Category Archives: Financial Matters

Do It Yourself: Laundry Detergent

There are TONS of laundry detergent recipes out there on the good ol’ world wide web.  The one that I use is only slightly different than the one I got from my cousin.  It uses oxi-clean.  I think that most of the recipes I’ve found don’t call for it, but I like to use it in mine because I think oxi-clean is pretty awesome.  The oxi-clean gives the finished product more of a liquidy result versus the more goopy egg-white texture without it.  But it works fine with or without.  Our clothes always come out as clean as they did when we were using the expensive store-bought detergent.

Now, I should say here that I’m not a Going Green renegade.  I like the idea of it and I like to incorporate it into my life as much as possible, but sometimes it just isn’t affordable for me to scrutinize every product we use and turn it into something that is environmentally friendly.  I do the best I can on my budget.  If you are a person who is, admirably, committed to Going Green, then some of these recipes may not be for you, but I would wager that you could find some greener alternatives online…


1 bar Fels-Naptha soap (or any bar soap of your choice)
1 C. Borax
2 C. Washing Soda (Not the same as Laundry Booster, you have to really look for it at the store – I got mine at Kroger – the box should say “Washing Soda”-it kind of looks like a cereal size box)
1/2 C. Oxi-Clean
4 C. + 2 Ga. water
5 Ga. bucket (with or without lid – I use a lid now because my laundry is in the basement and every once in a while I’d end up with a drowned spider in there.  Ew!)

Grate soap and melt on stove in 4 C. water.  Water needs to be hot, but not boiling.
Add Borax, Oxi-Clean & Washing Soda (stirring after each)
Pour into 5 gallon bucket & stir
Add 2 Ga. water & stir
Let sit overnight.

Use 1/2 C. per load.  I use a full cup on my towels.

I’m not exactly sure on the cost of this because I’ve tweaked the recipe a little bit to my liking.  Previously I was using only half the amounts borax & washing soda, so I believe that it now costs somewhere around 6 cents per load.  Still beats store detergents by a mile!

So, do you guys make your own?  If so, how do you like it and do you have anything to add?  If not, do you think you might be interested in trying it?

One of the things I love, besides the savings, is that you aren’t stuck with a bulky plastic bottle every time you run out that either needs to be thrown away or recycled.

Next week I’ll post the recipe for fabric softener.

From Scratch

The other day I made a joke about making everything from scratch and how that requires a lot of my time.

But all joking aside, I just can’t believe how much money we have saved this way.  When you can take a single bag of flour and a few other ingredients in your pantry and make things like banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, quesadillas, etc…you can see how these things end up costing you pennies.  Compared to the inflated (and much less nutritional) store bought alternatives, it’s a no-brainer for me.

I’m not saying it’s for everyone.  In fact, if I wasn’t a stay-at-home mom, I can promise you that I would probably be doing very few of these things.  It does require time.  But the more you do it, the quicker and easier it gets and besides, when you’ve got the time to invest in it and you are a frugal-minded person, it just makes sense to do it this way.

I won’t sit here and tell you that everything I put on the table for my family is made from scratch, but I will tell you that most things are.  And if I’m not making it from scratch, then chances are that I just haven’t found the right recipe that is to our liking yet.

Here is a list of the things (as many as I can think of off-hand) that I no longer purchase from the store.  These are things that I make myself.  Keep in mind that I don’t grind my own grains or anything, so I do still buy flour, sugar, etc…but again when you think of how many different items you can make from just one bag of flour, it’s exciting actually to think about how much money we save this way.  So here is the list:

Bread crumbs
Rolls, biscuits, bread sticks, etc.
Pancake mix
Fruit Jams &  Jellies (I don’t have any fruit plants YET, so I’m buying fresh fruit and then canning the jam – but next year!  Next year for sure I’ll have some blackberry bushes!)
Tomato Sauce / Juice, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce (canned from the garden)
“Cream of” Soups – celery, mushroom, chicken, etc.
Chicken broth
Bottled dressings
Powdered soup mixes
Taco seasoning
BBQ sauce
Alfredo sauce
Apple butter
Caramel apple dip
Granola bars
Hash browns

And then there are the non-food items that I no longer buy-

Laundry detergent
Fabric softener
All-purpose cleaner
Toilet cleaner
Bar soap (This is only because Brian works for a soap factory and we get it for free) 🙂
Facial cleanser
Lotion (I am the only one using this because Brian does not share my enthusiasm here, so he is still using store bought)

So, I’m sure that I may be missing some, but you can see that the possibilities are endless.  And again, you have to purchase the ingredients to make these, but the ingredients have so many other uses that one big bottle of vinegar will be used to make laundry detergent, surface cleaner, glass cleaner, etc.  Many times over.  In fact, laundry detergent ends up costing me about 3 cents a load!

Looking at the lists above may seem overwhelming to some, but believe me, I didn’t just wake up one day and say “I think I’m gonna just make all this stuff myself!”  No.  It was a work in progress over several years actually.  I started with laundry detergent and then just started adding new things here and there as I found time to do the research.  Some things I didn’t care for so much and others we loved.  You just have to find what works for you.

