Healthier Halloween Treats

What are you giving for Halloween this year? There are options outside of the traditional candy wrapper and sometimes kids actually prefer them. Our readers have shared time and again that children love having choices.

Some of my favorite ideas are simple and time tested. A bowl of pennies, Halloween stickers, and Halloween pencils is a fun alternative to pure sugar and kids get the chance to choose a few of their favorites. You can even throw in marbles or beads, as long as you make sure to tell the children that they aren’t edible!

I’m tempted to order a 72 pack of Halloween Glitter Tattoos for just $6.50. They’d be a spectacular addition to that bowl of prizes and end up costing less than ten cents each. (And even our teenage trick-or-treaters would love them.)

If you would like to have a few snacks thrown into the mix, there are some healthy options that beat out mainstream treats.

Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks make a nice snack, but they end up costing about 80 cents a bag. Still, if you’re going with the “big bowl of goodies” theme, you can throw a few of these in without breaking the bank.

On the other end of the cost spectrum, Sun-Maid Raisin Mini Snacks cost approximately 5 cents a box when you buy them in bulk on amazon. (A 9 pack of bags with 14 mini-boxes comes in at 21.39, which provides you with 126 mini boxes.)

Stretch Island Summer Strawberry Fruit Leatheris all natural, 100% fruit and costs $12.80 for a 30 pack.

Have I missed any simple Halloween treat options? What are you planning on offering your costumed visitors this year? I’m going to have more trick-or-treators than ever so I’d better start stocking up!

***This post was accidentally published early on Friday before I had finished, but when I read Larisa’s comment I was thrilled. Clean out your kids’ random plastic loot while stocking your goodie bowl! Genius!

I was also thinking of ransacking my huge collection of foreign coins that are currently buried at the bottom of our junk drawer. Kids would be thrilled to get a japanese yen, and since they’re about 100 yen to a dollar, it’s maybe even worth going to a bank to get a few rolls. We could pass out beautiful coins with a hole in the middle to fascinated kids. That would be the treasure they’d cherish most all evening! (Especially once their blood sugar levels out and the candy wrappers all end up in the trash….)

reCrib: Buy and Sell Top Quality Secondhand Baby Gear

ReCrib is a dreamy place to purchase high quality baby gear or make money selling used baby items. Thank goodness a site like this now exists!

If only we would have had reCrib when our babies were little. In our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, we share that we each spent about a thousand dollars on our babies’ first year, and we did it by reducing, recycling and repurposing what we already had. (Typical american families spent upwards of seven thousand on baby’s first year alone!)

With reCrib you can buy heirloom quality baby gear at 40-60% off retail prices, and then sell it back (using reCrib) for a respectable sum when your baby has outgrown it. It’s essentially a top quality, online consignment store.

For more information on reCrib, here is an interview with one of its founders, Daniel Lehmann. (The images you see are items that are currently on sale at reCrib for about half of what they’d cost new.)

1. What exactly is reCrib and how can people use it?
reCrib is a free online marketplace for the best gently used baby and kids gear – the must have cribs, strollers, high chairs, etc. It’s great for parents who want to declutter and recoup the costs of items their kids no longer use – and also great for new parents who want all the best brands and products for their kids but at a significant discount. But the best part is that it’s the green thing to do!

2. What inspired you to start reCrib?
We were moving apartments and decided to take the opportunity to declutter and sell the gear and toys our kids outgrew.We assumed there would be a great site targeted towards parents but were surprised to found out it didn’t really exist. We had all this amazing stuff – Netto Cribs, Bugaboos, Peg Perego High Chair, etc. – in nearly perfect condition. As parents, you acquire all this stuff that you use for only months to a couple of years. We wanted to create a solution and believed there would be a market for this idea.

3. What types of gear can people buy and sell and on reCrib?
Think of a dream list for a baby registry at a top modern design store. Cribs, strollers, high chairs, bikes/scooters, bouncy seats, toys, furniture, and more, all by the best designers and manufactures.

