I hate going shopping for household items like toiletries, paper goods, health and beauty items. The reason I despise it so much is that I know it will suck up a lot of my monthly grocery budget. Even though I don't go through it very fast, it still is a downer to know that I need to buy them.

Because of this, I was thinking about ways I could cut back on my non-food budget and found a few ideas that may work for me, some I will have to try out and others I are not for me, though they may be right up your alley.

Hair Products - As you may remember I started using my own home-made shampoo and rinse and after a month I have some results. It works well with some tweaking. My hair is naturally pretty oily so I have stopped using the vinegar rinse and use only the baking soda mix - I have changed the shampoo a bit from 1:3 part baking soda to 1½.

Toilet Paper - The absolute best way to cut down would be to use cloths and have a diaper pail handy to put it in, then toss in the washing machine. However, this is not my thing. I have a mental block on this one. Instead I smoosh down the t.p so it doesn't spin off the roll as easily. I have also found that bulk buying of t.p is usually the best  price per roll. Occasionally coupons and sales will make the grocery store a better deal.

Toothbrush and Toothpaste - I used to go all out with sample toothpaste, but the stuff stacking up and falling over under my sink drove me away from them. Now I find BOGO (buy one get one) coupons/sales that knock the price of the toothpaste down 50-75%
I haven't bought a toothbrush in a couple years. My dentist is nice to give me a couple each time I visit.

Deodorants - I haven't picked up on the deodorant stone and have instead found economic satisfaction with coupons for BOGO items and sales, same as the toothpaste.

Feminine Products - A couple ways to cut back is to use either use the Diva cup or Gladrags as an alternative to buying and tossing. This allows you to use, wash and reuse as needed with minimal affect on the budget. Personally I haven't jumped into these either, but would consider them a possibility. Here is my review of Gladrags.

Paper Towels - I do have a few rolls of paper towels, but one roll easily lasts a month or two in my home. Instead I use cloth towels, rags and washcloths for cleanup and drying. It doesn't add much to the washer load, I just need space to store them and have them for easy access.

Soaps - For hand soap I use bottles of body soap or 'designer' soaps, and I drop them into a liquid soap dispenser for my hands. I seem to accumulate these around the holidays so I haven't bought much soap.

For dish soap I do purchase soap from the store with coupons or in the bulk section. I am going to be trying to make my own dish soap in the future and will let you know.

As far as washing soap goes, it was tried and disliked by my partner who does most all the clothes washing. At least it was given a try - instead I get coupons where I can. But making your own washing machine soap would impact your grocery budget very quickly as you can mix up gallons of the stuff for less then what you would pay in the store.

Plastic Bags - I don't wash out plastic sandwich baggies as I don't use them, I always use plastic containers that I can reuse. The plastic baggies that are used are tossed because they are used for meat and poultry products and I would rather toss than reuse them. Since these are so rarely used I purchase a box 2-3 times a year for my needs.

Coffee filters - I don't drink coffee a lot, I make a 10 cup container to last for a couple of days and I don't drink it on the weekends. However, I do have on my list to buy a reusable coffee filter for my coffee maker.

OTC Medicines - I am a store brand groupie all the way when it comes to OTC (over-the-counter) medicines. If you put the store and name brand items side by side, the ingredients look the same and the price difference is a few dollars for each item.  Rarely have I found a store brand that is more expensive than a name brand with a coupon even.

Cleaning products - I'm using up my current cleaning products and will be going with some home-made stuff in the future. But really baking soda, salt, vinegar and ammonia are some of the cheapest cleaning products out there and they do just as good a job as others.

The ways I save on household items:
  • Store brands over name brands
  • Use up the last little bit
  • Add water to extend the life
  • Buy at dollar stores
  • Use rebate offers ( I received free tinfoil and plastic bags this way)
  • Make my own
  • Buy Bulk (check price breakdown)
  • Use coupons, BOGO and sales
  • Look for alternative, reusable ways 
What ways have you found to cut back on your household items?


