Saturday, December 27, 2014

Saturday is cleaning day, and thinking about taxables

 I've been busy today. Yes, it's December 27th here in CT, but we are blessed with unseasonably warm weather, so sheets were washed and are being line dried outside.
 The rest of the laundry is drying on clothes horses, set in the sun on the deck.
 In between laundry loads, I washed down the two and 1/2 bathrooms, using up some cleaning products in the process. This is a good thing, as post divorce, I took my cleaning supply stockpile with me, and more needs to be used up and/or eliminated as ideally, I will move to natural based, and more economical alternatives. The bulk of the aforementioned cleaners were purchased for well under $2, closer to $1 each. I always combine coupons and typically pick those type of items up at the discount grocer. The 2 bottles above are rinsed out (the dregs used to clean one last time) before I placed the now empty bottles into the recycling. The pump spray tops have to be tossed.
 Down cellar, there is a work bench area with many shelves above. I use this for storage. On one end are the extra laundry supplies
 towards the other end, looking above, you can see my remaining stockpile of paper goods such as foil, parchment paper, etc.
 This is the other end of the L shape corner, just above the in cellar, oil tank. The current LL's husband had made some shelves to fit over the oil tank, therefor extending the workshop area shelves, making good use of this space. Here, you can see what is left of my cleaning supply stockpile, some of which are actually products purchased while we were at the former rental, to address some cleaning issues in that home, such as stripping the dirty wax that someone had placed over the kitchen floor. Above, to the left, you can see 4 moisture absorbing gizmos that I use instead of running the electricity robbing dehumidifier. On the bottom, to the right, is a bin full of generic "swiffer" type cloths for wood floors as well as multiple magic erasers, some scrubbing brushes, extra Playtex living gloves. I am happy with the reduced stockpile and continue working towards reducing more.
 This got me thinking about just what taxables we do use, which we need, which we can eliminate. Pictured above is a repurposed, quart, plastic container in which I store Dollar tree's Sun brand powdered dishwasher detergent. I use 2 boxes a month, so $2. I came across the yellow bottle of Sunlight gel dishwasher detergent recently at Price Rite for $4.99, figured that we can try it at that price. The Power X is also from Dollar Tree, another gel variety that I have been meaning to try. Note that I do NOT use a rinse aide anymore. I went cold turkey, saw no issues as a result. If I start to feel differently, white vinegar is what I will turn to.
 My former go to price book amount for dish washing liquid was $2/25 oz bottle. I discovered LA's amazing dishwashing liquid at Dollar Tree $1/50 oz bottle. The LA's amazing works well (also had tried the Home store label of Dollar Tree dishwashing liquid, which I did NOT care for)and at 50 cents for a 25 oz equivalent, there is no question as to what I am sticking with. Sorry, Palmolive, but you have been replaced. I also noted what scrubbies I use: a white, plastic square as well a brown Pampered Chef square both do wonders on stuck on foods that I allow to soak off first before tackling. The mesh "balls" I make up, using plastic netting on meats such as turkey (this is over the plastic packaging so no contamination issues) and the netting from vegetables such as onions. I have a sponge tipped, baby bottle brush that also helps with glasses for example, and an old toothbrush for nooks and crannies, as well as general cleaning. I use cotton dish cloths as well, which replaced the yellow scubbie sponges I had used for years.
 There are times, however, when I need something stronger, so I turn to this box of Brillo pads-it really is just the box (false advertising) as I now use the "brillo pads" from Dollar Tree, finding that they do the job just as well as the pricier Brillo brand, which I had used for years over SOS brand as those were even more expensive than the Brillo pads. I did also cave at some point, and I bought a multi pack of scrubbies at Dollar Tree, noting today that I have yet to use them.
 A common scene at my kitchen sink: washed out baggies on the knife block or in this case, the lotion bottle, drying overnight. Plastic baggies are expensive,even if bought at the discount stores, so I try to reuse them, as long as they didn't hold meat.
 I also reuse foil as many times as I can, before ultimately recycling it. It's very expensive and I am lucky to have a stockpile still on hand.
