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Sunday, May 19, 2013

SOOS Strategies for Saving $$$

Cindy once told me about an amazing strategy to save money. It was called the SOOS method, and it was VERY effective.


“Stay Out Of Stores!” she’d said.

It’s a valid concept. How often have you ventured out to the store to get milk, only to return home with party plates, Magic Mesh (the amazing screen door, as seen on TV) and a pet hermit crab

And maybe the milk, maybe not.

In our house, there are three things we go through more than anything else.
1.       Laundry soap
2.       Hand soap
3.       Chicken broth

Trips to the store for these three things used to result in the purchase of emergency supplies for non-emergency situations and infomercial gadgets that never worked as well as they said they would.

After a few simple adjustments, we were able to embrace the SOOS method. Guess what? It really does work!

Here are three of our favorite solutions.

Laundry Soap

This detergent recipe has kept our family of six (that’s 10+ loads per week) laundered for ten months at a stretch, sometimes even longer. All for less than one Andrew Jackson!

The basic recipe involves combining these items:

  • 1 box Borax (4 lb 12 oz /2.15 kg/76 oz)
  • 1 box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (4 lb/1.81 kg)
  • 1 box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (3 lb 7 oz/55oz)
  • 3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap (which you shred using a cheese grater)
  • 2 small containers of Oxy Clean (around 3.5 lbs total)

***The Oxy Clean is usually the most expensive ingredient, but if you get it at the dollar store, you can reduce your total cost for the recipe to around $12.

***If you like a strong fresh scent for your laundry, you can throw in a canister of those Downy Unstopables beads. I think Gain makes a similar product.

Rumors indicated that the Fels-Naptha soap could be quickly and easily shredded in the food processor, but this did not work well for us. In fact, we almost broke both of our food processors in our attempt, so we’re content to use the traditional cheese grater method.

Line a large bucket with a plastic garbage bag and pour in all the ingredients. Remember to close your eyes and hold your breath, because there will be a big cloud of powder initially!

Stir the ingredients with a large spoon or yardstick, and then transfer the mixture to a large storage container with a lid. (A plastic Utz pretzel container is the perfect size!)

An old coffee scooper provides the perfect portion of soap for a large load of laundry.

The website where we first discovered the recipe has a more detailed tutorial about the process. They also offer a recipe for dishwasher detergent. After our initial success with the laundry soap, we were eager to try the dishwasher soap one. What a mess! It has taken a lot of tweaking to make it work, and I’m not sure our silverware will ever be shiny again. Recently, we realized that we’ve been using the same batch of it for over a year, so it has definitely saved lots of money. Despite the savings, I’m not sure I’d recommend the dishwasher detergent. Your mileage may vary.

Hand Soap

Hand soap is my favorite gift for teachers. It’s calorie-free, clutter-free, and promotes health. Around the holidays, Bath and Body works offers promotions on their yummy-scented liquid hand soaps. When they go on sale ‘Five for $15’ I stock up. Sometimes they even offer a coupon for $5 off purchases of $15 or more.

During the holidays, the store even provides customers with perfectly-sized cellophane bags, cute tags, and decorative ribbons.

One year I over-bought. This turned out to be a happy accident, because B&B’s foaming-style pumps are a much better fit for our family’s needs than the traditional Softsoap style. When using the traditional liquid soap pumps, the kids would always use too much. The water would run forever as they’d try to rinse it off. The foamy style is more efficient and effective.

We’ve discovered an easy way to make our own refill mix of foamy hand soap, and those pumps have been going strong for years.

Here is what you’ll need:

  • Foamy-style pump containers
  • Traditional liquid hand soap
  • Hot water

Before you get started, you might want to spend a few minutes washing the exterior of the containers and the pump apparatus, especially if you’ve been reusing the same bottles for a while. Ours tend to get pretty grubby.

Combine the hot water and liquid hand soap in a ratio of 1:1 and gently stir the mixture. (Eventually, you can play around a bit with this ratio—sometimes I do 2:1 or even 3:1, and nobody seems to notice a difference.)

It is easier if you add the soap to the hot water. Doing it in the opposite order will result in lots of bubbles, and you’ll need to wait a long time for them to go away.

Fill the containers about 70% of the way, so that you are leaving plenty of space for the pump.

Cap them up and deliver them to their locations.

(I usually refill ours every 6-8 weeks.)


Chicken Broth

This is by far my favorite money saving strategy, because it maximizes resources and minimizes waste by recycling food.

When we have rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, or any kind of chicken involving bones, we bag the corpse in a ziplock and toss it in the freezer.

Same thing for produce odds and ends—the leafy part and the stump of the celery stalk, the woody part of the asparagus, the ends and peels of onions, any carrots and parsley that have been hanging out in the refrigerator drawer too long and are on their way out. Bag it all and toss it in the freezer.

When you’ve amassed at least two bags of chicken bones and enough produce to fill your slow-cooker, toss it all in, throw in a few tablespoons of minced garlic, a couple of bay leaves, some kosher salt, and 10-12 whole peppercorns.

Fill the slow-cooker to the brim with water and turn on high for a few hours.

Then, reduce the heat to low and ignore it for another 12 hours.

Test the flavor and “strength” of the broth. If it’s not strong enough for your preference, let it steep on low for another 6-12 hours.

Strain it, chill it, skim it, and pour it into quart-size bags. (Label them first with the contents and date!) 

Put the bags on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer. After about a day, they are frozen-solid and can be rearranged in the freezer in a more convenient way.

Thaw as needed for recipes.

The steps listed above make this look much more labor intensive than it really is—the total hands on prep time is less than 5 minutes. Then there’s a solid day of just ignoring it, and eventually the bagging process which takes about 20 minutes. The joy you feel in your heart from this “recycling” makes the effort totally worth it!

Savings in Summation

Although I don't know precisely how much money we've saved while implementing these three strategies, using them has definitely kept me out of the stores. Many thanks to Cindy and the SOOS method!

1 comment:

  1. Courtney, in the interest of accuracy, that "love tap" of the deer on your way home from Kristen's house resulted in a blue Saab that looked like a Chia plant wrapped in deer fur. Also, your memory perhaps fails you, but it resluted in a new hood,new grill, right front fender,and passenger side door, and a missing hub cap! Apparently your "love taps" would make Mike Tysen think twice... ;>) Opah