Archive | Homemade

Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub – EASY!

Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub - EASY!

As the weather gets colder, my hands start to feel like alligator skin.  Well, what I would imagine alligator skin to feel like since I am totally freaked out by any sort of reptile and could never touch one!  But I digress, back to my hands – rough, dry skin that catches on everything.  This hand scrub does the trick!  And it’s so easy.

A few years ago a friend of mine and I took a girls weekend trip to a spa in Arizona. It was lovely.  The spa had this wonderful scrub in the bathroom.  Our hands felt incredible after using it.  Every time we did I analyzed it, sniffing, rubbing, trying to figure out what was in it.

So here is my closest approximation to that wonderful spa scrub.


Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub
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  1. 3/4 cup sugar
  2. 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  3. 2 TBSP Apricot Kernel Oil (could substitute olive oil or almond oil)
  4. All of the ingredeints below are totally optional
  5. 1 tsp vitamin E
  6. 1 tsp vegetable glycerin
  7. 3 drops each lemon, lavender and rosemary essential oil
  8. 1 TBSP aloe vera gel
  1. Mix all ingredients until combined completely
To Use
  1. Take a bit and rub all over your hands, rinse with warm water only, no soap.
The Greening of Westford

As much as I love the benefits you get from using several ingredients, it can be a bit much when you are just starting to make your own beauty products.   Start with a few key ingredients and build from there.  This recipe could be made with the first 3 ingredients only, even the first 2 honestly!  It will be a bit stiffer without a liquid oil (like olive oil), but coconut oil is a great moisturizer on it’s own and the sugar scrubs.

I think next time I’ll try using some real rosemary from my garden! 

As you add more ingredients to your arsenal, add to this recipe.  I’d suggest  Vitamin E  and one (or more) of the essential oils.  (disclosure: affiliate links)  They are easy to purchase and can be used in a variety of products.

By the way, wouldn’t this look so cute in your guest bathroom!

Easy Homemade hand scrub


Put this in a cute glass jar, label it, maybe a ribbon.  Voila!  Holiday gift!

Have any good tips for rough hands?


This post has been shared at Natural Living Monday


Easy Foaming Hand Soap

{The Greening Of Westford} Easy Foaming Handsoap

There was a time when you would place a bar of soap next to the bathroom sink for washing hands.  Somewhere along the way, that became a disgusting thought – “Use the same soap someone else has used??”  Ewww!”  Honestly, if it’s my own house I don’t mind so much but do feel a little weird elsewhere and forget that concept in a public restroom!  Plus that bar can get pretty slimy and gross – think kids playing with the bar of soap while washing their hands.

In comes liquid foaming soap.  Convenient, not as messy, and scents that can make you feel like you are on vacation.  On the other hand, there is the wasteful packaging, those scents contain Phthalates, anti-bacterial liquid soap most likely contains triclosan, and they are expensive!

So pick your reason for wanting to rid your bathroom of these liquid foaming soaps:

  1. Wasteful
  2. Potentially dangerous chemicals
  3. Expense

I’m not going to suggest we go back to the bar of soap, although that is an option.  I’m going to say,

Make your own!  
It is so easy.  The most difficult part, is finding a container you like.

Foaming Soap

It’s not special foaming soap, its the container does the foaming action  I tried ordering empty foaming soap dispensers.  They were difficult to find and expensive.  Buy one already filled with soap and refill that one when it becomes empty.  Whole Foods carries their 365 brand foaming hand soap for about $5.  Or if you have those pretty smelling ones lying around, keep them!


liquid soap of your choice (Castile or anything unscented and without triclosan)

Fill your container about a 3/4 with water, then fill the rest with your liquid soap.  (You might need to play with this ratio.)
Mix gently

That’s it!  You can add essential oils if you like for fragrance or extra cleaning properties.  Teat Tree oil and lavender work nicely.  Vitamin E or glycerin can be added for softening qualities.  It’s up to you.

Cost Savings:
This method costs a fraction of what it would cost to buy new foaming dispensers filled with soap each time. Plus don’t forget your other savings in terms of health and resources.

32 oz of Castile soap (at Bed, Bath and Beyond) is about $9.  You can make 128 oz of foaming soap from this.

Pretty smelling scented ones, on sale, are 5 for $15.  Even at this great price it would cost $45 for the same amount of soap*.

Do you make your own foaming hand soap?  Will you now?

*The math:

Each pretty smelling bottle contains 8.75 oz. and costs $3 (on sale)

128oz/8.75oz  =  15 bottles (rounded up to whole bottles)
15 * $3 = $45

This post has been shared at Simply Natural Saturdays, Your Green Resource, From the Farm, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways


Making Yogurt: It’s All About Temperature!

