CLOSED: Experimenting With Homemade Laundry Soap, Part Two–Plus, a Giveaway and Review of “The Busy Mom’s Guide: Taming the Laundry Monster”

So, a couple weeks ago, I decided to try to make my own homemade laundry detergent.

For years, I had remained skeptical of homemade laundry soap for a number of reasons. For starters, I was only aware of a liquid recipe, which seemed sloppy and time-consuming, and the reviews for the recipe were mixed–some had great success, while others claimed that it left clothing feeling and looking dingy.  Second, to be honest with you, I love buying laundry products–I have shelves full of stain removers, wool washes, detergents (powdered and liquid, eco-friendly and commercial grade), fragrance crystals, you name it. I despise doing the wash, but there’s something about adding scents and boosters that appeals to me. Maybe it’s because the clothes come out of the wash smelling heavenly and looking bright and bold, I don’t know. Third, I have tried everything on my daughter’s cloth diapers, and the only thing that truly gets them clean is mainstream detergent, plus laundry boosters, so I kept asking myself, “Why make detergent if I have to buy some from the store anyhow?”

However, there are several inherent problems with the way I have been doing things. There are multiple powdered detergent recipes available online, so the outdated liquid recipe is not the only option. Buying product after product also adds up financially–not to mention, it’s likely not the best thing for our skin, or for our washer to be adding so many products into a cycle.  And even if I have to buy commercial detergent and laundry boosters for the cloth diapers, only having to buy detergent for those will still save me money because I’m buying a smaller amount just for the diapers than I would if I was purchasing store-bought detergent for the entire family. (Plus, my toddler is in the middle of potty-training, so the need for the store-bought stuff is short-lived.)

I’ve tried two different recipes–the one I mentioned before, and I also tried another that I found at Happy Money Saver (click the link for the recipe used there). I did tweak it a bit myself, and I’m posting my changes below.

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The original recipe calls for three bars of Fels Naptha soap, grated. Personally, I prefer the more mild option of castile soap. Admittedly, it costs a teensy bit more, but I love using it in so many other ways that it made sense for us to consider using it for our laundry care, too. (A tip–grate the soap in a food processor, and the resulting “crumbs” are perfect for powdered detergent.) The actual recipe is quite simple–add a container of Borax, three bars of either castile, Ivory, or Fels Naptha soap (grated), 3 pounds of Oxy Clean, 3 pounds of baking soda, and a 4 pound box of washing soda to a large storage container (we recycled cleaned kitty litter buckets). Mix all of the ingredients together (mix well to ensure the scent crystals are thoroughly combined). Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load.

The finished product.

The finished product.

The results? Our laundry is just as clean as it was when we were using commercial detergents. I haven’t noticed any substantial difference, and you use far less detergent per load, as well. Most recipes make a large batch which lasts most families for months. And while others have claimed that they have had trouble with the homemade detergent properly dissolving unless the water is hot, I haven’t had that issue at all. I am wondering if part of it is related to the fact that we used a food processor to grate the soap, when using a hand grater results in larger bits of soap that might not dissolve as easily. Combined with our homemade fabric softener, our DIY laundry care products are working quite well for our family (and our clothes smell wonderful). (NOTE–we have NOT used either product on cloth diapers, and we are not planning on doing so. Fabric softeners should not be used on cloth diapers, and we simply opt not to try the homemade detergent on them when the mainsteam options are working very well for us.)

However, we can have all of the laundry products in the world, store-bought or homemade, and none will work their magic for you like they should if you don’t find a suitable laundry routine that fits your family. And it’s safe to say that this is something that we struggle with. Honestly, we do just fine with doing the actual washing and drying. (And I totally stay on top of the cloth diapers, out of necessity.) But folding? Sometimes, the mountain of laundry will grow to ten loads or more before I finally sit down to fold it.

