In our age of specialization, we buy most of the things we need to be comfortable and trade our hard-earned cash to other specialists.  After I got fired from my job four years ago, I wasn’t a specialist anymore so I worked at  becoming more of a generalist.  I did this for two reasons; I had time and needed to keep busy and I needed to save money.  Paying specialists can cost alot more than DIY.

Yogurt:  This is easy.  Get a crockpot and follow these simple instructions.  http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html I like to use Stoneyfield Farms’ yogurt as my starter because it contains a culture other American yogurts don’t have.  That culture is supposed to boost the immune system.  We’ve been very healthy since we started eating it.  Any culture in your starter will continue in your homemade yogurt.  I use organic milk which ups the cost but also ups the nutrition and sustainability of the yogurt.

Bread:  I started to bake my own for several reasons:  less expensive than my local artisan bakery–which I LOVE–it’s a good workout and I needed to eat less gluten.  I really enjoy kneading bread, when I have the time. Time has been more precious lately so I started baking a no-knead loaf.  Go to Youtube and search for no-knead bread for some video tips on  this.  It’s easy.  Especially with wheat flours.

Now I bake a gluten-free loaf since Miranda and I have gone completely gluten-free at home.  Still perfecting this loaf but the experiments are mostly edible and usually make good chocolate bread pudding even if the bread is a bomb.

Laundry soap:  This is fun science in the kitchen.  Check out this recipe and try it.  You’ll save alot of money over the course of a year.  http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/03/15/how-to-make-your-own-laundry-detergent-and-save-big-money/

Lunch:  For years I’ve brought lunch to work most days. This saves ALOT of money.  I usually plan dinner to get leftovers for at least one more meal and often that’s lunch.  If you spend $50 a week eating lunch out, times 52 weeks…I prefer to spend my entertainment budget with my family.

Cookies: Let’s face it, there are few things better than homemade cookies.  And NO, Pillsbury slice-and-bake don’t count.  Cookies just aren’t that hard to make.  And they smell great baking.  And everyone who eats them loves you with a love that is true and will never die.  I have three standard recipes I use over and over;  classic chocolate chips cookies, peanut butter cookies, chocolate cookies from Guittard’s bittersweet chocolate chip bag.  They are all simple and tasty.  For holidays I make a mean gingersnap and usually experiment with a new recipe or two.  I keep some in the freezer for emergency potlucks or emotional solace.  It’s hard to beat a homemade cookie for solace.

Cakes:  As I mentioned above on bread, Miranda and I are gluten-free these days.  That really makes the baking cakes from scratch a necessity (sidebar:  Betty Crocker recently introduced a line of gluten-free cake and brownie mixes.  I haven’t tried them yet but I’m sure they’re good and easy. If you need gluten-free and have no culinary chops, do try these.  If you love to cook, don’t bother. Just go to the http://www.epicurious.com and start looking for recipes.)  I love baking cakes.  It’s just not as hard as kitchen lore would have you believe.  And the mistakes are usually delicious–“mistakes” in the cake department usually crack or fall.– Neither is life or death and rarely affects the taste.  It’s just cosmetic.  Not a problem unless you promised a hostess a dessert and it’s 4 p.m. already. –So practice cakes, eat the mistakes and be a BIG hit with your friends.

Frosting:  Do not buy frosting in a can or a mix.  Frosting is powdered sugar and flavoring.  That goes for cookies and cakes.  Make your own.  It’s fun, easy and cheap.  Betty Crocker is a rich woman because it’s so cheap to make.

Facial toner:  I was buying a really nice toner at the health food store when I got fired.  It was almost a dollar an ounce.  Now I buy bulk herbs at the same healthfood store, make a strong herbal tea and use that.  Lavendar and chamomile.  It smells pleasant and does the trick.  I keep it in the bottle that the expensive one came in.  $.50 worth lasts a few months.  Wow, it’s a budget toner too!

Soda:  O.k., I don’t really make soda.  I add fruit juice to sparkling water.  It’s yummy, less sweet and so much better for you.  Did you know that some recent studies have found high fructose corn-syrup to cause brain damage much like Alzhiemer’s?  Really.  So I avoid it at every turn.  Soda is the easiest place to start.  Besides, there is nothing in soda your body needs that water can’t provide better.  Whoa, where’d that soapbox come from?

Granola:  Commercial granola is loaded with sugar and fat.  LOADED.  And they sell it as health food.  I make mine with a tiny amount of maple syrup–which has a low glycemic index–and tiny amount of canola oil.  It’s never quite the same thing twice but it gets eaten pretty fast every time!  Here’s a ballpark version: 6 cups rolled oats, (I like thick cut) 1 cup spelt or barley flakes, 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, 1 cup slivered almonds, 1/2 oat bran, 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1/3 cup canola oil.  Mix dry ingredients, adding anything else you might think sounds good (i.e. sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, bakers’ bran, etc.).  In a small sauce pan, ideally with a pour spout, heat syrup and oil.  Pour this mixture over dry ingredients while stirring to mix thoroughly.  Spread about 4 cups on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Use spatula to stir if edges get too brown too fast.  I brown one batch and put the rest in the freezer to brown as needed.

t-shirts: Actually, I paint existing t-shirts; I don’t make t-shirts.  I like to call my t-shirt company “ReVisions” because all my shirts are getting a second life.  It’s recycling at it’s finest.  You could do this but you don’t have time.  SO you could buy one of mine.

Sunflower painted on hand-dyed t-shirt

I also make a fuss, make mistakes, make a mess and make waves.  All of which I’m sure you’ve never done. c. 😉

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