Friday, July 17, 2009

How cost-effective is it to make homemade pantry staples?

I just read an interesting article about homemade pantry items. The author tries out several recipes to see if she can make things like bagels and yogurt at home for cheaper than it costs at the grocery store. You can see the article here. Enjoy!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Favorite Baby Products that Don't Cost a Fortune

Here are a couple of my favorite baby products. Don't worry, Frugally Green isn't turning into a baby blog, I'm just trying to point out how to get some good deals.

My Brestfriend Nursing Pillow
Despite it's ultra cheesy name, this is my absolute favorite baby product ever. It helped with nursing more than anything else out there. Unlike the boppy pillow the brestfriend sits high and close around your waist to get the baby in the perfect position for breast feeding. There are also two little bumps on top to either provide additional softness for your elbows or to prop your newborn's head on so that he latch properly. With the boppy my babies would slide down in between the pillow and my belly and I would end up hunched down and uncomfortable. The My Brestfriend pillow completely changed nursing for me. The are pretty expensive new--$30 to $40 dollars depending on which cover you get. But these babies are all over Craigslist, Freecycle, and in consignment shops and thrift stores. I bought one at a thrift store, still in the package for only $2! But a more realistic price on Craigslist is about $15.

Antilop Highchair by Ikea

This highchair costs $19.99 new and you can purchase the tray for $5. $24.99 for a highchair is a steal. But! Check resale stores and Craigslist. We found ours for $8 at a baby consignment store and I've seen them listed on Craiglist many times. What we love about this highchair is that it's simple, simple, simple. Since the seat is all once piece it cleans up very easily and if needed we can fit the tray in the dishwasher. When our son was little we just put a little pillow behind him to fill up the space. There are no different seat positions but we've never found that to be a problem. Plus, it looks great and doesn't take up much space.

I'll add more to this list in a couple of days. In the meantime, what are some of your favorite frugal or green baby products?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Preparing for Baby the Frugally Green Way

A friend of mine once said, "When the blog is silent life is not." We sure didn't intend for the months of May and June to pass by without a single new post to Frugally Green. But when I stop to consider what that means I'm glad that we have decided to live real life instead of spending unnecessary hours on the computer. Don't get me wrong, I know Celina, Kristal and I enjoy sharing and learning frugal and green tips here. It's just that real life always trumps blogging.

In my case, May and June were occupied with getting through my first trimester of my third pregnancy. Some friends of mine have been asking me to register for baby shower gifts. But my main thought is, "It's my third child...I don't really need anything." And that thought led me to recall the ridiculous message our culture sends to first time moms--babies need a lot of stuff. That is simply not true, my friends.

And so here are some tips on how to get everything you need for baby's first year without spending a ton of cash and filling your home with useless plastic junk.

1. Reevaluate your needs. The "must haves" lists that places like Babies R Us and Target give to new parents are greatly exaggerated. You really don't need a diaper wipes warmer or a musical light up vibrating teething ring. Go down those lists with critical eyes and ask yourself, "Will I really need that item to take care of my baby?" Babies need a place to sleep, a way to eat, diapers, temperature control (clothes, blankets, etc.) , and a safe mode of transportation (a car seat if you will be driving, a sling/carrier or stroller for walking). Everything else is extra.

2. Borrow from friends who already have kids. You probably have friends who have children who have outgrown their crib, high-chair, swing, exersaucer, etc. But they're hanging on to all that stuff in case they have another child. Here's the thing, excepting the crib and high-chair, all those other things are only in use for a few months at a time. Most parents I know would be glad to lend baby gear to a friend so it will get more use and so that they can have some storage space back for at least a few months. So don't be afraid to ask if anyone has a baby bath tub or bumbo that you can use for a little while. Your wallet will thank you. And so will your garage shelves.

3. Buy used. Craigslist, ebay, thrift stores, consignment shops, and garage sales are great resources for used baby gear. Things like exersaucers and bouncy seats are used for such a short time that most are in like new condition. The only item you really need to purchase new is a car seat. For safety reasons, the peace of mind that you know the car seat has never been in an accident is priceless. Also, some car seats "expire" after 4 to 6 years because the plastic breaks down making them unsafe in the event an accident.

4. Make your own. If you have some simple sewing skills you can make your own baby blankets, bibs, burp cloths, nursery decor, clothes, even diapers and baby carriers. Or if you aren't crafty, let people know you are interested in handmade items. Lots of people enjoy making baby gifts. is great resource for purchasing handmade items, as well. Also in this category, make your own baby food. It's easy, doesn't take a lot of time and will save you so much money. And, as if it needs to be said, breastfeed your baby. At least try--there are so many benefits to breastfeeding including the fact that is free!

