Search Results for going green

Going Green, Part 4 – Household Cleaning

Household Cleaning

Household cleaning is one area that offers a lot of opportunities to save money while also living a little greener. Our society has grown accustomed to using harsh household chemicals, but these expensive – not to mention dangerous – cleaners are not the only choice.

 

In the Bathroom

Let’s start with the room that receives the harshest cleaning chemicals, the bathroom. Most American households use caustic cleaners in the toilet, bleach-based cleaners on the sink and shower, and still more chemicals on the floor and mirrors. Yikes!

 

Instead of using expensive harsh chemicals in your toilet, try mixing ¼ cup of baking soda with 1 cup of white vinegar. Pour into the toilet, let sit for a few minutes, then scrub. (Vinegar is antibacterial in nature.) Additionally, consider swishing the toilet with a toilet brush as part of your morning or evening routine. You’ll find that a quick swish every day keeps the toilet from getting too disgusting.

 

For the sink and shower, apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar) does a fine job of removing soap scum and hard-water deposits, as well as killing the bacteria that thrives in the humid environment of the bathroom.

 

If scrubbing is needed, try using baking soda. It’s mildly abrasive, but won’t scratch. If more abrasion is needed, a good scouring stone (pumice, available at hardware stores) will usually do the trick. Keep the stone wet and gently rub.)

 

For mold, spray on a solution of diluted hydrogen peroxide (available at pharmacies). Let sit for several minutes (15 or so) before scrubbing or rinsing.

In the Kitchen

Many families these days prefer to wash their produce with a special fruit and veggie wash meant to safely clean the produce better than simply rinsing them with water. A homemade alternative is to soak the produce in diluted vinegar – try ¼ cup of vinegar for a sinkful of water. Soak the produce for 15 minutes, then rinse and dry.

 

For oven cleaning, use your oven’s self-cleaning cycle, if it has one. Not only does this save labor, but there are no chemicals involved! If your oven is not self-cleaning, or if you have baked-on spills that need special attention, try dampening the interior of the oven with plain water (using a spray bottle), then sprinkling on a few layers of baking soda. Let the whole thing sit for a few hours, then scrub with a rag. Use steel wool for really tough spots.

 

For clogged sinks, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain and follow with a cup of vinegar. The chemical reaction that follows will help break down greasy clogs. Let this sit for a few minutes before pouring a panful of boiling water down the drain to help clear the clog.

The Whole House

For general cleaning – de-smudging, polishing, dusting, and wiping – consider purchasing some microfiber cleaning cloths. These cloths make clean-up a snap, and do a fine job of cleaning up without any chemicals at all. You can use them dry, or with plain water.

 

For hard-surface floors, you can’t beat the old-fashioned broom and dustpan, or the more modern Swiffer. (For an economical, nondisposable alternative to swiffer cloths, consider Sweet Sweepers.) Follow up with a mop and some hot, soapy water – just use plain old dish soap, no need for speciality floor cleaners.

 

There are a lot of good resources out there for economical, environmentally-friendly household cleaning. My favorite is a book called Clean House, Clean Planet.

Going Green, Part 3

It’s been a while since I started this series, and I’m afraid I lost my notes, so I’m winging the remainder of the series!

Today’s installment is about the second part of the little Environmentalism Matra – Reuse. This step so often gets overlooked in our enthusiasm about recycling, but reusing something is so much better for the environment (and the wallet) than recycling.

Reuse is actually my favorite part of living greener, because I’m a big fan of World War Two pop culture – and during WWII (as well as during the Depression), they had their own saying – Use it up, Wear it out, Make it new, or go without. What they couldn’t or didn’t use up or wear completely out (and I do mean completely), they would fix up, repair, or reinvent. I have several sewing books from the era, each with large sections devoted to remaking clothes or housewares using worn out clothing. A man’s suit becomes a woman’s suit or children’s clothing. Two worn dresses are made anew by combining the good parts of each to make one new dress, and the leftover parts made into children’s clothing.

So, with the pioneerish spirit of our grandmothers, here are some ideas to get you started Reusing your worn or broken items.

  • Clothing. Clothing is the easiest item to reuse – at least for me, since I can sew! Plain T-shirts or T-shirts with smallish designs that you’d rather not see any more can be decorated and remade using the simple technique of raw-edge applique. (another example here) Bonus: This technique requires very basic sewing skills, and the stitching doesn’t need to be perfect at all – it’s just “art-ier” if it’s all crooked! Most other clothing items can also be embellished – skirts, jackets, coats, pants, jeans. Pants and jeans can also be decorated with trim, which is especially useful for adding just a smidge of length when your daughter shoots up 3 inches overnight or for those pants that you love that are getting a bit worn around the hem.Clothing can also be cut up and sewn, tied, woven, or braided into quilts or rugs. I made a neat denim rug when I was in college by cutting up denim scraps that would otherwise have been thrown away. I braided them into a long, long rope, then coiled the rope into a circular rug that we used to wipe our shoes on before entering our dorm room. (Similar to what this lady is doing.)

