The Two Dollar Halloween Costume

Audrey was a pumpkin for her first Halloween.  I found this pair of pumpkin pajamas at a consignment shop for just $2 and then commissioned my mom to knit Audrey a pumpkin hat, which was FREE (for me, anyway!).  After dressing her in this get-up, we ventured out to the back yard for a photo shoot with a bunch of organic pumpkins that just happened to be lying artfully on the grass by some fall leaves.

Happy Halloween from the Green Baby Guide!

A Moving Costume: Easy Trick-or-Treating Transportation

Because our trick-or-treating journey will be a bit long this year, my husband decided to make Roscoe’s wagon part of the costume.  My son received it for his birthday this year after we did some rust-removal and repainting. It’s now one of his most prized possessions and we love its versatility and usefulness. 

My hubby found some old cardboard in our attic and a few wooden sign posts.  He cut them out, decorated them with some of our old paint (the red was left over from the wagon) and made an easy add-on to the wagon. 

It cost just under $4.00 total for this fabulous moving costume and the objects we reused have been granted a second (more glamorous) life too!  It’s more adorable and natural than those large plastic vehicles for sale at big-box stores and it’s  provided just as much fun.

Since our son is completely obsessed with school buses, he’ll be wearing a shirt with an iron-on school bus design that my husband downloaded onto a printer-friendly iron-on.  He’ll get lots of use out of the shirt long after Halloween too!

Although we’re still a few days away from Halloween, Roscoe now takes regular rides around the neighborhood in his new school bus wagon.  People stop and ask about it, wave from their cars, and generally love its homemade charm. 

It took my husband less than two hours to craft it and will make trick-or-treating a whole lot easier (and cuter) this year!  For more Thrifty Green Thursday tips visit our contributors in the links below.  If you’d like to join, just click here for details!

Also, congratulations to Abigail Dobbins, the winner of our Natural Pod giveaway!  We hope you enjoy those stacking rings for the next several years!   


How Do You Hand Wash Dishes to Conserve Water and Dish Soap?

After writing these last three posts about eco-friendly dish soaps without coming to any great conclusions, I started examining my dishwashing method.  Whether you use an “eco-friendly” soap or some generic brand, the best thing for the environment is to use it sparingly and conserve as much water as possible.  So I started looking around for the most efficient method that claimed to leave dishes sparkling clean.

For years I’ve used the soapy sponge method.  I squirt some soap in the sponge and scrub each and every dish.  Then I rinse off the dishes under a stream of hot water.  I thought this method was pretty efficient, but I was potentially wasting water, depending on how long I left the faucet running.

Many people wash dishes using the camping technique.  This involves one bin filled with sudsy water and another bin of clear water for rinsing the suds off.  I have never had much success washing dishes this way.  After a while I feel like I’m dipping dishes in a vat full of dirty water and rinsing them in another vat of dirty water.

The no-rinse method.  A bit of Internet searching led me to a fascinating little discovery: Apparently, it’s common for people in England, Australia, and New Zealand to wash dishes in sudsy water and then not rinse them.  If you Google “British rinse dishes” you’ll find some interesting conversations in which half the people express shock and disgust over the method and the other half wonder how anyone could possibly waste so much water with unnecessary rinsing.  “If you need to rinse your dishes, you’re using too much fairy liquid!” was the resounding defense.

While the no-rinse method sounded even worse than the camping technique, I decided to give it a try.  From what I’d read, you avoid the “dirty vat of water” by doing a pre-rinse/scrub of the dirtier dishes.  I tried this and it used no soap and very little water.  Then I filled a tub with water and a ½ teaspoon of Planet.  (According to Planet’s website, if you use the soapy sponge method, you’re probably using too much dish soap.  They recommend just ½ teaspoon to start and say you can add more when the suds die down.)

I washed all these dishes with just a 1/2 teaspoon of Planet!

I was actually surprised at how sudsy the water got.  I washed glassware and cups first, shook the suds off, and placed them directly on the rack.  I proceeded to wash all the dishes pictured here in the same sink of water.  The water never got too dirty looking, thanks to the pre-rinse.