Making yogurt in microwave
I grew up on homemade yogurt from my grandmother.  I love plain yogurt!  I am Armenian and we eat plain yogurt a lot – not just for breakfast or snacks.  In Armenian households, madzoon (maad – zoon), Armenian for yogurt, is a staple!  We put it on dolma (meat and rice stuffed cabbage or grape leaves).  A lot of people find it too sour.  Commercial plain yogurts can be sour.  With homemade yogurt, you can control the sourness. 
After I graduated from college, I wanted to learn to make my own.  I asked my grandmother and the directions were not clear at all, to say the least!  “Put your milk in a pan and bring it just to a boil” – how much milk, what kind, high heat?????  “However much you want to make.”  And “You know, just so it won’t burn“ were the answers.  “Then let it cool until you can just put your pinky finger into it without it burning”  Really!?  That is the explanation.  I kid you not.  And I have heard this method described by many others too.  Of course, this means burning your finger a couple of times before you get it right!
Needless to say, my yogurt was hit or miss back then.  At one point, I was able to calibrate my pinky and could make yogurt with the best of them! Yum!
I wanted to get back into making yogurt so I tried again about a year ago.  I could not calibrate my pinky to save my life!  I finally gave in and did some research to figure out exactly what temperature doesn’t burn your pinky  – turns out it’s about 115 – 118 Fahrenheit.   But still, no yogurt for me! 
A friend told me about this method and it is working beautifully!  It’s all about temperature!
ingredients for homemade yogurt


½ gallon of milk – I have only tried with pasteurized whole milk
4 TBSP plain yogurt with active and live cultures – you can buy this, or use your homemade yogurt
2  quart-size mason jars
Heat The Milk
1.  Take your starter yogurt out of the refrigerator and sit it on your counter to warm up.
Heating milk to make yogurt
2.  Pour 1 quart of milk into each mason jar (no lids) and place in microwave.
heating  milk to make yogurt
3.  Heat the milk until the temperature of the reaches 180.  Mine took about 15 minutes, but I started with 10 minutes, checked the temp. then put it in for more time.  The temperature needs to reach at least 180 to kill any other bacteria.  Higher is OK as long as the milk doesn’t burn.
Cool The Milk
cooling milk to proper temperature to make yogurt
4. Take the jars out and let them cool to 118 degrees.  I used an ice water bath and it took about 10 minutes.   TEMPERATURE IS KEY AT THIS POINT.  If you wait too long, the milk is too cold for the cultures to culture.  Too hot and they die.  There are loads of websites out there saying that this perfect temperature is anywhere from 100 – 118.  And that different temperatures affect the resulting yogurt’s taste or texture.  Could be.  But grandma used her finger and this feels closer to 118 to me so that’s what I do.
5.  While the milk is cooling, I warm up my oven.  This is where the jars will rest to culture into yogurt.  I turn my oven on the lowest setting (200) to heat it up a bit, then shut it off, and leave the light on.  
Add Active and Live Cultures
6.   Add a bit of the milk (about ¼ cup) to your yogurt starter to thin it out a bit and to warm it up.  You don’t want to shock it when you add it to the milk.
7.  Add half of the yogurt starter to each mason jar and stir gently.
Prep for Culturing
8.   Put the lids on and wrap the jars in a towel.  I used a hand towel, folded and wrapped around the mason jars, secured with rubber bands (thanks to my friend for this idea).
Keep milk warm to culture
9. Place the jars in the warm place you prepped in step 5.   The jars are then wrapped in a huge beach towel.  TEMPERATURE IS KEY HERE TOO! You want to keep the milk at about this temperature throughout the culturing process.  Some sites also recommend using a heating pad, pot of hot water or turning on the oven when needed to warm up.
Let The yogurt Making Begin!
10.  Let the jars sit for about 5 – 7 hours.  The longer you let it sit, the more sour the flavor.  Do not disturb the jars – bacteria like it calm!
11.  Hopefully – YOGURT.  If not, don’t give up.  Try again. 
12. Chill the yogurt completely before eating to improve the texture.
I like this method because it is simple!  Right, simple!  There are 12 long steps.  They really aren’t difficult; it’s that there are a lot of things that could go wrong so I tried to cover those common mistakes.
There is much less transferring of the milk and resulting yogurt than other methods and thus less chance of introducing “bad” bacteria.  I did not sterilize everything I used.  Probably should have, but again, with the jars going straight into the microwave, those get sterilized along with the milk.  The only other item I used was a spoon.

I love making my own yogurt for several reasons:

1) I feel connected to my grandmother and my Armenian heritage
2) It tastes soooo much better than store bought
3) I save money!  I pay roughly $3-4 for a gallon of milk which makes 4 quarts of yogurt.  I would pay $4 for a SINGLE quart of decent plain yogurt at the grocery store.

Next I want to try making yogurt in the slow cooker!


