Archive for the ‘The Green Household’ Category


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?

Part-Time Cloth Diapering

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!

I had visions of whirling up organic autumn blends of apples and squash for my babes. And I did, but not for every meal. I made huge batches of sweet potatoes and mashed bananas in my blender, froze them in ice cube trays, and then stored them in zip lock bags in the freezer. It was long process, but I loved reflecting on the fact that making baby food means saving about 90% over the cost of pre-made organic baby food and avoiding the environmental costs of packaging and processing. Still, working nearly full time, not getting enough sleep and having a relatively picky baby motivated to buy jars of organic baby food to save my sanity now and then.


Later, when Rebecca and I wrote, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Time and Money, I discovered (and included in the book) recipes for homemade teething biscuits and pumpkin pancakes. With my second child I got to try them out and she loved them, but I didn’t always have time to bake everything from scratch. And as we say in the book, it’s all about “progress, not perfection” so any effort was better than none!

Have you made your own baby food? What are some of your baby’s favorites? What is your favorite store-bought baby food?

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!

Somewhere in the midst of laundry, errands, and picky eaters, I have lost my love for preparing the family dinner. And yet I yearn for mealtime perfection…the image of my children eagerly crowding around steaming dishes of nourishment. Are simple, healthy family dinners even a possibility?

The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time is on my Christmas list. It’s packed with tips, recipes, anecdotes and green tips for a better family dinner. Somehow the fact that Laurie David (producer of An Inconvenient Truth) manages to keep her teenage children at the dinner table is inspiration enough for me.


Dinner: A Love Story is a lovely combination of reality and ideology. Jenny Rosenstarch chronicles how her and her husband make dinner a priority, no matter how crazy their family life becomes. The recipes she shares are tried and true and her voice is like that of a good friend, full of encouragement and lacking in judgement.


My other favorite, simply because the humor and tone immediately seem to lessen my meal-making angst, is One Bite Won’t Kill You, By Ann Hodgman. The reviews are fantastic and seem to imply that both adults and children have enjoyed recipes in this book. It looks like it just might be a success with my picky crew!

I know Deceptively Delicious is quite popular, but I didn’t have tremendous success with the recipes. The garbanzo bean chocolate chip cookies were a whole lot of work, and were rejected by everyone, including me. If you have younger children and are pureeing foods anyway for the baby, it might be worth the effort. Otherwise the pre-blending of cooked veggies seems unrealistic.

What is your go-to family cookbook? Thanks for your ideas!

For awhile my daughter was quite content to play on her adorable little Alex Wooden Cook Top Playstove. It was a great value at about $30 and also took up just a small corner of her room. Glorious! Now she’s dreaming of a bigger, more luxurious environment in which to whip up imaginary cupcakes. Have you invested in a wooden play kitchen? Was it worth the money and space in your home?

I like the simplicity of the Melissa and Doug Cook’s Corner Wooden Kitchen. It’s smaller than some and costs under $100, but I wonder if its size would limit the span of years she’d be interested in it. Have you tried this one?

Kidkraft’s Red Retro Kitchen seems like it might hold her interest for a few more years and it’s still under $150. It’s not exactly simple, but perhaps the details would lead to more options for play.

My absolute favorite kitchen, is the Camden Rose Childs Cherry Wood Play Kitchen. It’s a heirloom piece of furniture that would surely last for several generations, but it is quite a bit more at about $350.

What has your experience been with toy kitchens. Did they hold your child’s attention? Did you find a glorious deal on Craigslist? Thanks for your advice!

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…)

An Autumn Trip to a Local Farm

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?

Cheap Eats Diary

In May I fed my family of three for $129.99. I kept this diary during the month to write my article “Real Life Hunger Games,” which was published on xoJane in June. Here’s a more day-to-day look at how I pulled it off.

May 1

Goal for this week is to not spend any money at all.

We went shopping three days ago and spent $35. Breakfast: banana with p.b. Lunch: leftovers. Dinner: I made spaghetti sauce with tomatoes I bought last Saturday. One pint left. Not cheaper than buying a jar. Three pounds of tomatoes, $3. Oh well. Delicious. Running out of milk.

Andy says (seriously) he wishes there had been kale or cabbage in the sauce. He says it really adds a lot of “body” to a meal. Vow to buy Andy a cabbage at next shopping trip.

Audrey eats a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast, p.b. sandwich and apple for lunch, Cheez-its for snack, spaghetti for dinner.

