Dishwashing Detergent

We’ve been buying Costco’s two pack of liquid dish detergent for years… as long as we’ve had a dishwasher.  Let me say, I am very pleased with their brands and if money weren’t tight at my house, I’d LOVE the ease of buying more.

As an aside, a while back, the State of Washington outlawed phosphates.  Phosphates really help get dishes clean.  My empty bottle says, “If the letter in the date code printed on this package is a ‘Z’, the product does not contain phosphorus other than trace or incidental amounts. ”  With the less than stellar review of non-phosphorus detergents, we were already planning to call my husband’s uncle and ask him to get us “the good stuff” in Oregon before he heads up here for Thanksgiving.   I mean, we’ve got 3 children 3 and under and #4 arriving in Spring… the last thing we have time for is dirty dishes. 

As an aside to that aside, I have not done any research about the dangers of phosphates to the environment.  There is probably a reason it is outlawed (and sometimes those reasons are overstated).  I look forward to the ingenuity of my fellow Americans to produce a safer alternative that actually works for those of you who can afford them.

We, like many of you, are trying to save money in every way possible.   So this morning when the dishwasher reached capacity, I reached for my homemade alternative.  I was a bit leary because of all of the bad reviews online and from friends and family.  Like I said, I don’t have time for dirty dishes!!!   But I rinsed my dishes like I usually do, and I added my new CHEAP detergent and… they look great!

So let me say, there are A LOT of different recipes available online and from your friend’s sister-in-law and many of them got bad reviews.  There are several possible factors here:

  • User error.  Washing Soda is quite different than Baking Soda.  Both are from Arm and Hammer, but please be sure you’re using (and criticizing) the right product.
  • Dishwashers.  All dishwashers are different.  Ours is only a year old.  It has been a great dishwasher anyway, but if yours is not great (like our last one… oh, don’t get me started), then you may not get great results no matter what you use.
  • Water hardness.  Our water is pretty middle of the road, neither hard nor soft.  Commercial dishwasher detergents are formulated for any water type (which might be why they’re so stinkin’ expensive).  If your water is hard or soft, dig a little deeper on your own… I’m kind of busy ;). 

But that’s enough from me, here’s what I did…

Dishwasher Detergent Powder:

  1. I mixed equal parts Borax with Washing SODA in to a container with a lid (I used an empty baby formula can and took the paper label off of the outside AND labeled the lid… no mistakes at our house). 
  2. I shook said container.
  3. I put ~2 tbsp detergent into my dishwasher’s detergent trap (using the formula scoop).
  4. I filled the rinse agent reservoir with white vinegar.
  5. I started the dishwasher.

I was shocked at how easy it was and I don’t mind that it’s a two step instead of a one step process to add soap.   If you’re nervous about the results (as I certainly was),  turn off the dry function or listen for it to stop washing and start drying so you can double check to be sure they’re clean. 

Let us also be sure to mention that you’ll be saving a trip to the store!  If  you don’t already have Borax and Washing Soda on hand, they’re available on the laundry detergent aisle.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

20 Mule Team Borax, Washing Soda, and Vinegar

“But CnC, you didn’t give me any reasons not to save my family money.”  I know, dear reader, I know. 

And just think, with all of the money you’re saving this upcoming Holiday season, you’ll have extra share with your neighbors in need. 

CnC

Soap!

I posted, not long ago, about Foamy Soap.  A key ingredient is, of course, liquid soap.   Well, guess what we’re almost out of… you got it, liquid soap.   Considering we bought a gallon at Costco about 6 years ago, it’s about time we ran out!  I decided to make some myself…

“But, CnC, you’re crazy!  You can’t make your own soap.”  Fear not dear reader, I already did!

While  looking for liquid soap recipes, I found one on this great website (and I’ll be trying a lot more of their recipes!).  The thing I love is that you aren’t actually making soap, you’re remaking bar soap into liquid soap.  The recipe I used is for “Liquid Soap” and it’s about 1/3 of the way down on the page. 