    My favorite use for old clothing is simply to cut out all the seams and then see what else I can make with the remaining pieces. Patchwork skirts are always easy, but most children’s clothing items can be made with parts of old adult clothing. An old skirt could yield a nice ring sling or Asian carrier. Cotton clothing can be remade into diapers or mama pads. Once you start seeing old clothing (or towels, sheets, etc) as fabric instead of clothes, the possibilities are endless!

  • Clothing again. Clothing that’s too worn (or ugly) to be reused can always be cut up and used for toilet wipes, rags, or washcloths. These items don’t have to be aesthetically pleasing.
  • Interesting but clean garbage. Things like toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, meat trays, cardboard boxes and inserts, cans, jugs, and just about any type of container can be used in craft projects for your children. Don’t have children? Contact your local church, preschool, or daycare. Most of these facilities will gladly take donations of craft supplies such as these! But don’t stop at children’s crafts. Egg cartons can be used to store small, fragile Christmas ornaments or as a palette for your next painting project. Aluminum cans can be used to store pencils. Baby food jars can be used to store nails and screws, or bobbins for your sewing machine, or hairpins.
  • Paper. What do you use for jotting down quick notes? Taking phone messages? Writing grocery lists? How about using your junk mail? Most envelopes have plenty of space for notes or lists. Not to mention that many business letters are printed on one side only, leaving the entire back side empty! And what about those pages that you printed on your computer, but didn’t need? Or that your printer screwed up? (Oh, is that just me?)
  • Cardboard boxes. What can’t these be used for, really? Besides the obvious – mailing out packages – these workhorses of the reusing world can be used to: make a playhouse, make a sled (my dad used to pull us around the yard in the winter on a giant, flattened box), protect your garage floor, store off-season clothes or anything else, or provide a giant easel for children to draw on. With a few cuts and some tape, they can be made into magazine holders or smaller boxes. I cut the sides from an old, large cardboard box, painted them to match my office, and stuck photos to them to make collages to decorate my walls. Another large cardboard box, with a few windows cut out, provides a nice play house for my son. A third box provided me with a bulletin board on which I plan upcoming projects.
  • What else goes in your garbage? Just a few miscellaneous examples from my own house: I use two old mugs to hold my pens and pencils in my office. An old desk drawer organizer from work (they were remodeling and throwing out – throwing out!! – all our old desk supplies like orgnizers, magazine files, photo frames, and the like) helps me organize my sewing cabinet. Some old shelving provided some of the wood we used to make built-in bookcases in our basement.

If you can’t reuse something yourself, take a minute before you throw it away to consider whether someone else could use it. Maybe someone in your family or your circle of friends could really use that old pan. Or perhaps you could freecycle some of your items or donate them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with lots of good ideas for reusing some of the items you would normally throw away. Please post your own ideas as comments to this article!!

Going Green, part 2

Reducing Use of Disposable Products

Disposable products have permeated our society. It seems like every time I turn around, I find another new disposable product. I mean, disposable toilet brushes? Who would ever have dreamed?

Almost everyone can stand to reduce the use of wasteful disposable products. Doing so not only gives the environment a boost, but it helps save money, as well.

First, think through all of the disposable products that you use in your life. Here is a partial list of disposable products I found on a recent trip to the local “mega” store to get you started.

-Paper napkins
-Paper plates, cups
-Plastic flatware
-Facial tissues
-Toilet paper
-Paper towels
-Single-use razor blades
-Disposable diapers
-Baby food jars
-Cleaning cloths of all sorts
-Shop towels
-Baby bibs
-Baby placemats
-Cameras
-Changing pads
-Menstrual products

Which of these disposable products do you use? Now consider – for each disposable product you use, can you use a re-usable product instead? And will substituting that re-usable product be lighter on the planet, and also save you money? Not all re-usable products pay off in the long run, but most do. Let’s look at a few of the items listed above in closer detail.

Paper napkins and paper towels. The alternative is, of course, cloth napkins and towels. Generally speaking, using cloth napkins and towels is very do-able, and will definitely save you money! And, though I don’t know of any studies proving it, it stands to reason that it’s lighter on the planet, even after factoring in the washing. Our family has been using cloth napkins and towels for a while now, and we really don’t miss the paper versions. We do still have a package of paper napkins in the kitchen, but we haven’t had occasion to use them! (If you’re interested in cloth napkins, I do hope to add them to my inventory in the near future, or you can find them at any number of area stores. Just make sure you get ones made from cotton or linen – not poly or other man-made fabrics, which are not absorbent.)

Paper plates and cups, Plastic flatware. I don’t think I need to argue the point that using real plates, cups, and silverware is a better choice. And I will admit that the disposable versions have their place. (Like when you have visitors for lunch on your first day with a new baby!) But there are ways to use them more responsibly. For example, when I was growing up, we had large family gatherings at holidays, and my grandmother didn’t want to be running her dishwasher around the clock. So she purchased a package of disposable plastic cups and a big Sharpie, and had each person label their cup. This way, cups did not need to be washed as often, but they weren’t thrown out after every use, either. It was a nice compromise!

