Homemade Laundry Detergent Saves Money

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Those who have struggled with finances have often resorted to do it yourself activities to prevent additional expenses and to save money.  There are several inexpensive alternatives to the store bought supplies needed around the house. One such commonly purchased supply is laundry detergent.  This is an inescapable expense if one wishes to function in the world and can become pricey. There are entire aisles at the grocery store dedicated to laundry detergent and depending on the brand and what special attributes they claim, the price tends to increase.  The cheapest and most cost effective avenue is to make your laundry detergent at home. The recipes are easy to follow and one can make a liquid or a powder detergent in the comfort of their kitchen. The following are some recipes I have used and have found to be quite cost effective.

Liquid Laundry Detergent

  • 1 laundry soap bar 5 oz. (Fels Naptha, Zote, Marseille are examples)
  • ½ cup Borax
  • 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • 5 gallon bucket with lid
  • 1 mask (optional) used when making the detergent*
  • 1 set of eye protection (optional)*
  • 1 set of vinyl or latex gloves (optional)*

Using a cheese grater of a food processor grate the bar of soap then pour into a large cooking pot with 4 cups of hot water.  Heat on medium stirring frequently until all pieces of soap are dissolved. Next, add ½ cup Borax and 1 cup Super Washing Soda to the melted soap mixture.  Stir until all powder is dissolved. Pour mixture into 5 gallon bucket and add hot tap water to bucket until the water level reaches 3 inches from the top. Stir the mixture until the water and the soap mixture are combined.  Cover with the lid and let sit for 8 hours or over night, whichever is most convenient. Remove lid and stir mixture well. This is a concentrate and will need to be mixed with half water and half detergent, when using. I recommend finding an additional, smaller container to mix half concentrate and half water when needed.  This step makes doing laundry easy when you don’t have to pull out a 5 gallon bucket each time you want to do the laundry. Use ½ a cup for a medium size load of laundry, making adjustments if the load is small or large as needed.
-Recipe passed down from family and friends and written on an old sheet of paper

Dry Laundry Detergent

  • 1 laundry soap bar 5 oz.
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1 large container
  • 1 mask (optional) used when making the detergent*
  • 1 set of eye protection (optional)*
  • 1 set of vinyl or latex gloves (optional)*

Using a cheese grater or preferably a blender or food processor, finely grate the laundry soap bar.  Next mix all ingredients together making sure the mixture blended well and all ingredients are evenly distributed.  Pour the mixture into a large container with a lid. Pour ¼ cup of detergent for a medium size load of laundry. Adjust accordingly if the load is small or large.
-Recipe modified from Willow and Sage

To put the cost and the amount saved into perspective, a bottle of Tide liquid laundry detergent costs approximately $12.00 at Walmart for 64 loads, lasting a little over 1 month for a larger family of five.  The DIY liquid laundry detergent cost me less than $5.00 and lasted about 3 months before I had to make a new batch; which works out to be $1.67 a month. That’s a savings of $10.00 a month or $120 a year. This is quite the savings for a small amount of work.  Depending on how much laundry your household washes, the savings will be more or less.

The whole process of making laundry detergent at home is easy and doesn’t take long to make, and the above recipes take less than 30 minutes to complete.  There is also the added benefit of knowing what you are using and the effects on the environment. All of the above have been deemed safe for humans, animals, and the environment.   If there is a reaction to the detergent or an irritant, the process of eliminating possible sources is simple, allowing the irritant to be removed quickly. Conversely the commercially available detergents often have multitudes of chemicals and combinations and therefore more difficult to determine the cause of an irritant.  I would challenge anyone to look at the chemical composition of their laundry detergent to appreciate the simplicity making laundry detergent at home. As seen in the above recipes, the detergent can be complete with a few household chemicals and laundry washing can commence.

Any additional recipes that readers may have can be left in the comments for other readers.

*Although all of the ingredients listed are deemed to be safe for humans and for the environment when properly used, I always wear a mask, glasses, and gloves when mixing chemicals of any sort, whether deemed safe or not.  I recommend the same to everyone as a precautionary measure.  

References

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Healthy Hydration

Previously I wrote about the money saved by being healthy. One of the cheapest and best ways to improve overall health is to be properly hydrated.  Adequate fluid intake is obtained from consumption of both liquids and from food, particularly water dense foods which include fruits and vegetables.  Water is the main source of hydration which is readily available, cheap, and easily accessible to the population. There are water fountains, bottles of water, and most homes have running water.  Water helps to maintain your body’s temperature, lubricate the joints throughout your body, rids wastes from the body through the excretion of urine, bowels, and perspiration, and adds cushioning to organs and vital tissues of the body.  Other benefits may include weight loss through decreasing caloric intake. Water also increases exercise performance by delaying muscle fatigue during working out.

