Recipes and Lists

Yes, I will admit that I haven’t posted anything since the new year. I have been diligently working on my husband’s business and weighing the possibility of starting my own business, so I haven’t had time to update as I wanted to.

However, I did want to share with you a wonderful new site that I was turned on to by another blog I frequent. The site is called “Say Mmmm” and is turning out to be an interesting solution to my monthly meal planning dilemma. It allows you to plan for a whole month at a time, including whether you will eat out at any particular point (and allows you to include the restaurant and how much you generally pay there) to help you budget your costs.

I have been inspired today to add a really good Super Bowl recipe. Not because I watch that awful excuse for air time, but because I enjoy the snack foods associated. It’s a favorite recipe I make my husband and I when we are really desperate for pizza, but don’t want to consume a day’s worth of calories in a single bite. While it’s not a large pizza, it is very tasty and you don’t feel the need to eat the whole thing like I often find myself doing with a larger pizza. The herbs are mixed into the crust, which makes it tastier than it might be otherwise. It’s definitely worth a try! We got it out of a magazine subscription to Taste of Home magazine–I received it as a gift at my bridal shower. (By the way, that is a GREAT present to give some young lady or gentleman for their upcoming nuptials. We have LOVED ours!)

* 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
* 1 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
* 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 pound Italian turkey sausage links, thinly sliced (we use “tube” turkey sausage–it’s much cheaper and just as good!)
* 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
* 2 cups fresh baby spinach
* 6 slices reduced-fat provolone cheese, halved

* In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour, oil, sugar, Italian seasoning and salt; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes or until smooth.
* Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray, turning once to coat the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
* Punch dough down; divide in half. On a floured surface, roll each portion into a 13-in. circle. Transfer to two 12-in. pizza pans coated with cooking spray. Build up edges slightly. Prick dough thoroughly with a fork. Bake at 425° for 5-8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
* Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Place tomatoes in a food processor; cover and pulse until finely chopped.
* Spread tomatoes over crusts; layer with spinach, sausage and provolone cheese. Bake at 425° for 8-12 minutes or until crusts and cheese are lightly browned. Yield: 2 pizzas (8 slices each).

Nutrition Facts: 2 slices equals 314 calories, 12 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 39 mg cholesterol, 729 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 17 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 2 lean meat, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat.

Click here for the printable grocery list. The list includes Asiago cheese–but I rarely add it. If you want to try it, mix it into the dough in the first step. My husband doesn’t really like it, so I don’t add it.

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Why New Year’s Resolutions Are a Crock…

I will admit, my New Year’s Resolution of “save money” isn’t really a new one. If you’ve read about this site so far, you will see that. No, this resolution was thrust upon me back in…September, I believe. My husband made a very profound comment the other day while speaking with my mother: “I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. If you resolve to change something, you need to start then, not wait until January 1. If something needs changing, change it.”

I agree with this statement completely. I don’t think of January 1 as the be-all end-all of decision making. It is more like a chance for my husband and I to sit down and think of the goals we would like to accomplish and to think back on what we have accomplished so far. 2010 was a major year for us–an engagement, a wedding, buying a house, buying a car, a new job, a new income, and starting our life together. So far, 2011 will bring my husband’s business starting, me learning new skills in frugality, and all sorts of other challenges. So, I often find it is best to set goals–goals are more flexible than “resolutions” (the root word being “resolute” or firmly set) and can change should your circumstances change.

As for clipping coupons, I feel like this will no longer be such a major part of my money-saving adventure. Most coupons I have encountered are for name brand foods that are generally pre-packaged and unhealthy. While saving money is great–if I have to do it by sacrificing on my family’s health, it’s not worth it to me. On the off chance I get a coupon for a food that we do consume (almond milk, for example) I will use it, but I won’t go out of my way to find coupons for things that aren’t good for us. I find that keeping a price journal is a bit more work, but it does pay off in the long run because I can stock up on things we use at their cheapest price.

