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5 Simple Homemade Cleaners with just 3 Ingredients

5 Recipes for Green Cleaners with 3 Ingredients

I originally put this post together for Kidspot, but I thought most of you probably wouldn’t see it over there and it might be helpful, so I’m reposting it here. I might share a few of my other Kidspot posts in the coming weeks.

In the last year we’ve drastically reduced our use of commercial cleaning products. The only ready made products that we regularly use now are oxy action laundry soaker (which we add to the laundry when we wash our white sheets and white towels), bleach and dishwashing liquid. Just about everything else I make. When I first began making my own cleaners I thought it was going to be time consuming and was concerned about how effective homemade products would be, but I soon realised there was no need to worry. All of the cleaners I use can be whipped up in moments, with just a few ingredients, and they work a treat! Every bit as effective as store bought products, without the expense, chemical nasties and wasteful packaging. It makes me so happy that we’ve been able to replace some of the toxic products in our home with more natural, more safe and more environmentally friendly alternatives.

So here are five of the simplest homemade cleaners that I use. All of them have just three ingredients and can be thrown together in minutes!

All Purpose Spray

1 Cup Vinegar
1 Cup Warm Water
1/4 Tsp Tea Tree Oil

Combine the ingredients in a clean spray bottle and shake well. To use, spray on surface and wipe with a clean cloth.

Glass Cleaner

2 Cups Warm Water
1/4 Cup White Vinegar
1 Tbsp Cornstarch

Combine the ingredients in a clean spray bottle and shake well. To use, spray on glass and wipe with a lint free cloth, paper towel or a sheet of newspaper.

Toilet Cleaner

1 Cup White Vinegar
1/2 Cup Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Tea Tree Oil

Combine the vinegar and tea tree oil in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray mixture all over toilet, including inside the bowl. Allow vinegar mixture to sit for five minutes, then sprinkle baking soda all over the inside of the toilet bowl. Scrub inside of bowl with a toilet brush, then flush. Use a clean dry cloth to wipe vinegar solution off exterior.

Drain Cleaner

Boiling Water
1/2 cup Vinegar
1/4 Cup Baking Soda

Pour the baking soda down your drain (if the drain holes are small you may need to sift the baking soda first). Pour the vinegar down the drain. The mixture will froth up, so pop a plug in to stop it from bubbling into your sink. Leave the mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes, then flush with boiling water.

Laundy Powder

4 Cups Soap Flakes
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda (not to be confused with Baking Soda!)

Mix all the ingredients well and store the powder in and airtight container. Use 2 tablespoons of powder for each wash.

Happy cleaning!

Katie x

PS I’ve been using these recipes for while now so (unfortunately) can’t remember where they all came from, but the laundry powder is from Down to Earth. You can find more of Rhonda’s recipes here.

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A Boy and His Bucket

Saving Water

Katie and I have always been mindful of our impact on the environment, and since moving into our own house, we have been more committed than ever to cutting down our waste. We recycle as much as we can and (though we slip up sometimes) pay attention to the amount of packaging we buy when grocery shopping. When we no longer need or want something, as long as it’s in decent condition, we always donate it to an op-shop rather than throw it away. With our future food garden in mind, we started a compost heap the very day we moved in here and already the layers of food scraps and dead leaves are piling up. I’ve also been collecting our grass clippings and drying them out to use as mulch when the garden is up and running.  I recently forgot to put the bin out and when it was collected the next week, after two weeks of our rubbish building up, our little bin was still less than half full. Considering all of this, I’ve always thought that we were pretty good at keeping our waste to a minimum. That was until a big plastic bucket opened my eyes to how much we really throw away.

It all started when I bought a giant 40L bucket to collect the excess water from our shower. When we moved into this house, after months of dry weather, the little garden was extremely parched. So I decided to start saving as much water as I could to supplement watering it. What I soon realised was just how much water we waste. That 40L bucket fills up surprisingly fast! Our washing machine uses approximately 77L per wash and the average shower (without a water saving showerhead) uses about 120L (though I know we use substantially less than that). At that rate, if Katie and I did two loads of washing each week and each had one shower a day, we’d use 1834L over the course of a week! That’s not even taking into account the water we use on stuff like washing our hands, flushing the toilet and doing the dishes. While I’m now saving as much of our waste water as I can and putting it to good use, giving our long neglected lawn, apple tree and hydrangeas a drink, I can’t help but feel a bit sad about wasting so much water over a period of (28) years.