So, I sat down with some determination, and a copy of The Busy Mom’s Guide: Taming the Laundry Monster, by Angi Schneider, ready to overhaul our laundry routine (or lack thereof).

 

In Taming the Laundry Monster, Ms. Schneider shares with her readers several different laundry routines, as well as the pros and cons for each of them (i.e. weekly, daily, and “whenever something is needed”). She also shares how her own family’s laundry routine developed, and changed, over the years, as her family has grown.

One of the things that stood out to me is that she emphasizes that there is not one single system that will work for everyone, and that each family will more than likely need to change their own routine multiple times as needs and personal schedules change over time. This is different from so many other books that assert that there is one magical way to do everything, and that set up a reader for failure right from the start. This book isn’t like that at all, which I find refreshing. She also shares tips and experiences that are helpful when, as she calls them, “bumps in the road” occur, like sickness or a change in schedule. I found one particular section helpful where she poses questions for the reader to answer as you work to determine the right laundry method for you–cleaning personality type, what days the family has the most out-of-the-house commitments, what “particulars” need relaxed (i.e. am I too particular about how the clothes are put away), etc.

There’s even a section with tricks that she shares for removing specific stains, drying and ironing clothing, and even mending your items (I can’t sew on a button, but her book tells me how). Plus, there is a recipe for homemade laundry soap, ideas for odor removal and fabric softeners, and general tips for doing the wash (like buying socks of one type for the children…seems so simple, yet I never considered how difficult it is matching a million different styles of white socks that look the same, but aren’t really).

Through the help in this book, I have finally found a laundry routine that I am comfortable with and that seems to be working for my family. I asked myself the necessary questions, made the realization that what works for someone else won’t work for me, and with her help, I sat down and took the time to really think about my options and what would be the easiest system on both me and my family when it comes to our own “laundry monster.”

Interested in reading this e-book yourself? You can purchase it in PDF format on the author’s website, and until March 29th at 11:59pm, you can receive 25% off by using the promo code SPRING at checkout (on the Schneiderpeeps website only; not applicable on Amazon or for the Kindle version).

Want to win a free copy? The author is sponsoring a giveaway! One winner will receive a free PDF copy of The Busy Mom’s Guide: Taming the Laundry Monster. The giveaway is posted on the TPLT Facebook page–check it out for more details! (Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on Wednesday, March 26th, 2014.)  Thanks to Angi Schneider for offering this generous giveaway!)

GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED! MOLLIE A. IS THE WINNER!

(NOTE: I received a PDF copy of the book I reviewed as compensation for my review. My opinion is, as always, my own, and is 100% honest. The giveaway prize is provided by the author.)

CLOSED!!!! Celebrate National Pancake Month With TPLT and Krusteaz!! (GIVEAWAY–Ends March 5th, 2014)

(This giveaway is now closed. The winner, chosen via random.org, was #8, and she did not respond within the 24 hour time frame…I actually allowed 48 to hope she would contact. The new winner via random.org is #10, Julie and Scott Laws. Julie has confirmed her address and entry, and she has won the prize. Congrats, Julie!)

Admittedly, part of a self-reliant life is learning how to make things from scratch. However, I’m also a frugal, working mom, and to me, sometimes, it’s better to use a mix and eat at home than to find myself in a drive-thru ordering an Extra Value meal.

However, I’m picky about my mixes, and I want them to 1) be the right price, 2) taste good, and 3) be easy to use. For years now, we have been buying and using Krusteaz pancake mix. So, when they contacted me for the chance to offer a giveaway for National Pancake Month in February, I couldn’t resist. I’ve worked with them before, and I love their products!

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We’ve been using Krusteaz pancake mix as our go-to for all things flapjack for several years, since we first found it in large bulk bags at our local warehouse club. To us, the mix wasn’t sickeningly sweet, yet wasn’t bitter like some competing mixes on the market. I also like a fluffy pancake, but I don’t want it to have “poof” to it, and the resulting pancakes from Krusteaz’s Buttermilk Pancake Mix are the perfect blend of fluffy, yet traditional texture and shape. I also like the fact that the only ingredient I need to add is water, which makes breakfast easy to whip up on a busy Saturday morning.

