Last time in this series of articles, we shared many ideas on the practical dietary and medicinal aspects of health, thrift, and independence. Modifying your diet is the easiest way to implement natural living in your lifestyle. The next topic that we are going to discuss is the external, such as household items, toiletries, etc. Some of these take a little more work and can take a little more getting used to, but in the end, they are much more frugal, and vastly better for your health and independent living.
Again, pay close attention to the hyperlinks. You will find many tutorials and resources listed.
- Use natural/aluminum-free deodorants. Your body sweats. It’s a natural thing, and a necessary one, although none of us wants to smell yucky in the process. Most antiperspirants contain aluminum, which has thought to be linked to various health problems such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. And even regular deodorants are loaded with chemicals. Finding a natural one can be easy but expensive. We have found that the large crystal rock salt deodorants are extremely frugal: one rock can last us over a year, and costs a mere $4.50 at our local health food store! Another option is a diluted apple cider vinegar spray (½ apple cider vinegar to ½ water). This kills the foul smelling bacteria, while still allowing the purifying sweat. In my opinion, though, it is not as effective as the crystal rock.
- Use natural toothpaste, free from chemicals, sugar, and fluoride, if possible. Again, avoid toxic chemicals that you wouldn’t want to put in your body. We use Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, but there is a wonderful and very inexpensive recipe here to make your own. We have also used OraMD, which is made of peppermint, spearmint, and almond oil extracts. You could easily make your own version if you wanted to. It’s rather pricy and they make unrealistic claims in our opinion, but it’s all natural and much better than using regular store-bought toothpaste.
- Use natural soaps. Whether you make your own or buy it, natural soaps are a must for living both naturally and healthily. Your skin is the largest organ of your body. Do you truly want to lather it up 365 days a year with toxic chemicals that you can’t even pronounce? Find a good resource for wholesome and natural soaps. We get ours from Goat Milk Stuff. They have the most wonderful line of amazing soaps, handmade by a homeschooling family of ten, with milk from their own goats. It’s also not that hard, and actually quite fun, to make your own natural soap — a great mother/daughter project!
- Use natural shampoo. Again, this boils down to health reasons. Most shampoos contain a list a mile long of ingredients made in a laboratory. Did you know that some of the most popular brands have a toxic ingredient that can cause nerve damage, Alzheimer’s, and birth defects in unborn babies? Is this something you want to scrub your scalp with every day? Of course not. Instead, find a natural shampoo. (Goat Milk Stuff also carries a wonderful shampoo bar that we use and love.) You can easily make your own out of essential oils and Castile soap, but it might take some tweaking to get it to your liking. Some people even go the more frugal “no-poo” route, by just washing with baking soda and rinsing with vinegar. Find what works best for your hair, and make the switch. Be very careful of shampoos and other products that claim to be “natural” when in fact they are not. Look at the labels. You will notice that many of the “natural” shampoos are quite artificial.
- Hand sanitizer. During cold and flu season, many families rely on the alcohol-based hand sanitizers to ward off the germs. These contain many chemicals that are far more hazardous to your health than any old sniffle or tummy ache. Grab a spray bottle, and fill half with apple cider vinegar and half with water. Add a few drops of tea tree, grape seed, or oregano oil, and you have a powerful germ fighter that is all natural and costs less than a quarter to make.
- Use cloth…everywhere you can. Whether it be cloth diapers, mama cloth, cloth tissues, or “unpaper” towels, cloth is not only ridiculously frugal, it is a wonderful step for health, as well as a huge jump for independence.
- Cloth diapers: There are dangerous toxins, as well as bleach and dioxins, in disposable diapers, which can cause reproductive problems, liver and kidney problems, immune dysfunctions, and problems to the nervous system. Do you really want to put that on your precious baby’s bum? Not to mention the disgust factor, and expense…did you know the average diaper lifetime of a child costs around $2,000-3,000? With today’s cloth, you have adorable diapers, and they are just as easy to use, disposable, easy to care for, and long-lasting. And, of course, they will save you thousands upon thousands of dollars in the long run. Do your research and see the benefits.
- Mama cloth: For you females out there, feminine hygiene products are a necessity. But did you know that disposable pads and tampons have trace chemicals of bleach, dioxins, and other toxins that have been related to endometreosis, PCOS, other reproductive problems, and severe skin allergies? It’s not the smartest idea to put that near your most sensitive parts, is it? Making your own is easy, and they are really cute, not to mention extremely convenient and frugal. Don’t have a sewing bone in your body? Etsy has many stay-at-home mamas who sell their own handmade creations.
- “Unpaper” towels: Frugality is the key here. Instead of going through roll after roll of expensive paper towels, use cloth napkins instead. You can even make your own out of flannel and terry cloth, add snaps to attach and roll them onto your paper towel holder! Convenient and very inexpensive.
- Make your own laundry detergent. If I told you I could wash the laundry of my family of eight for mere pennies a load, you might be wondering how it is possible. But by making our own laundry detergent, I can create a five-gallon bucket of soap for less then $2! It’s extremely easy, and within ten minutes I can have a batch stirred up and ready to go. Not to mention the detergent places less chemicals onto our clothes, which means less toxins on our skin. Now, you might be wondering if it works just as well as what is on the store shelves. I can tell you for a fact, stains and dirt were a big part of our laundry days before we started using our homemade detergent. Now, our clothes are so much cleaner. The stain-fighting qualities are wonderful!
