Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Frugal Fails

It has been a few months now since I left my part-time job at church to stay home. I have had time to get Christmas pulled together and volunteer obligations fulfilled. I even joined a Bible Study and bought a Groupon for yoga classes. And yes, I said bought the classes, not started them yet.

I cleaned out the garage and attic, organized our master bedroom closet, hall closet and laundry room cabinets. I sorted the kids’ clothes and cleaned up my craft room. I bought and laid down half of a pallet of sod in the backyard.

I am easing into some more writing and running a rudimentary Etsy store and trying to do better with eating out. I’m saying no to things that will fill up the space that work used to occupy-or at least trying to whittle down to those things that truly are the best thing for me and the fam. Dominating this stay-at-home thing, right?

Hold your applause. I’ve also eaten too much junk, ignored too many loads of laundry, adopted another dog, spent too much time on Pinterest and let the garage and craft room get messy again. 

C’est la Vie! I am undergoing growing pains in my life, and I kinda want to see where things go.

In navigating the new normal, I’ve tried to be more frugal. I also like less chemically options for our family. I figured I could put some of those Pinterest hours to good use and make some products myself. I already use vinegar, borax and baking soda to clean so I fancied myself well on the way to self-sufficiency.

I found about 650,000 tutorials to make your own dishwashing soap and laundry detergent. Considering that we do about 12 loads of laundry and 8 loads of dishes each week, that sounded like the place to start. The fact that these were “natural” recipes was even better.

I gathered my arsenal:

Washing Soda (it’s like baking soda on whatever Lance Armstrong took)
Castile Soap (grated a bar into powder)
Lavender Essential Oil (optional)
Sea Salt
Citric Acid (from the canning aisle at Wally World)
White Vinegar (for use separately as a rinse)

Supplies with some of the finished product in the center 
Allegedly, the $15.00 in supplies I bought would make 60 dishwasher loads and about 6 months of laundry detergent. Stellar!

I went with this tutorial for dishwashing soap. I mixed everything but vinegar. I added ¼ of a cup of the mix to the soap dispenser and poured white vinegar into the rinse reservoir. Good to go. I cranked the dishwasher and waited.

If this was a Vlog, you would see me in high-speed, fast-forward running around my kitchen preparing dinner, letting dogs in and out, trundling kids through the room and so forth and so on while letters at the bottom of the screen said “40 minutes later…”

It is not a Vlog so you saw none of that.

40 minutes later…

The dishes were clean and sparkling and smelled faintly of lavender. Ahhhh! As they dried, I noticed the teensiest bit of white film. Not too bad. The next load, I added a cup of vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher instead of the rinse reservoir. Much better outcome. I think in the next batch of mix, I will use less castile soap.

Pleased with myself, I told the girls “This is so fantastic-we are going to make our own laundry detergent!” Enter Frugal Fail Numero Uno.

The girls were skeptical. Turns out, they were right. Here is a picture of the detergent:

Would you put that in your very lovely, space-age-ish, front-loading washing machine? I didn’t want to do it, but I had a bucket of the stuff so I felt obliged.

Note: I will not include the recipe here because it did not work. I will let you search the interwebs for one of the many recipes that turn out NOT to handle three active kids, a gardening mom and a running, basketball-playing dad. When you find a recipe you like try it for yourself-it may work for you.

So, back to the world of the ineffective homemade laundry soap. Even with the vinegar rinse, there were still stains, stinkiness and general dinginess after the load ran. Bummer. The plan seemed great. At least it didn’t cost a lot. I hope it did a better job cleaning out our disposal because that is where it went.

A few days later, I was looking for a great project to do with the girls. It was a Monday off from school but daddy still had to work. Enter Frugal Fail Numero Dos.

We had a bunch of Kool-Aid packets (remember the Easter project last year?) and several long-sleeved white t-shirts. I had the bright idea to try a dip-dye t-shirt project using just those. Now that our bucket was free from detergent I filled it with water. The girls picked out colors of Kool-Aid to dye their shirts. The fact that Kool-Aid always stains everything it touches made it seem like the best medium for shirt dying.

The middle child even volunteered, “Do you want me to use some of this mixed in Vaseline to make you a lip stain?”

Ummm, no. I’m good. Thanks.

For a twist, I used white glue to “paint” a design on my shirt based on a few tutorials I had seen. I let it dry and then submerged my shirt in the Kool-Aid. The idea is to mask out the design, dye the rest of the shirt and then let it dry. When you wash the shirt later, the design should be white. The problem is that the tutorials all used real dye, not Kool-Aid. This turned out to be a key difference.

Two of the girls opted to dip-dye their shirts so we hung the bottom six-inches into the Kool-Aid and hung the rest over the edge of the bucket. Overnight, the color climbed up the shirt and created an ombre effect from the hem up.

The youngest child did an elaborate glue design and then dunked her shirt as well.

 Fast forward to the next day. When everything was washed, we wound up with some pretty faded, slightly pink shirts, not the dark maroon they had been. The middle child’s shirt was washed-out blue.

The gluey shirts were not great. Mine barely had any design and the youngest child’s actually got darker where the glue had been instead of holding the white. Weird. At least they smell nice and fruity.

Where did the glue hearts go?
Not exactly the plan

Lessons learned?

1. Some modern conveniences can be bested by old-fashioned basic materials and elbow grease.

2. Some are better handled by nasty, harsh chemicals.

3. If we want subtly-tinted fabric, Kool-Aid is the way to go.

4. My garbage disposal is really clean.

Have you tried any ways to save money or be green that juuuuust didn’t pan out? Let us know!

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