As you know we are a home learning family of 6. We survive quite happily on the income my husband makes as a door craftsman. If you were to measure our income against that of the majority we would be placed in the "low income" category. But understand that for us, this is a conscious choice. I could easily go out and work, bumping us up into a higher tax bracket, but for our family it is more important to have me at home with our children. And so we work within our budget to fulfill our needs.
Now not only are we on a strict budget but we also have very high standard for ourselves and our children. It is soooo important to us that they way we live reflects what we believe. We realize that our most powerful vote is done with our dollars. We do not support places like Wal-Mart or McDonalds. We do our best to buy local, organic, handmade, recycled and "green" as much as we possibly can. So what does this look like in the daily lives of our family?
Well, the cheapest way to diaper is, well, to simply not diaper at all! It may sound crazy but Elimination Communication (EC-ing for short) is actually very easy and extremely rewarding. You can start at any age, so even if you're adopting an older baby it is fully possible..and sooo great for bonding! We started EC-ing with Noah when he was 4 months old and had it down within 3 days. We decided after 6 weeks that it wasn't for us as it required so much time and I was very bust homeschooling 3 older children, but I have many friends with 1 or 2 small ones who LOVE it and wouldn't go any other way so..... Check out Diaperfree Baby!
Cloth Diapering has worked best for our family and is what I plan to do with our babies when we adopt. It is cheap, economical, easy to do and gentle on babes skin (use a natural detergent and vinegar) and usually leads to early potty training as they can actually feel when they're wet. We also used wool soakers with Noah which I loved!! (no, they we're not itchy) We used Longies in the colder season and shorties in the summer (or just diaper free). It was great too because he only needed shirts...the soakers doubled as bottoms and are sooo super cute! I did some trade work with a local knitting goddess (canning, wool, shoes) who did a bunch of shorties and longies for Noah..all it cost me was $30 for the wool!
cloth diapering links:
Motherease (we swear by the one size that fit from newby to potty training!)
Aristocrat Wool soakers (the only leak free soaker for night time that we've ever found)
Kozy Designs make beautiful, high quality soakers...Noah still wears his favorite longies as pants even though he's been out of diapers for 7 months!
Diaper Shower makes cleaning poopy diapers a breeze!!
For those who find the art of cloth diapering daunting (its really not as hard as you think!) or for when your traveling etc they're are all kinds of eco options. G-diapers are my fav....compostable/flushable and made from tree pulp...a bit pricey but we only used them for nights when Noah was older or for long outings. Other good brands include 7th Generation chlorine-free disposables, Nature Baby Care (I have a friend who uses these and loves them)
As far as wipes go, we buy bulk packs of baby cloths (about 30 does the trick) and just toss them in the wash with diapers.
This is our single greatest expense. We eat mostly organic, cook from scratch and buy in bulk when ever we can. (we are part of an organic food co-op and buy sugar/grains/beans etc. is large quantities) With babies there are very few things we buy that are any different then what everyone else eats. We buy Natures Path organic Kamut Puffs (nice and cheap!) for an easy finger food, organic Arrowroot cookies by Healthy Times...that's pretty much it. Sometimes I'll by boxed organic rice or oat cereal and a large jar of organic apple sauce (unless I have some made) and use that for a quick breakfast. For the most part we stay away from pre-made baby foods...even organic ones. The nutritional value in these foods just can't compare with what your baby gets when you make their food yourself. One of the easiest ways to do this (aside from just feeding them what you're eating) is to do up small batches and freeze them in ice cube trays. Yam and quinoa, rice, tofu (or meat) and veggies, fruit and oatmeal...all of these things can be quickly reheated in a little stainless steel measuring cup (NO MICROWAVE!!!!!!) and is ready for baby to enjoy in minutes! Good convenience foods for baby: avocado and banana come in their own handy, dandy packaging! puffed kamut or sliced/grated fruit/veg in a small container (like these). We use a stainless steel sippy cup for water, spent $15 once and have had it for nearly all of Noah's life! (oh, did I mention we only eat out about 4 times a year?? that saves us a huge amount of $$)
Remember you can save huge amounts of money by growing food yourself and canning! Farmers markets often have awesome deals on bulk organic produce and you can preserve you own salsa/pasta sauce/canned fruits for a fraction of the cost of buying pre-packaged stuff! Not to mention that it tastes amazing and you feel good doing it!
