Friday, May 13, 2011

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

In an effort to save money and have a greater positive impact on our environment, we have made a few changes around our house. All were easy changes and pretty fun along the way!

1. Felted wool dryer balls

A few weeks ago I found an online tutorial on how to make felted wool dryer balls and it looked like fun, so I decided to give it a try. I stopped using dryer sheets a few years ago due to the chemicals they were leaving on our clothes that were affecting Grayson's eczema, but I'd been using PVC dryer balls and they were working just fine. However, after reading about wool dryer balls and how they're even better for the environment and dry clothes even faster than the PVC dryer balls (since they can soak up some of the moisture from the clothes), I thought it sounded like something I wanted to try. I had to order the wool yarn online (I think I paid maybe $10 to make four dryer balls) but the actual creating of them was kind of cathartic and so far they're working great!

2. Homemade laundry detergent

Since laundry occupies a good portion of my day and I seem to be buying laundry detergent ALL THE TIME, this project was mainly motivated by money---or rather, saving money. My friend Mandy did a post on her blog a couple of months ago about how she was going to give making her own laundry detergent a try, and since I'd already been considering it I decided that it was a sign I needed to do it. I altered my recipe just a bit and have tweaked it since the first time I made a batch. This is SO easy and saves me probably $20 every six weeks on detergent.

Here's my recipe:

2 cups Borax
2 cups Arm and Hammer washing soda
1/2 bar grated Fels Naptha soap
entire half bar (2-3 oz) of goat milk soap (in any scent you like)

*the first three ingredients I found in the laundry aisle at Publix, and the goat milk soap I ordered from here. My favorite scent so far is lavender vanilla. Before I started using the goat milk soap I just used an entire bar of the Fels Naptha. For some reason I feel like the goat milk soap gets the clothes even cleaner, though, and the smell is an added bonus.

I put the 2 cups each of the Borax and washing soda in a bowl, and then put the soap in the microwave on 45 seconds to a minute on high. The soap expands and after it cools, it crumbles really easily. It's much easier to do this than grating it with a cheese grater. After this, I mix the soap with the powders and put them in the food processor to make it an even finer consistency. Finally, I put everything in an old wipes container and keep a tablespoon measuring spoon in the container. I use 1-2 tbsp per load (more for a dirtier load, like Ben's running clothes). Clothes get just as clean as when I used commercial laundry detergent, at a fraction of the cost!

3. We kicked our paper towel habit!

Now, on to our latest transition....using paper towels has long been a habit that I've been wanting to break, but I could never take the leap to cloth. A couple of weeks ago I was organizing the drawers in Whitt's room and stumbled upon a drawer full of burp cloths from all three children. As I sat there thinking about what I could do with all of these burp cloths, it dawned on me that they could easily replace our paper towels. I ran to Dollar General and spent a whopping $7 on 24 dishcloths to use as napkins, and the conversion from paper to cloth was done!

I keep a drawer next to the kitchen sink filled with burp cloths (for wiping down counters, cleaning up spills, etc) and old baby washcloths (great for wiping dirty hands and mouths after meals), and I put the new napkin/dishcloths in a lower drawer that is easily accessible to the kiddos, and it's been smooth sailing. I still need to go out and buy some nicer napkins that are "company worthy" so when we have guests over for dinner they aren't using the ratty Dollar General napkins, but besides that, this was a really inexpensive transition since we had almost everything already.

The only negative so far in doing this is when I need to drain food on paper towels. I do keep one roll in our pantry for this purpose and so far I've only used them once--when I fried squash and used two paper towels to drain them.


And this has nothing to do with the environment, but adding it to this post anyway...

I've made a few deeeelish recipes this week that are worthy of sharing:

I didn't change a single thing. Only thing I'd do differently is make more carrots because we were fighting over them---they were that good!

Also didn't change a thing. I've made this several times and it's always one of my favorites. Great the next day as leftovers, too. Go out and get some corn and make it tonight---you'll thank me.

This is from my friend Angela's blog (which, by the way, has tons of great recipes!). We ate it tonight and I'm trying hard not to go back into the kitchen and eat some more, even though it's now bedtime. I've made other crock pot chicken and dumplings recipes before but they always seemed to lack flavor and the chicken was always dry. This, however, is fabulous!!!! The only changes I made was using boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts (because I had a package already in the freezer) and I added some chopped celery. Even the kiddos loved it, which is a bit rare these days! :)


Joanna said...

Proud of you! I love love love my dryer balls. We use 8-12 per load. They are awesome! And unpaper towels are the best. I haven't bought a "real" paper towel since October.

Mandy said...

Glad you liked the laundry detergent! I am going to have to try your tweaks! I've tweaked ours here and there, but have not added that other soap you referred to. Also...I want to do the yarn balls! Our boys have the eczema as well, so anything to help out with that sounds good to me! Although the laundry detergent has helped with eczema, too. :)

Casey said...

I love the idea of the dryer balls! Do you use fabric softener? I've really been wanting to make my own detergent since I saw the (gasp!) Duggars do it on TV and thought- "now surely, if they can do it, I can!" LOL!! I'm going to put these on my summer projects list.

Melissa said...

This post is right up my alley! I cannot wait to sit down and read this in the morning! I have wanted to try the laundry deterg. for years! You are now my inspiration to do it! thank you! xoxo

Angela said...

You amaze me!!! I am totally in for ditching the paper towels and have been thinking about it for quite some time. My reasoning is because it is one thing I can RARELY get for free (sale + coupons). I may try it this summer! Thanks for the inspiration!!! Also, thanks for the shout-out: so glad you & the kiddos liked the chicken & dumplings! YUM