Laundry detergents have always been problematic for me. Certain brands irritate my skin, and I’ve never been able to pinpoint what ingredient is the problem. Even if I knew, most laundry detergents don’t exactly provide a list of ingredients I could check. Luckily, laundry detergent is easy to make. Doing it yourself not only allows you to control what ingredients are in your detergent, it also saves a ton of money.
My recipe uses four basic ingredients stocked by many supermarkets now, and one optional ingredient.
2 parts Borax
2 parts Washing Soda
1 part Grated Bar Soap
0.25 part Baking Soda
Optional Fragrance Oil or Essential Oil
You’ll want a clean, dry, lidded container or bag to store your homemade laundry detergent. If the container isn’t air-tight, the detergent may clump from moisture in the air. Usually it’s easy to break it up, so this isn’t a big problem. If you don’t do laundry very often, though, you probably want to store it in something with a good seal.
The soap can be anything. Most people start out using a laundry soap like Fels Naptha. Once I started making my own soap, I switched to using whatever basic recipe soap I had on hand. You can grate it by hand with a cheese grater or with a shredding disk on a food processor.
Combine the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl. If you’re not familiar with the “parts” measurement, it’s a simple way of making a recipe fit whatever amount you need by giving the amounts as a ratio instead of a specific measurement. You could substitute “cup” for “parts” if that makes it easier.
Leave it unscented, use a scented bar of soap, or add your choice of fragrance or essential oil to the combined ingredients and stir to combine. I usually use about half an ounce of fragrance oil per batch. With essential oils, I usually start with 15 drops or so and see how it smells before adding any more. I’ve heard you could use your favorite cologne or perfume, but I haven’t personally tried it.
I use about two tablespoons per load in my top loading machine. You can use one tablespoon for lightly soiled loads, but with my family, every load is a two tablespoon load.
Soap, Bath and Fragrance
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2-3 tablespoons of milk (original recipe called for coconut. I usually use almond milk. You can use whole milk, too.)
1/3-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Optional: a dash to 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric
Maple syrup, sugar or honey to taste. I like maple syrup.
Blend all ingredients together. Top with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg. Enjoy. Repeat. 🙂
I’ve also used this basic recipe to make a pumpkin spice smoothie. All you do is swap out the coffee for the milk of your choice and add a frozen banana or a fresh banana and some ice. While it’s healthy as is, I also like to add an extra spoonful of pumpkin to up the vitamin content, as well as some chia or flax seeds. You could easily leave those out, though.
With just a few simple ingredients, you can make a yummy pumpkin spice latte inexpensively at home. I've included variations for a chai latte and smoothie, too! The recipe serves one or two, depending on how much coffee you drink. 😉
2-3Tablespoons Milk of choice.I usually use almond milk.
1/8Teaspoon ground allspice
1/8Teaspoonground tumeric (optional)
Maple syrup, sugar or honey to taste.
Whipped Cream (optional)
Blend all ingredients together.
Top with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg. I like the non-dairy Reddi-Wip
I’ve also used this basic recipe to make a pumpkin spice smoothie. Just swap the coffee or tea for the milk of your choice and add a frozen banana or fresh banana and ice. Blend thoroughly. While it’s healthy as-is, I like to add an extra spoonful of pumpkin to up the vitamin content, as well as some chia or flax seeds. You can easily leave those out, though.
Have a happy Pumpkin season!
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If I had to pick only one oil to keep around, it would be coconut oil. This versatile oil has many applications in and out of the kitchen. Here’s fifteen of my favorite uses for coconut oil.
Coconut Oil in the Kitchen
High Heat Cooking
Coconut oil is a stable oil, unlike olive oil. It doesn’t break down at high temperatures, making it great for frying, sautéing and other high-heat cooking applications.
Dairy and Animal Fat Substitute
Coconut oil is also a great butter substitute for those avoiding dairy. It also makes a great substitution for tallow or lard.