Don’t Toss Those Citrus Peels!

citrus infused vinegar for cleaning {}
 A while ago I investigated ways to use citrus peels – beyond composting them.    In doing so I came across infused vinegar.  I was intrigued.   I have since made infused vinegar several times with oranges, lemons and grapefruit.  I am addicted!   
Why would I want infused vinegar?  Do I cook with it?  Maybe you could, but I use mine for my homemade cleaners.  The vinegar extracts the essential oils from the citrus peels,  mellowing the smell of the vinegar and  adding a boost of cleaning power to the vinegar.
I love that I can get extra use out of something before it gets composted.  If you are just getting started making your own cleaners, this is a great, cheap way to start without investing in essential oils.
I substitute one of these infused vinegars for the vinegar in any of the homemade cleaner recipes, then skip the essential oils. 
What You Need
ingredients to infuse vinegar
Citrus peels – orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, or a combination
Glass jar with lid – reuse an old spaghetti sauce jar
White distilled vinegar
The Method
Save your citrus peels – I save mine in the freezer until I have enough to fill the glass jar.
inexpensive green cleaners
Fill the jar with your peels, really stuff them in there, the more the better. (Can you tell my orange peels are frozen?)
vinegar cleaners {}
  Fill the jar with distilled vinegar.  Make sure all the peels are covered by the vinegar, otherwise mold could start growing.  Get the kids to help!
citrus infused vinegar cleaner
 Let the jar sit for 1 – 2 weeks, gently shaking every once in a while.  Give it a wiff every once in a while. When you can smell more fruit than vinegar, it’s done.
 Strain the vinegar and keep in another jar to use.
Have you ever infused vinegar?

This post is part of Vintage MauveFrugally SustainableSeasonal Celebration SundayYour Green ResourceSimple Lives ThursdayWorks For Me Wednesday,  Frugal Fridays, Simply Natural SaturdaysHome is Where the Heart IsTiny Tip Tuesday, Green Sisterhood Weekend Reading List, Green LivingThursdayFabulously Frugal Thursday, From The Farm, Wildcrafting Wednesday

This post was featured at Tiny Tip Tuesday!!!


Fabulous Chewy Granola Bars!

OK, OK, you caught me.  Yes that was me buying Fiber One Chewy Granola bars by the case!  

Fabulous Chewy Granola Bars recipe
The best chewy granola bars ever!

I have been trying to find an alternative to Fiber One Granola bars for a long time now.  I hate buying them because of the ingredients and the waste of individual servings.  But they are so darn convenient!  I have tried other homemade granola bars, none of them passed my kids’ taste test – at least not for long.

Until these!  I combined several recipes I found across the web and did some tweaking myself.  I am happy to say I have been making these at least once a week for the past 2 months – they go so quickly and my kids don’t ask for the others anymore.  The hard part is keeping enough  around.

Seriously, it’s difficult at times to get my kids to eat healthy, so if they like them, that is saying something.

There are 2 versions of this recipe.

Method #1 – Thanks to Betsy from Eco-Novice’s recipe for granola bars,  I tried this variation with success.  Essentially you make granola first, then use that in the bars.  They are not as crumbly and are more crunchy

Method #2 – .is a little quicker, but results in a more crumbly bar.   It doesn’t affect the popularity!

Both are amazing!


3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups brown rice crisp cereal (I have only found them at Whole Foods, but you could use “Rice Krispie” type cereal too)
1/4 cup flaxmeal
1/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped almonds – I really crush these so my kids don’t see big nut pieces
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (for method #1 only)

4 TBSP butter
1/3 cup peanut butter (I use all natural)
1/3 cup almond butter (could use peanut butter)
2/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional, could use dried fruit)

Method #1

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together, except the chocolate chips, if using and the rice crisp cereal.  
  2. Combine the dry ingredients with the melted coconut oil and bake in a 325 degree oven for 20 mins, mixing every few minutes.  When done, let cool.
  3. Add brown rice crisp cereal
Method #2
  1. Mix all dry ingredients together, except  the chocolate chips, if using.
For either method used above, 
  1. In a small pan, melt the butter, honey, peanut butter and almond butter over medium heat.  Once everything is melted, cook on low for 5 minutes.  Add vanilla.
  2. Mix wet ingredients with dry.  
  3. If using chocolate chips, let the mixture cool  before adding so they don’t melt.
  4. Press into a buttered 9×13 pan.  Press really hard!  I use a piece of wax paper cereal bag on top to help with the pressing.   Let set up in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
You could use all peanut butter or all almond butter.  If you need to be nut-free, try soy nut butter and skip the almonds.  I haven’t tried, but dried fruit could be added as well if you like.
Do you make your own granola bars?

This post was shared at The Green Phone BoothTeach Me TuesdaySeasonal Celebration SundayVintage MauveFrugally SustainableFrom Dream To RealityFabulous Friday and Snacktime Saturday.



Mason Jar Blender

For a while now I have wanted to make my own moisturizing lotion.  The recipe I found needs to be blended in a blender.  OK, I have a blender, no problem right?  But the recipe includes beeswax.  Problem.  I know from making my own lip balm that beeswax is difficult to clean out.  I didn’t want my kids’ next smoothies to be waxy!  So I waited….

