Frugal Mindset

Our journey to a simpler life!

Frugal Mindset - Our journey to a simpler life!

Clean Stainless Steel Sink with Bi-Carb Soda

Of course, a good supply of Bi-Carb Soda is pretty much essential  for any frugal mindsetter. It’s wonderful stuff!

Here’s a quick way to revitalize  a scungy stainless steel kitchen sink:

  1. Give the sink and tap a liberal sprinkling of Bi-Carb. (I bought some Bi-Carb in a handy little jar that has a sprinkle lid).Bi-Carb Soda Jar with Sprinkle TopBi-Carb Soda on Sink
  2.  Give it all a good rub with a damp cloth and rinse well.Wiping down Sink with Bi-Carb Soda
  3. Polish with a dry cloth.Sink Polished Bi-Carb Soda


Our Lovely Girls – Chooks

Our girls not only help out with gardening but also provide us with an abundant supply of beautiful, fresh eggs!

Home Made General Purpose Cleaner

Wiping benches


Basic general cleaning liquids are quite easy to make at home. There are a lot of different recipes for such products.   For my first attempt, I opted for a very simple recipe using apple cider vinegar, water and tea tree oil.

What you’ll need:

  • One cup of water
  • One cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 30 or 40 drops of pure tea tree oil
  • 500 ml spray bottle
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spoon
  • Funnel

Making the mix:

  1. Add water and vinegar to mixing bowl
  2. Add essential oil
  3. Stir mixture thoroughly
  4. Decant to spray bottle using funnel
  5. Shake bottle thoroughly for final mix

Thats it! Its now ready to use.

White vinegar, or perhaps other types of vinegar could be used in place of the apple cider vinegar. You could also use other types of essential oil. Or you could leave the essential oil out of the mix.

It is very easy to use  – just spray and wipe with a clean cloth or sponge – and the vinegar smell is not unpleasant and dissipates quickly.   It is a good general purpose cleaner for the kitchen, laundry, bathroom and other areas of the house.

It is also really good for streak-free cleaning of mirrors, windows and other glass surfaces.

Being a skeptic at heart, I’m often a little leery of some of the claims made about substances such as vinegar. And, it must be said that the supposedly miraculous properties of vinegar are often overhyped and I’d take some of the claims with a sizeable grain of salt.

That said, however, various credible scientific studies  have proven that vinegar does indeed have anti-bacterial properties.

And, other scientific studies have shown that tea tree oil also has anti-bacterial properties.

One could reasonably assume that combining the two substances should increase the overall germ fighting power of the finished product. Of course, that assumption is entirely non-scientific. Without laboratory testing, I can’t know for certain how the two substances work together or how efficient they are at killing germs in the environment when applied as a cleaner.

But, I can say that the product does a good job of cleaning around the house and should certainly help to kill germs. It may not have quite the germ killing power as strong, chemical laden commercial cleaners but it is still an effective, very cheap and safe household disinfectant.

A note of caution:
Tea tree oil in its concentrated form can be toxic, especially to pets.  It may also cause allergic reactions for some people.  In this cleaning mixture, the tea tree oil is highly diluted, and should be safe. However, if you have concerns, you could substitute another oil or just omit the oil altogether.


The Wonders of Duct Tape

Duct Tape Roll

© ekostsov

In the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the galaxy, the late Douglas Adams suggested that the most massively useful thing an intersteller hitchhiker can have is a towel.  Of course, I would never doubt the wisdom of such a well travelled and well respected gentleman.

Nevertheless, I’d suggest that duct tape would almost certainly run a close second to towels in  the “most useful thing in the galaxy” department.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that no household (or spacecraft) should be without a good supply of duct tape.

Just the other day, I repaired a broken tidy bin with some well positioned duct tape. An item that would have been thrown out has thus acquired a few more months of useful life.

The day before, I repurposed an old shampoo bottle as a liquid hand soap dispenser via an elegant wrapping of duct tape.

Some past uses of duct tape:

  • Emergency secured the arm of my glasses to the frame
  • In lieu of misplaced sticky tape when wrapping presents
  • Quick fix for torn upholstery in an old car
  • Wrapped old wooden handles of garden tools to prevent splinters
  • Held together a cracked fan case
  • Short term repair of split garden hose
  • Held the broken head of a vacuum cleaner in place
  • Repaired broken toys to allow a few more hours of precious play
  • Held together a broken washing basket.

