Monday, July 30, 2012

Money Money Money...Monday: "Natural" Money-Saving Alternatives that WORK

Note:  This post got huge, so I am breaking it into two.  Come back tomorrow for part two!

When I was in college, my friends and I would sometimes refer to someone as "granola."  It was used mostly in reference to folks to frequented our campus co-op, a little store in the student union building that sold natural products and vegetarian sandwiches.  The college kids who frequented there were the same ones who organized the drum circles on the mall and who wore their hair in dreads and majored in environmental studies.

Every so often we would lightly tease someone for being "extra crunchy granola;" those were the kids who wanted to change the world by not bathing or protesting pesticides.  I guess we saw "those kids" as a little strange, although for the most part their interests and soapboxes weren't even on my radar screen.  Probably because I'm not a fan of dreads and I like eating meat.

Bottom line is back then if someone told me to not use chemicals or whatever, I would have laughingly called them crunchy and secretly thought they were a little odd.

Except guess what?  Now I am one of them.  Granola, that is.  Extra crunchy.  With nuts.  That's me!  Honestly, the only thing that currently separates me from "those" kids in college is I still use hair color and I'm still not very good at recycling.  

But the bottom line of that is I've haven't used shampoo in my hair for two weeks.  I make my own laundry detergent.  I clean my kitchen with vinegar.  Six years ago, I would have thought I am completely crazy.

For about six months, we've been making some pretty drastic changes around here.  Changes that I feel are not only contributing to my family's health, but are also environmentally-friendly and super frugal.  We are reducing chemicals as much as possible and using home-made, tried-and-true, natural alternatives that I'm learning work even better than the chemical ones, especially when combined with a little elbow grease.

Here are some of the changes we've made.

1.  I clean my house with vinegar, baking soda, and steam.  While I haven't been able to take the plunge (pun intended) to natural cleaners in the bathrooms, I have found that vinegar is incredible at cleaning.  I buy a 2-gallon jug at Costco for about $3.50 and I use it for everything from countertops to windows to laundry.  I feel good about little hands eating off tables that have only been wiped with vinegar.  While I miss the smell of Windex (weird, I know, but my mom always used it and the smell just says "clean!" to me) I've found that for the best, most streak-free shine on mirrors and windows, all you need is a sturdy micofiber cloth and some elbow grease.

I love, love, love my steam cleaner.  It makes my life.  I mostly use it on my floors, but I also use it to clean things like window wells and the glass door threshold.  I always hated how cleaners felt sticky under my feet after they dried; not so with steam!  Steam is natural and sterile and I love knowing that my baby (who often, incidentally, eats off the floor) is playing on floors that were cleaned with only water.  And the shine, oh, the shine!

Our steam cleaner is this one.

Shiny!  Don't walk on my floors, babe.
It takes some troubleshooting to use a steamer like this one for floors (it's a heavy duty one that's made for wallpaper steaming) but you can make it work.  I clip in a chamois cloth, a hand towel and a dollar store microfiber cloth (in that order) to make sure I'm not getting the floors too wet.  I also release some of the steam into the sink before I start mopping to get rid of the condensation that builds up in the hose before putting it to the floor.  You don't want too much water or you can damage your floors.  Also, little kids should never be near the steamer; this is a nap time activity!

2. I am still making my own laundry soap, and I think it works wonderfully.  I mix one grated bar of soap (usually Kirk's Castille) with one cup of baking soda and one cup of Borax.  I don't use fabric softener sheets anymore because I have a skin allergy to them, but I'll add a little vinegar to the wash cycle for a little extra softening if needed.

I am going to stop there for today, but come back tomorrow for part two; I'll go into our "personal care" changes which are way more interesting!

Here's to greener fields!

What "natural," "green," or "granola" alternatives have you tried?  What's worked and what hasn't?  Feel free to link up in the comments section!      


  1. I love the shampoo idea and I will have to try that. It was so cute how you identified yourself as the one on the right in the photo from Audrey's shower, lol! Trader Joe's has a great bar soap called honey oat or something and green tea something or other. We like them both. Great suggestions as a whole Taylor!

  2. WOW!! This is amazing, Taylor! I had no idea that these cleaning methods were so accessible. You've totally inspired me! Could you do a post about where you purchase your products, like essential oils, etc? Are you getting most of these things online?

  3. Sure! I get stuff at Roots (only by us) and I was just recently at a Wegman's and they have tons of great stuff there! Trader Joe's is good, too. If you don't have those up there, Amazon is best and sometimes cheaper than a local store.


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