Saturday, July 16, 2011

Beating the Cost of Clean Laundry

Anyone who wears clothes will produce laundry. Cleaning laundry is getting expensive, and I hate paying $7 for laundry soap and $2 for dryer sheets and another $3 for softener, but I'm not willing to go naked either! My solution? Offset the cost of doing laundry by making my own laundry soap! Because I am in an apartment, with a laundromat nearby, and have no washing machine of my own, and no clothes line...I'm stuck with what I have, so, let's make the best of it.
The Apartment Prepper offers this recipe:
* 1 bar bath soap such as Ivory or Zote, or anything comparable in your area. (I've used Zote myself, and I was happy with it)
* 1 cup Arm & hammer Washing Soda
* 1 cup borax
* bowl
* plastic container

"Grate the bar of soap with a cheese grater and place it in the bowl. Add the borax and Arm & Hammer Washing Soda. Mix well. Store in a plastic container and label it. Keep it out of children's reach. To use, measure one tablespoon of homemade detergent per load, or two for heavily soiled loads."

We've used a recipe very similar to this (I didn't know about the Apartment Prepper then), and we were happy with it. Lately, I've taken to washing some of our laundry in a non-food grade bucket. Shirts, underwear and socks have all been getting washed at home. In this way, we save laundry funds for those items that are more difficult to wash and wring out by myself, towels, jeans, sheets, quilts and dog blankets. So in goes the homemade laundry detergent, mix well to dissolve. put in the laundry items. I have a plunger that was purchased JUST for laundry, and I'll plunge, twist and mash down the laundry in the bucket, imitating the action of the washing machine. The advantage here is that I use only enough water to cover the clothes, saving on water. Great for those on a well or who have to pay for water. i do this for a while, moving the soapy solution through the clothes, agitating the dirt out until my arms get sore. If certain pieces of clothing needed extra stain fighting power (I love Spray & Wash for this), they've already been treated and they go into the bucket now. More plunging for awhile, then I rinse, repeatedly. Nothing is itchier than undies with soap residue! when the laundry is well rinsed, I wrong it out. Shirts and dish towels and pillowcases go out on the patio over my little accordion style clothes dryer to dry in the little sun that we get. (They smell better for this) and the socks and undies go up in the dryer. Too much work you say? Some days, I would agree, but for the most part, I am getting cleaner laundry, saving and prioritizing my laundry budget AND giving my upper body a workout too!
For those of you who have to use liquid detergent in a laundromat, I offer the following vid from WellnessMama.
Take control of your laundry budget folks!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Suburban Prepping...Or Saving a Buck

The Apartment Prepper is the blog perfectly suited to those of us in small apartments who are trying to change our lives. For those of you who may not know, "prepping" is a term that simply means preparing for...well, anything. Financial collapse, hurricane, floods, fires, sudden unemployment, sickness, sudden food or water contamination, power interruption, anything that might change our daily lives in a dramatic way. The Apartment Prepper, gem that she is, has written a wonderful book "The Prepper's Pocket Guide:101 Easy Things You Can Do To Ready Your Home For A Disaster" The book is not a massive tome, so it fits easily in a bag or briefcase for that commute into work. It's broken up into manageable sections and chock full of great ideas that anyone can achieve, so there's no need for 'prepper envy'. I love the idea of storing drinking water in sterilized 2 L pop bottles. Easy and totally do-able. Before you think we've gone all strange on you, think about your own area and how many times you may have been under a boil water advisory. With water stored, this event won't be a big deal. If your city has ever sent around notices warning of work being done on the water mains, it's no biggie if you have drinkable water stored. But, storing water isn't the point of today's post. Suggestion #32 in The Prepper's Pocket Guide is.
Simply, "learn basic cooking skills"
Now, even if you aren't a prepper, hear me out. Basic cooking skills are getting harder to find in most folks. I know people that would burn water, teenagers that have no idea how to cook anything other than a pop tart in a microwave. We're not talking about making a roux, or learning how to make eggs benedict, just ordinary cooking skills. Knowing how to make your own potato chips if the store is closed, or looted, or just didn't get their delivery when YOU want chips. Knowing how to make a burger, from scratch. (Just imagine the envy around the barbeque next company picnic!) For those of us trying to make our income stretch, this is a good idea too. Figure out what a box of Hamburger Helper costs where you live. Now, break that down into basic components. Meat, noodles of some type, flavoring and thickener. All of this is attainable. You can put any kind of meat you want in there, even more than one kind if you want! You can also control the fat content if that's important. Substitute ground turkey for beef, or consider adding sausage to beef if you're looking for added flavor. Herbs are easy, depending on the flavor you're aiming for. An Italian-type dish would have oregano, thyme, perhaps a bit of rosemary, and garlic. A Mexican style dish would have paprika, cilantro, chili or even cumin. Noodles of any type can be purchased in bulk, as can thickeners if you need them. Browse your local yellow pages for a bulk food or dried goods store, you may be happily surprised. The more you can buy in bulk, that you realistically have room for, the more money you save, while being less dependent on someone else to feed you. Do you work all week, or possibly work weird hours and don't feel like cooking when you get home? Have teenagers in the house and slightly concerned about what they eat? Want to insure that your family have something good to feed themselves in case you get ill or have to leave on a business trip? Easy, make meals ahead and freeze them. Let the family know the dishes are there and make sure they understand how to properly warm them (think latch-key kids here or teenagers).

Go to your local library and look for books that teach beginners how to cook. (We love Rachael Ray) Teach yourself how to cook if you don't know how, or teach those teenagers, or tweens, or husbands how to cook by having them help you while you make basic recipes. If you don't have a library card, get one, they're invaluable when you haven't got enough of a budget for entertainment. Scour the web for interesting recipes. What originally got me cooking years ago was a love of Mexican food. I don't do it as often as I used to, but it's on my list of things to pick up again. Perhaps there's a member of your family that is a really good cook? Ask them to teach you how. You may develop an interesting relationship while you learn a skill! Are there cooking classes in your neighborhood? Usually community colleges offer "continued learning" classes for a small fee, and the most popular classes usually revolve around food.

Learning how to cook can provide us with benefits many of us don't even consider. From a prepping point of view, it is security and control. From another view, it helps us save money and provides an opportunity to teach and share with family, or even learn and share.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Frustration and A Lack of Tomatoes

I confess, I'm getting a little disheartened. While the pepper plant is beginning to flower, and that shows a lot of promise, I am continually thwarted by pea plants that will not flower. The squirrels ate the carrots, and while the tomatoes are growing tall and very green, there are no signs of flowers on them. In contrast, a good friend has tomato plants that she has already gotten fruit off of. I'm sure the difference is the amount of sun. We get hardly any.
So I've been wrestling a lot lately with the question, do I bother trying veggies at all after these are gone? Or do I continue to scour Cambridge for another grow light and try lettuce, peas and carrots inside? Should I get another bag of soil and try sweet potatoes? (I know I can bring those inside once they're started in a bucket)
I want so badly to make this work, but it's hard not to get frustrated. Thing is, there's nothing I can do about the light we get. I think I just need to give myself a slap in the back of the head, a Gibbs-smack as it were and carry on.
More tomorrow, when I have soil and manure. If nothing else, I'll give you an update on the urban bucket compost situation.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Homemade Ketchup Video

Running out of time this morning before work, but I wanted to share.
Enjoy and be inspired! Make something for yourselves today!