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Krusteaz has a wide selection of pancake mixes such as Buttermilk, Blueberry, Heart Healthy, Honey Wheat, Chocolate Chip, Apple Cinnamon, and Original. Our family prefers the Buttermilk mix. They have an option for almost anyone, though I will say that my only complaint is that I’d like to see an organic/non-GMO option added to their line-up.

Look at the yummy goodness….

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We’re a pretty traditional family. We’ve added chocolate chips and blueberries to our pancakes in the past, but when it comes down to it, we’re happiest with real maple syrup and some bacon on the side!

Want to win some Krusteaz products? Would you like to score five free Krusteaz mixes of your choosing? Maybe you want to try their traditional pancake mix, or maybe their Molten Deep Dish Cookie line is more your speed? Would you rather try a Honey Cornbread mix? Try them all for FREE! Krusteaz is offering one winner 5 coupons to redeem for 5 free mixes of your choice! Giveaway will run until March 5th, 2014 at 11:59pm, and I will choose the winner via Random.org on March 6th. Krusteaz will ship the coupons to the winner after winning entry has been verified. Winner has 24 hours to respond before another is chosen.

Here’s how to enter…you get an entry for each of the following:

1) Comment HERE and let me know that you have “liked” This Path Less Traveled on Facebook.

2) Comment HERE and let me know if you have shared this contest on Facebook.

3) Comment HERE with what Krusteaz mixes you would choose if you win.

4) Comment HERE telling me your favorite pancake style or recipe.

5) Comment HERE telling me your favorite pancake topping.

That’s a total of five possible entries per person! Remember to comment HERE, and know that all entries will be verified. Good luck!

*Disclaimer: I was offered free Krusteaz products in exchange for hosting this giveaway. Krusteaz is in charge of administering prizes. My views are 100% honest, as I have used Krusteaz products for years.

Kretschmer Wheat Germ Review and GIVEAWAY (Ends 10/24/13)

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I was recently given the opportunity to review Kretschmer Wheat Germ.

On one hand, I was excited because we are trying to eat foods that are better for our family, and it was something new and different for us.

On the other hand, I had no real clue what wheat germ was. I kept thinking of those chunky bits in 12 grain or artisan breads, you know? I am NOT a person who likes hard bits in my bread. I guess I have this thing with textures and bread, but I was, admittedly, slightly nervous about what was in store for me.

Luckily, wheat germ is NOT those nutty pieces in breads (but it can be used in bread). Before I go too much farther, let me talk to you about what wheat germ is. Basically, wheat germ is kind of like the embryo of wheat. It’s the part that grows into the plant (think: germination).  It is full of vitamins and nutrients, is high in fiber, and is a good source of protein and healthy fatty acids.

The bad news is that, although it is exceptionally good for you, it is also taken removed/taken out of things like processed white flour (that’s why they have to “enrich” things like cereal and flour because they take the good stuff out of the wheat and are required to put *something* back into it to make it nutritionally “acceptable” for sale). It seems so sad to me that food companies remove the healthiest part of a food before processing, but that’s another story for another entry.

As mentioned, I had always heard of wheat germ, but didn’t really know much about it. You can use it in bread recipes to take place of a portion of the flour you use, if you wish (and it adds a heartiness, but NOT an extreme texture), but what really interested me is how versatile it is in ways I didn’t expect. Through friends’ suggestions, I added it to smoothies, to my bowls of cereal, to cottage cheese (with jam–so good), and it was especially good with vanilla yogurt (I topped it with wheat germ and pumpkin).

