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For years I’ve known about the benefits of eating healthy: whole grains, good carbs vs bad carbs, good fats or bad fats, organic foods and so on. I’ve struggled to find a balance in my eating habits, but I think I’m beginning to find my footing. Over the past six months though, I’ve been on an even deeper journey–into learning how to both simplify and naturalize my beauty and cleaning regimens.

Back in October I shared that I joined the no-poo movement by ditching shampoo. Funny enough, that was one of the most popular posts of 2011! In fact, it continues to this day to be one of our most popular posts. Last month I posted an update, as I crossed the nine month mark sans shampoo. Over the past several months I’ve learned a whole lot about natural beauty care, along with natural cleansing products. I quickly discovered that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had a world of wonderful beauty products at their fingertips, and they weren’t created by P&G or any fancy cosmetics company. Often, while we’ve struggled to have acne-free skin, to fight wrinkles or to have soft and silky hair with the latest and greatest products, the old tried and true methods with natural products were there waiting for us to rediscover them. To discover that we didn’t need to spend billions in product development and research for the latest anti-wrinkle or acne busting cream–that nature held the cure, all along!

In my research I’ve noticed that while recipes may vary, that ten products appear time and time again in the lists. If you want to live more naturally, these products should be in your pantry. With these ten products you can make a host of products, from hair cleaners to acne fighters to laundry detergent. None of these products are expensive, and a little goes a long way when using them. Here’s my list of ten staples you should always have on hand:

  1. Baking Soda–what doesn’t baking soda do? It is one of the key staples in most cleansing products. I use it on my hair, in honey for a gentle exfoliating face wash, mix it with vinegar to unclog drains, or even use with vinegar and aluminum foil for a natural silver tarnish remover. Buy the big box–you’ll need it!
  2. Coconut Oil–this pantry staple has been such a revelation to me that I not only have one jar, I have two! I keep one in the kitchen for cooking with, and one in my bathroom for beauty uses. Coconut oil is anti-viral, anti-fungal and antibacterial. It has good fatty acids in it along with powerful antioxidants for your skin. I put a tablespoon in my bath and my skin has never been silkier. I remove my makeup nightly with it–it is an excellent eye makeup remover! I have brushed my teeth with it to make them sparkling white and smooth, and I use it as a daily moisturizer for my face every morning. A large jar of good coconut oil will last you months–a very little goes a long way. Make sure when you buy it that you get the cold-pressed organic virgin coconut oil. It should cost under $10 for a good sized jar, and will last you six months or longer.
  3. Raw honey–raw, organic honey is like having an all-purpose tool in your natural toolbox. It is one of nature’s most powerful antiseptics–government studies even show it is powerful against Strep and Staph bacteria. Because of that many naturopaths suggest putting honey on wounds instead of Neosporin. It is a great cough and cold fighter, soothing sore throats and fighting off viruses. Full of alpha hydroxy acids, it is also a great face wash, eliminating acne for many people and bringing fresh, young skin to the surface. Many people claim that taking a teaspoon of honey helps with allergies. And others claim that taking a teaspoon a day helps with many different health issues. (I’ve been testing that one out–more on the results in a few weeks.) In short, you should have good raw honey in your house! Don’t buy the stuff in the plastic bear–that isn’t good honey. Raw honey can be found in the health food section of many stores, and should only cost about $6/lb.
  4. JoJoba Oil–Jojoba oil pops up in many skin care recipes. Why? Jojoba oil’s makeup is very similar to the makeup of our own natural skin protection, known as sebum. Jojoba mimics it very well. So where dry skin has taken over, apply just a touch of jojoba oil. Your skin will be smooth and soft within minutes. It doesn’t actually condition or moisturize the skin–it isn’t oil. It will form a smooth, protective layer over it, giving it some relief and allowing time for your moisturizer to really work. After only one week of using two drops of Jojoba on my face nightly after applying my moisturizer (coconut oil) I found my skin is as soft as my seven year old daughter’s skin. That’s pretty darned amazing! A bottle of it is $5 from Trader Joe’s, and will last you many months.
  5. Borax–It is easier to tell you what Borax doesn’t do than to list all of the things it can be used for! Some common uses for Borax: laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, pest repellant, deodorizing and removing pet urine stains, homemade cold cream and so much more! You can find Borax at many large grocery chains for about $3 a box. A single box should last you six months to a year, depending on what you use it for.
  6. Lemon juice–Use it as a hair rinse to smooth your hair and add shine. (It leaves my hair unbelievably shiny and soft!) Add it to baking soda to make a great scrub for sinks, bathtubs, counters and more. Mix olive oil and lemon to make a homemade wood polish. Mix lemon, water and your favorite essential oils to make a great detangling spray for your hair. There are so many uses for lemons that you should always have a couple ready in your fridge.
  7. White vinegar–White vinegar is one of the best cleaning tools you can have in your home. Mix one part vinegar to three parts water for a great all-purpose spray disinfectant cleaner. Use it to sanitize floors, counters, and more. Mix vinegar and baking soda to clean your toilets, shower heads, unclog drains and a million other uses around your home! Add a cup of white vinegar to your washing machine to soften clothes and reduce static without any fabric softener reside. Add white vinegar to your dishwasher rinse cycle to remove hard water deposits and leave dishes sparkling clean. There’s literally hundreds of uses for white vinegar around your home! A large bottle of vinegar costs under $5 and will last you six months or more.
  8. Apple Cider Vinegar–Apple Cider Vinegar is a common ingredient in many beauty and health recipes. From hair rinses to fighting heartburn, there are so many ways to use Apple Cider Vinegar! I mix it with water and uncoated aspirin to make an excellent homemade toner for my face. Make sure to get the organic Apple Cider Vinegar so that it has all of its wonderful health properties intact. A large bottle costs about $4 at most health food stores and should last a very long time.
  9. Castille Soap–Despite its name, castille soap actually contains no soap. Castille soap is a centuries old recipe that combines olive oil, coconut oil and other oils to make a wonderful cleansing agent, that is very gentle on your skin and hair. You can buy castille soap in bars or in liquids. The bars cost about $4 a piece and last about 4-6 months. They are great for use in washing hair, in the shower, washing your face, or in grating up to use in dry laundry detergent. A large bottle of liquid castille soap costs about $12, but will last a very long time. Dilute a few drops of it into a cup of water to have a great shampoo. Or look online for laundry detergent and other recipes using liquid castille soap.
  10. Olive Oil–Olive oil can be used for way more than just cooking! From skin cleansing (yes, it really does work and it doesn’t leave your skin greasy) to home cleaning, it has a myriad of uses! You will find good olive oil as a base for many homemade skin care treatments. You can use it on wood furniture to give it new shine and luster. Or take a few drops and rub on shoes with a dry cloth to give them new polish. I buy my extra virgin olive oil at Trader Joe’s for about $6 for a large bottle.

I’m not all that interested in buying more products. My journey into the natural hasn’t been about switching brands of cleaners–I’m not so interested in moving from Clorox to Seventh Generation. What I have been wanting to learn is about simplifying–having a handful of natural products on hand that serve multiple purposes. I’ve also discovered that many of the so-called “green” products have dirty little secrets: they aren’t nearly as “green” or plant based as they advertise themselves to be. So for now I’m sticking with the products I can make myself. These ten pantry staples are all key parts of my arsenal! Add in a collection of my favorite essential oils, and I’ve got a tool for almost any need. Simple and natural–that’s my goal!

What are some of the natural tools in your pantry?

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