A couple of years ago I began dabbling in the world of baking soda and vinegar as cleaning products, but didn’t get into it whole-heartedly. Then when we moved here I didn’t bring any cleaners with me and thought it’d be the perfect time to see how long I could go without buying any cleaners….well we’ve been here going on 9 months, and I’ve purchased almost none! So what have I been using the last 9 months? I’m glad you asked! :)

Vinegar

You can buy a nice big jug of distilled white vinegar for just a couple bucks.

I use it for:

  • Cleaning mirrors and windows, just keep it in a spray bottle for easy use.
  • Sometimes I clean my floor with just hot water, but sometimes I use vinegar too.
  • Pour some baking soda, vinegar and then hot water down a slow drain to help clear it out.
  • Use in place of fabric softener.

 

Vinegar makes great window/mirror cleaner!

Baking Soda

I like to buy the larger boxes of baking soda and use it not just for baking, but also for cleaning!

It works great on:

 

Keep baking soda in a spice jar for easy use.

Keeping baking soda in a spice bottle makes it easy to sprinkle around for cleaning!

 

Disinfecting Wipes

Disinfecting wipes are really the only store-bought cleaning supply I have right now (not counting dish soap). I know they’re not the most frugal choice, but they come in handy, like when we were chopping up meat from an entire deer on our kitchen table! I’ve been reading about various DIY disinfecting wipes and if I do try it, I’ll have to make a new post! :)

Any recommendations on homemade disinfecting wipes?

This post is linked at Frugally Sustainable and A Blossoming Life.

 

 

 

 

Amy 

 

There seems to be a big move towards home-made cleaning products. They’re cheaper, more natural and supposedly better for the environment, but to be honest sometimes the thought of making all my own cleaning products seems daunting. Mixing ingredients that I don’t usually have around the house, or cooking laundry soap over the stove kinda daunts me at this point. The good news is, I’ve discovered just because I don’t want to cook up my own cleaners, doesn’t mean that I have to buy all my cleaning products either!

Elbow Grease

We get in such a habit of using a special cleaning product for every surface that could ever be imagined. There’s floor cleaner, oven cleaner, window cleaner, furniture polish….. While it can be good to have some specific cleaners, it’s not always necessary. I usually wipe down my counters, tables or shelves with just a damp cloth…no cleaner at all. Unless I’m cleaning up raw chicken or a super gooey mess, a damp cloth and a little elbow grease usually does the trick!

Soaking

When I have to clean out my crock pot I usually fill it with water and maybe a little soap and let it sit! I let the soaking do most of the work for me. Then when I wash it out, usually most of the hardest gunk falls right off. Soaking can also be done with stained clothes.

Vinegar instead of Windex

I did a post on this before and in my post I mixed white vinegar and water, but I’ve changed that and now I just do all vinegar. Just put it in a spray bottle and spray your windows and mirrors then clean with an old newspaper or rag. I like using microfiber cloths. You can impress your friends by telling them you make your own windex, and they never have to know it’s just one ingredient!

Vinegar for Fabric Softener

I like to soak stinky shirts in white vinegar to help get rid of the smell, but it also has other benefits in laundry use, which you can read about here.

Baking Soda

Baking soda can be used for many a cleaning job. It  works good for scrubbing, especially when paired with an old toothbrush and it helps get rid of odors (as does vinegar). You can sprinkle some in the toilet bowl, clean sinks or counter tops with it. To make it handier to use you can keep it in an old spice bottle and sprinkle out as much as you need.

Keep baking soda in a spice jar for easy use.

Vinegar + Baking Soda

Mix the two ingredients and you have a bubbly reaction! I’ve used these two together to put down sink drains to get rid of odors and help keep the drains clear.

Easy Air Freshener

I’ve made my own Febreeze using fabric softener. It worked pretty well too.

Have you tried making home-made cleaners and detergents? Do you just buy them? Or do you meet in the middle, like me?

I got a new pair of glasses and needed to clean them but didn’t have any glasses cleaner, so I looked it up on the internet and found on about.com you can use white vinegar. So I just grabbed my spray bottle of “Windex, which is just water and vinegar, and a microfiber cloth and viola, clean glasses! I will never cease to be amazed at the many uses of vinegar!

