Make Your Own Bug Spray

MosquitoI hate mosquitoes.

Luckily, I live in Seattle where there are less of these dang blood-suckers than in most states.

But, a few nights ago, I went to our P-Patch garden in the evening to do some watering and forgot to wear bug spray.

The next day, I had big welts on my legs. ARRGGHH! Dang mosquitos! And stupid me for not wearing bug spray!

Don’t be like me. Make your own handy-dandy, homemade bug spray and use it.

It’s easy to make, isn’t hazardous to your health like DEET, and is pretty cheap to boot.


You’ll need:

  • a spray mist bottle (4 oz or 8 oz)
  • witch hazel
  • 2 tsp. glycerin
  • distilled water
  • lemongrass essential oil
  • eucalyptus essential oil
  • lavender essential oil


  1. Fill the bottle half-way with distilled water.
  2. Add enough witch hazel to almost reach the top.
  3. Add glycerin.
  4. Add your own combination of essential oils. For 8 oz. bottles, 35-50 drops is a good. For 4 oz. bottles, use just 25 drops. For example, for my 8 oz. bottle, I used 20 drops of lemongrass, 15 drops of eucalyptus, and 15 drops of lavender.
  5. Screw on the bottle sprayer cap and shake well.
  6. Spray on your arms and legs prior to going out to mosquito land.

By the way, if you live in Seattle, a great and affordable place to find all the ingredients, including the spray bottle, is Zenith Supplies in the Ravenna Neighborhood.

I tried this bug spray for a week at Yellowstone National Park last year. Lo and behold, it was one of my only outdoor vacations where I didn’t get mosquito bites. Hallelujah! Now, if only I can remember to use it at home.

Try it and let me know what you think of it!

Fragrance free = better health

Barf_detergentBeing frugal isn’t just about how little money you spend on things, it’s also about developing healthy habits or practices that benefit you, and will ultimately help you save even more money, in the long-run.

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

As someone with hay fever and other allergies, I don’t use fragrances in my home and I avoid them in my products. But sometimes, I can’t avoid them.

For example, I bought some clothes at the Goodwill recently and they smelled very strongly of laundry detergent. When I got home, I washed the clothes as I usually do. The smell was still there. I washed them again. Smell was still there. Washed it again. And again.

It took washing the clothes 3-4 times for the fragrance of the detergent to finally lessen!

Why did I do this?

Because if I wear a piece of clothing that smells of fragrance, I get headaches.

I wasn’t always like this. I grew up using Tide, Cheer, Irish Spring soap, Tone soap, Flex shampoo, Pert shampoo and other heavily scented detergent and soap products (though I’ve never seen Barf detergent). I thought something wasn’t clean unless it smelled like flowery stuff. But, as I got older and as my seasonal allergies got worse, I started to eliminate fragrances from my home and personal products.

What do you know?

The more I decreased fragrances in my life, the more my allergies decreased.

Research studies on fragrances in products have found that they contain chemicals that are UNLISTED but also some of which are known CARCINOGENS and are HAZARDOUS to your health.

Here are two studies on the hazards of scented products conducted by the University of Washington.

Scented consumer products shown to emit many unlisted chemicals

Scented laundry products emit hazardous chemicals through dryer vents

Also, if you like to wear perfume, cologne or scented lotions, you’ll want to read this article in Scientific American called Scent of Danger.

If you have seasonal allergies, sensitive skin, chronic headaches, asthma and/or other respiratory issues, consider removing all fragrances from your home and personal use. Try this for a month and see if your daily health improves. I’m no scientist, but I bet you will feel much better.

So, don’t just buy the cheapest soap, detergent and/or shampoo to use. Look for products that have no added scents or fragrances. It might cost a little more money now, but your health will benefit for many years to come.

ps. In case you’re wondering, Barf soap and detergent can be purchased in Karaganda, Kazakhstan.

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

Zero Waste Home by Bea JohnsonI love Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson.

It is exactly the kind of smart, stylish, practical, frugal, minimalist, conservation home guide that I’ve been looking for.

But I didn’t know I was looking for it until I happened to run across a little blurb in Sunset magazine that said that Bea’s family of four only produces one quart of garbage per year.

That’s right.

One quart.

Can you believe it?

I had to find out more. Which led me to this slide show article on Sunset’s web site called “The zero-waste home.”

After looking at the inspiring slides and reading the article, I put Bea’s book on hold at the library. I checked out her blog and her top tips. When the book came through after a few weeks, I devoured it in a day. Then I read it again.

Zero Waste Home is chock-full of great tips and examples of how Bea and her family have been able to reduce waste, reduce consumption, save money and still live a fabulous and fun life. It is a book after my own heart.

I’m so inspired by this book that my next blog posts will detail how I’ve put Bea’s tips to work in my home and in my life. Stay tuned. In the meantime, check out the book!