There’s nothing to be done about past wastages, but to make up for it in some small way, I’ve challenged myself to using/wasting as little as possible from here on in. I’ve created a bit of a game of making showers into a race against the clock, and am now seriously considering hooking up a hose with a sprinkler to the washing machine (an idea I got from a co-worker). Using less water is not only good for the environment but it will save us money too!

Of course our water waste is just the tip of the iceberg. With our compost bin filling up fast, our recycling bin fuller than we’d like it, and our pile of grass clippings growing by the week, we are now able to see more clearly just how much we throw away. And though putting our scraps, rubbish and excess water to use is great, I know it would be better still to create less waste to begin with.

Who would have thought a humble plastic bucket could teach a guy so much?!

Reuben

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The Italian Kiwi Fruit Incident

Kiwi Fruit on Plate

Ever since reading Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and writing this post I’ve been making a concerted effort to eat more locally, especially when it comes to fresh produce. We’ve been deliberately steering clear of imported fruit and veggies, that come with a huge carbon footprint, and have been opting for Australian grown (and locally grown wherever possible). Reuben and I are lucky enough to live in a country that is capable of producing vast quantities of fresh produce, so from a sustainability point of view, it just doesn’t make sense for us to buy fruit and vegetables grown overseas. I absolutely love blueberries but have even managed to refrain from buying the pretty little punnets of New Zealand berries in the shops.

All that said, today Reubs and I were picking up some groceries and I was in a bit of a rush to get home. I hadn’t had any lunch so was starving and, as supermarkets are pretty much the worst place to be when you’re hungry, I was keen to get out of there as quickly as possible. In my haste I spied packages of kiwi fruit for just $2. I really, really hate when supermarkets pack fruit and vegetables in excessive plastic so I did hesitate for a moment before I put them in my trolley, but the idea of lovely, fresh kiwi fruit for such a great price was so nice, I couldn’t resist them. It wasn’t until after I got home and was unpacking everything until I noticed this:

Product of Italy

That little plastic package of kiwi fruit had travelled all the way from Italy to land in my fridge. When I realised this I wondered exactly how far the distance between Australia and Italy was, so I googled it, and apparently it’s about 14, 400 km. That equates to a lot fossil fuel burned, just so I could eat kiwi fruit out of season! Then when I considered that the package of fruit had cost me just $2, and thought about all the money that must have been spent on transporting and storing them and making a profit for all the parties involved, I couldn’t help but wonder how much the poor farmer who grew them must have received. Suddenly, those sad little kiwi fruits really didn’t look so appealing.

Two years ago, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed where my fruit came from, let alone worried about it. And though I’ll never be able to buy everything I need or want locally, I understand now that every little bit counts. Every purchase I make sends a message. Silly as it might sound, those Italian kiwi fruits were a good reminder that we are on the right path. Together Reuben and I are learning and making positive changes to our lifestyle every single day. It’s the little, seemingly insignifcant, incidents like this one that show us how far we’ve come. And equally, how far we have to go.

Katie x

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Thoughts on Ethical Eating

Farmers Market Bounty

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about food. I’ve been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (an inspiring book about a family who chose to eat only local, seasonal produce for a year) and I’ve been listening to local ABC radio a lot (I realise that makes me sound about 197 years old but my mum always has it on and I secretly quite enjoy it!) so I keep hearing the terribly sad stories of Australian farmers struggling to survive. Though I’m always quite mindful of what we eat and where it comes from I’m realising now, more than ever, how important our food choices are and how badly the current system of food production and distribution is failing us. All of us.

