Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Sanity Savers: On Cloth Diapers and Bulk Buying

Life with 2 small children can be hectic at times. That might be putting it lightly, actually. I don't know how larger families do it, but I'm sure they figure things out or else everyone would only have two children. Even though I am far from having it all put together, I do implement some things to keep my life as simple as possible and reduce stress. The number one thing I try to eliminate is unnecessary shopping or errands. Putting 2 little squirmy girls into their carseats, back out, then back in and out again all for a simple run for toilet paper is exhausting. I thus try and bulk buy whenever possible. Although I do try and get the lowest price, price is not always my only consideration. I also consider the time I will save by buying something at another store that I know costs a little more if I am already there.

Let's talk diapers for a moment. Disposables are "easy". Easy on, easy off. Easy throwing them in the trash. Until it stinks up the whole house... then you are reduced to carrying each diaper out of the house and into the outside garbage can. Until you run out unexpectedly and have to run to the store... spend lots of money and turn the whole errand into the main event for the day. Until your baby starts smelling like some weird chemical experiment because her urine is reacting to the strange ingredients that make up a disposable...

Now let's think about all the "work" involved with cloth diapers. I have a full stash of cloth diapers for both my 10 month old and my 28 month old. I never have to run to the store to buy disposables. I always have diapers as long as I clean them. My cloth diapers take maybe 5 seconds longer to put on - that's it, seriously. When changing a dirty one, I unzip a wet bag and throw the soiled diaper in it, then zip it back up. No weird smells emit from this odor proof bag, and since there are no chemicals to react with, the general smell is less overall as well. If the diaper is really dirty, I go around the corner and shake it in the toilet or let it soak in there for an hour or so. When the wet bag is full, I dump it in the wash and wash them. Then I take them out and lay them on a rack to dry (I air dry most of my clothes so this is not an extra step for me. However you could just as easily throw them in the dryer if you wanted). Compare the washing to driving to the store, and cloth diapers come out ahead. So for this reason and many others, I use cloth diapers to help keep things simplified.

Another thing I do to help save my sanity is buying in bulk. I watch sales and stock up when the price is right. I have a basement, so this is not a space issue for me like it is for others. I utilize Sam's club for certain items as well, and I shop there about 4x a year to stock up on the good deals. I have a 7 ft cubic freezer in my basement where I like to freeze bread, veggies, cheese, meat and other frozen items. I have even frozen milk. This all helps keep my grocery shopping less harried and less frequent since I am usually fairly well stocked on our basics. In addition, I keep a personal hygiene stockpile that includes items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, body wash, soap and razors. Most of these items were obtained for very little by utilizing coupons and store promotions. It is rare that I think about buying these things, since we always have plenty.

These are just a couple of ways I keep my life simple. I know I have a long ways to go before I figure everything else out, but I'm hoping little by little to continue to get more organized and prepared for my family's needs by implementing simple systems such as these.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall Frugal Activities

Well, this series was meant to be weekly, but life has been busy with a 9 month old and a 2 yr old! Here are some of my recent frugal activities this fall!

A couple weeks ago it got cold enough to finally turn on the heat. I always wait as long as I can, but when the house is 64 degrees before nightfall, it's a good sign it's time. We have enjoyed the cooler weather setting in, wearing pants, leggings, socks and light jackets! One of the ways we keep our heating bill down in the winter is by setting the thermostat to 68 degrees. It can get a bit chilly, but we bundle with blankets and sweaters. We put flannel sheets on our beds and dress the girls in fleece pajamas.

We filled up our car at Kroger and with our fuel points, we were able to get 40 cents off per gallon. We usually try to use a fueling station like Shell that will allow us to utilize our fuel points, but that only takes off 10 cents per gallon. Kroger's gas station is not exactly close by so it's always nice when we get a chance to fill up there.

We had a fall festival party with family that included a fire, chili and hotdogs, pumpkin carving and a tractor ride. This was on a family member's property, we had a lot of fun for free!

