Category: Zero Waste

How we Clean the Scrap House Without Chemicals for Under $10 a Month

Feeding your family great food on a budget isn’t just about what you plate up and take to the table. It isn’t just about the produce you buy or your cooking techniques, it’s a reflection of your entire cooking environment. How you organise your space, prep your food and even how you launder you tea towels, will affect the quality of your final product. Here in the Scrap House we try our best within our budget to eat healthy nutritious food and avoid ingesting any unnecessary chemicals. One of the best ways to do this (besides buying pesticide free produce etc) is to eliminate the chemical cleaners.

I’ve posted a few times recently with recipes for homemade cleaning products, but I get so many emails and messages about them all I thought it would be nice to have them all in one place (ie.this post).

I also get asked about how much it costs to switch over, how much time it takes to organise it all and what extras I needed to buy to switch over.

The short answer is, it costs next to nothing and no special equipment needed. You probably already have everything you need in your house already.

The long answer is, it might cost you a few dollars to get going (I’m talking maybe $20 or $30 if you don’t have things already but if you divide it by 12 it works out to between $1.20 and $2.50 a month, although if you don’t have things like a mop and a broom it may cost a little more).

What you need

Not a lot. You probably have most of these things already. One of the great things about cleaning this way is that you can buy a few things in bulk and by just mixing them in different ways you can make lots of different “products”. 

For the purposes of this post I’m going to assume that your cleaning cupboard already contains cleaning cloths, a mop, scrub brush, broom, buckets and so forth. If you need to purchase any of these things it’s obviously going to cost a little (or a lot) more than $10 for the month.

White Vinegar we use approximately 2 litres per month ($1.20 for 2 litres in a recyclable plastic bottle or we use homemade Apple Scrap Vinegar but its not quite as strong. I have seen a few places online that sell bulk but they also come in plastic bottles and work out  more expensive at around $2 per litre so until we find a place that has bulk on tap we’re sticking to the cheap supermarket brand). 

Bicarbonate of Soda (500 gram homebrand at Woolworths is $1.59 but it comes in a plastic bag, the McKenzies brand (in cardboard box ) is $2.49 at most supermarkets, we buy in bulk 5kg lots for $20.50 through a soap maker and go through about two lots per year and reuse the buckets for various things before they go into recycling).

Washing Soda is currently $3.85 a kilogram at Woolworths in town. This is the cheapest I can find it locally. There was cheaper online but by time I added postage it worked out closer to $5 a kilogram (if you can’t find it in the supermarket you can make your own from Bicarbonate of Soda if you scroll to the bottom of my previous post about dishwasher tablets you’ll find the instructions I shared with readers to make it in the comments). We use about 10 kilograms a year.

Bars of Soap (about $1 a bar. We average about one a month for household cleaning purposes (more if you count the ones we use for personal hygiene). We hunt around for palm oil free varieties when possible, if you wanted to you could make your own so you know exactly whats in it or if you’re not fussed you can get boxes of plain laundry soap in boxes of 5 or so from the supermarket laundry isle for under $3).

Essential Oils (Not strictly necessary but a nice addition. I like Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Lavender and Lemon for their anti-fungus properties, smell, they generally cost a little less per ml than most others and at a pinch are available from your local supermarket in decent sized bottles. You can currently get 200 ml of Eucalyptus oil for $10 at Woolworths ).

Citrus peels & Juice (orange, lemon, lime etc. If you don’t have enough peels save them in the freezer until you do). We don’t buy lemons as lots of people we know have trees and are only too glad to offload a few during fruit season. They freeze just fine whole so I always just throw a few in the bottom of the freezer for when we’ve got none fresh. You can also pre-squeeze them and freeze the juice for later but I’m a bit lazy, so I usually just throw in the whole fruit.

Total cost for all this is approximately: $12 soap + $41 bicarbonate of soda+$30 essential oils + $30.85= $113.85. If you divide this by 12 you get $9.48 (ie. less than $10 per month).

There’s other things you could add like citric acid, methylated spirit, borax, extra oils etc which can be handy for stubborn stains etc but you don’t really need them. A few recipes use salt and sugar (dishwasher tablets and vinegar for example) but they use very little and most of us already have these things in our pantry cupboard anyway. I try and avoid borax even though it can be great for stain removal and give extra omph to some homemade cleaning  products as I found when we used it the Uni Students eczema flared up, it might be coincidence but if we can do without it why take the chance.

I’ve previously shared a few of the recipes we use regularly in earlier posts (you might have to do some scrolling to find them….

Apple Scrap Vinegar

Dishwasher Tablets

Cream/Paste Cleaner

Glass Cleaner

I’ve shared some details about our Laundry Powder before which I make by mixing 1 bar of grated soap to 1 kilogram each of Bicarbonate of soda and Washing Soda. We add approximately 2 tablespoons worth to each full load in our 7kg top-loading machine. We don’t use fabric softeners at all, just 1/4 cup of vinegar in the rinse dispenser. If we want to add smelly stuff we drop in a few drops of essential oil or I make up lavender or rose water when the plants are in flower.

Lavender Water 

4 teaspoons of lavender flowers fresh or dried (if you have or know someone with a plant grab some flowers and dry them by tying a bunch and hanging them upside down somewhere dry and airy. Pop a paper bag over the flower heads while they’re hanging to catch any that fall off, when they’re dry you can just leave them in the bag in a drawer somewhere until you need them).

2 cups (500ml) Boiling Water 

Steep the lavender in the water like you’re making tea. When it cools strain it into a container  and add a little to your washing machine either in the fabric softener dispenser or during the final rinse cycle. To make it a moth repellent use 4 teaspoons of lavender and 2 teaspoons of rosemary (if you don’t have a rosemary plant handy the dried stuff from the supermarket will do).

Laundry Gel

50 grams of pure soap (any kind you like). Grated. I just use the finest side of an old fashioned metal box grater and do half a dozen bars at a time. I store the grated soap in an old Tupperware container for whenever I need it.

60 grams (1/4 cup) either Washing Soda OR Bicarbonate of Soda

4 Litres (16 cups) of water

A Big Pot  I use my 20 litre stock pot but if you don’t have a big enough pot just divide up the ingredients into smaller batches.

