Category Archives: do-it-yourself

Toilet paper the old-fashioned way

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Cost: Free!
Success: 5/5

Toilet paper is kind of a waste if you think about it. With its bleached brightness and quilted layers of softness, it comes across as pretty pompous for the crappy* job it has. If toilet paper were a person, it would wear a sequined gown to the bottle depot, or a diamond-necklace to McDonalds. It only makes sense to kick toilet paper off of its high horse by using a more frugal alternative.

From what I have read, wiping one’s butt with catalogues used to be a luxury. And what’s good enough for my dad and grandparents on the farm in Saskatchewan is good enough for me!

I get four free papers a week, and that makes more toilet paper than I can possibly go through.

To make the rolls, I started ripping the newspapers sideways. As long as you rip with the grain, they should tear into neat strips. I used my toilet paper roll to measure the width.  I taped each new length of newspaper down so the roll wouldn’t unravel.

The result is something practical and also fun to read, in case you get bored.

*Hehe! Pun!

PS: April Fool’s!!

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Jen makes noodles!

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Cost: About $2.50 for 3 large servings
Success: 4/5 with the potential to be better with practice

I’ve wanted to make egg noodles for a while, and it seems especially appropriate that I made them yesterday, on what would have been my Oma’s 97th birthday. Both my Grandma in Saskatchewan and my Oma in Germany used to make their own noodles. (Not to take away from the sentimentality, but the 12 eggs sitting in my fridge with a February 24 expiry date also pushed me into action.)

Making my own noodles was not cheaper than buying them, but we’re not exactly comparing two equal things here. Fresh noodles have a quality that transcends anything from the store. They’re so tasty and so hearty that they’re a meal on their own when fried with a little bit of butter.

A German-Canadian friend gave me her recipe, which is ridiculously simple. First I put 6 eggs into a bowl and mixed them up. I added some salt, and gradually added flour and mixed the dough until it was no longer sticky.

At first I used dough hooks, which I found were a total pain in the ass. The dough got sucked upwards and into the mixer. I gave up and kneaded the dough by hand, which was not bad at all.

I rolled out the dough. I had to flip it quite often, and add more flour to the counter. Once it was about as thin as I could make it, I used a pizza cutter to cut the noodles.

I jury-rigged a drying rack with an oven rack suspended on two boxes of spaghetti. Next time I do this, I’m going to follow my friend’s advice and dry the noodles flat on towels.

Mmm!

I was really impatient, so I cooked some right away. I boiled them, then pan-fried them with butter.

They were heavenly!

Next time I make noodles, I’ll dry them flat. I’ll also try to make them a little thinner and more consistent, and do the kneading by hand. I also have exciting plans to use whole wheat flour, and to add some spinach powder and garlic. Mmm.

I should note that this is a really messy and sticky process.

Vinegar, my bitter friend

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Cost: cheap
Success: 5/5

Vinegar is a little weird, because everyone has some in their cupboard but not everyone is sure why.

One of my favourite uses for vinegar is as a glass cleaner. It’s ridiculously easy. I make a mix of  about 10% vinegar and 90% water, with some drops of lemon oil to mask the vinegar stink. I put it in a spray bottle, shake it up, and clean away!  Sometimes I put vinegar right on the cleaning cloth to get rid of grease and fingerprints.

It works because it’s acidic and it breaks up the grease. It’s water-based, so it evaporates. I like to keep my mixture in a little bottle from a soap supply store. Plant sprayers work well too. If you add a citrus essential oil, be sure to shake it each time to distribute the oil. The citrus oil actually lends some of its own cleaning and disinfecting powers. The citrus smell stays around a little while after the vinegar has evaporated.

Come on… give ‘er a try!  (You can practice on my windows if you’d like.)

Cheesy pasta sauce – an instant lunch success!

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Cost: Well under $1 per serving
Success: 4.5/5

I promised I would share recipes for instant lunch mixes if I came up with a good one. And I have!

This is similar to the Kraft Dinner instant noodle cups, but with a fuller taste and no unnecessary ingredients.

Cheesy pasta sauce

  • 2 Tbsp powdered cheddar
  • 1 Tbsp powdered parmesan
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried leek
  • 1 tsp sundried tomatoes
  • ½ tsp tomato powder (I find this rounds out the flavour)
  • salt and pepper

Mix the ingredients together and store in an air-tight container.  This makes about 2 servings.

To prepare, cook and drain the instant noodles. Put in about 4 spoonfuls of seasoning, or as much as it takes to taste right. Put the lid on your container and shake things around, then float off to cheesy heaven.