If you like cooking popcorn on the stove the “old-fashioned” way, coconut oil is the best. It adds a wonderful flavor to the popcorn, and holds up to the high temperature. My favorite way to eat popcorn is cooked in coconut oil and topped with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. It’s so simple and yet so yummy!
Season Cast Iron Skillets with Coconut Oil
I love my cast iron skillets. Whenever I need to re-season them, coconut oil is my go-to oil.
Coconut Oil for Cleaning
Natural Furniture Polish
The natural furniture polish recipe I use calls for olive oil, but coconut oil is a suitable substitute. It’s a little lighter and less greasy than olive oil, so it polishes out nicely. It also has a longer shelf-life, so there’s little worry about using it up before it goes rancid.
Stuck on Stickers
Rubbing a little coconut oil on sticker residue helps remove the residue without harming the surface underneath. I like to coat the sticker residue with oil and let it sit for a few minutes. Wipe in a circular motion with a rag or gentle scrubber until the residue is gone.
Coconut Oil for Hair
Protect and Treat Your Hair
I’ve seen it recommended to coat your hair in coconut oil and leave it in overnight before lightening your hair with bleach. While I personally haven’t tried that, since lightening my hair, I put a small amount of oil on my hair almost every day. I especially focus on drier or damaged areas. Since I started doing this, I’ve noticed a huge difference in my hair. It’s definitely stronger and smoother.
Deep Condition with Coconut Oil
Even if you haven’t tortured your hair with bleach, a deep conditioning treatment is good from time to time. Apply the oil to your hair and cover with a shower cap. Leave it in for a few hours or overnight and then wash out. A couple of drops of essential oil added to the oil makes the conditioning treatment even more luxurious.
Rub a couple of drops of coconut oil in your hands and then smooth over the ends of your hair to keep frizz away.
Coconut Oil for Skin
Moisturize Your Skin
Coconut oil is great as a moisturizer. Start with a little and massage in to moisturize or to soothe dry, irritated skin. It even helps some eczema!
Coconut oil provides a gentle, moisturizing barrier to soothe and protect babies’ bottoms. Unlike many commercial diaper creams, it is considered safe for cloth diapers. Do check with the manufacturer for their recommendations first, as using unapproved products can void any warranties.
A little coconut oil easily takes off eye makeup. I like to put it on a cotton square and gently swipe away makeup. As a bonus, it moisturizes your skin as it removes the makeup.
Shaving with coconut oil leaves my legs feeling soft, smooth and moisturized. I don’t even need to use lotion afterwards.
I use coconut oil in all of my soap recipes. It helps to create a firm bar that produces lots of fluffy lather.
Essential Oil Carrier
Coconut oil is my favorite carrier oil for essential oils. It’s not too heavy and absorbs nicely into the skin. If you use the refined oil, there’s no real coconut scent to compete with the essential oils.
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I’m always on the lookout for simple, natural products that don’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s especially important when it comes to products that I use on my skin. Skin absorbs so much. One product I’ve found that is natural, inexpensive and a great multitasker is aloe vera gel.
When you think of using aloe topically, you probably think of soothing a sunburn. You can also use it to sooth other burns as well as minor cuts and scrapes.
Aloe vera hand sanitizer
There are tons of recipes online for diy hand sanitizers using aloe vera as one of the base ingredients. I’m not a big hand sanitizer fan, but I like the look of these recipes from Wellness Mama. She has two different formulas. One is a gentle aloe and essential oil only recipe for home or children to use, and one is a stronger formula for when something more potent is needed.
Aloe gel can be used as a hair gel, too. In my experience, it provides a light hold, and isn’t stiff or sticky as long as you don’t overdo it. It also leaves your hair soft and silky afterward, unlike most hair gels which contain alcohol or other ingredients that dry your hair. To tame flyaways, I like to rub a drop of aloe between my palms and smooth over the ends of my hair.