 When I moved in here, the LL left behind a small, sample bottle of glass stove top cleaner, which lasted about 3 months, so I bought the Magic brand cream cleaner at Home Depot. The LL had also left the cooktop cleaner (really gets gunk off-must have some scarey ingredients) which I noted is also sold at HD-very expensive! Yikes! I clean the stove top almost nightly, using soft, cotton rags. I have a rag bin in the corner of the cellar where the washer/dryer are and do a rag wash once we are out of clean rags, on average, once a month. I'll toss in throw rugs at the same time.
 The LL had also left this almost empty, spray container of carpet spot cleaner. I noticed that someone* (I am guessing DS # 1) dribbled what looked like cocoa or tea onto the bottom step of the carpeted stairs leading to the second floor. I use the cleaner and a rag today, and the stain came right out. The LL did tell me that she intends to remove the remaining carpet on the stairs and the hallway upstairs, at the end of our tenancy. I suspect that the entire second floor was carpeted (except for the bathrooms)and when she refurbished this Summer, she had the carpet removed, saving the hall/stairs for "noise muffling" as she explained to me. The carpet is old, but is in OK condition, not threadbare at all. I just want to keep it as it was left to us. Glad to be able to turn to what is on hand, although I do already own a bottle of Resolve spray spot cleaner for use on my area rugs, in particular the dining room one.
 Today's cleaning had me reviewing what I commonly use for general, day to day, if not the once a week, maintenance cleaning. While I do have a monthly cleaning service, I feel that it remains necessary to do some cleaning on our own, on a weekly basis. Dollar tree to the rescue again: tall canister of Ajax cleanser works well in both kitchens (cleaning the actual kitchen as well as scrubbing pots), and I also commonly use a baking soda paste followed by a white vinegar rinse. The is an old, Heinz, glass vinegar bottle that I refill about once a month, turning to the plastic gallon sized bottled of vinegar that I store down cellar in the pantry area.
 Other oldies but goodies: Bar Keeper's friend, Cameo cleanser as well as Murphy's oil soap. I have used these for years. I also dust using lemon oil on a cotton rag, noting that we still have a canister or 2 of spray Pledge that I want to use up.
 I stopped buying liquid soap refills for the sinks. In the powder room, I keep a bar of soap as I do the sinks of the 2 main baths. Several of us wash our faces (in additon to showering at another time in the day), so it makes sense to have a bar of soap at the ready. The kitchen sink is another matter, so once I used up whatever refill I had (I was buying it at either the discount grocer or Dollar Tree with coupons whenever possible), I turned to buying 16 oz bottles of body wash instead from Dollar Tree. I can get twice the amount as the refill bottles for the same price. I also cut the thickness of the liquid, using some tap water. This further stretches it as well as makes for the proper consistency. I am currently using some Spa Haus brand, lavendar and chamomile. It smells great, is non drying.
 So, back to laundry. While I love the smell of Gain and the super cleaning capacity of Tide, I will not pay the prices asked. Years ago, I capped my price limit to $5/50 oz bottle. I now aim for more like $2. I use whatever is on sale, stacking coupons when I can. I also recently tried, and was very happy with LA's Amazing liquid laundry detergent sold at both Dollar Tree and Xpect Discounts. $1/50 oz bottle, and it works fine. Typically, I have All, or Purex on hand. I also prefer liquid fabric softener for towels, again buying what is on sale, stacking coupons. I like Downy (grew up with that brand) but often have Snuggle, Suavatel, store brand. I use Dollar Tree quarts of peroxide for blood stains, Austin bleach (Xpect) for whites, LA's amazing orange cleaner for stains. I also have another brand of orange based stain remover I am trying to use up (I can get 1/2 gallon refills of the LA Amazing orange cleaner for $1)and I still have some Spray n wash-again trying to use it up.
 Dryer sheets for times when we have multiple days of rain and/or I must have something dried for the next day. I use them, save until I have a second "used one" and then run my next load, using the 2 used dryer sheets. Works well. The Clorox oxy was bought to replace the brand name Oxy cleaner as there are times when I need to soak DS #1's clothes, depending upon what his work entails (he often has side jobs at local farms)
 I still have some washing soda from my former marital home that I want to use up. I have it stored in a repurposed, plastic tub. I use it for a prewash for DS #1's messy work clothes.