Animal Vegetable Miracle

In our increasingly urbanised society, many of us are so far removed from the sources of our food, we simply have no idea how our choices affect our famers, the animals we share the planet with, our environment and even what’s on our own plates. We need food so we go to the supermarket and we buy it, without much thought for how it got to be there. That’s a real shame because the reality is, much of the food on supermarket shelves is attached to a slew of ethical issues worthy of our consideration. From the environmental impact of the use of pesticides, herbicides, genetic modification and fossil fuels used in agriculture and to ship the food, to the livelihoods of the farmers and treatment of animals who have produced it, and it’s impact on our own health; food is a big issue and something that affects every single one of us. It’s also an issue so huge and infinitely complicated, that it can be really hard to contemplate.

Cupcakes

What can we possibly do to change things? Where do we even begin?

I believe in taking baby steps. For starters, we can all make an effort to waste less food. The average Australian household throws out 345kg kilograms of food every year (that’s a total of 4,000,000 tonnes of food nationwide!) which is obviously a huge waste of resources. We can try to eat more organic produce which is produced with less impact on the earth (and as an added bonus is often more flavourful and nutritious!) Most of us could probably benefit from eating less processed food and cooking more from scratch. Many of us could change our relationship with meat and eat less of it and/or only consume free range, organic meat that has been treated ethically. We can try to eat more local and look for fresh produce closer to home. In doing this we will be reducing the carbon footprint of our food and supporting our local producers. Some of us can even grow some of our own food, vastly reducing the use of chemicals and fossil fuels in the journey of produce to plate. We can’t all do everything, but we can all do something.

Seedlings at the Farmers Market

Since writing this post about food, Reuben and I have made some big changes to the way we eat. Recently I have had more time to cook and have been making things from scratch much more regularly. I’ve also been really concentrating on making healthy, nourishing meals, packed with lovely whole foods, so we now eat very little processed stuff. We’ve switched from doing multiple small shops (picking up a few groceries every day) to doing one big weekly shop, and we’ve stopped getting takeaway on lazy nights. Now if we can’t be bothered with cooking, we’ll simply have leftovers or something fuss free like eggs and mushrooms on toast.

We’ve also been better with finishing up leftovers and only buying products we know we’ll actually use. I still don’t really meal plan but in the last couple of months I’ve figured out what fresh ingredients are staples for us and we now buy those things, which always get used up, as the bulk of our groceries. If I see anything different or seasonal that we might fancy, I try to make a priority of finding a recipe for it and using it up ASAP, so it isn’t left forgotten in the bottom of the crisper. All of this has reduced our weekly food bill and waste substantially, which is great, but there is room for much improvement when it comes to the ethical side of our little family’s consumption.

Tiny Strawberry

The main point I have taken away from Animal Vegetable Miracle (and Whole Larder Love too) is that Reuben and I really need to concentrate more on seasonal eating and buying local produce. We usually go to the local farmers market (which, sadly, is only on once a month) and buy our fresh fruit and veggies for that week there, but I want to start planning ahead and buying a whole month’s worth of things like pumpkin and potatoes that will keep for the duration of the month. We also need to have a go at preserving seasonal and more perishable produce. Once we are in our own house Reuben and I will set up a veggie patch and get a couple of chickens to provide us with fresh eggs, which will reduce the amount of fresh produce we need to buy. And the environmental impact of food we’ve grown ourselves will be almost zilch!

Reuben and I don’t eat meat and have always bought free range eggs, but I’d love to find a local, organic dairy supplier. I’d really, really like to get my hands on some raw milk and have a go at making cheese, but given the fact selling raw milk for consumption is illegal in Australia, that might be a bit trickier. Of course there will always be things that we can’t grow or make ourselves or buy at the farmers market, but with us cooking from scratch more, our grocery list for non fresh produce has already reduced. I’d like to start buying more of our basic staples such as rice, flour and lentils from small local businesses like Bendigo Wholefoods, rather than the big supermarkets.

I am hoping that once we’ve moved and are somewhat settled in our new home we will be able to create a new, healthier rhythm around our food.