Add a few cups of the water and the soap to the pot and stir until boiling. Turn it down to a simmer and whisk, stir,mash until all the soap is dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the washing or bicarbonate of soda, stirring well. Pour into a large container (this is where our bulk buy buckets come in handy) and stir in the remaining water until its well blended. When its cooled it sets to a soft jelly. We use two cups of jelly per full load if the clothes are really grubby, or one cup for smaller loads or things that don’t require heavy cleaning like cotton sheets.

Hint to prevent yellowing of clothes

I’ve had lots of people tell me their clothes either don’t come clean or their lights go yellow when they switch to homemade variety powders and gels. In our experience this isn’t the homemade product, its actually the residue from the old detergents stopping the cleaning process.

To prevent your clothes from yellowing and make them actually come clean when you switch to the laundry gel or homemade laundry powder put your clothes through a cycle using washing soda only. You only need to do this once,the first time you wash using your homemade products. Make up a bucket containing  2 cups of washing soda dissolved in 2 1/2 litres of water (about 9 cups). When you’re ready to wash just add 2 cups to a full load and run it through without adding anything else, then wash your clothes again using your homemade powder or gel. just do it as each batch of washing needs to be done. The clothes  already put through the washing soda only process just hold aside until the others have gone through,then throw them in and wash the whole load as normal.

For a good all purpose cleaner we use citrus vinegar. There’s heaps of articles on the interweb about it and I’m unsure where the recipe originally came from but I was told about it years ago (before we had internet – yes I’m that old, I can remember what it was like in the olden days without mobile phones or computers in every house) so hopefully I’m not plagiarising anyone here.

Citrus Cleaner

You’ll need.

A jar or jars (we usually have a few  batches brewing in the cupboard ready for when we need more).

White Vinegar

Citrus Peels. You’ll need to make sure there’s no flesh on them, you just want the peels. 

Fill your jar with citrus peels. Pour in the vinegar until peels are completely submerged. Put the lid on and put it in the cupboard or leave on the bench for at least 2 weeks  so the citrus oils out of the peels infuse with the vinegar. Give it a shake when you think of it to speed the process up. 

To use: Simply pour some into a spray bottle and dilute 1:1 with water. Give it a shake and use like any other spray on, wipe off cleaner. If you’re worried about it affecting your bench tops or anything, make sure you try a little in an inconspicuous spot first (the rim under your counter works well).

Note: You can leave this in the jar pretty much indefThe peels need to be fully submerged or you might find the bits that stick out go mouldy if you’re like me and shove the jar in the back of the cupboard and forget to shake it.

Why We Refuse to Resolution 

 

Some of you are probably glad 2017 is over, others sad to see it go. We’re a bit of a mix here. Fortunately more happy than sad. Whatever your feelings on 2017,all here at the Scrap House wish you a bright shiny Happy New Year… yes even Scrap Cat (possibly with some sarcasm – he’s a bit like that)

Happy New Year Humans… now either feed me or go away…

My personal & public Twit, Face-lurk and Insta-stalk notifications went nuts this morning with well-wishes for 2018 and declarations of goals for the year.

Save Money. Loose Weight. Get Fit. Travel. Get Rich. Be more Eco. Buy a House. Build a House. Become a Minimalist. Be More Spiritual. Start a Business.  Give up Booze or cigarettes or sugar or whatever else.

It’s great that everyone has “resolved” to do these things and I truly wish them well. Some of these are actually really awesome goals to have. But we all know that by the end of January most (practically all) of these resolutions will have fallen by the wayside.

Instead of resolutions in the Scraps House we set INTENTIONS throughout the year as the need arises/inspiration strikes.

The New Year is as good an opportunity as any to reflect upon our values and priorities.  We set (or at least try to) intentions to align our lives with these values. This isn’t goal setting—it’s not something we attach  expectations or evaluation to; rather, it’s a deliberate vision, a purpose, or attitude we’d be proud to commit to, one that matches our deepest sense of who we are.

They’re different to Resolutions because resolutions are goals and they are finite. They usually have a start and cut off date. EG. By December 31 I will have done/achieved X. That’s a lot of pressure. Intentions on the other hand (for us anyways) are about forming habits, going with the flow and building a lifestyle, yes they’re goals, but there’s no rigid time frames for any of it. Intentions allow you a little more wiggle room. You can re-evaluate as you go and a lot of times this can allow you to surpass whatever your original goal was.

Last year my personal intention was to finish my degree and find a job that was actually related to it. I talked about it a lot not to shout it out to the world, but more to motivate myself. Because I looked at it as an intention and not something set in stone I could tell people how sucky my essay sounded or how hard I was finding it to fit in study around work/kids/life. Yes I felt like chucking in the towel more than a few times, but because I hadn’t made it a resolution (other than assignment deadlines which were bad enough) to finish my degree by a certain date or at a certain level (other than the best I could do), set-backs like a lower than wished for mark on an essay didn’t make me give up or feel like a total failure (not always anyway).

Mr Scraps and I intended to reduce our household waste by whatever we could. This was a continuation of something we started a long time ago, not a new years thing. Its still going (in fact its on this years list as well) but we have no strict number on it. We produce maybe enough to fill a plastic bread bag (if I can find one) full of non-recyclable waste every fortnight,sometimes a little more, sometimes less. We’re still working on reducing the amount of recycling. If we’d resolved to get it down to a certain amount by a certain time (I see so many posts about people wanting to get down to that mason jar amount this year) we definitely would have given up long ago. Instead we’re happily plodding along, doing our best, making mistakes and learning from them.

Our intentions as a family are to simply continue being, to do what we can to reduce our waste and a bunch of other stuff. And we didn’t wait until new years to start any of them and I didn’t necessarily shout them out in public either.

Most things are little, some are larger but the list changes as we go.

Yep,I’d like to buy a boat and sail the world, build a tiny house and become a mountain dwelling self-sufficient hermit too…

But to be realistic….

This year we’re moving house so we intend to use it as an opportunity to reduce our stuff by leaving things in boxes until we actually NEED them. If we don’t have to get them out after 6 months or so we’ll sell or donate them.

Our household and  income is changing. Not just because we’re moving house. The Big kids are leaving home for their jobs, Mr Scraps will no longer be covered by insurance for his disability, the Younger Teen is turning 16, is changing schools and now has a part time job. Our intention is to try and build an emergency fund without sacrificing too much in lifestyle.

We’ve all over-indulged over the Christmas break, too much wine, too much sugar and just too much food in general (seriously will the ham never be finished? I feel like we’re drowning in the stuff). As of this week we’re taking a leaf out of one of my favourite blogger’s books (well posts) and intend to get back to basics with our food.