Facial Tissues. Somehow, in the past several decades, we’ve gone from handkerchiefs to Kleenix without much thought. Most people my age have never even used a handkerchief! However, there’s nothing better when you’re sick than using cloth on your runny nose. You don’t get that red, dry soreness that you get from the paper tissues. It’s sheer luxury! (If you’d like handkerchiefs, they can be found in most men’s departments, or you may buy them from Wallypop in the not-too-distant future.)

Toilet Paper. Now this one will really stretch some people! But flushable toilet paper is NOT the only option… Many people, myself included, happily use cloth toilet “paper.” It’s actually much softer, it feels almost sinful. And depending on what type of cloth you use, it’s much easier to get all clean. You know how they’re advertising that TP that has ridges for better cleaning? Well, fabric’s all about ridges, baby! And for those of you who prefer to wet your TP before wiping, well, fabric won’t get all soggy and fall apart like paper does! (You can find more information about our cloth wipes here.)

Diapers. Do I really need to sell you on cloth diapers? There are so many articles scattered around the internet on why Cloth is a better choice, including several that I have written, that I’m not going to try to duplicate them here. Cloth diapers are more economical, they are better for the environment, and they’re much better for babies, too!

Baby Food Jars. To reduce use of throwaway jars, you can easily reduce your use of commercial baby food. Making baby food is so easy (and fast!) that there’s really no reason not to do it! Even the worst cook can make baby food. Steam some veggies or fruits until well cooked, then mash up! How easy can you get?? Commercial baby food does have its uses, though. When on a week-long trip, we supplemented homemade food with store-bought little jars of sweet potato, blueberries, and other treats. They’re handy to keep in the car in case of emergency or unexpected trip. Instead of just tossing those jars out, though, consider whether you or anyone else you know can use them. When my nephew was eating baby food, my sister in law saved a large number of her baby food jars for our family – we use them in Randy’s shop to store nails, screws, bolts, nuts, and other small items that we want to keep together. We probably have 3 dozen jars in there. If you want to get really fancy, you can nail the lids to the underside of a shelf, then screw the jars on and off as you need to access the contents.

Cleaning Cloths. How did we become a society that can’t stomach the idea of spraying cleaner on a rag, then washing the rag when done? There are wood polishing cloths, glass cleaning cloths, bleach cloths, kitchen cleaning cloths, bathroom cleaning cloths, car cleaning cloths, even disposable facial cleaning cloths. The obvious alternative here is to get a rag, get some cleaner, and go at it the old-fashioned way! Definitely cheaper, and actually better on the environment, too. Not only because you’re not throwing away the cloths, but because you will use less cleaning products in the process. Buy your cleaning products in bulk and use old towels or T-shirts as rags and the impact is even greater.

Baby Bibs. I’ve never been too sure of the reasons behind this product. You have enough room in the diaper bag for the disposable bib, but just not enough room to take it home? You just can’t stomach the idea of taking a dirty bib home and washing it? The obvious alternative here is fabric bibs, which are widely available.

So you see, finding acceptable substitutes for disposable products is often not difficult. Start with just one or two products, and move on from there – good luck!

Going Green, while saving Green

Too often these days, living “greener” seems like it has to cost us extra “green.” However, this certainly doesn’t have to be true! This is the first in a series of articles discussing ways to go green on the cheap.

When you think about it, the original Environmental Mantra of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” could also be a Mantra for frugal living. It’s true! Living cheaply and living light on the planet go hand in hand. Read on to learn more!

 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce. Reducing your use of resources is the best way to cut back on expenses, as well as on waste. As you go through your day, ask yourself at every opportunity, “How can I reduce my use of this product?” For example, do you use hairspray as you get ready in the morning? Perhaps you could use less spray but still achieve the same effect. Or maybe you’re willing to try a new hairstyle that would not require styling products.

As another example, do you use the amount of laundry detergent recommended on the bottle? Manufacturers who create those recommendations have an ulterior motive – to keep you buying their products! Try cutting back to half of the recommended amount, and then keep cutting back little by little until you start to notice a difference in the cleanliness of your clothes.

The Reduce idea can be carried through to less tangible items, as well. How can you reduce your use of electricity? Water? Gasoline?

Reuse. Before you throw something away, ask yourself if the item can be re-used in any way. An old T-shirt could make a great rag. A cereal box could provide cardboard for any number of uses. Junk mail envelopes make great places to write out a grocery list. If you can’t reuse it, can someone else? A friend used to collect junk paper for her sister’s homeschooled kids to use for art projects. Church, daycare, and after-school programs will usually happily take donations of empty cardboard tubes, juice cans, and other craft-project items.

Recycle. Though recycling is what most people think of first, it should actually be the third thing you consider, after reduce and reuse. If you can’t reduce your use of an item, and it can’t be reused when you’re finished with it, try to recycle it if you can. Our local area offers limited recycling pickup with the garbage pickup, but citizens can take other recyclables to area drop-offs. There’s nothing particularly money-saving about recycling, except remembering that it’s the LAST step, not the first!

In the next article, we'll discuss the first step – Reduce – in a bit more detail!

Yes, you can go green without going broke

Welcome to my post for Des Moines’ Frugal Blog Tour. I hope you can visit all the blogs on the tour this week and next.

