Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The greener, cheaper, picker-upper

What if I told you I haven't bought paper towels at ALL in over 3 years?  One of the very first things we did to be "green" and save a ton of money was start using reusable paper towels.  This was actually a huge change for us as we were probably buying a 15-pack of paper towels every other week, running about $20.  We used them to dry our hands by the kitchen sink, to wipe up the counter tops, to wash mirrors/windows, to pick up a mess on the floor, pretty much everything.  I actually got the idea from a friend, we posed the question to our little playgroup "what is one thing you do to be green?" and she offered up that.  This change has been AWESOME for us.  We don't waste money on paper towels, and we don't create a ton of garbage with them either.  I went on etsy to snag these "unpaper towels" from madeintheredbarn and haven't looked back (not a paid endorsement or anything, just relaying my experience).  

Truthfully, if I was feeling more crafty I probably could have just made them, and you could too! They're just pieces of microfiber cloth cut up and zigzagged around the edges.  I stack them up in a basket next to the sink so they are accessible, just like a roll of paper towels.  

I use them for everything I used paper towels for, the counters, my hands, messes on the floor, wiping my kiddo's face, we even use them for napkins too.  Toss them in the laundry with your whites, or even as a separate load with hot water and vinegar if you want to sanitize them and whiten them up.  I actually wash them as I do cloth diapers about once a month, otherwise I throw them in with whatever is being washed that day.  We buy no more paper products for the kitchen, period.  So for a $48 investment 3 years ago, and we made back our money in 6 weeks, another 10 on the cheap scale!

What was the first thing you did to start living more green/cheap?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

No-Poo Part I


 So after much skepticism I decided to take the plunge and go full-on no-poo.  No, I am not withholding bowel movements, although, admittedly that's what got me to read the very first blog post I saw about this method.  No-poo refers to a method for caring for your hair that does not use shampoo or conditioner in the traditional sense.  No Pantene or Herbal Essences for me. I was inspired by this post on Pinterest.  To summarize this is the deal, shampoo is a detergent.  Detergent is BAD for your hair.  It strips your hair of all the natural, healthy, oils your scalp produces, so, to compensate, your scalp goes crazy and produces way more oil than it needs to, leaving you feeling like you need to shampoo again.  Rinse, repeat, literally.  Nevermind all the chemicals and other nonsense that shampoo and conditioner are full of that are bad for your body and mama nature.  AND the cost of shampoo, not a huge expense necessarily, but it adds up!  The No-Poo method replaces your shampoo with a baking soda and water mixture and your conditioner with a vinegar/water rinse.  Your hair/scalp will have to get used to this radical change, but it will be far better for both in the long run, or so the story goes.  I started this method last week, these are the diaries of this adventure...

Week 1:

I am using the standard 1 Tbsp baking soda and 1 cup of water mixture for the "shampoo", and the 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, and 1 cup of water mixture for "conditioner" .

Day 1:  Using the baking soda mixture was weird.  To be more descriptive I felt like I was pouring cold water on my head and expecting my hair to be clean.  There was no lather, (obviously), and my hair felt really oily and un-clean in the shower.  The vinegar solution, however, made my hair feel GREAT, sooo soft even in the shower, I felt it right away.  No issues with tangles after the shower either, the comb slid right through.  I used a hair dryer without product of any sort.  The result, my hair felt the same as normal, maybe a little softer.

Day 2:  My hair felt a little greasier than normal by the end of the day, but I'm prepared for this, "they" say it could take weeks for the hair to stop feeling greasy, good thing I can put it up and throw on a hat.  Did the same routine with the washing, this time I used heat-protector when blow-drying.  Dealt with a lot of "frizzies" after that, probably existing damage to my hair.

Day 3:  My hair felt even greasier today, I decided to let it air dry after washing.  Maybe I'm not supposed to wash every day?  But I get craz-ay sweaty when I work out, so not an option to skip the shower.  Air drying left my hair with lots of body on the bottom/ends, but greasy near the crown, I threw it in a pony tail.

Day 4:  A little greasier still.  After my shower, I blow dry again with heat protector.  One thing I'm noticing for sure is I can really tell where my hair has breakage from all the damage.  Ends up in a pony tail again today.

Day 5:  This time I get great results, perhaps my scalp is normalizing already?  I blow dry it 1/2 way, so it's not soaking wet and use some velcro rollers at the crown for body there to balance the bottom.  I end up with no grease to speak of and a soft wave.