After my experiments growing food from scraps this past year my intention is to try and grow a few more edible things (probably in pots to start- although the house we’re moving to has a lemon tree already- yay. Expect lots of lemony recipes this year). Despite growing up on a farm I’ve never really done any growing of my own.The garden has always been Mr Scraps department, so I’m starting basically from scratch. I did receive this book for Christmas though, which I’m hoping will prove to be a bit of a useless Aussie gardener’s bible…

My celery I grew from a butt…

All of these intentions align quite nicely with our desire to live more simply and produce less waste.For me personally, intentions are about living low and slow, taking into account your environment, emotions and relationships.

What intentions do you have for 2018?

 

 

 

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Let’s Clean Up!

 

So for Day 3 of  International Zero Waste Week, let’s do some housekeeping!

The cleaning regime here in the Scrap House is much the same as everyone else’s I think. We tidy up, make beds sweep, vacuum, wash floors, windows, dishes, bedding and clothes.

Those of you that have been following this blog might remember me mentioning that our real journey to a low waste lifestyle actually began in 1995 after discovering that the Uni Student had mega-sensitive skin. I didn’t realise it at the time, but what I was doing to eliminate chemicals from our home was going Zero Waste!

It started with washing powder. The first thing we suspected when little baby Uni Student’s skin started to go red then blister and peel…yes it was that awful, I’m not exaggerating… I was willing to give anything a go to make our baby more comfortable, help her skin heal and stop it happening again.

For a while I just washed her clothes and nappies in bicarbonate of soda with a little white vinegar in the rinse and dried them in the sun whenever possible. It worked just fine, unless there was a stain. We needed something with a little more oomph occasionally.

That’s when Grandma Scraps sent me the book It’s so Natural. (I’m not affiliated with the author in any way and receive no payment for promoting his books, I just really like them). Ever since then I’ve been making our washing powder using a grated bar of unperfumed pure soap and some washing soda or Bicarbonate of soda. I still use white vinegar in the fabric softner dispenser (and for those who argue that vinegar will wreck your washing machine, our top-loader is almost 20 years old and still going strong and I have a friend with a front-loader who has been using the same formula as us for almost a decade with no noticeable damage to her machine. To make wool wash I use the soap, some metholated spirits and eucalyptus oil.

I’ve tried soap nuts/berries too and while they worked quite well and were on the whole one of the cheapest low waste eco-friendly options out there, there’s some suggestion that they’re not so good for those who grow them, plus there’s usually a lot of transport miles involved, so I might do a little more research before jumping on the soap nut bandwagon.

If you’ve read any of the other posts on this blog, such as the one about dishwasher tablets or the one about paste cleaner, you might be noticing a bit of a theme by now. White Vinegar, Bicarbonate of Soda, Washing Soda, Salt, Lemons and Eucalyptus and Tea Tree oil are staples in the Scrap House. We use them for just about everything. Lemons are usually free from a neighbours tree and everything else ia available from bulk stores, in really huge containers (brought in store or online) or in a cardboard box or recyclable glass bottle. The recipes for most of the homemade products are really simple too, just mix different amounts together and clean away, like the recipe for glass cleaner below.

 

Image result for vinegar and lemons for cleaning

Simple Recipe for Window/Glass Cleaner

1 cup of white vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 cups of water

To make up pour everything into a spray bottle, pop the lid on and give it a good shake. To use just spray on and buff off with a lint free cloth or scrunched up newspaper.

Okay, so you might have to take a little time to mix up your own cleaners, but at least you’ll know exactly what’s in them. As we found out the hard way over the years, just because something is labelled “eco”, “organic”, “earth-friendly” or “for sensitive skin”, doesn’t mean that it’s chemical free or even effective.Big bonus that overall they work out MUCH MUCH CHEAPER than the chemical stuff you get from the supermarket. I haven’t really crunched the numbers, but I’m fairly confident that the Scrap House gets clean for less than $10 AU a month.

So today’s challenge is to try it yourself.  Swap out one of your usual chemical cleaning products for a homemade version. You can use one of the recipes on this blog or there are a lot more on to be found on the internet (good ‘ol Dr. Google again). You could try cleaning your bathtub with bicarbonate of soda instead of your usual cream cleanser or use some white vinegar instead of fabric softener or rinse aid in your dishwasher.

 

 

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Let’s Talk Groceries!

When you live in rural New South Wales, you can’t buy much in your own Mason jar.

I kept seeing pictures like this posted by people I Insta-Stalk & Face-Lurk and felt sad that my grocery hall so rarely looks as pretty as this.

In fact, until I read Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home and Amy Korst’s The Zero Waste Lifestyle, I didn’t actually know what a Mason Jar was. But they made it all seem so easy.

Just shop for groceries at your local bulk store with reusable containers and bags, and you’re set! Unfortunately, our little Australian village (population approximately  2,500) is not nearly as advanced as San Francisco when it came to shopping options, no bulk stores.  The only local bulk store local to us is a 30-40  minute drive away.

For years we’ve use calico bags when grocery shopping and I’ve always brought our veg from farmers markets or loose from the supermarket when ever I can, but in other areas  I’ve  struggled to minimise my family’s packaging waste, sometimes driving long distances between farms, markets, and small businesses in neighbouring communities to seek out minimal or refillable packaging. All that driving isn’t terribly sustainable and it took up huge chunks of time.

Most of all, it was discouraging. I was reading all these eco- friendly-sustainable-zero-waste-money-saving- organic-hippy- blogs and to be honest, felt like either I was completely useless, or that they were completely out of touch with the real world! All these amazing urban bloggers I was following really didn’t  grasp how challenging zero-waste living can be for rural dwellers here in Australia, and probably everywhere else too. In fact, sometimes it felt like they were being quite preachy or condescending.  I hate that. It makes me angry.

Then I found a blog post by Zero-Waste guru  Kathryn Kellogg.

I just wish that more of the zero-waste conversation considered that the majority of us actually don’t live in areas where Zero Waste is an easy option. If only everyone could be so encouraging and try to help everyone figure out alternative solutions that lower our waste (both food and packaging) without either a putting major dent in our budget or increasing our environmental footprint by driving all over the earth to find un-packaged goods.

Not everyone is going to be able to achieve a  ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle, but we can all still be make a difference and influence our community retailers to move in a greener direction.

So, what should you do if there are no reusable-friendly bulk stores around?