Another of my goals for 2011 is to learn more about, and possibly implement Freezer Cooking into my home. In this method of cooking, you would cook for one day (or two, depending on how much you need to cook) and in that time frame, make several meals that are frozen whole and then cooked when the need arises. This tends to be helpful for families with limited time near dinner for cooking and who need to save money on a larger scale. While the money-saving aspect of freezer cooking appeals to me, as does the time factor (who doesn’t want to cook one day a month?), there is one significant hurdle. My husband and I only have a teeny freezer in which to keep food. Our fridge/freezer is nearly brand new (thanks to the refurb. of the house) but it is a lower end model with very little space in the freezer. Part of this is because of the ice maker that takes up a chunk of space. Another issue with the freezer is that the temperature cannot be controlled individually. While this is not a problem for most people, it presents a unique challenge to the freezer cooker because it means that you could, if you’re not careful, ruin a month’s worth of food. I am planning to work around all of these variables, but it could mean that I can only do 2 weeks worth of food at once. This could cause issues, too, in that I would be unable to store the frozen meat that I picked up while super cheap because the meals themselves would take up a great deal of space. I am committed to trying freezer cooking, though, so I will find ways to work around these issues.

My third major goal for 2011 in the money-saving arena is to start a garden in my back yard. Our yard is small, but since we would only need to have enough food for two of us, I feel the the size is adequate. I will continue to investigate container gardening and square foot gardening as a means to provide fresh, healthy produce that can be used during the summer and canned to be used all year long. I am hoping that this will not only quiet the food budget monster, but will also allow me some much-needed outside time.

So, gentle readers, here are my money saving goals for the coming year. I have goals in other arenas of my life, but I don’t feel that sharing everything about my marriage and personal life is of any worth to anybody who reads this. I hope that this will inspire you to create your own goals to strive toward. Happy 2011!

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Holidays on a Budget: Part 1

I’ll admit, I’m not an expert on this one…yet. This will be the first Christmas my husband and I have as a new family. Due to the fact that he and I do not communicate with his mother or grandmother (if you have questions, read here), and since they usually host Christmas dinner for the family, we will not be spending this Christmas with them. My family lives almost 5 hours away and since my husband is in public service (he’s a police officer), getting Christmas off is never an option and that makes the 5 hour drive to visit my parents…well…impossible.

This is my chance to make the holidays as special as I possibly can for my wonderful husband. I had dreamed of having a huge Christmas tree since we first bought our house. 10 foot ceilings bring out the decorator in me. Mind you, the decorator in me is a small, malnourished, pale little child…but I digress. We went Christmas tree shopping and found that, unfortunately, big trees are…well…overpriced and expensive. We need to have a fake one because both hubby and I have allergies, and the big fake trees were something like $300 or more. So, perhaps sticking with a more reasonable sized one will fit better into our budget.

Decorations are something else we will need to consider. I have thought greatly about picking up some felt by the yard (yes, you can get it by the yard at some stores!) and using a cookie cutter to cut out shapes, string them on some ribbon, and use that as a garland. I know that buying the stuff to make garlands is expensive and that buying a pine garland from somewhere would probably save us some money. Probably, but since hubby and I have allergies, we need to keep everything as “washer friendly” as possible, which means that if I can’t toss it in the washer or hand wash it–it’s not going on my wall.

Christmas dinner will be a beef roast. I purchased two several weeks ago for about $1.70 per pound (it was the “super special of the week” and were gone by the time I went back for more) and tossed them into the freezer. I will cook one of them for Christmas dinner and use the leftovers for dinner the next night.

A tradition that my husband and I have decided we want to institute is to use some of the money we save to make food for other service-oriented personnel that have to be away from their families on Christmas as well. We live down the street from an ambulance corps and they are fully staffed 24/7. We will probably cook them something comforting that can feed an army (like lasagna) and take it over so they have a home-cooked meal on Christmas. I think that helping others will help us feel less depressed that hubby can’t be home.

I want our home to be festive, but not break our budget. Any other ideas I dream up will be posted as well. If you have ideas, feel free to comment them here and I will be happy to respond.

