Free Books, Free Internet, and Free Kid’s Activities

No matter how much I enjoy spending time surfing the web, reading a book will always be one of my favorite pastimes. I’m looking forward to encouraging my daughter to read as well. I think it’s a good idea to start regular reading with babies between 3 and 6 months. We read a book each day and we’ve made a few short trips to the library already. She enjoys looking around the children’s section at the brightly colored books and toys.

I’m no stranger to the library, as I’ve pored through their chick lit, prenatal, and early parenting sections. I use their online resources to reserve books and select new reads. I can’t make the switch to a Kindle because I just enjoy the look and feel of a solid book too much. One of the main reasons I love reading is because I don’t have to look at a screen! For me, that means the best way to be a “green reader” is to use the loaned books from the library. Sure, it’s nice to have a brand new book and I encourage everyone to have a small library at home (especially for kids.) But, the price at the library is unbeatable and checking out books is a great way to support the service in the community.

If you’re leery of used books, just remember that a dogeared volume is well read and well loved. Also, you can always wash your hands as many times as necessary since you’re already saving so much on soap 😉

Little Savings Add Up!

One of my favorite money-saving tips lengthens the life of your soap, which cuts down on waste from all those little plastic bottles. I reuse (and reuse and reuse) a foaming soap bottle with a mixture of water and regular soap. Since it only needs one part soap to five parts water, it lasts forever! The crazy thing is that manufacturers are already capitalizing on this. It’s why they invented the foaming soap dispensers in the first place! Why shouldn’t consumers be the ones to benefit from the cost savings?

Here’s a great example of a time when it pays to be green rather than couponing. Pick up a large refill jug of soap the next time it goes on sale and you will be set for months. The best part of having the refills on hand is that I can top off my soap before company arrives so that everything looks fresh in the kitchen and bathroom. Even saving $5 per month adds $60 back into your budget by the end of the year.

Naturally Delicious

I had my first homemade baby food breakthrough. It was the moment I had been hoping and waiting for. All along, planning and preparing meals at home sounded like a good idea, but it wasn’t giving me the satisfaction I thought it would at first bite. Finally, the delicious aroma of pears hit me square in the nose and I was so delighted about Baby Eco’s next meal, I practically sang about it!

Using nature’s best tastes of the season to help my baby grow and learn about eating is a treat. While I was cooking the pears, I couldn’t help but think ahead to the excitement we will have baking, making holiday meals, and dining as a family. She already loves sitting in the kitchen with me while I cook and I can’t wait to get her involved.

Next up, butternut squash!

Rule #5: Drink lots of Water

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and encourage your kids to drink it, too! Divide your weight by two- that’s the number of ounces you need per day. If you’re pregnant, drink extra and if you’re nursing drink even more since it helps with milk production.

Face it, humans are made of about 60% water, so if we’re growing babies we’re going to need lots of it!

More Cleaning, Less Blogging

Ok, my husband called me out on the whole cleaning thing… I’m not doing a bad job, but he thinks the house should be kept to a military standard of clean. The thing is, I really only blog when Baby Eco is napping because she’s not a very sound sleeper. It gives me something to do that doesn’t make a lot of noise. The issue has never been that I’ve blogged away all my time, it’s that LO wakes up to the sound of a pin and my cleaning time goes out the window! Fear not, dear readers, I’m still going to blog.

Now, I’ve got a new plan. Baby Eco is cleaning with me! She hangs out in my Baby K’tan carrier and gets to look around while I spruce up. Here’s another scenario where this whole “going green” thing is working out better than I could have planned. My cleaning supplies have no toxic fumes, so they are perfectly safe for her to be around. Not only that, I can clean surfaces like her high chair without worrying about her ingesting chemicals.

How do my new Get Clean supplies stack up?  Healthy for family: Check! Saving money: Check, Check! Environmentally responsible: Check, Check, Check!! They’re even saving me time because I don’t have to shop or cut coupons for cleaning supplies. Honestly, it seemed like I had stumbled upon the greatest secret of all time when I met the local rep at an Air Show (of all places.) Then, I found out I won the prize pack and I felt like I won the lottery!