According to Kellogg, you start by asking yourself some questions:

1. Can it be made from scratch?

There are a lot of things we buy automatically in stores that are easy to make at home, such as pasta sauce, hummus, guacamole, pancake mix, vinaigrette, bread and muffins. Learn how to make them. If you live in the country making up a batch of muffins takes less time than driving to the store, and it’s cheaper too.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with ducking into the local bakery with your old pillow case or calico bag and buying a fresh loaf of bread or yummy muffin. We actually have an awesome little country bakery down the road so I do this often myself. And of all the stores I’ve ever tried to buy “zero-waste” from, bakeries have definitely been the easiest.

2. Can you buy it in a returnable container?

Some dairies offer milk and yogurt in returnable glass containers. You pay a deposit up front that’s reimbursed or transferred to your next purchase. Usually these are smaller-scale, privately-owned dairies that sell a better product. I haven’t found one here, but there’s an olive farm up the road that refills my 4 Litre oil tin every few months (we actually have two tins, one in the cupboard and an empty in the car that we fill when whenever we happen to be passing that way).

3. Is it available in compostable packaging?

Always go for paper if you can because it’s biodegradable. This is especially easy for baking supplies, like flour, sugar, chocolate, and cornstarch. Some pasta and chip brands come in cardboard.

4. Does it come in paper, glass or metal?

Kellogg is a big fan of glass, since it’s entirely recyclable – and it’s one of those few items that’s so costly to produce that recyclers and companies are willing to pay for recycling  (sadly it may have become so expensive here in Australia that a lot of it doesn’t get recycled at all so we’re now trying to avoid or reuse glass jars instead of dropping them in the recycling bin. If glass is recycled in your area though, you can buy most condiments, oils, and vinegar in glass bottles. I recently also found sliced beetroot at the local IGA supermarket in glass.

Metal is also a better option than plastic, as it’s more readily recycled. Just be cautious of BPA (plastic) in can linings.

We tend to buy things in paper or cardboard whenever possible because its not only recycled here, but is compost-able. We buy our flour, pasta, sugar (very, very rarely), baking soda and oats in boxes or paper packaging in the largest quantity we can find or comfortably store. Boxes go in the recycling and paper gets shredded for the Immortal Chicken’s bedding before becoming compost. Just watch out for hidden plastic bags inside food boxes. If you give the box a bit of a shake or gentle squeeze you can usually hear if there’s one in there, but I’ve been caught out a few times with speciality flours and cereals.

5. Can you buy it in bulk?

Buying in bulk is always a good idea to save money (as long as you can eat it), but it’s especially smart if plastic packaging is the only option. Buy the biggest bag you can, like Kellogg did: “We bought a 25lb bag of rice when we first moved to California that lasted two years. That alone saved 25 plastic-wrapped rice bags!”.

We do this for things like cheese, nuts, coffee beans since they keep for a while either in airtight jars or the freezer.

The important thing here is not to let perfection impede your progress.

There are ways to reduce waste, even if they’re not as picture-perfect as the book authors and bloggers  world would like you to think. I mean, if it was really sooo easy everyone would be doing it and they wouldn’t be selling any books would they?

So for today’ s challange:

No matter where you live, next time you go shopping try and swap at least one item that you buy on a regular basis for a less waste producing option.

For example, we started buying a different brand of dry pasta some time ago because it comes in a cardboard box instead of a plastic bag. Bonus is, it actually tastes better than the other brand and doesn’t cost anymore than what we used to buy when its “on special”. We also like cheese and as a family eat quite a lot of it , so I stated buying it in 1kg blocks and cutting it into quarters for the freezer (or I wrap it in a beeswax wrap and pop it in the back of the fridge) instead of buying just enough for the week. Again it costs less, but it also means that instead of 52 plastic wrappers per year being washed and going off to Redcycle, there’s only about 12 and I always have some on hand when I need it.

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Day 4, Let’s Do Lunch!

Argh! Lunches! 

I actually hate packing lunches. I HAVE to do them the night before or it’s just utter chaos in the Scrap House of a morning. Silly really, I’ve been packing lunch for myself and others ever since I first left Grandma and Grandad Scraps house at  18. You’d think it’d be a doddle by now.

Thing is… work or school lunches are probably one of the easiest places to lower waste and save some monies.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I went to work one day  and didn’t pack my lunch because I have decided that just for one day a month I will treat myself and buy lunch from one of the cafe’s near the office. I budgeted for it out of my “mad money” (I might blog about how we budget one day) so it wasn’t a shock at all, but lunch cost me about $12. It wasn’t a fancy lunch either. A chicken schnitzel sandwich and a drink. It was nice. I was full afterwards and didn’t feel the need to snack at all between lunch and dinner. The archaeologist I work with also brought her lunch (a toasted wrap, some fries and a drink) for around the same price. We decided to take our lunches back to the office and eat in the conference room, so the woman at the cafe wrapped our schnitzel sandwich and toasted wrap in paper and put the fries in a bag (we both carry reusable coffee cups so no disposables there).

Not so bad I thought … but…. together our lunches cost about $25. I worked it out that if I worked 5 days a week (at the moment I’m only doing two but that will change next month when Uni finishes) and brought my lunch from a cafe every day at $12, thats $60 a week. Multiply that by 50 weeks and that’s a whopping $3,000 a year! Even more if Mr Scraps was doing the same… and more still if the Teens brought lunch from the Caf at their school every day!

I actually know families who do this. No wonder they’re broke despite earning decent wages.

Not only did it cost money but buying our lunch and bringing it back to the office also  left us with paper wrapping and paper bags. I know, paper is recyclable and compostable but….

When I bring my lunch from home in my own reusable container and make a coffee at work in my own cup it costs less than $5 (sometimes as little as $1 depending on what I pack). It also produces no packaging waste. That’s Zero Waste. 

Plus (if I’m doing it properly) it’s usually A LOT HEALTHIER than a schnitzel sandwich (I’m not giving them up completely though… I still love a good schnitty).But I quickly get bored of sandwiches and so do the Teens and Mr Scraps.

My work is actually great for zero waste lunches (I’ve blogged about our zero waste office before …you can read it here) and taking leftovers from last nights dinner is great but sometimes it’s nice to have something “special” just to break up the day. It makes the school or work day so much nicer if you know you have a great lunch to look forward to and you don’t have to worry about how much it’s going to cost you. So these are my must-haves for a great zero waste pack-up (I do ours the night before because … well you know…. mornings…) and at the bottom are some links to my current favourite pack-ups.