But what I liked best of all is that I could use it as a substitute in my meatball recipe. I’ve made meatballs for this blog before. I don’t do a lot of things well, but I really do like the meatballs I make, and I was curious how the wheat germ would affect my “famous” (at least to my family) meal.

I subbed wheat germ for the full amount of the bread crumbs.

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Here goes….

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Looks roughly the same as my usual recipe…

The finished product was heartier than my usual meatball recipe. It wasn’t bulky like I thought it might be, and, in fact, it seemed to add a richness to the taste that I really liked. My picky children even ate second helpings. Overall, I admit to being pleasantly surprised at how versatile this product is. It wasn’t “wheaty.” It had a bit of sweetness to it, and a nice, subtle crunch. Honestly, I prefer it to my plain bread crumbs! I’m looking forward to using it to make my own granola, too!

Want to try some for yourself? Kretschmer is graciously offering a jar of their original toasted wheat germ to one of my lucky readers. To enter, just follow these easy instructions:

1) One entry is earned if you like my Facebook page and leave a comment HERE letting me know you have done so.

2) Another is earned if you comment here and let me know that you shared this post on Facebook.

3) A third is earned if you share this post on Twitter.

4) A fourth is earned if you follow my blog via email (the option is on the right of your screen).

Four chances to win! Open to U.S. residents only. Contest winner will be picked via random.org. I will verify the winning entry’s validity. Winner will be announced here, on Facebook, and by provided email address and has 48 hours to respond before I pick another winner. Contest ends on 11:59pm on 10/24/13.

Disclaimer: I was provided a product to review and giveaway for this entry by a third party. However, the review is 100% honest.

Product Review and GIVEAWAY: Molten Deep Dish Cookie Mix From Krusteaz

I’m SO very excited to offer our first sponsored giveaway. Thanks to Krusteaz, I’ll be reviewing their new Molten Deep Dish Cookie Mix line, perfect for back to school snacking, OR, as we’re doing, a lazy Sunday morning activity. AND, one of YOU dear readers will WIN the ENTIRE LINE of Krusteaz Molten Deep Dish Cookie Mixes! (Now, you’re excited, I bet!)

Have you heard of Krusteaz baking mixes? We absolutely love their products. I exclusively use their pancake and Honey Cornbread mixes for my personal baking, and I’ve made many of their bar and muffin mixes for special treats and get togethers. I can honestly say that their mixes have never failed me when I’ve needed a quick, yet satisfying treat.

When I was offered the chance to review their new Molten Deep Dish Cookie line, I was ecstatic. I love any baked good that promises a warm, gooey, chocolate-y (or caramel) filling. I love getting “molten lava” desserts when I am at restaurants, but have you ever seen recipes to try to make them at home? They are SO labor intensive, and with two little ones, who has the time?

I love the fact that this new mix offers the chewiness of a traditional cookie with the added bonus of a creamy center. They are available at most major grocery stores, for around $2.79 a box. They come in three flavors: Classic Cookie With a Chocolate Center, Sugar Cookie With a Chocolate Center, and Chocolate Cookie With a Caramel Center.

For this review, I will be focusing on the Classic Cookie With Chocolate Center, as I’m a bit traditional in my cookie taste.

Doesn’t this look divine?

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I have to give a shout out to my awesome husband. I had a bit of a mishap with my ring finger and the edge of a butcher knife while washing dishes this morning, so he very graciously handled the baking for me. Thank you so much! I’m lucky to have a hubby who loves to cook and bake great treats!

Let’s get started, shall we?

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(Ignore the tape on the drawer. We’re replacing cabinet hardware right now.)

Now, you only need two ingredients in addition to the mix–1/3 cup softened butter and one egg.  That’s it. Very budget and pantry friendly.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray/grease a muffin pan, and soften the butter, if necessary.

Now, mix the butter, egg, and provided cookie mix (inside the box).

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One thing we noticed: It was hard to get the dough mixed together by hand. So, we put it into our Kitchenaid stand mixer, which worked well. If you have one, I recommend using it for this step.

