Can you guess what I made yesterday by looking at these ingredients?
If you guessed soap, you’re bang on the money!
A quick glance back at the frogblog shows that I’ve been making soap for over a decade now. When I first began, I tried just about every recipe that I could lay my hands on. I made green tea soap, coffee soap, olive oil/Castile soap… you name it, I gave it a go.
For a brief time, I even had teachers at school buying it from me.
But now I stick to one very basic but effective recipe that I first saw on a defunct blog many years ago. It rarely fails and even if it does, it’s easy to fix.
But why would I bother to make soap in the first place? After all, basic soap is cheap to buy. I clearly don’t NEED to make soap to save a few pennies – after all, I retired by choice 2 years ago. I’m not short of the pennies required to keep myself clean. So why would I still choose to do it?
One of the main reasons I find myself coming back to doing this whenever my soap stocks start getting low is that homemade soap is very good for the skin. Commercial soap makers take out the glycerin that’s formed when soap is made, because glycerin is lucrative to sell on its own. My soap has its own glycerin within it, so the soap moisturises as well as cleans. I like that.
I also really like to have pretty soap put aside for little gifts. A bar of homemade soap and a hand-knitted washcloth is something that I like to give when I go to a blog meet or when a friend has a birthday. These handmade gifts, wrapped in brown paper and string, look great.
The third reason is that it’s personally very satisfying to produce something useful from nothing but a random bunch of ingredients. The same can be said of knitting and quilting, I guess. Being able to point at something that now exists in the world that wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t here is a nice feeling. (Pointing at the boys just doesn’t have the same effect…!)
Another reason why I like to do it is that I can personalise each batch. This batch of soap smells like eucalyptus. I’ve sprinkled dried cornflower and calendula petals over 3/4 of the top, but I’ve left a strip on the side free of petals because Ryan27 is a hairy guy and he doesn’t like to pick petals from his chest hair after having a shower. Fair enough. Sometimes I add rolled oats or poppy seeds (lovely and scratchy), food colourings, and different scents. Every batch is different.
The last reason is a hangover from the days when the boys and I were very, very broke and I had to stretch every dollar. Anything that I could do to stop a visit to the supermarket was a way to save money. Growing some of my own food and making things like soap is a way to limit setting foot in the supermarket and spending more money. I like the discipline of this, even though I no longer need to do it for financial survival.
It’s funny how the things that I once did to save even a few cents towards big things like the mortgage or the boys’ education are now the things that I choose to do for fun.
Smething that I was really looking forward to when Tom30 left home and Ryan27 was housesitting was how I was going to use up the food I had in the freezer and the zombie apocalypse cupboard during the 9 weeks when I’d be living on my own before I went away to Antarctica. During the lockdowns I’d bumped up the stores a bit and it seemed like now was the perfect opportunity to eat them down a bit.
I decided that I was going to keep supermarket visits to an absolute minimum and I’d spin out the meat I had by making vegetarian meals, using up the piles of lentils and beans I had hanging around. I was going to use up the frozen veggies I had – about 5 packets – and utilise what I had growing in the garden rather than buying fresh greens.
I have lots of longlife milk and milk powder, so that wouldn’t be a problem, though eggs, carrots and potatoes would be on the shopping list. I have heaps of stewed fruit that I’ve frozen as ice cubes. I have enough rice and bakers flour to sink a small ship, so all in all, I was in a great position to live out of my pantry for quite a long time.
The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. How long could I make everything last? This was going to be interesting! I didn’t set any specific targets… I just wanted to wing it and see how far I got.
Then two days later Ryan27 moved back home.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy that he’s happy to share a roof with me, but my frugal experiment went straight out the window. He wants to make a Mongolian sauce for me to try that he discovered when he was away, so I found myself at Aldi yesterday buying some broccoli that he wanted.
THIS WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED IF I WAS ON MY OWN!!! I’D DO WITHOUT THE BROCCOLI!!! I know I could have refused to buy it, but I don’t think it’s fair to inflict my own little frugal games on unsuspecting housemates.
Another frugal entertainment is my reading challenge. This is in its third year and I LOVE it! In a nutshell, I have to pay over 2K in local council fees each year. I decided to try and “make’ those rates back by reading over 2K’s worth of library books, which are paid for by my local council.
Since I started it, the only books I’ve bought have been a couple of recipe books. I had no idea that my local library was so very well-stocked. I rarely go into my local branch and browse. Most of the time, I hear about a novel I’d like to read, jump on the library’s website and do a search. It’s a rare day when the library doesn’t have a copy of the book I want.
I’ve read literally thousands of dollars worth of books since I began this challenge. Obviously, I wouldn’t have bought all of those books myself, but I certainly would have bought quite a few. I’m addicted to reading and I always have 2 or 3 books on the go at any one time.
This challenge is fun. I have read so many books that I never would have bought for myself, I have the goal of meeting a dollar amount in a 12 month period so I can’t slacken off, and also have the satisfaction of gradually, book by book, ticking down to meet my goal.
I keep track of it on the side of this blog. It’s practically the only Maths that I enjoy.
Scrap quilts? I can spend hours upon happy hours creating quilts from fabric that’s been hanging around here for ever. Cheap as chips but when the quilts are finished, they look a million dollars. I love entertaining myself so happily and so cheaply.
I guess it’s that, as I get older, I’m getting more and more intolerant of waste. Waste of resources, waste of time, waste of money. The feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when I can reduce any sort of waste is a precious one.
I don’t see why, just because I’ve reached financial independence, I should deny myself that feeling. Feeling accomplished and satisfied makes me happy. Frugality ticks so many boxes for me and – lets be frank – I didn’t retire just to turn around and give up one of the very things that make me happy.
Twenty-four hours later I unwrapped the soap and cut it into bars. Ryan27’s ‘pure’ unpetaled soap is already on the cake rack. It takes 6 weeks to dry before it’s ready to use, so once it was all cut, I carried it to the laundry where it’s safely tucked away, slowly curing.
I’ll probably have enough soap here for personal use and for gifts to last at least 6 months. It’s a small thing, but it fills my heart.
Dad joke of the day:
I had to read this one twice before I got it!