 

Too often these days, living “greener” seems like it has to cost us extra “green.” However, this certainly doesn’t have to be true! When you think about it, the original Environmental Mantra of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” could also be a Mantra for frugal living. It’s true! Living cheaply and living light on the planet go hand in hand. Read on to learn more!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce.

Reducing your use of resources is the best way to cut back on expenses, as well as on waste. As you go through your day, ask yourself at every opportunity, “How can I reduce my use of this product?” For example, do you use hairspray as you get ready in the morning? Perhaps you could use less spray but still achieve the same effect. Or maybe you’re willing to try a new hairstyle that would not require styling products.

As another example, do you use the amount of laundry detergent recommended on the bottle? Manufacturers who create those recommendations have an ulterior motive – to keep you buying their products! Try cutting back to half of the recommended amount, and then keep cutting back little by little until you start to notice a difference in the cleanliness of your clothes.

Reducing your use of disposable products should be fairly straightforward. Disposable products have permeated our society. It seems like every time I turn around, I find another new disposable product. I mean, disposable toilet brushes? Disposable bathroom hand towels?? Who would ever have dreamed?

Almost everyone can stand to reduce the use of wasteful disposable products. Doing so not only gives the environment a boost, but it helps save money, as well. To start reducing your use of the disposable, think through all of the disposable products that you use in your life. Here is a partial list of disposable products I found on a recent trip to the local “mega” store to get you started.

-Paper napkins
-Paper plates, cups
-Plastic flatware
-Facial tissues
-Toilet paper
-Paper towels
-Single-use razor blades
-Disposable diapers
-Baby food jars
-Cleaning cloths of all sorts
-Shop towels
-Baby bibs
-Baby placemats
-Cameras
-Changing pads
-Menstrual products

Which of these disposable products do you use? Now consider – for each disposable product you use, can you use a re-usable product instead? And will substituting that re-usable product be lighter on the planet, and also save you money? Not all re-usable products pay off in the long run, but most do. Let’s look at a few of the items listed above in closer detail.

Paper napkins and paper towels. The alternative is, of course, cloth napkins and towels. Generally speaking, using cloth napkins and towels is very do-able, and will definitely save you money! And, though I don’t know of any studies proving it, it stands to reason that it’s lighter on the planet, even after factoring in the washing. Our family has been using cloth napkins and towels for a while now, and we really don’t miss the paper versions. (If you’re interested in cloth napkins, make sure you get ones made from cotton or linen – not poly or other man-made fabrics, which are not absorbent.)

Paper plates and cups, Plastic flatware. I don’t think I need to argue the point that using real plates, cups, and silverware is a better choice. And I will admit that the disposable versions have their place. (Like when you have visitors for lunch on your first day with a new baby!) But there are ways to use them more responsibly. For example, when I was growing up, we had large family gatherings at holidays, and my grandmother didn’t want to be running her dishwasher around the clock. So she purchased a package of disposable plastic cups and a big Sharpie, and had each person label their cup. This way, cups did not need to be washed as often, but they weren’t thrown out after every use, either. It was a nice compromise!

Facial Tissues. Somehow, in the past several decades, we’ve gone from handkerchiefs to Kleenix without much thought. Most people my age have never even used a handkerchief! However, there’s nothing better when you’re sick than using cloth on your runny nose. You don’t get that red, dry soreness that you get from the paper tissues. It’s sheer luxury! (If you’d like handkerchiefs, they can be found in most men’s departments, or you may buy them from Wallypop.)

Toilet Paper. Now this one will really stretch some people! But flushable toilet paper is NOT the only option… Many people, myself included, happily use cloth toilet “paper.” It’s actually much softer, it feels almost sinful. Depending on what type of cloth you use, it’s much easier to get all clean, and for those of you who prefer to wet your TP before wiping, well, fabric won’t get all soggy and fall apart like paper does!

Diapers. Do I really need to sell you on cloth diapers? There are so many articles scattered around the internet on why Cloth is a better choice, including several that I have written, that I’m not going to try to duplicate them here. Cloth diapers are more economical, they are better for the environment, and they’re much better for babies, too!

Baby Food Jars. To reduce use of throwaway jars, you can easily reduce your use of commercial baby food. Making baby food is so easy (and fast!) that there’s really no reason not to do it! Even the worst cook can make baby food. Steam some veggies or fruits until well cooked, then mash up! How easy can you get?? Commercial baby food does have its uses, though. When on a week-long trip with our oldest, we supplemented homemade food with store-bought little jars of sweet potato, blueberries, and other treats. Instead of just tossing those jars out, though, consider whether you or anyone else you know can use them. When my nephew was eating baby food, my sister in law saved a large number of her baby food jars for our family – we use them to store nails, screws, bolts, nuts, and other small items that we want to keep together. If you want to get really fancy, you can nail the lids to the underside of a shelf, then screw the jars on and off as you need to access the contents.

Cleaning Cloths. How did we become a society that can’t stomach the idea of spraying cleaner on a rag, then washing the rag when done? There are wood polishing cloths, glass cleaning cloths, bleach cloths, kitchen cleaning cloths, bathroom cleaning cloths, car cleaning cloths, even disposable facial cleaning cloths. The obvious alternative here is to get a rag, get some cleaner, and go at it the old-fashioned way! Definitely cheaper, and actually better on the environment, too. Not only because you’re not throwing away the cloths, but because you will use less cleaning product in the process. Buy your cleaning products in bulk and use old towels or T-shirts as rags and the impact is even greater.

