What alternatives are surprisingly worth it?
June 15, 2016 1:50 PM   Subscribe

What are some "alternatives" or substitutions to everyday products/tasks that you've found you liked better than the original? Relatedly, what have you stopped doing altogether that had unexpected positive benefits?

About six months ago I read that you could use conditioner instead of shaving cream when shaving. I've been using a huge pump bottle of Suave conditioner since then and am amazed that I like it even better, and I'm nowhere near running out (thus costing me like $3 a year). What other "alternatives" like this exist?

I'd love to hear ideas not just for grooming but anything that's done habitually.

I'm also interested in hearing about unexpected positive benefits from completely eliminating something - as in, the no-poo hair washing method, or only having X number of dishes (thereby saving cabinet space, sink stays cleaner, dishes get washed faster, et cetera).
posted by amicamentis to Grab Bag (110 answers total) 208 users marked this as a favorite
 
Shopping for clothes at Salvation Army. There is a larger selection at about 1/10th to 1/50th the price. Stuff is pre-shrunk, I know what it will look like after washing and when not immaculately pressed. If I end up not liking it at some point (which happens with new clothes, too) I am happy to donate it to Goodwill.
posted by ReluctantViking at 1:57 PM on June 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


Not sure if this counts, but you can get generic melamine foam (i.e. Magic Erasers) for pennies on the dollar on eBay/Amazon.
posted by griphus at 2:00 PM on June 15, 2016 [32 favorites]


Toddler clothes are much cheaper than purpose-created dog clothes and come in way more adorable styles.
posted by phunniemee at 2:01 PM on June 15, 2016 [44 favorites]


If you're in a situation where you have to trudge your laundry to a central location and pay to use a communal machine, consider getting a portable washer that plugs into the tap on your sink. Mine has paid for itself in quarters alone, but also saves me all the headache and annoyance of planning my laundry around other people (and stairs). Plus, since I don't have a dryer and hang everything to dry on a clothes rack, my clothes suffer much less abuse and look nicer longer.
posted by phunniemee at 2:07 PM on June 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


Prepeeled garlic cloves. They keep forever in the freezer (and even Christopher Kimball approves).

Dryer balls. Maybe they are a placebo, but I bought 8 (word of god is you need at least 6) and haven't purchased dryer sheets since.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:08 PM on June 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


If you currently exfoliate by using a body wash with grit or beads in it (or don't exfoliate), wash with a Salux cloth instead.
posted by phunniemee at 2:09 PM on June 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


Cheap olive oil for makeup remover

Gillette Mach 3 instead of Venus

Dollar store cotton pads and Q tips ($1.50 vs $3-5, I'm hoping they're really made of cotton and not eg fiberglass)
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:15 PM on June 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yogurt instead of sour cream.
posted by cakelite at 2:15 PM on June 15, 2016 [16 favorites]


Don't use non-stick cookware. I hate those things because they scratch so easily and become toxic. Instead, either use: a well seasoned cast iron cookware (minimal oil, but can be annoying to clean) or stainless steel cookware (use more oil and you have to practice to get the right temperature for delicate things like frying eggs). Then you can use whatever spatula/utensils you want and they will last forever.
posted by ethidda at 2:18 PM on June 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Bought an avocado/coconut mix oil that I cook with and use as a body moisturizer.
posted by greta simone at 2:19 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Line drying rather than using a clothes dryer. You save money on electricity. Your clothes last longer, look better and smell better. In the winter, it humidifies the air. And you get to feel secretly smug that you are being a tiny bit gentler on the environment.
posted by mcduff at 2:20 PM on June 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


Coconut oil for EVERYTHING. I rub it on my legs in lieu of shaving cream, put it in my hair then shampoo, and when I'm particularly dry and scaly, literally rub it all over my body before jumping in the shower. (I highly recommend doing this in front of a mirror and flexing because it really does make you look incredibly cool.) It's a fantastic makeup remover too.
posted by kalimac at 2:25 PM on June 15, 2016 [17 favorites]


Parchment paper instead of pretty much anything else you might try to use to make a baking sheet non-stick.
posted by DuckGirl at 2:29 PM on June 15, 2016 [37 favorites]


I like an alum salt block better than deodorant. It works better and longer and has no scent.
I like my menstrual cup better than tampons or pads. Same reasons.
I like microfiber floor cloths just as much as I like sports towels and they are a lot cheaper.
I like a stainless steel spork better than disposable flatware. It feels nicer in my mouth.
Coconut oil can replace many things and give better results: cooking oil, moisturizer, hair oil, lube. It feels like expensive lube and is vagina friendly. Also: I have sucessfully gotten rid of foot fungus using vinegar and coconut oil.
Vinegar is better than bleach for removing mold from walls and other objects. It stays gone for much longer.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:32 PM on June 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I only recently wised up to the fact that I could rinse, cut, and freeze my leftover fruit before it went bad, thus saving me from having to throw out about 50% of the fresh fruit I buy. Surprise result: I greatly prefer still-slightly-frozen fruit with my morning yogurt over fresh fruit, and when I have to stock up on fruit, the frozen is almost always much cheaper than the fresh. And if it's not? FRESH CAN MAGICALLY TURN INTO FROZEN
posted by jabes at 2:32 PM on June 15, 2016 [20 favorites]


Walk/bike instead of drive. Saves like a gajillion dollars and you get to double-count transportation as exercise.
posted by aniola at 2:33 PM on June 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


Short hair! Less time in the shower than long and less shampoo/conditioner.
posted by aniola at 2:34 PM on June 15, 2016 [15 favorites]


I haven't purpose-built tupperware/baggies in over a decade. All sorts of food comes in reusable containers and ziplock bags!
posted by aniola at 2:36 PM on June 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Mayo instead of butter on the outside of a grilled cheese sandwich! Doesn't burn as easily so you get perfect browning.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:39 PM on June 15, 2016 [26 favorites]


Nthing coconut oil to replace moisturizer. For some reason I like the smell of the jar that's found in the food section rather than the coconut oil that's in the cosmetics sections (lots of stores have different kinds in each).

