Because we haven’t been buying stuff this year and because food is sometimes hard to come by without packaging, we’ve ended up making lots of things from scratch.

For those who want to follow along, here’s a list of  “recipes” for some of the DIY projects we’ve done so far.  (I’m not going to include all the things I bake since I am a rabid baker, and the list wold be way too long.  I’m just going to include the things that we would usually buy, but have started to make to cut down on packaging)

Around the House

toothpaste 6 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
4 tsp glycerin
15 drops peppermint or wintergreen extract Mix thoroughly. Should be a tooth paste consistency. Store in a container. You’ll be surprised with how fresh your mouth feels.
laundry soap There are numerous recipes out there.  Click here for 10 of them.  Right now I’m using this one (don’t be turned off by the strange texture, it does work):Hot water (about 2 gallons -7.5 litres)
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
1/3 bar Soap (grated)Heat 2 litres of water with the other ingredients in a big pot until soap is melted.  Pour 2 litres hot water into a 2 gallon pail.  Add soap mixture.  Top up pail up with cold water.  Use 1/2 c per load.
all-purpose cleaner we use vinegar and baking soda for most everything


yogurt 1 litre of milk
1/4 c powdered milk (optional)
2 TBSP of yogurt with active culture
1 packet of yogurt starterHeat milk in a pan to 185F (85C -frothy but not boiling). Cool it in a cold water bath to 110F(43C). Add powdered milk (I didn’t do this step). Add yogurt or starter to milk. Pour into an insulated jar (a mason jar wrapped in a heating pad or towel works well). Put in a warm spot like the top of the fridge or a heating vent for 7 hours or so. Refrigerate and, once cold, enjoy.
soy milk 6 c water or so
TBSP sugar
pinch of salt Soak the soybeans in water overnight. Put beans in a blender, cover with water and blend into a liquid. Put liquid into a large pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 min. Strain through cheesecloth and put into jars and into the fridge. The leftover soy pulp can be used in muffins and such or put into the compost.
watch a video here
bread I honestly usually use the recipe from the book that came with the breadmaker.  There are tons of recipes online as well.  I just put it in here because I’m damn proud of how we’ve jumped on board with making bread which is something we NEVER did before.  We still buy about 50% of our bread (but always without a bag)
soda bread I love this recipe because it is easy and requires no rising time. Makes great, hearty bread to go with soup or salad or have as toast. Not really sandwich style.
5c (1.25 kg) whole wheat flour
2c all purpose flour (+ about 1 cup for kneading)
1/2 TBSP salt
4 TBSP honey
1 litre (1 quart) buttermilk (I use regular milk with vinegar added)
1 TBSP baking soda
-Preheat oven to 350F
-Combine dry ingredients
-Add honey and buttermilk. Dough should be very soft, very moist, and a bit sticky.
-Turn out onto floured board and knead until dough gathers into a ball (add about 1 cup more of flour during kneading)
-Divide into 2 round loaves (I do mine oblong)
-Place in a rectangular pan that has been buttered and floured. Loaves should be close or touching.
-Bake for 1 hour
pita Instead of writing this out, I’ll just direct you to the Sugarlaws website which I love. This pita bread takes less than 1 1/2 hrs start to stomach, and I’ve used it for pitas, cheesy bread sticks, and pizza dough. I always make a double batch.
seedy crisps (crackers) These are THE crackers. I’m not sure of the origin of this recipe, but I got it from my lovely co-worker Emilie.5 oz (1 c) whole wheat flour
4 3/4 oz (little less than 1 c) all purpose flour
1/3 c poppy seeds
1/3 c sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 TBSP olive oil
6 1/2 oz (about 3/4 c) water
-Mix the ingredients together and knead 4 or 5 times.
-divide the dough into 8 pieces, cover with a tea towel, and let sit for 15 minutes.
-set the oven to 450F
-roll the cracker dough out (a pasta roller works great for this), place on cookie sheets, score with knife or a pizza roller, optionally brush with olive oil.
->For a thin snack cracker, roll 1/16″ thick, bake 4 min, flip, bake 2-3 min more.
->For a thicker dipping cracker, roll 1/8″ thick, back 6 min, flip, bake 6 min more.
pasta 1 c semolina flour
water This is vague, but it’s how I was taught. Slowly add water a TBSP at a time and mix with your hand until dough forms a firm ball. Kneed dough for 5 min and then let rest for 5 min. Roll dough out very thin- much thinner than you think (keep powdered with regular flour). Slice into long thin strips (fettuccine style) and boil for 5 min.
granola bars More specifically, these are Rowena’s Granola Bars (from my friend Rowena).  Feel free to substitute any kinds of nuts, seeds, or dried fruit.

1 cup brown sugar
2/3 c peanut butter
1/2 c light corn syrup
1/2 c melted butter
2 tsp vanilla
3 c quick cooking oats
1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c unsalted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1/2 c  raisins or other dried fruit
1/2 c wheat germ
2 TBSP sesame seeds
1 c semi sweet chocolate chips

Mix together in the order given.
Press into a 9 x 13″ pan.
Bake at 350 F for 15-20 min

granola My mom clipped this fabulous recipe out of a newspaper (maybe the Vancouver Sun?  Feel free to let me know if you are aware of its true origin).  I substitute liberally in this recipe, using any kind of nuts or dried fruit I have on hand.  It always works out.