Then I started to see rumors on the internet about using a regular mason jar with your blender.  Really?  I have to admit I was nervous to try but this would solve the waxy blender problem.

Today I made my lotion AND used a mason jar with my blender!  

I’m going to say now that I am no blender expert.  This worked with my blender.  While looking into this, I did see references to broken mason jars, tipping blenders, and lost fingers!  
IF you decide to try this, please use your best judgement and be careful!

I used a regular pint sized mason jar.  The wide mouth jars are too wide.  My blender is an Osterizer 12 speed blender that is about 14 years old.

Mason jar blender

Step 1:  Remove the blade assembly from the blender pitcher.
Step 2:  Place whatever you wish to blend in the mason jar.

Step 3: Screw the blade assembly – gasket, blades and base – onto the mason jar.  Make sure it is secure.

Step 4: Put the mason jar onto the blender base.

At this point, I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous.  To be on the safe side, I covered the whole blender with towels.  In case it broke, I figured this would contain the glass somewhat.

Step 5: Blend.  I pulsed it a few times and ONLY blended on the lowest speed.  I also held onto the mason jar lightly just to make sure it stayed balanced.

Basically work in reserve to get everything out of the jar when done blending.

Take the mason jar and blade assembly off the blender base.

Unscrew the blade assembly.

This worked out REALLY well!

I love this method, since you could actually make something then store it in the same mason jar!
Have you ever done this?  Would you even try?

This post is part of Crunchy Betty’s Tuesdays Outside the BoxFrugally Sustainable, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.


Preschool Teacher Approved Playdough Recipe

Preschool teacher approved play dough recipe
(Photo Credit: Gina Guillotine/Flickr)

When my kids were little, they loved playdough.  Actually who am I kidding, they still love it!

Because I love to cook and so do my kids, we used to make our own playdough often.  They loved picking their colors.  Sometimes, we would scent the playdough with vanilla or peppermint extract.  Smelled so good.  Of course, I wouldn’t do this with very young children who might be tempted to eat the dough.  But then again, with these ingredients, it probably wouldn’t be that bad!

We always used this recipe from their preschool teacher.  Preschool teacher approved!  It doesn’t get any better than that.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup cold water
1 TSBP oil
coloring of your choosing

1) Sift flour, salt and cream of tartar.
2) Put all ingredients into a non-stick sauce pan and whisk together until smooth and creamy
3) Cook over medium heat stirring until a ball of dough forms (about 1 – 2 minutes)
4) Remove from heat.
5) Knead for 5 mins.  Store in airtight container.

Cream of tartar can be expensive.  I tried cutting back to 1 tsp.  It’s OK, but the cream of tartar gives the dough it’s smooth silky consistency.  If you buy cream of tartar in bulk, it is so much cheaper.  Try Whole Foods bulk bins, Penzey’s, or other bulk spice companies.

As for the coloring, when we made this dough, I was not the greenie I am now.  We used Wilton icing color paste.  Probably not the best choice.  Now I would try some natural dyes like the ones I did for Easter eggs this year replacing the water with the dye.

Have you ever made playdough?

This post is part of Vintage MauveJillify It and Frugally Sustainable.


Luscious Lip Balm Made Easy

Lip Balm Made Easy {The Greening Of Westford}

I really like making my own products – whether it’s food, cleaning, or personal care products.  I like to cook and be creative and this feeds that passion.

Lip balm is so simple!  There are tons of recipes out there.  This is one that I made with my daughters and some of their friends.  It is girl approved!

The basics are really simple – melt a combination of oils together, add scents (optional), pour into a container.
You will use a combination of oils that are liquid and solid at room temperature.  The amount of each will determine the consistency of the resulting balm.

Basic Recipe

1 TBSP beeswax
1 TBSP coconut oil
1/4 tsp Vitamin E oil
scent (optional: try extracts you use for baking like vanilla, coconut or peppermint, essential oils, or honey)

Yields about 1/2 oz.

    Melting ingredients for lip balm {The Greening Of Westford}
  1. Melt the beeswax and coconut oil.  There are a couple of ways to do this.  Whatever you use, you may need to designate as “lip balm making” use only and the beeswax if difficult to clean out.  If you have a bowl you are willing to sacrifice, use that over a pot of simmering water (double boiler).  I sacrificed one of our many mugs.  I set it in a shallow pan of water.  You will need to stir the mixture.  An old Popsicle stick works great.
  2. Once the oils have melted, add Vitamin E and scent (if using).  
  3. Place in a container and cool.
Some Tips:
  • Vitamin E is great for the skin and acts as a preservative.  
  • Honey adds a nice creaminess to the lip balm.  If you use it, you will need to stir until the mixture begins to cool. Otherwise the honey will separate.  You will also need to reduce the Vitamin E slightly.
  • Once the lip balm has cooled,  test it out.  If you don’t like the consistency or want more scent, you can remelt the mixture and add whatever it needs.  For example, more peppermint oil for a better scent or more liquid oil to make it softer.  Go light on the liquid oils and scent at first.  It’s easy to add more of these later, but you can’t take it out.
Remelting lip balm to add more scent or make smoother {The Greening Of Westford}
Because these were in metal tins, I just dropped them into the hot water to remelt.  I wouldn’t try this with plastic containers.

