Monday, January 30, 2012

5 Things That are Cheaper and Healthier to Make Yourself- #2

The second thing that we've recently tried our hands at making on our own is laundry detergent. Laundry detergent is not cheap, sometimes we get some good deals to make some kinds free or cheap, but these don't seem to be often enough for my family. The recipe I used is actually the one used by the Duggars. I figure with that many kids, they must do a lot of laundry, and thusly it's probably a good recipe. You can find it on their site HERE. I've copied the text here for ease of use.

Liquid Laundry Soap
4 Cups - hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup -
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
½ Cup Borax

1. Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
2.Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
3.Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)
4.Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

-Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.
-Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)
-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

So how does this break down in cost? Well here was the cost for all the ingredients when I made it:
Borax- $2.99
Washing Soda- 2/$5
Fels Naptha- 99¢
Granted for the Borax and the Washing Soda, I only used part of the box. I have a front loader so even using the cost of the whole box it equals about 1¢ a load, so in reality it's a lot less then that . You can also use other soaps such as Ivory, so you could bring it down even more if you get a good deal on that. It's worked well for our clothes.

You can also find a recipe for powder detergent on their site as well. You can find that HERE.

Monday, January 9, 2012

5 Things That are Cheaper and Healthier to Make Yourself- #1

So while thinking of things to write on here lately, I've thought a lot about things we've been making ourselves here at home that have been huge successes, and that's when I came up with this series.

The first one I've grown quite fond of is Taco Seasoning. For dinner today, we had taco salads and I whipped up a new batch of taco seasoning. I think I like it more then those little packets, and well it's just healthier for you. Most commercial taco seasoning contains MSG and a ton of salt, which just isn't good for anyone. MSG can cause allergic reactions in a lot of people, and for a lot of people it causes headaches. The other great thing about making your own taco seasoning is you can add as much or as little as you like to adjust the spiciness of the food. I like to make a large batch of this and store it in an old spice jar.

Most of the spices listed are common spices that most people have in their pantry. A large jar of any of these spices is usually only $1-$3, and you could make several batches of taco seasoning with it. I don't have exact numbers, but each batch would cost about $1, and each batch makes about 15-20 servings (obviously using more means less servings). That means each serving is about 5¢. Price of a packet of seasoning is usually 50¢ (for store brand) to $1. Occasionally we can get a packet free with the purchase of something else, or get the name brand for store brand price, but it's still 50¢.

My absolute favorite part of the homemade version is the flexibility of it. You can vary the amounts of spices, change the spices a little, and change the amount you use in the dish. For example, I've substituted regular salt and seasoned salt for the sea salt before. I've also used dried onion instead of onion powder. If you are watching your salt intake, you can use less salt or use a salt substitute.

Here is the recipe:

Taco Seasoning
2 TBSP Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Paprika
1 TBSP Ground Cumin
2 tsp Sea Salt
2 tsp Black Pepper

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container.
  2. To Use: Drain off grease from pan. Add 1/4 cup water and 1 TBSP seasoning per pound of meat, more or less to taste.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What I Wish Someone Told Me About Cloth Diapers Before My First was Born

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a lot of choices to make. Who knew there were so many decisions to make? I certainly hadn't given much thought about much of it pre-pregnancy. Bottle or Breast? Natural or Medicated? Disposable or Cloth? I came up with decisions on a lot of things fairly easily, but when it came to diaper choice I only thought for a little bit and most of the advice I had on cloth was a bit outdated to say the least. Cloth diapers are not the diapers of our grandparents, not even close. They are easy to use, and they don't have to break the bank. Hopefully with this post, I can shed some of the mysteries and myths about cloth diapering, and bring more people into the world of fluff!

Are Cloth Diapers Expensive?
According to Consumer Reports, with disposable diapers you could be spending about $2500 for diapers from birth until potty training for each child. Obviously, this is going to depend a little on what kind of shopper you are, the frequency of your changes, and of course when your child finally potty trains. You all know I'm a frugal shopper, so I'll be really generous and say disposable was half what they are saying, so let's use a cost $1750. I know it was probably more though. I've already purchased an entire stash and then some for the next baby and I've spent around $400 (rounded up), but it can be more or less depending on which brands and what extras you purchase. I also shopped a lot of sales and purchased some used diapers, but less than $500 is a realistic figure for many families to reach through strategic buying. So the savings from disposable to cloth is about:
70% less for cloth!