4 c (1L) large flake rolled oats
1 c (250 mL) coarsely chopped almonds
1 c (250 mL) coarsely chopped hazelnuts
1 c (250 mL) unsweetened coconut
1/2 c (125 mL) shelled sunflower seeds
1/2 c (125 mL) wheat bran
1/2 c (125 mL) brown sugar
1/2 c (125 mL) maple syrup
1/3 c (75 mL) butter
1/2 c (125 mL) chopped dried apricots
1/2 c (125 mL) dried cranberries or raisins

In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, hazelnuts, coconut, sunflower seeds, and wheat bran.
-In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, maple syrup, and butter.  Bring to a boil.  Toss with oat mixture.

-Spread on baking sheet
and bake in a 325F/160C oven for 30-35 minutes until lightly toasted.

canned fruit
butter Whole milk
pinch of salt (optional) Whip your milk until it turns into butter.  (you can also do it by putting it into a jar and shaking it like crazy)

Gifts and Other Stuff

dress-up princess crown Scrap materialI used gold quilted material and sewed two pieces together and turned them inside out to get a crown that was gold on both sides.  I used elastic on the back and hand sewed “gems” and trim.  Buttons make good gems if the kids are old enough notto eat them.
knitted toque This is a pretty girly toque, but it’s one of my favorites.  It’s officially called a Lace Slant Hat, and I got the pattern here.
tin can star ornaments I snagged this idea from here and used it to garnish my Christmas gifts.
finger paint 3 cups water
1 cup cornstarch
food coloringI made three colours out of this recipe, but I did find that the dried paint was pretty transparent. I’d be tempted to add some flour for base next time.
growth chart We used a found scrap board from a bed, used a jigsaw to cut out a castle shape on the top, and painted it with paints we had around the house

28 responses to “DIY

  1. Thanks for all the info & links! “We are big do it youselfers” I love the holiday stars, we will be making those! A lot of great links here thanks for the reminders of preserving Mother Earth!

  2. WOW, great ideas!! 🙂

    How much pasta do you get if you do it this way? (One lunch for 2 or 3 people or…?)
    We’ve done pasta before (recipe with eggs, but it was odd..Am definitely looking for better recipes!!:))

    Also, how much soy beans do you start with? 1 cup too? just curious..

    And as for butter – isn’t it necessary to have just cream to turn into butter (that’s how I was taught..) – does it really work with just whole milk too?!! (What percentage of fat is it, approximately? Or just fresh milk from cow? That’s how we get it too, but, for butter we used cream before-?!)

    Looking forward to recipe for granola bars too!!

    • I’ll have to estimate on the amounts here.
      -I think 1 1/2 c of flour yields about 4 portions of pasta. I’ll double check next time I make it. We made it with regular flour and eggs before, but the semolina with water only is much better in our experience.
      -soy beans – yup 1 cup does it.
      -you’re right. It’s just cream that turns into butter. I read on another blog that you could use “whole milk”, but I wasn’t sure if it would whip, so I actually used whipping cream. In truth, the butter I made did not keep as well as store bought butter, so I haven’t made it again.
      -granola bar recipe coming soon!

      • Thanks!! 🙂

        We’ve tried making homemade butter inbetween – good results! (we eat it all quickly & make just small amounts – as byproduct from milk we get from a local farmer, so it’s doable.. :))

        /I’m still curious about that other blog that says to use ‘whole milk’? Can you post a link?/

        Haven’t dared to make pasta yet, so please do tell how you make it 🙂
        Any ideas, could just ordinary/wholewheat flour be used with just water too?
        (not sure if we have semolina here in Slovenia, or what it would be called – is it like bigger particles of flour/grits/German Griess?
        there seems some confusion in this area! )

        Looking forward to granola bar recipe! 🙂
        /my sis still keeps buying store-bought ones/chocolates, sigh! – I want to bribe her with something that is zero waste!! 🙂 /

        Oh, & thank you for continuing to be our inspiration!! 🙂

      • Leanne Allen

        Hi Jen (and Layla),

        Great movie last night (saw it in Kimberley and hung out with you a bit afterward :-).

        Jen, you need to wash the butter after you churn it – and FOR SURE, keep the buttermilk for some wicked buttermilk pancakes.

        But if you don’t wash all the buttermilk out of the butter, it will go rancid on you (most likely why it didn’t keep as well as store-bought).

        Simply run cold water over it and through it while mixing and mixing, until the water runs clean. No storage or keeping issues at all!

        I make all of our own butter and bread, and they are double fantastic together.

        Good luck with your ride, and I look forward to seeing you again in Kimberley.

        p.s. you can do the deodorant thing! Give it a shot! Your body might thank you (with no smell!)


      • Good tip about the butter, Leanne – I had no idea you had to wash it. No wonder it wasn’t lasting.
        Deodorant – I have been going the last couple days without it like you recommended, but let me tell you – it ain’t pretty. I think I’m back to the baking soda method.

