Recycled Posts Coming Soon!

I’m tired.   Not in the yawning way.  In the wanting-to-collapse-on-the-floor/slightly-hallucinogenic way.  I had forgotten how the combination of colic and sleepless nights felt–but now I remember!  All my fantasies about an ideal life involve being unconscious for a four hour stretch.

So instead of coming up with brilliant posts for the next few months, I shall be depending every now and then on some of our classic GBG material.  It’s from the days when only our friends and relatives were reading so it should be new to most of our readers and hopefully will remain helpful.

Thanks for understanding and for your encouragement.  I know that one day I shall sleep again.  (I also know that the day will be far, far in the future…)

No Nursery for Baby

We haven’t picked out colors, or bedding, or painted a fairy mural on the wall.  In fact, our second child has no claim to any wall–or even a room for that matter.

Why have we allowed this to happen?  After all, with our first we decorated with homemade curtains, a rocking chair and a new dresser.  What we quickly found, however, is that our son was rarely in his room.  He co-slept for the first five months and during the day spent most of his time lounging in the living room with us.  He wouldn’t nap in his crib so we wore him in a sling for snoozing or plopped him down on his baby blanket.

We’d happily move everything out to make space for our newborn if we thought she would actually use it. Our spare room is currently our office. Since we’re not sure what kind of sleeper she’ll be and how her crying will affect our two-year-old, we’ve decided to just keep her in our room for a few months and then decide what to do once we get to know her.  We’ve set up a changing table on the dresser and she’ll rest in a co-sleeper that some friends have generously lent us. 

I’m sure our decision would seem strange to some, but luckily my sister, the mother of five children, has pioneered creative accommodations in my family.  It’s impossible for most families that size to afford a six bedroom home, so she’s had babies sleep in walk-in closets, in the bathroom, and in several other creative nooks and crannies over the years.  Now that they’re older, they are all using bunk beds and sharing rooms. 

The great benefit of being more flexible with space, is that it’s possible to live in a smaller house, have less of a carbon footprint and more financial freedom.  I explored this topic quite awhile ago here.  So, if you’re expecting a little one, think outside the box about your baby’s nursery, or lack thereof.  The honest truth is that your baby won’t be aware enough to give the slightest care to where he or she sleeps.  Why not keep it simple at this stage and save up so that you’ll be able to have fun with décor later on?

How did you set up your nursery on a budget?  Or did you opt out of the nursery altogether?  I’ll keep you posted on whether I’m thrilled with our decision or think it was a horrible mistake. 

The Dish Soap Opera Continues (+ Shaklee Dish Soap Giveaway!)

You may recall my dish soap saga of last fall: First I wondered if eco-friendly dish soaps were any better than conventional ones, then I tested several greener dishwashing liquids, then I perfected my hand-washing method to use as little dish soap as possible. Finally, I offered a few alternatives to liquid dish soap.

During this quest, Green and Clean Mom contacted me, telling me I had to try the Shaklee dish soap she sells at her online store. She insisted that this dishwashing liquid would last a very long time. I was skeptical, considering some 32-ounce bottles of other brands lasted just six weeks. The Shaklee soap was in a 16-ounce bottle, which is smaller than average.

Last November, I started using the Shaklee soap. Over half a year later, I squeezed out the last drop. It lasted a whopping THIRTY-ONE weeks–almost three times longer than Planet , which I had deemed the top performer. It costs $8.10 (or $6.90 for members). This may seem like a lot, but if you look at the chart in this post, you’ll see it wouldn’t cost much more per year than Planet or Trader Joe’s dish soaps, considering how long it lasts. The best part is, you’d have to recycle just two small bottles of Shaklee soap each year–you’d go through nine bigger bottles of some other eco-brands in the same amount of time!

In addition, here are the “clean credentials” of this product:

  • Nontoxic
  • Natural
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Biodegradable
  • No phosphates

In short, I would recommend the Shaklee Get Clean Dish Wash. It’s eco-friendly and super-concentrated. It also smells good and leaves dishes squeaky clean.