So did it work?  Well, sort of.  I was surprised to see that some of the dishes turned out crystal clear and clean.  I did have to wash five bowls over again, as they had a visible film on them.  I am still skeptical at the idea that rinsing is unnecessary.

The Works for Me method.  Based on my experience with all the methods above, I came up with a way that leaves the dishes clean and conserves dish soap.

  1. Pre-clean dishes using just a sponge/rag and a tiny amount of water.
  2. Scrub dishes in basin of hot water with ½ teaspoon dish soap.  If your water isn’t very hot, you’ll have fewer suds.  Start with the cleanest dishes first (glasses) and finish with pots and pans.  To avoid greasy dishes, make sure to add a little more soap once the suds seem deflated.
  3. Rinse.  I know this “wastes water,” but it does leave dishes cleaner.  I find I use less water by rinsing under a stream of water rather than waiting for the entire sink to fill.  Now that I use much less dish soap, I find I need less rinsing water.

I think that Planet is right: my soapy sponge method was wasting too much dishwashing liquid.  I figure that if I used just ½ teaspoon a day, it would take almost a year to use up a bottle of Planet!  Of course, I do a lot of cooking and we often eat all three meals at home, so I need to wash dishes at least twice a day.  So let’s say I’ll use a teaspoon a day.  A bottle of Planet would last me twenty-one weeks using this method.  It lasted just eleven weeks using the soapy sponge method.

Finally I found a dishwashing method that works for me!  For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, head on over to Rocks in My Dryer.  Also, let me know how you wash dishes and why!

The Dinnertime Dilemma: Part 1

It’s four o’clock, the baby is fussy, you haven’t had more than a three hour stretch of sleep in the last day and a half and time is ticking down to the dreaded task at hand—cooking dinner.  There may be some readers who relish the idea of whipping up a multicourse meal while entertaining a small child and trying to stay awake, but many of us struggle with the evening meal. 

Since takeout is expensive and wasteful, fast food is usually unhealthy, and both of these options require leaving the house, it’s important to have a few tricks on hand for tackling dinner preparation. These are a few of  my humble discoveries, but I’m sure our readers will contribute more!

Think like a prep chef:  Even if you just have fifteen minutes in the morning available, use them to chop up veggies or grate cheese.  Better yet, delegate these tasks to your partner or a helpful family member so that when you’re cooking you can just toss prepped ingredients into the dish.

Keep it simple: Dinner pretty much never looks like this picture on a weeknight at our house.  We often just eat lasagna or stir fry for dinner and forget the side dishes.   I might plunk some frozen veggies into a microwaveable bowl to accompany a meal of baked potatoes, but generally I try to make the produce a part of the meal. 

Be creative: Some of our strangest dinner meals have included French toast and applesauce, scrambled eggs and pear slices and sliced turkey on crackers with hummus.   My son loves breaking the dinner rules and I usually find it pretty exciting too!

Share the load:  The only reason I’m in charge of cooking at my house is that I hate doing dishes and my husband loves it.  Couples can create a meal schedule where duties alternate and single parents can enlist the help of friends and family.

Next week we’ll explore a few more tricks for getting dinner on the table without losing sleep or sanity.  Please feel free to share your mealtime tricks with us!

Pumpkin Waffles, Diaper Talk, and Our Wooden Toy Giveaway: the Sunday Round-up

5 Dollar Dinners published a recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip waffles.  Delicious!  (Or, as Audrey would say, “dewishiss.”)

Grow Baby Green is the newest addition to our blogroll.  Tara has a lot of helpful articles for new parents.  Recent posts include 7 Reasons Why to Stop Using Tap Water to Mix Formula, Massaged Babies Sleep More and Cry Less, and Tips for Eliminating Junk Mail.

Our Home on the Range has a great post about diapers, which includes her reviews of gDiapers, Kissaluvs, bumGenius 3.0, and many other cloth diapers.

Don’t forget to enter our wooden toy giveaway.  Simply post a comment and you’ll have a chance to win these great natural stacking rings from Natural Pod.

