Our Baby Class

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cloth Diapering Budgets

Did you know that a third of American families struggle to find room in their budget for diapers?  And it's no wonder--disposable diapers are expensive.  According to the National Diaper Bank Network, diapers can cost $936 annually per child.  A friend recently told me that her costs are a bit more conservative, closer to $500 per year.  She was interested in trying out cloth diapering, but wasn't sure if it would be economical to start now, with her nine-month old, if she didn't plan on having any more children.

Let's take a look and see, shall we? Maybe we can help her make a decision.

First, let's look at how many diapers babies use daily at each age. Newborns can use more than ten diapers per day.  By the time babies are a month old, they may only be using six diapers per day.  That use continues through toddlerhood.  My daughter used a dozen or more diapers per day as a newborn. At eleven months old, she uses six to eight diapers per day.

Second, we need to think about how often we want to do diaper laundry.  In our house, we have decreed Mondays and Thursdays diaper laundry days. If you do laundry every three days, you can make do with two dozen diapers with an older baby.  If you have a newborn, you'd want three dozen diapers with that laundry schedule.  If you have a smaller stash of diapers, you just need to do laundry more often.

Third, we need to decide what kind of diapers we want to use.  In this section, we will talk briefly about the different kinds of diapers and the set-up cost for an older baby with the above laundry schedule.

Best for Budget--Prefolds, Flats, and Covers
Wearing a diaper cover from the shop
Just about every family with a baby has a few prefolds around the house--usually pressed into service as burp cloths.  Often, people are intimidated by the idea of having to fold, twist, and pin these diapers.  Luckily, the Snappi has replaced pins for many parents.  With older babies, as bowel movements become less runny, prefolds become even easier.  I fold my prefolds into thirds and just lay them into a cover.  Flats are just squares or rectangles of cloth that are then twisted and folded into a more absorbent shape.  YouTube is great for learning how to use prefolds and flats.  Flats can be easily handwashed and line-dryed. Stephanie of Abby's Lane tells of using old washcloths as diapers.  For more on hard-core frugal diapering, read her blog article.

Prefolds and flats both require the use of a waterproof cover.  I'd recommend 5-6 covers for our laundry schedule.  You can alternate two covers throughout a day, letting one air out with the other on the bum unless poo gets on the cover.  They are also easily rinsed out.

How do they compare to our disposable diaper budget?
Prefolds cost around $25/dozen on Amazon.com.  Flats cost the same or slightly less.
Covers range in price from as low as five dollars to about eighteen dollars.  Let's say twelve dollars per cover.  We need two dozen diapers and six covers.

Total Cost:  $50 for diapers + $72 for covers= $122
Savings: $378

Best for Daycare and Babysitters--Pockets and All-in-Ones
Modeling BumGenius Freetime
All-in-one and pocket diapers are faster options on the changing table.  When convincing other caregivers to use cloth diapers, these modern cloth diapers are much more appealing.  Putting them on requires about the same amount of effort as putting on a disposable diaper.  They do cost more up front but they have great resale value.

Obviously, prices can vary depending on the brand, so I'll do this comparison based on my two favorites: Fuzzibunz One Size Elites for pockets and BumGenius Freetimes for All-in-Ones. Since both are one-size diapers, they may fit through potty-training. (No guarantees for the individual child). Fuzzibunz can be purchased in six-packs at $116.70 ($19.45 per diaper. Individual diapers cost $19.95 each).  BumGenius Freetimes can be purchased in a 24 pack for $399.95 ($16.67 per diaper. Individual diapers cost $19.95 each).

Total Cost for Pockets: $466.80
Savings: $33.20

Total Cost for All-in-Ones: $399.95
Savings: $100.05

Other Options
Fitteds, Hybrids, and All-in-Twos are other diaper options.  For more comparison, visit this site.

What Else Do You Need?
Don't be overwhelmed with all the diaper accessories: pails, wet bags/pail liners, fancy cloth wipes, and diaper sprayers.  You can make do without those things, although they do make life easier.

If funds are tight, hold off on wet bags until you have a little extra.  They can be used in many ways and totally are worth it.  DH loves our diaper sprayer, but I can do without it.  Rags and baby wash cloths make fine baby wipes. So do flannel receiving blankets.

