Success!! The farmer’s market we went to today was AWESOME! Plus, we tried a new butcher shop we’d heard about, and it’s better than we’ve found so far without breaking the bank.
At the farmer’s market, we found carrots, tomatoes, parsley, dandelion greens, romaine, and avocados. And we found cheaper eggs and apples than the Tuesday farmer’s market. Thursday is our new shopping day! The only things we couldn’t find that we had to pick up at the store were bell peppers, grapes, and corn (we were hoping for watermelon to add to dinner one night this week, but had to get corn instead). From what I can tell, we’re right between bell pepper seasons (different areas of California grow at different times) and we should be seeing some again in March if we’re lucky, April if we’re not. As for the grapes, I think they’re typically a late summer fruit, but Sean has really been craving them lately, so I caved and let him get some at the store.
We’ve really been struggling with how to handle buying meat. We’re torn between buying local grown, grass fed meat from Whole Foods (VERY expensive), or buying what’s cheap at the supermarket (probably not local OR grass fed). Today we found a meat vendor at the farmer’s market (local and grass fed), but they were just as expensive as Whole Foods. So we decided to try the butcher place that Sean had found while working one day (he works for FedEx as a courier, so he’s been calling me lately to look up such and such a place and see if they’re any good). What I had found on yelp about them seemed promising. A smidge more expensive than our supermarket, but everyone was raving about the quality. Now, I don’t eat meat, so quality doesn’t matter to me. But Sean loves a good steak, some ground beef in his pasta sauce, and some carne asada for BBQs. Well, just like I’d seen on yelp, the prices were a little higher than the supermarket, but everything looked amazing. We were mostly there to check the place out and ask some questions, and Sean got a HUGE sandwich from their deli section. Turns out their meat is shipped from Iowa (not ideal), but it is grass fed. We will definitely be keeping our eyes open for someone more local, but for now this is the best quality without feeling completely ripped off.
Now, on to the main topic of today’s post: cleaning supplies.
This post, while it doesn’t deal DIRECTLY with zero waste or real food, is on a very closely-related vein: other products you come in contact with, and their effects on you and the environment. The main reason I’ve researched all of these things is that their normal store-bought counterparts contain long lists of chemical ingredients that aren’t good for your health or the environment (either toxic chemicals in the product itself, or the plastic containers the product comes in). That being the case, we are bringing this up so that you can see that you need to read labels on EVERYTHING that comes into your home, not just food, and so you can see that it IS possible to cut down on the things we throw out.
I’ve been doing a lot of research of different cleaning supplies and looking for ways to cut back on our landfill footprint in that department (I was actually doing this before we decided to go Zero Waste, to save money). Things like laundry detergent and cleaning sprays are easy and cheap to make. Plus, you don’t need to keep buying more and more bottles. Just reuse the same bottles over and over! We also have been using homemade “shampoo” and “conditioner,” and have been having a lot of success with those.
Homemade Cleaning Sprays:
For the cleaning supplies, I found an awesome blog with recipes for four homemade cleaners. Three of them we now use all the time in our home. The only one we weren’t happy with was the bath, sink, and tile cleaner, which got foamy and kept separating. It was more of a hassle than it was worth, and didn’t seem to clean all that well. On the other hand, the grease cutter is amazing! I brought it over to my mom’s house, and she used it and loved it too! As for the antibacterial spray, my dad has terrible asthma, and I have allergies. Things like Febreeze set him off, and antibacterial hand wipes with alcohol in them give me headaches and make me sneeze. We’ve yet to have any problems with the antibacterial spray (note that I am also allergic to lavender, and substituted tea tree oil instead, because it is also naturally antibacterial. I also added some vanilla for scent because I love vanilla. My mom prefers it with just the tea tree oil).
‘Shampoo’ and ‘Conditioner’:
For the shampoo and conditioner, I can’t remember where I found the recipes. These aren’t traditional shampoos and conditioners. They don’t foam up, they aren’t goopy, and they don’t leave traces of fruity smells in your hair.
I’m going to go on a rant now about the shampoo industry… Forgive me.
Shampoo, in the sense that we know it today, was only introduced in the late 1900s. Before that, people used the same bar of soap to wash their bodies and their hair. Once the distinction of hard and soft water was introduced, it was discovered that the bar soap didn’t work well on hair in hard water. So shampoo was invented with the sole purpose of being able to wash hair in hard water.
Today, shampoo is made with so many chemicals that your hair and body don’t know how to handle them. Your hair is naturally coated with oil from your body. It helps keep your hair clean, and in a totally natural state, you really don’t need much soap, if any, to clean your hair. However, the chemicals in shampoo coat your hair, and make it difficult for the oils to keep your hair naturally clean. So your body releases more oil. Then you need more shampoo to strip it away. And more oil, and more shampoo, and so on in a really nasty cycle that leaves you dependent on shampoo.
Conditioner is used to balance out the pH in your hair, but still serves the same purposes of shampoo today. Your body doesn’t like either substance.
By switching to these alternatives (recipes below), your body transitions back to its natural state. The ‘shampoo’ strips off the chemicals, and leaves the hair clean and natural so that your body will naturally oil it just enough for you. The ‘conditioner’ balances the pH in your hair without coating it with more chemicals, and you are left with naturally clean, easily controllable hair. If you have naturally dry hair, use the conditioner every day. If you have naturally oily or greasy hair, use the conditioner every other day or every three days. Because your hair is overproducing oils in order to combat the shampoos you are currently using, it will take a week or two for your oil production to calm down and level out. So for a week or two, your hair will be a little more oily than usual. I suggest holding off on the conditioner completely until your hair calms down (unless you have really dry hair, then use it occasionally).