What's in a Stash?
Typically, the average stash is 24 diapers. This should get you through 48 hours of diaper changes for a newborn with enough diapers to wear while washing. Older babies/toddlers need less diapers, younger need more. There are also a few different kinds of diapers, below are some of the major kinds. You can mix and match your stash however you want.

Prefolds + Cover
Prefold and Cover
This is very similar to the system our parents and grandparents may have used. It's a cloth with seams that you fold and either place in the diaper or attach around baby with diaper pins or a snappi. You then put a cover on top to keep from getting wetness on clothes, floors, and furniture. Generally the prefolds are fitted, so you will need to buy a new set each size (which depending on the brand could be 1-4 sizes), but they are the cheapest to begin with ranging around $2-$6 a prefold. The covers are one size (OS) generally, so the covers will last the whole time, and you only need about 6-8 covers as you don't need to change them with every diaper change. These are usually around $5-$15. Average cost for entire time of diapering $250. For a more economical option, Cotton Babies offers a one size prefold called Econobum. A set of 24 of these will cost about $100, if you buy their kits.

Insert and Pocket
How Pocket Works Photo: Cotton Babies

 A pocket is exactly how it sounds. There is a pocket in the back where you put an insert. It's very customizable as you can put two inserts, doublers, hemp, etc. inside to fit your child's wetting needs. These come in fitted sizes and OS. The snaps on the front of the diaper are how you adjust size. Diapers are usually available in hook and loop (velcro) and snaps. It's a matter of personal preference when it comes to that. Prices for pockets can range from $10-$25 depending on brand, fabric content (organic or not), etc. Average cost for a stash of pockets: $400

All-In-Ones (AIOs)
Photo: Cotton Babies
It's exactly how it sounds. Everything is one piece. Again these come in fitted or OS (picture above is a BumGenius Newborn AIO). These are some of the most expensive cloth diapers, but they are the ones that can be the easiest for anyone to use, as they work just like a disposable. Prices range from $12-$30+. Average cost for stash of AIO's: $480

These are just some of the most common diapers listed above. There are also All-in-two's (kind of a cross between a pocket and an AIO), fitteds (a lot of the one's above can come in fitteds, but then there are ones that are their own kind of diaper where it's a fitted cloth diaper that you then put a cover over), hybrids (you can use cloth or disposable inserts in them), and contours (similar to fitteds).

But What Else Do You Need?
Well besides detergent and a washer and a bucket (really it can be a bucket it doesn't have to be fancy) to store the dirty diapers in, you don't need anything else. There are some things you can purchase that will make life easier though. Some things you might like are:
Photo: Cotton Babies
  • Diaper Sprayer- allows you to spray the poop off the diaper into the toilet.
  • Pail Liners and Wet Bags- Pail Liners make it easy to keep the pail clean and you can just dump the whole thing, pail liner included, into the washer. Wet Bags make traveling with cloth easier, just pop the dirty diaper in the bag and bring home.
  • Flushable Diaper Liners- These can be used when you have to use heavy duty rash creams, when baby is sick, or all the time.
  • Cloth Wipes- You can use regular wipes, but then you need to remember to throw those away when you stick the diaper in the pail. Cloth wipes can be as simple as baby wash cloths with some warm water to ones already made that you put special solutions on. It's really a personal choice.
What's in My Stash and What Did it Cost?
  • (6) BumGenius 4.0- Bought on B5G1 Sale on DiaperJunction for $86.90 total.
  • (10) BumGenius 3.0 (Older model of BumGenius)- Bought used from a friend for $50 total.
  • (4) Econobum Trial Packs (3 Prefolds, 1 Cover)- Bought on DiaperJunction Black Friday for $9.75/each, $39 total.
  • (4) 3-packs Econobum Prefolds- $6/each, $24 total.
  • (6)Hemp Doublers (3 Small, 3 Large)- $3/each, $18 total
  • (2)Diaper Sprayers (1 for each bathroom)- Bought on DiaperJunction Black Friday for $34.95/each, $69.90 total.
  • (6) Wonder Wrap Covers- Bought from a friend used for $40 total.
  • (2)Small Fuzzibuns- Bought from a friend used for $10.
  • (2)Small Wetbags- Free purchasing various products.
  • (2)Kissaluvs Diaper Pail Liners- $9.90 after using reward money from DiaperJunction
  • (1)Diaper Rite Pocket- Free with purchasing various products on DiaperJunction
  • (1)5 Pack Snappis- $10.95 on Amazon
  • (1)Safety First Easy Saver Diaper Pail- $12 at BabiesRUs (I liked the way this one worked, and it was cheaper then the trash cans I was looking at).
  • (10)BumGenius Refresher Kits- $1 each, $10 total (used to replace hook and loop on BumGenius 3.0)
Total for All: $380.65
Total Cost of Just Diapers (17 OS Pocket, 2 Sized Pockets, 24 Prefolds, 10 Covers) : $249.90

