Monday, December 31, 2012

Liquid Hand Soap

     My very first endeavor into economizing for my family was liquid soap. I compared liquid hand soaps at my local major grocery store. All those little plastic bottles left on the sink, each one cost anywhere from $1.49 to $4.99 on average-at that's for a mere 12 ounces! There was always a little left behind and it was like searching for the lost city of Atlantis to find one that wasn't full of chemicals, dyes and perfumes! I needed to start small and here was my chance.
     I had researched various recipes. Some called for essential oils, but that defeated the purpose, in part. My oldest has severe eczema and needs the purest soaps she can get. Most utilized high end bars in their making, again, I was trying to save money, a lot of money. Why would I start with a $8 bar of soap? I played around with a few recipes. Tweaking some as I went, which led me to my fool proof liquid hand soap and a separate body wash (future post)!

My Fool-Proof Liquid Hand Soap
(No, really, I promise. In fact if you can't manage this your hands should probably just stay dirty )

You Will Need:

A large stock pot (like a soup pot, or lobster pot)
A cheese grater (or sharp knife...but the grater is so much easier)
A funnel is helpful not certainly not needed.

You probably already have these. Splurge for a grater at the dollar store if you don't already have one. And don't feel weird about using these items to cook with're making soap. They will just be extra clean when you're done.

8 oz of Pure Glycerin bar soap.  ( I use Clearly Natural-usually Aloe-$1.49/bar) ****
1 gal distilled water ($1.79)

**** The bars typically come in 4oz sizes so you'll need 2 bars for this recipe.

**** Always be aware of what you need for projects. Keep a list on your phone or in your wallet of some items you typically use. If you come across these items on sale somewhere you can capitalize. I found my bar at a dollar store, randomly, when I ran in to buy a gift bag. $1 a piece!!!! I bought 20 bars. NOW THAT IS A SAVINGS!

1. Pour gallon of water into pot and turn heat on med-high. Reserved the empty jug for end product. Yes, you can use tap water but I prefer working with the purest water I can, and being on city water I know it already has some minerals in it (and who knows what else).

2. Grate 8 oz of soap. This will be a little sticky, and you're welcome, in advance, for the bicep work-out.

3. Add soap to warming water. Stir occasionally until ALL the soap dissolves. It will just look like soapy water.

4. Take off heat and let pot stand for 6-8 hours. Soap will now be a thicker, opaque color, more like the liquid soap you're used to seeing.

5. Pour soap into reserved gallon jug.

You're done! What's great about this product is that you don't need to add your own glycerin like most of the other recipes you'll find. Also, because you don't have to add your own glycerin, this product never actually fully "sets" like most of the others will and therefore will not have a "mucus" like consistency. However, it still won't give you a huge lather either. Get over it, bubbles do not equal cleanliness.

For $3.79 I made 1 gallon (128 oz) of liquid hand soap that my whole family uses and loves! I haven't bought liquid hand soap in over a year and am so glad for it.

Good luck I hope this help!
Simple City Sam

Friday, December 28, 2012

Born of Neccessity

     When I think back on everything I've done so far in my life I feel a bit cliched in my thinking. What I wouldn't give to look like I did, back when I thought I was fat!? What I wouldn't give to have put away just a little bit of the money I made when I was single and had no kids!? What I wouldn't give to know then, what I know now!? But that's how it goes, right? The only hope I have is to break this cliche and start something new. Grasp ahold of what I know to be true and never let go.
     Here are some things I know to be true: I love being a mother more than any other thing I've ever done in my life, I also find it to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It never seems to come easily and yet I wonder if that's not why I enjoy it so much. I am good, usually, at "translating" difficult information into usable, friendly information. I have always had a respect for a time when we were forced to care for ourselves, a "simpler time"; a time when there wasn't an option of buying new clothes everytime a small tear was made; you just mended it. You didn't make your own bread becasue it was trendy, you made it because it tasted the best, you had lots of mouths to feed, and that's how you were raised. Not everything then was perfect, but some things were simpler. I love the cultural diversity afforded to someone within a city like being within walking distance or being able to be exposed to as much cultural diversity as possible. I love to write.
     Considering all these things I now know to be true about myself, I have decided to start this blog. The idea is to impart my knowledge of simple living in the city onto those who have chosen to read. We do not need to live 40 miles outside any urban envirnoment to make your own soap. You do not need to live outside the city to get local, farm fresh food, regularly. Most importantly none of us need to spend even close to what we currently spend to maintian our lives, happily, even in the city! We just need to keep it simple.