The Final Word
All of these cloth diaper methods save money over disposable diapers even without keeping the following in mind:

  • Cloth diapers can be sold.  I sold two of my all-in-one diapers, used, for only a few dollars less than what I paid. If you can afford the up-front investment, you can probably make back more than half of what you paid.  Don't try that with disposables!
  • They can be used for subsequent children.  At this point, any children we have after Abby will be cloth diapered for free.  
  • Cloth diapers can be purchased second-hand for lower prices. 
We have a luxurious diaper stash, and we still have not hit that $936 estimate.  

Some argue that you may see a higher electricity and/or water bill.  That depends on your area.  We haven't seen an increase in either bill during our time of cloth diapering.  

What do you do to cloth diaper on a budget?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Crunchy Baby Essentials

When I was pregnant, I had a lot of people telling me about the things that I *had* to have. In reality, we found that favorite things vary from family to family and baby to baby. Abby loved her swing and hated pacifiers. Other babies might be the opposite. But for us, here is our list:

 1. Cloth Diapers

For our seven pound, fourteen ounce daughter, we loved using Fuzzibunz Elite One-Size Pocket Diapers. We bought a dozen to start, along with a dozen BumGenius and a couple oddballs.  The Fuzzibunz fit her the best as a newborn.

 We also found that prefold diapers and covers worked really well for her. We used Snappis as an alternative to pinning. They were quick and easy!

Here, Abby models a diaper cover over a prefold.

 2. Cloth Wipes From the beginning, we've used a combination of cloth and disposable wipes. Our cloth wipes are actually the super cheap baby wash cloths. We received bunches as gifts in addition to a few extras that we purchased.

3. Baby Carrier We started taking Abby places right away and the stroller was a pain. There are also many proven benefits to baby wearing, to be addressed in a future post. We loved two carriers from the beginning:

 The Moby: The Moby had a bit of a learning curve but was super snuggly once we got it all figured out. By Thanksgiving, I was able to wear her while I put things on the table.

 The Beco Gemini: I bought this one on multiple recommendations. It fit both me and DH very well, it was quick, it was easy, and super comfortable and supportive. I've heard from many people that the Baby Bjorn, much more well-known, isn't as comfortable. It also has a pretty low weight limit. The Gemini can be used from birth to toddlerhood. It's also great for newborns, even without an added insert. It can also be used for hip and back carries, once the baby has good head support.
Here is Abby at three weeks old, at her first Renaissance Festival.  It's very rugged, hilly, and crowded. Not very stroller friendly. But that didn't stop us!

4. Aden & Anais Swaddle Blankets

There are many brands of cloth diapers and baby carriers that are equally awesome. However, I haven't found any other brand of cotton muslin swaddle blankets that I love as much as these. Abby was an early September baby, so flannel receiving blankets were too warm. They also weren't big enough to swaddle her easily. These generously sized blankets were big enough to really tuck in all the ends when we swaddled her, but we didn't have to worry about overheating. They were thin enough to use for car seat covers and nursing covers. We folded them over for burp cloths when we found that anything marketed as a burp cloth didn't give us anywhere near enough coverage. I've given quite a few of these as shower gifts since Abby was born and I rave about them to anyone who asks about baby gear.

Other Things We Loved
We bought a personalized wooden teething ring on Etsy.  It was easy for Abby to grip and she loved gnawing on it.  Give it a rub with food safe oil to keep it moisturized. Three month old Abby was a big fan!

Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether is the toy that parents love and hate. It has an annoying squeak but babies love chewing on the natural rubber.

I couldn't have lived without our swing.  It gave me a chance to eat a hot meal with two hands at the same time as my husband. But some babies hate them. I recommend trying to get one for free or borrowing one and seeing how it works out.