Here’s what I did differently… I used my food processor to grate the plain Dove soap.  It’s just soap, and it’s going to rinse of in the dishwasher just fine! 

I put  3 c of water in a saucepan and boiled it on the stove intstead of using my microwave.  I also threw in an herbal tea bag… a pomegranate one, to be exact.  You’ll need two or three bags to overpower the Dove’s smell which isn’t my personal favorite.  Steep the tea in the boiling water for a minute or two then fish out the tea bag.  

Make sure you have your venthood on and start adding the soap flakes to the boiling water (it’s got a powerful smell).   Add a small amount each time and wait for it to dissolve.  Once you’ve got all the soap dissolved, allow it to boil for a little while and thicken up a little.  Then, you’re done. 

I also added a drop of red food coloring to give it a prettier color.  Be careful with food coloring in this use… you don’t want red or blue hands!   I put a small amount in my foamy soap container and added water, shake shake shake – I’ve got homemade foamy handsoap now!  I’m storing the leftovers in a leftover vinegar bottle (I don’t throw things away, usually).

I’m going to try it in my shower as a shower gel as well… why not!?!  And, if I can find some inexpensive bottles, I might just give it as gifts. 

CnC

PS… I bought my 14 pack of Dove soap at an estate sale this summer for $2.  Keep your eyes peeled for deals like that!!!

Recycled Crayons

I mentioned in my Parties On a Budget Post (Part II) that you can make new crayons from old ones.  I tried it the other day and now that’s all I want to do!

I found a box of used crayons at a garage sale for $1.  It was a worthwhile expenditure since I’ve already gotten one birthday present out of the box, and we’re going to another birthday party this week.  

Here’s what I used: a cookie sheet, heart shaped cupcake pans (disposable), old crayons, and my oven.

Directions:

Peel the paper off and break the crayons into ~1/2 pieces. 

Fill shaped pans or cupcake tins or whatever with similar colors.  (I made primary-ish colors with a layer and 1/2.  In other words, there was enough to pretty much cover the bottom layer and a couple pieces on top of that to fill the gaps.   With the reds, I mixed pinks and light purples.  With the greens, I mixed light greens and dark greens.  With yellow, I mixed odd colors.  With the blues, I mixed light blues and dark purples.) 

Place in a 200 degree oven for 5 minutes (keep an eye on them) until they are melted. 

I used cupcake tins to mold new crayons from old ones
I used cupcake tins to mold new crayons from old ones

Pull them out of the oven and stir the crayons, but not too much. 

Place in the refrigerator for wax to cool (5 minutes did it for me).  And then pop them out. 

 Tips:

Use the same brand crayons for each color.  Different manufacturers use different wax or dyes or whatever, this makes their melting points different and might not yield the best results. 

Break off or use your potato peeler to shave off any unwanted stuff.  I was giving the present to a one year old and I didn’t want her eating that much fine wax. 

Have fun!  There is no right or wrong way to recycle crayons.

Whew…

Well, I’m back for now.  Forgive me for my silence.  It took me a while to figure out where all of my energy and ideas went.  I guess they all went to make a new baby.  I was 8 weeks along before I knew!  And, yes, that’s right #4 is on his/her way… arriving early Spring 2010.  My first trimesters are bearable, but they sap all of my energy.  Not to mention that we accomplished one of the biggest money saving feats EVER: our 3 year old boy is now potty trained!

It’s good to be back.  I’m still working on 30 for $300, but I think you could to it for way less (because we do!).   I’m going to still shoot for 3 posts/week, but please forgive me if I fall short of that :).

Coming soon: recycled crayons, homemade laundry detergent, and soups!

CnC

Earn Cash Too

Maybe you haven’t been hit by the recession, maybe you have.  One way we’ve made due is with selling things we no longer want or need…

Books: http://cash4books.net/index.php?ref=108558  I haven’t done this one yet, but I’ve got too many books I won’t ever read and I’m going to purge!

