laundry pre-wash spray, dryer sheets (I use Dryer Balls instead), liquid hand soap, carpet freshener, all-purpose cleaner and laundry detergent!

I'll share the laundry detergent recipe here. It's the same one that can be found at Grocery Cart Challenge, just scaled back to fit into a 2 gallon bucket. You'll need laundry bar soap - Zote Soap or Fels Naptha, whichever you can find. I found pink Zote at my local Walmart, hopefully next time I can get the white soap with no dyes or perfumes. You'll also need Borax (I found this at my local Target) and Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (I found this at my local Ace Hardware). You could buy all these online but it's much cheaper to buy them locally (and being cheap is the whole point!).

Homemade Laundry Soap
2 gallon bucket
6 quarts water (1.5 gallons)
2 cups of water
1/6 bar of Zote Soap or Fels Naptha, grated
1/4 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1/4 cup Borax

Pour the 6 quarts of water into the 2 gallon bucket, set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the 2 cups of water and the grated soap over low heat. Stir until the soap dissolves. Pour the soap mixture into the bucket of water. Add the Washing Soda and the Borax and stir until slightly thickened. Let this mixture sit for 24 hours - it will thicken into a gel. Some of it will be a little watery, but it all works the same.

I use 1/2 cup of this laundry detergent for most loads - add the detergent to the washer while the basin is filling with water, swish the water a bit with the measuring cup to break up the soap, then add the clothes. It has been a month and I've only gone through half of the detergent, so I'm guessing it will take 15 minutes every other month to make a batch of laundry detergent - that's no skin off my back at all! And these days, every penny saved really does count.


i said...

Erin - I have seen lots of recipes for homemade laundry soap, so far have not tried them, but I will. I love hanging laundry on the clothesline - huge energy savings, and I too, am the only one in my neighborhood to use a closeline - and I don't care either! Ina

Foxy Momma said...

I've been using equal parts water, white vinegar and rubbing alcohol for my cleaner/disinfectant (the alcohol disinfects just like in hand sanitizer) and it works SO GOOD! Even my husband is surprised at how well it works and it's super cheap to make. Just my two cents, take it or leave it :)

Erin said...

Ina - you should try the homemade laundry soap. It's easy! I'm glad that I'm not the only one hanging clothes on the line. It makes me feel very green. :)

Foxy Momma - I'll take any two cents I can find, thanks for sharing! I'll try your cleaner/disinfectant soon! :)

Anonymous said...

Have you thought of grinding your own flour? I invested in a NutriMill and use it to grind rice, millet and teff (you can also do oats or any other non oily grain). I still have to buy sorghum and the starches but it saves me so much money. A bag of rice flour in Florida is $3.49 for 1.5 pounds but I can get a 2 lb bag of brown rice (store brand) for $1.37. Huge savings! Well worth the initial investment.

jen said...

for another disinfectant combo you can also use vinegar and hydrogen peroxide (not pre mixed) I know Mel is a pro at using this combo -- she introduced me to it -- so ask her for details if ya have an interest.

Erin said...

I have thought of grinding my own flour! I want the Wolfgang mill ( but at $500 I just can't do it right now. My husband would have a total heart attack if I got one. It's on my wish list, though.

Erin said...

Hi Jen, I will have to ask about the vinegar/hydrogen peroxide mix! Thanks!