Try aloe on your brows to keep them in shape. Since aloe gel is clear, you don’t have to worry about finding the right color to match. Dip an old, cleaned mascara wand, eyebrow brush or toothbrush in aloe and brush your eyebrows into shape. It’s also great for soothing your skin after plucking or waxing your brows.
If the ends of your hair dry, rub a little aloe on them to help smooth and condition them. I’ve also heard you can use aloe gel in place of a regular, rinse out conditioner, although I haven’t tried it yet.
Aloe is a great moisturizer for your skin. It leaves your skin feeling soft but not greasy.
I’ve heard that aloe gel works well to refresh your skin in situations where you may not be able to wash your face regularly like camping and traveling. Just massage it on and gently wipe off the excess.
Exfoliating with aloe vera
Mix aloe with salt or sugar for a great exfoliating scrub. When making scrubs, sugar tends to be a little more gentle, but salt is more antibacterial.
Which aloe vera gel is best?
The way to get the freshest aloe gel, of course, is to grow your own aloe plant. If you’re like me and have a hard time keeping plants alive, or you just want to pick up a bottle or two so you’ll have plenty on hand, spring and summer are good times to get it. Specialty health stores will stock it year round, but right now it’s easier to find in discount stores and supermarkets with their seasonal products.
The most important thing to look for is 100% pure aloe. Pure aloe will be clear. Steer clear of the blue and green aloe gels. They contain added ingredients to help “cool” a sunburn. These ingredients are okay (although unnecessary) for sunburns, but you don’t want to use these aloe blends for anything other than soothing a sunburn.
One brand that’s fairly easy for me to find is Fruit of the Earth. I think I paid around $5-$7 for a 24 ounce bottle. Not bad when you compare it to a comparably-sized bottle of lotion, or conditioner, or moisturizer, or hair gel, all of which can be replaced with aloe.
What aloe tips have I left out? Share yours with me.
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A few days ago, I thought it would be fun to make Christmas cookies. Then I remembered that my Christmas cookie cutters had disappeared, we were out of any sort of sprinkles for the cookies and I really didn’t want to make decorator frosting or go to the store for supplies. My solution? DIY sugar sprinkles!
Jars, plastic containers or sandwich bags, one per color. (Ideally something with a shaker top, which I didn’t have)
Spoons or shakers
How to make the sugar sprinkles
Measure about 1/4 cup of sugar into each container.
Add 2-3 drops of food coloring to the sugar.
Shake or stir until the color is evenly distributed.
Let air dry. I just left the lids off the jars and set them on the stove while the cookies baked, stirring occasionally. If you use bags or plan to store it for a longer period of time, you may want to spread it on parchment or a cookie sheet to make sure it is super dry.
The recipe I used for the cookies was the sugar cookie cutout recipe from my trusty red and white Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. To make them gluten free, I substituted Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free flour. If you are new to gluten free baking, it is a great flour to start with. I have had lots of success making all my old recipes gluten free with just that simple substitution.
My solution for not having cookie cutters was to use a round glass to cut out “ornaments”. We dusted some of the cookies with the sprinkles prior to baking. For the rest, I made a simple icing that got dusted or caked with sprinkles, depending on who was doing the decorating.
I love wearing denim blue jeans, but chasing my boys and taking care of my small zoo, they get lots of wear and tear. One of the worst things is having to scrap a favorite pair because of one too many rips. I’ve repaired rips in a utilitarian way in the past. This time I thought I’d try patching denim using my embroidery machine. I haven’t done much applique, so I learned some things along the way.
This tutorial makes use of an embroidery machine and serger. You could also adapt it to use a sewing machine or applique by hand and embellishing with hand embroidery.