Frozen blueberries instead of sorbet.
posted by sallybrown at 2:40 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sweet almond oil is like $3 for a several-ounce bottle and makes my face feel great.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:40 PM on June 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Mayo on a grilled cheese is life changing.
posted by OmieWise at 2:45 PM on June 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


Windshield wiper fluid for washing house windows, in stead of regular cleaner. I know people who swear by it as it tends to be cheaper, leaves no residue and needs no rinsing. I haven't personally tried it yet but I'm going to. (Downside is that some brands may be kinda toxic...)
posted by sively at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Dry shampoo vs. daily hair-washing is a big one for me. I wash my hair every 3-4 days. (I am a woman with a pixie cut.) My hair actually looks better on the 3rd/4th day than on wash day.

To add to the Goodwill point, if you're the kind of person who worries about wearing new clothes because they seem too precious and pristine, buying slightly worn-in clothes eliminates that anxiety altogether. For me, shopping at Goodwill is like finding something old and slightly out of style in the back of my closet that becomes my new favorite piece of clothing. Also eliminates the desire (oh I love this, I'll buy 10!) and risk (even a splurge costs like, $30) of overshopping.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:09 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


1 part apple cider vinegar + 8 parts water = a hair rinse that detangles better than any conditioner I have ever used.
posted by darchildre at 3:18 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


A question I posted that seems relevant...

(Albeit under a different account)
posted by museum of fire ants at 3:23 PM on June 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I make my own powder laundry soap by mixing a cup of washing soda, a cup of Borax, and a grated bar of Ivory soap or Fels-Naptha in a Tupperware container. It works out to like two or four dollars per "box." I started doing it to be frugal but once I did I realized I had always found goopy liquid detergent to be kind of messy and annoying. Plus I find it soothing to grate the soap. It's so satisfying to watch the brand imprint disappear!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:26 PM on June 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Dollar store cotton pads and Q tips
The cotton swabs I got at the dollar store (for travel) recently are not anywhere near as good as the name brand Q tips I have at home. The cotton is not as fluffy and feels like it will come off of the stick too easily.
posted by soelo at 3:28 PM on June 15, 2016 [16 favorites]


Lather, rinse, don't repeat.
Whipped cream cheese instead of butter on blueberry pancakes.
Celery in place of bamboo shoots.
Catsup instead of tomato paste, especially when it's mostly used for color.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:30 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Buying tea and spices at Bulk Barn. Instead of loose-leaf Earl Grey tea costing $10+, I buy enough to completely fill my tin for $3. Same thing for the bagged Orange Pekoe. Apparently a bag of bay leaves are so light they don't even register on the scale, so the cashier throws them in for free.
posted by lizbunny at 3:30 PM on June 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Nthing vegetable or nut oils for facial/makeup cleansing.
Line or rack drying vs. a dryer (better for clothes and environment).
Library for books/media. Save money and less clutter.
Yes to conditioner for shaving.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 3:41 PM on June 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just figured out that I, a petite woman, can fit into a lot of boys' size 14-16 clothes. They are the style I like, have functional pockets, are almost always machine-washable, and cost a third to half of what equivalently good clothes for me would cost. I hate that I was 31 years old before I noticed this.
posted by town of cats at 3:44 PM on June 15, 2016 [24 favorites]


Coconut oil is also a great diaper cream - much better then any of the store ones, more effective, way cheaper, smells better and less messy.

Use almost too ripe fruit to make homemade popscicles.
posted by The Shoodoonoof at 3:53 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


In a cake, I've found I like regular flour better than cake flour. When you substitute regular flour you take out 2 tablespoons per cup. The cake comes out a little denser, heavier and moister, which I like.

I like wild black raspberries and wineberries much better than the red raspberries that are so expensive at grocery stores or farm stands. Wineberries are quite possibly my favorite of all fruits, and if you live in a place where they grow wild (New Jersey, for example), you can pick all you want without paying a cent.

If you're buying books for kids, it's way cheaper to shop library book sales, thrift stores, and yard sales. But you don't just save money, you have more and better books to choose from. A lot of our family's favorites are out-of-print books I bought used that I would never have been able to find at Barnes & Noble (and wouldn't have known to look for online.)

I found a regular unstructured bra was easier to use for nursing than a nursing bra. (Just push up the cup.)