In fact, its uses are virtually endless. So, do your self  a favour and make sure you have roll or two strategically positioned around the house for easy retrieval.  Its a good idea to keep some in your car as well.

It also allows dads to tell very bad jokes about the true origin of duct (duck) tape to their hapless youngsters.

Make sure you get the good quality stuff available in hardware stores rather than the thin cheap knock-offs that they have in some discount shops.

Note: Apparently, what we call duct tape here in Australia is a little different to what is called duct tape in other climes. Never mind, it does the job regardless.

Home Made Liquid Hand Soap

Child washing with liquid  soapIt’s great to have liquid hand soap in handy dispensers close to various taps in your house. It can encourage children (and some adults) to practise good hygiene by washing their hands more often. But, the commercial stuff can be very expensive. Especially, if you have young children who often seem to be fascinated by liquid soap dispenser pumps.

But, making your own liquid hand soap is amazingly simple and extremely cheap.

I used pure Sunlight Soap which should be available in any major supermarket here in Australia. However, you could use any  kind of soap. Preferably go for one that is mild and as chemical free as possible.

If you want fragrance, just add a few drops of essential oil.  I used lavender oil in this mix. However, adding fragrance is optional and the soap will work fine without it.

You could also add colouring to your soap, although I didn’t bother for this batch.

I bought three ceramic pump soap dispensers for $3 each at K-Mart. But, if you have some empty commercial  soap dispensers laying around, you could certainly use them.

I used a little under two litres of water for my mix. My first batch was way too thick, so I added a lot more water. Exactly how much water you need will depend on the type and quantity of soap you use. You may need to experiment when making your first batch. Be sure to note how much water you ended up using to make it easier to prepare future batches.

Note: When the mixture is still hot, it will be very watery and you may think that it will never be thick enough for liquid soap. However, when it cools, the mixture thickens a lot more than you might anticipate.

Anyway, on to the recipe:


1 bar of pure soap of your choice
up to 2 litres of water

large saucepan, wooden spoon, jug, grater, mixing bowl, funnel, several pump soap dispensers,  jar for storing excess soap


  1. Grate the bar of soap into the bowl
  2. Bring one litre of the water to the boil. Remove from heat and add grated soap.
  3.  Return to heat and stir until all of the soap is fully dissolved. At this point the liquid will still be very thin and watery.
  4. If you wish to add fragrance or colour you can do so now. Add and stir well.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool until the soap begins to thicken.
  6. You may find that the soap has become too thick. If so, return to heat and add more water.  Conversely, if the mix is too thin, simply add some more soap. Allow to cool again
  7. When you have your mix just right, reheat to thin the mixture a little and decant into your soap dispensers using a funnel.
  8. Any soap left over can be stored in a jar for future use.
  9. After a few hours the soap should have thickened up and be ready to use. If you have a fairly thick mix, it may take some vigorous pumping to  get it to start flowing for the first time. But, once started, it should pump easily from then on.

This is admittedly a pretty  rough estimate. The soap bar I used cost around  80 cents (bought in a 500 gram box of bars). Add a few cents to cover the cost of heating the mixture and a few cents for essential oil.  So, I reckon that $1.20 would get you around 1.5 litres of soap. Around 30 cents per dispenser fill.

The Power of Positive Checklisting

In my ongoing quest to get more organised, I’ve lately been using a simple checklist system to help me keep on track with the plethora of mundane daily chores that are required to keep a busy household running smoothly.  Things like washing up after EVERY meal, cleaning toilets, washing clothes, folding clothes, keeping the fridge tidy and accessible, emptying bins, etc etc.

If you stay on top of these everyday tasks, they don’t really take up that much of your day. But, let them slip even for a day or so, and a household can spiral towards chaos pretty rapidly.  And  getting back on track can turn into a big job that takes you away from much more important things.

Since I’ve implemented my new system, things have been running really smoothly. In fact, I’ve found that checklisting for everyday chores has been quite amazingly effective!

Here’s what I do. I’ve set up separate checklists for mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Just having each chore listed and waiting to be checked off not only reminds you instantly of what needs doing but also serves as a real incentive to get the job done.  Even if you are tired or busy, having unchecked items on your list can inspire you to make a little extra effort and get the items completed. The simple act of completing a list feels like a worthwhile little achievement in the course of your day.