  • Drink/water bottles –  These are a must! I have a glass one because it sits on my desk but the Scrap kids have BPA free plastic ones because they get thrown about in school bags and dragged around the school oval at lunch time or during sports. I have a couple of spares tucked away in the back of the cupboard for those days someone forgets to bring theirs home.
  • Lunch Boxes –  I pack them up the night before. We have a collection. Plastic ones, wooden ones and metal ones. I like the Bento style ones with the little compartments. They get used for all sorts of things around here not just lunch, but we have lots because I like to cook extra stuff for the fridge or freezer so we can just grab-n-go. You don’t need a fancy box to put your lunch in though, just use whatever you have, an old Tupperware container  or reuse a takeaway box. The only rule about containers I have for the Scrap House is NEVER reheat anything in plastic (put it on a plate before you pop it in the microwave).
  • Jars – I’m really into food in a jar at the moment. So many things you can put in them Noodles, Oats, Salads, Soups and they look so pretty on Insta-stalk, That Pin Stuff  site and Face-lurk. It’s a good idea if you’re going to eat straight from the jar to have one with a wide mouth. They don’t have to be fancy mason jars either. We reuse old salsa and sauerkraut  jars. But anything you can put in a jar, you can put in an old Tupperware container…except maybe the soup (unless you’ve got a good lid).
  • A Thermos – we have a couple of those wide-mouthed ones and a tall skinny one for hot coffee or tea. A thermos for me is a must for fieldwork days and trips to the park with the Threenager. They’re awesome on cold winter days, but most people forget they’ll keep thing cool too! Just about anything you can put in a jar or lunchbox (that’s not a sandwich… although I haven’t tried it, maybe there’s a way) you can put in a thermos. Just remember if you’re going to eat straight from the thermos that you’ll probably need long-handled cutlery.
  • Beeswax or Vegan Wraps and Cloth Napkins – you can buy expensive wraps or make them yourself. I usually find that a napkin does the job, but beeswax or vegan wraps will act a bit more like cling-film. You don’t really need them if you have reusable containers. Its just handy to have something to wrap that sandwich or muffin in. I found the wrapper your butter comes in (wiped clean of course) is also a good alternative for small things.
  • Cutlery- You can get some lovely little “to-go” packs. The bamboo ones are cute, but the Scrap kids and I just grab flatware from the drawer. I brought some extra spoons and forks from the local op-shop a while ago (because someone will always leave one at school in their locker or in the dish drainer at work – although my work now has their own for us to use so I don’t need to take my own to the office anymore).

So  besides last nights leftovers, what do you pack in these things other than sandwiches?

There’s lots of “Lunch in a Jar” articles on the interwebs,and they’re not all for salad or noodles.Try here or here for ideas. And remember that anything you can put in a jar you can put in another container. But the jars look so damned pretty.

For times when I have access to a microwave, I like to cook up lasagne in small glasslock style containers. Just pop on the lid on when they’ve cooled and throw them straight in the freezer and pull them out on your way out the door. They make great “TV dinners” too for those nights when my meal plan doesn’t work, something unexpected comes up or I just can’t be bothered. Lasagne sheets are one of the few really cheap pasta options we can get here in a cardboard box, sometimes we make our own but we don’t always have the time (or the energy).

I also make pies for the freezer. I can get away with feeding the rest of the Scrap household almost anything if I wrap it in pastry. From scratch  I fry off some mince and onion, add some finely chopped veg and a little gravy then pop into pastry in the pie-maker that Mr Scraps found at a garage sale a few years ago (it makes four pies at a time before that I baked them in large muffin tins in the oven). More often though I make them from leftovers like vegetable curry, beef stew or homemade pasta sauce.

For winter,  soup is great for the thermos and it’s mega cheap if you make it at home! It does need to be heated up in the morning before popping it in the thermos though (unless you’ve got a super-duper on. I used too but the lid broke and I haven’t managed to find a replacement). There’s lots of soup recipes out there on the interwebs. I like to use up leftovers and veg scraps to make soup like my Carrot Top Soup. You can find a recipe here. Or I just throw some Scrap Stock in a pot, add veg and some shredded chicken, season well and you have chicken and veg soup.

For snacks (that aren’t fruit) we like – a little pot of dip or salsa with flatbread or veg like carrot or celery cut into sticks, Scrap to Snack MuffinsNot little Bear Biscuits, Banana Bread or  No Bake Museli Bars,

In an ideal world we’d have time to make everything from scratch and completely zero waste. it’s not an ideal world though so if you don’t have the time to cook from scratch (or your family are fussy eaters or  just plain out won’t eat homemade lunches) you can still do lower waste, cheap lunches. Just buy things in the biggest packets you can find to minimise packaging and keep the cost down. I sometimes do this with nuts or corn chips. Just dish them out into reusable containers  as  individual serves and recycle the packaging.

The challenge for today:  is to do a recipe book or internet trawl and find yourself (and anyone else you pack lunches for) some appetising pack-ups. Even if you are a stay at home mum without school kids and you’re packing snacks for a trip to the park with your baby or toddler, it doesn’t have to be boring.

 

Web Errors, War Rations and BOB Cabbage Pasta

It’s been an interesting week so far and it’s only Wednesday!

Those of you who visit here regularly and follow along on face-lurk may have noticed that there are several post missing from the site.

It seems we may have been hacked (either that …or an update went wrong …or  I pushed the wrong button somewhere along the line…which is entirely possible) and Kitchen Scraps went down. I thought for a moment (well, a whole day) that I’d lost her forever. But a clever IT person showed me how to restore a website from old data, and we’re back online… minus a few recent posts. I’ll try and get those rewritten from my notes and re-posted.

It’s taught me a valuable lesson – BACK UP & PROTECT YOUR DATA!

It’s one we all know and should take heed of but in this techno-gizmo world, seem to ignore or just plain forget about. It was (only) a blog that I almost lost forever, but imagine if it was something really important or of huge sentimental value, like your entire collection of family photos, your next best selling novel or all your financials…

Sadly, one of the posts that went bye-bye birdy was the one I wrote about putting my family on War Rations. If you left a comment or saved the link, I’m sorry to say it’s gone now… but a big thank you. There were so many thoughtful and helpful suggestions, it really is a shame they’ve evaporated into the cyber-ether.