With these uncertain times that we are in now, I think that more and more people are trying to find ways to save where they can.  This is a great way to do just that.  I know when Brian was laid off, I really hunkered down and started looking for even more ways to save.  That is really when a lot of the “cooking” from scratch came into play for me.  I was already making my own cleaners and such, but as far as the cooking went, there were really only a few things that I made myself.  He was laid off for 5 months and that was a long, scary 5 months.  So, now that he is back to having a good job, I’m still utilizing all of those methods I learned when money was tighter.

If anyone is considering trying to start making more of the things you use from scratch, I would like to encourage you to take that first step.  And remember to start small with just one or two things at a time.

And if anyone wants any of the recipes for the stuff I have listed above, just let me know and I’ll be happy to get those to you!

Big Fat Honkin’ Deal!

Look at the deal I got today at CVS.  3 bottles of shampoo, 3 bottles of conditioner, hairspray, toothpaste and 2 bottles of Dawn dish soap.  (Sorry the picture is blurry.  My camera sucks or I do at taking the pictures!)


All that stuff would have cost me $40.72, but with my CVS card + coupons + cash back towards my next purchase, it cost me $7.54!  Oh sweet money saving madness!  I love me a good deal like this!

Feeding A Family Of 4 On $80 A Week

Can it be done?

I’m going to find out.

Our grocery bill runs anywhere from $110 to $120 a week.  And sometimes more than that!  I know we can eat on less than that.  But is my $80 goal realistic?  I don’t know.

I had originally set a goal of $100 a week.  But then decided that we could probably do better than that.  Or at least I hope we can.

You see, Brian & I are two very different people when it comes to groceries.  He is a fan of pre-packaged, convenience foods.  I am not.  I prefer fresh, make-it-yourself-and-save-a-bundle type stuff.  And I would love to tell you that it is only because I want my family to eat wholesome, real foods, and I do want that, but the main reason is cost.  It is just so much cheaper, if you have the time, to cook from scratch.  Case in point – granola bars.  I recently made homemade granola bars.  They were awesome and they’re good for you.  They are higher in calories than the tiny things you get in the box, but they also aren’t full of all kinds of bad for you ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, etc.  AND my girls loved them!  I had everything I needed in my pantry…that was the best part!  I can make them over & over without having to buy anything.

He also drinks pop.  I do not.  I will occasionally have a Sprite at my MIL’s or a Big Red at the Spinster’s house, but I don’t buy pop for me to drink.  I drink water and sometimes I’ll have tea or pink lemonade.

Now, I do have to say in his defense, that since I have been cooking a lot more from scratch, he has really liked it.  Croutons are a good example.  I recently made a salad that I used my homemade croutons in.  I didn’t tell him they were homemade.  He took a bite and said “Did you make these, they’re awesome!”

I made them with leftover bread that would have been tossed out, some herbs from my garden and a little bit of olive oil.  Very easy.  VERY CHEAP!!!  And they were much better than the ones that I usually buy in the  store.

So, as long as he doesn’t have to be inconvenienced or sacrifice taste, he’s on board for the most part.  I just can’t get him to give up his expensive pop-drinking habit.  And he won’t go for the generic cheaper version, either.  Or his expensive chip eating habit.  But, he works hard for us, so I gotta give him a break.

We also do not do meatless meals like a lot of others do.  And I am in total agreement with him on this.  I have to have meat in my meals. And meat is expensive.

So, I ask you again.  Can we eat on $80 a week?  Well, we shall soon find out.  My plan of action is to plan my meals around the sales at my grocery store.  Then combine what I already have in the pantry and freezer with whatever I can get deals on at the store. I’m also going to try to start having a leftover night.   The problem area is going to be the pop and the meat.  I would LOVE to have a deep freeze so I could buy my meat locally once a year, but that’s definitely not in the budget right now.

And then there’s the whole coupon thing.  I go back & forth on this.  I know some people coupon like crazy and some don’t at all.  I have decided that since I have been able to get a lot of things free or close to it, with coupons, I will continue to do it, but only for things that we would  normally use.  For example, today I got 6 bottles of Suave conditioner for free at Kroger.  They were on sale for 1.00 and I had coupons for 50 cents off.  Kroger doubles coupons up to $1, so that made them free!  I don’t use Suave on my hair, but I do use conditioner to make my own fabric softener, so I stocked up and I’m gonna be set for a while on that!  However, I’m not going to clip 5 million coupons in the hopes that someday there will come a deal on something that I don’t even use to begin with.

All in all, this whole thing is time consuming.  It takes time to plan out each meal of the day, every day.  It takes time to read the grocery ads and plan accordingly and it takes time to clip coupons.  BUT if it allows us to shave $160 a month off the grocery budget, then I think it is time well spent!

I’ll let you know how it goes.

**I feel like I need to make a confession here, lest you think I’m a pre-packaged food hater.  I do prefer Tyson frozen breaded chicken strips whenever we’re having that type of thing.  I’ve tried several homeade breaded chicken nugget/strips recipes and found nothing that I like.  Or even come close to liking.  I want my breaded chicken to be crunchy and flavorful.  And not covered in oats or cornflakes.  And so I’ve given up on that one.  Fortunately, we don’t eat meals that call for them often.**

He Got The Job!!!