Do you want to try this wonder-product for free? Green and Clean Mom is giving away a bottle of the Shaklee Get Clean Dish Wash Concentrate along with a microfiber sponge. Just post a comment by Monday the 22nd and you’ll be entered to win!

This post is a part of Works for Me Wednesday. For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, head on over to We Are THAT Family.

Food as Gifts for Expectant Parents

My baby’s impending birth has me thinking of those early days with our oldest child.  Even though everyone told me about the exhaustion I would experience, my husband and I were truly humbled by the fatigue we faced in those first few weeks.

The only thing that kept us going was food, provided by friends and family who knew more than we did about having a newborn baby.  I was amazed how much I needed to eat to keep up with nursing demands and also astonished by the immense challenge of showering, getting dressed or leaving the house, let alone shopping for groceries.  Cooking seemed entirely impossible. 

Luckily my mom loaded us up with fresh fruit, ready-made meals, and hand-held snacks that I could grab while nursing at 2 a.m.  Now, whenever a friend or family member is having a baby, I prepare food for them with or without being asked. 

So, if you’re expecting a baby, go ahead and ask for meals before your little one arrives.  Also, you might want to freeze some casseroles for future use.  If you know someone who will have a newborn, don’t hesitate to volunteer a meal or even set up a meal delivery schedule for them by contacting their family and friends. 

Did you have a similar experience in your first few weeks with baby?  How did you manage to stay fed?  Some of you may be far more resourceful and organized than we were!  

Budget-Friendly Solutions for Family Leave With Baby

Skip this post if you live in Canada, Denmark, Australia, France, or any one of 163 countries worldwide with paid maternity leave.  We’ll try not to think about the fact that in those nations mothers and fathers get months and sometimes even years of paid time to raise their children.  Here in the U.S., it’s tricky to be able to maneuver our maternity leave, but there are always ways to creatively find more time to spend with your baby.

Why try to take as much time as possible?  It’s not only critical to your sanity, but it often ends up being far more eco-friendly as well. My husband and I found that when we were both working we ended up using more jarred baby food, eating take-out more often, and generally spending more money on convenience items just to survive. Staying home means you’ll have the time to experiment with washing and drying cloth diapers.  Plus you’ll end up buying less and just enjoying this phase of baby’s life.

Of course the type of leave you’ll be able to take depends on what type of benefits your job offers, but here are some ideas for making the most of the system:

  • Use vacation or sick leave: One of easiest and most convenient ways to extend leave is to use up your stash of accrued time off.  If you’re pregnant or planning on being pregnant soon, try to save up as much time as is humanly possible so that you can get an extra month or two in addition to your maternity leave. 
  • Have your spouse take family leave: Although it’s is usually unpaid, you can get as much as possible if you involve your partner’s leave time as well.  If your spouse is eligible for leave or has a bit of extra vacation saved up, you can arrange your months with baby back to back so that you get the first three home and while your spouse stays home the next three.  Then you don’t have to consider daycare for at least six months and you both get some individual bonding time with baby.
  • Spread out your time over baby’s first year: Depending on your job, you can get creative with part time work.  With my first son, I had saved up almost six months of sick leave time after working for over ten years.  I took six weeks off right when he was born and then went back half time after that for a few months.  When he was six months old, I worked three half time and two full time days for the rest of the year.  I blew through all of my sick leave, but never had to take any unpaid days.  Although it was tough going back at six weeks, it was worth it to get to have that much time with him over the course of the year.  

If you’re looking for more advice, read last week’s post for tips on how to negotiate with your workplace, present a plan to your supervisor, and hold onto your family time.  Some of you ended up never going back to work. We’d love to hear what you’ve found to be the best part of staying home or negotiating a work solution that’s ideal for your family.

Thanks for joining us week for Thrifty Green Thursday!  If you have an idea about how to save money and the planet, please read this page to see how to add your link below.  

Getting Enough Protein on a Vegetarian Diet

According to Meatless Mondays, Americans eat 100-200% of the recommended daily allowance of  protein.  Too much protein can cause liver disease and osteoporosis. 