The gist of it was that a lot of my favourite (as in the ones I face-lurk and insta-stalk) food gurus and bloggers believe (like me) that we shouldn’t be wasting food. They also believe that it shouldn’t be as ridiculously difficult or expensive to feed our families healthy nutritious meals.

One of my favourite blogs is written by Carolyn Eakins who recreates authentic World War 2 meals. It’s called the 1940s Experiment (my all time favourite modern era) and uses the principals of English wartime rationing to help control her weight and keep herself healthy. She’s not the only one calling for a return to the culinary habits of our immediate ancestors either Sarah Wilson, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall are just three others that come to mind.

Leonora Green  1941. Coupons Required.
Leonora Green 1941. Coupons Required. Image from the collection of the Imperial War Museum London.

The short of it is WW2 rationing saw people eating less sugar, less meat, less fat and more veg. They had to use everything because there was only so much available.This went for everything, not just food. In short, people were healthier,were far more frugal and wasted very, very little.

It sounds almost exactly what we’re trying to do here, right?!

While we’re not at war (although I’m guessing there’s a few world leaders who’d like us to be) and there’s no shortages of food here, I’ve really been embracing the principals of rationing this past few weeks. More veg, less meat and making sure we stick to a meal plan, shop only when really needed and (except for staples like rice, flour and dried beans,peas and lentils etc) using things up completely before running out to buy more.

As a result, I’ve come up with a few new “BOB” recipes (BOB stands for – BACK OF BOAT – those quick, simple, inexpensive  yet  totally delicious meals that can be eaten with one hand or out of a high sided bowl with just a fork or spoon while sitting on deck and lazily drifting on the ocean).

BOB CABBAGE PASTA

This is my take on the old braised cabbage that your mum or grandma might have made. Cabbage was big in England in WW2 because it could be grown at home. The Ministry of Food even issued instructions to housewives on how to cook cabbage in the most economical way. It was pretty much a staple here in Australia too because its cheap, nutritious and like other veg, wasn’t rationed.

Ministry of Food How to cook cabbage WW2 instructions
During WW2 England’s Ministry of Food issued leaflets informing people of the most economical way to cook cabbage.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a recipe for boiled cabbage. In fact there’s no boiling water required. Except for some chopping of ingredients, this literally takes minutes to make. It’s economical too. This makes enough to feed 6 of us as a main meal (or 4 with leftovers). It uses very little meat and only a little oil or butter. You can add additional veg or change out the bacon or chorizo for chicken, pork or you can leave it out altogether.

1 head of cabbage. shredded to the thickness of fettuccine or spaghetti noodles.

1 Onion finely sliced.

2 rashers of bacon finely diced

1 chorizo sausage finely diced

2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter (I like to use a tablespoon of each).

A sprinkle of chilli flakes or one finely diced chilli.

Any other veg you’d like to add finely shredded with a grater (zucchini is great, so is carrot or capsicum)

Salt and pepper to taste.

A large pan (I make this in the 20 Litre stainless steel pot I use to make stock, soup and stew. It has a tight fitting lid and if there’s leftovers, it fits straight onto the bottom shelf of our fridge).

Heat the oil/butter in the pan and add the bacon, chorizo, chilli and onion.

Saute a few moments until the onion is a little soft and starts to go translucent.

Add the cabbage and stir over a low heat until well combined and cabbage has softened but still has a little crunch.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve just put a generous serving in a bowl.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Scraps – I’m Famous! And No Bake Muesli Bars

Well that’s another week done and dusted. I had two days at work (which I wrote a little about here), a meeting with my thesis supervisor on Friday that went well and was treated to dinner on Thursday night (roast beef and veg with a lemony desert from a restaurant in town).  The Elder Teen has just finished his first week at shearing school on a local farm and Mr Scraps has finally started photographing some of our shed junk to list on Ebay.

My dishwasher tablet recipe was re-blogged twice this week. Once by someone who has been reading my posts here and once after I was approached by someone through Facebook after I left a comment on a post in a sustainable living group. Mr Scraps informs me that I am now officially famous and should start offering my services as an “expert” on TV talk shows You know like those people they get on to tell you how to feed your family for $10 a day on what equates to $50 worth of corporate sponsored ingredients.

I think I might just stick to archaeology a while longer before I start asking for a dressing room with my name on it.

I didn’t keep exact track of what we all ate this week as the Elder Teen was fed by the shearing school,  the Younger Teen had three days of cooking for Food Technology at school  and we ate out Thursday night. Between this and sports training running later than usual two nights this week I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking and we mainly ate the meals I had stashed in the freezer.

HINT:  for busy families the freezer can be your best friend.  Whenever there’s leftovers  divide them up into meal sized portions and stash them in the freezer. It’s great for really busy  days, when something unexpected crops up and your meal plan goes out the window, that week when you can’t (or don’t want to) get to the shops or just when you can’t be bothered cooking. Just pull out of the freezer, heat and eat. We call it Dinner Bingo! Our version of the old frozen TV dinners, but yummier and without the packaging.

We had both the Eldest and the Uni Student home for the weekend which was lovely.  To keep everyone feed I made a quick pot of Veg Soup Friday night using whatever veg was hanging around in the bottom of the fridge (this week it was carrots zucchini, onion and cabbage) and two containers of our homemade Scrap Stock from the freezer flavoured with the rinds from some Parmesan cheese I had saved. The cheese rind  was suggested by the Archaeologist I work with and she was right, it was delicious.

I also whipped up a batch of these yesterday.

They literally take ten minutes ( plus some time to set) and if there’s any leftover they’ll go into school / work lunchboxes during the week.

I make them low sugar by using rice malt syrup, really dark chocolate chips (which is really 85% cocoa chocolate chopped up small and kept in a jar in the pantry) and this time just a sprinkling of sultanas because I found some hiding forgotten in a container in the back of the cupboard but you can literally add whatever you like or even leave them plain.

I love a versatile, throw it all in the bowl and mix recipe. These are  dairy and egg free and could easily be gluten free if you made them with gluten free oats.

No Bake  Muesli Bars

2 tablespoons chia seed

6 tablespoons water

1 & 1/2 cups oats

1 cup oat flour (this is just oats ground until fine and powdery. I use my mortar and pestle but you could use a blender).

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew etc)

1/4 cup rice malt syrup ( or you could use honey or maple syrup)

1/2 cup finely shredded coconut

1 cup of add-ons  –  for this batch I used 1/2 cup of chopped cashews & almonds, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips & sultanas, but you can use anything you like.