Grating my own cheese

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Cost: Less than buying it pre-grated
Success: 5/5

I can’t believe I’ve been buying grated cheese like a sucker, when it takes 5 minutes to grate my own and stick it in a resealable container. A Zip Loc plastic resealable bag would work too, if I wanted it to be pourable like the store-bought stuff.

I found wonderfully cheap cheese down in the US last weekend – packages of around 350 grams for under $2.50 each!  That’s less than half the price it is here. Maybe one day I’ll write a post about things that are cheaper in the US. It’ll be a long post.

Dryer sheets? Pfft!

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Cost: Free (if you have unused moisturizer) to cheap
Success: 5/5

The first some times I used my dryer, my clothes and towels were charged with static. This was never a problem in my old dryer because it was one of the slow portable ones that vents the steam into the air. I will probably never use one of those again, because they let lots of water into the air, and need to be extremely well-ventilated.  (I figure it’s about a litre judging by how much lighter the clothes are when they’re dry, with 1L of water weighing 1kg. )

I didn’t want to buy dryer sheets or dryer balls, and I figured there must be some super ghetto way to make my own. And of course there is!

One website recommended using a small sheet of fabric coated in conditioner.  I tried that, and it worked, but it used up valuable conditioner.  A ha, I thought, I have a whole bunch of body lotions I don’t use! 

I took two scraps of fabric from when I veloured up my chairs, and dug up some Bath and Body Works moisturizer that I got 4 years ago but don’t use. Over the years I’ve collected a lot of moisturizers and body lotions, either because I get them as presents or because liked the smell and later remembered I don’t use lotion. In the case of this tropical passionfruit lotion, I went on a wild binge at the Mall of America during boxing week when my boyfriend and I were passing through Minneapolis (I say it like it’s a regular thing we do), and later could hardly breathe because they set off my asthma.

I put in two scraps of fabric saturated in moisturizer, and it reduced the static to almost nothing, and left my clothes smelling Tropical Passionfruit Fresh™. It seems like the moisturizer is spread across enough clothes that it doesn’t set off my allergies, but it leaves a light scent. So it works almost identically to dryer sheets, and it cost me nuthin’!

I knocked off half a success point because it leaves me a bit of static. Maybe I could eliminate it totally by putting in three of four ghetto dryer sheets next time.

Update: I’ve upped the rating to 5/5!  I just dried some bedding with a whole bunch of moisturizer, and it was totally static-free.

Hot oil treatments – jojoba and sunflower oil

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Cost: About $1
Success rating: 2/5

Last time I got a haircut, I spent $10 on a treatment to calm down my puffy hair. Those were richer days, before I started the townhouse search. (Which reminds me that it’s time to get another haircut…)

I thought there must be a way to do things cheaply on my own, so I looked for recipes online.  There are quite a few. Like with most things on the internet, there is no lack of information, but it takes a lot of sifting to get to the good stuff. Last time I tried a mixture of oil and honey (surprisingly successful) but today I used a combination of oils, and I’m ready to go crawling back to the honey mixture.

I have a bunch of fancy oils from my soapmaking days. I used 3 tablespoons of jojoba oil and 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil. I picked jojoba because it’s closest to the oil human skin naturally produces, and sunflower oil because it’s thin and cheap. Just like not everyone has a pet tiger, I know that not everyone has a bottle of jojoba oil hanging around. That’s okay.  Kitchen oils like canola, olive and peanut are also worth experimenting with. I’d be careful with olive oil, though. That is some really greasy stuff.

What I did:

  1. Put 3 tablespoons of jojoba oil and 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a plastic microwave-safe container. I used plastic because it doesn’t retain heat
  2. Put in the microwave for a total of 60 seconds, for 20 seconds at a time
  3. Let it cool for some minutes until it was cool enough to touch
  4. Changed into my housecoat
  5. Put my head over the sink as I poured a little bit of oil into my palm at a time. I massaged it into my hair. Some sites say hair should be damp when you do this, but mine wasn’t
  6. Massaged the oil into my hair until it was nice n’ oily. You can wrap your hair with a warm towel if you want (I didn’t)
  7. Started writing this post to fill 30 minutes
  8. Shampooed my hair thoroughly. Twice.
  9. Blow-dried my hair, because I’m impatient!

So far, I don’t think this one was a success. My hair is oily rather than shiny. It looks like I haven’t washed it in a couple days. I’m glad I don’t have work tomorrow.

This is the before photo. For an after photo, imagine flatter and greasier.