I  don’t even know how to say what I want to say right now.  I am trying to find the right words to convey how I feel, but everything I start to type does not do justice to the thankfulness I feel in my heart to the Lord for answering our prayers!  We are so happy and excited!  Brian starts his new job on Monday.

Thank you to all of you who have been praying for and helping us through this time of uncertainty.  We love you!

My sweet Aunt T shared this verse with me tonight and I think it is very fitting for this situation:

Isiah 41:13 “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.'”

The Freaks Come Out At Night

It’s 1 AM and I’m still awake.  Terrible, I know.  I’ve got two little girlies up there snoozing away who are gonna be ready to party like it’s 1999 tomorrow and I’m going to be a walking zombie because I didn’t get enough sleep.

I can just hear it now…Katie will say “Hannah, did you notice those bags under mommy’s eyes?”
And then Hannah (being her sweet self) will say “Yeah, she looks like crap.”
Then Katie will say “Let’s hope we didn’t pick up those genes from her.”
And then Hannah will say “Yeah.  No crap, man.”

But seriously, tomorrow is a big day for us.  Hence the reason for my insomnia.  In fact, I haven’t really “slept” in about 2 weeks.  And I wasn’t going to blog about this in case we get bad news tomorrow.  I didn’t want to put it out there and then have to explain it all if it didn’t work out.  Because seriously, I have honestly felt like if it doesn’t work out…well frankly, I have felt like I will fall apart if it doesn’t.  I have been doing pretty good about keeping my chin up for the most part over these past 5 months since Brian’s layoff.  I have been leaning on God.  I have been putting my faith in Him.  And I am ashamed to admit it,  but my faith is faltering a little right now.  Not because I think that he’s not taking care of us, because believe me, He has.  It is just because I am an inpatient, imperfect, sinful human being.

But then tonight as I was sitting here (not sleeping!), I realized that there really is no reason to hide this.  If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean that God has forgotten about us.  It only means that it’s just not what He had in mind for us.  And I will be thankful for that.  Because that means that He has something else in store.

Brian had a 2nd interview on Friday of last week for a supervisor’s position at a soap company in a neighboring town.  The pay would be very close to what he was making when he got laid off.  The timing is perfect.  We are at the point where bad things are going to start to happen if we don’t get more money soon.  They told him at the interview that it was between him and another guy and that they would let him know something, either way, Monday or Tuesday.

Monday came and went.  Tuesday is staring me in the face right now and I am worried to the point of sickness over it.

I want him to get this job so badly. We NEED him to get this job in the worst way.  But then I find myself thinking about the other guy.  What are his circumstances?  What will it mean to him if he doesn’t get the job?  Does he have a family also who is depending on this the way we are?  And then I have to stop thinking about it.  Because it’s too much.

Is it any wonder that I’m not sleeping, I ask you.  Is it any wonder that when people see me on the street and they take in the full effect of what all of this lack of sleep is doing to me, that they shield their children and run in the opposite direction screaming “Oh my eyes!  It burns!”

Ha!  Okay, so it’s not that bad, but it’s bad enough.  Stress does mean things to a woman’s appearance, I tell you!

So here I am at 1:15 AM now.  Me & my shadow, Willie.  A couple of freaks burning the midnight oil and watching the Andy Griffith DVD that my thoughtful parents brought over because they knew I was missing it since having the sattelite shut off.

And speaking of Willie, that dog follows me EVERYWHERE.  No matter where I go, he’s right behind me and when I stop, he just flops himself down right there and lays until I go somewhere else.  When I go to the bathroom, I have to politely demand that he give me just the teensiest bit of privacy, so he just flops down right outside the door and waits patiently to follow me to our next destination.  That dog is so funny.  He drives me insane with all of his craziness, but then he will just look at me as if to say “Hi mom.” and I just want to hug his scruffy head off!

And now I’m rambling.  Well, it’s official.  The freaks really DO come out at night.

I must get some sleep.  For the love of all that is good in this world, I need some sleep!  Goodnight John-boy.

Last Day Of School & A Sweet Deal

Today was Katie’s last day of 1st grade.  Hard to believe that she is growing up so fast.   She did such a great job in school this year, she really enjoys everything about it and she finished the year reading at almost 4th grade level.  We are so proud of her.

Here she is with a couple of friends from her class.  My camera batteries died right after I snapped this. (Thank goodness I was able to get at least one picture!)


And here are a couple of pictures from Hannah’s last day of pre-school.




And since I’m in the mood for showing you things that I love, here is a picture of the sweet deal I got at Target today using the store’s sale items and my coupons.


That’s 2 bottles of mayo, 2 bottles of BBQ sauce, a 12-pk of mountain dew, 2 tubes of toothpaste, and 2 bars of Dove soap for $7!  Score!  I’m not a big-time couponer like some others are,  but I do keep my eye on Money Saving Mom‘s website and when I find great deals, I strike!

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