I’m using a lovely and simple  iPhone/iPad app called Check Check.  The app allows you to set up multiple lists of tasks, tick them off as you go, and then click a button to reset the list for next time.  The app is always at hand via my iPhone or iPad. List accessibility and reusability is crucial. Rewriting you lists each day would be too time consuming  and you’d likely stop bothering fairly quickly.

A more low-tech approach might be to write and print out your lists, laminate them, and then use  a whiteboard marker pen or similar to check off items. A quick wipe down at list completion and you would be good to go next time.

But, whatever approach you use, the goal is to incorporate your checklisting into your daily routine so that it becomes second nature.

If your household tends to be a bit chaotic or disorganised, give this a go. You might be quite surprised at how effective it is.


The Power of Checklisting

Chronic Shopping List Failure Syndrome

It seems to me that one important strategy for living simply – and frugally – is  to get organised! I am, by nature, not a particularly organised individual.  I’d hate to think how much precious time and resources I’ve wasted in my life because I’ve forgotten to get something or can’t find something.

To that end, I’m currently undertaking a personal organisation audit with the goal of finally getting the everyday aspects of  my life streamlined and flowing smoothly. I mean it this time. Really!

Anyway, one of the first problem areas that my audit has revealed, is a terrible case of  Chronic Shopping List Failure Syndrome (CSLFS).   As in, before I go shopping, I run around and do up a quick shopping list of the most obvious requirements. But, invariably, I forget stuff. Invariably! So, I end up going back to the shop to pick up extra items before the next proper shopping day. And, because I’m busy, I usually go to the more expensive convenience store down the road rather than the big supermarket. And, of course, every time you go to the shop, you usually come back with a few extra items that you don’t really need.  ( Like use-by-date buns with yummy cheese and bacon bits on the top that rate at about one millions calories each). At least I do anyway.

So, CSLFS can cost you both time and money. Over the course of a year, it would add up to a fairly significant amount of time and money, in fact.

The solution?

  1. Find an old notepad or exercise book (we have a stack of half used ones left over from previous school years)
  2. Find a pen (makes sure the bloody thing works)
  3. Find some string
  4. Bore a hole in  back of said book
  5. Use string to tie pen to book
  6. Place book in an easily accessible location such as a kitchen draw
  7. Assemble family members and threaten them with heinous acts of violence if they should dare to remove either the book or the pen for any reason whatsoever.

Now,  when you think of something that needs to be bought, pop it on the list STRAIGHT AWAY. Instruct other family members to do likewise. (Again threaten family members with acts of violence if they add frivolous items to the list such as “Xbox” or “225 Mars Bars”).

So, on shopping day, you already have a list well underway and can just add any final items before tearing out the page and departing. No more excuses for forgetting stuff!

And, when you get home, if there are a couple of items that you couldn’t get for what ever reason, add them to a new list for next time.

This SHOULD work. I will make it so!

shopping list solution

Shopping List Solution


Homemade Laundry Liquid – First Attempt

This post details my first attempt at making my own laundry liquid. I used the recipe outlined by Rhonda Hetzel on her excellent Down To Earth blog. There are many variations and approaches that you can take to create your laundry liquid.

The recipe and method I used are listed later in the post. But, before you jump in and make your own batch, can I suggest that you review the following points:

