Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

$20 a month grocery budget – two

I had been thinking about all the cleaning products people buy.  Laundry soaps and fabric softeners.  Dish detergents.  Floor and window cleaners.  Shampoos and rinses.  Heck there is even a special cleaner to clean the washing machines and dish washers.  If there is something that needs cleaning I can bet there is a specialty cleaner just for cleaning it.  Expensive too.


Grandma Mama had only one soap for everything.  Sure there were a few cleaning products on the market back then but Grandma Mama only had her own homemade lye soap.  She used that soap for everything from dishes, to laundry, to windows and floors to Saturday night baths and hair washing.  Her own version of a truly all purpose cleaner.

I kept wondering if I could get by with only one type of soap for everything the way she did?  I’ve done a bit of internet research and even tried a few DIY cleaning supplies over the last few years.  Some of the DIY cleaners look a little promising until I really think about it and then they simply don’t make sense.  Let me give you just one example.  You want a DIY for making your own washing soda really cheap?  Some web sites say you can make your own by simply oven drying all the moisture out of regular baking soda.  Some of those sites have pretty elaborate detailed descriptions and photos.  Now come on people…… that doesn’t make sense.  If applying heat to baking soda turns it into washing soda then what the heck have we all been eating all these years when we bake our biscuits and cake?  See what I mean?  That’s just one example of the internet lies.  Lies designed to get people to look even if it doesn’t make sense.  Someone is making money off those lies.


Well anyway, what I needed was a pure soap with no chemicals.  Something that would be similar to Grandma Mama’s homemade lye soap.  There were a few that came to mind.  Kirk’s Castile, Dr Bonner’s, Ivory, Lux, and Palmolive.  Ok, the real test would be using bar soap on my hair.  I have really long hair that is very thin due to my age.  If a shampoo leaves my hair with tangles and static it just won’t work.  So, over the last few weeks I’ve tried a couple of the soaps whenever I located a place to buy them.


None of those worked for my hair.  During the evening news I happened to see a commercial for Dawn dish liquid being used on some baby ducks.  Well now, if its gentle enough for animals with feathers and fur why wouldn’t it work for me too?  I was already using Dawn for dishes so it wouldn’t cost anything to give it a try on my hair.  It worked!  I used the non-concentrated kind straight from the bottle.  My hair rinse is 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon honey in a cup of water.


I’ve been using Dawn for all the cleaning around my house for over a month now.  I’ve used it for everything from dishes to laundry to bathing myself and the furkid too.  I was pleasantly surprised to realize Dawn does not dry out my skin.  Grandma Mama had her lye soap and I’ve got my Dawn.  This one item has eliminated the majority of the items on my non-edibles grocery list.  How about you, do you use one soap or several?

19 comments on “$20 a month grocery budget – two

  1. SuzieS
    December 22, 2016

    Be careful of dawn i too was fooled by that baby duck and wild life usage. The EWG gives it a D rating. It is toxic to marine life and has other issues. I have cut out all shampoos with certain ingredients and one that is known to cause thyroid problems i have been using for years, and guess what all of sudden in last two years i developed a thyroid issue. I am using DR Broners soap for most cleaning and even laundry soap. Dawn will also strip your skin and scalp of needed oils after a time of using it.

    • Anita
      December 23, 2016

      Thank you Suzie for the information. Sorry to hear about your thyroid issue. I hope you are improving. Let me explain my situation. ALL soap is toxic in nature. It “kills” germs. All soap is made with lye and lye is very toxic. It is unfortunate but poor people with very limited funds, like me, must often rely on less than ideal products and food. There are health concerns with every product and every food being produced these days. Dawn may be less quality than Dr Boners or Mrs Meyers and others but it fits into my budget. I had to find something, one product, one price, that I could use for everything and that I could afford. At some point I may have to switch to a dollar store or aldi brand to cut the cost down further because my budget has just gotten even tighter. Buying the Dr Boners or Mrs Meyers would mean paying for several products, each with its own specific use. Those products are simply way too costly for my budget. Please don’t let my situation stop you from commenting though. Your information may be helpful for someone else reading.

  2. T
    December 10, 2016

    I get asthma and allergies ONLY in response to many of the modern cleaning products and perfume products, and as for these new laundry detergents boasting perfumes which last for weeks…nasty! Perfumes can be quite a terrorist attack on other people’s respiratory systems, no wonder people can’t breathe in many close city environments.

    I wonder if some people know how strongly they smell? Or do they use these products as a passive-aggressive people-repellant?

    • Anita
      December 10, 2016

      Hmm, a passive aggressive people repellent. I hadn’t thought about it before but you are so right. I do have trouble breathing around people with perfume or after shave. Maybe its not perfume but fabric softener? I remember at the place I used to live the neighbor’s dryer exhaust was about 5 feet from my studio window. I’d get bad headaches after breathing the strong smell of dryer sheets. I don’t believe people can actually smell themselves. They become nose blind to themselves.