Avocados and Mangos

We all need to eat and, whether we like it or not, the way we eat and the food choices we make have a direct impact on the world around us. We have a responsibility to our environment, our farmers, our animals, our future generations and ourselves to make good choices. Though it often seems like we have no power to make meaningful change, in fact we do. We vote with our money and the way we spend it gives us a voice to industry. Though as an individual that voice may be only a whisper, as a collective we can make some serious noise!

Maybe you can only make one or two small changes, or maybe right now you are not in the position to do even that. That’s ok. All any of us can do is our best. What we can all do, at the very least, is be aware of the ethical issues concerning our food. Learn about them. Think about them. Discuss them. Change starts with awareness and education. If you’re just beginning your journey to a more ethical approach to food and would like to learn about more about the ethics of food and where your food comes from, I highly recommend reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and Whole Larder Love (both book and blog) by Rohan Anderson. All of these resources have had a major impact on the way I think about the stuff I eat. And if anyone has any other suggestions for good reads on this topic I’d love to hear them!

Katie x

PS I know cost plays a really significant role in the way we all eat, so I am thinking a follow up post on ethical eating on a budget might be in order. What do you reckon?

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The Things We Eat

(A super yummy dinner from last week; mushrooms baked with basil pesto and parmesan, salad and rockmelon.)

We’ve been thinking about food a lot lately. Our food choices have a big impact on our health, our lifestyle and our footprint on the earth and we believe that fresh, local produce and good, real stuff cooked from scratch is what’s best for us and what’s best for this big, beautiful planet. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy. Like lovely Kate said in this great post, “unless you prioritise food, the more often you end up taking short cuts and finding yourself with some not so great food habits”. We’re guilty of that. Lately we really haven’t made food a priority and that’s something that needs to change.

Ideally we would like to grow as much as our own food as possible and source the rest from local (preferably organic) producers, but at the moment, 95% of the time our food comes from the supermarket. We’re terrible at planning our meals ahead and most nights we grab something easy from the shops on the way home from work. Supermarkets are cheap and convenient, but unfortunately in return for discount prices and long open hours, you get fruit and vegetables that have been sprayed with chemicals, picked too early, travelled long distances and left in refrigeration too long. As well as the quality of the produce being questionable, we don’t like the way the big supermarkets treat farmers (when you consider how cheap the supermarkets are selling produce, imagine how little the farmers are getting) and we believe the type of agriculture required to produce such vast, cheap quanties of food, is seriously bad news for the environment. We want to support local farmers who are focusing on growing real, nutritious, delicious food without the nasty chemicals, but when we shop at Coles and Woolies, we aren’t doing that.

At this point in time we can’t grow much food for ourselves. Our backyard is tiny, the soil is poor and the sunshine is limited. Being self sufficient might not be an option right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t shop and eat better. We realise that where we spend our money and what we choose to eat is entirely our own responsibility. We need to start supporting the food producers we believe in, making more time to visit local markets for produce, and going to places like the locally owned wholefoods store in place of a chain supermarket. Buying our groceries this way will likely be a little more expensive (and not as convenient) but we have to consider the greater cost of food from the supermarket. Spending a bit extra on our produce will hopefully also make us a bit more mindful of how we spend our money and the food we waste. Though we live on a very limited budget, sometimes we are quite wasteful. We buy too much of something when it’s super cheap or it seems like a good idea at the time, and then we don’t get around to eating the food before it goes bad. Hopefully buying better quality food will also make us less inclined to waste it (we hate to think how many pieces of supemarket fruit we have thrown out simply because they were tasteless and horrible!) So in the long run paying more for our fruit and veggies might not actually cost us much more at all.

We don’t expect to change our grocery shopping habits completely overnight (and we suspect there will always be some things we have to visit Coles and Woolies for) but it is something we are mindful of and something we are (slowly) working on.

Where do you buy your fresh produce from? Is this something you think about? Does where your food comes from matter to you? Do you have any tips for recovering supermarket addicts like us? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Katie x

If you’re interested in finding out more about why we believe Coles and Woolies are bad news, this short video is a good place to start. Pretty scary stuff.

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