There are some out there who don’t like the taste of water or live in areas where the water is just horrific.  Don’t give up, there is hope. There are several ways to create great tasting water with little effort and low cost.  If you purchase water from the store, I recommend purchasing the largest size available. These tend to be less expensive per ounce and if your local store has a water fill up station, then you really save on money as the price for filtered water is quite reasonable for a gallon or five gallon.  The water where we currently live is awful so we purchase drinking water. Water refills are .25¢ for per gallon. If it weren’t for the horrendous taste of the water I would use the tap water. For those that don’t like the taste of water in general there are ways to spruce up your water with quick and easy ingredients.  

  • Lemon or lime wedge
    • If you are cooking with a lemon or lime, lightly score the rind and places in the water,  it will add lemon or lime flavor without using the juice.
  • Sprig of Rosemary or Lavender if you are cooking a dish that requires the herb.
    • The herb is readily available and just place it in the cup allowing the flavors to infuse the water.
  • Cucumber
    • Cucumbers ends can be used or even the skin that is left over from a salad.
  • Berries   
    • Muddle berries that aren’t going into your dish of choice.  This releases the flavors and adds sweetness to the water.

Ingredients can be added from a variety of different sources and I would encourage you to get creative.  Who knows what may happen and what new flavors you can create with what’s on hand. You also cut down on any excess food waste which may have been produced from cooking so win for waste reduction, win for taste, and a win for the budget.

So, how much water should you drink to be properly hydrated?  The National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine recommends healthy women consume 2.7 liters (11.4 cups) and healthy men consume 3.7 liters (15.6 cups) of water a day.  Keep in mind that these are just averages and other factors may influence how much water you may need to consume. These can include age, physical activity levels, climate and altitude, sickness, women who breastfeed, and any number of influences not mentioned.  It is also important to note that it is possible to drink too much water may become life threatening just as dehydration can become life threatening. So stay balanced when it comes to water. A good measure is to drink when you are thirsty and to listen to your body.

A hydrated body is a healthy body and a healthy body is a body that doesn’t miss out on work and doesn’t have to visit the doctor.  So, stay hydrated, your body and your wallet will thank you.

References:

Good Health is Money Saved and Money Earned

As the new year begins, one overlooked aspect of saving money is being in good health.  This includes eating healthier foods, having an annual check up by a physician, oral care, vision care, and mental health.  When any one of these aspects are neglected there can be negative consequences. This means a hefty out of pocket expense to fix the neglected problem which may include lost days of work, lost productivity,or costly medications.  Any one of these outcomes could spell disaster to your ability to make money and to keep the money you have saved. The best way to prevent this added and often unexpected cost is to stay healthy.

This is the perfect time to schedule all the necessary doctor’s appointments to ensure a healthy year, or as healthy as possible since it is flu and cold season.  There are a few options that I have used in the past since my husband and I often did not have health insurance. The following suggestions are things that we have utilized in the past until we were able to establish ourselves more successfully through employment insurance options.  These are not intended to replace a family physician, pharmacist, optometrist, or opthamologist, or any other health care provider. These are merely options to utilize when a more stable health care plan is unavailable.

The first and often cheapest place to go is the local health department.  They have services ranging from mental health and substance abuse to general practitioners.  They often provide a sliding scale for payment or provide certain services free of charge. I usually call the health department, especially when in a new area, ask what services they provide, how much the services will cost, and then weigh my options or schedule an appointment.  There are often long wait times, so starting this at the beginning of the year is a smart choice. It can take days, weeks, or even a couple months for the appointment. Another added benefit of calling the health department is they often provide information for other providers in the area which help people who are uninsured and lack available funds or very limited funds.

In addition, most metropolitan or larger cities have free or reduced clinics.  These usually offer general care and women’s health but there are free or reduced vision, dental, and mental health care clinic options in some locations.  There are often stipulations or qualifications to meet to receive care. I have gone to clinic’s which do not have any income or work requirement and are completely free of charge but do ask for donations, I have also gone to a clinic which had a work requirement and then charged based on a sliding scale which was determined at the initial appointment.  I had to provide my recent W-2 and one month of pay verification, as a means to meet the income and work requirement so be prepared and have the documents handy in case they are needed. These clinics are often intended for the working poor and not for the unemployed or the those above a set income level.

Another option is to talk to the local hospital servicing the area.  They often provide reduced cost care with similar verification of income system as the clinics and often collaborate and have partnerships with local clinics for services provided.  They often offer payment plans which can be spread out over a length of time which can take the sting out of having to pay all up front. Hospitals frequently have pharmacies within their system and can provide reduced cost medications as an additional benefit.  The great aspect of being able to join a low income hospital service is the availability of a much wider range of services than a clinic can provide if there is a more serious health problem which arrives.

