The Homemade Smoothie and Popsicle Trend Continues…


I’ve known for years that smoothies are a great way to slip spinach, cucumbers, squash and other veggies into my children’s diet. I get to clean out the remnants of my produce drawers and everyone feels like they’re getting dessert. The smoothie mustaches are just a bonus! (This photo was from last summer…before I had totally forgotten the magic that a blender can create!)

So why is it that I so often forget this simple trick?

Luckily Rebecca’s last post bolstered my memories of smoothie success! We whirled up brown bananas, greek yogurt, peanut butter, honey, and cocoa and my children declared all day how delicious their “milk-shakes” were. We poured the leftovers into popsicle molds and the kids were beyond thrilled to eat “fudgecicles” for breakfast. Victory for all! Thanks for the reminder Rebecca!

Recycler or Hoarder? Help me decide!

Have I crossed the line from a grounded, green mom to a neurotic hoarder who simply can’t discard anything? Help me decide!

A cold bit of crust from my son’s grilled cheese sandwich stares at me from an otherwise empty plate. Why toss it when it can provide me with sustenance and save my bokashi bin from having to digest another hunk of food?
A. I’ve already eaten lunch and am not remotely hungry.
B. These “recycling efforts” have caused my belly to grow while my pants are inexplicably shrinking.
D. Eating this gross bit of cold, partially gnawed sandwich will not save the planet.
E. All of the above.

That Robin’s egg blue sweater in my closet has only been there for a year. Why would I get rid of it when I could still get so much use out of it?
A. In the past 12 months, I’ve worn it twice.
B. The sleeves are two inches too short, it’s endlessly itchy, and I detest wearing it.
D. On a half off sale at a thrift store, I paid just three bucks for it.
E. All of the above.

Every month we end up with a tiny sliver of soap in the dish. Why would I discard them when I can melt them down, put them in the blender, and remold them into fresh bards of soap?
A. With two small kids and a nearly full time job, I barely have time to brush my teeth, let alone engage in multi-step soap projects.
B. I could just stick that sliver onto a new bar of soap, and my life would be infinitely easier.
C. Elaborate soap sliver recycling efforts may not make as much as an impact as other simple things I could do.
D. All of the above.

The annoying singleton socks that lurk in my son’s drawers serve no reasonable purpose. Why get rid of them when then could make several dozen multicolored puppets?
A. Spilling out of his desk drawer are 56 recycled sock puppets from an art project two weeks ago.
B. It is endlessly annoying to nudge random socks out of the way every time we search for clothing.
C. These socks have been without pairs for so long that they no longer fit my son’s feet. In fact, some may be baby booties.
E. All of the above, and more.

Can you tell I’m trying to overcome some extreme non-wasting tendencies? My inner hoarder would rather re-purpose every single item in our home, but the walls are closing in! Do you struggle with the urge to save/repurpose everything versus the need to maintain some sense of order?

Should You Buy a High-End Bike Trailer?

My three-year-old took the above picture while nestled into our bike trailer on a multi-mile afternoon bike trip. Our Schwinn Trailblazer, which has served us dutifully as a double stroller and a bike trailer, is still going strong after six years of heavy use. Now that our six-year-old is finally riding his bike independently, we no longer have to strap both kids into the trailer and let them fight over the limited territory. My three-year-old now gets the whole thing to herself!

We bought our Schwinn bike trailer used on craigslist for $100 and it has served us well. But would we have enjoyed the higher-end bike trailers like a Burley D’Like Bike Trailer for $575? Or a Chariot Cabriolet Bike Trailer for $449?

Families that use bike trailers for transportation on a daily basis may want to invest in a top-quality bike trailer, but it’s well worth looking for a used model. Today on craigslist I found a slightly used Burley D’Lite Bike trailer for $115(That’s about $450 dollars less than buying a new one!). And the best news? A family could buy the trailer used, enjoy it for five years, and sell it for almost exactly the same price. Most secondhand pieces of top quality gear, if well-maintained, will re-sell for a similar amount to their purchase price.

So, in my experience, no matter what bike trailer will best meet your family needs, it’s worth the extra time to search for a used model. Do you have a bike trailer that you adore? Do you think it was worth the extra investment?

Buying Secondhand Maternity Clothes

Of the nine months that a woman spends building a baby, she’s really only sporting a baby bump for about six of them. So is it worth investing money in some high quality maternity clothes? The adorable A Pea in the Pod dress below is $178. Would you go for it?

Unless I was planning on having twelve more children, I can’t see shelling out that much cash for a dress I would wear a handful of times, especially since used maternity clothing is in such great supply. If I hit the half off sales at my local thrift stores, I could end up with top quality garments for about $3 apiece. If no one knows that my clothes come from Goodwill, and I get to save a few hundred dollars on a maternity wardrobe, why wouldn’t I go for it?

Being a teacher, I’m not required to be at the height of fashion while pregnant, but I actually loved the pieces that were handed down to me by friends or picked up at secondhand shops. I know we live in thrift store heaven here in our college town, but Ebay is also a great outlet for quality maternity clothes at a huge discount.

And since it might take awhile to get your pre-baby body back, secondhand shops are also a great place find a transition wardrobe. I headed to thrift stores for the first time when I was pregnant, but after purchasing a transition wardrobe I loved and then dropping the weight, I realized that I never wanted to go back to retail. I’ve been outfitting my casual and professional wardrobe with gently used clothing ever since!

Are you planning on buying new maternity wear or have you found a source for used clothing?

Post-Childbirth Care for New Moms: What Should You Have On Hand?

