Keeping a Low Grocery Budget #2

Part 2 of my 10 part series on The Top 10 Things I Don’t Pay for:

Making my own cleaning supplies. 
Make your own cleaners. I do!!!

As I mentioned in my original post, I mostly use vinegar and water to clean. When I started using vinegar and water a long time ago, I was trying to be green. Commercial cleaners are full of bad ingredients and leach chemicals into the air.

Tightly insulated homes are great at trapping bad air inside because they reduce the amount of air flowing through our homes. (Yes, I am a geek when it comes to home insulation; that’s one peril of being married to a Certified Green Builder.) 🙂

I blogged yesterday about the dirty outside air in Muscatine, Iowa, but dirty inside air is just as bad, maybe worse. Getting rid of chemicals in your home is a good way to start cleaning up the air you breathe in your own house.

Indoor air quality is one reason to make your own cleaning supplies, non-toxic cleaners. Frugality is another. A few days ago, I did a quick study of cleaners at the local market.

  • One GALLON (128 fluid ounces) of Heinz vinegar will set you back $3.89.
  • A measly 26 ounces of Windex costs $4.29.
  • 32 ounces of The Works Toilet Cleaner costs $2.33.

A quick bit of math tells me that one gallon of vinegar is about as many fluid ounces as FIVE bottles of Windex. But wait! It gets better because you don’t clean with straight vinegar. It’s diluted with water! I generally dilute mine about half and half, but I don’t think you need that much vinegar. So essentially, for less money, you get over 10x as much cleaning solution with a gallon of vinegar as you do with a 26 ounce bottle of Windex.

Why vinegar, you may ask?

  • It’s antibacterial.
  • It’s a common household item.
  • It’s non-toxic.

What can you clean with vinegar?

  • I use vinegar and water to clean fruit and veggies instead of expensive fruit wash.
  • I use vinegar and water to clean my windows.
  • I use vinegar and water to clean my toilets.
  • I use vinegar and water to clean my counter-tops.
  • I use vinegar and water to clean up urine accidents from pets or kids.

What else besides vinegar?

  • Baking and/or washing soda
  • Lemon juice
  • Squirt bottles
  • Borax
  • Essential oils to make your cleaning products spell pretty
  • Castille soap
  • Glass jars

It’s pretty easy to make your own cleaning supplies. Chances are, you have some of the ingredients already in your home! If you’d like recipes, The Naturally Clean Home is an inexpensive book that is full of fun recipes to try. I own it and used to use it a lot. However, the essential oils get expensive and I don’t buy them very often anymore. You can also get a lot of ideas with a simple Google search. You can start here and here if you want.

A word of caution, though. If you try this and get discouraged the first time, just remember that a lot of commercial cleaning products leave films and residues behind. It takes a little time and lot of scrubbing to remove them from your home.

Do you make your own cleaning products? Or have a favorite recipe you’d like to share?

Stay tuned next Wednesday for Part 3: Paper Products.

For more cost cutting tips, check out and


  1. I use Vinegar and water too. I think it does the best job on my mirrors...much better than commercial cleaners!!
  2. Michele - not yet...but I have ingredients and a recipe to try as soon as I run out of Charlie's soap.
  3. What do you use to clean your shower? I've been using vinegar and water since Trey was born, and all I have to show for it is a year's worth of built-up soap scum. I scrub and scrub, but I feel like my shower is never "really" clean.
  4. The Gentle Mom - We were pretty lucky in our old house. I think good water (not hard or not soft) can make a big difference. It's too soon to tell in our new house, but we do not have a water softener here and I think we might experience some of the things you describe. You could try baking soda and castile soap (my book suggests 1 c baking soda, 1/4 c castile soap, plus a few drops of tea tree oil, 2 vitamin C tablets, crushed). That might work? Let me know! :-)
  5. I've been making our own laundry detergent with Washing Soda and Borax -- and Dr. B's peppermint castille soap. I have been doing this for a month now and have noticed a soap scum on the door of our front loader. This is the only difference really -- still cleans our clothes and smells sooooo great when we open the jar to measure out 1 - 2 Tbls of detergent.

    In the summer our children do a few household chores and one of those chores is cleaning windows. This is the job they all want (seriously). I use vinegar and water and don't have to worry about toxic chemicals. It's a win-win in my book!
  6. Sara - I've been using Charlie's Soap for 2-3 years now. I also have a slight soap scum on the door of our front loader, but I'm pretty sure I had that there before...Sounds like you used Hayley's recipe? That's my plan as well. Glad to hear it's working well for you. Where do you buy your Dr. B's?
  7. I usually get Dr Bronner's at the Pioneer Co-op when it is on sale -- or TJ's!

    Your blog is such fun...AND educational :)
  8. Hi Sara! It's exciting to connect with Iowa bloggers. I've been to your blog before!! We have a lot in common... Thanks for stopping by. :-)

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