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?
Jillian’s Drawers offers a terrific cloth diaper trial program for families who want to give it a go without the risk. You pay $154.54 for a pack that includes new prefolds, fitted diapers, one size diapers, and all in ones (12 pieces in all!) and use the diapers for 21 days from the day they arrive. Then, if you don’t like any or all of the diapers, send them back at the end of the trial, stains and all, for a refund of $134.54. That means your total risk is just $10, although you will also spend $10 on shipping. Many of our readers have recommended the Jillian’s Drawers Changing Diapers, Changing Minds Program as way to get started since the company provides excellent phone support every day of the week for cloth diapering questions.
It’s tricky to recommend to anyone which type of diaper will work for their baby without actually having the chance to try them out. Since you can try all types of cloth diapers and send some of them back, you have the option of investing money in the diapers that work best for your family.
Have you tried the Jillian’s Drawers Diaper Trial program? How did you get started on cloth diapers?
This holiday season, I’ve been searching for the products that new parents are raving about in online reviews. It’s best to trust those currently in the trenches of early child-rearing for the gifts that children (and parents) will really love this holiday.
The Itzy Ritzy Snack Happened Snack Bag is an overwhelming favorite. Families love that it zips shut (unlike other reusable bags that seal with velcro), that it can easily contain an entire sandwich, and that it holds up well after several trips through the washing machine. The product would be perfect for baby finger foods and would easily transition to preschool within a few years. It’s a great stocking stuffer for a child too as parents are reporting that kids love the designs on the bags.
The Green Toys Fire Truck is another great value that parents rave about. It’s sturdy, adorable, made from recycled plastic and is currently on sale for just $20.22. (My son got the Green Toys Recycling Truck when he was two and is still playing with it as a six-year-old!)
The Melissa and Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit of Blocks is on sale for about $53, and is a great gift that will provide years of creative play for children. Parents recommend the product because of quality, durability, and the flexibility of the design options. These blocks are recommended for children above three years, but I can imagine my kids would have been chewing on them in their first year.
Chewbeads are a GENIUS gift for a new mother (and her baby!) The chic necklace is made from 100% silicone beads free from BPA, phthalates, cadmium, or any other scary stuff. The necklace can be tossed in the dishwasher to rinse off the baby drool and can be slipped over an adult’s head without having to deal with a clasp.
What gifts are you planning on buying for baby or other new parents this year? Help us share great products with our readers!
As someone who publicly admits to being cheap to sometimes ridiculous extremes, I wondered if I would learn any new tricks for saving money on grocery shopping during my month of cheap eating. It seems like every time you read an article about saving on food, you hear the same things over and over: use coupons, plan menus, buy in bulk . . . zzz. I’ve posted about some of my unconventional money-saving techniques here on the Green Baby Guide. Here’s my article on Saving Money on Organic Groceries that contains most of my tried and true tips.
During my month of super cheap eating, I got to put most of my old tips to the test. I also learned a few new things. Many of them might be obvious to you but new to me. And some are kind of specific to my situation and the way I eat. But here we go!
Buttermilk pancakes (made with instant buttermilk and oil) are fluffier and faster to make than the recipe with real milk and butter. I’ll post a recipe next week!
Six servings per recipe is efficient. Everyone knows that it’s a good idea to make big batches of things so leftovers can be eaten for subsequent meals, but during my cheap eating month, it was a necessity.
Veggies are cheaper than baked goods—and cheaper than wine. I go to a lot of writing group and book club meetings each month. Normally I’d bring wine ($4-6). During the cheap month, I brought home-baked treats ($2.50-$5.00), but after a while I got tired of baking and brought raw veggies (under a dollar) or cooked edamame ($.85).
Bagged spinach/kale is not really more expensive than bunches. In fact, the bagged kale and spinach from Trader Joe’s is significantly cheaper than the loose bunches from Fred Meyer.
Cage-free eggs are cheapest at Fred Meyer. I found them for $1.99/dozen on sale. $2.29 regularly. Second place: Whole Foods. Last place: Trader Joe’s. This surprised me.
If you like this picture of me standing over a pot of eggs, you’re going to love my egg cooking posts.
I also made a few resolutions after my month of deprivation. We’ll see how well I do with sticking with them!
What are your unconventional money-saving tips for grocery shopping or cooking on a budget? I want to know!
I have a new article up on xoJane: I’ll try anything once: Standing 8-12 hours a day for health. This article doesn’t have much to do with eco-friendly parenting, but standing all day long is a free form of exercise, so I’m pretending it relates to the content of this site. Check it out and let me know what you think!