Baby Bibs. I’ve never been too sure of the reasons behind this product. You have enough room in the diaper bag for the disposable bib, but just not enough room to take it home? You just can’t stomach the idea of taking a dirty bib home and washing it? The obvious alternative here is fabric bibs, which are widely available.

So you see, finding acceptable substitutes for disposable products is often not difficult. Start with just one or two products, and move on from there.

.

Reuse.

This step so often gets overlooked in our enthusiasm about recycling, but reusing something is so much better for the environment – and the wallet – than recycling.

Reuse is actually my favorite part of living greener, because I’m a big fan of World War Two pop culture – and during WWII (as well as during the Depression), they had their own saying – Use it up, Wear it out, Make it new, or Go Without. What they couldn’t or didn’t use up or wear completely out (and I do mean completely), they would fix up, repair, or reinvent. I have several sewing books from the era, each with large sections devoted to remaking clothes or housewares using worn out clothing. A man’s suit becomes a woman’s suit or children’s clothing. Two worn dresses are made anew by combining the good parts of each to make one new dress, and the leftover parts made into children’s clothing.

So, with the pioneerish spirit of our grandmothers, here are some ideas to get you started Reusing your worn or broken items.

Wally's batman shirt

* Clothing. Clothing is the easiest item to reuse – at least for me, since I can sew! Plain T-shirts, T-shirts with with small stains, or T-shirts with smallish designs that you’d rather not see any more can be decorated and remade using the simple technique of raw-edge applique (ADD A LINK). Bonus: This technique requires very basic sewing skills, and the stitching doesn’t need to be perfect at all – it’s just “art-ier” if it’s all crooked! Most other clothing items can also be embellished – skirts, jackets, coats, pants, jeans. Pants and jeans can also be decorated with trim, which is especially useful for adding just a smidge of length when your daughter shoots up 3 inches overnight or for those pants that you love that are getting a bit worn around the hem. Clothing can also be cut up and sewn, tied, woven, or braided into quilts or rugs. I made a neat denim rug when I was in college by cutting up denim scraps that would otherwise have been thrown away. I braided them into a long, long rope, then coiled the rope into a circular rug that we used to wipe our shoes on before entering our dorm room.

My favorite use for old clothing is simply to cut out all the seams and then see what else I can make with the remaining pieces. Patchwork skirts are always easy, but most children’s clothing items can be made with parts of old adult clothing. An old skirt could yield a nice ring sling. Cotton clothing can be remade into diapers or mama pads. Once you start seeing old clothing (or towels, sheets, etc) as fabric instead of clothes, the possibilities are endless!

* Clothing again. Clothing that’s too worn (or ugly) to be reused can always be cut up and used for toilet wipes, rags, or washcloths. These items don’t have to be aesthetically pleasing.

* Interesting but clean garbage. Things like toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, meat trays, cardboard boxes and inserts, cans, jugs, and just about any type of container can be used in craft projects for your children. We throw any broken or unwanted gadgets (broken remote, old calculator) into a box labeled “cool stuff” that our six year old uses for projects. Don’t have children? Contact your local church, preschool, or daycare. Most of these facilities will gladly take donations of craft supplies such as these! But don’t stop at children’s crafts. Egg cartons can be used to store small, fragile Christmas ornaments or as a palette for your next painting project. Aluminum cans can be used to store pencils. Baby food jars can be used to store nails and screws, or bobbins for your sewing machine, or hairpins.

* Paper. What do you use for jotting down quick notes? Taking phone messages? Writing grocery lists? How about using your junk mail? Most envelopes have plenty of space for notes or lists. Not to mention that many business letters are printed on one side only, leaving the entire back side empty! And what about those pages that you printed on your computer, but didn’t need? Or that your printer screwed up? If you keep animals, consider shredding unwanted paper and using it for bedding – this is what we use for our chickens.

Little Places for Little Boys: Cardboard Playhouse

* Cardboard boxes. What can’t these be used for, really? Besides the obvious – mailing out packages – these workhorses of the reusing world can be used to: make a playhouse, make a sled (my dad used to pull us around the yard in the winter on a giant, flattened box), protect your garage floor, store off-season clothes or anything else, or provide a giant easel for children to draw on. With a few cuts and some tape, they can be made into magazine holders or smaller boxes. I cut the sides from an old, large cardboard box, painted them to match my office, and stuck photos to them to make collages to decorate my walls. Another large cardboard box, with a few windows cut out, provides a nice play house. A third box provided me with a bulletin board on which I plan upcoming projects.

* What else goes in your garbage? Just a few miscellaneous examples from my own house: I use two old mugs to hold my pens and pencils in my office. An old desk drawer organizer from work (they were remodeling and throwing out – throwing out!! – all our old desk supplies like orgnizers, magazine files, photo frames, and the like) helps me organize my sewing cabinet. Some old shelving provided some of the wood we used to make built-in bookcases in our basement.