Speaking of bras, if you're a small-breasted woman you already know going without a bra is way more comfortable, but did you know there's some evidence that going braless actually makes your breasts sag less?
posted by Redstart at 3:55 PM on June 15, 2016


Nth making your own detergent. It's super cheap. You can scent it how you like.
posted by museum of fire ants at 3:59 PM on June 15, 2016


Buy mens deodorant instead of womens. It works so much better.
posted by txtwinkletoes at 4:17 PM on June 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


I've heard good things about chewing cloves for bad breath. Also, you can draw with burnt matches.
posted by Chenko at 4:19 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thrift stores are fantastic places to find all sorts of deals. I wear a lot of graphic t shirts, and many of the ones I own now are ones that my wife and I found at a local thrift shop. They cost me around 25 cents each, and they're the same quality shirts I'd find at places like JCPenneys, except far cheaper.
posted by Roger Pittman at 4:42 PM on June 15, 2016


I switched from Adobe Reader to a lightweight alternative (Sumatra) and it's fabulous. No more waiting for large documents to render!
posted by momus_window at 4:51 PM on June 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


Adding to the clothes idea above- I have a size 6 or 6 1/2 foot and I can substiute kids' *shoes* in brands like Keen that have sizes up in the 4-5 range. They are often what seems to be the same shoe, just 50% cheaper, and come in funkier colors than the women's.
posted by charmedimsure at 5:04 PM on June 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


You can saute onions (and other base veg like mushrooms, celery, peppers) with no oil. Get the pan nice and hot, add the veggies, and occasionally dribble in a tbsp or so of water to prevent sticking. Onions brown up magnificently, you save some calories.
posted by Fig at 5:06 PM on June 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


Dry shampoo is basically cornstarch, so use that. I mix mine 50/50 with bulk cinnamon to match my hair colour. I hear cocoa powder works too.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 5:12 PM on June 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


Regular deodorant instead of antiperspirant. After a couple day adjustment period, I sweat less under my arms so my shirts stay dryer and won't get pit stains.
posted by VTX at 5:16 PM on June 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I only shop sales, and have an email account dedicated to subscription emails/coupons. (I'd shop at Goodwill if I didn't live in a bedbug-ridden city. The other thing is that it's time and labour-intensive. If you're looking for specific things, you have to go often to check the stock, etc. It's always time or money.)

The cotton is not as fluffy and feels like it will come off of the stick too easily.

The swabs at my store are fine for integrity and the (presumed) cotton is fluffy enough for the task.

For showering at the gym: Johnson & Johnson's No More Tears shampoo can wash everything on your body - many functions, one bottle, ph balanced (ok for face).

For dechlorinating hair after swimming: vitamin C crystals dissolved in water, vs dedicated chlorine removal shampoos or sprays. (It's not stable, so you do have to mix a new batch every time. You can use a small batch over maybe a few days if you store it in a dark bottle, in a fridge.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:27 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just a note: I did no shampoo for several years. Not only did I end up staining all my pillowcases and chairs at head height, but my sweet family and friends who did not say anything while I was doing it, later told me that my hair looked greasy and dirty the whole time. It's a false alternative.
posted by OmieWise at 5:28 PM on June 15, 2016 [30 favorites]


Oh yeah, generic brand Pop Tarts and Malt-O-Meal brand cereals-- so much better than the name brands.

I also have several shampoos and conditioners that double or triple up on their functions-- a conditioner that is also a skin lotion and a shampoo that is also a face wash come to mind. I like them for traveling.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:11 PM on June 15, 2016


I haven't used shampoo on my hair, soap anywhere but my fecal-zones and hands, or deodorant with any regularity (if I wore pomade or makeup for a costume, for example, I might resort to it) for something like six years now. The no shampoo thing, I'm told, doesn't work for everyone, as OmieWise found, but I assure you I am neither greasy nor stinky. I still shower, scrub my hair, and so forth. My friends and family are not as sweet as OW's either and have told me before (far more frequently, in fact, before I stopped) when I was stinky, as humans occasionally are. My skin is much healthier, I get frequent compliments about my hair, and no one avoids hugging me. I'm a male.

I know from experience that people will call me a delusional liar either about whether or not I use soap, etc. or about whether or not I'm an odious beast depending on whether they've physically met me, but what I'm telling you is true.
posted by cmoj at 6:27 PM on June 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


About six months ago I read that you could use conditioner instead of shaving cream when shaving

I've been using a bar of shaving soap & a badger brush for a few years now. Williams' soap, which can be found in some CVS's or online, is cheap, lasts forever, and works up a better and longer-lasting lather than any aerosol I've ever used. Unfortunately I don't know a vegan equivalent to a badger brush.
posted by mr vino at 6:42 PM on June 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I shave with glycerine soap (Pears or bulk store) and a badger brush.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:51 PM on June 15, 2016


this is a little....personal?...private?...but peeled garlic clove for mild yeast infections works perfectly, better than store bought medications, is approximately $25 cheaper, and obviously no doctors visit necessary. I have always been skeptical of home remedies like this, but I wish someone had made me aware of this one like 3 years ago. also if it doesn't work for whatever reason, it's not like it harms you. it's just garlic.
posted by leafmealone at 7:27 PM on June 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


If you're using dryer sheets or fabric softener, stop. Seriously, stop. See the link that sparklemotion posted.

Also, along the same lines, use less laundry detergent. Take a hard look at the directions. Chances are, you're filling up the cup or scoop to the top when you're actually supposed to fill it halfway. Better for your clothes and your budget.
posted by radioamy at 8:49 PM on June 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Rescue pets are way better than breeder- or store-bought.
posted by radioamy at 8:54 PM on June 15, 2016 [31 favorites]


Bake bacon on a cookie sheet in the oven instead of frying it in a pan.
posted by ljesse at 10:44 PM on June 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


Bake bacon on a cookie sheet in the oven instead of frying it in a pan.

This, but a broiler pan.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:58 PM on June 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


> Unfortunately I don't know a vegan equivalent to a badger brush.

Synthetic shaving brushes are pretty good these days. And horse-hair brushes are also an option, these supposedly being made from equine haircuts.