The food cupboard: Before

May 2

Buy non-organic milk for $1.79 at TJs. Ask Facebook if they would use a can of sweetened condensed milk marked “best before September 2005.”

I made “recycled cookies” out of instant oatmeal, millet puffs, cheerios, crumbled Ritz crackers, two sample boxes of cereal, coconut flakes, butter, the old sweetened condensed milk. They were delicious! Saved some for future book club.

 

May 6

On May 4 I made lentil & sweet potato stew with French lentils I found in the cupboard. I also made a Russian apple charlotte using two old frozen raisin or blueberry bagels, saved up apple slices, dehydrated milk, remnants of two jars of jam.

Andy buys $7 of salad greens and feta cheese for his lunches.

Yesterday we bought $1.79 candy and popped popcorn at home, brought it to see Secret World of Arrietty. Made buttermilk caramel flan and took it to Gina’s for cinco de mayo dinner—chile rellenos. Audrey ate beans, rice, chips, and salsa.

Tonight we ate leftover lentil & sweet potato stew. I made chocolate chip cookies. I’ll freeze some and bring to a book group.

 

May 7

Up three pounds! The experiment has not even been going on a week. Gaining weight is not part of the plan; I wanted to maintain. Maybe I shouldn’t have made a bagel bread pudding, buttermilk flan, two batches of cookies in  six days.

Breakfast: oatmeal with rice protein powder I’ve had sitting in the cupboards since 2006.

Cooked old dried garbanzo beans. Accidentally let cook way too long! Still taste good. Hope Audrey will eat them.

Veggie box arrived today! $33. So week one: $47. Last night Andy stocked up on kale and spinach. Today ate spinach, radish, carrot, pickled onion, garbanzo bean salad. Try not to spend anything in week 2.

 

May 8

I have way more food tucked away in my freezer and cupboards than I imagined. I guess because I wasn’t viewing most of it as food anymore. Not actively searching for a way to eat up crushed Ritz crackers and frozen jar of pinto beans, but not wanting to throw anything out, either. Eventually they’d go bad and I would then feel okay tossing them. This represents a lot of money from the grocery store, taking up kitchen real estate, into the compost bin (or landfill!).

For breakfast: oatmeal with rice protein powder. Last of the slivered almonds. No dried fruit because I’m out. Maybe I’ll buy raisins.

Lunch: Leftover spaghetti, mac and cheese, parsley. Not very filling. Ate four chocolate chip cookies, polishing them off.

I am packing Audrey’s lunch lighter. She never ate all of it, so I’d throw away half-eaten but unsalvageable sandwiches and apple slices. Now she eats all of the smaller lunch and feels proud of herself. She’s maybe even eating more than before. The “large” lunches proved too daunting.

Tonight I will make pinto bean-chard-leftover salsa and spaghetti sauce chili with crushed tortilla chips and the remnant of frozen shredded cheddar. I think it will be better than it sounds. Okay, I made it. I used leftover spaghetti sauce, remains of two different things of salsa, Audrey’s leftover carrot sticks, defrosted pinto beans, chard, onion, spices. Served with corn bread. Made at least four servings, I think.

Audrey finished off a Trader Joe’s popsicle that had been in the freezer since last summer. First ate off the stick. Then I made it into a slushie. Made the slushie into lemonade by adding water. She enjoyed the progression and asked me to let her eat popsicles like that again.

 

May 9

Foraging! Ride the bus to Heather’s. Walk a mile to Reed College, lush and green. We snip the tips off of stinging nettles with scissors. Doesn’t damage the plant. Heather shows me other edibles. We find dandelion greens, mustard flowers,  salsify, mint, wild onions, bay leaves, and rosemary.

And then we journeyed . . . into the wild.

Tonight I make a quiche. Time intensive. Blanch the stinging nettles. Crust from scratch. Sautee mushrooms, onions, dandelions, mustard flowers. Dandelion greens are bitter and terrible. Take most of them out. Fingers crossed I didn’t just waste six eggs and a stick of butter, not to mention all day foraging and washing greens.

Interesting how much work it takes to get a bit of food. Lucky we can buy it. Someone grew it, picked it, took to the store for us. So to waste it  . . . terrible.

Bought a gallon of milk for $2.59. A half-gallon is $1.89. I realized I stuck with half-gallons because I didn’t like carrying them (too heavy!) & I was worried about using them up before they went sour. With all this baking, I’m sure I’ll use it up.