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Chicken, Chicken, Everywhere…and Way Too Much to Eat

I like chicken. From a money saving standpoint, chicken can be very economical. If you get it on sale, it can be a wonderful way to feed your family a nutritious meal without breaking any piggy banks. In my quest to make more of what my husband and I have, I decided to pick up a roaster chicken on sale for $.69 a pound at a super-duper coupon sale. From this 8lb roaster chicken, I was able to make:

8 chicken dinners (adding rice, potatoes, veggies, etc. as side dishes)
4 quarts of homemade chicken noodle soup (boil the bones and use the stock to make soup by adding veggies and noodles)
4 cups of frozen, shredded chicken for future use

Now, the best part was how I stumbled upon cooking this beats of a bird. I have never cooked a turkey. I had never cooked a chicken. Honestly, I didn’t even know that chickens had much more than wings, breasts, and drumsticks. After some internet perusing, I managed to find a couple of videos that helped me understand how to take out the chicken innards (really, not too bad, since they’re all in a bag inside the chicken cavity) and how to prep the chicken for cooking.

My wonderful husband de-gutted (I am sure the is a correct word for this act, but I don’t know it, so “de-gutting” will be used here) the chicken of it’s giblets-in-a-bag. He thenk cut all the skin and fat off the chicken for me, since I hate skin and fat on anything I eat. (He said he enjoyed doing this, mind you, with my super-strong kitchen shears and a sharp knife.) He also sprayed the inside of the slow cooker for me (you’ll need a big slow cooker for this one–we have a big oval one) and plopped the now-naked bird inside. No wing tying, etc. necessary.

Now, season as you find appropriate. I used some cumin, some paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder (I didn’t have any real onions) garlic powder, and some cloves tossed in around the bird. Don’t worry about any liquid as the bird will make its own juices. Pop the lid on and turn that baby on to low for 8 hours or high for 4-5 (depending on the size of your bird, you may need longer or shorter time frames). Our bird came with a pop-up timer, so we knew when it was done. Make SURE you use a meat thermometer to check the done-ness of the bird so you all don’t get sick. Hospital bills are not good ways to save money!

Our bird was falling apart by the end of the 5th hour. I went to take it out of the slow cooker and the meat fell off the bones. It ended up being alot more meat that I had planned, and I needed to use pie dishes to hold it all–2 of them! 🙂

Enjoy your bird cooking!

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Mother in Law Hell

To all of you ladies (or gentlemen) out there offended by the title…eh…deal with it, I suppose. This is the name of my absolute favorite site on the entire web. Well, it used to be. Now, it is the DIL Society but only because the site’s creators revamped everything.

Many of you may not know this, but my MIL (Mother In Law) and I do not speak. I will not discuss that unfortunate fact on my blog here. No, I am simply telling you this to tell you how I stumbled upon the site above. In fact, it was my husband who first encountered the site and passed it on to me. This was wonderful of him!

On here you will meet a wide range of people–mostly ladies, though some men. They are on said site because they are living in what they consider to be “Mother-In-Law Hell.” Supported by a community of sisters, this site allows us to vent, cry, and seek advice from those precious few others who understand and support us. It is hard, when you are in the middle of a problem or issue with your MIL, or FIL (Father In Law), especially if this happens to be an overarching problem, to find someone who CAN understand what you’re talking about and to help you feel better and that you are not alone.

Often times, DILs (Daughter In Law) cannot articulate what is happening to them if they have a MIL who manipulates, lies, controls, undermines, etc. Many people don’t believe them because, unfortunately, if you have a MIL who acts in this manner, she has already convinced everyone in her family and many outside her family that you are evil, the problem, crazy, etc. They will lie to family members (either outright or subtly) and can, literally, plan your demise because other family members a)don’t want to “rock the boat,” b)have a history with this person that they believes “proves” how “wonderful” that person is (this one happened to me personally), and/or c)are flat-out too lazy or too stupid to do anything about it. (This was the case in my own scenario–only 2 or 3 people believed my then-fiance and I about what was truly happening to me.)

Why would anybody need this? Well, not all people are blessed with amazing, supportive, sane parents. Therefore, it stands to reason, that not all people will be blessed with amazing, supportive, sane in-laws. As a member on this site, I often find that these women are, literally, blindsided by their MIL who acted wonderful at first, and then became a monster at a later point. Often times, women will ask advice regarding just what they should do with a MIL who refuses to follow boundaries or rules, won’t stop undermining the DIL, won’t stop lying to friends and family about a DIL, insist on their way, trash the DIL’s family, call people names, etc. There are also sicker tales like MILs trying to steal prescriptions from the pharmacy so their son or DIL would become sicker, MILs calling military recruiters to get the emergency contact information changed on her son from his wife to the MIL, or MILs threatening a DIL’s life. There are even people asking advice for MILs who threaten to take their grandchildren away or who fear that the MIL may kidnap the grandchild(ren).

