Looking for a simple, thoughtful gift for Mother’s Day this year?
The Pearhead Canvas Print Set is such a great idea! If you have multiple children, you can have each make a print, or simply make one print for each member of the family. The canvases come already primed with brightly colored paint, ready for you to make your prints! At just 19.59, this is a terrific gift that you can display for years! (And if you have more time than money, you could easily do this yourself by buying supplies at a local craft store.)
If you’re as overwhelmed by framing as the rest of us, digital frames like this Coby Widescreen Digital Frame for about $25, can help you spend less time printing and framing and more time watching all your favorite images flip by. Disclaimer..this is NOT greener than a traditional frame, but more practical for families with limited time and growing kids.
Let your child make a stepping stone for mom for less than $12! (and it may be even less expensive if you hunt down the materials at a hardware store.) Midwest Products Kids Garden Stepping Stone Kit is just $11.00 and will be a fun memento tucked in amongst the zucchini and cucumbers in your veggie patch.
(Shameless marketing plug coming…) For moms-to-be, our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, is a fantastic gift. It’s currently on sale for about $8.00 on amazon and is packed with recipes for homemade baby food, green product recommendations,and facts about buying and caring for cloth diapers. We’re completely biased, but it’s the book we both wish we would have had as expectant mothers.
What is the best Mother’s Day gift you have ever received? We hope that this year you at least have the time to put your feet up, sip a bit of tea, and maybe even enjoy something as decadent as an afternoon nap.
While we theoretically wanted more than one child, after the first year or so of parenting our first, we weren’t entirely sure. I was tired. I was living in body that still hadn’t recovered from pregnancy and birth, and I couldn’t imagine being in charge of another human being. But somehow, just twelve months later, I was happily pregnant.
What happened? I’m pretty sure it was just short term memory loss. I slogged through another pregnancy while encountering the parenting challenges of the terrible twos, working nearly full time, and writing our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide.
Still, the moment my daughter, Jovi, arrived, it was so clear that we had made the right choice. In the exhausting weeks that followed, we weren’t always euphoric about our new parenting demands, but we also delighted about having our new baby.
And now…my little newborn in 3 1/2 years old–and I’m 40. It’s very clear to me that I do NOT want to host a living being in my body at this point, but adoption sort of dangles out there attractively as a possibility. It’s not the paperwork of adoption, or the complicated process of adoption, or the cost of adoption–but the fact that some baby out there needs a loving family and that there is room in our home.
We still have much of the baby gear from our first two, although I have put most of it out on loan. But there are eight Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers that I can’t seem to get rid of. What if we do decide to have another child and I won’t have them on hand? (It’s ridiculous, I know!)
And yet when one of my kids has the flu or the laundry piles up, it’s very clear to me that we are utterly, absolutely, happily done adding members to our family. But then a few months go by, and that short term memory loss kicks in again.
Am I actively pursuing adoption? Not even remotely. But if someone left a baby in a basket on our doorstep, it would be easy to fold that little person into our family life. Have you ever struggled with the decision to have another baby? Is environmental impact a factor for you? Or cost? Or just the added complication?
A few weeks ago, I celebrated my fortieth birthday. As I savored the moment, I contemplated the prediction from Amy Dacyczyn, author of The Tightwad Gazette, that a life of thrift will start to pay off at about age forty. And after four decades of tightwaddery, I have to say that she’s right.
This year we have suddenly found ourselves with disposable income, but we can’t seem to bring ourselves to dispose of it! It’s finally feasible to go out to eat a bit more often (and order beverages other than water). We could even start buying clothes and household items brand new instead of always hitting the thrift store first. And luxuries like cable television, cell phone plans with texting, and fancy coffees are no longer out of reach.
And yet, our skinflint lifestyle is so ingrained that it’s tough to shift beyond it. Other than the idea of frequenting local restaurants, which does sound alluring most of the time, I’m perfectly happy living life in thrifty mode. In full honestly though I do have to confess that we made big investments in equipment this year such as a used Prius, an older van, and a new computer. Other than that, our habits are pretty much the same as they have always been.
Oh, I also have to disclose that I still sometimes slip back into bizarre schemes to use every possible resource to its fullest. Like spending two hours trying to creatively save sour milk. In the end it was a flawed scheme and only resulted in two hours of lost time and a large pot of scalded milk. So, I can still be a bit over the top at times!
Hopefully, my kids are picking up on our thrifty habits and realizing that this alternative lifestyle isn’t really all that demanding–when I’m not doing weird things with souring milk–and that living with less can be a grand adventure!
As the kids have gotten older our budget has definitely grown, but that was the gift of raising our babies according to our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide. According to cost comparisons with typical American families, Rebecca’s family and mine saved about $6,000 per year by buying used, cloth diapering, and minimizing our purchases. All that saved cash means that now we can plan family vacations, go out for the occasional ice cream cone, and enjoy making memories with our children–that they will actually remember for years to come! (Whereas they’ll never remember what diapering supplies they used, which pack and play they owned, or how many pacifiers they possessed.)
Are you doing your best to raise your baby on a tight budget? Or are you on a limited by necessity or are you saving money just for the fun of it?