This Frugal Friday Photo I have a picture of Gracia playing with a really cool Arthur book. It has little figures from Arthur and throughout the book there’s slots you can put them. I got it for Gracia at a thrift store along with a coloring book that had stickers in it. Both books were in great condition. The coloring book hadn’t been used at all and I got them both for $1! Another frugal thing in this picture is the outfit Gracia’s wearing. A lady from our neighborhood gave me a bunch of girl clothes last year. Most of them were too big for Gracia then, but she’s starting to grow into them now. The only problem with them is that they smelled really strongly of cigarettes. But I washed them a few times with vinegar and that fixed the problem!

The night before Gracia’s birthday party, we got worried there wouldn’t be enough cake with just her butterfly cake, so I whipped up some chocolate wacky cake and peanut butter icing. When I was kid chocolate cake with peanut butter icing was the most requested cake for our birthdays! It’s like a Reese peanut butter cup in cake form! =P

Instead of typing out the directions, I’m going to be lazy and just link to the sites that I got the recipes from, so here they are:

  1. Wacky Cake – This cake is wacky because it doesn’t use any eggs, but does use just a little vinegar.
  2. Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting

It would have cost us at the very least $20 to buy an already made cake for Gracia’s birthday. But instead we made a butterfly cake, which we didn’t have to buy any fancy cake

Just need to decorate it now!

pan for or anything. The cake mix for the cupcakes, the icing and sprinkles were all free. My older brother sent them to me for my b-day, but I didn’t get around to making them, so I got to use them for Gracia’s birthday! The wings were a wacky cake recipe. And the jelly beans we used to decorate the cake with were leftover from Easter. Here’s the site we used to guide us.

  1. I simply made a round cake and made some cupcakes. I actually made a cake that didn’t come out of the pan right, so I had to make another one. I buttered and floured the pan really good then let it cool quite a bit before taking it out of the pan. Then let it cool all the way before we cut it.
  2. Once cool, cut the cake in half and place on whatever you’re going to be keeping it on (I used a big cookie sheet). Put the circle halves facing out for the wings, with cupcakes in the middle for the body of the butterfly.
  3. Then ice the cake and cupcakes.
  4. Then decorate! We used pipe cleaners for the antennas.

The finished cake!

My little Gracia turned 3 this weekend! I remember when she was a newborn, everyone told me that the time would go really fast…and boy were they right! Anyways…we tried to do our party without spending too much money, but also make it a worthwhile party. We could have done some things cheaper, like used real plates instead of paper or made my own tea, but that also would have taken more time. So we decided to meet in the middle, we did some things from scratch and some the faster way.

Here’s an estimate of what we spent on the party. Some of the things I didn’t know an exact amount, especially if it was something made from scratch using small amounts of lots of different ingredients, so I just did an estimated guess.

We fed 13 adults and 5 kids. And we only ate about half the food, so we have several meals covered this week!

Here’s the numbers:

  • Swing (our gift to Gracia) $20
  • Drinks (2 jugs of tea, juice pouches, 2-12 packs of soda) $13
  • Bubble necklaces for the kids $2
  • Plates, cups, silverware, napkins and tablecloths  $17
  • Watermelon $4
  • 3 bags of chips $5
  • Cheese $7
  • Ice $6
  • 60 Hot dogs (Oscar Meyer, no artificial stuff, from Sam’s Club) $8
  • Hot dog buns (also from Sam’s) $4
  • Potato salad – the potatoes cost $6, so with all the other ingredients, I’ll just guess it cost about $9
  • Cake – We had 2 cakes, the cupcakes in the butterfly cake, the icing and decorations were free, I’ll explain more in my cake post. The cake for the butterfly wings and the second cake and it’s icing were all homemade so let’s say I spent $3 on that.
  • Chili – the meat was probably $5 worth and the beans just over $1, so we’ll say $8
  • We had onions, ketchup, mustard and pickles, let’s just say we used $3 worth of those.