If you’re still stashing bottles of Windex and 409 under your sink, check this stuff out. One 16 Oz bottle of super-concentrated cleaning solution can last for years. You add a 1/4 teaspoon to a whole bottle of water to make your 409 and ONE DROP to make your Windex. You’ll even waste less paper towels because you use microfiber cloths instead. It came with a poster-sized list of all the stuff it can clean.

I’m not getting paid to promote this product, but it’s awesome so I wanted to tell you about it. Oprah likes it, too. When I asked the rep how she makes money if the stuff lasts forever she said, “Well, you don’t really.” Now that’s truth in marketing.

Coupon Karma

Eco Baby has been an awesome sport trekking along with me through my coupon madness this week. You see, there’s a great sale at my local grocery store for cereal and I figured I’d give the whole drug store reward program thing a try at Rite Aid. If I thought I knew anything about coupons before, the past few weeks have been an eye opener. I’ve been using the website www.forthemamas.com to find out how to pair my coupons and sales. It’s making a huge difference! Our cabinets are stocked and the bank account isn’t empty.

I’m really excited about couponing (in moderation) because there are several positive things that will come out of it.

1. More savings means I can stay home longer with Eco Baby.

2. Following the sales is encouraging me to diversify my menu. I’m incorporating healthy, in-season foods and using my creativity to learn how to cook new things!

3. I can start making donations and care packages. This would be nearly impossible on a limited budget, but now I can collect extra items for the Ronald McDonald House and soldiers overseas- two causes near and dear to our family.

4. Extra coupons don’t have to go to waste. Last week I sent all my expired coupons to a friend at a military base since they can continue to use them for 6 months! (If you don’t know a military family, but would like to donate your coupons check out this site: http://www.ocpnet.org/Mailing/Mailing1.htm)

5. Today I handed out two dupes to other Mamas at the store shopping for the same stuff. It feels great to “pay it forward” and put a smile on a stranger’s face.

One of the things that turned me off about using coupons for the longest time was having to cut them out. I finally realized I could use my paper slicer and it is so easy now. I can zip through an insert in minutes and then I organize them in a photo album.

I’m pretty sure the coupon booklet in my mailbox this afternoon was a direct result of all my good couponing karma. If you’ve been turned off by Extreme Couponing, maybe this new point of view will show you that using coupons can be much easier and more beneficial than you thought.

Baby’s First Bites

Learning to eat must be such a challenge for babies. Sure, they observe us eating and have some reflexive actions that guide them along, but that still leaves a lot to figure out. I was a little overwhelmed to start Eco Baby on foods even though she was clearly showing an interest in eating. Let me tell you, feeding babies and feeding your own baby are two totally different ball games. There is also a big learning curve preparing baby meals from scratch.

A few months ago I started looking in to the idea of preparing meals for Eco Baby. I already had a Cuisinart, so I figured that might come in handy if I had something in the fridge to make for her. As I looked up a few recipes I found out it would be cheaper and healthier to make her baby food. (Does this sound like the cloth diaper path?) I talked to a few people who had made or been raised on homemade baby food and then I saw the Baby Bullet. My inner spendthrift reminded me the goal was to save money, but that thing was so darn cute! I put off the purchase, intending to get it after giving the whole “homemade meal plan” a go first. That worked out better than I planned because my Mom ended up buying one for us! Armed with the baby cookbook, bullet, and my newfound kitchen skills, I was ready to go. Or so I thought…

My first experiences with the Baby Bullet were comparable to Amelia Bedelia in the Kitchen. I doubled a recipe that I tried to halve, practically blew out the motor on the bullet the first time using it, and have made a bigger mess than she does with all the tiny cups and gadgets. Luckily, I’ve managed to salvage just enough rice cereal from the scorched pan to serve Eco Baby and make it all worth while. She puckered her lips, tasted a few bites, and got more on her shirt than in her mouth. I think she did a perfect job eating!

This face sums up the experience:

All told, it was very sweet to feed Eco Baby her first meals. Once I got over my New Mom Jitters and put to rest my concerns about choking, allergies, and disliking foods it hasn’t been too bad. I’m comforted knowing that she is still getting plenty of milk from nursing, so we can just take this whole eating program at her pace. Hopefully it doesn’t take me nearly as long to perfect my baby recipes as it did for me to learn the ropes around the kitchen. My husband may have been content to keep his mouth shut and starve for a year, but I don’t think Eco Baby will put up with that!