12 everyday essentials you can make
If money is an issue, try a little DIY. You'd be surprised how easy it is to make baby wipes or taco shells.
In a recent article I noted that a "toddler pack" of Cheerios is something a busy parent might grab on the fly. But I did the math: Those Os cost $27.50 per pound when someone puts them in an easy-to-hold container for you.
Far better to pour some from the box in your cupboard into a sippy cup or some other toddler-friendly container. Bonus frugal points if you bought the cereal on sale with a coupon, or in bulk at a warehouse club.
Any time a manufacturer prepares a sauce, a cleaner, a snack or an entrée for you, the cost will be considerably higher than if you did it yourself. While not everyone has the time or inclination to make everything from scratch, the Convenience Tax can take a pretty big bite from your budget.
If money is an issue for you, spending even an hour a week preparing a few basics could prop up your finances. You'd also wind up using fewer chemicals and creating less trash.
Here are a dozen examples of necessities and nice-to-haves that are simple and cheap to make. Try one a week and note the impact on your financial bottom line. And yeah, enjoy that sense of DIY pride.
1. All-purpose cleaner. I can't remember the last time I bought this product commercially. A far better (and cheaper!) alternative exists in my kitchen cupboard: white vinegar. Some people use it straight, but I dilute it 50/50 with water into a spray bottle from the dollar store. It works wonders on greasy stovetops. And yes, the smell does go away.
2. Soap scum cleaner. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash and ordinary bar soap produce quite the stubborn film. This post on the Bargain Babe blog offers a secret weapon: a 50/50 mix of Dawn dish detergent and white vinegar.
3. Laundry soap. Don't want to grate up and simmer a bar of Fels-Naptha? I don't blame you. Try this version from the One Good Thing By Jillee blog: It's made with our old friend Dawn dish detergent plus borax, washing soda and boiling water.
Personal care items
4. Hand sanitizer. The Thrifting Denver website offers a recipe for a spray-on sanitizer made with witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, distilled water and a little peppermint extract for fragrance. Hint: Use generic witch hazel and rubbing alcohol from the drugstore (alcohol is a fairly common loss leader), and skip the peppermint if you like; since the water where I live is very good, I'd probably forgo the distilled kind.
5. Baby wipes. Some people make these from soft cloth (e.g., fleece or old T-shirts) and launder them along with cloth diapers. Others use a roll of thick paper towels that's been cut in half. "How to make baby wipes at home" on About.com offers a super-simple cleansing solution -- water mixed with small amounts of baby shampoo and baby oil -- and suggests a couple of specific containers for storage.
6. Foam soap. Super-popular but fairly pricey -- unless you read "Foam soap for under $4 a year" at a blog called Adventures of a DIY Mom. It is very, very simple to make refills.
7. Deodorant. Some people swear by lemon juice, a natural salt crystal or cider vinegar. Some of us want an actual recipe. This one, from Marla Walters at Wise Bread, is a mix of baking soda, cornstarch, coconut oil and essential oil. Use a price comparison website like PriceGrabber or Nextag to find the oils cheaply.
8. Barbecue sauce. The commercial stuff can be pretty salty, and pretty expensive. Mix your own with ketchup or tomato sauce plus one or more of the following ingredients: Worcestershire sauce, cayenne, garlic, lemon juice, ginger, soy sauce, melted butter, cider vinegar and brown sugar. A really simple sauce is just cayenne and dill weed stirred into ketchup (very tasty on roast chicken). Bonus: No half-used bottles mouldering in the fridge because you mix only as much as you need.
9. Iced tea. This costs as much as $1.10 per quart when bought by the jug (and even more purchased as single-serve). Teabags cost from 1 to 5 cents apiece, which translates to as little as 2 cents per quart. Even after you add sweeteners and/or fruit flavorings, you're saving a bundle (and avoiding preservatives). Look online for recipes.
10. Taco shells. How many come out of the box chipped or broken in half? According to this post on eHow.com, you can make your own shells in 5 to 10 minutes with corn tortillas, a bit of oil and a couple of forks. I've seen corn tortillas as cheaply as 40 cents per dozen -- and you'll definitely be able to use them all if you make . . .
11. Homemade corn chips. Again, incredibly easy: Cut the tortillas into quarters and fry in a little oil until crisp. Sprinkle on a bit of salt, set them out with salsa (and maybe some cold beer) and prepare to receive compliments.
12. Pickles. When you finish your next jar of sweets or dills, buy an English cucumber ($1 to $1.50) and slice it into the jar of brine. Within a couple of days you'll have new pickles. I've done this with carrot sticks and hard-boiled eggs, too. Note: Over time the pickle juice will lose some of its potency because of the water it draws from the vegetables. Empty the jar and look online for "easy pickle recipes." Most of them start with -- you guessed it -- white vinegar.
Readers: Got any DIY housewares tips?
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For the baby wipes a little vinegar 1/4 teaspoon is needed to maintain ph balance and reduce bacteria.
I cannot vouch enough for white vinegar! I use it for almost all my cleaning: the hard water build up dissolves within seconds from kitchen sinks (just let it sit for a few minutes and then brush/wipe off); the ring left by water in toilet bowls takes a few brushes to disappear; the faucets are sparkling clean with it; the grease on the range is much easier to clean with white vinegar. Since I started using white vinegar 5 years ago I have not bought any cleaning products. I used to spend so much time scrubbing hard water stains with cleaning products I used to buy and the feeling that this is nontoxic adds to my happiness! (The only other cleaning products I use are Murphy's oil for tile floors and generic ammonia for mirrors, windows.)
This may sound a little crazy, but for those clothes stains that you think will never come out of something, like grease and other tough substances. Take the clothing item outdoors, and spray the target area with either, or commonly found as "starter fluid" for a carburetor. Once you’re done, immediately place the clothes in the washing machine as the smell is strong and will linger if you leave the clothes lying around or tossed into a hamper. You need to go from the spray process (outdoors only) straight to the washing machine. It works miracles
Is an "English" cucumber different from what we usually find in the produce section?
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