Let's talk trash: years ago, I would buy Glad drawstring trash bags, waiting until they went on sale and hopefully stacking a coupon on top. The price of trash bags (remember this is so that you can throw it away!) escalated and I said, "enough." I moved to store brands and haven't looked back. We recently finished a box of Stop and Shop trashbags, bought from Crash n burn. Even better, and my mainstay, is to buy them from Aldi's @ $4.99 for a 45 count box = 11 cents each. On average, I transport our trash and recycling over to the transfer station every 2 weeks. My Prius is typically packed to capacity with 2 actual bags of garbage and the rest is something like 6-8 trashbags of recycling. We reuse the recyling bags over and over until they are turned into trashbags. All food scraps are composted, we are heavy recyclers so my trash is comprised of tissues, plastic wrap, batteries. It's light, dry and nothing leaks. In a pinch, I also save larger, store shopping bags that are plastic for the same purpose: use as recycling bags then trash bags.  Most rooms also have small, wast ebaskets, I repurpose small, plastic, store bags to line those. It's amazing how many enter this home (plastic bags)considering that I use cloth bags when I shop. I even cut the side end of a large, multipack of toilet paper, converting the plastic overwrap into a wastebasket liner. I figure that I have to throw it out anyway, so I may as well repurpose it first.

Toilet paper is considered a necessity, it's not something that I am willing to substitute for. I do tend to just get Aldi's brand, which is comparable to Northern. We also use a ton of tissues, so I turn to Dollar Tree's Home store brand as well as the Scotties sold there. Aldi's brand is also very good, and they do offer a lotion variety which is appreciated by those suffering colds.

While I do have some paper plates, bowls, cups and random, set aside as extras from the olders kids's take out meals paper napkins, these are "emergency preparedness" supplies. Extended periods of no power=no water=dirty dishes stacking up. So while I buy an occassional stack of paper plates or bowls, I do not buy paper napkins.

Another thing I don't buy, are paper towels. 

We have gone cold turkey 4 months now, previously only using 2 rolls a year. When DS # 1 rejoined the household, we quickly discovered that he was literally using up all of the paper towels in the kitchen, which I would reserve for really gross things like cat barf, a dropped egg on the floor. Instead, we use these, hanging kitchen towels:
 One is kept right at the kitchen sink
and another at the stove.  After he used up the remainder of the roll of paper towels left behind by the LL, I refused to take out my remaining roll, which remains on the shelf down cellar, unbeknownst to DS and the rest of the family. I see some at the grocery store, spending small fortunes on paper towels. For grease absorbing for what limited frying I do, I use repurposed flour and sugar bags that I save just for that purpose. For cleaning, we keep a dishcloth at the kitchen sink, for both washing dishes at the sink (usually pots and pans), washing down the counters, and tabletops. If the floor needed spot cleaning, for example, we turn to the bin of cotton rags, stored under the kitchen sink.

How are you doing with taxables? Have your shopping habits changed at all, due to the economy or other circumstances? I used to budget $50/month for taxable, including all of the aforementioned as well as personal care items. It's now much less than 1/2 of that. Any "savings" is incorporated in being able to afford actual food vs taxables, in light of the many price increases. 


Belinda said...

Based on your suggestion, I've used the LA dishwashing dish detergent from Dollar Tree (IGA also sells that brand here) and laundry detergent. Both do an equally satisfactory job. They may not suds as much as some other soaps, but they get the job done.

I have a multiple box of scrubbies too. I cut mine in halves and then quarters and use one of those by the sink until it's worn out, which takes a long while, so a package of them will last for years using them this way.

I use the Ajax from the Dollar Tree as well. We always used Comet growing up and it is so much cheaper than the paste type cleaners of the same brand name. Cleans very well imo.

We've been using bar soap at the bathroom sink for a while now. It lasts so much longer than the liquid, which saves us money, which is our goal.

We use the generic trash bags here as well. $1.00 for a box full that is only going to the garbage works for me.

I do the same thing with the overwrap on the toilet paper too. Use it to line the trash can. They certainly are big enough for that purpose. I do that with cat food bags too as the ones I buy are large. Some shopping bags are large enough for that purpose too although we don't get those as often.

I've not had any paper towels, paper plates or cups in a while here. Yes, I enjoy using them, but, like you, I like saving that money even more. When I did have paper towels, I used one over a brown paper bag or newspaper for fried foods, which we seldom ate. However the last time I needed one, I just used an old, but clean dishtowel, which worked. I hadn't thought to use flour or sugar bag, those sounds like good alternatives too.

Marcia in rural WNY said...

I don't think I want to give up paper towels as long as we still have a cat. (We're down to one now.) Nothing is better for cleaning up the various messes she makes than a paper towel that can be thrown away. I am partial to Bounty, too, although I ONLY buy them on sale + coupon. They are expensive, and I do use them sparingly.

CTMOM said...

Marcia, I HATE cheap quality paper towels, that said, as long as DS #1 is still living with me, I know that we would easily blow through 2 rolls of good paper towels a week! Typically $2.49 a single roll, so no thanks. I can't see spending $10, $15 on bulk packs either, something I commonly see here. Trying to affod meat is a real issue/concern for me, so I allocate my paper towel monies towards that. My local IGA has Angus pot roast "on sale" starting tomorrow, for $3.99. I am debating grabbing a few for the freezer.

CTMOM said...