Alternatives to Dishwashing Liquid: Bar Soap, Baking Soda, & Homemade Dish Soap Recipes

I just spent a year of trying various eco-friendly dish soaps to wondering if eco-friendly soaps were any better for the environment than conventional soaps.  After all this research and number crunching, I still haven’t figured out a way to please my pocketbook and the planet.  With even the SDA claiming that there is no environmental advantage to using “eco-friendly” soaps, perhaps the best solution is to stick with a concentrated conventional liquid that will keep some plastic bottles out of the recycling bin.

But what if you want to use something more natural, less toxic, unscented, or just . . . less mainstream?  Here are a few more alternatives to liquid dish soap:

Use bar soap.  Life Less Plastic has a post about using Dr. Bronner’s bar soap instead of dish soap, thus avoiding plastic packaging.

What about Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap?  I didn’t try it because it seemed to cost more than any other “eco-friendly” soap out there, even in large quantities.  A gallon of it costs $39.99 on  That’s $.31 an ounce!  So 25 ounces of it would cost $7.81-almost twice as much as other eco-friendly soaps.  If it’s truly super-concentrated, perhaps it ends up being cheaper than other soaps on the market, but I have my doubts.  After all, every brand I tried claimed to be super-concentrated.

Use baking soda and vinegar.  My husband was aghast at my admission that I washed an entire sink full of dishes with baking soda.  He said it just can’t be done.  (Note: my husband is not a scientist, but he did take organic chemistry once.)  Based on my reading, when baking soda mingles with grease, it has a saponifying effect–that is, it turns to soap and dissolves the grease.   

It seemed to work.  I put some baking soda in a bowl, added a bit of water to form a paste, and scrubbed my dishes with the paste.  Then I rinsed all the dishes and put them in the rack to dry.  They dried with a powdery glaze on them, so I then tossed them all in another basin of water with a little bit of soap. 

  • Pros: The dishes came out cleaner and shinier than ever, so the baking soda/tiny bit of dish soap combo worked even better than plain dish soap. 
  • Cons: I used about twice as much water and spent about twice as much time washing my dishes.  I may continue experimenting with this method.  Supposedly if I combine the baking soda scrub with a vinegar rinse, my dishes will come out nice and clean.

Make your own dish soap.  In the comments section of our Eileen’s Pet Peeves post, Eileen posted a recipe for dish soap she found from the book Homemade, published by Reader’s Digest.

Homemade Dish Soap Recipe           

1/4 cup soap flakes
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/4 cup glycerin
1/2 teaspoon lemon oil

Make the soap flakes by grating a bar of ivory with a cheese grater. Pour soap flakes into hot water. Stir until dissolved. let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in glycerin and lemon oil. A loose gel will form as it cools. Use a fork to break up any congealed parts and put it in a squirt bottle.

Eileen goes on to explain that you used to be able to find soap flakes in the store, but now they’re hard to find, so you have to make your own with a natural bar of soap.

And here’s a whole slew of green cleaner recipes, including dish soap, on

Have you found a way to avoid dish soap entirely, allowing you to stop contributing to the production and disposal of all those plastic bottles?  Let us know!

Also, don’t forget to enter our wooden toy giveaway.  Just a few days left!

Using Baking Soda for Baby’s Bath, Diaper Pail, Cradle Cap, and More!

Discovering new ways to use natural, inexpensive products gives me a slightly bizarre thrill—like winning the lottery, fully reversing global warming, or seeing my toddler son first thing in the morning. 

You can imagine my euphoria when I found out that a fifty cent box of baking soda could replace diaper cream, eco-friendly cleaners, and baby bath without any artificial ingredients or phthalates.  For those of you that didn’t catch last week’s post, you might want to read up on how baking soda can also replace deodorant, shampoo and even toothpaste!

Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun, and Frugal Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought of” offers a plethora of ideas using for baking soda with babies and throughout your house.  The book is chock full of ways to replace potentially toxic mainstream products and expensive green cleaners with simple baking soda solutions. The list below is compiled from the book’s section on caring for babies and children. 

Diaper rash treatment.  Generously dilute baking soda with water and gently sponge onto baby’s skin to neutralize the acidity of urine.