What About Caring For Them?
This can be really scary and a huge turn-off for a lot of people. Try searching it on the internet and you'll find a different washing/care routine for every person who uses them. The first thing you need for care is either a large wetbag or a diaper pail (which again can just be a bucket). For all poop other than exclusively breastfed poop (which is water soluble, and therefore can just go in the pail), you'll want to dump off the solid poop in the toilet and you can be rid of the rest by scraping with some toilet paper, using the dip and swish method, or a diaper sprayer. Then place in the pail. For wet prefolds and covers, just place the prefold in the pail and wipe the cover dry to reuse. If it's really wet or has poo on it, place it in the pail. (If any of your diapers are hook and loop, be sure to fasten the laundry tabs to keep your hook and loop working, and your other diapers looking nice). For pockets, pull out the insert and place both in the pail. For AIO's, just put it in the pail. You'll want to wash about every 48 hours to avoid any bacteria growth and to reduce stink (and reduce the amount of diapers you have to buy!). The basic washing strategy is simple enough: cold rinse, hot wash, extra rinse, dry. Where it's up for debate is what detergent to use (special diaper detergent or not?), what things to add to wash (vinegar, borax, Calgon, bleach, etc. or nothing?), should the first wash just be a cold rinse or a full blown soak, and do you line dry or use a dryer. What I've learned after a lot of research is the reason for these discrepancies is every person has a different combo of washers, diapers, water temperatures, water hardness, and baby's skin. It's a bit of trial and error, but once you have it you are set.
My Diaper Pail and Liner
My specific wash routine is this:
  • Cold Wash, No Detergent- I either do a quick wash or a soak depending on smell of diapers/if it's been longer than 48 hours. I add a gallon of water, since I have a front loader and front loaders tend not to add enough water for diapers (remember diapers are meant to absorb water!) I do a low spin on this one.
  • Hot Wash on Heavy- I add one gallon of hot water to the beginning again because of the front loader. Heavy wash on my washer is a little longer wash with more water and it does an extra rinse and extra spin.
  • Detergent- Rockin' Green Soft Rock. I have really soft water because we have well water with a water softener. I'm currently using Rockin' Green because I won an awesome giveaway for it. Prior to that I was using regular old detergent. If you buy new diapers, read your warranties, otherwise just use what works. Obviously, if you have a baby with sensitive skin, you'll need to take that in to consideration. If you have an HE washer, you'll need to take that into consideration. Here is a good list of detergents and their effectiveness. This is one of those things that really will just depend on all your circumstances. The amount used also depends on your circumstances, but one thing to remember is most commercial detergent tells you to use way more then you really need.
  • Dry- I line dry. Line drying can bleach out stains and sanitize. Because of the front loader and the extra spin and the fact that I live in sunny South Florida, they easily dry outside in less than an hour. If I wash at night, I put inserts and prefolds in the dryer, but anything with water- proofing (so covers, pail liner, the actual pocket diaper) I hang in the bathroom.
If you encounter problems (like ammonia smells), it's usually best to contact the diaper manufacturer, a diaper retailer, or a diaper detergent company. Most of them are awesome and will help you troubleshoot with your specific situations (water type, washer, diaper type, detergent, etc.), and then you don't risk ruining your diapers or voiding a warranty.