4. Many people say that parents should only buy new cribs because of safety concerns. We at Greenbabyguide are in full support of used cribs, but how do you ensure that the used cribs you offer are safe for consumers? How do you deal with drop side cribs? ( We wrote a post about crib side stabilizers and I wonder if you offer those to customers)
We try to stay as informed as possible about any safety issues and constantly monitor the site. We will immediately pull an item off the site if there is any recall or safety concern. We also do our best to keep people updated through Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, we encourage our users to do their homework regarding product safety.

5. At we firmly believe that buying secondhand is greener than buying new. Have your customers had similar reactions?
Yes!! reCribers care deeply about sustainability and do whatever they can do on the green front. It feels good to know you are doing the right thing.

So what can you buy at reCrib right now?

This bugaboo black stroller sells for over a thousand dollars on Amazon, but you’ll find it for just $500 on reCrib. We realize that’s still a lot of money, but if you resell if for $300 after you use it, it will cost less than many lower quality travel systems on the market. And top quality baby products will last through dozens of babies–it’s better to be the second or third family to use it than the first!

Are Glider Rockers Better than Traditional Rocking Chairs?

The glider rocker that has been dutifully serving our family for the last two years has broken into shards in the midst of a lullaby. It was the third in a series of used gliders that fell apart, one by one. On the journey to their demise, they squeaked and groaned just as our babies were falling into a deep slumber–usually between midnight and 3am.

We don’t really need a rocking chair at this point, but I have to wonder if we’d have been better off with a traditional rocking chair to begin with. I was adamant about buying a glider with a rocking ottoman. Why? My sister-in-law had one and I was sure it would be far more comfortable than the antiquated version.

But old rocking chairs become antiques simply because of their simple design and sturdy build. Why mess with a design that has worked for the last 300+ years? (Napolean actually had the above rocking chair in his bedroom way back in the 1800’s.)

Perhaps high quality glider rockers will eventually become antiques of sorts, but if you’re buying secondhand, which is both green and thrifty, it might be worth it to go for a traditional rocker. If you’re buying new, the greenest option is to purchase a piece of high quality furniture that will last for generations. Or, if you’re anything like Rebecca, you’ll skip the rocking chair altogether and opt to slow dance to lullabies for the first few years.

Mice in the Compost Bin

For the last seven years, our utterly uninspired composting system meant that any non-animal based foods were tossed in. No rotating, no watering, and no brown/green balance. But there were consequences for our unwillingness to embrace the laws of composting….

Knowing that my husband was finally taking the compost bin off of our pile and mixing the dirt, I took my kids outside to unveil our new pile of rich, composted soil. Unfortunately it was a rather traumatic scene. Dozens of young mice were pouring out of the bin and fleeing for their lives while my husband chased them across the yard, randomly clubbing the moving targets with head of the shovel. Not exactly a mother earth moment.

We now have a cat, but I’m not sure she can keep mice away from a constant food source. Does anyone else have this problem? It has happened twice and I’m thinking we may need to move onto something like a Bokashi Bin or a worm farm that works indoors. Any success with either of those systems?

National Costume Swap Day is Coming!

Halloween, already? Not exactly, but National Costume Swap day is less than three weeks away and we wanted to be sure to give our readers ample time to prepare. In years past, we seem to announce the event just after it occurs, or maybe the day before. Not this year!

On Saturday, October 8th, families across the nation will trade old costumes in for new trick-or-treat wear. It’s green, it’s free, and it’s a great way to connect with local families. And the truth is, no matter how adorable our children look in their baby bumblebee costumes, they can usually only wear them once. Why not share them with someone else?

Green Halloween has a directory so that you can find the swap in your area, or get one started. The site is run by the illustrious mother-dauther team of Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson who also co-authored Celebrate Green. We love their work on Green Halloween and are excited to see how National Costume Swap day is growing each year.

Are you planning on dressing up your babe this October? What are your costume concepts? You may want to think outside the box and use some of our rather creative (and odd) ideas for baby’s Halloween ensemble this year. —or better yet, head to the National Costume Swap near you!