Some of you may be asking why I would write about this. That is a good question and I am, by no means, advertising for this site. They are independent and not a part of my site here at all. Here’s why…

The idea of a homemaker is rife with the idea that everything is perfect in your little home. You cook every meal from scratch, you are never short with your husband or children, you never have an untidy home, and you always put the needs of your husband and his family above you and your family. Right?

Guess what! That is not reality–any of it. My husband and I often argue or fight. I don’t think I could cook meals from scratch for longer than a week before I ran out of ideas. I tried desperately to have a relationship with my mother in law and my grandmother in law. I wanted nothing more than to have a good relationship with them full of happy holidays, taking my (future) children to see them, etc. The truth is, not everyone gets what they want. What we all really want are healthy relationships with our in-laws. However, that is not always possible. Selfishness on MILs part seems to play a major role in issues, as well as an entitled attitude that she deserves everything her way. No matter what, sometimes, you will not be able to have a relationship with your MIL. I could be the Queen of England herself and I would not be good enough for my MIL and GMIL (grandmother-in-law). Nothing any woman or man who has married into their “dynasty” (yes, they call their family a dynasty and actually screamed at me that I was trash and tearing it down) will ever be good enough for these people.

Dear readers, if this describes you, please do not worry. You are good enough! Often, I would find myself wondering what I “did wrong” to deserve wrath and un-Christian behavior from my “Christian” MIL and GMIL. After our pre-marital counseling, I realized that I didn’t do anything “wrong.” I am living my life as God intended and that forgiveness is actually meant for our benefit–not the other person’s. You are no less of a good wife or a good homemaker if this dream will never come true for you. You are doing what you feel is best for your husband, your marriage, and your life and should NEVER feel guilty about this. It is hard to remember that your success as a homemaker, wife, mother, etc. is not dependent on external things or people. It is okay to not care what your MIL thinks about you or your life. She got to live her life–now you get to live yours. Good luck, readers!

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A dear friend of ours is having a birthday party tomorrow. This party is for her 1 year old son. She has informed us that he does not need anything nor is there any need to bring a gift because he has everything that he could want. He is happy enough and healthy enough–and that is enough of a blessing.

This got me to thinking–what on Earth could a 1 year old possibly “want” for his/her birthday? The child is 1 year old for sobbing out loud! Every party I have ever been to for a child under 3, the child is barely coherent as to what is going on, except that there is alot of noise and confusion. Most of these parties have ended in said child being overly fussy and cranky for the duration of their “happy” birthday.

Since, however, this mommy is in a strange spot in her life and has gone through some goodness-awful stuff in the past year or so, I thought this would be a good time to spoil mommy instead of the baby. Really, I’m sure mommy won’t mind if you don’t give the baby something that makes alot of noise and requires a ton of batteries.

So, I spent my afternoon making mommy “spa” materials. Mommy is getting a homemade candle smelling of cappuccino in a 12″ Eiffel Tower glass bottle (bought at 55% off and coming to all of $3.00) with the candle wax and scent coming in at about $1.50 combined. She is also getting a new set of rice pack relaxation thingies–a neck warmer, hand warmers, and foot warmers designed to go into slippers–all made with rice, essential oils I happened to have lying about, and some fabric I bought last year but never used for my mother in law.

Total cost of present: under $10

Not a bad batch of saving since similar candles sell for $8+ alone and a spa set like this can usually sell for $15+ if you buy it somewhere cheap, like Walmart.

On another tangent, my wonderful hubby and I bought 10lbs of rice at Walmart for the lowest cost around here–$6.00 That is wonderful and will help immensely when it comes to the food budget monster. The issue, of course, becomes storage, but I will figure something out.

