Fitting DIY Projects into Your Busy Life

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Five years ago, my husband and I made a decision that changed our lives forever: to get out of debt no matter what it took. We had talked about it before, (actually, it was more like a yelling match about how broke we were) and we decided that it was time to commit.

I got to work, scrutinizing every aspect of our budget, cutting everything we could. The change that made the biggest difference?

Adopting the DIY natural lifestyle.

Fitting DIY Projects into Your Life

Cooking from scratch (not just buying cheap boxed food), making our own cleaners and learning how to buy in bulk was just the start. Now we repair whatever we can, use natural medicine, and teach others how to do the same.

Did I mention we do all this amidst my husband’s full-time job, my business and midwifery school, and homeschooling two of our four kids?

Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy a lot of freedom. We’re debt free and don’t have many commitments outside the home. We’ve simplified a lot in the last few years, but a typical day can still feel pretty crazy.

So how do we blend the DIY lifestyle in with our busy family? Simple. We create a routine:


  • Cook food from scratch – Unless we plan to go out for dinner (which doesn’t happen very often), all of our meals are cooked from scratch.
  • Do whatever project is scheduled for the day
  • Apply essential oils – Therapeutic-grade essential oils play a big part of our DIY healthcare. We use them to prevent and treat illness, to increase our energy and to help us sleep better at night. We apply a blend in the morning and at night, and specific oils as needed throughout the day. (Where to buy essential oils.)
  • Prepare food for the next day – Take meat out of freezer, soak beans, etc.


  • Soak and make a big pot of beans
  • Bake bread – My husband will make up one big batch of bread dough that will yield two loaves of bread. (It will also give us 4 pizza crusts).
  • Make kefir or yogurt
  • Grocery shopping – Mainly for fresh produce.
  • Make bone broth – We roast a chicken each week and use the bones to make a nourishing stock.


  • Menu plan – This saves us so much time and money. Read more about how to plan meals.
  • Make laundry detergent – I make three batches at a time and it lasts us about 6 weeks. We’re still washing a lot of cloth diapers.
  • Brew kombucha
  • Budget for bulk orders
  • Restock cleaning staples
  • Grocery shopping – The big trip where we get most of our food for the month.

Every few months


  • Plant, tend and harvest our garden
  • Canning/freezing – Learn which sustainable kitchen appliances Matt and Betsy use and recommend.
  • Take advantage of gleaning opportunities – We live in a rural community and sometimes get asked if we want to pick over an apricot tree or glean a farmer’s potato field.
  • Chop firewood
  • Hang laundry – I reserve this for summer time as I am not a fan of the cold.
  • Brew beer
  • Make ice cream

We didn’t start out doing all of this. If we had, we may have become overwhelmed and given up.

Instead, we embodied the saying – “Slow and steady wins the race.” – learning to do more and more ourselves.

And now, thanks to our routine, all theses DIY projects are just a normal part of life.

Note: here are a few more ideas to help you find time to DIY healthy food.

How do you fit DIY into your busy life?

Share you secret tips and experience with the community!


About Nina Nelson

Nina is a writer, student midwife, and mama of four. She blogs regularly at Shalom Mama and loves helping others create wellness through simple living. Check out her website for more simple wellness tips.

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  1. cindy says

    Having come from a long line of seamstresses, and being a stay at home mom for many years, I’ve always been a DIYer. I’ve also eased into many of the things I’m now doing, like making my own laundry and auto dish soap, household cleaners; I use tea tree and lavender oils for deodorant (no more swollen lumph nodes and I perspire LESS now). I recently learned to make CROCK POT BREAD.. almost no kneading; and in 3-4 hrs you have a great loaf of ‘awesome’. (I often use the crock pot in the garage to avoid heating up the kitchen.) I’ll be trying the DIY toothpaste this week, and use coconut oil for moisturizer. All the $$ I’m saving not buying this stuff at the store, allows us to stockpile food and supplies, and finish off our debt.

  2. Marla B says

    A friend shared her laundry detergent recipe and I was hooked. It has been about 2 years now and I look for recipes to replace everything I would normally buy premade. I could go paper free if my husband was onboard 100%. So far my daughter and I use homemade toothepaste and deodorant, but my husband has not got there yet. We grow a summer garden and I hope this year we add a fall crop as well. My next endeavor is to get a dehydrator to store our food. We are very limited on space and dehydrated food takes up less than half of the space.