5. Be open to hand me downs. With each of my pregnancies I have had several people ask if I needed clothes, crib bedding, gear, etc. Just like with the borrowing thing, experienced parents and those who are "done" having kids are more than willing to clean out their garages and attics and pass all that stuff on to new parents. My advice is to say "yes" to those offers, especially if the givers don't want the stuff back. Then you can simply sort through the clothes and things, pick the items you like and will use, and pass the rest on to someone else or donate to charity.

6. Buy simple. Don't be suckered into buying an expensive highchair just because it has 87 seat back positions and comes with 3 trays and you can purchase additional toys that attach to the arms. Because you will probably only use two of those seat positions and hate the extra trays and overstimulating toys. Not to mention all the nooks and crannies in those types of highchairs that will inevitably become filled with food and be impossible to clean out. Go for simple designs that will be easy to assemble and clean. This applies to cribs, car seats, strollers, exersaucers, play mats, swings, etc. As my husband says, "If it needs batteries, don't bother."

So, there are a few general ideas for you. In the next few days I'm going to post links to my favorite specific baby items that offer a lot of value for their cost. In the meantime, if you have any other frugally green ideas on how to obtain the needed items for a new baby without spending a ton of money feel free leave them in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Living Simply, Consuming Less

Anyone else notice that the concept of "Green Living" is turning into a big money maker? Everywhere you look someone is using the concept to promote their product. It's no secret people are leaning towards more sustainable living and corporations big and small know that the trend means big business. Their goal is to keep you feeling good about consuming their products so that they can make more money. I believe that simple living and cutting our consumption are two components that must be incorporated into our lives in order to live both frugally and green.

Here are two examples of what our family is doing to live more simply and consume less:

*One of my husband and my goals for 2009 is to abstain from purchasing brand new clothing for one year (with the exception of undershirts, bras and underwear - aren't you all relieved :). So here we are at the end of April and we haven't purchased anything brand new for ourselves. A couple of things that this has resulted in:
- We realize that we are fine without new clothes. We already have PLENTY.
- We have saved money by not purchasing items we don't need.
- We look for ways to extend the life of the items that we already have.
- We have a new picture or "necessity".
- We realize that in order to live more simply and consume less that sometimes it means resisting what is popular, or not always having the latest and greatest and we are ok with that - actually, we're happier that way.
- When you resist the urge to buy, buy, buy, the result is a sense of power and the good feeling that you are not at the mercy of corporations!!!
- In consuming less we do good for our world - Cotton crops pollute. It is estimated that in the Third World, half of all pesticides used are used on cotton fields. When you recycle a single gently-used T-shirt and one pair of jeans, you help save a full pound of chemical fertilizer and pesticide from being released into the soil, water, and atmosphere. "Cotton accounts for only 2.5% of all agricultural land use, but for 22.5% of all insecticides applied in agriculture." ( - very interesting article by the way).

*The second area that we have chosen to live more simply and consume less is in the food arena. We eat a lot of beans around our house and because of that, we have chosen to stop purchasing cans of beans and instead purchase bulk beans. The result has been:
- We save a lot of money on beans -dry beans are cheap.
- Our waste consumption goes down as we do not have to dispose of the container that we purchase the beans in (by the way, did you know that the inside lining of cans, if coated, contains the all-too-familiar chemical BPA. I just found this out the other day - Booo Hissss!).
- We are in control of all the ingredient that cook our beans (canned beans are particularly high in sodium and they also usually contain some kind of preservative).
- Soaking our beans releases all the nutrients and health benefits available.
- It takes time and forethought to use dry beans - I consider this a bonus and part of living simply - many might not think the same:)!
- As a side note here is a informative blog post that explains how to soak and cook dry beans in great detail: Kitchen Stewardship you can also fine a ton of information on the internet.

So there you have it - just a couple of little things that we have been able to incorporate into our lives. Sometimes the effort seems small but the benefits have been great for us. So what about you? I'd like to hear of the changes - small or big that have allowed you to live more simply and consume less.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Reel" Mowers

A couple years ago our family made the switch from a gas powered mower to a reel mower. Some consider the reel mower to be an ancient tool of the past :) but we are finding that there are many benefits. Ironically, as I am typing this I hear someone mowing their lawn two doors down.

Here are a handful of reasons we made the switch:
*Rotary mowers tear the grass - reel mowers cut grass like scissors, leaving a fine spray of clippings as mulch for your yard. Additionally, the way that reel mowers cut helps the grass maintain moisture and keeps diseases out.

*Less noise pollution - instead of the roar of a mower, you hear the quiet mechanical sound of the blades and the chirping of birds (or in our case the squawking of chickens).

*My husband doesn't stink when he is finished - Instead of the smell of gas exhaust, you have the smell of fresh air and fresh-cut grass.

*Mow early or late - we don't have to worry about waking the neighbors or interrupting someone's afternoon nap. The temperature will be cooler!

