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?
What do you get the woman who is transitioning into motherhood? Should you focus on pampering her or welcoming that new baby into the family? Maybe you can do a little of both!
The Earth Mama, Angel Baby “A Little Something for Mama-to-be” is a terrific gift set for a new mom at a great price! (It’s currently on sale for $15.99.) The company is based right here in Oregon and the products are naturally luxurious. The kit includes organic wellness tea, happy mama-to-be hand to toe wash, happy mama spray, earth mama body butter, and natural stretch oil.
For baby, you might want to buy a Christmas Polka-Dots Small Fitted Diaper by DaMory Diapers. This adorable little number is just $8.00, with a print that is fun enough to wear throughout the year.
Have we mentioned that we wrote a fantastic book entitled, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, about going green on a budget? With an emphasis on buying quality, buying used, and repurposing what you already have, this book can save families thousands of dollars. It’s also funny, humble, and packed with anecdotes from green moms from around the nation.
If you’re wanting to buy a bigger gift for that mom-to-be, an Ergo Carrier is a great investment. Compared to other carriers, my back was far happier toting my babe in the Ergo. It also allowed me to breast feed (hands-free!) while I wheeled the card up and down the grocery aisle. Ergos have a high resale value too,..and if you can find one used to give as a gift, that’s even better!
The best gifts I received as a new mom were all direct acts of support such as meals, babysitting, and offers to clean my bathroom. Did you welcome those offers into your house in the early days of parenthood or would you rather have gotten a few more supplies for baby?
Congratulations to Manda, Jasmine, and Kat for winning the gluten-free flours of their choice from our Gluten-free Gourmand Giveaway! Your flours should be arriving shortly.
flours from the Gluten Free Gourmand
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!
I like to imagine Diana and Garth of Papa Don’s sitting in a snug little cabin next to a wood stove, whittling toys by hand. Their cabin looks like something out of Hansel and Gretel, with a thatched roof and gingerbread walls, protected by gigantic firs and pines. When they’ve polished up one of their hardwood toys–a wobble pull puppy, for example–a team of elves swoops it from their snug little Oregon cabin and delivers it to a deserving young child.
The amazing thing about my story is that it’s all true. I mean, maybe not the part about the gingerbread or the elves, but Diana and Garth really do live in the coastal forests of Oregon, crafting their heirloom-quality toys out of locally-harvested alder. “We make them with joy and hope that they bring countless hours of delight to the children in your life,” they say about their products.
We have always stood by the claim that wooden toys look better and last longer than the cheap plastic junk made in China and sold in Wal-mart. Often times, though, it’s hard to justify spending hundreds of dollars on the high-quality heirloom stuff. That’s another great thing about Papa Don’s: the prices aren’t outrageous. In fact, they are down-right affordable. The most expensive toy in the whole store costs only $65 (this wonderful wooden train set).
Now for the giveaway! One lucky winner will have the chance to choose one of the following toys:
Lawnmower push toy ($38 value)
Tumbler floor toy ($18 value)
Baby toy assortment ($19 value)
You can enter up to three times. Here’s how:
1. Simply post a comment letting us know which toy you’d most like to win: the lawnmower toy, the tumbler, or the toy assortment.
3. Visit Papa Don’s shop and tell us what caught your eye in the comments.
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!
When company founder Gina Kelley (my sister!) started eating a strict gluten-free diet six years ago, all she really wanted was a good scone. After a year of trial and error – and baking scones once a week or more – her No. 1 All-purpose Flour was born. She added more flours and baking mixes to her collection, and earlier this year she opened her flour production company: www.glutenfreegourmand.com.
Here we are in 2005. Why 2005? Because for some reason I could not find a more recent photo of the two of us. Back then, Gina (left) was contemplating joining the Gluten-free Lifestyle.
If you or your child can no longer eat wheat due to a diagnosis of celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you need to try these flours out. Everything is blended by hand and produced in small batches. I made my first attempt at gluten-free baking with Gina’s pastry flour for Thanksgiving: I whipped up my old standby, the all-American apple pie. I was nervous to try a wheatless flour, but I followed my favorite crust recipe and simply substituted Gina’s flour for the wheat flour.
It was a success! I had to add a little more water than usual to the recipe, but it rolled out just fine, browned up nicely in the oven, and–most importantly–tasted delicious.
New to gluten-free baking? Try the pancake mix.
Starting today on the Green Baby Guide, you can enter to win two flour mixes of your choice! You can enter up to three times. Here are the three ways to enter:
We’ll choose three winners on Friday, November 30th. U.S. addresses only, please. Good luck!
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!
After much saving and searching, we bought a used Prius a few weeks ago! How is it working out for our family? I love, love, love this car! From pushing the start button to monitoring the fuel expenditure while I drive, this is the most fun I have ever had driving.
The interior is roomy and comfortable for our family, although I don’t think it would be possible to squeeze three car seats in the back. I love the vast amounts of storage and the crazy number of cup holders throughout the Prius.
Are there any drawbacks to this glorious machine? So far my gas mileage isn’t the dreamy 50 MPG I was hoping for. The best average I’ve been able to achieve is about 44 MPG, but I’m sometimes coming in at just 40 or 42. This is still quite a bit better than I was getting with my 2001 Honda Civic, so it’s still fun to buy such small amounts of fuel every month.
So will the savings in gas make up for the thousands extra we shelled out to buy a Prius? Depending on how many miles we drive, it will save us between $500 and $1000 in gas each year. If we own it for a full decade, and gas prices continue to rise, it will be well worth it. If not, we will at least know that we are saving the emissions we produce.
What motivated us to make this purchase? We finally bought an older mini-van with low miles and use it only occasionally for longer road trips. Since the van uses quite a bit more fuel than our Camry did, I wanted to be sure our other car was as fuel efficient as possible. So we’re not perfectly green when it comes to transportation, but we’re making progress!