I baked 2 loaves of homemade wheat bread, one last week and one today. This bread is so much better than the most expensive store-bought stuff. I don't compromise on bread at the grocery, so this saves us several dollars each loaf. I plan on making more in bulk (such as baking 3 loaves at once) and then freezing slices for later. I also still plan to keep store-bread in my freezer for those emergency days!

I shopped at CVS and Rite Aid several times in the past month, using my store rewards to get many items we needed for very very cheap or free. I am trying to stay on top of couponing again, and I have my old Case-It binder where I store all my coupons newly organized and at the ready. I realized I needed to change my couponing strategy from what it was before - I used to keep the inserts filed and then clip the coupons when needed, but then I would never have them while shopping due to everything else getting in the way (last minute diaper changes, nursing sessions ect.). I now clip every coupon I think I might use and sort them in categories. I also changed my food section from alphabetical to categorical in the order I shop at the store. These two changes have helped immensely. I am saving much more than I ever have before at the grocery! I am now trying to shop in the evenings after the girls are in bed, so I can think more clearly and have my coupon binder open on the cart as I am shopping. Before I would take them with me during the day, with Snowflake in the Ergo and Peanut in the seat of the cart. I was always rushing in and out to avoid meltdowns. Keeping a well-stocked pantry has also helped make it easier to shop only when it is convenient.

Both Peanut and Snowflake are regularly in cloth diapers most days. I ran out of our all-natural laundry detergent and decided to make my own cloth diaper detergent as well as regular detergent. Both have been working quite well with no skin reaction yet from Snowflake. This really is saving us money since the all-natural detergent I was using costs $11-13 a bottle and is rarely on sale.

We ate out a fast food restaurant this past week and used coupons to help save over $8 on our meal.

I harvested the last of the tomatoes from my garden a couple weeks ago. I saved the green tomatoes in a case I am storing in our basement. I am gathering ideas for what to do with them (besides fried green tomatoes!). I plan on canning the 11 or so gallon-bags of frozen red tomatoes soon.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review of eBay Cloth Diapers

Last year, I blogged about our recent purchase of pocket diapers off of eBay. I decided now, after several months of use, I should write an update on how they are holding up.

I have mixed feelings towards these diapers (babyland variety) and here's why. As a stand alone diaper with a single insert, they are pretty horrible as far as leaks go (major wing droop- a second row of snaps would solve this issue though). I will only use one like this if I know it will only be a short time before I change them into something else. However, with a cover over them, they actually work just fine. Now, this sorta defeats the purpose of pocket diapers since you still have to use a cover like you would with a prefold. The only thing that is different is that you don't have to worry about a snappi or pins, which Daddy C really likes. But it also takes more time to change diapers this way (so many snaps!), and with a squirmy baby, it can be a challenge at times. One insert really is not enough for more than an hour, so we typically make sure we have 2 in them.

Now, I also have several of another type of diaper I bought off eBay from China with minky and patterned fabrics. These actually hold up fairly well, and the inserts that came with them are much thicker and more absorbent than the Babylands. I use these with an extra insert for Peanut without a cover, but if I know we will be out a while, I put a cover over it for added protection against leaks. This can be a bit bulky, but that kinda comes with the territory with cloth diapers!

So, do I think the diapers were worth it? I do. We have gotten a lot of use out of them, and at an average price of only $3 a diaper, they are comparable to what we would have paid for prefolds. Daddy C likes to use these over the prefolds, so we end up using cloth more and disposables less, which saves money and the environment. Just make sure you have some good covers on hand to help contain leaks!

The covers we use are the Econobum covers (LOVE these, only $9) and Dappi covers ($5) The Dappi covers are just nylon pants and they are quick to put on and work surprising very well. We rarely have any issues with them.

For nighttime diapering, we use either a heavy-duty flannel fitted diaper that we bought from an Amish general store or a babyland with cover and several inserts. These work really well at keeping the little bottoms dry, rash free and cozy.