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TODAY staff
updated 10/29/2008 10:42:06 AM ET 2008-10-29T14:42:06

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar — the proud parents of 17 kids, with one more on the way — want to share their tips for surviving in these tough economic times. Here's what the busy couple had to say in response to your questions about laundry, groceries, playtime and more.

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Q: How do you manage to feed [your family] a healthy and balanced dinner with groceries being so expensive? My family of three spends upward of $100 a week on food.— Lena Strickland, Little Rock, Ark.

Michelle: We buy in bulk. We try to buy as healthy as we can; buy whole grain as much as possible. Whole grains are very filling but stretch the dollar. For example, we buy whole-grain brown rice. We can cook a meal of rice and add a little bit of meat and veggies and stretch the meal and fill our tummies. We also make our own homemade bread — we buy a 50-pound bag of wheat.

Jim Bob: We've got a great tuna fish recipe. When Michelle was gone to a women's conference, there was no mayo, so I grabbed a container of BBQ sauce …

Michelle: Jim Bob's famous BBQ! Add a lot to the drained tuna, and eat it on homemade bread or crackers. Jim Bob's favorite is KC Masterpiece.

Q: What do you do for inexpensive family entertainment (outside of the house)?— Faye, Milwaukee, Wisc.

Jim Bob: We go every Friday and Saturday night to our community family center. Our favorite thing is broomball on the ice hockey rink. It's poor man's ice hockey. We play 10 on 10 broomball … we ordered a school pack from broomball.com.

Michelle: It's free! Another thing is, we pack a lunch and go to a public park or a school playground when school's out. We have a picnic and play on the equipment.

Q: What happens when it's cold out?—TODAYshow.com

Michelle: We bundle up!

Q: I am a single mom living on a strict budget. What do you tell your kids when they want an expensive outfit or Halloween costume or to go on an elaborate field trip with school and you just cannot afford it?Pat

Jim Bob: When I was growing up I was on a really tight budget. There was a lot I couldn’t do. My mom encouraged my sister and I to pray about things and trust the Lord. It's important for parents to do that.

Michelle: Things have been tight. One time the kids let their Play-Doh dry out. We went to a yard sale, and [we] had prayed about this Play-Doh situation. I kid you not, the lady had a table totally full of Play-Doh for five cents a container. My little one was able to buy it with her own money. We came away and they were thanking God for their Play-Doh.

Jim Bob: We teach them responsibility. They won't let it dry out next time. It's important to realize that the world does not revolve around them, that they should think of the needs of others.

Michelle: When they see things that others may have, is it a need or a want? There's nothing wrong with wanting a certain item, but you [don't want to] be coveting.

Jim Bob: Want to know the Duggar family motto? "Buy used, and save the difference."

Image: Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar
Courtesy of the Duggars
"It's important to realize that the world does not revolve around them, that they should think of the needs of others," says Jim Bob Duggar of his kids.

Q: What about Halloween costumes this year? How will you handle that?—TODAYshow.com

Michelle: We enjoy fall festivals, pretty leaves and pumpkins. But we don’t focus on All Saint's Day. We don't focus on ghosts and goblins.

Q: How do you make your homemade laundry soap? — Lynn Wilson, Whiting, N.J.

[Editor's note: Many readers were curious about the homemade soap they saw the Duggars make on Discovery Health's "17 Kids and Counting."]

Jim Bob and Michelle: We use Fels-Naptha bar soap in the homemade soap recipes, but you can use Ivory, Sunlight, Kirk's Hardwater Castile or Zote bars. Don't use heavily perfumed soaps. We buy Fels-Naptha by the case from our local grocer or online. Washing soda and Borax can normally be found in the laundry or cleaning aisle. Recipe cost: approximately $2.

Homemade liquid laundry soap

Ingredients:
4 cups hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 cup washing soda
½ cup Borax

  • Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

  • Fill a five-gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

  • Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (It will gel.)

  • Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per two gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons. Top-load machine: 5/8 cup per load (approximately 180 loads). Front-load machine: ¼ cup per load (approx. 640 loads).

Powdered laundry detergent

Ingredients:
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 cup washing soda
½ cup Borax

  • Grate soap or break into pieces and process in a food processor until powdered. Mix all ingredients. For light load, use one tablespoon. For heavy or heavily soiled load, use 2 tablespoons. Yields: three cups detergent (approximately 40 loads).

Inexpensive fabric softener recipes

Recipe No. 1: Add one cup white vinegar to rinse cycle. Works great. Removes residue and odors. Also helps to keep washing machine and hoses fresh and clean too.

Recipe No. 2:
1 container of name-brand fabric softener
4 inexpensive sponges, cut in half

Pour a whole container of softener into a five-gallon bucket. Fill empty softener container with water twice (two parts water to  one part softener). Add sponges to softener/water mixture. When ready to use, wring out extra mixture from one sponge and add to the dryer as you would a dryer sheet.

Visit TheDuggarFamily.com for more tips like these, or TLCfor more info on the family. Michelle and Jim Bob’s book, “The Duggars: 20 and Counting,” is out now on Howard Books. Their show “17 Kids and Counting” airs on TLC on Mondays at 10 p.m. EST.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

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