Here is another variation that was popular with the girls.

Chocolate Mint Lip Balm

1 TBSP beeswax
2 TBSP coconut oil
1 TBSP coco butter
1/2 tsp honey or jojoba oil (or other oil)
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp of Vitamin E
few drops peppermint essential oil or extract

Yields about 2 oz.

  1. Melt the beeswax, coconut oil and coco butter slowly.  
  2. Once the oils have melted, add peppermint oil.  Remove from the heat and add honey/jojoba oil, cocoa powder, and Vitamin E.  Stir until mixed thoroughly. 
  3. Place in a container and cool.
Sources for ingredients
Beeswax can be found at Debra’s Natural Gourmet, Nissitisett Apiary and online.  Make sure you get pellets.  Beeswax is extremely hard so it will be difficult to break off the correct amount if you get a big hunk.
Coconut Oil is available at most grocery stores, including Hannaford, Market Basket and Trader Joe’s.
Vitamin E can be found at any grocery or drug store.
Essential oils are available at GNC and online.
Extracts are available in the baking aisle of the grocery store.
Any small container works well.  I purchased small 1 oz tins online, but I also used old cosmetic containers and a contact lens case!  Baby food jars would be a little big and not extremely portable, but a good option as well.
Flavor options for homemade lip balm {The Greening Of Westford}
We tired vanilla, lime, coconut, peppermint, plain honey,and chocolate mint.  We loved them all!
Have you ever made your own lip balm?


Change The World Wednesday – Lemons


This past week’s Change the World Wednesday challenge was:

This week make a conscious effort to waste no food. If you need some ideas on how to accomplish this, please read the article referenced in the previous paragraph.
I really try to do this on a regular basis, but it doesn’t always happen.  Reduce Footprints had a related challenge a few months back.  The challenge was to use up whatever food you have before buying anything more.  I made some really great meals out of my leftovers.  In order to reduce your food waste, you really need to start upfront – planning before you go buy food.  For me this means making a menu for the week and looking ahead at what will be leftover and what I can do with them.
When I started thinking about this challenge, I saw it in in a different light than the first challenge.  Let’s see if I can use parts of food that I would normally compost or throw out.  I found so many things that Americans (especially) throw out that could be used.  Too many for one post!  So this post will concentrate on uses for lemons, especially the peels which are often composted or tossed out.  Don’t toss those lemon peels – or any other citrus peel.
Citrus zest/peel (the colorful part of the outside of citrus) has many health benefits and shouldn’t be tossed.  Before you squeeze your lemon, lime, or any other citrus, zest it.  The zest is great for you – high in antioxidants, killing cancer cells and inhibiting tumor growth.  It’s where the essential oils of the citrus are.
For Cleaning
  • Use to clean the microwave – Add lemon rinds to a bowl half filled with water and cook on high for 5 mins.  The steam created will loosen any crud making it easy to wipe away.
  • Freshen the Garbage disposal – Send spent lemons down the garbage disposal to freshen them.
  • Use to scrub greasy messes – Use a juiced lemon, add some salt if you need more of a scouring action – be careful with Granite or Marble.
  • Infused Vinegar – use the peels to infuse plain white distilled vinegar with lemons awesome scent and cleaning power.  Fill a glass jar with lemon peels then fill the jar with white vinegar.  Let this sit for 2 weeks.  Strain and use as a cleaner.
For Eating
  •  Make Limoncello – This is an Italian lemon flavored alcohol.  There are many recipes on the internet.  This would make a great gift.
  •  Make zest – You can zest a lemon, dry the zest on a towel then store in a jar.  You can also freeze the zest.  Use any where you would use fresh zest or lemon.
  • Make  Lemon Powder – Make the zest above, dry it thoroughly, then grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestal.  You can also peel the zest with a vegetable peeler and roast the peels lightly, then crush into a powder.  Use the powder anywhere you would lemon juice. 
  • Preserved lemons –  Preserved lemons are whole lemons preserved with salt.  Preserved lemons are used in many Moroccan dishes.  This can also be done with limes.
  •  Candied lemon peels – These sound really yummy!  They can be eaten like candy or used as a garnish.
  •  Lemon infused Olive Oil – Lemon infused oils are delicious and a great way to use lemon peels. 
  • Freeze the used halves, then use when roasting fish or chicken.  I always place lemons inside the cavity of a chicken.  It just gives such a good flavor.
For Beautifying
  • Make a sugar scrub – Mix 1/2 sugar with finely chopped lemon peel.  Add enough olive oil to make a paste.  Use in the shower as a body scrub to soften your skin.
  • Soften Elbows – Add some salt or baking soda to a lemon half.  Scrub elbows to soften.
There are so many more out there.  Next step for me is to set an up easy way for me to save the zest so I can try some of these.  