For me, switching to using an old-style double-edged safety razor, in conjunction with shaving soap & a brush has made the whole shaving process not only cheaper than it was using multi-blade cartridge razors, but the results are better and the experience is more pleasant as well.
posted by misteraitch at 1:55 AM on June 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Shave after the shower, not before.
posted by Mogur at 2:41 AM on June 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


A hot water bottle and a good down blanket is cheaper and nicer than leaving your heat on at night.
posted by cotterpin at 3:27 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Regarding oven baked bacon....if you don't have a broiler pan then you can try crumpled up aluminum foil. That way, the grease pools in the divots and the bacon is suspended above it.
posted by museum of fire ants at 3:54 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


When our daughter was still a toddler, we got a set of those plastic encasements for doorknobs to keep them from turning or locking doors. They were a pain in the ass for both kids and adults, so we finally came up with an alternative: foam pipe insulation (Pool noodles would probably work too). Just cut one slit lengthwise and then cut the insulation into four inch pieces. Clamp it on top of the door. Provided you are tall enough to attach and remove with ease, it's perfection. :)
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:38 AM on June 16, 2016


Make oatmeal and Cream of Wheat with all milk instead of water. Even 1% will make a difference, as will soy milk. You'll never go back to bland, watery, hot cereal.

Diced water chestnuts instead of celery in tuna salad, especially if you don't usually have celery in the house.

This, but a broiler pan.

Or a wire cooling rack with the cookie sheet.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:23 AM on June 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


There are vanishingly few products where I can honestly perceive any quality difference between the grocery store house brand and the more expensive name brand. (Interestingly, I find Q-tips to be one of those, the last house-brand ones I got were inferior and the cotton would fall off the sticks.) It's not much money really, even combined over an entire year, but it makes me feel good to not pay for branding except in the situations where it really does indicate better quality.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:28 AM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Personal game changers:
1. Coconut oil for everything: moisturizer, lube, massage oil, cooking, shaving, hair care, EVERYTHING.
2. Parchment Paper for non-stick baking and cooking.
3. I can personally vouch for the garlic cloves for mild yeast infections. INSANE how effective it is.
4. Fennel tea instead of Gas-X - you can buy in bags from the bulk barn, or just grind up your own fennel and throw it in a teabag or infuser. Works almost immediately.
5. garden netting from the dollar store.
6. cookware from Value Village, Salvation Army or some such thing. You'll be amazed at the prices of incredible cookware.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:42 AM on June 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Just found out from my mom the other day that white vinegar-soaked paper towels on a sunburn will help take the sting out. Also makes a great daily toilet bowl cleaner! And cleaner in general. And air freshener. White vinegar for EVERYTHING, basically.
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:11 AM on June 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Now, with the caveat that the bathroom and kitchen of my London apartment are crushingly tiny, I stopped mopping recently and started cleaning my floors with a microfibre cloth on my hands and knees and I'm never going back. It takes about two minutes, tops, to do the entire floor, much less time than it would take to dig out a mop and bucket and faff around with filling it. I'm never going back to Big Mop ever again.
posted by nerdfish at 7:27 AM on June 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


A HUGE whiteboard for less than $15. Here is all you need to buy! You can have it cut into a few pieces for free at the store. As a bonus, this material's light weight makes it easier to hang/move than an actual whiteboard (Command strips work great)!
posted by Seeking Direction at 7:40 AM on June 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


derma e skincare products (vs higher-end brands that are double or triple the price) - effective formulations; the company carries all kinds of good-practice certifications; shit's cheap (comparatively, for what they offer)... every product of theirs that I've tried so far (glycolic acid toner, sunscreen, couple of eye creams) has ranged from "good" (at least on par with more expensive brands, for that type of product) to "fantastic" in quality (and effects).
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:52 AM on June 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


A 20# bag of Feline Pine cat litter costs $10. A 40# bag of wood stove pellets costs $5 (a 40# bag of equine bedding pellets, $7).

They are all the same product.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:45 AM on June 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


Line dry vs. dryer - anything with elastic, bras (so expensive), panties, tights, stretch jeans, etc., will last at least 3x as long if it never goes in the dryer.
Cloth napkins & dish towels - much more pleasant to use.
posted by theora55 at 10:45 AM on June 16, 2016


Gillette Mach 3 instead of Venus

No, Gillette and Schick are killing us. Try Dorco razors and blades. They're excellent at half the price.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:09 AM on June 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


That honking expensive (but super-great) Phillips Sonicare electric brush? Buy the children's size.

It's a lot cheaper and just as good. And when the brush-head wears out, buy the
off-brand replacements.

posted by storybored at 1:13 PM on June 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


Just found out from my mom the other day that white vinegar-soaked paper towels on a sunburn will help take the sting out.

My grandmother used to use that on me when I was a kid, so now I associate sunburns with smelling like salad. :)
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:24 PM on June 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Raw diet for my dogs. They just had a checkup today and the vet asked how I keep their teeth so clean :-)
posted by Jane Austen at 2:54 PM on June 16, 2016


Oxiclean+hot water instead of carpet cleaning solution. It's cheaper and works better than the stuff sold for home machines. Bonus: rinses easily with plain water and doesn't leave a residue. Some say vinegar & water does the same, but I haven't found this all that effective for anything tougher than superficial dirt.

Turkish towels instead of terry cloth. They're more expensive at outset but take up a fraction of the space. They produce far less lint than terry cloth, are super absorbent and soft, dry quickly and last longer.

Leggings, camisoles and tee-shirts as both layering pieces and pajamas.