Denim jeans or other item to repair
Thread in colors of choice
Seam ripper or similar tool
Scrap of fabric at least 4 in x 4 inches
Stabilizers: Cut away or tear away, water soluble optional
Since I’m repairing a ripped knee, I needed to take out one of the side leg seams on my jeans. Using a seam ripper made this easy, but you could use small scissors, too. I left the seam intact at the hip and ankle, only removing what was necessary to lay the ripped area flat in the hoop without risking sewing it to the back. Leaving a little intact makes it easier to resew the seam at the end.
Step 2: Prepare the rip.
Iron the area around the rip so it’s smooth and flat. If there’s a lot of loose threads around the rip, trim them. I caught this rip before it frayed too badly, so no trimming was needed.
I wanted the embroidered area to be solid, so I applied some interfacing to the back of the rip. I used some medium weight interfacing, but any should work, since it’s job is just to hold it together while the jeans are embroidered. This is a perfect project for using whatever scraps are handy.
Step 3: Hooping.
For denim, tear away or cutaway stabilizer is best. I chose cutaway for the most stability. It’s stiff, but it should soften in the wash. If not, I’ll switch to tear away next time.
I tend to float projects and only hoop the stabilizer whenever possible. This project seemed like it would work better tightly anchored in the hoop. It took a few tries to center the rip in my hoop so that all edges would be covered by my design. My machine has a 4 in x 4 in embroidery field, so the rip just barely fit. Smaller tears will be easier to fit in my small hoop.
Step 4: Embroidering the patch.
Once it’s properly hooped, it’s time to sew. On my machine, the first color stop said “Applique Material”. I haven’t done much machine applique, but the ones I am used to usually follow the sequence: placement stitch, tack down the applique (then trim excess), sew the final applique stitching. So, confused I just put the applique fabric and a water soluble stabilizer (optional) on top of the rip and pushed start.
What my machine was telling me to do was to just hoop the applique fabric so I could remove it from the hoop and cut it neatly. The second color stop was the positioning stitch. That would be stitched on my jeans and then my neatly trimmed applique could be placed in position and the stitching completed. Since I did everything at once, my applique isn’t as tidy as it could be. I will definitely listen to my machine next time.
Step 5: Remove from hoop and cut away excess stabilizer
I also steam pressed over the back of the patch to start softening the stabilizer.
Step 6: Sew the leg seam.
To repair the leg seam, I used a lock stitch setting on my machine. You could also sew the seam twice to reinforce it or just use really heavy thread. I then serged the raw edge. If you don’t have a serger, an overedge stitch or zig-zag stitch would also work.
Not bad. I wish I had used heavier thread so the embroidery would show up better. Listening to my machine and cutting the applique fabric to size before I sew it on to eliminate the raw edges peeking out is another improvement for the next time I’m patching denim.
If you’d like to use this applique design, you can download the file here. You can use the design on items you make to sell as well as for personal use, but please don’t sell the design file.
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Embroidery Files and Freebies
Embroidery design files and freebies from SubEarthan Cottage. All designs are scaled to fit 4×4 hoops common on home embroidery machines.
No matter what our budget looks like, food is always a part of it. You have to eat, right? There are many thoughts on the best way to save on food. These are the things that work for me.
Eat at home
This one is probably the most important. If you eat out, regardless of whether it’s a dine-in or fast food restaurant, you are going to spend more than if you cook and eat at home. It’s fine to splurge once in a while, but if you’re looking to save, eating at home gives you the most bang for your buck.
Buy mostly ingredients
Prepackaged foods are sometimes quicker, but they are usually more expensive per serving. If it’s a choice between eating out and eating convenience foods from the grocery, it’s still usually cheaper than eating out, so if it’s a choice between KFC or a deli rotisserie chicken, bagged salad and prepackaged dinner rolls, the deli chicken is probably the cheaper and healthier option.
There are some convenience items that I find helpful, especially when life gets hectic. Jarred sauces, bouillon and frozen potatoes in various forms are things that I like to have on hand to help me get a meal on the table quickly. When there’s not time to make the sauce from scratch or I don’t have homemade broth on hand those can make it easy to still throw something together. They’re also usually fairly inexpensive, so I feel they are budget friendly convenience choices.