Day 6:  Since I liked the results so much last time I decide to do the same thing again today.  Blow dry 1/2 way with heat tamer, rollers for the crown.  Lots of body and soft wave, I LOVE my hair today.  It actually feels a touch dry, I may need to cut back on the baking soda.

Day 7:  Repeated the same steps as yesterday and got the same results, this is awesome, I put it in a pony tail and have enough body on the crown for a super cute look.

So far I'm sticking with it, the greasy period hasn't lasted as long as I thought it would and I am really loving the results.  Stay tuned for more of the No-Poo Diaries...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Find

On Fridays I'm going to do something a little different, it's called "Friday Find".  I'll be featuring a product, blog, website, or place that may or may not have to do with living green, but will definitely have to do with being cheap, ahem, "frugal".  This week I'm featuring your local public library.

The public library is definitely something that gets forgotten often.  I, myself, just got a library card in the last few months, and MAN am I kicking myself for not getting it sooner.  Besides the obvious, books, did you know you can most likely rent DVDs from the library?  Like movies and stuff, FOR FREE.  I have no idea why we ever spent money on Netflix.  I got hooked on True Blood over maternity leave with G and rented ALL 3 available seasons from the library.  I am currently eagerly awaiting season 4 :).  Not to mention movies like Mission Impossible, Avatar, and TONS of others that are out.  At my library you get the checkout for a week, and you can renew if no-one else is requesting the movie.  The library also has music CDs, and e-books for check-out to your Kindle/Nook/Ipad/etc.

Also, the library can be a great place to get out with your kiddos.  Most of them have storytime for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.  And ours even has family storytime for everyone to get involved.

This is definitely a GEM, FREE entertainment thru several mediums :).  Check the website for your city's library and take advantage of this fantastic benefit!

If you have a "Friday Find" you'd like me to feature, shoot me an email!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Homemade All-purpose Cleaner

I have seen a ton of all-purpose DIY sprays all over Pinterest.  I tried a few, but none worked exactly the way I wanted.  We have granite counter tops, and for me, they need to shine if they are clean.  I found some sprays that left the counter top all streaky and wet looking, like your car windshield after a rain.  I found other sprays that left a white film over the counters that made it look like I wiped with a dirty rag.  Finally I got frustrated and decided to just improvise.  Well with a tiny bit of tweaking, voila! I have something that works.  It cleans fantastically and leaves my counter tops all shiny and beautiful.  It even got dried up bbq sauce up like nothing.  AND for me, I *hate* the pure vinegar smell and this one doesn't bother me a bit. So here's what I came up with:

Homemade All-purpose Countertop Spray (works on Granite!) :
3 cups hot water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 tsp liquid castile soap (I used Dr. Bronner's lavender)
10 drops lavender essential oil

Use a cleaned-out spray bottle from a cleaner that you use up, I like the white one because I can write the "recipe" on the bottle. Shake it up, and you're good to go!

This recipe is crazy cheap, here's the break-down:
1 cup of vinegar - I buy 1.32 gallons of vinegar from Costco for ~$3, so this works out to: $0.19
1/4 tsp castile soap - I bought 32oz from Amazon for $16, so this works out to:  $0.021
10 drops lavender oil - bought on Amazon for $9.99, so this works out to: $0.05

Grand Total:  $0.261

Compared to ~$3 for a spray you'd buy at Target, that's a 10 on the cheap scale.  And it's also very green and safe, no chemicals to worry about with your food or the kiddos.

I'm sharing this on frugal days, sustainable ways today!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Re-start 2012

So, it's been a really long time since my last post.  I originally started this blog as a place to be one-stop-shopping for things families can do to both live more eco-friendly and green, and also save money in the process.  The two go hand-in-hand really.  I started this back in 2010, and then life happened and side-tracked me before I even got going.  So since then, we have another baby, so I'm now the proud mama to 2 beautiful boys, Z, who is 3.5 years old, and G who is just 4 months.  After having G, I decided to leave my job and stay home with my boys.  Naturally this has given me even more motivation to live frugally and greenly (is that a word?).  So I now have a ton more to talk about on this blog and sooo many ideas and tips to save money and help mama nature. 
Stay tuned, very soon I will have a series about going "no-poo" with my hair, I just started this yesterday and have been keeping a daily diary of the process.  And also ways we have been saving lots of money by making our own cleaning products, eating from "scratch" more, and taking advantage of all that our community has to offer.