To make mix the chia seeds with water and let sit while you pop the oats, oat flour and coconut into a bowl and mix well.

In a saucepan over a low heat warm your coconut oil, rice malt syrup and nut butter until melted and we’ll combined. Let cool for a few minutes then stir in the chia seed/water mix. Mix into your oat/coconut mix adding your cup of add-ons.

Once well combined  pop the mix into a tray lined with paper (or I use a wax wrap). Press down really firmly and pop into the fridge for an hour or so to set (or the freezer for half an hour if you have a Threenager/ Teens/Mr Scraps who don’t like waiting).

When firm, slice into bars. This made  12  about the same sized as those commercially made individually wrapped muesli bars but you can cut them any size you like.

These will last at least two weeks in a container in the fridge. They are quite soft but will hold up okay in a lunch box as long as the weather isn’t too warm ( coconut oil has a tendency to return to liquid on a hot summer day).

Hints: This is really versatile – add a splash of vanilla,  any chopped fruit you desire or even some chopped marshmallows. You could add things like fresh berries or other fruit  but just be aware this will shorten the shelflife of your bars a little and you may need to add a few more oats to soak up any excess moisture.

My Awesome Zero Waste Work Week 

As I’ve already mentioned, I started a new job at the end of last month. It’s been awesome so far. A huge learning curve because I’ve spent over a decade either self-employed or studying and the whole process is still a little alien yet.

I’m only doing a few days a week, so plenty of time to work on my thesis and get things done at home and I’m getting paid to work with people who love the same thing I do… Archaeology!

But another totally awesome thing about my new job is that nobody in the office thinks my efforts to avoid and reduce waste are weird.

It’s a Zero Waste friendly office!

Those of you who face-lurk or insta-stalk me might have already seen my post on Wednesday night about packing my salad in a jar for Thursday’s lunch at work. I didn’t grab a photo but the one of the Ecologists brought his soup in a jar and the Archaeologist I work with regularly brings her smoothies in a jar.

There’s a kitchen…  So we can bring our lunch and snacks ( less waste and way cheaper than buying lunch each day). They keep a filter jug in the fridge so there’s always fresh water to fill your water bottle and a compost basket under the sink for green waste ( our local council supplies them and the bio-bags as part of their Halve Waste program). 

There’s tea and coffee too so no need to get take-out coffee but if you’re heading out to do fieldwork or travel for client meetings everyone has one of these:

And the bathroom is low waste eco-friendly too… 

There’s “unpaved towels”  for hand-drying and eco-friendly Who Gives a Crap loo roll and tissues. I don’t know who is washing the towels. I keep forgetting to ask, but I’m pretty sure it’s done by  the Zerowaste fairy (like the tooth fairy but he/she cleans stuff instead of giving you monies.

It’s not a completely paperless office but the bulk of our work is done on the computer and scrap paper is reused before going into the recycling bin. Any soft plastics are taken home (this week by myself)  to be dropped into a Redcycle bin (nearest one to us at the moment is at the Chiltern Post Office ( the Teens go there twice a week for sports training so it’s not out of the way).

Imagine if every office did these things…

 

Sunday Scraps – In the Scrap House this week & Not Little Bear Biscuits

Another big week here in the Scrap House.

I was asked to take part in the 2017 Act For Peace Ration Challenge. Basically, in return for donations you live on the same rations given to refugees. It’s not much and pretty hard to make palatable, but you can survive on it for a week. Long term I think you might have some pretty serious health issues unless you could find a way to supplement your meagre supplies with a few vegetables or a little meat. Especially if you have children. I’ll be blogging about it in more detail next week. Donations/ sponsorship runs until the end of June, so there’s still time to join in for anyone who’s interested. You can  donate here to my personal challenge page.

I got my Archaeology Degree in the mail on Thursday. I’m still planning on going to the graduation ceremony in October, but thought I’d get it sent out anyway, just in case I’m too awesomely busy doing archaeology to attend. I can now officially call myself an Archaeologist, granted an inexperienced one… but I have it in ink on a bit of paper now, so it must be true.

I also had a meeting about my first proper (paying) archaeology job. They offered me a contract. There’s probably still some details to work out but it’s really exciting to find that after slogging my butt off and driving the BHG, the Teens and myself mad for the last two and a half years that bit of paper meant something to someone besides just me.

The BHG and I saw Wonder Woman at the pictures this week. I LOVE going to the movies. You leave life at the door when you walk in and for an hour and a half you’re somewhere/ someone else, plus there’s popcorn (or if you’re lucky enough to have Gold Class tickets – wine). I’m a huge Wonder Woman fan (Whovians can love Wonder Woman too! Now wouldn’t that be a cross-over).

The Teens did the usual of teen stuff, but as Monday was a public holiday and Friday was report writing day at their High School, it was a short week for them. The eldest Teen spent two days working in a shearing shed and came home with what to him was a wad of cash (remind me to discuss that with Grandad Scraps sometime – I’m pretty sure that all those school holidays I spent as roust-a bout in the shearing shed means he owes me about seventy billion dollars plus interest).

The Threenager and I did lots of cooking (including perfecting the Not Little Bears recipe I’ve included below) and sorting this week. It’s now definitely winter here and the increase in chill factor now dictates that its time for some serious winter woollies. Many of her clothes from last year still fit quite well, but we’ll be looking for a new jacket in the coming weeks as we discovered the sleeves on hers are almost up to her elbows and she could probably do with another cardigan and vest. A good excuse to get the needles out and sit in front of the fire and watch the next season The Walking Dead and maybe (probably) Black Sails too.

The BHG and I are also in the process of sorting through the two shed loads of stuff we’ve been carting from place to place for the last 12 years. I blame him and his “collectables” a lot, but secretly, I have to admit most of it is my junk from when I was running my own bricks and mortar business. Some of it comes from the houses of deceased relatives, but the majority is just the result of our (my) own  sentimentality. We’ve finally realised that if we’re ever going to go truly nomad sometime this century, we’re going to have to get tough on our “stuff”. I’ve sent a lot off to charity shops, but we’ll probably be doing a lot of eBay listing and free-cycling over the next few months. I really like the idea of minimalism, but getting there (mindfully, without just throwing everything we’ve accumulated in a skip and sending it to landfill) feels like an incredibly arduous task.

