The practice of not buying what we can make saves us a lot of money, not to mention cuts down on our packaging and waste (since we only make what we need). Granted it takes a little more time on our part, but we think it's worth it. When we first began, we were making everything from yogurt to (attempting) clothing. But we've narrowed it down to our favorite things that really work, saving us money and making our lives a little greener one DIY at a time.
• Pillowcases: We shop for discounted organic cotton fabrics and re-use interesting thrift store finds to make our own snazzy pillowcases. We have done some fancy ones with nice hems, but most of 'em involve about four seams. With each hand-made pillowcase, we can save at least $6. Meanwhile, we're honing the sewing skills in hopes that this expands our DIY horizons and giving our living space an on-the-cheap update.
• Bread: The bread machine changed our life for the better. Now, we can make all-organic and healthy loaves for a fraction of the cost. Not to mention, we're cutting out the middle man and saving all that packaging and production. The success with loaves
• Candles: We might be cheating a little bit here, but a talented family member (our "green hero") happens to make highly fragrant soy candles out of her home. Instead of purchasing new candles every time a flame goes out, one trip back home yields a box full of safe-burning candles in recycled containers.
• Canned goods: Oh, for the love of pickles! We have enjoyed the canning comeback this year. Despite the extra effort, we love putting all our extra fruits and veggies to good use. We're fully stocked on housewarming gifts (who doesn't love homemade pickles and jams?) and our friends are kind enough to return their jars for next year's bounty.
• Crackers: Crackers are expensive! And they usually contain random food additives--not to mention, boo-coos of wasteful packaging. Now we make our own small batches of crispy crackers and cut down on waste. They're actually extremely easy, taking only 15 minutes from start to finish.
• Dog treats: We like to feed our dog the same way we like to eat: sustainably-produced, healthy, and natural. But buying all-natural (and even organic) treats was getting to be expensive; and since they're packaged in small batches, we found ourselves recycling a bunch of little plastic zip bags. Now we make a double batch to freeze (or share with other canine comrades).
• Cleaning agents: Since we've eliminated chemicals from the household, we are always well-stocked with vinegar and baking soda. This comes in handy because we're able to constantly re-use those old spray bottles, and we're fond of the fact that the homemade cleaners are much easier on the lungs.
(Images: Amber Byfield for Re-Nest.)