If you can’t reuse something yourself, take a minute before you throw it away to consider whether someone else could use it. Maybe someone in your family or your circle of friends could really use that old pan. Or perhaps you could freecycle some of your items or donate them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

.

Recycle.

Though recycling is what most people think of first, it should actually be the third thing you consider, after reduce and reuse. If you can’t reduce your use of an item, and it can’t be reused when you’re finished with it, try to recycle it if you can. Our local area offers limited recycling pickup with the garbage pickup, but citizens can take other recyclables to area drop-offs. There’s nothing particularly money-saving about recycling, except remembering that it’s the LAST step, not the first!

Reducing Waste and Being Green With Children

Here’s an interesting subject – reducing waste when you have children. This is not always as easy as it might seem, but here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Use cloth diapers. Now, I’m not going to go into all the reasons cloth diapers are superior to disposables. Suffice it to say, in my opinion, they are. (Please ignore the disposable-diaper-funded studies in England recently that have tried to say that cloth is worse for the environment than disposables. Read the actual studies and the flaws in them become obvious.) For the purposes of this list, it is clear that cloth diapers produce far less waste than disposable diapers do. In fact, they produce no waste at all.
  2. Breastfeed. No waste. Can’t breastfeed? Use glass bottles, skip the plastic disposable inserts. Buy formula in the largest cans you can find.
  3. Get yourself a few of the small size SIGG bottles and use these instead of disposable cups that one might acquire at a drive-through, convenience store, or restaurant. Bonus: your kid drinks the water that’s in the cup, not a soft drink or juice.
  4. Bring your own in-restaurant entertainment rather than using the restaurant’s disposable kids menu and crayons. (Those crayons are often just thrown away, barely used, after you leave.)
  5. Invest in some re-usable drawing mediums. Magnetic drawing boards, the aqua-doodle, etc. They will never replace paper for drawing on, but they can cut down on some of the paper waste from drawing. We have found these particularly useful when in the car or at an activity away from home.
  6. Use the back of junk mail and other unwanted paper as art paper. Use old catalogs and magazines for art projects. Use old phone books as paint palettes or a cutting surface. Use old newspapers to protect your table from overzealous painting. (Better yet, invest in a remnant of oilcloth and use it over and over.)
  7. This really shouldn’t need to be spelled out, but try to avoid anything that’s single-use and disposable. Disposable plastic placemats, disposable disinfecting wipes, disposable cups and utensils. You can easily find non-disposable replacements for these items. (a soapy washcloth, reusable cup, reusable utensils.)
  8. Instead of buying snack-size packages of snacks, buy larger sizes and repackage them into smaller (reusable) containers yourself.
  9. Don’t buy antibacterial anything. They don’t actually work that well. And they invariably come in small plastic containers, or as single-use wipes.
  10. Get your baby products from a local business like Prairieland Herbs. Their products are all-natural, wonderful, and they’re local.

Those are my ten tips for right now. I’m sure there are at least 500 more!

Keepin’ it Cheap, Baby!

(or, how to keep your frugal ideals – or develop some – when it comes to your young’uns.)

Welcome to my post for Des Moines’ Frugal Blog Tour. I hope you can visit all the blogs on the tour this week and next.

The USDA, in its Expenditures on Children by Families 2009 report, estimates that parents spend an average of $11,700 for each baby in their first year of life. (Families in urban areas spend slightly more, and rural families spend slightly less.) I used the UDSA’s Cost of Raising a Child Calculator and discovered that, even after removing housing and child care expenses, I can be expected to spend about $4,000 on my two year old this year, and about $5,300 on my 6 year old.

Wow.

The good news is that those statistics reflect the “average” American, not the super frugal American that you can become!

So let’s take a look at some of the major baby expenses and some practical ways you can reduce those expenses without sacrificing quality or safety.

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Baby Equipment
Most “saving money with your new baby” articles give you lots of ways to buy baby “stuff” for less money, or will direct you to baby “stuff” that gets you the most bang for your buck. But few of these articles will challenge you to really consider how much “stuff” your new baby really needs.

I would encourage you, though, to really think through each and every purchase. For example, many “baby must haves” lists claim that an infant “bucket-style” carseat is an absolute necessity – but the vast majority of babies do not actually need an infant seat. Most convertible carseats can hold babies as little as 5 lbs rear-facing, and then can be turned around to front-facing for toddlers and preschoolers up to 65 (or more) lbs. Cutting out the “bucket” seat can save you about $200. (In addition, bucket seats are not safe places for infants when used outside of a car. They are heavy and awkward to carry around. Instead of carrying your baby around in a $200 infant car seat that will only fit them for 4-5 months, consider purchasing a $40 baby sling, which is not only lighter and less bulky, but will fit your baby until they’re in preschool – or beyond.) For more information about keeping carseats in cars, see this article at Mothering.