What do I say to new moms who have an interest in cloth diapering but don’t know if they’re up for the switch? Buy a few cloth diapers (new or gently used) and try it out! You don’t need to make sophisticated choices about pre-folds or all-in-ones. It’s not necessary to use just one type of cloth diaper for your baby. Talk to some cloth diapering friends (and if you don’t have any, please write us!). If you have a baby boutique that carries cloth diapers in town, go see what your options are. It truly is incredibly easy–and you don’t ever need pins or plastic pants!
You will easily recoup the investment you make in a cloth diaper, simply because unlike disposables, it will have a resale value! Also, the more you use those cloth diapers, the more your savings will add up. You save over $1000 for each child that you diaper with cloth, and if you even use cloth diapers part of the time, you’ll be saving a few hundred dollars each year.
If you’d like more in-depth information on cloth, our website has dozens of posts on cloth diapering and our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, is loaded with information on everything from how to select diapers to how to care for them. For those trying to master diaper vocabulary, there are plenty of charts explaining the variety of cloth diapers on the market.
Are you diapering full time with cloth or just wanting to give them a try? Next week’s post will have some great info on how you can try cloth diapering for 21 days with very little financial risk and lots of diapering options!
The journey from pregnancy to parenting is so intense that I love giving items to friends and family that will support them through that transition. What are my go-to gifts for green-minded new parents?
Cloth Diapers. By helping out a bit with the up-front cost of cloth diapering, I know that I’m giving something that will last from infancy to potty training-and beyond! Families that plan on having multiple children can save about a thousand dollars per child on diapering. Plus with all the fun colors and patterns available in lines like Charlie Banana or Fuzzibunz, it can be a lovely gift instead of being purely practical.
The Eco-nomical Baby Guide. The book helps break down how to reduce the amount of baby gear you buy, how to find the best used gear, and how to repurpose what you already have to help you save thousands of dollars. Plus, you’ll find a green directory of the best values on eco-friendly gear at every price point. Did I mention that I co-wrote this book? Still, I have to say that it’s the book I wish I would have had in the early months of my pregnancy as I scrambled to prepare for baby.
A Maya Wrap or The Ergo Baby Carrier. Luckily a friend of ours made me try a sling when we visited with our colicky infant. Once we slipped him into the A Maya Wrap, he immediately went to sleep. Plus baby carriers are hands-free devices that allow you to actually do stuff besides hold your baby! We also used an The Ergo Baby Carrier and I found it was far easier on my back once my children were older.
Home cooked meals. I cannot express the gratitude I felt for each and every meal that friends and family delivered in those first few months. Because of the rigorous schedule of breastfeeding and staying up with an infant all night, I was eating constantly but couldn’t find even five minutes to heat up a burrito in the microwave. Having hot meals on my doorstep nourished me, body and soul.
Free babysitting. Again, I think this was of more value to me than any material gift. Getting to go the movies with my husband or just take a nap once in awhile was a tremendous support. I would have traded all the adorable onesies I ever received for a dozen hours of babysitting. Am I the only one who feels this way?
What were your favorite gifts as a new parent? Is there anything you do for friends and family that might inspire some of our readers. Thanks for your ideas!
Just five years ago, I was shocked to see that major manufacturers weren’t making more BPA-free baby products. Now, you can wander down the aisles of any big box store and find dozens of shiny plastic goods with BPA-free labels. But what can you find beyond your basic BPA-free plastic baby dishes?
Green Sprouts has several options for baby dishes including the one above, made from a cornstarch based biodegradable plastic. It’s BPA and phthalate free but can’t be used in the dishwasher or microwave.
Fresh Baby’s Divided Dish is made of stainless steel, which can be washed on the top shelf of the dishwasher. It’s safe for the freezer, but obviously not the microwave. It’s snap-on lid makes it convenient for toting snacks or transporting meals to daycare. It’s also BPA, lead, melamine and phthalate free.
And now for my all time favorite…the custard cup. It’s made of thick, nearly unbreakable glass, it will be useful once your tot outgrows baby food, and it is usually microwave, dishwasher, freezer and, oven safe. Unlike many other food containers jumbled into your cupboards, custard cups are stackable and compact. Many styles come with snap on plastic lids that make them instantly into small tupperware containers. (Double check to make sure the lids are BPA and phthalate free as well.)
What are your favorite eco-friendly dishes for baby? How have they held up over many meals of mashed yams and applesauce? Did you even get baby dishes or just work with what you already had?
After two years of research, editing, and writing (with spit-up on our shoulders and cloth diapers in the dryer) The Eco-nomical Baby Guide hit bookstore shelves in the spring of 2010. We packed the book with practical tips to help families save thousands of dollars by going green. The insider secrets we’d learned in the trenches of early motherhood and from hundreds of Green Baby Guide readers were finally organized into the book that we wished we’d had as new parents.
Since then thousands of copies of The Eco-nomical Baby Guide have ended up at baby showers and green boutiques across the nation––and even the world! In December my cousin wrote me from Seoul where he and his wife are on a temporary teaching contract. Their South Korean birth coach had a copy of The Eco-nomical Baby Guide prominently displayed on her shelf. I have no idea how it made it that far, but it’s a thrill to know that our down-to-earth message is resonating with readers.