  3. I have been using soap/borax/washing soda to do laundry for about 6 months now and it’s AMAZING! It really gets clothes cleaner than the detergent does, plus it’s cheaper and better for the environment. I have discovered, though that after a while you can get a bit of soap scum buildup. I’ve remedied this by adding some vinegar to the rinse. I actually do all my laundry by hand these days with grey water from bathing, so it’s no biggie to do 2 rinse cycles.

    Here are the details of my crazy eco-washing method in case anybody’s curious:

  4. Whoa! Doing laundry by hand? I’m impressed. Thanks for the vinegar tip. In general I’m very happy with my homemade detergent. A few towels get “the towel smell”, but I think that was from long ago anyway.

    • I think the soap scum thing might depend on your water… I’ve read that if you have hard water (which we do) then soap won’t rinse completely clean, but if you don’t, then it rinses clean just fine. I have no idea why that is, but it seems to hold true.

      Loving your blog BTW – can’t wait for the film!

  5. TA

    I’ve also made the granola/cereal but I use shortening instead of butter (then there’s no taste) and honey instead sugar & syrup (pre-digested glucose etc). It works amazingly!

  6. James

    I’ve made butter by taking 500 ml of whipping cream and putting it in a mason jar with a marble and shaking it for 20 mins. It’s like magic!

  7. Heather

    do you have a place for bulk milk? We always recycle the cartons and tetrapaks(almond milk) but wondered if such a place existed for bulk dairy milk. I would love to make my own butter and have been making yogurt with coconut milk.

    • We get our milk in glass bottles from Avalon Dairy (we just buy it at the grocery store and drop off bottles for a $1 deposit when we’re done with them. They’re the only place around here that offers refillable milk this way. I know some farms offer a cow share where you buy part ownership in a cow and then can get milk every month.

  8. Ivy

    Have you heard of the people towels? ( You probably have. I’m going to custom design everyone in my family a towel, they’re reusable and cut back the waste made from napkins and paper towels.

  9. Marie

    I happenned to be at the right place at the right time today as my two passions, health and education, collided! I was supply teaching in an elementary school today in which the school was attending an Eco Film Festival put on by the local highschool students. Your film was one of the highlights of my day and I found it extremely inspiring!

    In regards to making things from scratch, I think it’s a great idea as well as a healthy alternative! I have just started looking into this myself (in order to avoid synthetic ingredients and chemicals) so I appreciate all the resources you have provided because it gives people that first step they need to get started!

    I think one of the most important items you make yourself is the toothpaste. In the movie, the dentist comments on how you need sodium fluoride to protect your teeth (despite the fact that your teeth were in great condition). I just wanted to mention, if you weren’t already aware, that this is a huge misconception which is starting to come out of the closet as research is proving that this toxic substance in fact degrades our health more than it does promote it. Sodium fluoride is leading to dental fluorosis (white dots on teeth which I am personally afflicted by) and skeletal fluorosis (degredation of the bones). In addition, it is also an environment threat because this chemical does not break down so it is ending up in natural waterways. This substance is found in toothepaste, mouthwash, and it’s also added to public water (if your municipality chooses to pay ridiculous amounts of tax-payers money to recycle this hazardous waste product) so therefore people are mass medicated against their own knowledge! Did you know that showering in water which is fluoridated is equivalent to drinking two glasses of water? Here is a great website for anyone who is concerned and looking for more info:

    I know Grant didn’t like the toothpaste made from scratch but at least in the long run you are promoting your own health as well as protecting the environment! Maybe your next movie could be “The Clean Water Project”!

  10. DK

    Hey, I remember in your film you made homemade shaving cream and deodorant that seemed to work really well. Do you have instructions for these?


  11. jlincezdan

    Where do you get your glycerin, and so that it’s cost-effective?

    • I get it in a glass bottle at Famous Foods. It’s just a few dollars. However, recently we switched out toothpaste to using tooth soap which I get in a refillable glass eye dropper container from The Soap Dispensary.

  12. Tasha

    I was completely inspired by your movie. I will never use a one time use container again. I am bringing my own containers for left over food from now on. I was wondering if you had a pattern for sewing cloth bags for groceries. I will be making reusable cloth wrapping for Christmas presents. I absolutely loved that idea and can’t wait to get my entire family on board.
    Thank you for all the great ideas!

    • Thanks for your feedback – so glad our story inspired you! I don’t have a specific pattern for sewing cloth bags, we just estimated the size and made sure to use French seams for strength. Best of luck with your new projects/lifestyle!

  13. Maeve Doyle

    I am going to try making the Granola Bars!

  14. Jo

    The toothpaste recipe doesn’t include fluoride. Surely this is necessary to avoid tooth decay. How do you get around this?

    • Our dentist said that because my teeth are quite hard and I get very few cavities, I did not need flouride in my toothpaste. However, you can buy flouride drops at the drugstore to add (I don’t know of a zero waste option for this). I know some people are against flouride, but if you are talking about developing teeth (ie children) or are prone to cavities, you might want it. I’d check with your dentist.

  15. I want to make everything on this list, thanks for posting it. I use baking soda to clean most everything too.

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