  1. Katie // Wednesday, September 30, 2009 1:33:00 PM  

    If you're looking for alternatives to feminine products, I can't recommend the Diva Cup enough. I've had mine for a year and a half, and I love it. It's got a pricy start-up cost, but you earn in back many many times over. Plus, I find it very easy to use, and comfortable. I also find that I have to empty it less often than I would have to change other products. It's less messy too. So, overall, it's definitely worth it.

  2. Anonymous // Wednesday, September 30, 2009 1:43:00 PM  

    I'm not sure if I agree with your suggestion to buy these types of goods at dollar stores. Smaller sizes for most products, especially the name brand products, negate much of the savings you get from a lower price, unless it's an item you never are able to fully use before you throw it out. You might be able to find a larger size of a generic brand, but brand names in dollar stores seems to be the trend as of late.

  3. Anonymous // Wednesday, September 30, 2009 7:52:00 PM  

    I stock up on baking soda and vinegar at my local warehouse club, and supplement the baking soda when needed with borax (commonly sold in the "20 Mule Team" box). Baking soda + borax makes a great scrub for sinks, tubs, and toilets; baking soda followed by vinegar and super hot water keeps drains clear and non-stinky. For countertops, Method 'Naked' cleaning spray.

  4. Dara Laine // Wednesday, September 30, 2009 11:36:00 PM  

    This is an AMAZING post. Thank you so much. I am moving into my house tomorrow and have to basically start from scratch. Thank you again!!

  5. Lulu // Thursday, October 01, 2009 8:39:00 AM  

    When I first started reading this post I thought that you were going to stop shopping....but then I see that you do mention using coupons.

    Are you a member of CVS? I have found that you can get a LOT of those items for just a few cents by combining CVS sales with coupons....hence the time I had about 14 tubes of toothpaste (hee hee).

    Adding ammonia (a few cents gets you a large bottle) to the laundry detergent helps clean and soften your clothes as well!!!!!

  6. Dawn // Thursday, October 01, 2009 9:04:00 AM  

    Thank you for your recommendation, personal experience is always helpful

    I'm not a big fan of trial sizes simply for the room they take up and the trash they make. I prefer bigger bottles - I always find a way to use up a product it seems

    Thank you for the cleaning tips, I always forget about Borox

    @Dara Laine
    You are welcome :)

    Oh I could never stop shopping!
    We don't have a CVS out here in Colorado, we do have Walgreens and Rite Aid (though only Walgreens is around my neck of the woods)
    I use vinegar myself to soften up clothes and remove static cling.

  7. Lawrence // Saturday, October 03, 2009 10:43:00 AM  

    I bet it would be a smash hit if someone started selling tooth paste by the gallon with some way to refill the tube.

  8. www.freebieshark.com // Sunday, October 04, 2009 2:58:00 PM  

    I really enjoyed this, thanks!

  9. Anonymous // Monday, October 19, 2009 6:30:00 PM  

    We use a french press to make coffee, thereby eliminating the need for coffee filters. You can get a nice, basic Bodum at Target for $19.99. Coffee in a french press tastes great, is hotter than my old coffee maker and I think I waste less since I make less.

  10. Dawn // Monday, October 19, 2009 6:41:00 PM  

    That WOULD be a smash hit- you should start looking into that and then you could be a millionaire or better!


    I drink about 4 cups of coffee in a week, so I don't make too much of it - but might be an idea for another day.

  11. Anonymous // Tuesday, November 17, 2009 3:01:00 PM  

    I am a huge fan of Rite Aid Single check rebates. I haven't paid for toothpaste or toothbrushes for months this way. Items are often free by rebate and the store still allows you to use a coupon. Or items are free by combining coupons and rebates.

  12. Hot Deals // Thursday, November 19, 2009 1:34:00 AM  

    I think it's an item you never are able to fully use before you throw it out. You might be able to find a larger size of a generic brand, but brand names in dollar stores seems to be the trend as of late.

  13. BlueBazu // Wednesday, April 07, 2010 1:31:00 PM  

    Regarding feminine hygiene products: I have never liked the feel of pads, so I've always used tampons. That is until I found the Keeper at my local co-op. I was unconvinced, but was totally sold after trying it for one cycle. I eventually had to change to a Diva Cup (I'm allergic to latex) but I love that product just as much. I can carry the Diva Cup with me all month and have it ready whenever I start. It doesn't take up a large amount of space and I create NO waste. I also don't have to buy ANY products at all! I love the frugality of it!