Buy in bulk where it makes sense
Don’t buy a ton of perishables like fresh fruit just because it’s on sale. If you have time to prep and freeze or can the fruit, then go for it. Things like canned goods, freezer staples and shelf stable items are great for buying in bulk, if you have the room. We have a small chest freezer, so I’m able to buy fruit on sale to freeze for smoothies or desserts and an extra ham or turkey when they are on sale for under $1 per pound around the holidays.
I also buy basmati rice in 20 lb bags because we prefer it over other types of rice and it is so much cheaper that way. To keep it fresh and manageable, I keep a small container of it in the cupboard and the rest goes into the freezer.
It’s easy to have one or two grocery stores or box stores where you do all of your shopping. If you have farmer’s markets, discount groceries or ethnic groceries in your area, you may find better deals on some items.
For starters, if you have an Aldi nearby and haven’t given them a try, please do. I’ve found them to have a good selection of staples and they have a good guarantee on everything they sell. You won’t find many name-brands at Aldi, but with their guarantee, it’s worth trying and seeing if you like their store brands. They also carry a lot of gluten-free options, as well as dairy-free milk alternatives and a dairy-free mozarella cheese.
I also frequently shop a local Vietnamese grocery store. They have tons of fresh greens and other produce at really good prices. I also get a lot of specialty items, like things for making pho or sushi for sometimes half the cost or less of what I would pay at Kroger or Walmart. Bulk spices and rice are also cheaper there. For gluten-free pasta, rice noodles from there are cheaper than gluten-free options from Kroger and Walmart.
Find a method of meal planning that works for you.
Some people do really well with having every meal, every day planned out to every last detail. I prefer something more flexible that allows for changes based on last minute plans or whatever is on sale that week or whatever leftovers we need to eat. Regardless of the type of meal planner you are, have some sort of game plan in place.
Meal planning is one area where I need to improve, but I do have a basic game plan for meals that I’ll post on at a later date.
While you’re planning, don’t forget lunch. Leftovers are quick and easy lunches, so if you’re planning a dinner that reheats well, make enough for lunch the next day.
Keep staples for one or two quick meals on hand always
This is important in case you forget to plan, or something doesn’t work out with your plan. Whether it’s spaghetti and premade sauce, eggs, fruit and toast or some other meal you can throw together in under thirty minutes, keep the ingredients on hand for one or two backups that you like. Having a backup option makes it easier to eat at home when you might otherwise be tempted to eat out.
Eat real food
If you have to change your eating habits due to health or personal beliefs, it’s easy to try to substitute faux or “free” foods tailored to that diet. Price-wise though, it’s better to adapt your diet with real foods. Rather than faux meat burgers, try grilling portobello mushrooms or making your own patties with chickpeas. Instead of gluten free pasta, substitute rice or potatoes. Instead of diet drinks, flavor water, tea or soda water with fruit.
If you’re really craving cheese and you’re dairy free or bread and you’re gluten free, go ahead and splurge on the dairy or gluten free options. If you’re on a plant-based diet but desperately want something like a real burger, go for one of the faux meat patties. Just try to keep those splurges to a minimum and you’ll save money.
Find recipes for soups, stews and beans that you like
Soups, stews and beans are usually cheap, filling and can be a one pot meal. Having a few recipes you like and keeping the ingredients on hand can really help save money on food. They also are easy to make in bulk and usually freeze well, so making a bunch and having it for lunch or in the freezer for nights that dinner plans don’t work out helps prevent eating out. I love crock pots or pressure cookers for making soups and stews. It’s absolutely not necessary to run out and buy a slow cooker or pressure cooker, but if it’s something you’ve been considering, I love my electric pressure cooker for so many things.
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