Clothing: take them to your local consignment store, list them on craigslist in lots (lot of size 8 for $50), or sell them to a re-sale store like Kid to Kid http://www.kidtokid.com/index.php.

Miscellaneous: Craig’s List (craigslist.org) is by far my favorite to get rid of almost anything.  I’ve sold remodel fodder, clothing, household items, etc…  If you’re unsure of a price, look up a similar item on ebay or another craigslist ad.  If you feel unsafe doing giving out your home address, meet them at your local grocery store parking lot.  Look around, you may be surprised what people list and what people buy.  If you’re not using it, and you haven’t used it in months, SELL IT!  Just try it… ads on craigslist are free and there’s no shipping involved. 

 

With all of the money you make, put it in savings for a vacation or fund your coffee habit.  Have fun earning some cash!

CnC

PS… I’ve been prepping for my son’s 3rd birthday so I’ll be back next week!

Pancakes

When we were first married, every Saturday morning we made pancakes.   I love Saturday morning pancakes.  We tried several different recipes but found that Bisquick worked just fine. 

When our children were old enough to eat people food, I started cooking scrambled eggs (usually just for them) and the occassional frozen waffle or a bowl of low-sugar cereal.   Pancakes are still a Saturday morning treat. 

When my husband went through a season of unemployment, he got me hooked on hot breakfast.   For a first month we ate scrambled eggs, and scrambled eggs with sausage, and scrambled eggs with cream cheese, and scrambled eggs with sausage AND cream cheese.  Needless to say, I grew weary of… scrambled eggs. 

We did eat some pancakes even during the week, but I always felt like there was a nutritional deficit with my Bisquick mix.   I have hypoglycemia so I have to be very careful… white flour (and sugar) make me cranky.   If items have whole wheat, I don’t get the crash afterwards. 

So I figured, I’m a smart mommy, surely there’s a homemade biscuit mix recipe!  What do you know, I found one!  Now I know that most of you, dear readers, are quite Google (and Swagbucks) savvy, and you can look up these recipes yourself.  But before I post them, I test them.  If it’s a bad recipe, I don’t post it. 

I did make some modifications to the online recipe I found…

  • Even though I’m a Southern girl, I just don’t care for Crisco.  For me, it’s not a health thing, it’s a texture thing.  I used Canola Oil instead.  It was a great substitute, but you don’t need as much oil as hydrogenated fat so I accounted for that in the recipe.  Butter would work great also.

 

  • My biggest change was that I use whole wheat pastry flour.  It has a much lighter texture than regular whole wheat flour and you can use it in all of your baking as a 1:1 substitute for all purpose flour.  If you can’t get your hands on whole wheat pastry flour or it’s more than you’re willing to pay for it, you can use a 1:1 mix of whole wheat flour and cake flour.  In my Baking Mix, I used a mix of regular flour and the whole wheat pastry flour to save a little bit more dough (he he).

I hope you like it:  Whole Wheat Baking Mix.   You can use it just the way that you used Bisquick for all these years: topping pot pies, pancakes, biscuits, etc…

Now, I make pancakes more often.  They’re good for me and the kids gobble them up.

According to my math, this cost me around $0.75/lb.  At Safeway, Bisquick is $1.20/lb.  If you buy the ingredients at your local grocery store, you may not get the savings I do.   But if you have access to bulk goods,  you’ll have a good time saving beaucoups bucks. 

And… no pancake is complete without SYRUP.  But syrup can seriously break the bank!  I like the real deal as much as anyone, but I draw the line somewhere!  $17/pint!  Are you serious?  So I made the Hillbilly Housewife’s homemade syrup .

  • I will use less molasses next time.  You don’t have to use it at all according to the Mapleine recipe. 

 

  • As a self-respecting Southerner, I cannot condone the use of imitation butter anything.  Instead, I make my mom’s Seleta Syrup… sweet memories.

 

Have fun saving money! 

Coming soon: homemade laundry detergent and more about how I shop.