Firmly waded newspaper stuffed into shoes for moisture absorption and holding the shape of leather - helps shoes last longer. Wood trees are better and more elegant, but hey, newspaper is free/nearly free.

Bialetti or similar stove top coffee maker over all others ever made. It's durable, compact and makes relentlessly delicious coffee year after year. Bonus: I'm clumsy and replacement glass carafes often cost half to two-thirds as much as the machines they came with. Double Bonus: no electrical parts that will eventually poop out = one less gizmo to take to a recycling facility or dumped into a landfill.

$3.99 stainless steel water bottles from Goodwill instead of store-bought water. Bonus: I'd have to lose 5 of these to equal the cost of losing one spiffy new $20 bottle.

The rough, uncoated side of toilette seat covers instead of blotting papers for oily skin.

Baking soda in a liquid facial cleanser as a mildly abrasive exfoliant. Bonus: no polyethylene/ polypropylene beads to poison rivers, lakes and oceans.

Stuffed animals from Goodwill for tug-of-war with my dog.

20x20 box fan + 20x20 air filter + blue painter’s tape = surprisingly effective and temporary air filter for my seasonal allergies and dog-allergic guests.

100% Citrus peel oil air freshener doubles as a mild solvent ala Goo Gone and the like.

Off-season and formal clothes hung inside pillow cases (cut a small hole in the middle of the seam for the hanger hook) instead of plastic garment bags. It protects the clothes from dust but also lets the fabric breathe.

Nthing guy deodorants – they cost about the same as the lady stuff but work better and seem to last longer.
posted by space_cookie at 3:59 PM on June 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


this is a little....personal?...private?...but peeled garlic clove for mild yeast infections works perfectly, better than store bought medications, is approximately $25 cheaper, and obviously no doctors visit necessary. I have always been skeptical of home remedies like this, but I wish someone had made me aware of this one like 3 years ago. also if it doesn't work for whatever reason, it's not like it harms you. it's just garlic.

I always used plain yogurt. Messy but very soothing and worked well for me.

My favorite walking shoes are boys Timberlakes. I'm a woman size 8 and a men's size 6.

Hydrogen peroxide for mosquito bites. Scrub it in as soon as possible. It helps take away the sting and reduces the swelling.

Yellow mustard on common kitchen burns (1st degree NOT 3rd degree) If you get it on right away it stops the pain and it usually prevents blistering. Soy sauce as well but it will leave your skin black. I slather on the mustard and wrap up with a paper towel. Leave it on for a few minutes and rinse with cold water. If the skin is still red reapply.

My mother always used corn meal in the shower back in the 60's before fancy exfoliates came out. Now that we know plastic beads are bad for the fish, it is good idea to go back to.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:07 PM on June 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Leave butter on the counter 24/7. Always easy to spread. Use a covered butter dish.
posted by qsysopr at 6:32 PM on June 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


safeway hazelnut spread > nutella
posted by wym at 12:11 AM on June 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


when the prescription meds are taking forever to kick in, one nifty home remedy for ear infections is that you warm up salt in a pan, pour it in a bandana or sock or something, wrap it into a little 'sack' and place it over the ear. Was one of the few things that brought down the swelling and pain, its pretty cool.

I use a flaxseed (or oat husk or some weird grain) warming pillow for backaches during my period. Soooo nice.

Our dog is a chompy, inhale-your-food type of eater, and we've found that just feeding him his kibble from a muffin tin slows him down considerably.

Stopped buying any kind of body/foot/facial scrubs (and hair & face masks!), they are so easy to whip up in your own kitchen (avocado, eggs, coffee grinds, sea salt, sugar, oats..) Muslin cloth is hella nice to clean your skin with too, and is sold by the yard.

Dark roast coffee instead of light (if youre making filter coffee) – a little goes a long way.
posted by speakeasy at 4:57 AM on June 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


D mannose instead of antibiotics for urinary tract infections. A doctor suggested trying it before taking the antibiotics he prescribed and I've never needed antibiotics since for my occasional uti.
posted by ch1x0r at 9:13 AM on June 17, 2016


Home-mixed glass cleaner: 45% water, 45% rubbing alcohol, 10% ammonia. (approx; I eyeball it.) rubbing alcohol & ammonia are hella cheap and the ammonia in particular lasts forever.
posted by epersonae at 10:33 AM on June 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Dollar store cotton pads and Q tips

I'm late to this conversation, but as an ENT doctor, I see patients with cotton in their ear from cheap cotton swabs about every other week. It's NEVER from brand name Q-tips. It's always the ones with the plastic handle.

(Also, don't stick Q-tips in your ears people!!)
posted by Fritzle at 10:35 AM on June 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


Windshield wiper fluid for washing house windows,

In a stained glass class we learned to use rubbing alcohol for cleaning all glass (including mirrors, and exterior house windows). Cheaper still than any sort of "purpose" cleaner, and leaves no residue.
posted by vignettist at 11:07 AM on June 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Using dehydrated onions in meatloaf (especially turkey meatloaf) will improve the texture and make it less mushy and watery than using fresh onions. I rely on Penzy's for this because their stock is fresh but I wouldn't bother with a jar that's been sitting on the grocery store shelf forever.

If you can boil water you can make fresh ricotta cheese and it will taste better than any ricotta you've ever had.

Now that window cleaner alternatives are covered, use newspaper instead of cloth to for streak- and lint-free results.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:44 PM on June 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


Our dog is a chompy, inhale-your-food type of eater, and we've found that just feeding him his kibble from a muffin tin slows him down considerably.

