Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cheap, let me introduce you to Elbow Grease

For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about finding good deals. I shop the clearance rack for nearly everything and I love to share my finds with other people. Recently I've started to realize how much money I can save with a little extra elbow grease. In many instances I save a ton of money plus my end product is healthier for my family and the environment. Two great examples, dusting solution and homemade bread.

First I should confess that until about a week ago, I hadn't dusted in my apartment in months. In fact, I don't think I had dusted since we moved in last October. Gross, I know. I've been trying to buy more earth-conscious cleaning supplies (Seventh Gen, Green Works, etc) but I hadn't found a dusting solution that didn't include an aerosol can or disposable pads. So I waited. Then an old friend of mine posted a recipe for homemade dusting solution on her blog and I love it. When I made the solution, it inspired me to clean up my apartment so that I could use it right away. It's super super cheap, non-toxic (your child could spray it in his mouth and you could laugh sympathetically because it tastes bad instead of panicking), and I've started using it around the house for other chores like the bathroom or kitchen counters.

Dusting Solution
1 cup White Distilled Vinegar
1/2 - 1 tsp. Olive Oil
1-2 drops Lemon Juice

I simply reused an old Seventh Gen Multi-purpose spray bottle and tripled the recipe. I try to shake it up before I use it since vinegar and oil separate. I love it!

Admittedly the homemade bread is a bit more work intensive. But the end result is worth it for me. I spent three hours from start to finish (with two one-hour breaks to let the dough rise) and made six loaves of bread. I froze three loaves to be baked later. Since I got many of my ingredients at Sam's club (including a 25lb bag of Bread Flour for $6.40!), I estimate that it costs around $3 to make one batch. Roughly $0.50 a loaf! Even better, I know exactly what's in our bread and I can rest at peace serving it to our family, especially James. I found this recipe to make a nice airy loaf (not dense like some others I've tried), but the bread is slightly crumbly unless toasted. This isn't a problem for us most of the time because we like toast, but if I'm packing a lunch sometimes toast doesn't store well. I'm planning to keep experimenting with other recipes and I'll be sure to post any better recipes.

Homemade Sandwich Bread
1/2 cup Warm Water (100-110F)
3 (.25oz) packages Activated Dry Yeast (5 1/2 tsp. by my calculation)
1/4 cup Bread Flour
1 tbsp. Sugar
2 cups Quick-Cooking Oats
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
4 1/2 cups Warm Water
1 1/2 tbsp. Salt
2/3 cup Brown Sugar
2/3 cup Vegetable Oil
10 cups Bread Flour

1) In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, stir together 1/2 c. warm water, sugar, 1/4 c. bread flour and yeast. Let it grow for about 5 minutes. It should bubble almost immediately.
2) Measure oats, water, whole wheat flour, salt, brown sugar, and oil into the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed with a dough hook for 1-2 minutes. Increase speed slightly, and begin adding bread flour 1/2 to 1 c. at a time until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Humidity determines how much flour you need before the bread pulls away from sides of bowl. It is normal for dough to be sticky. (Since my mixer isn't very big, I started mixing it with a wooden spoon halfway through adding the flour. I then turned it out onto a well-floured surface to knead it well.)
3) Place dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat the surface. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place (80-90F) for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
4) Cut dough into 6 even pieces. Shape loaves.
5) If you're planning to freeze any bread, wrap it in plastic wrap and immediately place in freezer before it can rise. When you are ready to bake it, simply pick up with step 6, allowing a few hours for it to thaw and rise.
6)Place dough in greased 8x4 pans. Let rise until dough is 1 inch above rims of pans, usually 1 hour.
7) Bake at 350F for 35 minutes, or until tops are browned.


  1. Too cool. We will move into our new apartment next weekend and I plan on using your Dusting Solution since it will basically be a work / construction site for a number of months. Thanks for the info. (Please post other "home made" cleaning solutions.)

  2. YAY! So glad you like the dusting solution! I just made a loaf of bread this morning, but I can't wait to try your recipe out!