Here are some easy ways to get the protein you need:

  • Enjoy animal products other than meat (in moderation).  One egg has 6 grams of protein, an ounce of cheddar cheese has 7 grams, and a cup of 2% milk contains 8 grams.  Watch out, though–many dairy products are high in fat, and some cheeses cost more than meat.
  • Use whole-grain products.  Barilla Plus pasta contains 17 grams of protein per serving–10 more grams than regular pasta.  A cup of whole wheat flour has four more grams of protein than white flour.
  • Think beans.  Add chickpeas (21 grams of protein per cup) to salads or blend them into hummus.  Throw some black beans in salsa or into a burrito.  Edamame–soybeans still in their pods–make a high-protein snack at sushi bars, and they’re available frozen in many supermarkets.
  • Go nuts.  Add to salads and stir-fries or eat a handful.  One cup of almonds boasts 27 grams of protein!
  • Don’t discount tofu, seitan, and other vegetarian staples.  A pound of firm tofu has 72 grams of protein and costs just a dollar or two.

Yes, it is possible to get enough protein without biting into a cow or pig.  Do you have any other ideas for beefing up (heh heh) the protein in your meat-free diet?  Let us know!

Saving Money on Organic Groceries

I spend $175 a month on groceries for my small family of three.  I wrote about spending less on groceries in this post about eating meat-free.  Several people (okay, two people) asked me how I manage to pull this off.  According the USDA’s “thrifty” meal plan, a family with a man, woman, and three-year-old would spend $414.20 per month.  (We’d spend $800 on the “liberal” plan!)  So it seems that we are spending less than half of what other “thrifty” eaters are spending–and we eat mostly organic food!

This is a bit puzzling to me, as we don’t do anything too extraordinary to save money on food.  I haven’t planted a garden since two summers ago (and it was a failure), I don’t clip coupons, and I don’t shop at Costco or other huge warehouse stores.  I also buy many expensive ingredients, like olive oil, nuts, and fancy cheese.  If I had to, I could save even more money if I got better at gardening, stopped buying organic foods, and cut out a few costlier items on my grocery list.

So here are my only real “tricks” to spending less on organic food:

Eat Vegetarian.  Going meat-free is the main way I save on groceries.  Now, most people do not want to cut out meat from their diets, which is why I wrote about Meatless Mondays a while ago.  Cutting out meat just one day a week can still save you money!

According to this article, “How Much Meat Do We Eat?,” the average American eats 200 pounds of meat a year.  Now, I know you can buy cheap meat at the grocery store, but let’s say I wanted to eat mostly organic/free-range/hormone-free stuff.  I just looked at the sale prices for meat at our natural food store: $5.99 for top sirloin, $3.79 for ground chicken thigh meat, and $6.99 for tilapia filets.   With that average of $5.59/lb, we’d spend $279.50 a month on meat if we bought 600 pounds a year–which would more than double the amount I spend on all of my groceries now!

Know my prices.  I never buy butter for more than $2.00 a pound (it’s usually around $4.00/lb, so when it goes on sale, I stock up.  It lasts at least six months in the fridge and longer in the freezer.  I also never spend more than $2.00/lb on natural peanut butter.  I can get it for $1.50 at Grocery Outlet.  It costs more than $4.00/lb if you buy it from the machines at Whole Foods or other grocery stores.

Limit convenience foods.  Looking at my receipts, I see that I did buy a few convenience foods: tortillas, boxed macaroni and cheese, pretzels, and jarred applesauce.  All of those are fairly inexpensive.  The organic applesauce cost $2.29 for 25 ounces–that’s about $1.47/lb.  Fresh organic apples often cost more than that.   Organic shells and cheese cost $1.29, or about $.40-$.60 a serving.  That’s a pretty cheap–albeit no-frills–meal.

Cut back on household goods. I am not sure if the USDA’s meal plans included household goods or not.  I know that many people include things like paper products and cleaners in their grocery budget.  In the six weeks I was tracking expenses, I spent nothing on household goods.  We buy recycled toilet paper, Biokleen laundry detergent (I wrote about how it’s actually cheaper than conventional detergent here), dishwashing liquid, soap, and baking soda and vinegar when we need it.  I bought the Biokleen detergent almost a year ago for $11.00 and still have a lot left!