Other Notes

  • There are lots of great cloth diaper brands out there and pockets and prefolds aren't the only option.  The fitted diapers in the shop right now are one-size, but might be a little bulky on some newborns.  Whatever you choose, keep in mind that newborn babies can go through a dozen diapers a day.  We recommend 2-3 dozen diapers, depending on how often you want to do laundry. We recommend the same number of wipes, if you will use cloth wipes exclusively.  Cloth wipes are also handy for spit up and any other number of messes.  
  • For baby carriers, Boba and Ergo are also good brands for newborns.  More on baby carriers in an upcoming baby wearing post.
  • If you are interested in buying any of the products I've mentioned, click through the links and product photos.
  • Putting up all these squishy newborn photos made me feel really nostalgic. Abby will be eleven months old next week and rarely stays still for photos anymore.  

What are your recommendations for someone making a baby registry?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Meatless Monday (on Wednesday): Black Bean and Avocado Quinoa Salad

I'm a little behind with this week's Meatless Monday post, but I have bonuses for you to make up for it.

I forgot to plan ahead on Monday. I had a 4:30 doctor's appointment, and then we had to stop by the walk-in clinic for Abby (she's fine). It was almost six by the time we left the medical center.  Nap time had gotten in the way of our planned trip to the grocery store.  Then I remembered this recipe: Amazing Tomato Basil Pasta.  It's amazing because everything is cooked in one pot and it only takes fifteen minutes. We had all the ingredients except for Parmesan, so we substituted goat cheese.  We were too hungry for pictures.

I did promise you a bonus.  Earlier on Monday, I'd checked out a book called One-Dish Vegetarian Meals.  I figured this would make DH happy because he is the one who usually does the dishes.  Tuesday night, I made the Black Bean and Avocado Rice* Salad.  DH, a devoted carnivore, gave the dish a rave review.  Today, he informed me that it also made excellent leftovers for his lunch.

*We switched out the rice for quinoa. Quinoa has more protein, and we already had some. It keeps very well in the fridge.

Black Bean and Avocado Quinoa Salad
Adapted from One-Dish Vegetarian Meals by Robin Robertson


  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin oil
  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 cups quinoa, cooked and chilled
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 four-ounce can mild green chiles, drained
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, chopped
1. Whisk together the lime zest and juice, vinegar, orange juice, garlic, brown sugar, chili powder, and cayenne.  Slowly drizzle in the oil, constantly whisking, until smooth. Set aside. 
2. Toss the avocados in the lemon juice.
3. Combine rice, beans, onion, and chiles.  Gently fold in the avocados. 
4. Add the dressing and stir gently.  Top with cherry tomatoes and serve. 

We left out the cayenne because Abby and I don't love spicy things. We also had a partial can of green chiles left from another recipe, so we used less than the recipe calls for.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Meatless Monday: Ratatouille

If you hang around the foodie/food activist region of the blogosphere, you may have heard of Meatless Mondays.  Meatless Mondays promote giving up meat for at least one meal per week.  Why? It takes more energy and resources to raise animals for meat than it does to raise plants.  Giving up meat, even just for one meal a week, is a simple way to reduce your carbon footprint.  It can also be friendlier for your wallet.

I frequently cook and order vegetarian meals, even though I am not a vegetarian. I unapologetically adore bacon.  The perfect steak or burger can transport me into foodie bliss.  However, a friend once told me that he had a theory: in general, vegetarian food tastes better so that vegetarians don't miss meat too much.  It's an interesting theory, and I have often found it true.  In fact, in a recent conversation, I learned from DH that he hadn't even noticed how rarely I cook meat. I think it's because I have found so many delicious vegetarian recipes that don't scream MEAT SUBSTITUTE.  This is one of those meals.

Ratatouille, made famous by the Disney movie of the same name, is a French peasant dish from Provence.  No spoilers, but the scenes where the chef prepares ratatouille and serves it to an impossible to please critic are my favorite scenes in the movie.  In the movie, the ratatouille is a work of art. In my own kitchen, it's somewhat less elegant.  However, it is so delicious that my carnivore dad requested in even when chemotherapy made food less appealing, and my carnivore husband scraped his bowl clean last night.

Ratatouille--Based on Julia Child's recipe

This dish features summer vegetables, and the fresher the better. If possible, get them at a farmers market. Not only will they be flavorful and fresh, you will be supporting small farms and local economies!

