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A new approach to working smarter, not harder

We’re on our annual extended family vacation at a lake in Arkansas this week and I’ve been reading Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology
by Eric Brende. I’m really enjoying the book (expect a full review next week) and am very inspired to do a better job of making things from scratch and doing things myself. I’ve become a little lax in the last year as our income has increased and we’ve not been in such a position that we’ve needed to pinch pennies as hard.

However, this book has motivated me to think outside the box and to be more proactive in looking for ways we can save money and use fewer resources — without expending a great deal of extra energy ourselves in the process. I guess it’s a new approach to the working smarter, not harder philosophy I’ve always had.

So expect to see more do-it-yourself-type posts in the coming months as we experiment with new ideas. We’ve already written out a long list of things we’d like to try including making our own laundry soap (I know I said I’d never try again after my first attempt was such a total flop, but I’ve decided that maybe a new recipe might make a world of difference!).

Speaking of which, I loved Tammy’s post today on 10 Fabulous Foods You Can Make Yourself. I think I’m going to make that mouth-watering chocolate cake to celebrate the completion of the P90X program (I must stop looking at the cake pictures and tempting myself as I still have around 70 days to go!).

Do you have any other fabulous (and healthful!) make-it-from-scratch recipes you’d recommend or do-it-yourself ideas you’d love for me to try and blog about? Leave me a link or email me and I’ll definitely consider it!

photo by Peter Blanchard

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  1. says

    Hey, I was wondering if you would post your thoughts on P90X….I am finished with my childbearing years….four babies and still nursing my 19 month old. I do not trust pill based weight loss programs and have a hard time leaving my house to “exercise” with the kids. I have 100 pounds to lose in order to be near my target weight since having kids and losing my dad to cancer 6 years ago.

    • says

      Do a search for “P90X” on the sidebar and it will pull up my posts on the subject. I’m a little over 20 days in and loving it — though I am not doing it for weight-loss (I’m at a healthy weight) but just to become healthier and stronger.

  2. Lana says

    This is totally off the subject that everyone is talking about-Enjoy your time at the lake! God blessed us with a 1/12th share in a house on Lake Keowee in SC for only $6K 10 years ago. We get to go 4 weeks per year and only pay $480 a year in maitenance fees. The time we spend there regenerates me and I am always amazed that we have the house there. (Yes we paid cash!)

  3. Dana says

    For anyone looking for a great website for making food from scratch, Heavenly Homemakers is wonderful!!!!


    Her recipes are easy and have lots of helpful pictures. :-) And she has lots of helpful information on freezing everything! My favorite ones are chocolate chips, pizza pockets, bagels, turkey sausage, graham crackers, and cream cheese. Yummy yummy yummy!

  4. Jo says

    I would have to say…that making my own laundry detergent has been one of the best frugal discoveries I have ever made! I figured that $13.82 is all it takes to buy the supplies to make about a years worth of detergent. Awesome! I buy all of my supplies at WINCO (borax, super washing soda, and bars of Nels Naptha soap) I do about 18 to 21 loads of laundry a week. It is well worth finding a recipe that works for your family. I believe I found my recipe on hip2save.com. I also use a bar of Nels Naptha soap as my stain remover stick. Pre-treat your stains by wetting the tip of the soap and then just rub on your stains.

  5. bran says

    I know you do not use a lot of disposable products. I’m trying to use more dishcloths rather than disposable cloths and sponges for my dishes. However, I find that if I don’t get them in the wash right away they stink. How do you avoid using your washing machine to wash just a couple dishcloths and keeping them from smelling up the kitchen?

  6. Chris says

    I have been making homemade laundry detergent for about 9 months. It seems to cost about $1 a month this way. I have three people in my family. However, I noticed my laundry stinks sometimes, especially lately. (I make the powdered kind). Does anyone have any tips for me? I am seriously thinking of using purchased detergent again for a while. Thank you. PS I use essential oils sometimes and that doesn’t seem to help with the smell.

    • Courtney says

      @Chris, Is it a musty, moldy smell? When we got our HE washer, we noticed that our clothes sometimes came out smelling that way, no matter what detergent we used. Apparently, this is a very common problem. Try adding vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser. Our clothes have smelled great since we started doing that.

    • says

      Having a similar problem. We’ve been using soap nuts for over a year and my clothes are coming out of the laundry still smelling sweaty. We use vinegar and tea tree oil in the laundry, but I’ve switched back to commercial free and clear detergent for a while to see if that helps.

  7. Rebecca says

    Hi Crystal, I just wanted to comment on your soap making. I have a couple tips that might help you. I have made this a lot and feel like I have perfected it. I have seen some of the videos on how to make it and they look gloppy and gross. My soap is smooth and creamy. I use ivory, washing soad and borax. Before I melt the bar soap I grind it in my small food processor then after the mixture has cooked and cooled (usually the next morning) I add a little more water then use my stick blender to cream it up. I make sure it’s really blended and smooth then I put it in a container. I make it in one gallon batches because if you let it sit it will separate. This is great for HE washers as it is low suds. Good luck. I really like the soap and feel it really gets the clothes a lot cleaner than store bought ones. PLUS it’s good for the environment.

  8. says

    One of my favorite money-saving/green changes was switching away from fabric softner sheets. It’s probably not a HUGE cost saver, but has to be better for the environment than disposable dryer sheets –


    I’ve just started trying to make a go of it without paper towels. It wasn’t too bad until the cat AND the kids started puking. Ah… the joys of motherhood! Looking forward to your list!

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