Make things from scratch.  I make most of my own baked goods, including bread, cookies, and other snacks.

Don’t eat too much. Our caloric needs are not very high, which allows us to spend less on groceries than–say–a 200-pound body builder or an avid marathon runner.  This isn’t exactly a tip, but it does partially explain why we spend less on groceries than other families our size.  Some of our meals probably seem down-right insubstantial to others.  We regularly eat nothing but a bowlful of soup or a salad for dinner.

Those are my main cost-cutting tips.  What are yours?

Stay tuned for more posts on this subject.  I’ll show what, exactly, I was spending that $175 on and give some examples of what I made for dinner.

This post is a part of the Works for Me Wednesday blog carnival over on We are THAT Family. This is a themed edition, where we share our favorite frugal ideas.

Keeping a Freezer Inventory Saves Food, Time, and Money

This idea is so simple, but it has changed my life!  Okay, not my whole life, but that tiny part of my life that was dedicated to rooting through the freezer in search of a stray tortilla or wondering what mysterious sauce I’d frozen in a jar five years ago.

After digging through the freezer and finding four bags full of bread heels, a half-empty jar of graham cracker crumbs, and a three-year-old tub of ice-encrusted raspberries, I knew I had to do something to keep more organized.  I simply made a list of everything in the freezer by category (sauces, vegetables, and bready things seemed to fill the bulk of it).  If I add something new, I simply write it down on the list, along with the date.  (Nothing in my freezer is labeled.)  If I take something out, I cross it off the list.

I’ve been doing this for just a few weeks and already I have reaped the benefits.  It means I’ll stop buying tortillas (already have three different kinds in the freezer) or I’ll take out some frozen rice to use in a stir-fry rather than make a new batch.   I’ll end up using food I already have, which means less will go to waste.

How do you keep your freezer stash organized?  Has anyone kept a freezer inventory for longer than just a few weeks?  I plan to keep this up, but you never know. . . .

Keeping a freezer inventory works for me!  For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, head on over to We are THAT Family. 

Second Thoughts on Buying an Organic Crib Mattress

Here’s my confession: we’re not buying an organic crib mattress for my second child.  It might not seem all that shocking unless you read my long-ago post on organic crib mattresses.  I lamented not buying organic with my first child and declared that I would do differently with my second.

Why then haven’t I bought a new organic crib mattress for my daughter who will be arriving in just a few months?  Honestly, I have been wrestling it for months and finally ended up with a compromise. 

The thought of spending nearly three hundred dollars on an item that my child would use for a little over a year was tough to swallow.  Our first son slept in our bed with us until he was nearly six months old and then was in his toddler bed before the age of two.  Since we now have two children, I can imagine that our little one will co-sleep with us longer just for convenience and because we haven’t yet figured out where to put her in our small house.

We also considered the that non-toxic choices aren’t always earth friendly.  It might be less toxic to rip the carpeting out of our baby’s room, install bamboo flooring and repaint the walls with soy based paints, but it wouldn’t be as good for the planet as living with what we have. The thought of throwing out our perfectly functional crib mattress made my chest ache. We could give it to a thrift store, but we’ll do that anyway once our daughter is finished using it. 

So, I’m planning on buying a wool soaker pad, or making one from a full sized wool blanket we rarely use.  It will provide a natural barrier from the mattress surface and also soak up liquids that sometimes flow onto those crib sheets.

Does this mean I now recommend used crib mattresses?  Hardly!  I still wish I would have purchased a new organic mattress for my first child.  Then I would have had the chance to use it for several years with both children and it would have easily paid for itself.   What have you done to accommodate your desire for non-toxic products on a budget?  

The Saturday Question: What Are Your Favorite Meat-Free Meals?

Cutting back on meat even one day a week can have tremendous economic and environmental benefits.  For more details, check out Rebecca’s post on this very topic. Many American dishes are meat-free, but we’d love to hear your family’s favorites.  Do they love bean burritos, spaghetti and marinara or something as sophisticated as eggplant parmesan?   Help inspire us with your meat-free favorites—and feel free to list recipes as well!