3 medium eggplants, sliced 1/8" thick
4 zucchinis, sliced, sliced 1/8" thick
Olive oil
2 bell peppers, julienned (any two colors)
1 onion, sliced 1/8" rings
4 tomatoes, cubed, with seeds and juices reserved
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper

1. Toss the zucchini and eggplant with 1 teaspoon of salt. Let stand for 30 minutes, then rinse, drain, and pat dry.  (Last night, I forgot to rinse them but we didn't notice any problem). This is a good time to chop the rest of the veggies and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat and lightly fry the zucchini and eggplant for one to two minutes on each side.  They should be just turning brown.  Take the zucchini and eggplant out and put in a bowl on the side.
3. Lower the heat to medium and in the same pan, saute the bell peppers and onion until tender but not browned, 6-8 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant.
5. Add the tomatoes, reserved seeds and juices, herbes de provence, thyme, and sugar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, then cover.  Cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stir, then raise the heat and boil for 3-5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove half of the mixture to a bowl.
6. Spread the remaning tomato mixture across the bottom of the skillet.  Layer half of the zucchini and eggplant slices across the top (in a circular pattern if you're feeling fancy). Add the rest of the tomato mixture and the parsley, then layer the remaining zucchini and eggplant in the same fashion as before.
7. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.  Uncover and baste with remaining juices. Cook for another 15 minutes.
8. Using the back of a spoon, create two indentations in the mixture. Crack an egg into each well. (DH suggested doing this with four eggs instead of two).
9. Cover the pan and put the whole shebang into the oven for six to eight minutes. You want the egg whites to be cooked but the yolks to still be a bit runny.
10. Serve in a shallow bowl.  Crusty bread and a green salad make great accompaniments. Even better, serve with a glass of wine.

(Next time, hopefully I'll remember to take a picture!)

Note: I based this recipe on one that I found on a blog and printed out. Unfortunately, I didn't write down which blog. If you've seen a similar recipe around, let me know so I can give proper credit! Also, if you're in a hurry, you can truncate some of the cooking times. I cut out the second cook time in step 7 because DH is not a fan of soft veggies.  The longer cooking time does allow flavors to meld together.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Guilt-Free Parenting (kind-of)

As 21st century parents, it is easy to burden ourselves with guilt and anxiety about whether or not we are doing the absolute best as parents.  We start making parenting decisions before a child is even conceived, making proclamations about what we would or would not ever do as parents.

Then children arrive.  We find that many of those bold proclamations don't work out the way that we expected.  Or a child cries and cries, and we find that we can't keep our patience.  We find ourselves defending our parenting decisions to family, friends, and even strangers.  The internet is funky like that.

There are the so-called "Mommy Wars," which tend to be more mainstream moms versus the "crunchy moms."  Flame wars erupt on blogs and Facebook posts with moms attacking each other. (I'm focusing on moms here simply because I haven't seen too many dads involved). Even within each "side" of the war, there are skirmishes, mutinies, and other divisive attacks.

Ladies (and gentlemen): Stop.  Parenting is hard enough.  Listen to each other. Be able to say: "This worked for me. This did not work for me. Your experience might be the same or different. As parents, we do what we need to in order to survive sleepless nights and long days."

Here's my own before and after:
Then: "I think I'll probably breastfeed for six months, but I'll definitely stop after a year.  It's creepy when children can ask for it."
Now: We're ten months in (almost), and I have no plans to stop anytime soon. Partially because I've realized there's nothing sexual about it and partially because I've learned that extended breastfeeding is normal in much of the world and the World Health Organization recommends continuing until at least the age of two. I'm also grateful to be able to do this for my child when many women cannot. More on that another time.

Then: "I'll never let my baby sleep in my bed. It's dangerous and establishes bad habits!"
Now: It started by accident. She slept with me because I'd fall asleep nursing her and be too tired to return her to the bassinet.  And then I realized I loved waking up and looking at her little baby face.  At six months, she transitioned to her own room because that's what worked for our family of three (partner input is so important!), but she still sleeps with us occasionally.

I've changed my opinions on many things along the way. Plus, I sometimes lose "crunchy" points because I vaccinate on time and I had a hospital birth that resulted in a c-section.

