We’re heading off on vacation tomorrow morning..and are currently hacking away at the last minute details. We’ll be climbing aboard a plane that will shuttle us from Oregon to Maryland to see my in-laws and experience a bit of east coast sun.
In the past three years, my daughter has been on a plane five times. FIVE! I think I hadn’t experienced air travel that much when I was several times her age. Flying isn’t exactly the greenest of travel options, but it is important to us that our children know their far-flung family members.
Of course it’s an economic hurdle to buy all those plane tickets, but it is so thrilling to take my children on cross country adventures. And what a relief that the ultra-green, uber-thrifty route we’ve taken in the last five years has left us with money in the bank to enrich their lives in a way that disposable diapers simply can’t. The older my children grow, the more I appreciate the benefits of a thrifty green lifestyle!
Back when I began cloth diapering, new fangled products like Go Green Diapers, Rumparooz, and Lil Joey Diapers didn’t even exist. Now I find myself in green baby boutiques, playing with the velcro closures and almost wishing that I was back in the glory days of diapering.
Have you fallen in love with any new cloth diapering brands? Are you loyal to old favorites like Bummis, Charlie Banana, or Fuzzibunz? Or are you perfectly happy with prefold diapers and plastic pants?
We have nearly fifty thousand readers hitting our site on a monthly basis and many of them are new to cloth diapering. Please share your insights on which cloth diapers have worked best for your family!
I should disclose that I started with Bummis and prefolds and then fell deeply in love with Fuzzibunz and Charlie Banana. The snap diapers held up much better, especially with my second child and they were incredibly easy to get on and off.
Lately I’ve been dragging my family out the door every weekend for a romp in the woods. Why? Because for the last five years of our lives, we were so caught up in domestic life that we lost our old wilderness lifestyle. We head to parks on a regular basis, but I wanted to go beyond sand and play structures and into real forest. Before kids we used to do this all the time! We strapped on our backpacks and boldly stepped into the trees without a second thought. Now we have to tuck the sunscreen, the snacks, the extra clothes, and the bandaids into bags even on a local hike.
But the rewards are tremendous. My children’s efforts to struggle up buttes are rewarded with a picnic, an incredible view, and a sense of accomplishment. In the process, we spot all sorts of wildlife. Including slugs. Trailing their silvery slime across our path, slugs may not seem like the most majestic of animals, but my children were utterly fascinated by them.
Beyond the joy of the hike itself is the sense of connection my kids can glean from the entire experience. This is why we clean with vinegar, frequent the thrift shop, and use bokashi to compost our food scraps. After all, if my kids can get excited about a wild slug, the bar is set pretty low!
A book I really would love to put into practice more in our family life is 15 Minutes Outside by Rebecca Cohen. Cohen has simple outdoor play ideas for every day of the year, in every weather, in every season to get your children outside.
The pile of towels we bought new eight years ago was perfectly viable, except for the dingy mint color that evolved through hundreds of washings. In my frenzy for a peaceful domestic space, I longed to buy a new set but realized that there must be some way to freshen up what we have. I was missing a few hand towels, but found some in a similar faded green at a thrift store for less than a dollar. I figured that the dye might help the whole lot look like more of a set.
After spending eight bucks on Rit Dye and one hour hastily attempting to dye the towels in a front loading washing machine, I had achieved my goal.
How did I do it? The truth is that I am the opposite of Martha Stewart. There wasn’t a studious perusal of instructions or a table laid with carefully chosen towel dying tools. I just tossed the towels in the wash and mixed up the dye in an old waste basket full of hot water. When I dumped it (clumsily) into my front loading washer, there was some spillage, but I started the load on hot and hoped for the best.
I then did several hot loads without soap. When I first pulled the towels out, I was sure I had ruined them. They looked a bit streaky and sad. I then washed them for about five more loads on hot with soap. After a quick toss in the dryer, I have to say they are gorgeous. They’re a bright stem green looks fantastic against my purple bathroom walls. My husband, who often has to suffer through my strangely creative ideas, has mentioned how great they look at least five times already.
If you decide to take on this feat, you should know that a top loader would have been far easier for dyeing. Also, I didn’t use the dye fixative and have found that there has been some very slight leakage on one piece of laundry in the wash. (Luckily it was just a rag.) The RIT dye instructions also call for using two cups of salt with the dye, but I had just a half cup.
I suppose you could even cobble together a collection of white towels secondhand and then dye them any color you’d like if you were feeling adventurous. The nice thing about my case was that there was no failure. If I ruined the towels, it would have been time to spring for new ones. If I saved them, victory!
In short, if I can do this project, despite my very limited attention to detail and my total lack of preparation, anyone can!
