Thursday, February 26, 2009

Frugal Living

The past couple of months I've been staying in a lot more - less going out to the pub with friends, less dining out, less entertainment.
I wish I could be virtuous and say that this was all in an attempt to save money, or to curb the extravagances. I am not that virtuous.
All of this started when Cooper went missing, I was coming home in the evenings because I didn't feel like being out with friends while he was missing - I wanted to be near home in case anyone called saying that he'd been found, I wanted to drive around my area to check on all of the flyers I'd put up to ensure that they were still there.
This had a domino effect in that it resulted in me staying in and cooking the household meals more often, spending less on dining out, less on going to the pub, less on entertainment.
Theres been a couple of byproducts of this. The first is that I'm exploring my culinary skills more than I have in the past, and with some pretty good results. I've discovered the slow cooker. I can not believe that I have never cooked with a slow cooker before - its like magic! I put some stuff in the pot in the mornings, and when I get home from work that night, VOILA! Dinner is ready and the house smells heavenly.
Since its been chilly, grey, rainy and dreary for what feels like well over a month now, I've been doing some comfort foods - chicken breasts with stuffing, beef stew, chicken and dumplings (not in the slow cooker). I've been looking up various slow cooker recipes, getting tips from friends and coworkers, and experimenting a little on my own.
I've gotten some good results, and I've gotten some "eh" results. Thankfully, I haven't gotten any horribly disgusting results.
I've been able to catch up on a few long neglected chores around the house, I've read some good books, watched some good movies. Its nice to be a homebody for a while.
My newest experiment? I'm making my own laundry detergent.
Thats right, bitches. I'm making my own laundry detergent.
I'd seen this about a year or so ago and was curious to make my own laundry detergent at that time, but just never got around to it. Why would I want to sit at home and grate a bar of laundry soap when I could be out doing stuff with friends?
Tonight, I started the process. I had finally found all of the ingredients (bar laundry soap, Borax, washing soda, oxy clean) so this evening I sat down to watch Survivor with a cheese grater and a bar of soap - only took about 10 minutes. Totally worth it to save the amount of money, and phosphates, that this is supposed to.
The hardest ingredient to find was the washing soda. I couldn't find it at my normal grocery store, it wasn't at Walmart (and they carry everything!). I finally found it at my local Food Maxx, but I imagine that it would probably be at similar non-unionized discount grocers - possibly Food 4 Less or WinCo. The other item I had a little trouble locating was the bar soap - I found bar soap everywhere, it was just the specific brand, Fels Naptha, that was indicated. After reading a few other sites about making your own detergent, I went with Zote brand - that I was able to find EVERYWHERE. I also read sites that indicated the Fels Naptha brand is sometimes found with body soaps despite it being labeled as a laundry soap, and I also read that castile soaps, such as Dr. Bronners, works well too.
The recipe indicates that one bar of Fels Naptha is supposed to yield about 2 cups when grated. I got a considerable amount more - SIX cups. I don't know if the Zote bar is larger than the Fels Naptha, or what - but this allowed me to triple the recipe.
The cost savings is amazingly cheap. A box of Borax was about $3, the box of washing soda was around $2, the bar of Zote was about $1.50, and I was able to pick up the Oxy Clean at a local $1 store. Total cost - roughly $7.50, plus I have enough Borax, washing detergent, and Oxy Clean left for at least another triple batch. Estimating I can buy another bar of soap for $1.50 and make another triple batch, that brings total costs up to $9 - lets say $10 when you factor in the sales tax.
Another perk is that a light load of laundry uses only 1 Tbsp, a large or heavy load takes 2 Tbsp. That means that ONE batch will give you enough detergent for approximately 35 large or heavy loads, so six batches will accommodate 210 large or heavy loads... I'll round down to 200 for easy math.
200 loads of laundry for a total cost of $10 - thats only 5 cents per load. Much cheaper than Tide or Arm & Hammer.
I haven't actually tried this just yet - I only finished mixing it all together about 30 minutes ago. However, as soon as I finish my first load, I'll let you know how it turns out. Just from looking at it I would suggest that you keep it in an airtight container, obviously, but would also suggest that you shake the container before each use. From what I can tell already, it seems as though the powder ingredients (Borax, washing soda and oxy clean) have a tendency to settle to the bottom.
Reading through the comments on the original recipe that I followed, people seem to indicate that this formula is great for HE washers because it generates less suds, and that it is ideal for hot temperature washes. However, if you need to do a load in a cold wash, users seemed to have good results when they ran the washer on warm or hot for the first 30-45 seconds or so, then switched to cold water.
Users also said that this worked perfectly for those with ultra-sensitive skin, ideal for babies, and much better for the environment than standard commercial detergents. When I make the next batch, I think I will consdier using a Dr Bronners castile soap rather than the Zote. I would definitely use a castile soap if I were using this on laundry for an infant - more natural ingredients since the Zote or Fels Naptha do still contain some petro-chemicals.
I've been told that there is a way to use these same ingredients and by boiling them down you can make a liquid laundry detergent... I just didn't feel like "cooking" laundry detergent and thought I'd go with the powder formula first. However, here is the liquid version in case you're interested, I may try this next time rather than another powder version.

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