Monday, August 04, 2008

Frugal Food – Keeping a Clean Kitchen

I have a secret ingredient for keeping the grocery bill down, and it’s cheap and available at any store. White vinegar! White vinegar isn’t just used to make salad dressing or sweet and sour dishes. It’s handy for cleaning, as well. Used full strength, white vinegar is great for cleaning soap scum off of bathroom tubs and tiles. Diluted in a spray bottle, it makes an excellent nontoxic all-purpose cleaner that is safe for all surfaces, including hardwood floors.

White vinegar mixed with baking soda is a formidable weapon when cleaning crusty pots and baking pans—or anything with caked on dirt. You can keep sink and tub drains clear by pouring baking soda, then vinegar, then boiling water down the drain. It’s cheaper and safer than any product designed to unclog drains. I found this wonderful idea in Amy Dacyczyn’s The Tightwad Gazette, an excellent reference for frugal housekeeping.

The only drawback to cleaning with white vinegar is the smell. Diluting it helps, and I like to add 20 to 30 drops of citrus essential oil to one quart of homemade cleaner. Essential oils are expensive, but they are used so sparingly that they last a long time. It’s can be helpful to shake the spray bottle before using a cleaner that’s been scented with essential oils.

Another frugal cleaning trick I use does not involve white vinegar, but those lovely foam soap dispensers. Foaming soap is such a luxury for me, and I found out how to make it save money on hand soap. The soap bottles come with instructions not to refill with your own hand soap, and with good reason. Full strength or improperly mixed diluted liquid soap will clog the pump. I mix one tablespoon of concentrated liquid soap—whatever inexpensive dish soap I happen to have on hand—with one cup of water. I mix this in a glass if I’m refilling one bottle or my quart measuring cup if I’m refilling a few bottles at a time (four tablespoons of liquid soap to a quart of water). I mix it thoroughly with a fork, and then refill the bottles with the foam dispensers. It stretches the liquid soap amazingly and provides a lovely foam with which to wash your hands.

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