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A Treatise on Leftovers

If leftovers aren’t your friend, they should be. Cooking in bulk can be a little time consuming, what with the planning and making larger batches, but it is well worth it. However, if you’re like me and have the attention span of a gnat, you might get a little bored with the same pasta dish every meal for 6 meals in a row. I understand that and sympathize completely. I give you my treatise “On Why Leftovers are Awesome and You Need to Learn to Use Them” (Maybe I need a new treatise name, too…)

First, leftovers can be frozen for future use. “I know that, you stupid woman” you may think. Well, yes, but the trick is remembering what you have frozen when. I have tried that system of writing on the container what dish is in what container and when I made it. That isn’t terribly complicated, but keeping everything straight in a teeny freezer is little more than a nightmare for most people. Plus, if you have a family, unless nobody else in your house is tall enough to reach the freezer, you will lose all sense of organization in a hurry with several sets of hands milling about in there. I am currently trying a “running tally” sort of method–I’ll let you know how it goes–where I basically keep a list on the freezer detailing what I have frozen and when it was put there. (At this point, it mostly contains meat, but that will slowly change as I further investigate the endless possibilities that freezer meals provide.) When you have frozen a meal (or part of a meal) you need only thaw it (my favorite method for thawing things like soups or “squishy, non-meats” is by plopping the bag into a pan of warm to hot [but not boiling] water). Meats need to be thawed slowly in a cooler environment to make sure that germs and other nasty things don’t have a chance to multiply but also to make sure that you don’t accidentally cook it before you need to (I have done that more times than I care to mention).

If you don’t have enough of a leftover to be made into a full meal, (say, you need 4 servings for your family but you only have 2 left) then you are a lucky person in my book! You can now be creative! Is what you have a soup or stew? Put it over rice or pasta and you should get enough servings from it to feed 4. Did your casserole only last through 1 meal? Add some veggies to it and serve it with bread and a side salad and voila! I know this sounds corny and, I’ll admit, this concept seemed very “old-fashioned” and like something my great-grandmothers would have done during the Great Depression. Think about it, though. Why throw it out (or let it sit in your fridge for weeks and THEN throw it out) when you could be using it to make something new (or at least something less boring) for a meal. You only have so much money. You will need to make that last as long as you can–and if that means needing to make your actual food stretch–then I’m willing to experiment with it.

Plus, there is nothing wrong with re-heating leftovers for lunch, though, I do postulate that this might be where leftovers got their bad reputation from. They seem like second-class food citizens, and nobody wants them. If pressed, I would say that this has to do with the culture of upper-middle class in the U.S. where wasteful spending is the norm and nobody cares about a leftover dinner when they have soccer practice, dance class, swimming lessons, book club, Brownies, Boy Scouts, Tuesday night Bible study, Wednesday night kids’ clubs at church, PTA meetings, homework, and a dog who has needed to use the bush out back for 12 hours now. (I have a lot to say about how many activities a family should have per week, but I’ll save that rant for…oh, I don’t know…somewhere down the line.) The point here is that people are (too) busy and while leftovers seem like a good, logical idea for a family who never has enough time, they don’t get utilized by those families as often as they should–many times because the nutritious meal wasn’t cooked in the first place. Drive-thru, takeout, frozen pizzas, and fish sticks make up a sad majority of many childrens’ diets in the U.S. and, by the time that family can be in the house long enough for a leftover, there is nothing in the fridge that hasn’t gone bad. Especially if one or both partners are home during the daytime hours (where a lunch meal would be eaten), it doesn’t take much time for one to add some veggies or bread to a leftover and have a nutritious meal without making a big bite in the food budget. For example, my husband works overnight, so his “daily schedule” is all kinds of screwy. He takes a leftover for lunch, if he eats one at all, and it works better for him than eating out ever could because it’s far more nutritious than eating doughnuts and coffee every night and gives him far more energy to do his job well. (By the by, that whole stereotype of cops in a doughnut shop is actually true. Know why? It’s because these shops are a)open 24 hours a day [you try finding a meal that isn’t stomach-rotting drive-thru at 3:30 am] and b)very good to police by giving them free/reduced coffee and food because by being there, the police are deterring 4am robberies.) Sometimes, there is nothing more comforting on a winter day than heating up the homemade soup you had for dinner, only to enjoy it again.