  14. Jessica // Friday, April 23, 2010 6:54:00 AM  

    For toilet paper alternative - how about a peri bottle? I still have mine from the birth of my two girls. Squirt a little water and dry naturally. Supplement with tp as neccessary (lol!). But serioulsy, I love my peri bottle.

  15. Kellyann Brown // Wednesday, June 16, 2010 12:23:00 AM  

    to the fascination of my brother-in-law, we bought a "biffy" bidet attachment to our toilet, which cleans w/o toilet paper.

    Instead of putting off buying non-food items, I put them on a rotation schedule so that no more than 10% of my grocery budget is non-food. That way, one big-ticket item (such as laundry soap or toothpaste and deoderant) is bought and doesn't break the bank.

    I am using the rinse water from my clothes washing to water my tomatoes and flowers (water is a big buck item in our area). Using the gray water reminds me not to use too much soap! I don't use a fabric softener either.

  16. Kitty // Thursday, June 17, 2010 1:33:00 PM  

    Wish I could figure out how to save the rinse water. that would be so great in the dry summers when we're not supposed to water the garden.

  17. Dawn // Thursday, June 17, 2010 1:53:00 PM  

    Left over water from boil food or from showers can be used without hurting the garden

  18. Kitty // Thursday, June 17, 2010 2:29:00 PM  

    good idea. I can't figure out how to collect Laundry water, but I could just put the plug in for my shower and bail that out. not easy, but doable. thanks, Kitty

  19. liveandlearn900 // Wednesday, June 30, 2010 2:44:00 PM  

    Ammonia is toxic to you and the environment. Use vinegar instead or borax and very hot water. microfiber cloths and plain water actually are excellent at removing bacteria, fungi, and other microbes due to their construction, very fine fibers close together remove these pathogens even without disinfectant. wash in-between and rinse well. Rubbing alcohol straight is an excellent disinfectant if allowed to dry on the surface and does not add to contaminating our drinking water when used this way. Old -fashioned laundry bar soap is cheap, cheap, and removes body soil, grease, and dirt. Wet cloth and rub bar on cloth. can use a bucket of water to rinse or make soapy water. does not suds since it does not have sodium lauryl sulfate which is not needed and is toxic. Laundry bar soap is biodegradable and does not require the user to wear gloves. you can use it to wash dishes, make laundry detergent, do household chores, clean the toilet, wash your stove in combo with baking soda, and so much more. Zout and other products can be found in dollar stores, ethnic grocers,Hispanic stores, and on-line. cost $2.00 or less. I use it for everything. Fels naptha, Octagon are well known, but the higher fatty acid soaps work better and are all natural. Liquid castile soaps can be used the same way. A couple of drops plus a pint of water and you have dish soap. There are so many recipes for making your own dish washer detergent, bath crystals, and every household and beauty product. Never any need to buy commercial poisons that do not work as well and cost an arm and a leg. I make laundry detergent every 4 months. I pay 4-6 cents per load. You can even remove pet stains and odor with the right formula and wash your pets safely. Wash your baby with mild and safe body wash. Vinegar, peroxide, rubbing alcohol, washing soda, baking soda, laundry bar or liquid castile soap, borax and microfiber cloths, and a non-toxic cleanser are enough to do everything around your house and outside. Safe, non-toxic, no fumes, carcinogens and the products last a long time. If you had to you could get away with the bar soap, vinegar and baking soda, and a cleanser like Bon Ami at a minimum. That's eight dollars worth of product at the highest prices.

  20. Michele // Wednesday, January 12, 2011 3:46:00 AM  

    RE: Reusable coffee filters - You can also just use a few of layers of muslin layered in your basket - you want to have enough layers so it slows the coffee (depending on the grind) enough to get more flavour out of it and at the same time doesn't overflow all over your counter.

    I use a Melitta single-cup maker and drag out the 10-cup maker for parties; haven't honestly tried the coffee maker/muslin dealie so I'm just making stuff up is what I'm trying to say.