Parties on a Budget – Part II

Many of us have children at home, and we like to celebrate their birthdays because it’s one more year we survived parenthood.  We don’t mind footing the bill because watching a bunch of children on a sugar high is really entertaining.  But since a lot of us are trying to cut back, here are a few suggestions on how to save on your next birthday bash. 

House Party.  Instead of forking over hundreds of dollars for someone else to host your party, consider a party at home.  The giant mouse serving pizza and the inflatables place are a ton of fun.  But having a party at home is significantly less expensive.   

“But CnC, I’m afraid of pre-schoolers.  How do I entertain little people at my house?”  Fear not, dear reader, I have some ideas.

Set a time limit.  Parents understand that children under the age of 23 have a very short attention span.  In your invitation, tell your guests that the party is only two hours: “Time: 2-4pm”.  If you were hosting your party elsewhere, they would set a time limit so the same goes for your house. 

Limit Your Guest List.  Keep it to kids in your children’s age bracket and not necessarily the whole neighborhood.  The more folks you choose to entertain, the more expensive your party will be.  People that you don’t spend much time with will understand that they may not be invited to your party.  But don’t leave out your regular associations. 

Choose Your Focus.  If your child wants to invite the whole class, make sure that the entertainment is the focus, not the food.  You’ll get bigger bang for your buck if you spend your money facilitating a good time than on food.  Most people (adults included) don’t get as excited about good food as I do.

Entertainment Stations.  Set up an entertainment circuit so that children can be entertained longer (an idea from Amy H.).

  • Indoors: play doh, blocks, balloon keep it up, coloring, video games, etc…
  • Outdoors: anything with water, bubbles, golf, bean bag toss

Plan Ahead.  You can gather items for your party when they’re on sale (yes, this goes for all parties).  Last year, my daughter’s first birthday was in August so I bought ice cream in April… seriously!  QFC had single serve Hagen Dasz for $0.50!  So I bought 40 of them.  If you’re planning on serving something specific for a party and you have a place to store it, stock up now and spread out the expense over several months! 

Do it yourself.  A large cake from Costco is about $18.  Two cake mixes on sale and homemade frosting is less than $5… think of all of the party food you can make for $13! (or maybe you can’t, but keep reading.)  Obviously it’s easier to buy a cake and serve it, but I find frosting a cake relaxing.  It can be done a day ahead of time!  If you can make all of the food items for your party and limit the convenience items, you’ll save a bundle. 

Party Favors.  If you plan ahead, you can get toys at steep discounts the day after a major holiday including Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, etc…  Just because it’s red doesn’t mean that everyone will know you bought it after Valentine’s day.  Hide them in your party box and save it for the next kid party at your house.  They have bubbles, Play-Doh, trinkets, and candy for pennies on the dollar.  From what I can tell, Halloween is your best bet. Thanks for the idea, Marcy!

 Homemade Favors.  If you didn’t stock up after the last major holiday, make something.  Put together a sugar cookie mix for kids to make at home.  Make new crayons from old ones.  Put together an age appropriate dance mix.  Make homemade play-doh with your birthday boy or girl.  Be creative!  The parents will be grateful for your inventiveness… it adds to the charm!

 Beverages.  One of your biggest party expenditures is beverages.  Individual juice boxes or sodas are spendy.  Get reusable cups and send kids home with that as part of their goody bag.  They’re available on your baby gear aisle at the store or on Oriental Trading Company’s website.  Serve watered down juice to toddlers (their mommies do at home) and serve Kool-Aid instead of soda to older children.  At our house, we usually serve water. 

 Food.  Schedule your party for a non-meal time and you’re not expected to serve a meal.  If you think cake and ice cream aren’t enough, a big bowl of homemade popcorn and a cheese platter you sliced yourself will please a crowd.  If you are going to serve a meal, make a big sandwich instead of ordering it (right, Amanda?), have the kids make their own mini pizzas (you already have my crust recipe), or grill up some on-sale hot dogs.  Junk food is allowed!  Nutritional value is important for your daily diet but not essential for a party. 