Lastly, I know some people out there (mostly ladies, but I don’t discriminate here, so guys too) have families that are very, VERY picky eaters. My own mother had to “work on” my dad for almost 25 years to get him to try Chinese food. My dad, and I love him dearly, will only eat 4 types of veggies. Broccoli, corn, peas, and asparagus. That’s it. No peppers, no cabbage, nothing else. Fruit is not even an option for him, and he doesn’t touch fish. He eats protein almost exclusively (protein at breakfast and lunch, and anything he wants for dinner within reason), so carbs are nearly non-existent in my parents’ home. With all the protein, however, he will not eat beans unless they are baked beans from a can. So, I do understand how hard it can be to LIVE with a picky eater, but I am blessed enough not to know what it is like to cook for one as a spouse. My darling husband will eat anything I cook. Honestly. I have yet to make something for him (and we ate all of our dinners together for a year before we were married) that he didn’t like. I am a lucky woman on this front. However, having been a nanny, I also know how hard it can be to cook for children who love a food one day and hate it the next. They won’t touch ANYTHING that they don’t immediately sense as “good” and will fight you tooth and nail to not eat something if they don’t want to eat it. For you gentle readers who have a family like this, I suggest sitting down as a family and explaining to those old enough to listen (and that includes a stubborn spouse, if necessary) that you only have so much money to spend on food and that you need their help to not fight you on anything you cook. If your children are old enough, perhaps enlisting their help in the kitchen would be acceptable–they can help you plan meals and shop for bargains–as well as to help “makeover” leftovers. For younger children, this may simply have to be an instance where mom or dad puts her/his foot down and lays down the law of parenthood: “because I say so.” (I have learned from nannying that this isn’t necessarily the worst thing I child can hear–that they are not in charge and that you do have authority over them as a parent.)

So, my dear readers, remember that food is simply…food. It is nourishment for your body. It does not need to be fancy (as many magazines would tell you) nor does it need to be exquisitely prepared. If it is feeding your family and creating a healthier life for them, then it is doing its job. However, it may help to start thinking of food as a “masterpiece” of sorts; a challenge to be mastered and capitalized upon to keep the food budget monster from rearing his ugly head. (Yes, the food budget monster is a “he”.)

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Homemade Laundry Soap

I have often heard many negatives regarding laundry detergent.  “Negatives?” you say,  “What the heck could be so negative about laundry detergent?  It makes your clothes clean, it smells nice, and we have to use it.”

Well, maybe it’s not fair to say that ALL laundry detergent comments are negative.  For example, it does, in fact, help clothes get cleaner.  Soap, for example, makes water “wetter” by helping break the natural surface tension of water (that how it forms a raised drop when you drop it on waxed paper.  Laundry detergent also helps stinky clothes smell much better and dirty clothes lose dirt (anybody who has tried to clean a bullet proof vest cover with just water knows this to be true–if you haven’t, just trust me–it does).

There are, though, some negatives.  Many of the chemicals in commercial detergents (the ones you buy in the store) are harmful–perfumes, dyes, biological elements (yep, they’re there), phosphates, plasticisers (those things found in the “number 7” childrens cups), and other nasties.   Also, the carbon emissions released from using commercial detergents is about .7 kilos per person per year.  These chemicals are introduced into the goo for one completely unnecessary reason–suds.  Suds are not required to get your clothes clean (or your body, or your counter top, or your bathtub for that matter) and introduce tons of harmful chemicals into the environment, your local water supply (these don’t biodegrade, people), and, most disgustingly, your family’s clothes.  I have heard of people placing dirty clothes into a washing machine without detergent and watching, in horror, as all the “soap” (with included nasties) came out of the clothes enough to wash them again.  The machine was full of suds and they never added a drop of detergent.  Even HE detergent has this property.  No wonder so many people are allergic to this crud–their bodies simply won’t allow it!  If all this goo is still in our clothes when we wear them, then it stands to reason that these chemicals are getting in through our skin.  Yuck!

I didn’t set out to make my own laundry detergent.  Around my 25th birthday, I suddenly developed a weird rash on my legs.  It itched like crazy (as in, waking me up at night scratching type itchy) and I scratched so much that these rashes bled.  I tried everything I could think of–doctor, dermatologist, allergist, etc.  Everyone gave me something different.  Still, though, the rash would not go away.  I stopped using scented anything and, in my research, found that I could fairly easily make my own laundry detergent for significantly less money than it costs to buy–even in bulk.  (I’ll include the calculations below the pictures, I promise.)  The rash improved dramatically, and my now-husband learned that his skin, though not normally allergic to much, felt better and less “eeeeickly” (his words, not mine) in just a week or so of wearing his much cleaner clothes.  If you’re still interested, I will teach you the fine (and simple) art of making laundry detergent.