Strollers are often considered a Must Have. I’ll admit, we do use ours (I think we’ve used it about a dozen times with two children over six years) and they can be handy. Before you sink a lot of money into a fancy-pants model, though, seriously consider how much you’ll use a stroller. Where do you plan to take the baby where you’ll want a stroller? Particularly if you plan to use baby carriers or slings, you might not use a stroller as much as you think you will. Perhaps a better strategy might be to borrow a stroller at first, until you get a good feel for how much you’ll really use it. As an alternative, consider purchasing a cheaper (or a used) stroller, planning to move up to a more expensive model if you end up feeling like it would be a good investment after all.

Other baby equipment you could probably do without: Bassinet (babies can nap just as easily on the floor), changing table (babies can be changed on nearly any flat surface – including the floor or the top of a dresser), Exersaucer, Baby chairs and bouncers, baby bathtub (a sink, or mama’s lap works just as well), breastpump (unless you really have a need to pump, such as if you’re planning to return to work), and baby swing. Some families who plan to cosleep even forgo a crib (we put up a borrowed crib when pregnant with our first, but never used it, and never bothered to put it up with our second).

(Please note: I’m not saying there is anything wrong with any of these baby products. If your family, your baby, your neighbor, your aunt’s second cousin’s baby liked them – that’s fine. There’s no judgement here. But if you’re trying to save money – you don’t NEED any of these items to have a perfectly healthy, happy baby.)

But what about saving money on the baby equipment that you really do need? It goes without saying that buying used or borrowing is better for your budget than buying new. (Check out any items against Recall lists, and be sure to check them over to ensure proper, safe functioning.)  Garage sales, Craigslist, Ebay, friends, family, and secondhand stores can all be great sources of previously-loved baby equipment. The good new is, most baby equipment is used for such a short time, it’s usually still in pretty good shape.

Baby equipment is one area where having a well-established “tribe,” or what I call “purposeful family,” can come in handy – many families who don’t currently have new babies will have the equipment you want just sitting around unused – and will probably be willing to lend to you. Frankly, I look for nearly any opportunity to lend out my baby swing (a gift), since it’s huge and I’d rather not have to store it.

Cloth Diapers.

Diapers
Lest there be any confusion, I own a business where I make and sell cloth diapers. While I have no problem with families who make an educated decision that disposables are better for their family, there is just no question that cloth diapers are a more frugal choice. I have spreadsheets that drive this point home in a ridiculous amount of detail here. There are plenty of resources in the Des Moines area to help you learn more about cloth diapers – particularly, Des Moines Cloth Diapering is a great resource.

Want to go even more frugal?
– Using prefolds with covers are the least expensive diapering option – not only because prefolds are cheaper than other types of diapers, but because they tend to last the longest, as well.
– If you have any sewing skills, you could try your hand at making your own diapers, which will usually be less expensive than buying diapers (usually!). Using materials you already have on hand and sewing your diapers without fasteners cut the cost even further. Don’t think you have diaper materials on hand? How about old Tshirts and kitchen towels?
– Buy used diapers. I usually discourage people from buying covers used unless you know the seller, since there’s a risk that they’re being sold because they no longer work. However, buying fitted diapers or prefolds used can be a real money-saver. Our local Des Moines Cloth Diapering has a used diaper “garage sale” twice a year, where we bring together families with diapers to sell and families looking to buy diapers. This sale provides buyers with a relatively safe used diaper buying experience. Every once in a while, you can find cloth diapers at secondhand stores or garage sales, as well.

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Clothes
Clothes can be a major expense, but saving money here is so easy. Buy used. Borrow from friends or family with kids slightly older than yours. Ask family members for hand me downs. Buy clearance. There’s really no reason to ever pay full price for baby clothes.

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Baby Food
Some families decide that formula is what’s the very best choice for their family. However, from a financial standpoint, you can’t beat breastfeeding. Not only is breastmilk free, but it also comes in attractive containers! Breastfed children also tend to be sick less often, resulting in reduced medical expenses, as well. Breastfeeding is not easy for everyone, but seeking help from the local LLL or a qualified Lactation Consultant (look for someone who is board certified – they will have the initials IBCLC) can definitely pay off here.

Once baby starts eating solid foods, making your own baby food will save tons of money, as will skipping the “baby” versions of regular foods. For example, they do sell “baby” fruit juice – but it’s just juice. Buy regular juice, and then dilute it half with water, and voila! Juice for the young’uns, and at a significant cost savings over the “baby” juice. Even better – skip the juice entirely. It’s a really concentrated source of sugar, and pretty unnecessary in a baby’s diet. For baby foods, there is really no need to purchase commercial baby food at all. Babies can eat what you’re eating – just smashed up. Are you having roast with potatoes and carrots for dinner? Scoop some out and mash it up for your baby, it’ll be healthier and cheaper than serving them jars of beef, potatoes, and carrots from Gerber.
Belly at 8 months

Prenatal care and Childbirth
I want to start off this section by saying that I totally understand that not everyone can have their “ideal” birth. Despite our best efforts, some women really do need a C-Section or other interventions.

That said, the way you plan for your child’s birth can have a dramatic impact on the cost of your child’s birth. Midwifery care, for example, is dramatically less expensive than OB care. (And don’t assume that just because an OB is in network on your health insurance that care with the OB will result in less out of pocket expense for you than a midwife. Our out of pocket, after insurance, cost for Wally’s basic hospital birth with an OB was higher than the basic cost for a midwife would have been. Still kicking myself for that one, and not just because of the money!)