  3. Kathleen
    December 5, 2016

    This sounds weird…but I am allergic to the color blue. It makes my hands blister..itchy.
    I finally found some dollar store detergent that I can use…one day my husband noticed that all the soaps that broke me out were BLUE…Dawn and Windex..horrible blisters between my fingers..and itchy until they break.even the dollar store detergent that I could use started braking me out until he said” they are all BLUE”…so I stay away from BLUE.
    After a BAD perm several years ago I washed my hair with baking soda and vinegar for a whole year and a half..everybody kept saying how shiny my hair was…but silly me, I missed the bubbles or foam and smell of shampoo…so I use shampoo now…silly me.
    I know if I couldn’t afford even my cheat shampoo I could still have clean hair.
    Baking soda and vinegar are the most frugal cleaning supplies…amazing what you can do with them.

    • Anita
      December 5, 2016

      I do understand allergies to colors in stuff. Fragrances too. My SIL has to use color free and fragrance free stuff. She breaks out in big red itchy blotches from most detergents and shampoos. Isn’t it strange that more people have allergies these days than ever before? Even people who never had allergies before have them now.

      I tried the baking soda and vinegar hair washing a couple of years ago. I must have been doing it wrong because my hair had lots of static and tangles. The Dawn seems to be working for me so far. Hmm, I may have to experiment with the baking soda again. Just in case I’m ever without funds to buy Dawn.

      • Kathleen
        December 5, 2016

        I would just touch my wet finger tips in baking soda and try to just focus on cleaning my scalp..little dab will do ya…rinse once. 2 T. Of vinegar in about a cup of warm water..deluted..pour over my head, rinse.

  4. sarasinart
    December 3, 2016

    You always have the best ideas!

  5. Amy
    December 3, 2016

    I remember 32 years ago, the sad day of my Daddy’s funeral and not having any shampoo, nor the money to buy any. I used Dawn and my sister exclaimed ” your HAIR!! It’s so beautiful and soft and shiny.” I felt like a princess. I still use it off and on. Maybe should do more “on”!

    • Anita
      December 5, 2016

      That’s a great example of make do and mend stories. Sometimes the results teach us better ways. It certainly can’t hurt to use it more often.

  6. Jackie
    December 3, 2016

    Anita, there is something about Dawn that sours my dishcloths. We used it for years and then about ten years ago it started. We did everything we could think to fix it i.e.rinsing out repeatedly, changing rags often…nothing worked. We don’t know if it’s something in our water system not mixing well or if something in the formula changed. Do you have any problems with a mildewy smell?

    • Anita
      December 3, 2016

      I hadn’t noticed anything but now I’ll start paying close attention. I sure don’t want to go around with sour smelling hair and body. Are you talking about the new extra strength formula, the original formula, or both? Has anyone else noticed this?

      • Jackie
        December 4, 2016

        I honestly don’t know, but would it make sense that their formula had changed? I didn’t know there was an “original”. Lol! Guess I need to pay attention. The smell is very distinct! You would know!😜

      • Kathleen
        December 5, 2016

        I remember from 30 some years ago when I used to leave a sink full of soaking dishes that you never get back to, that the water would “slime” with dawn.
        I have since learned that it only takes less then 10 minutes to do dishes and wake up to a clean kitchen.. 🙂

        • Anita
          December 5, 2016

          I had the same problem with Joy. I hate waking up to a sink full of dirt dishes.

  7. Cynthia
    December 3, 2016

    I have eliminated most cleaners from our home and we mostly use apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and an inexpensive pure soap (usually ivory cuz it’s cheapest) for pretty much everything. I add washing soda (not the same chemical makeup as baking soda by the way) to grated ivory or Fels Naptha for laundry. Washing soda and baking soda come in cardboard boxes, vinegar in a glass bottle, and Fels Naptha in paper wrapping so i am also eliminating a lot of plastic which is important to me. Wet and rub the Fels Naptha bar right on to get out stains.

    I don’t know if you use paper towels or not but they are something easy to eliminate, too. I cut up a lot of sheets, shirts, etc into different sizes for rags and use them instead. Zigzag stitch once around if they are fray-y. I keep a bucket by the washer with a little bleach in it and wash probably once a month when there are enough rags for a load. If they are really yucky I toss them away. I often find the material in free boxes at garage stores and thrift sales but one cut up sheet has kept us in rags for at least a year. By the time they are worn out, if they are cotton I cut them into little pieces and put in the compost and next year they become a carrot. Ha!

    • Anita
      December 3, 2016

      Cynthia, do you get pretty plaid and floral imprinted carrots from the fabric fertilizer? Hee hee. I recycle old clothes into other items too. I have customers who have me make memory quilts with the pictures and logos of their t-shirts. The customer never wants the left over part so I recycle it into my underwear and rugs. That reminds me, I need to make a new rug frame. I lost some parts of mine in the move. It was made of recycled wood so not a big deal. I use old sheets for quilts.

  8. Sandy
    December 2, 2016

    This I will have to try. I use it for dishes and kitchen cleaning but never thought to try it for my hair.

    • Anita
      December 3, 2016

      Sandy, leave another comment to let us know how it works for you and if you plan to keep using it. I want to know and probably several others do too.

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