Luckily, I've found a couple of other moms who help a lot! The three of us can share the good, the bad, and the ugly, and we refuse to judge each other for differing opinions.  We don't all agree on all parenting decisions, religion, or politics, but we have a great time together.  We try to avoid feeling guilty because we know that we are doing the best we can to make the right decisions for our children.

My point is: if we spend less time judging others and attacking them, we might be able to feel less guilty about our own decisions.  The great thing about this is that it works beyond just parenting.  Try listening without judging when you disagree politically or religiously! It's hard. Really, really hard.  But you might learn something.

Why can't we all just get along?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's a Wash

Growing up, I helped my older siblings take care of my nieces and nephews.  I remember the exact scent of Johnson's Baby Shampoo. I loved it so much that I used it myself, long after baby-hood.  When I brought my own daughter home from the hospital, the hospital sent me home with a sample size bottle. I looked at that tiny bottle, filled with amber liquid, and felt nostalgia wash over me.

Then I looked at the ingredients on the bottle produced by the brand "new mothers" have trusted for "more than one hundred years."

Here they are:
Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, PEG-150 Distearate, Fragrance, Polyquaternium-10, Tetrasodium EDTA, Quaternium-15, Citric Acid, Yellow 10 and Orange 4. May also contain: Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide.

Water is harmless enough.  But the second ingredients, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, was voted "Allergen of the Year" by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2004. PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate is also an allergen. PEG-150 Distearate can contain impurities linked to an increased risk of cancer.  According to Cosmetics Info, PEGs should not be used on broken or irritated skin.  Tetrasodium EDTA is listed as one of the "Top Five Chemicals to Avoid" on Bubbleandbee.com.  It's made from known carcinogens, including formaldehyde, and easily penetrates the skin.  If you're looking for formaldehyde, Quaternium-15 may also be for you. It's also a known allergen, especially on infants' skin. "Fragrance" seems harmless enough, except that companies are not required to name which of more than 3,000 chemicals could be responsible for the fragrance.  According to the Environmental Working Group, one in twenty of these ingredients rates a score designating it as a "high hazard." 

Nostalgia or not, I did not feel comfortable putting these ingredients on my daughter's soft, sensitive skin.  Instead, I use Burts' Bees Shampoo and Wash for babies, rated a 2, or low hazard, by the Environmental Working Group. It's still not perfect, but even the unidentified fragrance is guaranteed to be free of common toxins, such as phthalates, parabens, sulfates, and petrochemicals.  All but one ingredient have a low hazard rating, most of zero or one.  Limonene is the sole exception, a moderate risk score of six. 

Here are the ingredients, in comparison:
aqua (water, eau), decyl glucoside, coco-betaine, lauryl glucoside, sucrose laurate, glycerin, parfum (fragrance), betaine, sodium cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein, coco-glucoside, glyceryl oleate, sodium chloride, xanthan gum, glucose, citric acid, glucose oxidase, lactoperoxidase, limonene.

What do you use for cleaning your children? Or, for that matter, what do you use for cleaning your own body?  Later, we'll be talking about shampoo bars.  

Reference Links:

Thursday, May 30, 2013


This blog isn't about green living, or even completely about being a mom. It's more about being a spouse.  This morning when I was in the kitchen washing up after breakfast, I reflected on marriage advice offered when DH and I were engaged.

We were married in the Catholic church, and that came with many learning opportunities leading up to the wedding day.  Some people offer their sympathy, but it was an incredibly important experience.  I recommend premarital counseling, whether or not you are religious.  It was a little bit like going to school: we had to take a multiple choice test, bubbling in our answers for a Scantron machine. It was a compatibility test. I failed, because I lost my place and mis-bubbled.  The priest sat us down at our next session with a very serious expression as we went over the test.

"Stephanie, I see hear that you do not want to have children, and your fiance does.  This is a very important problem to talk through." I burst out laughing, because I'd always wanted to have children. Clearly, I had become confused by the 80+ question "test." I explained, and then we figured out that the test worked out after all.  There were great questions: about raising children, marital expectations, and whether or not you were comfortable being nude in front of your spouse.  It asked if there were external pressures to marry or not marry.  Almost all of the questions would have been relevant for any couple getting married.