Our girl gets 1 cup of kibble and half a can of wet food a day. I put the wet food in an extra large Kong and freeze it. I have a couple of Kongs so one is in the freezer, the other is washed and rinsed and ready to be filled.

Speaking of our dog, she is a 70 lb Giant Schnauzer so we don't dress her up normally however when she had an accident that required stitches on her side rather than put her in a cone of shame we went to Kohl's and bought her a little girl's zip up hoody on sale for less than $10.00. Bonus: She looked adorable!

Using dehydrated onions in meatloaf (especially turkey meatloaf) will improve the texture

I use Panko crumbs rather than bread crumbs. My meatloaf recipe is very simple: panko, egg, thyme, Worcestershire, salt, and ground beef. Bake at 300 for 45 minutes.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:58 PM on June 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


Using newsprint, like newspapers, for cleaning glass instead of paper towels or rags. You can pick up the free stuff offered at the supermarket as local papers or real estate listings or whatever. It leaves a streak-free end result like nothing else I have used. I use it on both car and house windows, and it always satisfies.
posted by hippybear at 10:35 PM on June 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Double-edged safety razor for shaving your face. Blades are dirt cheap, last quite a while, and fewer blades dragging over your skin reduces razor burn.

Seconding Turkish (peshtemal) towels. I feel like they work better and they dry WAY faster so you can use them for multiple showers a day and they don't get that funky smell after a couple of days.
posted by Defective_Monk at 6:08 AM on June 18, 2016


I have to 2nd the amazingness of the pine pellet cat litter: not only are the stove pellets better than the cat-branded but pine pellets are SO MUCH less smelly than clumping clay. Your house won't stink like cat pee and the cat doesn't mind going longer between cleanings (except for poops, but we flush those).

Plain white vinegar instead of windex.

Fitness: core powerlifting exercises, and lifting heavy with a coach, instead of puttering along by myself with appendage-focused moves at low weight/high reps.

Old high-end steel-frame bikes with original components — the suburbs have amazing stuff for $50 if someone's cleaning out the old garage. As long as the frame is in good condition (mostly check for rust anywhere, stuck seatposts, or cracks/dings/bent parts). Initial setup can be done at any bike shop: new wheels maybe, puncture-proof tires definitely, and your choice of pedals, saddle, handlebars, etc. but you can get an amazing touring, commuting or racing bike that will last until you die for half or quarter the price of a new one with crappy, failure-prone components.
posted by it's FuriOsa, not FurioSA at 10:59 AM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Instead of commercial drain cleaners, try boiling water. Alternately, try a solution of baking soda and water followed by vinegar.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:53 PM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Instead of commercial drain cleaners, try boiling water.

ALWAYS TRY BOILING WATER BEFORE RESULTING TO CAUSTIC CHEMICALS DOWN YOUR DRAINS.

Most of the time it's half-solidified soap trapping hair and other goo in a tangle in the drainpipe, if it's in the bathroom. If it's a clog in your kitchen, you have easy access to the elbow bend of the pipe under your sink and you should remove that and look at it before you use any chemicals at all.

Using a giant saucepan of water boiling as hot as you can get it to boil (not just water-heater hot) will remove something like 90% of all clogs from bathtubs and showers.
posted by hippybear at 2:17 PM on June 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Reacher tool for short folks and wheelchair users. Pay lots at the drugstore, or 2/3 less at the grocery store for barbecue-length tongs: they're lighter, longer, sturdier, and have grippy tips.

Fungus/yeast prevention blow dry your toes after the shower. Also works well for skin folds (under arms, belly, et cetera).
posted by Jesse the K at 7:29 PM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


There are loads of online alternatives to Gillette Mach 3 blades that don't involve the outrageous expense and are just as good.

There are some things where only the original will do, though. Heinz baked beans and Heinz tomato ketchup. Lea & Perrin Worcestershire Sauce. Imitators of those can GITS.

On and coal tar\carbolic soap. Actually gets you clean, smells clean and has a mild antiseptic effect. Forget all that perfumed gel pump dispenser crap.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:31 AM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Avoid putting detergents on your skin if you have sensitive skin. Avoid using soap on your face. Don't use shower gel, use soap instead. Skin is healthier and less prone to infection, moisturiser is not required to compensate for the drying effect of the detergents, so you can moisturise less frequently.

Use a step stool instead of a squatty potty. Half the price, has two steps so can be used by small people and children as well as taller people. As it is a step stool it can be used for all the things that you would use a step stool for!
posted by asok at 4:16 AM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fitted sheets are a frustration with no advantages. Life is simpler when the bottom sheet is just a large sheet that you fold and tuck in.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:19 AM on June 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is kind of basic, but bar soap works wonderfully with those loofah puff things (and Salux cloths, and anything else you might wash yourself with) I always thought they had to be used with liquid soap/bath gel. Not the case. A whole world of lovely handmade soap opened up for me.
posted by Fig at 10:00 AM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I used to buy Buf Puf exfoliating sponges for the shower. Then I found it hard to find the really scrubby kind anymore, so I started buying Scotch Brite sponges instead (either the yellow/green kind or the "natural" kind made of agave fiber and coconut husks). They're very scrubby and last a long time. I have pretty sensitive skin but don't find them irritating at all.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:39 AM on June 20, 2016


Vinegar is better than bleach for removing mold from walls and other objects. It stays gone for much longer.

A quick reminder to AVOID MIXING BLEACH AND VINEGAR. (Don't apply bleach to the wall before the vinegar evaporates, if it doesn't work well enough. Don't use both in a load of laundry.) Even moreso for AMMONIA AND BLEACH.