A couple years ago I posed this question: Does gardening really save money? It seems like every time you read a magazine article about saving money on groceries, the author suggests planting a garden. To be honest, I’m sure we’ve suggested it a time or two on this very site. It’s a no-brainer, right? Food from the store costs big bucks. Food from the backyard or balcony is FREE!
My garden (not this year’s)
Well . . . I’ve remained skeptical about this. My start-up costs for my first year of gardening outweighed the amount of produce I ended up harvesting. While it’s certainly possible to throw some seeds in the ground and wake up to a fresh crop of gourmet lettuce a few weeks later, the reality of gardening seems more complicated than that.
I’ve come to the conclusion that if you enjoy gardening, it’s a great way to spend your time (and money). I continue gardening because even if I don’t break even, I like spending my time outside in the sun (and rain), working compost into the soil with my bare hands, watching my basil plants spring to life. (Or die miserably under the slime of a thousand slugs.) But if you’re in it just for the magical money-saving benefits you hope to enjoy, you may wind up disappointed.
One crop that usually pays for itself: tomatoes
Gardeners of the world: Does this pastime save you big bucks? Or are you in it for the non-monetary rewards?
Ten years ago we choose Fiestaware dishes for our wedding registry and have enjoyed them ever since. They’re sturdy, classic, and scratch resistant. Amazingly, most of the eight place settings we originally received have made it through our children’s early childhoods in great shape.
It occurred to me the other day that the dishes that have been lost have all been small salad plates. They’re the perfect size for my children, they don’t take up as much space in the dishwasher, and they help me control my portion sizes. Suddenly I realized that if I bought more of them, (we have just six) that I could get double the number of plates into the dishwasher.
Plus, I could chuck the random plastic plates (drawn by yours truly on white circular paper and sent into a plastic plate-making factory approximately 30 years ago) that we use when we utterly run out of everything else. The whimsical drawings make me smile, but the toxins lurking in antique plastic can’t be good. Now I use the plastic plates as air tight lids in my bokashi bins and not for my children’s food!
I ordered some new fiesta salad plates but also picked up a stack of eight perfect Ikea plates at a thrift store for less than four bucks. I love buying used, real dishes for the kids because I’d rather have them eating off of a ceramic surface than plastic, and when it’s purchased secondhand I don’t care so much about the occasional breakage. Since my small plate revelation, my cupboard is cleaner, the dishwasher is fuller, and I experience small hits of bliss every time I glance at the kitchen shelf. Not bad for a day’s work!
About four years ago, I set off on a daring mission to get rid of plastic, one step at a time. In pursuit of this goal, I have amassed an impressive collection of glass containers and I do love them for the following reasons:
My Lara Bar imitation in recycled glass
But all wonderful things have a dark side. Here are some hidden truths about my glassware:
My shocking conclusion: While I continue to love my glass containers, I’ve come to appreciate my BPA-free plastic containers. Both Glad storage containers and Ziploc containers store and seal well. My six-year-old can open and close them herself without incident. Also, if you lose a lid or something, the containers are recyclable.
School lunch nestled in plastic
What do you think? Can glass and plastic containers coexist in my kitchen?
About six weeks ago I woke up and suddenly craved order, beauty, and domestic peace. It’s not that I hadn’t longed for those things during the past six years of childrearing, but I realized quite suddenly that we were beyond those sleep deprived days. We had the time now to invest in simple, frugal, and green steps to better enjoy our household space.
That day, I went to a thrift store and began my journey to greater household order. I bought two wicker baskets at a whopping cost of three bucks total. Why do I love the wicker-baskets-from-a-thrift-store solution? It’s aesthetically more appealing than plastic containers, it is made from natural ingredients which are being reused, and it’s so very, very cheap!
Then I decided to tackle the top of our fridge. In the lovely image above you’ll see craft items, sewing materials, and random bits all piled up to welcome me on a daily basis, and fall down at least a few times a week when someone opens the freezer door.
In a matter of five minutes, the items were tucked into baskets that can be pulled down for projects whenever they are needed. No more standing on a chair to search past the pens for the ball of red yarn!
Here is our art basket, replete with scissors, paper, stickers, pens and glue. Kids now have a place to put supplies whenever they are done, but I love that markers will be out of reach for my two-year-old.
My sewing supplies, which were once stuffed into an old Easter basket with needles spilling out of each side, is now vastly easier to manage. And it’s far more accessible than it was when it was stored in the linen closet.
I suppose it would have been even better if the baskets matched exactly in shape and size, but I’m more excited that we’ve made progress on a persistent and annoying household problem! Hooray for simple, green thrifty solutions that make domestic life just a tad sweeter!