We also had to write an essay about the reasons why we were getting married. It was a great exercise. Not only did it provide material for the homily, but it made us think hard about this major commitment.  We had to discuss what our "breaking point" would be (abuse and extended infidelity).

Finally, we had to attend a class with dozens of other couples.  The class was led by a priest and two married couples.  One couple had been married for 11 years and had two children. The other couple had been married for over 20 years and had 5 children. Both couples emphasized the challenges of the first five years. They didn't sugarcoat marriage. They said it would be hard, and there might be times that you wondered if you had made a terrible mistake.  They said that it would be ok to feel that way, ok to feel frustrated and bewildered.  Both couples said that the first five years were the hardest for them.

This was the best advice we received.  Our five year anniversary is coming up in September, shortly after Abby's first birthday.  There were fights, slammed doors, swearing, and tears.  I'm sure they won't magically disappear after our five year anniversary, but we have learned to argue better. We've learned to fight without hurting each other's feelings and how to talk to each other when we are angry.  When we disagree, we are more productive.  And the disagreements are spread further and further apart.  We have learned that we fight less the more time we spend together. So we put down our phones during meals. We eat breakfast together almost every day to give the day a good start. We cuddle, kiss, and hold hands. We've learned how to express our love non-verbally. We laugh together.  And we never ever tear each other down as parents.  We hung in there through some tough times. I'm sure there will be more tough times in the future.  We still have a lot to learn about being coparents. Disasters and tragedies can happen. But just know, if you can make it to the end of the first five years and come out with a smile on your face, it's completely worth it.

What's your marriage advice, for newlyweds, new parents, or years down the road?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Green Eats

Joel Salatin is the owner of Polyface Farms, a sustainable farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He's a very outspoken promoter of the organic movement.  He said, "If you think the price of organic food is expensive, have you priced cancer lately?"

I've seen this floating around Facebook lately, accompanied by his image.  It's an important thought to consider: Is it worth spending more on food now to live a healthier life later?  Ideally, the answer is absolutely yes.  However, sometimes making healthier or more natural food choices can be expensive (but not always). What do you do if you are on a budget but want to eat better?

In our house, we started by prioritizing. Several years ago, we cancelled our cable.  Instead, we paid for Netflix and Hulu+, and took advantage of Amazon Prime's video service. Our cable money went towards our grocery budget.  Then, once we get to the grocery store, we have to prioritize.  Buying all organic ingredients all the time is just not an option for us right now.  Organic milk and eggs are at the top of the list.  We consume a lot of milk and eggs, and you can't just wash them clean. Organic meat is a high priority for the same reason.  Then we focus on the so-called "Dirty Dozen." The Dirty Dozen is a list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue.

Dirty Dozen

  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarines
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Grapes
  10. Spinach
  11. Lettuce
  12. Potatoes
We might buy conventional items if they are on the list of least contaminated produce.

  1. Onions
  2. Avocado
  3. Frozen Sweet Corn
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mango
  6. Asparagus
  7. Frozen Sweet Peas
  8. Kiwi Fruit
  9. Bananas
  10. Cabbage
  11. Broccoli
  12. Papaya

We also choose to shop at Farmers' Markets as frequently as possible.  Eating seasonally helps keep costs down. Sometimes items at Farmers' Markets are more expensive, but more and more are accepting food stamps.  Some items may be cheaper. For example, organic strawberries at our grocery store run about $4 per pound.  A quart of strawberries at our market costs five dollars and weighs about a pound and a half.  Organic certification is expensive and many small farmers can't afford it, so that quart of strawberries might not be certified organic. However, buying directly from the farmer allows you to ask questions. You may find that many or all of their practices are organic.

During the warm months, we also grow some of our own food: herbs, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, potatoes, and carrots. You don't have to have a huge yard to have a garden! We live in a townhouse and have just a couple of beds. Growing up, my dad grew cantaloupe, tomatoes, and herbs in containers on our deck.