But is it Really Still Cheaper with All the Care?
YES! The calculations for this will vary a lot by area and your care choices. Since I have well water, I am not currently paying a water bill, but I do pay for salt and electricity. I also use a HE washer, dry pail, and line dry. I'll compare this year's December electric bill (using cloth diapers) to last years (not using cloth diapers). Last December the bill was $84.26, this December $86.35. Our salt use has been about the same. Even with adding in extra detergent use it's not a big difference because of the HE washer when I do buy detergent it lasts a long time. This bag I won will probably last 100 loads for us, and considering a 48 hour wash routine that's probably going to last me a long time, but even so I could buy the same size for $14. But considering the cost difference between cloth and disposable I discussed in the beginning, I really doubt we'd somehow meet the $1250 difference even over 3 years. But if you think about it, when considering the cost of disposable we don't consider things like gas to go buy them at the store (or shipping to order them online) and trash service to dispose of them. We don't even consider trash bags or diaper pail bags.

Are They Really "Green" Though?
That really depends. I think discussing the "green-ness" of anything is a slippery slope, and would take a lot of scientific study. One thing is certain, it definitely is good for there not to be diapers in landfills, as they don't biodegrade and they leak all sorts of things into our soil and water. There are also a lot of iffy things in the production of disposables. But the true eco-footprint of cloth is hard to tell because it depends on how the materials (like cotton) are produced, where it comes from, where your electricity comes from, what you use for detergent, where the electricity comes from at the manufacturer's plant, etc. I find this debate to be true of all "green" things though.

Are They Really Easy to Use?
YES! This was my biggest fear. I'm currently using them on my almost 3 year old. If you know anything about toddlers, you know that they are super wiggly and their poo is not always the easiest to deal with, but I've had no trouble with getting them off and getting them clean. I've even used them for trips away from the house for most of the day. The washing really doesn't take away from my day, I usually just throw them in before breakfast, start the second wash after breakfast, and then go about doing other things and then hang them out. I like to stuff the pockets so they are ready to use, but even if I don't it doesn't take any longer to get them in now. The poop removal was a change, but you should be doing it with disposables as well (see HERE, click on helpful hints and read under "Waste Removal").

Where Do You Buy Them?
As you can probably tell, I have some favorites. You may be lucky and be able to buy them locally, but there isn't a store around here that sells cloth (with the exception of some mommy-made diapers). That being said, I buy online. My favorite manufacturer/retailer (as you can tell from my diapers) is Cotton Babies, this is the manufacturer for BumGenius, Econobum, and Flips. They have great quality diapers. Shopping with them has been a great experience. My other favorite retailer is DiaperJunction. They sell all Cotton Babies products as well as many others. In my opinion, you can't go wrong with either company.

Any Other Benefits?
The one main benefit is the ability to use them with future children. If you take good care of your diapers, they will last. What does this mean for you? It means your savings over disposable grows with each child. Remember how I used the amount $1750 for one child and $500 for a stash of cloth? Well for two children that's $2500 for disposable, but still $500 for cloth (saving 80%). If you have 3 kids the cost for disposable is $4250, but the cost of cloth is still the $500 (saving 88%). Obviously, if your children are spaced close or you have multiples, this changes things, but you will more than likely save with each kid. Another benefit of taking good care of your cloth is that there is a huge market for used diapers. Many manufacturers and retailers have buyback programs. There are also websites devoted to selling used diapers (think craigslist for diapers), and speaking of craigslist you can sell them there and consignment shops/sales usually accept them too.

What Have I Learned?
Cloth diapers really aren't scary at all. I wish someone had told me that before my daughter was born because I would have done it from the beginning. I'm thankful to have the opportunity to use them now with her, and from the beginning with our new little one due in March. It also doesn't have to be an all or nothing deal. Even doing it only on weekends or in the day or at night will save you money. For some people in their personal situations, it's just not feasible for it to be all day thing, and that's perfectly fine. It's also ok to buy a few and try them for a few diaper changes to see how you like it. Now that I know what I know, I'm going to keep sharing it because I don't want anyone to say, "I wish someone had told me how easy and inexpensive cloth diapers really are!"

Disclaimer: Cloth diapers may become addicting. ;-) Also, I received no compensation to write this post and all writing and opinions are my own; however, I do intend to enter this post into this contest where I could win 12 BumGenius 4.0's and one commenter would also win 12 BumGenius 4.0's (so comment and it could be you!).