Day 3: Still no spending.
In my introduction to The Dollar Diet blog in last Sunday's Work & Money section, I mentioned that I make my own foaming hand soap and laundry detergent as a way to stretch my $50-a-week grocery budget.
I have a feeling I lost some readers right then and there. Too much trouble. Or just too weird.
But several of you emailed and posted on the blog asking for instructions so I'm posting both my recipes below, along with some number-crunching.
For those of you still a little skeptical, give it a try. If you have kids, you could even turn them into kitchen science experiments. What I like best is being able to spend so much more of our grocery budget on food.I mean, who wouldn't prefer to buy a nice piece of meat or fish for the grill rather than a jug of laundry detergent?
Just so you know, I didn't dream up these recipes on my own. Recipes abound on the Internet. I'm not sure where all the concoctions originated, but the laundry detergent recipe I ended up using is one that's also used by the Duggar family of reality TV fame. You know, the folks with 19 kids? I figured if it's good enough for their brood it's good enough for my family of three with the occasional giant laundry bag lugged home by our son away at college.
Foaming Hand Soap Recipe
1 1/2 Tablespoons liquid hand soap
warm tap water
Put 1 1/2 Tablespoons liquid hand soap in an empty foaming soap container
Add warm tap water, leaving enough room to shake. Replace pump lid and shake. Pump once or twice to prime. That’s it.
Note: The recipes I referenced called for anywhere from 1 to 3 tablespoons of liquid hand soap, depending on how thick you want the foam to be.
The budget breakdown: A 64-oz. jug of anti-bacterial hand soap can easily be found for about $5. That one jug, which would refill just eight standard hand pumps, will make an astounding 85 bottles of foaming hand soap. That's a deal. (Your only other start-up cost is a foaming soap container. I bought Dial foaming soap at the grocery, using a coupon, of course. Once the containers were empty, I began making my own.)
Homemade Laundry Detergent
4 cups hot tap water
1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda***
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
1 bar Fels-Naptha soap
Grate the bar of Fels-Naptha soap and add to a saucepan filled with 4 cups water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap is melted.
Fill a five-gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
The following day, stir mixture, which will gel. Fill empty laundry detergent jugs half full with soap mixture, then fill the rest of the way with water.
Shake before each use. Use 5/8 cup for top-loading machines and 1/4 cup for front-loaders.
The budget breakdown: This recipe makes 10 gallons of laundry detergent. If you use a top-load machine, you will be able to wash 180 loads, using 5/8 cup detergent. If you have a front-loading machine, as I do, this one recipe will wash a whopping 640 loads of laundry, using just 1/4 cup per load. Your total cost: about $7.
Notes: If you're like me, you might be scratching your head over the ingredients list. I had a vague recollection from childhood of a mule team commercial but had never actually noticed it at my grocery or purchased it. The other two ingredients I had no clue even existed. I found all three in the laundry section at Harris Teeter. You just have to look closely. These are products from a mostly bygone era.
The Fels-Naptha soap, a 5.5-oz bar is wrapped in paper, and costs $1.39. The Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (not be be confused with A&H baking soda***) is in a cardboard box and costs $2.95 for 55 ounces. And the Borax, which also comes in a cardboard box, runs $4.75 for 76 ounces. Except for additional bars of Fels-Naptha, I'm don't think I'll have to purchase laundry detergent ingredients until I'm well into my 70s.
As for the 5-gallon bucket, I highly recommend one of those giant white industrial drums with a lid. I' suppose you could probably buy one but I was way too cheap for that. I asked for one on freecycle and within a day or two, several folks had offered me one. I later learned that restaurants receive ingredients in these buckets and are often happy to pass them along rather than throw them out.