Finally, we eat vegetarian meals frequently. Meat, especially organic meat, is expensive.  Minimally or unprocessed vegetarian options are healthy and environmentally friendly. Try giving up meat for one dinner a week and see how it goes!

How do you balance budget and healthy eating in your family?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Unpaper Towels

Every year, Americans use 13 billion pounds of paper towels. Or, 13,000,000,000 pounds, if you prefer.  That means that every day, 51,000 trees are cut down to replace the trees that were cut down to make paper towels.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  Sometimes, at our house, our "green" decisions are as much about saving money as they are about helping the environment. It's nice that so many choices support both goals.  We've been working hard to reduce our use of paper towels, which means less money spent and fewer trees cut down.

In our kitchen, we keep a basket of wash cloths and small hand towels that aren't quite nice enough to put in the bathrooms but aren't quite grubby enough for the rag basket.  There are also some bar towels thrown in there for good measure, and the odd dish rag here and there.  The basket keeps things looking tidy, but it's easy to grab a towel to wipe up messes.  Another smaller basket holds baby washcloths for wiping Abby's face after she eats.  We also have two dish towels: one for drying dishes and one for drying clean hands.  We generally only use paper towels to pat meat dry.

What to do with the dirty or damp towels? I  have a wet bag that hangs in the kitchen. All of our used towels, cloth napkins, and bibs go in there until it's laundry time. (Check the store for some cute kitchen wet bags).

In my sewing basket, I have a prettier solution: a roll of "unpaper" towels that snap together around a roll and can hang on a regular paper towel dispenser.  I picked colors that match our kitchen for a little extra flair.  It cost about $30 to make the roll, however, and I already had cloths that work just as well with no extra money at all.

Join me in a challenge: think of one thing you use paper towels for and use cloth instead. What one thing will you choose?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Enter to Win a Loving Touch Wipes Wetbag!

The shop is officially open! To celebrate, we are having a giveaway with a wipes wet bag gifted by Loving Touch. These are the same wipes bags we have in stock in the store, but with an added snap-on flower.  I have my own plain grey chevron wipes bag in my diaper bag right now. I keep a few damp cloth wipes in there for when we are out and about. You could also use it for disposable wipes or dry cloth wipes.  It's so adorable I feel like it would even make a great little clutch! Enter below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mama Cloth

I'm coming even more out of the crunchy closet now with this one.  In my postpartum days, I started using "mama cloth."  Mama cloth is another term for reusable menstrual pads.

I can hear some of you thinking: gross!

Bear with me here. And gentlemen readers, if you are squeamish about "that time of the month," stop reading here and catch up with us next time.

I'm a long-time tampon user.  I've heard of more eco-friendly options before, but tampons really work for me. I went as eco-friendly as I could with an organic cotton version of OB (applicator free) tampons.  But immediately post-partum, tampons are a no-no, and the bleeding continues for weeks.  I can't even wear disposable maxi pad for a day without my lady parts getting irritated.  I was dreading having to wear them for six weeks.

So, I thought about reusable pads.  Cotton would feel so much nicer against my skin, I thought.  And I'm already going to be doing diaper laundry.  I could just throw them in with the diapers.  So I took the plunge and picked some up at the Abby's Lane brick and mortar store.

They were great.  My skin didn't get irritated. There wasn't as much smell as with disposable pads.  And the blood washed right out of them.  I would highly recommend them for postpartum use.

I haven't had a period since Abby was born, so I haven't used them again.  However, I plan on continuing to at least use the panty liners when Aunt Flow does come around again. I feel cleaner with tampons, but might investigate some of the other options out there when the time comes.

If you are interested in trying out mama cloth, Mother Moon Pads will be stocked in the Green Mama Life shop!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Go Green or Go Home?

Today on Facebook, I saw a picture of a box of macaroni and cheese with "organic milk" and "organic butter" in the cooking directions.  Bad Parenting Moments pointed out that this is in fact boxed macaroni and cheese.  I giggled, and then thought about a question I've been bumping around for awhile.

Is it only worth going green if you go in 100%?

DH and I care a lot about making green choices.  We use CFLs, buy organic, recycle, reduce, and reuse.  We cloth diaper, breastfeed (yes, it's an eco-friendly choice), and I use reusable menstrual pads.  That should put us firmly in the hippy camp.  Right?