Unfortunately I don't know a vegan equivalent to a badger brush.

It'd look a little funny in the bathroom, but a round silicone pastry brush would probably work.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:52 AM on June 21, 2016


Regarding oven baked bacon....if you don't have a broiler pan then you can try crumpled up aluminum foil. That way, the grease pools in the divots and the bacon is suspended above it.

Small stainless steel rack (borrowed from your toaster-oven, or a small baking/cooling rack) over a cookie sheet covered with (flat) aluminum foil works fine.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:14 AM on June 21, 2016


Even better than Sal Army & routine thrifts, in my experience: Craigslist and consignment stores. Basically, I live my life on a razor budget but love beautiful, well-made things that last and last because they aren't modern petroleum-based cheap fabric or thinly veneered particleboard.

You have to live in a city with a professional class of some size for this to work, but I find here in PDX: people follow fashion a lot to the joy and enrichment of me via Craigslist. Right now, for instance, china sets? You can barely give them away because people don't want to deal with delicate plates when moving and other factors make fragile items risky. But if vintage china's cheap, you don't have to give a shit if you chip or drop the occasional plate, and then you have the joy of daily eating on beauty instead of mass-produced plainness. Other out-of-fashion vintage trends I've found, at least here: china cabinets (easily repurposed as bookcases or for other storage); hope chests (ideal for storing bed linens right at the foot of the bed which is great if you don't have closet space); and glass (Depression, milk, all kinds -- for lovely vases, gifts of flowers, etc.)

Likewise, I buy almost all my clothes via consignment, which is often extraordinarily cheap for the quality on display. No more dragging through endless piles of trash to find gems; someone else with good taste did it for me, and as a result I can afford classic well made fabrics for not much more than I'd spend at a big box shit clothes store. So I've got a closet full of cashmere, merino wool, fine grain leather, and actual silks and heavy satins that otherwise I'd never afford, even at deep discount in normal retail. And I don't have to feel bad about any of it, including the animal products, because they've already been through their life as capital and are now either going on someone's back or into a landfill.

If you don't have access to a robust city full of moneyed buyers: there are tons of online consignments now and ways to bypass retail space and buy direct from makers. I don't have a great list because my location renders them unnecessary, but my favorite I-can't-find-it-near retail space is Etsy and most particularly, their overseas sellers. I'm talking about a woman who lives in France and makes or finds incredible jewelry to sell for a fraction of even what you'd get through a "lightning deal" on a more traditional site like Amazon. Same goes for the lady in Poland from whom I've bought real linen sheets, the brilliant collector of traditional timepieces from London where I will one day purchase an art deco-era watch (if the stars align, let it be Cartier), or the Icelandic family who makes incredible sheepskin rugs from their own well-treated sheep. All of it, vastly affordable and comparable to sale retail prices for vastly inferior goods. Yeah, I'm not linking for a reason: these people are mine own, and it took a lot of hunting and wading through less lovely sellers to find them. Some of them are quite popular, but they start small and that's when the buying's best. You'll find yours, if you make the time.

Basically: If someone else has sat upon or worn or stored their stuff in an object before I see it, that's the thing I want. For the past 10 years, literally not one item over $20 in our home has been purchased new and our stuff is way, way nicer than our actual incomes would suggest we could afford. Long live vintage and the second-hand market because it's made our lives far more beautiful than they'd otherwise ever be.
posted by melissa may at 8:28 AM on June 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


ALWAYS TRY BOILING WATER BEFORE RESULTING TO CAUSTIC CHEMICALS DOWN YOUR DRAINS.

OMG guys, my tub was mysteriously backed up last night and my building maintenance sucks and never showed, and I tried a big pot of boiling water at midnight and It Totally Worked. Thanks SemiSalt and hippybear!
posted by jabes at 9:39 AM on June 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


You guys are just wonderful. Thanks to everyone for the great contributions to this thread!
posted by amicamentis at 10:02 AM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've got one more, just discovered this weekend: that weird Ezekiel bread in the freezer section at the store? Super delicious! I like it even better than the big-brand multi-grain. It somehow has a lighter, fluffier taste to it. I thought it'd be super heavy and dense, but no - quite the opposite.
posted by Fig at 10:41 AM on June 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


A (very small) amount of dish washing liquid works in a washing machine, with a dash of vinegar as fabric softener.

Furniture, especially large furniture, is incredibly cheap second hand.
posted by kjs4 at 5:03 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sugar in oil as a facial exfoliate and cleanser. I had problems with very dry patches on oily skin until I started using this, and now my skin is gorgeous. I use olive oil, a little more oil than it takes to cover the sugar. You can also use salt.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:05 AM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Avocado oil instead of olive oil. It tastes so good, it's smoother, less of a bite to it than olive oil. Great for dipping bread into -- gawd. Really great in salads, great to cook with. And it's full of that super good-guy fat, the omega 3 stuff.

I'm sure really hot water is A Good Solution for clogged tubs and/or sinks or whatever, but don't overlook just wailing away on it with a plunger. Don't be shy -- get after it.

Do you have a garbage disposal in your kitchen and it doesn't work anymore? Turn the switch to "On" and get inside that cabinet under the sink and bonk the disposal unit with a hammer. Or a heavy kitchen knife (reversed -- doh). Like with the plunger, don't be shy -- wail on it. Alternately, you can shove the hammer handle (or a long, heavy-duty screwdriver) down into the disposal and start smacking shit around inside of it, though you'll want to switch set to "Off" unless it's a wood hammer handle.