These are some of the options I and my family have used in the past when money was extra scarce and we just couldn’t afford to become sick.  I have found all of these places to be staffed with caring individuals who are in it for the people and not the money. This is where I begin my search when money is tight. As the new year is upon I am currently setting up my families yearly physicals and would encourage any readers to do the same.  Stay Healthy, Stay Strong.

A person cannot accumulate a fortune very well when he is sick. P.T. Barnum

New Year’s RESET: The Pantry Challenge

At the beginning of the New Year resolutions are made to create a better year than the previous year, to quit old habits, develop new habits, and make improvements.  There is also the burden of paying down the credit card debt, rebuilding a savings account, or a checking account used for Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, or any number of holidays during the winter.  According to Investopedia, 55% of Americans were expected to spend between $500 and at least $1,000, 32% expected to spend at least $100 to $499 on Christmas. Sometimes the recovery from such spending can be quite daunting. Another aspect that must be handled is all the food left in the refrigerator or pantry, not to mention all the food stores you’ve accumulated throughout the year, languishing in disuse.

Since we’re dirt poor and can’t afford to be extravagant during the holiday season, I will try to recoup the $499 through a Pantry Challenge.  The concept is quite easy and it also helps with decluttering the kitchen and removing any products which may be close to expiring or have expired and I didn’t notice. The challenge forces me to look at the items in my refrigerator, cabinets, and pantry. I then have to come up with creative ways to use the food.  The Pantry Challenge is a sort of spring cleaning, but with food. An added bonus of the challenge is that it allows me to reset for the year.

The Pantry Challenge is where I use all of the food and beverage product in my freezer, refrigerator, cabinets, and pantry before purchasing new food.  This can be really fun, especially after the first week when the food starts to dwindle down, because now you can get really inventive and create or discover new recipes which can be used later.  The downside is that you can also create a recipe which can be stored in your memory as something to never try again, except in an end of the world scenario because it is so horrible and why would you subject yourself to that form of torture again.

There are exceptions to the no purchasing of more food rule.  There are items which will need to be purchased because they are a necessity.  Vegetables, milk, and other such items would be examples of necessities. We need variety in eating to stay healthy so, don’t live the last week of the challenge on macaroni noodles and hot sauce, it isn’t healthy and will make the last week quite difficult.  I have children and this requires me to have milk and other foods so they remain healthy and strong. What I do in those instances is wait until I run out of alternatives to what they eat then purchase the food. Each household is different and the necessities will be different depending on each household’s particular needs.   I recommend not being completely rigid in the challenge. Keep the challenge fun and creative, make it a family event or have days when friends will come over and participate in trying something new. The goal is to force ourselves to evaluate the quality of food we have, the amount of food which we waste, and to explore new recipes and ideas on how to create wholesome meals for ourselves, our families, and our friends, with the added of bonus of saving money.   

When the challenge ends I will post how much I spent for the month and areas where I felt I could have improved, lessons learned, and some of the new recipes I created. So have fun as you dive into the adventure and let’s all see what we can do.

Disclaimer: If anyone has a medical condition, children in the home, elderly, or any other condition which would make this challenge harmful to your health or those within the household then do not participate. For all others do the best you can but stay healthy.  Participate as best you can with your household needs and never risk your health for the challenge.

Reference: https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1112/average-cost-of-an-american-christmas.aspx

Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Well_stocked_pantry_(13267809744).jpg

Where We Begin and Where We Are Going

This blog came about from a debate with a friend about finances and the ability to live a full and adventurous life without having access to a large sum of money. I realized towards the end of the discussion that she believed I was making far more money than I did. A small lightbulb went off in my head and I began to look at the life I was leading and the many things I had accomplished while earning a rather small annual household income. I realized at this point, that I, my love, and our 3 boys were living a nice lifestyle. We had cars, owned a home, had a little land, vacationed regularly, and didn’t have to struggle too much. All in all, it’s been a good life. Needless to say, I felt I had information and money-saving strategies which others might find valuable and thus, I sat down to begin this blog.

Dirt Poor Living will discuss ways to save money, live healthy, and take adventures with what little income is earned. The money-saving strategies discussed can be used for a family, couples, or single people in the community and all are welcome to participate in the comment section. We all have money saving advise which can be relevant to our community so I encourage everyone to share. And remember, just because someone isn’t earning as much as the neighbor down the road doesn’t mean they have to live like they’re poor. Each of us deserve a little luxury and a little adventure without the worry of missing meals not being able to pay next month’s bills. With a little tweaking to our current life we can accomplish great things and reach higher than we thought possible. When we all come together and share our tips, strategies, and life experiences, we can dare to dream again.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. –Thomas Edison I

Photo courtesy photos-public-domain.com