Baby bath. Skip the bubbly stuff, and add a few tablespoons of baking soda to baby’s bathwater to soften the skin.

Bath toys. If you have bath toys that are prone to mildew or mold, sprinkle them with a bit of baking soda every now and then.  It will prevent the green stuff from growing on junior’s rubber ducky.

Cradle cap treatment. Make a paste of baking soda and add a bit of baby oil.  Then gently work the mixture into baby’s scalp and carefully rinse.

Deodorizer for baby bottles and nipples. Soak baby them overnight in hot water and a half of a box baking soda.

Cleanser for baby’s room. Rather than using harsh chemicals, just mix baking soda and water to clean cribs, bassinets, and the changing table.

Diaper deodorizer. Whether you add it to your load of cloth diapers, dump it into your diaper pail, or sprinkle it into your wet bag on the go, baking soda can make cloth diapering infinitely less smelly.

Do you have another tip on how to use baking soda for baby?  Please enlighten us!

Everyone with a creative idea about reusing, recycling, or going green for less is welcome to join our Thrifty Green Thursday blog carnival.  Follow these directions carefully if you’re wondering where to begin–and don’t forget to include a link in your post back to this page.  Thanks for joining us this week at The Green Baby Guide!


The Cheapest, Most Concentrated Eco-Friendly Dishwashing Liquid

Last year I bought a 32-ounce bottle of Biokleen dish soap for $4.79.  It lured me in with its seductive lemon-thyme scent but disappointed me with its lackluster performance in the kitchen.  Dishes came out greasy unless I used a LOT of the stuff, and I am not obsessive about dirt and grime.  I squeezed the last drop out of that bottle in less than six weeks. 

Six weeks for a bigger-than-average bottle?  This is what prompted me to pick up the $1.50 25-ounce bottle of generic, conventional dishwashing liquid.  It lasted from October to February–over 19 weeks!  In that time period, I would have had to buy at least two more bottles of Biokleen–and toss them in the recycling bin when they were empty.

I soon became obsessed with finding an affordable eco-friendly dish soap that worked as well as conventional soap.  Unfortunately, I never found any eco-friendly brand that could last nearly as long as the cheap generic stuff.  I hesitate recommending spending more (sometimes up to ten times more) on eco-friendly soaps when they don’t work as well and require more plastic bottles to be produced and then recycled or thrown away.  Plus, as I discussed last Friday, I’m now not even sure that eco-friendly dish soap is any better than conventional soap.

Here is a list of the soaps I tried.  I’ve included the bottle size, the price at my stores, and how long they lasted for me.  I cook a lot and don’t have a dishwasher, so I rely on dish soap for all of my dish-cleaning needs.  Your results will vary depending on how many dishes you wash, how often you wash them, and how liberally you use the soap (obviously).    I then calculated how much I’d have to spend a year with each particular brand.  Lastly, I figured out how many bottles I’d toss out in a year’s time.

Dish soap Size of bottle Cost per bottle Cost
er ounce
How long it lasts Cost per year Bottles per year
Bulk 25 oz. $3.10 $.124 7 weeks $23.02 0
Generic 25 oz. $1.50 $.06 19 weeks $4.11 2.7
Planet 25 oz. $2.99 $.119 11 weeks $14.13 4.7
Trader Joe’s 25 oz. $2.50 $.10 8 weeks $16.25 6.5
Biokleen 32 oz. $4.79 $.149 6 weeks $41.51 8.7
Ultra Dishmate 25 oz. $3.59 $.144 6 weeks $31.11 8.7
7th Generation 25 oz. $3.29 $.132 6 weeks $28.51 8.7

After all this experimenting, I never came up with the perfect solution to my dish soap dilemma.  But here are three possible conclusions to my year-long dishwashing odyssey: 

  1.  Use bulk dish soap.  One of my neighborhood stores, New Seasons, sells “eco-friendly” dish soap in bulk, so I can go in and refill the same bottle again and again.  The upside is, I would never have to recycle another plastic bottle.  The downside is, I went through 25 ounces in seven weeks, so I’d be using much more “eco-friendly” soap than conventional soap.  If there’s no clear environmental advantage to “eco-friendly” soap, as I discussed on Friday, then this is not a great solution for the planet.  It would also cost me five times as much as generic soap and take more effort.