 

May 11

I made oatmeal muffins yesterday. Got to stop baking! They’re in the freezer; I can eat them instead of cookies. This morning I had one for breakfast with peanut butter.  This afternoon I had edamame for a snack. It was in the freezer for I don’t know how long. Maybe a couple years? Crusted over with frost.

Edamame looks bad but tastes fine! Good snack. However, I usually don’t crave edamame.

Audrey wanted a hot dog for dinner and I happened to have two old frostbitten veggie dogs in the freezer. Made a bun out of a bread heal.

Tonight I’m going to make “fake-out noodles.” Asian stir fry with lasagna noodles. Broccoli, scallions from the veggie bin. Not the best experiment ever.

 

May 15

Halfway through today! $59.51 left. Less than half.

Last weekend I made a “main course tabouleh” salad that ended up making 7 servings. Used more veggies than recipe—stretches it out and makes it less starchy. Very good garnished with feta and toasted walnuts.

We had Gina over for happy hour on Saturday. Served roasted chick peas, carrots, radishes, celery. Old wine.

Made chocolate ice cream with seven year old cocoa powder. Tucked away, since I have other, newer cocoa powder I’ve been using. Audrey said it was the best ice cream she’d ever eaten.

We spent the most we had on groceries on Saturday: $15. That got us a cabbage, the ingredients for tabouleh, cheese, cream for ice cream. Cheaper to take her to Wendy’s & also we wouldn’t have a bunch of ice cream to finish up . . . but there are worse problems!

 

May 16

Pancakes for breakfast! New recipe, not as good.

Bulgur salad for lunch. Still some left! 7 servings!

Book group—crudités jar. Getting tired of baking cookies!

 

May 17

Audrey ate 6 pancakes!

Brought ½ bag edamame to group–$1.69/2 = $.85

 

May 18

Today I finished off the fried rice, though I thought there were 2 more servings in there. Ended up getting 6 servings.

 

May 22

Week 4!

Milk I bought May 9th is gone after 13 days. Used it up—hot chocolate, ice cream, in baking. May go back to ½ gallons.

Veggie box yesterday includes dandelion greens. Ugh! More greens for Andy’s lunches. Last night ate the rest of that quinoa-garbanzo-green bean salad. That made at least 7 servings.

Running out of tea. Use up old stuff I’ve been avoiding. Might have money to buy more?

 

May 20

Still have oatmeal muffins left. Audrey finished off pancakes. Lunch: leftover mac and cheese + bean salad. Dinner: same. Andy ate a salad. We bought more popcorn and oil. Down to $14 for the rest of the month! Delivery tomorrow.

 

May 22

Stuff left to eat:  jars of pinto beans (could go in Mexican salad), carrots, beets?, two fruity bagels (maybe Audrey will eat them?), a little frozen pizza.

 

May 24

Yesterday I rooted through the cupboards and found two old boxes of mac and cheese, relegated to the back because my daughter prefers TJ’s organic shells & these were Annie’s. She will eat them, though. And I found a jar of hazelnuts! Score! Running low on nuts and getting nervous . . . will borrow nutcracker from Sarah.

Last night made pasta primavera with two different pastas, sunflower seeds and almonds (out of walnuts), sundried tomatoes left over from 1995, olives didn’t know I had, onion, asparagus, carrot. Eating old food hasn’t killed me yet! Must buy some macaroni or something. Could make a huge dish out of odds and ends in fridge, hazelnuts. Get us to the finish line. One week left!

 

May 26

Counting down the days now. Wish I could buy a few things: good tea, more popcorn, puffs.

 

May 28

Yesterday I helped my sister weed her garden in exchange for the thinnings. Felt like a character in the Boxcar Children.  Brought home 1 lb, 12 oz. various greens. Gave some to Andy for his salads to keep him from another kale bender. The rest I’ll throw into some pasta dish or something.

Make carrot cupcakes for Abby’s b-day. Happened to have all the ingredients but walnuts around. Unopened thing of cream cheese we hadn’t used because we had run out of bagels. Made applesauce out of Audrey’s rejected apple slices I’d been saving.

Carrot cupcake: Not the best food photography.

The food cupboard, after

May 30

Just two more days! Yesterday I organized my spices. I think I’ll make a loaf of bread today. Maybe cookies. Baking is out of control.

Yesterday went foraging in Sarah’s garden. Have enough greens to tide Andy through.

Today I might make fried rice again.

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Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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