  3. Karen Reilly says

    I was just reading that you should not mix castile soap and vinegar, what are your thoughts on this?

    • Nina Nelson says

      Someone recently sent me a link to information that said the same. They said that vinegar is an acid and castile soap is a base, meaning they cancel each other out. You could then just use the two separately.

  4. Kate says

    Great tips! I work full-time and so does my husband, so real food can be challenging some times. We work as a team to get things soaking, making bread – essentially keeping up with and getting the real food on the table!

    I say work as a team with someone and you’ll have that support you need to keep chipping away. Great post! 🙂


  5. Denise DeSousa says

    good to find like minded people in this world, I am very much a do it yourself person, I happen to do a lot of what you folks do, menu planning, cooking from scratch, raising our own chickens, ducks etc.. I make my own personal care products and have this website for since I am an aromatherpist, Reiki Master, and Crystal Healer, I too use essential oils daily for my well being and my family. thanks for sharing all the great tips!
    many blessings

  6. Debi says

    For us, a turning point was my son’s winter eczema.Because I know eczema can become more painful psoriasis, I embarked on making my own laundry soap which lead me to this site. From there, I’ve tried to identify the items we seem to spend the most ‘noise’ money on and replace with homemade: cooking at home with grass fed meats, buying fresh veggies from a CSA, soap (no more gel–only handmade bar soap for us), home cleaners (love the DIY book and use if often for dishwasher detergent, etc.), only using handmade napkins (no more paper napkins). Now, if I could just replace toilet paper!HA! Anyway, we too are living debt-free except the house while cashflowing a child in college. Keep up the incredible work! By the way, my son has no more exzema or acne! Eating better, drinking more water, staying away from dyes and perfumes, and eating real food has been the cure!

  7. Laura Mustafa says

    Ya’ll are so inspirational! I got excited and rejuvenated just reading about this weekly, monthly, seasonal plan. It’s great to know we’re not alone in our priorities, desires, and goals. A simpler, more self-sufficient lifestyle IS so rewarding, healthy, and provides much-needed thinking time. Thank you for sharing the various things you do and when. It is so helpful!

    God bless!


  8. Kendra Thornton says

    Hi there,

    I just have a question about “DIY Naturally!” Please email me when you get a chance…thank you!

  9. Kathy says

    After suffering with sinus headaches after ironing a quilting project, I started making my own spray starch and discovered, that was the cause of my sinus headaches. Since then, one by one, I’ve replaced store bought cleaners and cosmetics with homemade versions because I believe it helps me with my mild lupus inflamation. My hands no longer ache and swell. I love the homemade hair spray recipe, easy to make and only the cost of a lemon or orange, depending on your hair color. My next project is to make my own homemade soap for myself and gifts. I’m also looking into using organic cotton fabric for my future quilting projects since it’s good for the environment and our health. Thanks so much for all your wonderful info.

    • Mari says

      Kathy I pre wash all my quilting fabrics – in my home made laundry wash, with white vinegar in the rinse and dry them outside – and have never used starch or anything like that while ironing them or any other dressmaking I do.I press them as soon as they are dry and it works well. I have a steam/dry iron that comes with a large water tank it sits on but usually use it dry for quilting. I use cotton fabrics or bamboo cotton ones and have never had any problems. I don’t even own starch. Hope this helps.

  10. Cheryl says

    I will hit the Farmer’s Market and my CSA and make several big pots of soups and sauces in one day. Once cool, half goes in the freezer and half in the fridge. Then, I have nice, hot, homemade soups for lunches and spaghetti sauce ready for dinner. Sometimes I’ll use some of the sauce and make up baked ziti and toss it in the freezer- ready to pull out and bake for dinner. I also have lettuce torn and rinsed and all the salad fixings ready to go so a salad is quick and easy to prepare. Great way to store your salad spinner is to use it as the container you store your lettuce in.