*Per hour of operation, a gas lawn mower emits 10-20 times as much hydrocarbon as a typical automobile (1).

*Reel mowers offer a great work-out. The new designs are definitely easier to use that those 30 or so years old but using a reel mower is not an effortless task.

*You don't have to worry about starting up your mower and having it break down on you. The pull chain won't snap and you'll never run out of gas.

*Gas powered mowers cost more: you have a higher purchase cost, a higher maintenance cost, higher fuel costs and a higher cost to our environment.

*Reel mowers are light enough to lift and store on a wall in your garage.

Some drawbacks:
- They do take some effort, but they aren't any harder to push than an 80-pound gas mower that isn't self-propelled. You are your mowers engine!

- It does take a bit longer to mow with a manual mower than a power mower.

- Manual mowers are harder to push when the grass gets too tall, so keep your lawn mowed weekly.

- Your lawn will look cut but not manicured.

-Blades should be sharpened every two years (i think this is the same for a gas powered mower).

- Reel mowers don't chop up sticks.

- You will have grass clippings left on your lawn - we feel like this is better for your lawn as it provides natural mulching but some may be bothered by it.

All in all, our family has enjoyed the benefits of using a reel mower. So next time you're in the market for a new lawn mower maybe you'll consider a reel mower!!!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread in the Bread Machine

I've finally come up with a recipe that makes whole wheat bread taste soft and chewy like store bought bread!

1 Tbs oil
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 Tbs vinegar
1/4 cup honey or 1/3 cup sugar
2 & 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup potato flakes
2 Tbs nonfat non instant dry milk
1 Tbs active dry yeast
Add ingredients in order listed to your bread machine.  Set the machine for a 1 pound loaf on the lightest crust setting.  After the first rising period (before the machine actually starts baking) you may want to scrape the dough from the sides of the machine and pat the dough into a ball.  This just makes the crust look prettier when it's all done.  Once the bread is finished baking remove it from the bread machine and immediately place it in a ziplock bag to cool.  This keeps the moisture in and helps the bread stay soft.  
My family stopped using this recipe when some of us developed a sensitivity to gluten.  This recipe has extra   gluten so it really did a number on our poor tummies. That being said, it's still the softest whole wheat bread from a bread machine that I've ever tasted.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

breathing new life into a tired lamp

check out how here!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Amazing Eye-Make-Up Remover (in a cute package!)

My favorite Christmas gift this year was from my beautiful sister-in-law, Anita. We had told each other that we both wanted to make as many handmade gifts for our family as possible and she did not dissappoint! Isn't it cute? And it works wonderfully, too. The skin around my eyes feels so soft and I feel much better using this than I do about putting mineral oil on my face (ew!) I think it's a fantasitc gift idea and you probably want to make one for yourself, too!

There were several comments asking about the process or recipe for this.  Simply saturate the cotton swabs in olive oil and then package them in a small jar.  You can add a little extra olive oil to the bottom of the jar if you like.  Hope that helps!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

dryer balls

dryer, they're not related to the little beasts that eat random socks in your dryer:)  they actually save money and the earth's resources!  these balls are designed to reduce drying time by separating laundry while it tumbles and allowing warm air to flow more efficiently.  they also soften your fabrics without using chemical softeners.  they have been proven to make ironing easier, decrease lint and reduce drying time up to 25%!  they are totally reusable...just leave 'em in your dryer and forget about them.  and if that isn't enough.....i just found a site that tells you how to make your own!!  (yes, i watch too many infomercials:)  act now, this offer won't last!  oh, wait.  it will.  but still, get on this right away and let us know how it goes!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I made a great find at a thrift store recently--a popcorn maker!

My kids LOVE it. I love it, too and here are some of the reasons why:
  • Popcorn is an easy healthy snack.
  • By making my own popcorn I can control how much butter and salt is used.
  • Popcorn kernels are MUCH cheaper than pre-popped popcorn or microwave popcorn.
  • There is very little waste with popcorn kernels, as opposed to microwave popcorn which often has a plastic wrapping, plus the paper bag, not to mention to cardboard box it comes in.
  • It's fun to watch the popcorn popping (and it takes about the same amount of time as microwave popcorn)
  • No hot dangerous oils or burning microwave bags.

As you can see I bought it for a great price! New popcorn makers cost between $14 and $20 on average. For all the benefits listed above, I still think they are worth that price. However, buying a fun appliance like this at a thrift store not only saves you money but it also means you're giving something a second life--which is always more environmentally friendly than buying something new. Plus, you won't be contributing to any landfills with all the packaging of a new appliance.

If you decide to go thrifting for a popcorn maker I'm sure you'll find plenty to choose from. When I bought this one there were four others on the shelf, including a brand new one still in the box. Just be sure to check the power cords for kinks or fraying--setting your house on fire is not frugal or green. :)