The short version: where can I find washing soda?

The long version: More than three years ago, my friend, Hannah taught me how to coupon.  Initially, it was a solution to a very large problem.  Then, it became a game.  For a while, it became a little bit of an obsession.

In August of 2009, I bought a boatload of dishwasher detergent (I use the term loosely, because I came out $4.11 in my favor to take it).  Then in February of 2010, I got twenty+ bottles of laundry detergent for next to nothing.  I bought dishwasher detergent in September (2011) and laundry detergent in October.  I’ve decided I don’t like this “paying” for things that I’ve enjoyed for free for so long.  Now, I did use coupons, but I didn’t get them for nearly free.

The stockpile of free items has another benefit that I miss—the convenience of not having to go to the store to finish household chores.  “We’re out? No we’re not.  Go get some more out of the storage drawer under the dryer.”

Being a little dramatic, I claim that each time I come back from the store, I am done.  I am done; everything that my family will use for the next week has been purchased.  I have completed the whole shopping event and I AM DONE.  I have accomplished my goals.  ALL HAIL MOM who has returned from the trenches of retail.  Now, I can spend my week focusing on cleaning, working, and paying attention to the toddlers so that they don’t rip the house apart.  I might even sit down with a cup of coffee.

That’s my fantasy, by the way.  I always envision sitting down with a mug and a computer and writing or practicing calculus or trig problems—the way that other people do crossword puzzles.  But my toddlers wake up and stop the fantasy—as they have done twice during the course of writing this paragraph.

But within minutes of coming home, my husband will sweetly say, “You know what I should have asked you to get at the store?…” or I’ll see the one thing that I overlooked on my list.  And a little piece of my morale dies because the end of my to-do list is that much farther out of reach.  I have only found the very end of the to-do list a couple of times in the last decade, but I always really, really believe I will reach it.  When it becomes farther out of my reach, I can hear the really whacked out version of me inside my head weeping.

So, having to GO to the store and BUY things that I have grown accustomed to having at home in my free stuff stockpile makes me feel like I’m hemorrhaging both time and money.

Having now purchased 3 bottles of laundry detergent and 4 packs of dishwasher detergent (yes, we have a LOT of dishes and laundry in this house), I’m debating making these things at home.  I’ve heard of people doing this.  It makes sense.  Making laundry detergent wouldn’t really extend too far out of my realm. I’ve used baking soda for cleaning for 15 years.  I’ve made use of borax in the last year or so.  I apparently need washing soda—which is different from baking soda.  I can’t find it at Target and the space for it at Wal-mart (which also makes me weep a little inside) is empty.  So, before I put any more effort into it, dear internet, where have you successfully found washing soda?

I have a list of things that I am out of and plan on learning to make at home (this week, my homemade goal is yogurt—which is a lofty goal during finals week). While there are many things that I would be willing to make at home (detergents, yogurt, bread, curtains, purses, any cleaners where the homemade version would introduce fewer toxins into my home), there are many things that I cannot imagine making at home–like mascara.  I was out of mascara this week and I bought more with coupons because I don’t have access to bats and can’t fathom making it at home.

Since I’m still going to coupon for things like mascara, shampoo, foaming soap (my homemade version didn’t work out very well), I question the decision to try to make things at home.  So, dear internet, what things have you successfully made at home where the conventional American home would have just gone to the store?