The recipe for both are super simple (and we have 3 different conditioner recipes – pick which you like). We prefer to keep these in little spray bottles (with a bigger supply in a squirt bottle, so we don’t have to make it so often), because they are very watery.
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 Cup water
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Cup water
Conditioner 3: (This is the only one I wouldn’t put in a spray bottle. While it, too, is watery, we haven’t tried putting it in a spray bottle, in case the honey gums it up.)
1/2 Cup honey
1/2 Cup water
Sean uses the apple cider vinegar one, and I don’t use conditioner at all. I have psoriasis really bad on my scalp, and before switching to these alternatives, I HAD to wash my hair every single day or else I would start itching and stinging and it just wasn’t pretty. Now, I only have to wash my hair every other day to every 3 days without incident. I never used conditioner before in my hair (because it set off my psoriasis), and I still don’t, for the same reason. I have also found that I don’t shed as much hair anymore!
Some people ask if Sean’s hair smells like vinegar after. Nope! The shower smells like vinegar a little when he’s putting the conditioner in, but once he’s rinsed it out, his hair smells natural and clean. Now, please realize that Sean was extremely (EXTREMELY) hesitant to switch over to these alternatives. This “crazy hippy shit” is so far removed from his normal aesthetic that it took a lot of convincing and research to prove to him this was a good idea. Now, he won’t go back. Last week he went in for a hair cut, told the lady he didn’t want her to shampoo his hair, and when she did it anyway (didn’t speak much English), he came and ranted to me about it for about 10 minutes. Before, his hair was extremely oily, and he was washing his hair 1-2 times daily to keep the oil levels down. Now, he showers and washes once, and his hair is fluffy and light, and he no longer needs any styling products to get his hair to cooperate.
Once we run out of the deodorant we currently have (unfortunately I bought a 3-pack the last time I bought some), we will be switching to an alum stone and trying that out. It’s really popular in France, and Europe in general. We will definitely update about how it works for us.
A lot of people use tooth powder or a mixture of baking soda and salt for toothpaste. I prefer to still have gel toothpaste. That being said, I’ve tried a couple of different methods, and this recipe (which I Frankenstein’ed together from a couple other recipes) is my favorite so far.
9 Tbsp Baking Soda
1 ½ tsp Salt
1 1/3 Oz Glycerin (I use vegetable glycerin)
Enough water to make a thick paste
¼ tsp Peppermint Oil
10 drops Tea Tree Oil
Again, tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial, the peppermint oil gives you that fresh feeling you’re used to, and the glycerin makes it more of a gel. I am still looking to buy glycerin in bulk, but this stuff is cheaper than the store bought (and way better for you! No unpronounceable chemicals!), so for now it’s better than what we had.
The last thing I have for you guys here today is laundry detergent. There are LOTS of recipes very similar to this one floating around the internet these days. I use this one mainly because it cuts the normal recipe in 4, and when the normal recipe makes 8 GALLONS of detergent, I’m perfectly ok only makes 2 gallons at a time so I don’t have to store it all (this may change at some point once kids come into the picture, but for now, this is just fine for us).
In a high efficiency washer, these two gallons will last roughly 150 loads of laundry. In a normal washer, you’ll probably get closer to 100 out of them. However, when they cost twenty CENTS each to make, it is SOOOOOOOO worth it, regardless of which type of washer you have. Plus, the components needed are typically sold in cardboard boxes or wrapped in paper. Definitely keeping plastic out of that landfill!
Ok, so now you know how to have cleaning supplies and bathing supplies without throwing any more plastic into the landfill. But what about the containers from the products we use to MAKE those cleaning supplies? I’m going to go through my master list of all of the ingredients used to make these products, and talk about the packaging for each.
1. Tea Tree Oil – the essential oils are the roughest part of this for me. They are available in bulk. The problem is that when you order 5 pounds of an essential oil, it’s going to cost A LOT. Plus, you need only a very small amount. That said, you only need a very small amount. I’m thinking that my little bottle of tea tree oil (and DEFINITELY the bottle of peppermint oil) will last me YEARS.
2. Peppermint Oil – see above
3. Vinegar – You can buy this in gallon jugs at your local grocery store for really cheap. And again, you need a very small amount, so this will last you a LONG time. Look and see if your local Whole Foods, Sprouts, Costco, or Sam’s Club sells this in bulk. I’ve heard people also mix this with water to wash the floors with, so maybe think about that, too.
4. Baking Soda – comes in a recyclable cardboard box.
5. Washing Soda (NOT THE SAME AS BAKING SODA!) – also comes in a recyclable cardboard box.
6. Castile Soap – comes in a plastic container sort of like a generic shampoo bottle. Our local Whole Foods sells it in bulk.
7. Borax Powder – cardboard box
8. Fels Naptha Soap – comes wrapped in a thin paper. It’s a bar of soap, and they sell it by the bar.
So yea, sorry for such a long post, but this is kind of a big topic for me. I hope you enjoy all of the recipes, and please feel free to leave comments about your own homemade products, or if you try one of these out! I’d love to have your feedback!