Sounds like we are in the same boat, actively changing our daily ways, in small steps so as to save our pennies, if not more! Do you still use the LA's amazing dish soap and laundry detergent? The scrubbies you mention, are those the woven nylon ones like I have pictured near the Brillo pads? I have yet to use them, they remind me of the Scotch Brite brand, emerald green ones that my Mom likes. I forgot to mention that I also repurpose any large, plastic bag, such as the cat food bags for trash purposes, again figuring that I am only throwing it away anyways. Whenever I buy flour or sugar, I carefully deconstruct the heavy, paper bags and store them flat in a hallway closet for frying. A note of caution: there is always a significant amount of sugar "stuck" between the 2 layers of paper (one will be a heavy, Kraft paper) and the outer paper layer. I try therefor, to do this over the sugar canister so as to catch the falling sugar. This same Kraft paper can be used to wrap a small gift, especially for mailing purposes.

Nancy said...

With two dogs plus a cat I still buy paper towels. I get the Bounty basic at the wholesale club by the case (9 rolls) @ $12.99 per case. This lasts 3-4 months. They are used for pet messes and draining bacon. Toilet paper, Charmin basic also bought by the case lasts 3 months for the same price. I have simplified cleaning supplies to Pledge for dusting, Comet cleanser for bathroom (toilet tub sink) & kitchen (sink,counter), magic clean erasers for stovetop all bought at wholesale club, liquid dish soap, glass cleaner, trash bags bought at Aldi, laundry soap, Downy,& dishwasher tabs (Finish brand) also bought at wholesale club. Bleach is Target brand bought on sale only since it only gets used mostly on work towels. Except for kitchen & bath all my floors are hardwood I use the Murphy's everywhere. It is bought at Target on sale. I am using up my supply of Swiffer sheets & dusters then will be switching to microfiber washable options.

Nancy said...

I also reuse shopping bags & pet food bags as trash bags. The pet food ones are particularly good for dirty cat litter.

CTMOM said...

Nancy, we have 3 cats here, with DS #1's GF being responsible for al care associated with her cat, while we take care of our 2. Cat barf, knock on wood, has been a very, very rare occurance, and my cats seem to like to find a cotton bath mat to expel on. Those are easily washed. THe random time(s) that there has been some cat yack on the floor, we just grabbed a paper napkin for one of the older kid's take out meals that we set aside. I store those on a cabinet top shelf with my paper goods for "emergency preparedness" but will willlingly give a few up for these rare messes. Knowing that DS #1 refuses to not use paper towels all the time, I didn't replace them, and he's been using my kitchen terry cloth towels just fine. : )

I am curious-what do you use to clean the kitchen and bathroom floors?

I, too, am using items up from my cleaning stockpile/stash with the expectation of seriously limiting what I buy. While I do have a mini stockpile of "generic" wood floor swiffer pads, I aim to use those up-I brought those with me when I divorced in Aug '12. I tend to just use a microfiber cloth that I spritz with a vinegar/water solution I mix up. Works well, keeps cat hair/dust at bay. I just toss the dirty microfiber cloths in the rag bin, and wash them all together.

Belinda said...

Yes, we still use the LA dish soap and laundry soap. They work well for us, so I am happy with the results and especially the savings. I am in super savings mode right now and I want to stay there, so we are doing what we can to save all we can.

Yes, the scrubbies are like the ones you have next to the Brillo pads. I also like the ones your Mom uses for scrubbing really dirty dishes. We used them growing up (the yellow/green ones).

Great tip on the sugar/Kraft paper being used to wrap a small gift or for mailing purposes. We are always looking for items to mail packages with. We've been creative in the department. I'm not buying any mailers, so I am making do with what I can find here. I mentioned once on my blog that I have used the Xerox paper coverings that copy paper comes in, they work great for that purpose.

CTMOM said...

Belinda, I used a red scrubbie from Dollar Tree today, for the first time. Works well. I had a gooey cake pan that I had soaked first. Instead of reaching for a Brillo pad, I tried that. RE: the Xerox paper covers-they are usually the perfect size for covering school books. : ) For other mailing supplies, any flour/sugar/even the outside of a bag of charcoal is good, sturdy paper. I recall once mailing something to Dad, he was tickled that I had upcycled the Kingsford outer bag. I flipped the paper, so that the non print side faced out, allowing me to write the addresses on it for mailing. : )

Nancy said...

Carol I use the Murphy's oil soap on both the kitchen and bath floors. I have two bottles of Lysol kitchen cleaner that I am using up on spills on the floor but once they are gone I will go back to using a mixture of Comet and water.

CTMOM said...

Nancy, do you mix up the Comet and water and store it in a spray bottle or is this a situation where you sprinkle some down then use water to aggitate it and clean?