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Once the ingredients form a good dough, then roll the dough into 24 equal sized balls. One trick–separate the dough into two balls, then four, then eight, and then each of those eight balls can be rolled into three. This helps to keep the dough balls even.

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Place one ball into each of the twelve muffin cups in your pan, and flatten it into the bottom. Reserve the remaining twelve dough balls for later.

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Now, cut the corner off of the filling packet, and squeeze an equal amount onto the center of each flattened dough ball.

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Now, flatten each remaining dough ball, and place on top of the prepared cookies to seal in the centers.

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Press down the edges to seal the cookies, if necessary. Then bake for 18-20 minutes! When they are ready, a knife around the edges helps to extract them from the pan.

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Don’t they look yummy?!

They tasted just like a homemade cookie on the outside, a bit crunchy on the edges, but wonderfully and satisfyingly chewy at the same time. The chocolate filling was very creamy and warm, yet it didn’t overpower the cookie at all. I would recommend this product, for sure. It makes for an easy after school snack or a great dessert for a small get-together. The only complaint we have is the struggle we had mixing the dough, but an electric mixer solved that in a flash!

Now, for the part I know you are waiting for! One lucky reader will WIN the ENTIRE Molten Deep Dish Cookie Line from Krusteaz. The contest will end on September 22nd, 2013, at 11:59pm. How do you enter? Leave a comment on THIS blog post with your name and letting me know you liked my Facebook page

Additional entries can be earned if you add an additional comment here telling me what you will do with the prize if you win, comment that you shared this post on Facebook, and also a comment letting me know you follow my blog by email! I will verify the winning entry’s validity.

Winner will be chosen at random via http://www.random.org. Contest ends 9/22/2013 at 11:59pm. I will announce the winner here and on my Facebook page. If you win, you will have 48 hours to provide your information before I have to pick another winner!

DISCLAIMER: I was given the Molten Deep Dish Line to review, and that was my “compensation.” The review is 100% honest, and the giveaway, including shipping and handling of the prize, will be handled by Krusteaz!

A Tour & Review of Creation Laundry, the ONLY Solar Powered Laundromat in Maryland

I was recently presented with the opportunity to tour and review the services of Creation Laundry, located in Cumberland, Maryland. I was really excited to try out their business, as the eco-friendly/green side of me really digs the fact that Creation Laundry relies heavily on solar power.

Let me provide a little background information regarding my laundry habits….

In theory, I like doing my own laundry. I love the smell of freshly washed clothing. It’s so comforting to pull out a newly dried load of laundry from the dryer on a winter’s day. And oddly enough, contrary to what you would think, I really do love washing, drying, and folding our cloth diaper stash. It prolongs my toddler’s babyhood for me just a little bit.

However, the cloth diaper laundry is the only laundry I stay on top of, mainly out of necessity (cloth diaper stink is horrendous). Our little family generates one to two loads of laundry a day, so that can easily end up as 7-14 loads a week. And when do you have the time to keep up with that when you have little children? I have one child who is in school and has his own schedule that I must organize and manage, and when I am home, I have a toddler who is into everything, and it’s hard to leave her for more than a second to put the laundry into the wash, which is in our basement. This is NOT an exaggeration, but I usually have, on average, six or more loads of laundry waiting to be folded and put away on any given day in my living room. I just don’t have the time to truly have a handle on our wash.

So, in addition to their “green” traits, when I heard that Creation Laundry offered a Wash/Dry/Fold service, I decided I had to try it out. I know, I know, I have my own washer and dryer, but I simply DON’T have time these days to keep up with the laundry.

This is the exterior of the laundromat. Isn’t it adorable? (Yes, I appreciate cute…sue me. *wink*) It’s located on 313 Springdale Street in Cumberland, Maryland. There is ample parking in the rear of the building.