  1. Soap:
    I used ready-made Lux Flakes for my first batch. But, you can apparently use any sort of natural soap by simply grating it to the required amount. This would work out even cheaper! I’ll try that option when the Lux runs out.
  2. Procuring Ingredients:
    In Australia, Lux Soap Flakes (or equivalents) and Washing Soda should be available in the cleaning aisles of the major supermarkets. I found mine at Woolworths.Borax can be a little harder to find. Comments on other blogs suggest that it is sometimes available at supermarkets. However, Woolworths and IGA didn’t have it in the city I live in.I finally found it at Bunnings (large Australian hardware store chain)I’m assuming that the products or their equivalent will be available at similar stores elsewhere in the world.
  3. Borax:
    There has been quite a lot of often heated debate over whether or not Borax is safe to use in your cleaning recipes. My personal view is that the supposed dangers are considerably overhyped. Your homemade product is likely to be much safer that many store-bought, chemically laden equivalents.  But, if you are concerned, you might like to head over to Crunchy Betty’s excellent and sensible analysis of Borax and have a read.Some users suggest that you can leave Borax out of the mixture, although they note that cleaning results may not be as good without it.
  4. My “Twice Cooked” Method:
    Most recipes I have seen instruct you to heat the ingredients in one litre of water and then top up to ten litres. I followed this, but found that the mix separated completely in to water at the bottom and thick soap gel at the top. And, even after stirring, there were still large clumps of soap throughout the mix. In my initial “trial wash” some of the soap clumps didn’t dissolve properly and stayed on the clothes. And the entire mix seemed overly watery.This may have been because I did not heat and dissolve the mixture enough initially.  However, I’ve seen a lot of user comments that describe the same separating and clumpy problems.Anyway, I found that by reheating the mix as described below, I ended up with a much creamier end-product that does not separate nearly as much as it did initially.As noted, this is my first attempt. I’ll experiment further with future batches. I may be able to streamline the procedure I’ve outlined and still get the same results.
  5. Costings:
    It cost me around $3.63 (AUD) to make ten litres. That is well under half the cost of  the cheapest generic brand laundry liquids that I have used. And only a fraction of the cost of the big-name laundry liquids that can cost $80 or $90 for ten litres.
  6. Effectiveness
    We’ve now done several loads of washing with the homemade liquid. To me, it seems to be just as effective as the commercial brands. At first, you may miss the “fresh” added fragrance that we have been manipulated into thinking means our clothes are cleaner.

Ok, so let’s get cooking!

Ingredients and tools:

  • 1 Cup of Lux Soap Flakes
  • 1/2 Cup Washing Soda
  • 1/2 Cup Borax
  • 10 litres water
  • Large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon for stirring
  • Jug for measuring water
  • 11 litre plastic pail with lid
  • Plastic paint stirrer to keep with pail for re-stirring
  • 1 cup capacity jug for adding laundry liquid to machine


  • Add Lux, Washing Soda and Borax to saucepan
  • Add 1 litre of water
  • Bring to boil, stirring continually
  • Ensure that all ingredients are fully dissolved
  • Pour contents of saucepan into pail
  • Top up with further nine litres of water to make 10 litres in total
  • Stir thoroughly
  • Leave to sit for 24 to 48 hours stirring occasionally. (The mixture will separate and made become quite clumpy)
  • Stir and then decant half of mixture into the large saucepan and heat slowly
  • Bring to near boiling point, stirring continually.
  • Repeat with second half of mixture
  • Mix two halves together and stir thoroughly


  • Give pail a good stir with paint stirrer  before using
  • Use around 1/2 cup of liquid per top-load wash. More for large or heavily soiled loads.
Ingredients and Tools
Bringing to Boil
Adding Remaining Water
Final Stir
Finished Product


Stockpiling Containers

I’ve recycled suitable food and liquid containers for years. However, its a good idea to hold some such containers back from the recycling bin for later reuse.

You never know when you might need a container for preserving food, holding screws or other little knickknacks, or purposes yet to be imagined.

I  stockpile containers for just such unforeseen future needs. “Stockpiling” in this case just means randomly chucking containers in a cardboard box I have in the shed. I sort the containers as I take my recyclables to the bin. Getting to the container box and back adds approximately 10 meters to my journey, so its not too taxing. :)

A range of containers are good to keep. Soft drink and milk bottles. Glass and plastic jars. Small cardboard boxes of various shapes and sizes. Even small containers such as vitamin bottles. All are potentially invaluable!

Just a little safety reminder.  It is NOT a good idea to reuse food or beverage containers to store ANY type of chemical or potentially dangerous product.  People – especially children – could mistake the substances for something they can eat or drink.


Stockpile containers for later use.


What is “Frugal” Anyway?

“Frugal” is one if those wonderful English words that can be both derogatory and complementary depending on the context in which it is used. Delivered as an insult, it can describe a person who is mean and penny pinching. A tightwad.

Delivered as a compliment, it can describe people who are wise with their available resources. Not wasteful and indulgent. People who live within their means and care for themselves, their community and their world.

On a planet with rapidly dwindling resources, and a future fraught with problems,  we think it is imperative that we all develop a frugal mindset.

This blog will chronicle our journey as we try to develop our own frugal mindset and adapt a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle.  It’s not likely to be an easy or straightforward journey.  And it won’t happen overnight! There is a lot of learning to be done. A lot of new ideas to embrace. A lot of old and tried ways of doing things that need to be discarded.

But it’s sure to be fun and fulfilling.  Come join us!

Time For Action

Time to develop a frugal mindset