More than anything, Rebecca and I want to get copies into the hands of new and expectant parents. The Eco-nomical Baby Guide has been selling for under $10 on amazon lately, which is a great value for the amount of money it can help you save! If you’d like to read it before you buy, check it out at your local library. We have hundreds of copies in media centers across the country. If yours doesn’t have one yet, just make a request! We’re also happy to add that our publisher has just released a Kindle version of the book.
Thanks so much for your enthusiastic support of our exploration of green baby rearing on a budget. Who knew that whirling up sweet potatoes, finding secondhand strollers, and getting the best value on green goods could be such fun?
If you have tips on buying diapers, laundering diapers or dealing with other challenges, please share! Today is the last of our posts this mont on cloth diapering and our favorite insider ideas always come from our readers. (Oh… and our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide!)
Cloth diapering saves a heap of cash (and garbage) over the years, but the up-front cost of using cloth is a barrier for some families. If you are willing to buy preowned diapers for your tot, you’ll save packaging, shipping, and about half the cost of a new cloth diaper layette.
How much did I spend on used diapers? Rebecca took me to her favorite consignment shop with her baby in tow when I was six months pregnant. I bought about eight diaper covers for a dollar each. Then I paid 30 dollars for 45 used prefolds at a local diaper service. Total cost: $38. Not bad! I did spend money later on as my son grew into a different size, but my overall diapering cost was well under 300 dollars. With my second baby I had virtually no cloth diapering costs as we just reused what we already had.
What types of diapers are best to buy used? Cloth prefolds are extremely sturdy and inexpensive. I bought a set of 45 used from a diapering service that then lasted through several more children as we loaned them out to other people. Eventually those prefolds became our household rags and are still going strong five years later.
Beyond prefolds, consider diapers with snaps instead of Velcro. Depending on how much use they’ve gotten, Velcro can wear considerably over the years. My Fuzzibunz pocket diapers with snaps have held up beautifully over the years.
Where can you find gently used cloth diapers? Check out Jillian’s Drawers, a company that offers families the chance to try cloth diapers at no risk for a short time. They then sell gently used diapers at a great discount. The Used Diaper Company also sells and trades secondhand diapers as well as Diaper Junction.
You can also find gently used diapers on Ebay or buy yourself a whole set by checking out what is available on Craigslist. Also, be sure to check whether your local consignment shops sell cloth diapers or covers. You’ll get a chance to handle them to see their condition firsthand and judge whether they’d be a good fit for your child.
Have you bought used diapers? Some parents are a bit freaked out by the hygiene aspect, but diapers only require a wash or two to be totally sanitized. Have you had the gift of cloth diaper hand-me-downs? Those are even better than buying used!
The concept of cloth diapers is glorious and hip, until you start thinking of solid waste. Many people can’t make it past the mental hurdle of the toilet dunk and give up on cloth before they ever start.
Here’s a shocking revelation: did you know that ALL poo-laden diapers, even disposables are supposed to be dunked in water? There is actually a written note on every box of disposables recommending that solid waste be rinsed off before disposal. After all, who wants human waste to be sitting in a landfill? (Even greener disposables like Seventh Generation recommend a toilet dunk with solid waste.)
A few toilet dunks are inevitable, but you may be surprised by just how often you can bypass the icky chore in favor of our slacker cloth diapering alternatives. Here are tips for every stage of solid waste your baby will produce.
Milk based poop: If baby dines on breast milk alone, the solid waste does not need to be rinsed before the diapers hit the washing machine. In fact, you can simply store them in a dry pail with a few squirts of Bac Out on each diaper. For formula fed babies, solid waste will have a stronger odor and may need a few extra doses of Bac Out. If you’re grossed out by the fact that poopy diapers will then have to be loaded into the washer, wear rubber gloves or simply dump the pail in the washing tub to avoid contact.
Baby food poop: There are two toilet dunking alternatives. Either use a flushable diaper liner liner to shield the diaper or install a diaper sprayer onto your toilet. My hesitations on flushable diaper liners were that they seemed to ensure that more poop ended up all over my baby’s bottom and I wasn’t confident enough in my plumbing to actually flush them. They are slightly easier to dunk than a diaper and can actually be washed and reused, so you may find them helpful. Many parents find that a diaper sprayer is easy to install and can be purchased for far less if you buy the individual parts rather than a kit. This is a great video on installing your own diaper sprayer will save you about 30 dollars.
Solid food poop: This is the golden stage of cloth diapering. Solid waste is often firm enough to simply be dumped into the toilet with no dunking whatsoever. The diaper sprayer can come in handy at times when baby has loaded up on fruit or popcorn, but poopy diapers are so much easier overall at this stage.
Do you have any genius methods for avoiding the toilet dunk? How have you dealt with poopy cloth diapers? Anyone tried infant potty training? We accidentally figured out how to have our daughter pooping in the potty exclusively after seven months old and were happy to say goodbye to poopy diapers forever. I’ll be sharing her story in my next post!