Make Your Own School Supplies

My kids started back to school yesterday. Crazy, but true. We dropped them off with their backpacks full of all the supplies on their school supply lists, and as usually happens, they came home with another list of supplies that they needed.

Normally, that’s not a big deal because I keep a big stash of school supplies on hand – things that I’ve gotten free after rebate, on clearance or from yard sales. It’s pretty rare for us to have to run out for school supplies. But this time, they got me. My oldest daughter needed a five-subject notebook, a student planner and a sketchbook. I didn’t have any of those things on hand. Darn it. I did, however, have $40 in Staples Rewards that I’d been saving, just in case, so we headed out to pick up everything she needed.

And that’s when the sticker shock set in.

The cheapest five-subject notebook with a poly cover was $8. A sketchbook with halfway decent paper was $12.99, and most of the student planners were in the $25-35 range. They had a cheapie pocket planner for $6.99, but it didn’t really have any space to write anything.

Did I really want to spend $46, plus tax for three items? Um no.

The longer I stood there, the angrier it made me. A five-subject notebook is nothing more than a pack of filler paper and some dividers sandwiched between a cover and bound with a spiral ring. Why does it cost so much more than filler paper?

Then, it hit me. We could make one. We already had everything we needed at home, including binding machines. In fact, once I thought about it, there really wasn’t any reason we couldn’t make her sketchbook and planner, too.

So, we left the store without buying anything, and within an hour, all of her new supplies were tucked inside her backpack.

Check it out:

Homemade Five-Subject Notebook

We used a poly file folder to create the cover for her five-subject notebook. I had a bunch I’d bought at a yard sale a while back, so I pulled them out, and let her pick what color she wanted. [Read more…]

Make Your Own Ant Bait Traps

Make Your Own Ant Bait Traps

Dealing with ants now that the weather has warmed up? Yep, so are we. For the past couple summers we’ve had a persistent ant problem centered around our kitchen sink, and our tried-and-true solutions haven’t been working. We’ve made ant poison by mixing borax and powdered sugar together in equal parts. We’ve kept the sink cleaned out and dry. We’ve wiped down the sink and surrounding countertops with vinegar to remove their scent trails. None of it’s working. So, it’s clearly time to up our game.

And up it, we have. We just made a bunch of homemade ant bait traps. One went in the sink, where we’re seeing the ants, and the rest went around the foundation of our house. Makes sense, right? I mean why wait for the ants to come into your house? Kill’em before they have a chance to get there.

Here’s a look at how we made our ant bait traps. [Read more…]

How to Dry Herbs in a Dehydrator

Buying herbs always leaves me with sticker shock, so I try to grow as many of my own as I can. This time of year we pick herbs as we need them …

Basil Plant

A few basil leaves for tomato sauce …

Fresh Dill

A big handful of dill for our salad dressing …

Sage Plant

A couple sage leaves to season a chicken or turkey …

Fresh Oregano

It’s a wonderful way to eat, but it’s not something that we can do during the winter months. So, I also dry our herbs. The process couldn’t be easier. [Read more…]

Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs

Homemade Laundry Detergent Tabs

Laundry detergent pods and tabs seem to be catching on quickly, and I can see why: they’re awfully convenient. Unfortunately, they also happen to be awfully expensive. And the thing is, they don’t have to be. There’s really nothing special about them. They’re just pre-measured laundry detergent.

I can make them, and so can you.

I spent some time playing around in my kitchen, and I came up with a recipe for laundry detergent tabs that I really like. It cleans well; it smells nice; it’s affordable; and it’s easy to make. I took all the ingredients that are commonly found in old-school laundry detergent recipes; and I modernized them by using them to make tabs.

Want to try them out for yourself? Here’s the recipe: [Read more…]

How to Make Dishwasher Detergent Tabs

How to Make Dishwasher Detergent Tabs

Buying dishwasher detergent makes me grouchy. A bottle of the natural stuff runs $6, and if you buy the tabs or pods, that $6 only gets you enough for 20 loads – that’s not even a month’s supply for my family!

I’ve tried several homemade recipes over the years (just stuff that I found on the web), but I’ve never been impressed with the results. I always ended up with a white residue on my glasses, and the detergent would harden into a brick after I made it (even if I stored it in an air-tight container). And the fact that the recipes always contained Borax was an issue for me, too. I use Borax for lots of things, but I’m just not keen on using it on our dishes. It is, after all, toxic when ingested.

Clearly, it was time to come up with my own solution.

So, I did a bunch of research on the active ingredients in dishwasher detergent, how they work together, how to address hard water; etc.; and then I experimented until I came up with a recipe that really works. It’s all natural, just like the stuff I was buying (honestly, probably more natural than what I was buying), and it’s in tab form, so it’s really easy to use.

Because I want this recipe to work as well for you as it has for me, I’ve even experimented with the size of the tabs. These should fit the detergent compartment on your dishwasher perfectly. I’ve tested other people’s tab recipes, and that was a problem that I ran into again and again.

Ready to give my dishwasher detergent tabs a try? Here’s the recipe: [Read more…]