Be sure to gather your supplies before you begin. You will need your ingredients, a 1 cup dry measure, a non-reactive container for mixing, a grater, a storage container, and a non-reactive mixing utensil. You will need Borax, Washing Soda, and your bar of preferred soap.



Grate 1 bar of soap ( I use Ivory, but you can use any non-moisturizing soap). Grate finely and be careful of your fingers!



This is how your grated soap should appear.



This next step is to add the Borax. Add 1 dry cup of Borax. It's okay if it clumps a little, just make sure that you have a cup's worth. Be sure to shake off any extra back into the Borax box to save money.



Next, add 1 dry cup of washing soda. NOTE: Washing soda is NOT the same thing as baking soda. They are very different. Do NOT use baking soda. Washing soda is a cleaner available at most major stores or online. Again, it is okay if this clumps a little, but make sure that those clumps don't give you more than 1 cup's worth.



This is where you "make" the detergent. Mix all three ingredients together. Be sure that you break up all clumps and evenly mix everything. THis is also the stage where larger shavings of soap will be broken down, so take your time. Big shavings of soap will lessen the cleaning power of your detergent.



This is what your detergent should look like once properly stirred. It looks sort of like the fake snow used around Christmas time.



Congrats! You're done! It really was that easy! Pour your mixture into a container (anything with a resealable lid will do--you can even use a resealable bag). Use about 1/2 to 1 tablespoon per wash and use it just like powdered detergent you would have paid too much for. You're on your way to a more frugal washing experience.


A 150 oz bottle of Gain at my local BJ’s Wholesale (I assume Costco would be similar in price, but we don’t have a Costco, so I don’t shop there) is $15.00 on an “overstock” sale.  Really, not a bad deal assuming that you get the recommended 96 loads from it, though it should be mentioned that most people don’t.  That comes out to about $0.16 per load.  The way I figure the cost of my detergent is as follows:

1 55 oz box of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda= $3.79 (At Ace Hardware)

1 5-lb box of Borax= $6.50 (various places online including free shipping)

1 bar of non-moisturizing soap (I use Ivory, for a little scent, but many people swear by Fels-Naptha) =$0.61 (when bought in a 10 pack totaling 6.05)

So, when we take the $3.79 for the Washing Soda and divide it by the number of uses we can get from it (7 if using the double batch recipe above) then we get the total cost of this ingredient to be: $0.57 per batch.

Now we do the same with the cost for the Borax: $6.50 divided by the number of batches we will get from this box (10) gives us $0.65 per batch.

We don’t need to cost in the soap because we use 1 bar, so it costs $0.61 for the bar of soap.

Now, we can just add up to cost, per batch, and divide that cost by how many uses we get from it.

.57 + .65 + .61 = $1.83 per batch

Now hold on, we don’t just use 1 whole batch for 1 load of laundry.  That would be really wasteful.  We divide that $1.83 by the number of uses we will get from that batch (in my home, we use 1 Tablespoon per load and occasionally a little bit more if it’s a bigger load, we usually get 30 loads from our batch).  Figuring 25 loads, we get $0.06 per load.  6 cents per load of laundry!  That’s a huge savings over the $0.16 per load with the already super-cheap detergent bought in bulk.

It doesn’t seem like a huge difference when we’re talking about pennies (though, to be fair, it is less than half the cost).  But, consider this for a second: Proctor and Gamble (the makers of all kinds of products) claimed that the average American family does about 6-8 loads per week, or about 300-400 loads per year, of just clothes.  This does not take into account any towels, bedding, linens, special loads (uniforms, etc.).  At 16 cents per load, even if you could find this bargain all year long (which is doubtful, as it was on special) and IF you could get exactly 96 loads from each bottle (which is unlikely), you would be spending roughly $50-$68 per year on detergent ON JUST CLOTHES.  If you’re a big family or have allergy sufferers (who require more frequent than usual washings), you could easily spend double that per year.  With homemade detergent, you could spend $19-$25 per year on just clothing.  That is less than half of what you would spend on a commercial detergent without risking any of the nasty side effects.

Happy washing!

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