Updated on 02.09.07

8 Ways To Replace Common Consumer Products On The Cheap

Trent Hamm

If you keep even a remotely well-stocked kitchen, you’ve got everything you need to cut down on your spending on all sorts of consumer goods. Here are eight common products that have very good (or even superior) replacements right in your own home already, most with just the most minimal amount of work:

Hand cream I just mix a dab of Crisco with a dab of vegetable oil, scrub my hands for a long time with this mixture, then wash my hands thoroughly and dry them. My hands feel fuller and the skin feels quite moist – I no longer get chapped hands in the winter.

Tabasco sauce Grow two hot pepper plants in a pot on your windowsill (I use dirt from the yard, a coffee can, and my own seeds). I like to use red tabasco chiles, but most small, hot, red chile peppers can be used. Harvest all of the peppers from them, chop them up, and weigh them. For each pound you have, add two cups of distilled white vinegar (had for pennies at the store) and two teaspoons of salt. Put it over heat until it’s about to boil, then let it simmer for five minutes. Dump the mix in a blender, puree, then put in a glass jar and sit it in the fridge to season for about two weeks. For about $0.25, you have enough Tabasco sauce to fill four or five of those little Tabasco bottles. Once it’s steeped, I usually put it in a number of small baggies and freeze it, then refill small bottles when needed.

Chapstick / Carmex I see lots of people using Chapstick on their dry, chapped lips during the winter, yet I’ve never understood why. Just take a very tiny dab of Crisco on the tip of your index finger and it’ll do the very same job. Want it portable? Use a Carmex tin until it’s empty and fill that up with a small amount of Crisco. Instead of spending a buck on this stuff, spend a penny or two on Crisco instead. Afraid to try it in public? Give it a try at home first to see if you’re okay with it – I actually prefer it to Chapstick now.

Barbecue sauce If you enjoy eating the low-end sauces, you’ll probably not save much making your own sauces, but if you want wonderful tasting barbecue sauces without all those preservatives, make your own – it’s quite easy. Take a quarter cup of white wine vinegar or cider vinegar, a third of a cup of molasses or brown sugar, a cup of ketchup (I actually like to boil tomatoes to a pulp and add a bit of salt to them instead of using ketchup here), a tablespoon of mustard, and a teaspoon each of various spices (try garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, ground black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, or whatever). I like to saute two real garlic cloves and a cup of minced onions into near oblivion and use that mixture instead of the garlic and onion powders. I also like just a little bit of sage and rosemary in it, too. Heat up the vinegar and brown sugar/molasses together in a pan until it’s all liquid, then remove from the heat and stir in everything else. Yum, and it’s usually cheaper than that store-purchased junk.

Herbal shampoo Five bucks for herbal shampoo? Try this instead: mix an ounce of vegetable oil (olive oil is great, but could be expensive), one egg, a tablespoon of lemon juice, half a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, and any herbs you’d like to add to it (if you’re oily, add some basil, ground citrus peel, or thyme; some general good ones are a dash of rosemary and also any aromatic flower pieces you have). I recommend filling up a travel-size shampoo bottle with this stuff and keeping the rest in the refrigerator, as you shouldn’t leave it out in the shower for more than three days or so. It’s way better for your hair because there aren’t any chemicals attacking it.

Herbal conditioner Five bucks for a bottle of herbal conditioner? Forget it! Take a teaspoon of baby oil, a egg yolk, a cup of water, and any herbs you’d like to add to it, mix them in a blender, and fill up a conditioner bottle. Just be sure to use it within three days if you don’t refrigerate it or freeze it.

Windex If you’re buying Windex, stop. Just, stop. Mix a quarter cup of vinegar, a half teaspoon of liquid soap (I just use dawn), and two cups of water in a spray bottle (for example, your old Windex bottle), shake it up, and you’re good to go. It works as good as anything I’ve used and it’s so much cheaper that it’s almost sad.

Sure, you can buy a lot of this stuff yourself a bit quicker, but why throw money to the wind when you can make cheaper, more natural, and often superior variations using a lot of stuff you already have?

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  1. Ellen says:

    Not to mention, of course, the multiple uses of baking soda! I haven’t bought a commercial cleaning product in ages–why bother, when soda will scrub better than anything else?

  2. Debt Hater says:

    I don’t buy Crisco because I don’t want to cook with trans fat/saturated fat and I’d hate to have a whole tub just for chapped lips. I like Vaseline (or generic petroleum jelly) for lips and the like. A jar is about a $1 and lasts FOREVER. You really don’t ever need to replace it.

  3. mapgirl says:

    Lemon juice is no good for me. It bleaches my hair out. YUCK.

    I agree with DH, Vaseline is the way to go. Or better yet, generic white petroleum jelly. Slather it on the hands after a shower.

    You might add something about handling peppers, etc. It can be blindingly painful to handle peppers improperly while cooking. Rubber gloves are de rigeur, and DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE WHILE COOKING with them.

  4. TZ says:

    …and for that “I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Windex” look, add 2 drops of blue food coloring..

  5. WW says:

    My dermatologist rec using Crisco for face or lips or body. In the biz they call it ‘C cream’. It stays on longer than petroleum jelly. They do make Crisco now in transfat free by the way. The only thing I would rec is to keep the original Crisco tub in the fridge and only use a small amount in your lil tin/pillbox for use. I have actually had Crisco turn rancid on me.

  6. Anne says:

    Shea butter is a perfect, natural substitute for crisco. You can buy it in bulk at health food stores or on eBay and it’ll last forever. I use it as a moisturizer, lip balm, cuticle cream, eyebrow wax and in a pinch as hair pomade to get rid of flyaways.

  7. Chris says:

    With regards to the tabasco sauce, how long does it take to grow the plants? Do you just get the seeds from hot peppers you buy singularly at the store?

  8. Daniel says:

    Would using a bit of rubbing alcohol in the Windex replacement help it to evaporate faster and remove a little bit of the streakiness?

  9. dlm says:

    Drops of olive oil are good as a moisturizer – face, hands, feet, lips: and don’t taste bad. Crisco and Vaseline aren’t good ingested.

    Shampoo – why not use your bar soap?
    Conditioner – why not vinegar?

  10. Caroline says:

    Like all the tips except the shampoo and conditioner – it’s far easier to look up what Paula Begoun says about all sorts of products and spend $1 on Suave. In the haircare industry, there are only so many ingredients that will actually clean and condition hair, so you might as well go as cheap as possible for a good formula rather than putting food in your hair that will only cause buildup – same goes for bar soap – nothing but buildup.

  11. Sam says:

    Caroline –
    Suave (and other factory made shamppos) cause build up. I have several relatives that work in the beauty industry and it’s their job to know since the do the hair for models in magazines.

    Homemade and some (not all)organic don’t cause build up – unless you use the wrong stuff. My hair and scalp have been in the best shape ever since I stopped buying that store bought garbage 2 years ago. I did it to shut up my Aunt but, she was right.

    And as far as your food in the hair comment goes – what do you think that put in with all the chemicals in those over priced bottles of goop you buy?

  12. Critterknit says:

    Re: Mapgirl’s comment about handling peppers, we’ve found that rinsing hands with vinegar after handling peppers (and then washing with soap to get the vinegar smell off) seems to work well for eliminating the pepper oils that cause problems.

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