Confession time:

  • There are still light fixtures in our house with incandescent light bulbs. 
  • I have every intention of recycling all of our cardboard and paper waste, but sometimes things on the top floor get thrown in the trash. 
  • Despite arguments that conventional meat and produce is more expensive in the long run, when working with our grocery budget, organic meat and produce is just too expensive up front. 
  • I really love frozen jalapeno poppers, and sometimes, DH and I eat an entire meal of frozen fried food. We call it despicable dinner. It may or may not have happened more than once during my last trimester.
  • I didn't stop eating McDonald's after watching Food, Inc. I stopped a few months ago (several years after the fact) when it finally stopped tasting good to me. 
Do these confessions negate everything I do to go green? No.  I'm a firm believer that each person takes the steps that are right for them.  I'm constantly improving in all of the above categories.  When the incandescent lights burn out, we replace them with CFLs (except the ones on the dimmer switch in the basement).  I'm better than I used to be about making sure paper products end up in the right place.  We support our farmers' market and raise food in our own garden.  We don't keep processed food in the house, and it's an occasional treat.

There is a parable, called the Star Thrower, retold often by motivational speakers.  The following version was adapted by Starfish Charity from the original essay by Loren Eisely.

An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean.
"Young lady," he asked, "Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"
"The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die."
"But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference."
The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves, saying, "It made a difference for that one."
The old man looked at the young woman inquisitively and thought about what she had done. Inspired, he joined her in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.
My minister told the starfish story as part of a sermon recently, and it has stuck with me.
Turn off the lights when leaving the room. That's one starfish saved.
Line dry the cloth diapers. That's another starfish saved.
Use natural light during the daytime. Happy starfish.

We don't have to save every single starfish to make a difference.  Start by throwing back as many as you can, and together, we will save many.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cloth Diapering a Newborn

Over at my old personal blog, Townhouse Homestead, I wrote a post about why we decided to start cloth diapering and why we love it so much. Since now I'm starting a store, I've decided to continue the series on this blog.  I'll begin with how we cloth diapered our own newborn, and leave all the definitions and terminology up to the many other brilliant sites who have already covered that information.

In the hospital, we stuck with disposable diapers. They were free, we were learning the ropes of caring for a newborn, and I wasn't ready to worry about diaper laundry.  I've also heard mixed information about staining from meconium, the tarry nightmare that comes out of a newborn baby's behind.  We decided not to risk staining our diapers and waited until the meconium was an icky memory.

When we arrived home, we started out with newborn prefolds and covers. (Prefolds are what our moms and grandmoms used). Newborns go through an astounding number of diapers in a day, and prefolds are a very economical way to start out.  DH (Dear Husband) did all of the early diaper changes, especially at night, since I'd had a c-section.  He opted for disposables at night instead of trying to mess with folding and Snappis (which, if you haven't heard of them, are the awesome modern alternative to diaper pins).

We had a beautiful stash of pocket diapers all ready to go, and I was impatient to put something colorful on Abby's bum. We chose pockets for our main diaper system because of the removable inserts.  The removable insert makes the diaper dry faster, and the pocket can accommodate extra inserts for added absorbency.  When they are assembled, they are as easy to change as a disposable diaper. We also opted for one-size diapers to maximize the amount of time we could use our diapers.  In our stash, we had mainly two kinds of one-size pockets: Fuzzibunz Elites and BumGenius 4.0.  Looking at our barely eight pound baby, the BumGenius looked much too wide.  They adjust in rise (length) through snaps but the width remains the same. The Fuzzibunz, on the other hand, have hidden adjustable elastic both in the waist and in the legs.  We had them on the recommended newborn size setting, and they worked for us before Abby was even a week old.

Abby at 3 days old in a Fuzzibunz OS Elite

There are newborn diapers, often with a notch to accommodate the umbilical cord.  Stephanie over at Abby's Lane has found that this is often unnecessary.  Newborn diapers are adorable, and have a great resale value, but we wanted to avoid that upfront investment.  My dear readers, what have you done to diaper your newborns?