Essentials for the Down-Home, Frugal Household | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Essentials for the Down-Home, Frugal Household

household supplies

A Baker’s Dozen of Safe, Cheap, Natural, Multi-Purpose Products

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Most of us keep a few basics on hand: pantry staples, first-aid items, cleaning and laundry products, and personal care items such as soap, shampoo, and deodorant. Eyeing my list as I headed into town one day, I had to chuckle. Most of the half-dozen staple items on my list that day fell into two, three, or all of the above categories.

Later that day, I made a list of my most common household staples. With one or two of the products on that list, I can clean just about any surface or object in and around my home, rustle up a decent meal (except for the vegetables), administer first aid for most common ailments, and clean /pamper my skin, hair, and teeth. (I’m a longtime passionate vegetable gardener and find many of these staple ingredients also help fight plant diseases, kill or repel insects, or provide plant nutrients.)

What’s more, each of these products is inexpensive, readily available, natural, and safe *(free from potentially harmful dyes, fragrances, preservatives, and other additives). Here’s the list, along with a few of the ways I use each product.

In future posts, I’ll discuss the specific uses of each of these frugal household staples. Stay tuned.

  1. Oatmeal: cooking staple, skincare
  2. Cider vinegar: antiseptic, hair rinse, window-cleaner, ingredient in salad dressings and pickling-brine ingredient, insecticide
  3. Corn meal: cooking staple, weed-killer, mild fungicide (plants and people), exfoliant, sand substitute for children’s play table
  4. Honey: sore throat gargle (with cider vinegar), general-purpose sweetener, antiseptic for burns and wounds, skin moisturizer
  5. Eggs: versatile, nutritious food; hair restorative, skin care; ground shells used in horticulture, household stain removal
  6. Sea salt: cooking staple, gargle, eye wash, mouthwash, toothpaste substitute, sinus-cavity irrigation, bath salt, exfoliant, scouring power (with baking soda)
  7. Baking soda: general purpose household cleaner, toothpaste substitute, shampoo, deodorant (underarms, shoes, refrigerators, carpets, lunch boxes), itch-reliever
  8. Olive oil: salad dressings, cooking oil, ear-wax removal, skin softener
  9. Castor oil: superior skin conditioner, a drop tames hair frizz, quells inflammation (I don’t use castor oil internally).
  10. Borax: shampoo (really!), laundry additive, general cleaning agent
  11. Epsom salts: relaxing bath, foot soak, laundry additive
  12. Fresh or powdered ginger root: spices entrees and deserts, quells nausea, reduces inflammation and pain
  13. Witch hazel: antiseptic, astringent, bruise-healer, relieves itching, reduces under-eye bags, under-eye puffiness, heals diaper rash

* Despite their low toxicity, I’d keep a few items, such as Borax, baking soda, salt, Epsom salts, witch hazel, and castor oil, on a high shelf or locked cabinet away from children.

About The Author

Margaret Boyles

Margaret Boyles is a longtime contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She wrote for UNH Cooperative Extension, managed NH Outside, and contributes to various media covering environmental and human health issues. Read More from Margaret Boyles

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