    My husband and I moved ourselves and our two very small daughters to the small city of Portland, Maine on purpose. As a young married couple we fell in love with the area and knew we wanted to raise our children here. I left a moderately stable job in the family business, my husband left life at home, where he'd been raising our daughters full time, and we decided to chase our simple happiness. I was able to find seasonal work and my husband found a job, but we certainly weren't making what we were used to making. After the short Maine summer was over, I lost my job. I poured all my efforts into the girls and getting my oldest off to preschool and to finding ways to contribute to the household effectively.
     I had to make a very small paycheck (less than $300/wk after taxes and insurance) feed a family of 4 as well as sustain our lives and home. We obviously made some very quick sacrifices. No more eating out, no more random retail therapies and the like. But, really, what was I losing there? Come to find out, not much. I found that spending extra time with the kids was extemely rewarding. I found I had no trouble falling asleep after having "things" to accomplish all day- things that satisfied me. I found that I truly liked living simply. We, admittedly live without ammenties that some would never consider losing. We have a tv, but no cable or network suscription at all. My girls watch little tv and if the do it's a dvd movie or program that we are intentionally watching- not just whatever is on. We also made bigger sacrifices, I sold my beloved car, my husband sold a couple of guitars. Basically I was selling anything not nailed down. If it wasn't directly sentimental or useful it was gone. We streamlined to the hilt and it felt good!
     I started to find ways to make meals stretch, make my own cleaners- that worked better than store bought, plant a pallet garden and stay involved in the running of our household far more effectively than if I wasn't forced to scrutinize everything. Talk about a blessing in disguise! I can honestly say now, that even if I had all the money needed, I would still make my own laundry detergent, christmas cookies, bathtub paint, bread, clothes, and many other things. I would also continue to feed my family of 4 on roughly $50 week (maybe splurging on better wines occaisionaly) not becasue I had to, but becasue I believe it to be a better use to my resources and my life. I am now more aware of what I buy for food and what it really contains. I am meticulous about feeding the family and keeping the household order. Oh yeah, and I married a chef, I don't really get to skimp on ingredients. We eat beautiful meals that are locally grown, healthy, and inexpensive. My house always smells clean, and my daughter's eczema is far better now that I make my own laundry detergent. Win, win.
     In this blog I hope to be able to impart some of the helpful tips I've picked up, some of the tricks I've learned by trial and error, some of the insights I have into saving money on food and travel, and most of all to show you that you can live simply in the city, and happily! This will not be your average blog of Pinterest "repins" and regurgitation. These are simple life lessons in the making.
     I plan to check in at least once a day. The first few posts will probably cover some of my favorite products to make, but there are so many areas to cover that I'm sure we'll start exploring new areas very quickly. I truely appreciate all your support!
     I would be entirely remiss if I failed to mention that I was aided in my confidence by some of my very best friends on all the world! Without them I may never have recognized my true interest in sharing this knowledge, or perhaps even the notion that I have the knowledge to share. To Stephanie K, Jessica K and Meghan S, I love you all and thank you for you many reassuring and encouraging words (prodding). I never would have had the guts to get this thing rolling without you ladies! Of course, they aren't the only ones by whom I am supported, there are simply too many to name. You all know who you are. Here's to many, many posts and many, many more nights of wine and wisdom.

Just a few posts topics you can look forward to:

Homemade detergents, liquid soaps and washes (for people who don't really make that stuff)
Keeping your kids happy and quiet on little to no money
Family vacations on a dime
Meal planning and getting the fullest of EVERY ingredient
Pre-planning and strategy for food shopping
Homemade gifts (that people actually want)

I hope you enjoy. Thanks again!
Simple City Sam