2. Use Planet.  If you don’t have bulk dish soap available to you, the second best green bargain is Planet dishwashing liquid, which lasted over ten weeks–the most concentrated of all the eco-friendly soaps I tried.  It still doesn’t last as long as conventional dishwashing liquid, so you’ll spend more and go through more plastic bottles than you would with the generic kind.

  1. 3. Just use regular old conventional dish soap.  A 25-ounce bottle lasted almost twice as long as my eco-pick, Planet.  With environmental disadvantages to both plant-based and petroleum-based soaps, it wouldn’t be terrible to choose the soap that’s the most concentrated and creates the least amount of waste.  Many mainstream dish soaps are phosphate-free–check the labels.  Plus, it’s the cheapest option by far.  Generic soap would cost me just over $4.00 a year.  Compare that to Biokleen, which would cost ten times as much and waste almost three times as many plastic bottles.

A few months ago I found sustainable laundry detergent that worked well and even cost less than regular brands.  Why is it so hard to find dishwashing liquid that does the same?  What are your experiences with eco-friendly soaps?  Did I miss a great one in my review?

I never found the perfect dish soap that works for me, but I did come up with three options that might be better for the Earth without putting a huge dent in my budget.  For more tips, head on over to Rocks in My Dryer.

This Friday I’ll discuss some alternatives to liquid dish soap that will keep your dishes sparkling and the environment somewhat content.

Natural Pod Review and Wooden Toy Giveaway

Rebecca and I were delighted to discover Natural Pod, a website full of quality, eco-friendly toys.  If we had endless baby budgets, we might find ourselves purchasing everything on their site—from the wooden oven to the fully waterproof suits for Oregon winters.  The toys and gifts are truly beautiful and heirloom quality.

Roscoe tried out the plates and cups from Natural Pod and has been enthralled with them for weeks.  He uses them to feed blocks to his stuffed squirrels and carefully carries then around the house with perfect balance.  Besides training him to be a waiter one day, I find that the simplicity of the cups and plates makes them wonderful for creative play.   He uses them as hats for his animals, builds block towers on the plates, and uses them to prepares several imaginary meals. 

Rebecca’s daughter Audrey received the gnome family kit, which comes with colorful pieces of felt for the clothes, little wooden beads for the faces and hands, pipe cleaners for the bodies, and embroidery thread to pull it all together.  Her mom has volunteered to assemble and sew the dolls, which should be done just in time to surprise Audrey for Christmas.  The kit also comes with some gnome facts.  Do you know why gnomes wear pointy hats?  (To keep falling acorns from hurting their heads.)

Now for the best news of all: Natural Pod is sponsoring a giveaway for one of our lucky readers!  By commenting below you’ll be entered to win a set of these natural stacking rings—a beautiful addition to your baby’s nursery or the perfect holiday gift.   Be sure to comment before October 28th to win.  Thanks for your interest in Natural Pod toys and good luck on the giveaway!


Green Colleges, Safe Halloween, and Etsy Soap and Bibs: Our Sunday Round-up

Are you already daydreaming about sending your green baby off to a green college?  Check out MSN’s slideshow of the top green colleges in the nation, according to the Princeton Review.  The University of Oregon made the list, if anyone wants to send the kids our way.

Organic 4 Baby is giving away the little Joli Bebe Organic outfit pictured above.  Check it out and enter before October 21!

Crunchy Domestic Goddess has tips for keeping kids, babies, and even dogs safe on Halloween.

Do we write about baking soda and vinegar too much?  No?  Okay, here’s yet another use for vinegar: it removes wallpaper!  This tip is brought to you by Gray Matters.

Enchanted Dandelions reviews some homemade products from the Pudleduk Soap Company, which sells its wares on Etsy.  The pumpkin spice soap sounds nice and Octobery.  I was also poking around Enchanted Dandelions’ Etsy Shop and found some cute homemade baby items, like this bib for only $6.00!