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They use Maytag machines, which actually stands out to me, as I love Maytag appliances and have had great luck with them myself.

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When you arrive, one of the first things that caught my attention is that someone always comes out to help you bring your laundry into the laundromat (and they help you reload it, too). Now, one of the things that I dreaded the most in this adventure was the loading and unloading of all of my laundry, but no worries…someone was there to help. And that scores MAJOR brownie points for me. Also, they have an attendant there at all times, so you can feel safe.

You have several options for actually washing and drying your clothing. You can choose to do the laundry yourself, and they have many options for machines. They offer 30, 40, and 60 pound washers that you can use yourself, provided you bring cash.

Their largest machine can wash six loads of laundry. And believe me, it does!

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I brought six loads of clothing with me. I opted to use their Wash/Dry/Fold service, where they do all of the work for you, but I did stay to see how it was all done and whether or not the washer really could handle six loads. You know what? Granted, I brought six smaller-sized loads of clothing, but when we were done, there was room for more in the machine. I am not kidding. You can feel free to use their detergent or bring your own. I brought my powdered Tide, as I wanted them to also wash our cloth diapers for us, since they will be starting a diaper service soon (more on that in a second).

In less time than it takes me to wash one load of clothing at home, that huge machine had all of my six loads washed and ready to be dried.

They have various sizes of dryers, too, and I tried one that can handle up to 75 pounds of wet clothing. It too had more room in it to spare. And it had my clothing dried in around an hour. Six loads of laundry washed in less than two hours. I was honestly VERY surprised. I really shouldn’t have been, however. On their website, the owner can actually fit into the dryer. Again, not even kidding (and yes, I am easily amused).

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So, you ask…what is there to do while you wait, should you choose to do your own washing?

There’s a television…

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A small play area…

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Snacks for purchase….

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And my personal, sleepy favorite, a seating area with a rocking chair….

DSC_0790Wifi is also available.

My clothes were folded for me (I LOVE saying that), and I can honestly say that they were cleaner than they were when I normally wash them. I’m assuming it’s due to a much higher quality set of machines, but they were cleaner and fresher than those Ioads I do at home.

I also had them wash a load of our cloth diapers. They paid attention to everything I asked–they took into consideration the washing and drying instructions for each type of diaper and cover, they asked about my detergent preferences, and they were wonderfully clean and neat when they were finished with them. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that I brought one seriously poopy diaper that I had washed and rinsed TWO times on my own, and it was still crusty, but they got it clean in one try. And I was so grateful for that, as I was considering tossing it, and diapers are NOT cheap. They will be setting their diaper service rates soon, but there will be a dedicated washer and dryer for diaper use only, which will be sterilized after each use, and your diapers will never be mixed with another customer’s load.

At first, my husband was skeptical of all this, as was I, mainly due to cost, considering we already have our own washer and dryer. But, to wash and dry six loads of laundry there on my own, it would have cost a little less than $10, and two hours of my time, instead of a full day. And their Wash/Dry/Fold services start at only 95 cents a pound (special fees apply for larger items like blankets and rugs). This business has VERY low cost services. And for us, time is as valuable as money, and what is the use of my own washer and dryer if I don’t always have the time to use it as I want? Having the help with my laundry is a blessing, and I think this would be great for new parents, busy or working families, and those who might have trouble doing their own laundry due to physical issues, etc. College students could easily find a lot of benefit to a Wash/Dry/Fold service that delivers and picks up your washing. They also can iron your clothing, too, which is great as I hate to iron. I honestly can’t see anyone that this DOESN’T benefit, and when you add the fact that their carbon footprint is so small, personally, I’m sold, and I would definitely return.

You can find Creation Laundry:

at their website

on Facebook

DISCLAIMER: I was provided six loads worth of Wash/Dry/Fold service, plus a Wash/Dry load of cloth diapers, in exchange for my review. I approached the business on my own out of my own curiosity. The review is 100% honest, as always.