Don’t Forget the Adults.  You may be so excited about having 30 – 4 year olds that you forgot that their mommies and daddies will be there as well.  Have some grown-up (and probably more expensive) snacks available in an undisclosed location.  My first post about parties may give you some ideas.  The parents will appreciate a chance to get away from the noise and chaos that surrounds a “kid party”. 

It’s your party!  These are my ideas for saving money on a party because I love to enertain, but I choose what is important to me to spend my money on .   You may decide on a “green” party with little or no waste or gourmet food to showcase your very own test kitchen.  Then again, you may just want to send all the kids outside to rented bouncy house.  If you focus on your guests’ good time, you can’t go wrong!

Foamy Soap

While I’m working on my next long post (I’ve got two in the works), I thought I’d share this little tidbit…

I love foaming hand soap.  I love that it is now available in most public restrooms.  I love it because it doesn’t leave behind a residue or too much soap smell.  I feel like my hands are really clean. 

As you probably know, you can buy foaming hand soap at the store now.  But did you know that you don’t have to buy the manufacturer refills? 

“But CnC, how do you get foam without paying for it?”  Fear not, dear reader, I’ll tell you my secret.

Foaming hand soap is made from a specialized dispenser and diluted soap.  You will have to buy the dispenser.  I like Dial’s.  On sale, it’s around $1.25.

Once you’ve bought one for each of the sinks in your house, you can refill them with your own diluted soap.  I mix mine in the soap dispenser.  I put around 1/2 inch of soap on the bottom and fill the rest up with water.  There is usually a fill line on your soap dispenser.  Replace the lid and shake shake shake.  You’re done shaking when you can no longer see the difference between soap and water.   

Soap is less expensive when bought in  large containers.  But if you have a favorite scent, buy it in the smaller containers (on sale, with a coupon) and use that for your refill bottle.  It’s still less expensive than full-strength soap.  I’ve been using the same gallon-sized soap refill for almost 6 years now… and we wash our hands A LOT. 

May you save more so you can give more away!!!

Parties on a Budget – Part I

Summer has begun.  Well, not officially until the 21st, but we’ve had unseasonably BEAUTIFUL summer-like weather in the Pacific Northwest.  It makes me want to entertain!  My husband re-landscaped our yard last year, and it’s so much fun to share it with others.  Then again, entertaining can be spendy.  Some of us may hold off because we can’t throw the epic parties that we’ve thrown in the past.  However, I don’t want anyone to think is that they can’t throw a party… on a budget. 

“But CnC, how can I throw a party without breaking the bank?”  Fear not, dear readers, I can help.

Plan Ahead.  You can gather items for your party when they’re on sale. I saw a pack of 50 black napkins for $1.50 on clearance the other day… that’s cheaper than the dollar store (20 for $1).  You can use black for almost any occasion. 

Do It Yourself.  Any prepared food you buy will cost you significantly more than if you do it yourself.  Make meatballs ahead of time and freeze them.  Make a cheese ball instead of buying it.  That will save you a bundle in the end. 

Downgrade.  Maybe you want to serve steaks and burgers; but if money is tight, hot dogs and brats are great!  People don’t expect gourmet at your backyard barbeque.  And homemade potato salad will go a long way!

Clean for a week.  Don’t put yourself through the stress of food and cleaning on the day of.  You can scrub the toilet a day or two ahead of time… how dirty can it get in two days?  If you dust the house top to bottom three or four days beforehand, you’re only touching up on party day.   I work systematically room by room and make sure the whole room is clean top to bottom.  Then, after each room is clean, the house is clean.  Trust me, someone will notice the dust on the china hutch, the scuff marks on the wall, and the clutter on the counter.  A clean house is a welcoming house.

Paper and Plastic and Glass.  We had an indoor gathering at our house a while ago.  I opted to serve beverages in my glasses instead of expensive plastic cups.  It didn’t matter that the glasses didn’t match because people were drinking different things.  I have 4 pilsner glasses that I picked up at an Estate sale for $0.50 each, 4 white wine and 4 red wine glasses that were wedding presents, and then I have 4 beer mugs too.  Some of the guys drank beer out of bottles so there were plenty to go around. 