TOTAL ESTIMATE: $109

Here’s some ways we either just didn’t spend money or spent less than we could have:

  • Our invitations were free, we just sent out a facebook invite.
  • We didn’t do any decorations.
  • I used a gift bag I already had for Gracia’s gift.
  • We spent very little on the cakes. The cake mix, some of the icing and decorations were free (I’ll elaborate in my butterfly cake post). The rest was made from scratch really cheaply. If we had bought an already made b-day cake it would cost at least $20.
  •  The potato salad and chili were made from scratch. Plus I used beans to stretch the meat in the chili.
  • We did it at a park for free, plus it had a brand new playground which was free, but really fun entertainment for the kids.
  • Most of the things I bought for the party were generic brand.
  • I saved receipts in case we didn’t use anything and wanted to return it. Which was good, because one of the sets of cups we didn’t open and I’m going to return them for a savings of $1.50! =)

So all to say, no it was not the cheapest party on earth, but we did find ways to make it cheaper. And when you save in other areas you can afford to splurge a little on special occasions.

I have more to talk about the party. I’m planning a post on how we made our butterfly cake (no purchasing a special cake pan!). I may also share the Wacky Cake recipe (it uses vinegar, and this is after all national vinegar month) and the peanut butter icing recipe. And I might do a post on how we used up our leftovers from the party.

What ways do you like to save or splurge on birthday parties?

So far I’ve shared with you how to use vinegar in laundry, cleaning, washing windows, and even in cookies. But here’s another recipe that uses vinegar to make a delicious salad dressing. I got it from bigoven.com.

Lisa’s Garlic Parmesan Italian Salad Dressing:

  • 1 c. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. dried basil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 Tbs. dried oregano
  • 1/2 Tbs. salt and pepper
  • 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. agave nectar or sugar
  • 1 splash balsamic vinegar

Shake it all together and keep refrigerated. You’ll need to shake it before each use.

This is a great recipe, and I use it as my basic recipe, but I don’t follow it exactly. I usually grate some of the lemon peel in (figure I might as well use it!). I don’t have any basil right now, so that just gets skipped. I use white vinegar instead of red wine. And I don’t really measure the ingredients, I think I use way more than 2 Tbs. of Parmesan. =P

To continue with the vinegar theme (this is national vinegar month). You can use baking soda and vinegar to clean a lot of things. I’ve used it in my kitchen and bathroom sink and tub. My favorite part is when you pour the vinegar over the baking soda and it bubbles and fizzes! =) I especially like using it in my kitchen sink because, when it goes down the drain it helps get rid of any bad smells.

Sometimes I make a kind of paste with the baking soda and little bit of water and scrub with that before adding the vinegar. And I like to save my old toothbrushes, they’re great for getting into little corners. This is a great way to clean if you’re trying to stay away from chemicals.

Awhile back I was talking to my mom on the phone and somehow got on the subject of smelly t-shirts. She suggested that I either soak them in a water/vinegar solution or put some vinegar in the fabric softener spot of my washing machine, since vinegar is a deodorizer. I’ve tried both of those for extra smelly clothes. It’s easy and cheap. Here’s an expert about vinegar in laundry I got from  http://www.rd.com/home/150-household-uses-for-vinegar/6/ .

“There are so many benefits to be reaped by adding 1 cup white vinegar to your washer’s rinse cycle that it’s surprising that you don’t find it prominently mentioned inside the owner’s manual of every washing machine sold. Here are the main ones:

  • A single cup of vinegar will kill off any bacteria that may be present in your wash load, especially if it includes cloth diapers and the like.
  • A cup of vinegar will keep your clothes coming out of the wash soft and smelling fresh — so you can kiss your fabric-softening liquids and sheets good-bye (unless, of course, you happen to like your clothes smelling of heavy perfumes).
  • A cup of vinegar will brighten small loads of white clothes.
  • Added to the last rinse, a cup of vinegar will keep your clothes lint- and static-free.
  • Adding a cupful of vinegar to the last rinse will set the color of your newly dyed fabrics.”

All sound like good reasons to keep some vinegar close to your washing machine! =)

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