Do you make everything from scratch? Are you part of a dinner cooperative so that you can skip cooking a few nights a week? Have you embraced take-out or frozen entrees in exchange for a bit more time or sleep? Do you spend a few nights a week making huge batches of food that last for awhile? Are you an expert crockpot cook?
Those first few weeks with new babies, I embraced the casseroles that friends and family delivered to buoy us along. Dinner was beyond me, but I was also consumed with hunger from being awake so long and breastfeeding so often.
Now that my kids are older, I’m back at work nearly full time and feeling the strain of pulling together a family dinner after a full day of teaching. (And for some reason no one is delivering meals to my door anymore…) A local restaurant prepares an entire family meal for just $14 every week night, and I find my thriftiness seems to be interfering with common sense. Isn’t it worth $14 at least one night a week just to get to hang out with my children instead of trying to whip up a meal? Should I take this leap?
We also do heaps of food prep on Sunday afternoons so that packing four lunches in individual containers and arranging nightly dinners will be slightly easier. But still! I would love to gain any insight! (or a personal chef…)
I have some pretty amazing news. Did you know there is technology available that will take care of your wayward leaves and garden detritus without making a racket that wakes up every baby sleeping within a mile radius of your yard? In addition, this product uses no fossil fuels. Did you know that your leaf blower produces as much pollution in a year as 80 cars? And the black cloud of fumes it creates sends everyone running for cover.
“All right!” you’re saying. “I’m convinced! “Just tell me about this zero-emission silent wonder tool so I can get on with my life!”
Behold! A silent leaf mover.
This actually is a bamboo “rake” for your hair!
It’ll take a little more muscle from you than that leaf blower. Think of how toned your arms will get, out there raking every afternoon. You’re going to love it.
I think we’ll all love it.
Your neighborhood advocate for peace and fresh air
At 1:37 yesterday afternoon, I was suddenly struck by brilliance. Why not scoop our children into the car and head out into the bright September sun to a nearby farm? Farms like Thistledown, our local favorite, cater to families by featuring a small zoo of roosters, rabbits, exotic hens, and the world’s friendliest donkey. (Although I have to admit he’s the only donkey I’ve ever known.) My son, Roscoe, is deadly serious about carefully patting and scratching him just between the ears. When we walk away, the donkey brays loudly in complaint. My kids are shocked, and also quite satisfied with the burro’s newfound dependence on their special care.
Then we’re off to the fields to pick fresh flowers for our kitchen table. They cost just ten cents a stem and soon our arms are overflowing with dozens of vividly colored buds. My children are obviously not professional models. Roscoe prefers to hide behind the yellow strawflowers and Jovi has a blinking disorder. In real life, they were adorable, but (without photoshop) it was impossible to capture this on film.
Then we were off to fill our cart with purple tomatoes, fresh blackberries, green apples, and eight ears of bodacious sweet corn. The fifty stems of bright flowers we picked came out to a whopping five bucks and made two beautiful bouquets. The tomatoes are too gorgeous to store in the fridge so they’re decorating my kitchen counter as well.
I have vowed not to save farm visits for Halloween pumpkins, but to take a farm field trip every few weeks just to stock up on glorious produce…and to visit that endearing donkey once again! Have you visited a local farm lately? Are there any close to where you live that you especially love?
No. In fact it’s ridiculously simple. In fact, I think Bokashi bucket composting it’s far easier than traditional composting. Why? You don’t have to tromp out to a bin every day to dump watermelon rinds and eggshells. Instead you store the compost in covered buckets in your home or garage. Every week or two I have to bury a bucket in the backyard, but that’s it.
Since Bokashi Bin composting allows you to dump all food waste (including grains, meat, bread, seafood and all fruits and veggies), we have processed all of our own food garbage for nearly a year now. Where is all of it? Surprisingly, all the food scraps from a family of four have very quickly turned into a small mound of dirt in a garden bed.
How did we manage to turn so much food into dirt so quickly? The Bokashi that you sprinkle on the food as you dump it in is packed with microrganisms that eliminate odors and accelerate the decomposition process. They use the food waste as nutrients and produce enzymes, vitamins, amino acids and trace hormones that are hugely beneficial for your garden beds. While the buckets sit in our garage, the food waste ferments so that by the time it’s ready to go in the ground, it smells lightly of pickles. When buried, it turns to dirt within a few weeks in the summer but takes a bit longer in the winter. Since we live in Oregon, we can use Bokashi compost all year. In colder climates, it may be limited to the summer months.
I buy a bag of bokashi at our local gardening store for about $15, but bokashi is also available online. And you can even make Bokashi yourself!
Friends and family think I’m a bit loony for by bokashi composting tendencies, but I continue to be astounded by how easy it is. Are you with me?