Since I don’t have enough small plates, I got a pack of 20 paper plates at the dollar  store for – you guessed it –  $1.  If I had enough “real” plates for the number of people coming, I would definitely have used those instead.  And since I entertain regularly,  I will buy a set of 20 plain small plates for $0.50 (or less) each when I see them at an Estate Sale.  You should too!  Think of it as an investment in future fun!  I would never pay more than $1 for a plate because the Dollar Store has some really cute ones (right, Laura?).

Then, I used paper napkins leftover from my last party.  They didn’t match so I didn’t put them next to each other on the buffet.   If your friends judge you for mis-matched napkins, maybe they aren’t your friends.  I do usually buy solid colored napkins to limit the distraction.   I prefer paper napkins because I don’t want to wash cloth ones.

Dinner not included.  Dinner parties are great for a small group but usually way too spendy for a large gathering.   Schedule the party later in the evening or in the middle of the afternoon to avoid the expectation of a sit-down meal.  Most people only expect munchies not a whole meal when they come to your house for a party anyway, but specify what you’re serving in the invitation if you think there may be confusion.

BYO… whatever.  If you don’t want to spend all of your money, have others contribute to the spread.  There are people out there who want to show off their culinary talent even at your house.  Personally, I like it when my food is the feature at my house, and my guests can bring beverages (they’re usually the biggest expenditure).   Whatever your preference is, specify it in the invitation. 

Have Backup.  I learned this one the hard way.  Even if you specify for others to contribute to the party, they may not know how to read.  It happened to me … no one brought beverages!  I didn’t have enough beer to share.  I didn’t have enough soda to go around.  And the liquor store was closed.  Eeek!  Thank goodness I had half of a bottle of Rum and some juice to mix up some Rum Punch.   One of my personal favorites is Sangria.  And my friend, Amanda, serves a pretty mean Cosmo Punch.

I also suggest food for back up.  Your guests may come hungrier than you planned for.   That same night no one brought beverages, I’m glad I had an extra bag of chips to share and some frozen cookie dough to pop in the oven.  Popcorn would’ve been the next trick out of the hat. 

Cheap and Plentiful.  While it would be great to have enough prosciutto wrapped pears for everyone to have 3 or 4 servings each, prosciutto is expensive!  Serve cheap, hearty, tasty food… like potato skins and stuffed mushroomsChex Mix is inexpensive when you plan ahead and pair up sales and coupons… oh, leave out the nuts and substitute goldfish crackers for the bagel chips to save cash.

Entertainment.  Most of your guests are just looking for a chance to get out of the house and are probably not expecting live entertainment.  If you’re afraid that there won’t be anything for your guests to “do”, or if there’s a lull in conversation because people don’t know one another, there are a few crowd pleasers that I’ve used in the past.  Apples to Apples is a fun word game that doesn’t require a table to play at.  Cranium is also quite entertaining for a group because you can split up into teams (we set up the board in the middle of the room on a TV tray).   But if everyone is having a great time, leave the games in the game closet.  If your game closet doesn’t have group games, you can sometimes find them at thrift stores and garage sales for 90% off retail price.

Share the fun (and the expense).  If you and someone else want to entertain a group of mutual friends together, share the expense.   She’ll clean her house and you cook up a storm… or whatever!  People like entertaining, but don’t always like the nitty gritty (I do, but I’m strange that way).  So be creative and have fun. 

Have fun.  A clean and welcoming house is what your guests will remember!!! 

 

Do you have any great party recipes to share?

Miss me?

I would like to think that I already have a few die hard fans out there tangled in the world wide web, and that you actually miss my three posts per week.  So if you’re wondering, I have taken on too much and I have a part time job in the evenings for a few weeks.   I will resume my regular posting schedule as soon as I am able.

For now, you’ll just have to make due with a pretty thorough shopping list this week including coupons to match from this past Sunday’s Paper. 

May you save more and give the rest away!

CnC

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