Do Reusable Snack Bags Work?

As you may have read in my post on zero waste lunches, my son’s school has banned all single serving food items to eliminate trash. It’s time to invest in some greener food storage options!

I was excited about trying Lunchskins or other reusable snack bags, but read a comment on Monday from a user who struggled with mold on the fabric. Many parents LOVE the product, but others have also complained about stale food and not being able to dry the bags out enough before the next use.

Moldy bags and stale food reports make me hesitate on the brink of a purchase. At $7-15 dollars a bag, it’s tough to shell out so much and not know whether or not it will work. Does anyone else have feedback on reusable snack bags? Are you able to use them successfully? What’s your trick for avoiding mold on the fabric?

Packing Zero Waste Lunches

Just a few days ago I posted about my conflicted relationship with pre-packaged food. Convenience is expensive, wasteful, and sometimes really, really….convenient. Especially when it comes to packing school lunches, a chore my husband and I utterly dread.

So imagine my surprise when my son’s preschool sent home a notice asking us to exclude all single serving packaged items. What a glorious idea! Having a trash-free policy for packed lunches has a huge impact when sixty students follow it every single day. And since the kids compost and are limited to refillable drink bottles, the daily trash produced will be extremely minimal. But that means no more raisin boxes, or cheese sticks, or fruit leathers. From now on, it’s reusable containers all the way.

I’m actually glad to have the eco-pressure to take that step. It’ll require extra time, but in the long run it will save money and environmental impact. Instead of buying single serving items, we’ll buy large quantities and individually pack them up in the beginning of the week. At this point my inner lunch packing loather is horrified by the change, but like all lifestyle adjustments, I think we’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

Cheese sticks will become cheese cubes.
Fruit leather will switch to frozen blueberries.
Raisin boxes will be replaced with homemade trail mix.

In terms of reusable lunch ware, we already love the small compartments in Lock & Lock containers with removable trays. They’re BPA-free, dishwasher safe, microwave safe, freezable and they nest for easy storage.

But we’re also thinking of buying something like Lunchskins so that we can squeeze more in lunchboxes. People also seem to really like the Itsy Ritzy Reusable Snack Bag. Do you have a snack bag solution that helps you pack a zero waste lunch?

I guess the easiest solution would be to wash out zip-lock bags on a daily basis. Are any of you managing on that system?

Green Toys Tea Set Review

My son, who helped to inspire our book The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, just turned five. Did he request reclaimed wood toys or organic cotton garments for his birthday? Nope. He’s in the midst of a feverish obsession with monster trucks, which are just about as ungreen as you can possibly be.

On the other end of the gender spectrum is my two-year-old daughter Jovi who must wear the finest dresses available (purchased at thrift stores), jewels, and purses on a daily basis. For her brother’s fifth birthday party (which included “pin the wheels on the monster truck”), Jovi received one special gift: A Green Toys Tea Set.

My thrift shopping habit has wildly skewed my price perception, so spending over twenty bucks on a plastic tea set was slightly painful, but I was happily surprised with the quality of the product. And when I did some research on the company, I was glad that I shelled out a bit more. All Green Toys are made in the U.S. from recycled milk containers. The whole process happens in California which saves the carbon cost of having raw materials shipped into the factory from overseas. They’re BPA free and meet the strict toy safety and environmental laws for the state of California.

I love the practical heft of the plastic, the colors, the simple design, and the fact that all lids are completely interchangeable. Since she got the set two weeks ago, we have had dozens of tea parties, and I think there are hundreds more to come. With a quality product like Green Toys, you get an heirloom toy that is made of recycled materials and costs just a bit more cheap plastic sets made in China. I’d definitely recommend it!

Do you own any Green Toys? Have you been satisfied with their quality?

Trading Babysitting or Creating Babysitting Co-Ops

Babysitting trades have been one of the biggest discovery of my mothering career. My kids are thrilled to play with their friends, my husband and I dash off to the theater with a bag of homemade popcorn, and everyone enjoys a change in the routine! When we’re hosting the swap, we enjoy seeing the budding friendships between our children and their peers.