*Top picture used under Creative Commons by Mowie Kay/Flickr.

This post is part of Frugal Days Sustainable Ways.



My Favorite Uses for Baking Soda

baking soda cleaners
My grandma used baking soda for everything. Honestly, at the time, I didn’t get it. Now, I think baking soda is amazing! You can cook with it. It’s an unbelievable degreaser. Makes a mean, but gentle, scrub. It deodorizes just about anything. It’s totally safe and it’s cheap! Here is a small list of my favorites.

  • Refrigerator/freezer deodorizer – Keep your refrigerator and freezer smelling fresh with a good old box of baking soda.
  • Carpet Freshener – Sprinkle on carpets, let sit 15 minutes, then vacuum. You can mix essential oils with the baking soda to add a beautiful scent. I added lemon and orange to mine for a citrus smell.
  • Oven cleaner – Sprinkle your oven with baking soda, then mist with water. Let this mixture sit overnight, occasionally misting with more water to keep it moist. In the morning, wipe and scoop up the baking soda and the grime with it.
  • Dishes and pans – To make scrubbing easy, sprinkle with baking soda, let sit, then scrub clean. While baking soda is a very gentle scrub, test first on delicate surfaces.
  • Facial scrub – For years I have used a little baking soda mixed with a mild liquid cleanser as a facial scrub.
  • Drain Cleaner – Add ¼ cup baking soda, then vinegar, then hot water.

  • Toothpaste – I remember grandma brushing her teeth with a paste of baking soda and water. At the time I thought it was weird. I was about 8. What did I know!

  • Clean fruits and vegetables –let fruits and veggies soak in water with some baking soda.
  • Boost Laundry detergent – Add to laundry powder in the washer to boost the power of your detergent.
  • Insect bites or bee stings – Make a paste with water and place on bites to soothe.
  • Deodorant – Mix equal parts baking soda and cornstarch and apply.
  • Tub and Tile scrub – Mix 1 2/3 c baking soda, ½ cup liquid soap, then ½ cup water and 2 TBSP vinegar into a 16oz bottle. If baking soda residue is left, try rinsing with vinegar.
  • Scrubbing the inside of a stainless steel mug – This is my latest discovery. The inside of my stainless steel travel mug was looking pretty stained. I scrubbed it with baking soda and water and voila – clean mug! Next is my coffee pot! Updated 3/25/11 – Forget the scrubbing! Fill a microwave safe container with enough water to fill your mug, mix in a good amount of baking soda, heat, pour into mug and let it sit for a few minutes. Scrub gently – CLEAN!
  • Cleaning a coffee bean grinder – Fill the bean grinder with baking soda, let sit, occasionally swirling the bean grinder to move the baking soda around. It dislodges particles stuck under the blades and freshens it at the same time.
  • Clean the grease-dust-gunk from above your cabinets – Sprinkle the tops of your cabinets with baking soda, mist with water, wipe clean.


The uses are limitless. I didn’t even touch the fun stuff like making volcanoes or clay. I buy baking soda in a huge package and have it stashed everywhere – under the kitchen sink, in the laundry room, and bathrooms. An old parmesan cheese shaker works great!

Have you discovered the awesomeness of baking soda yet?

baking soda to clean coffee potUpdated 3/25/2010 – I tried using baking soda to clean the inside of my stainless steel coffee pot. Didn’t work as well as with my mug, but it was a lot harder to scrub the inside of the pot. While researching for this post, I heard that people use baking soda to clean their coffee makers. Why not! So I dissolved about a 1/4 cup of baking soda in water, filled the machine and let it run. OMG! the black that was covering the inside of my coffee pot came flying right out! It is sparkling clean now. Look! I left that little bit of black so you could see what the entire inside USED to look like. Then scrubbed that out too! I’m not sure if the initial scrubbing I did loosened anything or maybe it was just the combo of hot water and baking soda, but try this!

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways,  Seasonal Celebration SundaySimple Lives ThursdaySimply Natural Saturdays, Thank Goodness It’s Monday


Homemade Green Cleaners Made Easy

Chemicals are everywhere! In our furniture, flooring, cleaning products, toys, clothes… This list goes on. The more I read, the fact I keep coming back to is that even if a specific chemical hasn’t been linked with some detrimental effect, yet, it’s safety hasn’t been proven either.

Most of the “new” chemicals used today are not tested before they are put on the market. This is something that Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Healthy child Healthy World are trying to change. Until they succeed, I wanted to rid my family of as many of these chemicals as I could. Again, I started with the easy, inexpensive things – our cleaning products. So many can be made from safe ingredients you have around the house – edible ingredients that people have been using for years! And so cheap! Each of these cleaners costs less than $1, after the initial expense of the spray bottle ($1). And that’s including the essential oils. Skip those and you are talking $ 0.30. If you choose to reuse an old spray bottle, just make sure you clean it very well.