My first childbirth experience was the most painful, beautiful, and surreal 9 hours that I had ever known. But I hadn’t anticipated the fact that labor is just the first (very intense) part of the long transition into parenthood. My heart was throbbing with love for my baby, my ego was adjusting to the fact that I had to surrender everything–including sleep!–to this tiny being, and my exhausted body was trying to adapt to nursing and early parenthood.

And…I wished I would have stocked up on a few essentials. My midwife brought over a tube of Lansinoh Lanolin to sooth my bleeding skin after my son nursed for hours on end. Lanolin is also a great ointment for diaper rash and skin irritation, but it’s especially wonderful to help new mothers as they begin breastfeeding.

Hot baths were a treat that I tried to fit in whenever possible and Epsom Salt helped with post-pregnancy swelling and discomfort. It was difficult to give myself time, but I also realized that my physical recovery would help me feel better and give me the energy to make it through those difficult nights.

Oftentimes families are showered with meals during those first few weeks with a newborn, but I didn’t realize how thirsty I’d be because of breastfeeding. My husband went out and bought me a dozen bottles of Knudsen’s Recharge along with a bag of crushed ice and some drinking straws. It felt like such a treat to be surrounded by delicious, convenient beverages…especially at 3am.

Due to my extreme thriftiness, I can’t say I would have sprung for the Aimee Gowns Original Bra-less Nursing Gown, but I would have been happy to receive it as a gift! I spent a lot of time in pajamas over the course of the first month with my children, and a great deal of that time I had guests. Having really good quality loungewear with a built-in bra would be nice.

More than any of these items, it was wonderful to have people there to hold my baby while I napped or to cook us dinner. But I have to say that I look back on a few of these luxuries as survival tools during that first few shocking weeks. What were your favorite items during your early days as a parent? What do you give other pregnant friends to help ease their transition to parenthood?

Do You Belong to a Meal Co-op or a Dinner Swap?

An intelligent and resourceful friend of mine has delicious, home-cooked meals delivered to her door four nights a week. The cost? Utterly free! She joined a neighborhood Meal Co-op and now cooks dinner just one night per week.

How does it work? The one night she does cook, my friend has to make enough for five families. But since she’s making five batches of the same dish, it’s much easier than cooking separate meals for her own crew every weeknight. The group of families set up rules, contributed to a fund to buy enough large dishes, spices and materials for each family, and they were on their way. They suspend the co-op over the summer and during the holidays, but it runs smoothly for most of the year.

Do you do meal swaps with neighborhood family or belong to a meal co-op? It would be a FANTASTIC situation for a family with a very young baby! Would you recommend it to other families? I do wish we could join a meal cooperative, even if it was just for a few nights a week!

The Thrill of Thrift Shopping

There was time when I found secondhand shops distasteful. Everything seemed dingy and damaged. Why would people pay (even a little) for other people’s junk?

Now thrift shops are my first stop for clothing, household items, toys and much, much more. Why this shift? Once I gained the patience to search harder for treasures, I realized the huge payoff for buying secondhand. Beyond the environmental benefit, we support a charity every time we shop and end up scoring stuff for about 75% less than department store prices.

This weekend was no exception. We headed off to Goodwill to search for Hotwheels cars (my budget-savvy six-year-old already realizes he can get more for his money at a secondhand shop), a coat for my daughter, and a bike helmet for my son.

We found a deep purple, London Fog jacket (with the tags still on) for my daughter for $4.00. As you can see, it was love at first sight for her. We also found a perfect Hotwheels bike helmet for $4.00. (The exact coat and bike helmet are pictured below.) A set of two Hotwheels cars brought the total to $9.00

How much would my total have been at a department store? The coat retails for $29.95 and the helmet sells for $19.95. With the Hotwheels cars the total would have been over 50 dollars!

I don’t always find just what I’m looking for right away, but I do buy items in advance and keep track of upcoming needs for my family. If it doesn’t end up working out, I just send it back to another thrift shop, knowing that at least my mistake helped support a good cause.

Other treasures? My beautiful green angora sweater, which also still had the tags on, purchased for $2.50. My Banana Republic jeans for just $3.00 and loads of other brand name duds, most of which I buy on half-price days.

I love that my kids have a huge comfort zone with buying used and that they may even stick with secondhand shopping in their teen years and later in adulthood. When I think of all the money I could have saved, I can’t believe I didn’t start thrifting sooner!

Do you frequent secondhand shops or are you still turned off by the whole idea? Do you like to stick to online outlets like Ebay or Craigslist?

Adorable, Quality Cloth Potty Training Pants!

We have the honor of owning two pairs of these adorable potty-training pants by Kara at Little Acorn Designs, and they are dearly loved. Why? My daughter is extremely sensitive to “wedgies” and cries at any point that she thinks her underwear might bunch in the wrong places. So even though she had these exact cloth training pants since she got out of diapers two years ago, she still cherishes her Little Acorn Designs Undies. (And they are still holding up beautifully!)

Just what makes them so fantastic? Is it the soft, stretchy waistband? The extra-soft cotton knit that comes from recycled t-shirts? Or the padded middle area made from super absorbent Zorb 2 fabric? Maybe it’s just magic of the whole combination. But I do know that these never, ever give my daughter a wedgie. (Which makes all of us happy!)

These trainers are just $9.50 each and the cost helps support another mom entrepreneur. When you think about the ongoing financial and environmental cost of pull-ups, that’s a great investment! And my daughter has worn them well beyond potty-training.

Have you found any special items on Etsy that you just love? Please share with us! It’s such fun to support other moms while finding unique and beautiful items for your babe!

Maybe Just One More Baby…?

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?

The Benefits of Raising Baby on the Cheap

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?