Before the days of babysitting trades, there were no parenting breaks for me except when my husband arrived home. By then, I was so desperate for company (or privacy) that I’d either talk his ear off or lock myself in the bedroom just to experience a tiny slice of silence. (I don’t own a Snuggie, but the glowing smile in the picture captures how I felt when I crept into my bedroom. “Tee-Hee…no one is currently climbing, spitting up on, or peeing on me! Glorious!” )

Eventually I started to schedule our weeks at home around play dates, which were a welcome diversion for an extravert like myself. But when things evolved into babysitting trade status, life truly eased up–and not just for me! The families I swap babysitting with are just as grateful for the chance to host a play date or to get a sliver of freedom every so often.

Babysitting cooperatives take swaps to a whole new level. In a co-op, parents take on a few more children, but also get more opportunities for free babysitting. The Smart Mom’s Baby-Sitting Co-op Handbook:How We Solved the Baby-Sitter Puzzle can help you create one yourself. It’s gotten rave reviews on Amazon and thoughtfully lays out plans in careful detail for how to put together a community that works for you. It’s so popular that even though it was published over a decade ago, it’s currently sold out! (But should be available again very soon.)

I know with infants cooperatives or exchanges may be more of a challenge, but if you have at least two parents on duty it’s pretty amazing what you can handle. Does anyone else enjoy babysitting swaps? Do any of you have family who volunteer to watch your tot on a regular basis? I plan on doing that once my children get a bit older!

The Best Healthy Snacks for Daycare and School Lunches

I have a strange relationship with packaged foods. In my heart, I’d prefer to whip up batches of homemade crackers, cereal, cookies, and even yogurt in my spare time. I hate buying pre-packaged stuff and tossing wrappers into the trash, but I’m also eternally grateful to have it on hand when we’re heading off to parks, swimming lessons, or school. I minimize packaged items in lunches, but when I’m in a rush it’s nice to be able to quickly assemble something healthy that my child will actually eat.

So are there some prepared foods that pack more of a nutritional punch and treat the planet just a bit more kindly?

Dry cereal is a great breakfast option but can also be tossed into lunches or stirred into trail mixes. I love Trader Joe’s O’s, but Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunny O’s are also excellent. Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies are a terrific alternative to the ubiquitous goldfish.

My children can be tricked into eating pumpkin and pureed prunes due to the lovely taste of Kashi bars. At this point in my life, I’ve also realized that I may be the one having the hunger meltdown if I don’t have snacks along on our adventures.

Newman’s Own Organic Raisins are easy to pack up in tupperware or reusable plastic bags and can be thrown into trail mix, oatmeal, or cookies as a great supplement.

Bare Fruit’s 100% Organic Bake-Dried Fuji applies are currently on sale for less than $20 for two one pound bags. I know it can seem costly, but you have to think of the volume of apples that have to be dehydrated to produce just two pounds of dried fruit. (If you have a dehydrator and do the drying yourself, I envy you!)

Stretch Island Fruit Leathers have no added sugar or colors and are made just one state away in Washington. My kids love these and they’re currently less than $13 for a pack of 30 bars. Making fruit leather is an eventual goal of mine, but I’m not there yet…

If you’re trying to get a few more greens into their lunches, consider tossing some boiled and salted edamame (soybeans) in. Somehow the novelty of popping the soybeans out of their shells helps to get these nutritional gems into their bodies. My kids also love roasted Seaweed Snacks. It may sound a bit exotic, but the sheets of nori (the seaweed used to wrap sushi) are seasoned with sesame and then roasted and salted to create a really delicious snack that emulates potato chips.

Although they’re often forbidden in schools where children suffer from allergies, there’s nothing that beats the nutrition and ease of plain nuts. One pound of Raw Organic Almonds can be tossed in with cereal, raisins, and dried fruit to create a killer trail mix that’s easy to transport.

What are your best ideas for simple school lunch snacks? Do you dread packing lunches as much as I do?