Until a few years ago I couldn’t see the point of living the ‘good life’. Grow my own food? Mix up my own cleaning products? Therein lay the way of madness as far as I was concerned. And my friends who were into DIY everything were clearly crackers.
Now I know the truth. I was the one who was nutty as a fruitcake! Making stuff yourself is often better for kiddies, plus – and here’s the big secret my mates weren’t letting me in on – it is actually a lot of fun. And in the process, cheaper too.
I haven’t gone the whole hog. I’ve started only with the cleaning products. Partly this has come from my sister. She has a number of skin sensitivities, and so does my nephew. Her knowledge of toxins in the average home is far superior to my own. And most of these come from cleaning products.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to go all Felicity Kendall, with a pig sty in the back garden and a loom in the front room. But while I was having fun mixing up concoctions with vinegar, lemon juice, teatree oil, eucalyptus oil and so forth, I realised I was cleaning the whole house every month and only spending a few quid. There’s got to be something in this homemade lark then, hasn’t there?
It isn’t possible to cover everything you can make yourself in one short article. Instead I’ve focussed on a few inspirational ideas, all supplied by PlayPennies parents, to whet your appetite and start you off.
I’ve never even thought about growing my own food. We’ve more of a very large patio than a garden. But there’s lots that you can grow in pots and bags. Amou started out her cucumbers and tomatoes just under two months ago in the conservatory. “The cucumbers are huge now! There’s no way we can eat all of them ourselves. I’m looking at ways to do pickles and chutneys.”
I’ve been the lucky recipient of my next door neighbour’s massive spinach haul this year. It has been a bumper crop. Spinach leaves freeze quite well too, and I’ve found that they are just as easy to use from frozen in most recipes.
All of these vegetables were grown from seed, and without very much attention needed to help them grow. If that’s still not tempting you, here’s what mum Angela had to eat for lunch straight from her garden. “Broccoli, kohrabi, beet tops, pea pods and spinach with quinoa. Yummy! And beyond healthy. I`m still vibrating from all the good vitamins.”
And the cost? Apart from the seeds and time for tending, nothing at all.
Clean the house
Last week I took a look at some of the ways you can cut costs on doing the laundry. That prompted a number of readers to get in touch with more ideas. Lisa has a tip she picked up in Australia. “Methylated sprits to clean the floor! No, really, most Aussies do this, the floor is clean and dries in about a second.”
Like me you probably think she’s telling porkies. But I checked it out on Google Australia and there’s page after page of Aussie mum’s talking about doing a ‘metho mop’. If that sounds a bit smelly for you, some mum’s recommend adding about 25ml of eucalyptus oil.
I also found this recipe on an Australian timber flooring website.
“Wash the floor with an almost dry sponge mop using a mixture of a ½ cup of white vinegar or methylated spirits to a half a bucket of cold water - they help cut through floor waxes without harming the finish.”
One of my very earliest memories – I can’t even have been 4 as we were still living in the farmhouse – is of my mum making play dough on the kitchen table. I’d forgotten all about this until mum Nicki mentioned her recipe for homemade play dough. I remember how it was all that much more fun to play with, than the plasticky shop bought stuff at nursery, simply because we’d helped make it.
It also tasted a lot better but I don’t think mum meant us to eat it! Nicki has kindly shared her recipe with us:
2 cups plain flour
4 tablespoonsw cream of tartar
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 cup salt
2 cups boiled water
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Put boiled water from the jug in a separate bowl and add food colouring to the water. Then mix the water with the dry ingredients until it congeals into a play dough mixture.
Nicki also discovered this DIY tip, when her youngest son got nappy rash from shop bought wipes. I haven’t worked out a proper cost for it, but roughly speaking if you’re already buying the oil and the lotion (and I got given so much of both that we’re still using it now – son is 5), then it will really only be the cost of the paper towels. Use a really absorbent brand, like Plenty. Also, check out the Bounty pack you got at hospital (if they still hand them out!). I got a plastic Pampers wipes container in mine.
1 roll paper towels (must be a good quality brand that will retain shape when wet)
2 cups warm water
Squirt baby oil
2 tablespoons baby lotion
2 tablespoons baby bath
Tear paper towels and place into wipes container. Mix wet ingredients and pour over the top of the paper towels.
Next week: that fantastic summer food, Ice Cream! Send us your tips for saving money on this frozen treat – either buying it or making your own.