I got beaten to the punch by hippybear about using newsprint to clean windows -- it's the best that there is. No smears. No nothing. Clean glass, that's all.

I'm 6'5" tall and weigh like 195, clothes are impossible for me. I've had to become friends with tailors. But with that caveat, thrift stores have just opened wide for me. I **love** to buy these hideous (mens or womens) silk shirts from the 1970s and have the tailor take off the collar (and reverse the buttons so they are on the correct side if it's a womans shirt) and take them in where they need taken in and now I've got this one of a kind shirt that everybody digs. Of course the sleeves are too damn short so I roll them up past my elbows and have the tailor tack them there with a few stitches. I wore a womans shirt a couple of nights ago (buttons reversed, banded collar, sleeves tacked) and everybody is all like "What a great shirt! Where'd you get that shirt?!?" and when I tell them it's a gals shirt they don't believe me. It's fun.

Also. About a million years ago I dated a photographer and she gave me The News -- thrift store silk shirts for a buck or two, cut them up, you now have the best lens cleaner you can get your hands on. Great on sunglasses, reading glasses, any lenses. Obv you want to blow off any grit first, but then use the silk pieces, gets every bit of oil and/or dust. (Really, you can't *believe* how well it sucks up oil off glasses). Wash it with dish soap, dries in about ten minutes, back into your pack or pocket.

Use http://www.goodrx.com/ to get the best prices on medications. It costs you nothing to use it; my shrink told me about it. It's astonishing to me, the difference in price from one pharmacy to the next. And no rhyme or reason, a pharmacy might be insanely expensive on this on drug and pennies on the next one. Use goodrx to get the best deal.

Speaking of goodrx, you can buy Viagra for about seventeen thousand dollars a pill or you can get your doc to write you a scrip for sildenafil, the generic for Viagra, costs next to nothing compared. (There are as yet no generics for Cialis yet, but there is an drug manufacturer in India that makes it and ships it to the USofA, pennies on the dollar.) From what I've heard -- *I* of course would *never* use these drugs -- from what I've heard, these drugs are *not* just about having a stiffie but also to intensify the entire experience; I've been told it's like being sixteen years old again. That doesn't hold any interest for *me* of course; I'm just telling you in case you maybe know someone who might find that of interest.....
posted by dancestoblue at 3:11 AM on July 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


1. A cup full of teaspoons on my countertop. Three boxes from Ikea, 18 total, shoved in a cute mug and in perpetual use for stirring and dipping and opening. They can be tripled up for tablespoon-worths, and replace a fair amount of other minor implements.
2. Never buy unsalted butter. Just eliminate the salt from the baking recipe to counter it.
3. Children's toothbrushes for a small jaw/sensitive teeth. I switched about five years ago and not only do my teeth no longer hurt while brushing due to the gentler bristles and tinier head that fits better so my dentist is happier, I get to pick between a purple monster or spiderman toothbrush! They're usually cheaper too.
4. For kids - toy rental companies. Not for small items, but massive value for the big playsets where you can return them when the child outgrows that stage or loses interest. Excellent for trialling baby items too.
5. Replace wire and plastic hangers with thick hangers - wood or padded cloth - so none of your tops have pokey bits where a hanger stuck in them, and you can hang matching pants on the bar below if needed.

And I searched the thread, but have not seen the perennial favourite of the electric kettle, if you are using a stovetop kettle which I understand from careful explanation is not a hipster affection but an actual everyday item that Americans use because they heat their water with fire routinely. An electric kettle boils water at a touch of a button safely in like, a minute. I used to have a wee travel one to take with me so I could have hot soup/eggs/tea/coffee anywhere with an outlet.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:13 AM on July 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


Do you have a garbage disposal in your kitchen and it doesn't work anymore? Turn the switch to "On" and get inside that cabinet under the sink and bonk the disposal unit with a hammer. Or a heavy kitchen knife (reversed -- doh). Like with the plunger, don't be shy -- wail on it.

A while back I had repeated problems with mine, and I learned that there's a way to override (or reset?) a jammed garbage disposal. On mine, there's a place underneath the unit where you just need to wiggle a hex wrench back and forth a few times. (With the unit turned off.)

After my building sent someone out a few times to fix my disposal and I saw how easy it was,, I suggested to the handyman that if he left behind the hex wrench I could do it myself and save them time and money. The hex wrench now lives under the sink, taped to the garbage disposal for quick access.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:22 AM on July 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


thrift store silk shirts for a buck or two, cut them up, you now have the best lens cleaner you can get your hands on

They are also great for polishing leather and wood. The silk heats up a bit, which makes for a better shine.
posted by jgirl at 12:20 PM on July 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I used to have a wee travel one to take with me so I could have hot soup/eggs/tea/coffee anywhere with an outlet.

All the amazon reviews tend to make them sound like they either taste like plastic or will probably burn your house down/explode in your face/dump boiling water on you.

Do you have one you like?
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:45 PM on July 2, 2016


The utility of an electric kettle is pretty different depending on the voltage of your mains power. UK is higher, and works better. US is lower and does not.
posted by OmieWise at 4:04 PM on July 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Someone else's internet advice that worked for me: In the auto section, Walmart sells microfiber cloths for washing cars, cleaning windshields, etc. They are perfect for cleaning tablet screens. I also use them for eyeglasses. Cost is about $3 for eight.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:10 PM on July 2, 2016


Mine was just the cheapest no-brand kettle at the local store, a dinky wee thing that boiled a big mug fast. Sweethome has a rundown of electric kettles for the US market.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:43 PM on July 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


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