I started at the library with a few books on homemade cleaners. The one I really liked is Easy Green Living by Renee Loux. It was a great introduction. She organized the book according to the rooms in your house. First she explains the possible toxins in cleaners or other things. She then gives you alternatives – homemade and store bought.

All of the ingredients were very easy to get. I did order some essential oils, but you don’t need these. And if you decide you want them, try GNC at the Pheasant Lane Mall. They carry most of the popular ones – who knew! I then bought some spray bottles from the Dollar Store and made up my own labels using Microsoft Word and some clip art. So here is my list of non-toxic cleaners I use in the 2 messiest rooms.

What you will need:

Spray bottles (Dollar Store)
White Distilled Vinegar (Grocery Store)
Castile soap (Bed, Bath and Beyond (great price!) Grocery Store, Target, GNC)
Baking Soda (Grocery Store, BJ’s, Costco)
3 % Hydrogen Peroxide (Drug Store)
Essential oils (optional, but are available locally at GNC)



kitchen cleaning products
From left to right:

Hydrogen Peroxide (3% solution found in most drugstores) – I put an extra spray top (from an old bottle of window cleaner) onto the hydrogen peroxide bottle. Keep it in the original brown bottle to keep it from breaking down.

Distilled White Vinegar – Kept in a spray bottle. For more uses for vinegar, check out a great post by Live Green Mom.

Baking Soda – an old parmesan cheese shaker bottle filled with baking soda.

All Purpose Cleaner
2 cups water, ½ cup distilled white vinegar, 1 tsp castile soap, 10 drops lavender, 10 drops lemongrass, 10 drops lemon
If you have granite counter tops, do not use this. The vinegar can damage it.

Update: I’ve since eliminated the castile soap in this recipe.  I found that it often clumped and recently discovered that vinegar and castile soap don’t really work well together and can clump!


To clean counters and table: All Purpose Cleaner

To disinfect: I spray some of the pure vinegar then spray the hydrogen peroxide. The mixture of the 2 creates a super disinfectant. Some sources claim this combination will kill Salmonella and E. Coli. Never combine the 2 into one bottle and store. This can create a bad combination to leave around your house. I use this on my counters on occasion, cutting boards, kids’ reusable bottles, anything I feel needs a little extra.

Unclog a drain:

Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain
Pour 1 cup vinegar
Let it fizz for a while
Follow with boiling water

I also like to so this in the summer when I am having fruit fly problems. I read somewhere that they like to breed in your drain. I swear it helps!

Scrubbing Anything: I sprinkle a little baking soda on anything that needs extra scrubbing – pots, pans, dishes, the counter. Add a little water and it makes a great paste. Think of it as a substitute for Soft Scrub.

Oven Cleaner: Sprinkle your oven with baking soda, spray with water to form a paste. Let it sit for 12 hours. Wipe off. If the baking soda residue remains, spray with your straight vinegar. Vinegar dissolves baking soda.

Clean the Greasy Tops of Cabinets: I have to tell you how great baking soda is. If you have ever looked at the tops of your cabinets, especially the ones near the stove, you will notice a disgusting mix of grease and dust. The first time I tried to clean this mess, I was up there with a mixture of ammonia and water. Ugh the smell gave me a headache and it still wasn’t easy to clean. The next time I tried I knew better than to use ammonia. So I got up on my counter with my trusty shaker bottle of baking soda and a spray bottle filled with water. I sprinkled the baking soda all over the top of the cabinet then sprayed with the water, just enough to make a paste. I then wiped the paste away with a rag – the baking soda and all the grease-dust ick came right off! I was amazed! And no fumes!



bathroom cleaning products
Yes, that says USED baking soda. When I change the baking soda from my fridg and freezer, I keep it to use to clean the toilet or the drain, above. I just need the baking soda to fizz, it doesn’t need to be completely fresh to clean the commode.

Vinegar – mine is mixed with lavender, but you don’t need this.

Castile Soap


To Clean Toilet:

Into the bowl – 1 TBSP of castile soap, 1/3 cup baking soda, 1/3 cup vinegar
Let it fizz for a few minutes
Scrub toilet

Anti-bacterial Hand Soap:

4 oz castile soap
10 drops of tea tree oil

All purpose cleaner: same as above.

I am still experimenting with homemade laundry detergents and dishwasher detergents. So far, I am not impressed with the results, but I’ll let you know if I come across anything worth passing along. Will you try these? Are you already using something similar?

Update 2/7/2011: Since this post I have tried Charlie’s Soap Powder and Soap Nuts
for laundry and Bi-O-Kleen Automatic Dish Powder with Grapefruilt Seed &; Orange Peel Extract. I LOVE them all! More on this to come.  Check here for a great deal on Bio-Kleen 8/2012.