NOTE: The book links on this page are affiliate links, so if you end up using any of them for your own online shopping, Super Frug will benefit (thank you!).

Super frugal gifts for under $10

Creamsicle Bath SaltsI used to love shopping for Christmas gifts.

I think part of it was the thrill of the hunt. I loved trying to find the “perfect” gift for each of my friends and family members. The other part was I enjoyed seeing the look on people’s faces when they opened my gift.

As years went by though, I got less and less high on the adrenaline and challenge of hunting down holiday gifts. I also realized with some sadness and irony that most of the time my so-called “perfect” gift wasn’t something that the person was going to use regularly or in some cases, ever use at all.

Now, I spend a lot less time and money on buying gifts. The gifts that I give out now are ones that can be consumed and/or experienced. I don’t want to give out another thing that someone has to take care of, maintain, dust or eventually donate to the Goodwill!

Here are some gifts that Marcus and I are giving out this year.

1. Homemade Bath Salts
Super easy and inexpensive! I make these bath salts for birthdays, hostess gifts, thank you gifts and holiday gifts. I think people appreciate receiving them because it encourages them to take time out to soak and relax. I adapted this recipe from Homemade Simple.

What you need:

  • 1 cup Epsom salts
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 quart or gallon-sized resealable freezer bag
  • Essential oils
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Baking sheet
  • Wax paper
  • Funnel
  • Glass jar


  1. Dump both salts into the bag. Seal the bag and shake until well mixed.
  2. Add 1 drop of food coloring. Seal and shake to distribute evenly. WARNING: Food coloring is potent so use 1 drop at a time until you reach the color you want. For my Creamsicle Bath Salts, I used about 2 drops of red and 3-4 drops of yellow.
  3. Add 2-3 drops of essential oil. Seal and shake. Repeat until you reach your desired amount of scent. I used what I had in the house: vanilla extract and sweet orange essential oil. When I mixed it, I realized that it smelled just like Creamsicles!
  4. Spread salt out evenly on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Let dry for 1-2 hours.
  5. Pour salts through a funnel into a clean, dry jar. I prefer using Ball canning jars but you can use any jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  6. Label the lid of the jar with the name of your salts. Get creative and have fun!

To use, sprinkle half the contents of one batch into hot, running water in your bathtub. Swirl the salt with your hands to help them dissolve. Soak and relax!

Creamsicle Bath Salt Label2. Fancy Chocolate Bars
The holidays are a great time of year to give people tasty treats that they might not ordinarily buy for themselves. There are many chocolatiers to choose from, but I like to give Theo Chocolate bars because they’re yummy, organic and fair trade, made in Seattle, and they come in all sorts of interesting flavors. My favorites are the Raspberry Dark Chocolate, Salted Almond Dark Chocolate; Hazelnut Crunch Milk or Dark Chocolate; and the Chai Milk Chocolate. My nephew Logan’s favorite is the Gingerbread Spice Milk Chocolate. I usually buy them from Bartell Drugs (my favorite store!) or Fred Meyer when they go on sale. On sale, can get them for as low as $1.79 to $2.50 per bar.

3. Fancy Popcorn
Another tasty, edible treat that people may not ordinarily buy for themselves because it seems too decadent is fancy-flavored popcorn. Marcus and I love Uncle Woody’s Popcorn which is made in Seattle and uses 100% pure ingredients–no artificial coloring or flavoring. Again, we buy the packs when they go on sale for around $3 at Bartell Drugs in December. You have to try the Cinnamon Butterscotch Caramel Corn!

 4. Homemade Jam
Every summer, we harvest the tiny, golden plums from our one fruit tree and make them into jam to give as gifts. We use the traditional water-bath canning jam recipe that comes in the SURE-JELL Pectin package. If you don’t have a fruit tree, consider buying fruit when it’s in season and is at a good price. If you can’t make the jam right away, wash, chop and freeze the fruit for later use. People love getting homemade jam!

I hope these gifts give you some great ideas for your own gift list.

Hope you have a very happy and Super Frug holiday season!

Favorite Free Thing: 10 Mindful Minutes

When was the last time you took time to do absolutely nothing?

I just watched this TED talk by Andy Puddicombe and it reminded me that one of the most refreshing, healthy things I can do is to just sit and be present for 10 minutes.

Just 10 minutes a day.

It will help me to calm my mind, to relax and to destress. And it’s totally free.

But how many of us actually take the time to do this?

Watch the video–it will take less than 10 minutes–and think about it. Is this something that you can do for yourself?

I’m going to do it. 10 minutes a day. It’s a gift that I can give myself every day–for free.

ps. Thanks to my friend Alisa who treated me to a fab lunch at Revel and the conversation we had there that helped me think again about the value of being in the present.