Speaking of going nomad, those who saw my Instagram posts about our pop-top “Miss Cara Van” will be pleased to know she is coming along nicely. It’s taken a while, but now most of the structural stuff is done and she’ ready for a new floor.  Then we can get onto the fun stuff (kitting her out and decorating).

Now to the promised recipe. I’ve had a few friends try this out with all the variations listed and they’ve been pretty successful. They’re quick, fairly simple (the Threenager easily helped with the mixing, rolling and cutting) and they’re lower in sugar than the store brought version and can be popped in a little container or waxed baggie in a lunch box, so no plastic packaging in school lunches.

 

Not Little Bear Biscuits

Makes 60 Little Gingerbread Man or bear shapes approx. 5cm tall.

½ Cup Softened Butter

¼ Cup Rice Malt Syrup

1 Cup Plain Flour

½ Cup Self-Rising Flour

1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence

Extra flour for rolling

Mix together butter and rice malt syrup until creamy consistency.

Add vanilla essence and flours, stirring until it forms a soft dough.

Refrigerate in covered bowl at least 30 minutes.

Roll out on a floured surface until approximately ½ cm thick.

Cut into small shapes using a cookie cutter or knife. (I used a little mini gingerbread man cutter  because that’s what I had in the  kitchen drawer).

Place on lined biscuit trays and bake at 180 C for approximately 5-6 mins or until lightly golden.

Leave on trays a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight tin.

These will keep at least a week

 (or more, but they’ve never lasted long enough in our house for me to test properly).

Note: You can substitute margarine for butter, honey or maple syrup for rice malt syrup.

To make chocolate biscuits simply replace 1& 1/2 tablespoons of the plain flour with cocoa.

Gluten free or Vegan Version: Gluten Free flour works as well but the consistency is more like shortbread and the dough is very delicate. It is best rolled out gently in small batches. To make them vegan friendly you could use olive oil spread (we tried some of the Nuttelex brand and it worked just fine).

 

 

Sunday Scraps – In the Scrap House this week & dishwasher tablets

This Week in the Scrap House

We’ve had a busy week. Mr Scraps spent the week sorting through the shed and packing up all our unwanted bits and pieces to sell at a friend’s garage sale. The Teens had the usual school week with football and netball training thrown in (the youngest Teen’s team won their  game by a massive margin this week). The Uni Student popped in a few times and is off interstate for a few days with the Eldest who graced us with his presence for dinner Friday night. We also made the trek over to Grandma & Grandad Scraps for an afternoon tea on Saturday which turned into dinner.

I’m now getting to the pointy end of my Archaeology Honours Project (the bit where you have to actually do something with all the data you’ve collected and historic documents you’ve unearthed, scanned and photographed). As a result there’s been a fair amount of thinking, hair-twisting and pacing up and down in front of a blank computer screen. In between, Miss T and I managed to do some experimenting with bread recipes, planted out our celery and leek butts that have been sprouting on the kitchen bench, tried our hands at sauerkraut with some red cabbage (much easier than I imagined) and spent Saturday morning knitting at the local library for World Wide Knit in Public Day. She made and installed her first ever “Yarn Bomb”. and as a result  the librarian has given us permission to decorate all the trees.I don’t know who was more excited, the Threenager or my friend who had neglected her own knitting project to help her craft her installation piece. She also proudly modeled a new prototype vintage fabric skirt from Vintage Bubs . She was allowed to keep it and we had to pries it off her to pop it  in the wash after an afternoon in the park.

There was also a lot of experimenting with homemade cleaning products. We already have a few “go to” cleaners we make ourselves, but a couple of them have ingredients that are either a little expensive or difficult to get without ridiculous amounts of plastic packaging or trips into the nearest large town. I shared a post about experimenting with dishwasher tablets over on the Facebook page this week and a lot of people asked 1) How they went and 2)  If I could please share the recipe.

Why I wanted to make our own dishwasher tablets

Dishwasher tablets are very convenient, but usually expensive (hard to pay less than 18-20 cents per wash) and although they come in a box they’re usually individually wrapped in little plastic packets inside it. The powder is better package wise with most brands only packed in a cardboard box, but still not all that cheap. Both contain chemically stuff or things I’m not happy to ingest, like borax.

Now while borax isn’t thought to be particularly dangerous, there is some evidence that it has the potential to cause skin irritation, stomach upset  and may be a hormone disrupter. There’s lots of recipes for homemade dishwasher powders and tablets out there on the web, but most of them contain the stuff, so I’ve been on a bit of a mission to find a way to make my own without borax. This week I think we’ve done it. After two full dishwasher loads (I only turn our dishwasher on when it’s really full, about every second or third day) and both have come out clean as a whistle without any residue left on the glassware.

Lemon Dishwasher Tablet Recipe

Ingredients

1 Cup Washing Soda

1 Cup Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)

1 Cup Salt

3/4 Cup Lemon Juice.

2 Ice Cube Trays (or similar)

Mix all your dry ingredients then pour in lemon juice (make sure you use a fairly large bowl because it fizzes quite a lot for a few moments). Mix it really well and divide mix between the ice cube trays packing down really firmly. Leave to dry at least a few hours before popping them out and leaving overnight to dry completely. Keep in an airtight container and use like any commercial dishwasher tablet.

Notes:

This recipe makes 24 tablets (or more if you use a smaller mold). I used two 12 hole plastic ice cube trays because that’s what I had. They came out quite easily, but silicone might be even easier. Just make sure that your tablets will fit in your dispenser. To check just fill your container with water and freeze, take one of the ice cubes, pop it in the detergent dispenser and make sure it closes properly.

Be fairly gentle when you pop them out of the trays. They do harden up a bit more as they dry. There were a few crumbly bits (which is why  they put the commercial tablets in plastic wrap). I just scrapped them up and will pop them in the dispenser like powder.

If you prefer powder, just omit the lemon juice and instead use 1 Cup of Citric Acid, mix together and keep in an airtight container. To use place 1 tablespoon per load in the dispenser.

Tip:

For sparkly glassware, pop white vinegar in the rinse aide dispenser.

If you find you have some residue on your dishes after the dishwasher cycle finishes, try making sure the water going through your machine is nice and hot. Pop a pot or bucket in your sink, turn on your hot tap and let the water run a moment until it’s flowing hot before switching your machine on (this can also help with store-brought dishwasher tablets or powder). I empty the water in the pot into my washing machine or use it to water plants or wash the floors so it doesn’t go to waste (it’s usually less than a litre but in winter when the pipes are really cold its more).