  11. sage_brush says

    I would have to add canning to the seasonal list. It takes up a lot of time, but is so worth it once winter comes. The other seasonal thing for me is garden planning, which pleasantly consumes almost the entire month of January. But what could be better than poring over gorgeous seed catalogs when there is two feet of snow outside! 🙂

  12. Christine says

    Making changes bit by bit is how we’ve been able to incorporate money saving DIY products. Decide what is most important for your family (saving money, fewer chemicals, more nutrition, etc) and start there. I started making our own laundry soap 3 or 4 years ago. Just that one step has saved us hundreds of dollars. It was important for us to do away with SLS in our products. Last year we switched out handsoap, bar soap,facial cleanser, shampoo, toothpaste for either homemade or all natural. Decide if the time involved is worth the cost savings. We find Kirk’s Castile bar soap perfectly acceptable, so we don’t make our own. A couple TB of Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile mixed with filtered water makes a very inexpensive and non-harsh foaming hand soap. Baking soda for hair washing is perfect for the girls in our family, but our boys prefer a non-SLS shampoo. We tried a few homemade toothpastes, which were ok, but found Earthpaste to be the most pleasant (but costs more). I find investing in lip balm and lotion ingredients too costly for our budget (money and time), so we purchase all-natural lip balm (no sense reinventing the wheel) for only a couple dollars, and our skin lotion is organic coconut or grapeseed oil with rosemary, tea tree and or lavendar EO in it that we mix together here at home.
    –Cooking homemade is our next changeover. I spent last year learning about fermenting foods and drinks. Again, just one change at a time works. Milk kefir, water kefir, kombucha, sourdough bread, cultured applesauce, fermented lemonade, fermented pickles, beans, etc. It’s almost fun finding ways to increase the nutrition and decreast the chemicals in our favorite meals.

  13. Robin says

    I’ve started making my own laundry soap and I’m having a problem with a white residue on my dark clothes. Can you advise me what is causing this and how to keep it from happening?

    • Matt Jabs says

      If you’re shredding the soap you can either put the detergent in your food processor to turn it into a powder, or make sure you’re dissolving the detergent in a pint of warm water before adding to a wash load.

      • Mari says

        If you are using a cold wash, that can be the reason. I had that problem when I first started using home made. Then I turned it into a liquid and no longer have problems. Have been using home made for about 4 yrs now.

        The soap you use for it can also be the cause.If u use a creamy soap (dove etc) there can be things in that that will cause cling to clothes.

  14. Cheryl says

    Getting out of debt is the smartest thing any family can do. Paying off your cars–even if it means selling a more expensive one and finding one for $5000 that is not all that great looking but still has a lot of life left that you can own is a bonus. Car debt is crazy. Student debt is also–get it paid off–don’t let it hang over your neck like a ball and chain just because it is low interest. Do the debt snowball–paying off the lowest amount debt first and work up to the highest one–and get free. Then get an emergency fund in place. And cooking from scratch is so much more nutritious than mixes and cans. Knowing what is in your food just cannot be beat. We didn’t start soon enough–we’ve been debt free for 3 years now. Wish we had done it 20 years ago–and avoided all the credit cards entirely. Now we can begin to save toward retirement. I have a bosch mixer that mixes and kneads 5 loaves of bread at once which saves so much time. My investment in a used one 25 years ago has paid off so well. The motors go and go. It saves so much time and energy. Keep a small mixer just for cake mixes or cookies, but the bosch is great. It also has a big sturdy blender with it. I’m making more and more of the cleaning products all the time. We always have a big pot of stew. If you use honey, make sure you get one that is from hives near where you grow so that you have the benefits of the allergy relief. love what you wrote. You really can squeeze in small chores here and there –and make the time to write the monthly budget. It tells you where your money is going to go–and not the other way around.

    • Nina Nelson says

      Five loaves of bread! That sounds awesome. My husband and kids eat bread (I can’t eat gluten) and that machine sounds like it would be really helpful.

  15. Shelby J says

    I make all of our bread from scratch as well as laundry soap and cleaning supplies. Next I plan to tackle bar soap making and lotions/lip balms. I love the info here…keep it coming! Thanks, SJM

  16. Shanna says

    Just want to say ‘kudos’ for doing what it took to get out of debt! Reading about all you do ON TOP OF being a homemaker and homeschooling mom makes my head spin. It is an incredible encouragement ~ Thank you!
    I have a question. You mentioned that trying to do all of this at once would have been overwhelming – I agree! So, what 2-3 steps would you suggest someone start with?
    Whatever tips you have to offer would be greatly appreciated!

    • Nina Nelson says

      Thanks Shanna! I know every family is different, so I’ll share what I did when I got started.

      1. Start cooking from scratch, incorporating more real foods like fruits, veggies, hormone-free meat, etc.

      2. Replace your top cleaners with home made ones, like an all-purpose cleaner, laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent. All of these are super-easy and give a nice confidence boost.

      3. Start menu planning. It takes time up front, but it saves a lot of time in the future. That’s time you can use to research projects or actually make something.