If you purchase these products through this link, I will receive a little pocket money.

This post has been shared on Frugally Sustainable’s Wednesday Blog Hop, Teach Me Tuesdays, Printabelle, Your Green Resource, and Tiny Tip Tuesday

This post was featured at Tiny Tip Tuesday.


Take the Trash Out… of the holidays that is

So the Holidays are in full swing. Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day alone, Americans produce an extra one million tons of trash per week compared to any other time of the year? And that one year’s worth of holiday cards would fill a football field 10 stories high! That’s a lot of trash! Not good for Westford’s efforts to reduce trash this year.

Here are some ways to reduce that waste.

Holiday Cards

Reduce – don’t send paper cards. Go electronic! There are sites out htere, but I think I’m just going to produce my own with a photo and family letter.

Reuse – Some people like to keep cards and look through the old ones – especially the picture cards. I have a stack too! But after you are done with the other ones, try reusing the cards you get for gift tags or postcards

Recycle – obviously you can recycle your holiday cards in your curbside bin or you could donate them to St. Jude’s – St Jude’s will accept any occasion cards year round. The cards are turned into new cards that are sold (on their website) to benefit St. Jude’s.

Green Gift Ideas

Go with less, obviously. Less packaging, less stuff! Who needs more stuff?! My mother-in-law is famous for doing this. She will usually get my husband tickets to a Patriots game and he reciprocates with tickets to the Red Sox for her birthday. It’s a great day for both of them. She has also given us tickets to something along with her baby sitting services for the night.

Give the gift of an experience

Tickets to a show, concert, sporting event, day at a museum, the list is endless!
If you have younger children, consider going to a local performance. Dance Prism is a local performance group. They perform in several small venues throughout New England and the ticket prices are very reasonable!

Family Membership to a museum – There are so many in the area. For a long time I had a membership to the See Science Center in Manchester, NH (currently the price is $70). The great thing about this one is that is also lets you gain admission to over 270 other ASTC museums across the country, including some local ones – the Boston Children’s Museum, EcoTarium (Worcester, MA), Museum of Science, Harvard Museum of Natural History among others. You can practically make up the membership price after a trip to one of these.

The gift of imagination

When my children were 2 and 4, Santa gave them one of the best gifts ever – a stage and a pretend grocery store. Santa made a simple triangle stage, put up a curtain rod and red curtains. He also added to our dress up box with clothes and other costumes and accessories that other children had outgrown. Five years later, I am waiting for the next performance to start! The grocery store was like the ones at Children’s museums. The Elves saved old plastic and cardboard food containers and glued or taped them shut. Add a cash register and you have years on fun!

Give the gift of Green

Make up a “Go Green” gift pack of your own. A few years ago, I made my parents one of these. I filled a reusable shopping bag with 2 reusable water bottles, CFLs, the Direct Marketing Association reduce junk mail form, another reusable shopping bag, their town’s recycle bin (yes, my parents were NOT recycling at this time), homemade cleaners and planted trees in their name. You could tailor this to the person you are giving it.

Homemade gifts

There are so many ideas on the web. This is a great one for kids to give each other or grandparents. Here are a few we are trying out this year:

Tissue paper decorated glass – my daughter made this at a birthday party recently. I thought it was so cute. We pulled out some other glass objects I had in the basement and made more for other grandparents. The possibilities are endless, flower vases, glass jars (the ones spaghetti or jelly come in), wine bottles, old drinking glasses…. We also used some of the wrinkled tissue paper I had been saving. It is very simple, but click here or here for more instructions.

Paper bead baubles – I found directions for these as I was roaming the net. They looked really cool and I loved that I could use old magazines! Right now I am just making a ton of the beads out of colorful magazine pages and my old scraps of scrapbook paper. I am going to try making them into napkin rings for Christmas Eve and wine charms for a gift. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

Homemade food – who doesn’t love delicious homemade food! Fudge, cookies, biscotti…..

Gift Wrapping

For the most part I use and reuse gift bags for most of my gift wrapping. This year, I am going to try to go even further.


You can make bows out of magazine pages or even a chip or candy wrapper! These are my creations. Here are some instructions. This one has nice step by step instructions. Although she uses a brad to secure the bow. I didn’t have brads, so I used a glue gun to secure each section, then to secure all the sections together. You can also use a stapler.
This one uses a candy wrapper for a foil bow.

Gift Tags

Use old Christmas cards (as suggested above) or scrap paper cut into a cute shape. I simply use a Sharpie and write decoratively.

Gift boxes

Make your own gift boxes from cereal or cracker boxes with these templates or step by step instructions. This would make a great one for gift cards. I use this for my business cards.

Reusable bag as a gift bag

Reuseable grocery bag or any kind of tote bag that the person can use again for something.

Old fabric – This Family Fun article gives you instructions on how to turn a piece of fabric into gift wrapping.

What will you do this holiday season?


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