Whoever your chosen provider is, it can often pay to ask about ways to save money. If you pay in advance for the birth at the hospital, will they give you a discount? If you’re paying with cash instead of insurance, will they give you a discount? If your chosen provider delivers at multiple hospitals, you can choose the hospital that charges less for the same services. You can even choose a provider partly based on their expenses – not all providers cost the same amount of money, and providers who charge more aren’t necessarily better. (Recently, my husband needed a sleep study to diagnose his sleep apnea. Calling around to a few different providers netted us a savings of over $1000.)

Planning to avoid many common interventions in childbirth  (such as pitocin, epidurals, etc.) or in prenatal care (ultrasounds, tests that are routine but not medically necessary) can also dramatically reduce the expense invovled in having a baby. Those things aren’t cheap, and they often lead to more things that aren’t cheap.

An interesting point here, though, is that sometimes spending money can help you save money. For example, taking out-of-hospital childbirth classes can help you learn to be an advocate for yourself, and save you money in the long run on unneeded tests, procedures, etc. Hiring a doula has been proven to help prevent interventions in childbirth – and will likely save you money in the long run, as well.

I know the idea of considering cost when talking about medical care is pretty controversial in this country, but it’s this attitude that has helped us land where we are with skyrocketing medical expenses. You wouldn’t take your car in for body work without asking how much it’s going to cost and doing some comparison shopping – there’s nothing wrong with shopping around for medical care, either.

Yes, Babies can be expensive. But they don’t have to break the bank!

Sneak Peek.

I’ve begun crafting for holiday gift fairs. I think I’m only going to do the Green Gifts Fair (November 15) and Craft Saturday (November 21) this year. Here’s a sneak peek at some of what’s going to be available. I’m still working on lots more goodies, too.

Sneak Preview Goodies Sneak Preview Goodies Sneak Preview Goodies

Sneak Preview Goodies

Sneak Preview Goodies Sneak Preview Goodies Sneak Preview Goodies

Sneak Preview Goodies Sneak Preview Goodies Sneak Preview Goodies

Wee Knitteds – Using up Leftovers

Wee Woolies

Been trying to use up a bit of leftover sock yarn – actually, it’s the Monkeypal I love so much. I hate to have these tiny little balls of leftover yarn sitting around, you know? So these tiny wool soakers are ADORABLE. What I’m going to do with them, I have no idea. They’re so easy to make, and fast (about an hour), I’ll probably make a few more. The pattern is here, and here’s the Ravelry project page.

Wee Socks

And these little socks were fun to make. High-Energy Baby Socks, they’re called. Apparently named after the pattern developer’s friend’s baby, who was nicknamed High Energy Fetus. Anyway. Simple but with fun details around the top. I knitted these up mostly at the pool during our week at Okoboji, watching Wally and Daddy playing and holding a napping/nursing Genna. PS – tried nursing discreetly while wearing a bikini and knitting? Yeah, not so much. Ravelry project page.

6/16 socks for Genna

These socks are a pattern I made up myself, based on the other two baby socks patterns I’ve used. It’s ribbed throughout, with a simple heel flap, knit top-down. I knit it on size 3’s, wanting a slightly bigger size than I was getting on size 2’s, and I’ll be honest – that was, I think, a mistake. These socks kind of slide right off of her. They fit will around the foot, but they just slide off for some reason. Grrr. But they are awfully cute, and if I put legwarmers on over them, they’ll stay up, right?

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Bitty Knits

Then I also whipped up this sock for our DSi. I thought it would use up the rest of this yarn I inherited from my mom, but, um, there was more there than I thought. This particular pattern, though, was awesome. It’s knit in a tube, flat. I’ve read how to do this several times in several different places, but this pattern was the first to use words in a way that made sense to me. As I read it, I finally understood how this works. Ravelry project page. Pattern. NOTE: if you decide to use this pattern, on the line where she explains how the ribbing words, she says:

Slip Stitch Pattern (ribbing): k1, bring yarn to front, slip st purl wise, purl 1, slip sts purl wise, bring yarn to back

She means “…purl 1, slip st purl wise…”  ONE stitch. Not stitchES. There were some questions about that in the comments on her blog (linked above), but I don’t think she understood what was being asked.

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Bitty Knits Knitted Pouch

And then I used the same pattern, a felted it a bit, to make this pouch for the IPod Touch. And then I used up a bit more scrap making this little pouch with the same pattern, adjusted to give me a flap to fold over and snap.

This is kinda cool. Unfortunately, they’re all stealing bandwidth with the picture.

http://billcork.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/reusable-toilet-wipes/

http://www.dvorak.org/blog/2009/02/27/reusable-toilet-paper-headed-your-way/

http://thegundeck.blogspot.com/2009/02/reusable-toilet-paper.html

http://www.geardiary.com/2009/02/27/going-green-how-about-reusable-toilet-paper/

http://www.greendaily.com/2009/02/27/reusable-toilet-napkins-wipe-wash-repeat/

http://taralynnthompson.blogspot.com/2009/02/walk-on-weird-side.html