- Use natural cleaning products. The last thing any of us want to do is don rubber gloves and a mask every time we clean our home. But with the load of poisons that are released from the standard cleaning products on the market, it isn’t safe not to. Whether they irritate our skin or lungs, there has to be long-term effects after using those toxins day after day. Yes, you can buy many natural cleaning products out there that are great, such as Seventh Generation. But nothing is better for cleaning than our good old friend, vinegar. Fill a giant spray bottle, and you have a disinfecting, all-purpose cleaner, able to be used in every area of your home. From mirrors, to toilets, to counters, to mopping your floors, grab your old scrap rags, and get busy. Use plain old baking soda for scrubbing sinks and tubs. Notice a slow-running drain while you’re scrubbing? Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down your drain, followed by a cup of vinegar, and cover it with a rag, letting it do it’s foamy work for 15 minutes. Flush with hot water, and your drains should be running much better. (You might need to repeat depending on the severity.) There you have it: homemade Drano for pennies, minus the fumes. There are a million uses for good old (and cheap!) vinegar.
There are dozens of other items in your home that can slowly be changed to help you be as natural, frugal, and independent as possible. These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Look around and see what can practically be done in your home.
- A good water filter. Unless you are blessed with good ol’ well water, you are probably in a situation similar to ours, where nasty, chemical-laden, city water is your source. Years ago we were spending an average of $20 a month on simple and cheap faucet water filters. Because we used the filtered water for all of our cooking and drinking, we went through them pretty quickly. The out of pocket expense added up rapidly, and yet we still weren’t satisfied with the quality of water we were receiving. After some research, we decided to invest in a grand purchase of a Berkey Water Filter. Although the initial purchase was a large sum of $200, knowing that this filter was so good it could clean even creek water to crystal clear and drinkable, was enough to convince us to for the purchase. We have now had our Berkey for over 3 years. Every few months we just scrub the filters with a toothbrush, and considering the filters last six to seven years, we will be saving thousands of dollars in the long run! Also, consider a good showerhead water filter as well. Again, since your skin is your biggest organ, washing with pure water is very important. Not to mention, if you have city water, you are inhaling a lot of chlorine through the stream the shower puts off if you don’t have a filter. This may even be worse for your health than drinking chlorinated water.
- A pellet or woodstove. A good source of self-reliant heat is a pellet or woodstove. It is almost a necessity for independent living. We bought a beautiful St. Croix pellet stove, which is wonderful for heating. Our gas furnace, despite being new, did a lousy job at heating our home. And even with spending over $200 per month in heating bills, our house was consistently a chilly 62 degrees in the day and 50 degrees at night. Since we have replaced our heat source with a good pellet stove, we are only spending around $850 a year to heat our 4-story house to a warm and toasty 70-75 degrees. Here is the three-fold benefit: not only are we not depending on the big gas corporation for our heat, we are saving a decent amount of money yearly, even while we increase the temperature. We have also noticed our family did not get sick very often at all this winter. This could be because with a furnace, you are breathing in the nasty, unclean air from the vents blowing into your living space.
- A rain barrel. Rain barrels are another self-reliant necessity. Whether you plan on using it for watering your garden, thus reducing your water bill, or you need to filter the water for drinking in an extreme emergency, investing in a rain barrel is a smart move.
- A juicer, dehydrator, pressure cooker, wheat grinder, etc. There are just so many useful kitchen tools that are a must-have for the natural-minded homemaker. A juicer is wonderful for getting the extra benefits and large amounts of fruits and veggies needed in your diet for good health. And one like ours can even do the extra tasks of pressing out noodles and making peanut butter! A dehydrator is a great way to preserve foods for emergency preparation, as well as a fun and healthy resource for yummy snacks and for drying your own pasta. A pressure cooker/canner, and a large amount of canning supplies is absolutely essential for storing your garden abundance. (And what you don’t grow, buy in bulk from your local farm and process for yourself.) Canning and preserving your own food is important for self-reliance. A wheat grinder is perfect for grinding your own grains to get the full benefits of nutrients. We invested in a wonderful grinder that uses actual stones instead of metal plates, and can grind wheat, rice, millet, beans, and others. A hand grinder is also good to have for emergencies without power.
The list can go on, and I encourage you to add to it as you see fit and are able. Anything you can do to benefit your natural lifestyle is always a plus!
Whether it’s food or body products, whatever we are buying or using, we should seek things that are in as natural of a state as possible, and also seek to buy from local or small businesses whenever we can. We have to balance these principles with our desire and responsibility to not go broke. As much as we’d love to buy everything organic or Amish made, we cannot afford it, so we must compromise in certain areas. But we try to do our best research on which products are more important to be natural and vary our lifestyle accordingly. Again, it is best to take baby-steps, changing over one thing at a time, and always striving to live as simply as possible. Sure, a lot of these things might not be “convenient.” Of course it can be a hassle to have to make your own detergent instead of grabbing a bottle of the shelf at the grocery store. And sure it is a bit more work to have to wash the cloth diapers than to throw one in the trash. But the extra effort is worth it. If our forefathers and prairie mothers could do it, then we should truly look to them and learn.