Breast really is best! Not only does breast milk have everything your baby needs, it is also free!! Yay! You can breast feed your adopted baby as well! For more info/support go to Le Leche League International! This is what I plan to do when we adopt but I understand that it can be hard to have a full milk supply right away. As far as bottle feeding goes I have never personally done it, but plan to supplement when we need to. My kids have all been breast fed so my personal experience is limited to what I have learned through my sister who has adopted 2 babies. She has used organic formula and glass bottles with both. She does not use a microwave but warmed her babies bottles in hot water. Holding and skin to skin contact are key for bonding while bottle feeding...heck bottle feed in a sling and you can still have one hand free to push the grocery cart!! (can we say multi-tasking!)
Toys and "Stuff":
Less is More...this is the lesson we in the west seem to need to learn over and over and over...in every aspect of our lives. We are constantly trying to declutter/downsize/purge. So why the, I ask you, do we bombard our children with mountains of crap thinking that it will somehow give them fulfillment?? Haven't we already learned that the opposite is true?? hmmm.... I am just as guilty as the next person. I went up into the children's loft to help them clean a few years ago and was blown away by the shear amount of stuff!! Mind you, its not junk. Not cheap plastic stuff...but STILL it stuff...so much stuff!! We had practically the entire natural toy store up there! Who on God's green earth needs that many toys? And the answer...No One! Why? Because they DON"T play with it! Children become overwhelmed they don't know where to start and can usually be found playing with the same toys over and over (if they play with any at all) This goes for baby props too...bouncy seats, exersaucers, things that light up and beep.....ewwwwww!! I have yet to see a baby, surrounded by overstimulating toys who wouldn't rather play with a canning jar ring, spatula and bowl!!!
So, what did we do? We purged. We went through every single thing and whatever they hadn't played with in a long time we packed away. After a few months the kids and I looked at everything and decided to donate it because they realized that they didn't need all of those toys and they wanted them to go to children who don't have the privileged life that we have. (I love that our kids think we are rich!! ;) )
Now, when a holiday or birthday comes we get the children 1 gift each. (and we save so that it is a high quality gift) Something we have put a lot of thought into, often something we have made (like the kids wooden kitchen or Willows Waldorf doll) We usually get them 1 gift to share as well, high quality art supplies, games or books. They have never asked why they don't get a mountain of gifts, they have never felt like they were somehow missing out. We don't experience the overwhelmed sensation that comes (usually followed by a melt down) with excess. It is one of the best choices we have ever made.
I am a huge advocate of baby wearing! I truly believe that it is best for both mama and babe in so many ways (maybe this deserves its own post?) The bonds that are created by constant contact can not be described unless its is experienced. To always know you child's needs, often before they ever need to cry to express them, is an amazingly empowering thing! When I see mama's carrying around those bulky, heavy bucket seats, rocking them to try and calm the crying baby while trying to fill something out at the bank or pick up the dropped item off the floor I just want to run up to her and hug her and say its OK...here try this (hand her a sling) and watch as her world is transformed. All the baby wants is her, to be carried. But how do you carry baby and big bucket seat?? (you can't)
I have heard many mama's say (and I have said this myself) "I Have tried slings and they just don't work for me." This is not a surprise when you look at the slings out there on the market. Bulky padding, thin fabric, tapered ends. Not good, sucky actually. Not to mention there are few resources to teach you HOW to carry a baby in a sling...sheesh! Spend a bit extra for a carrier that actually works (stay away from snugli!) The best sling I have ever used was made by a local lady...one of her prototypes. She made it out of a woven fabric that has they right combo of stretch and support. The closest thing that I have found to it is the Maya Wrap or the Ellaroo . I have also used the wrap style carriers. I did enjoy them but for me, the quick convenience of a ring sling was the way to go. I carried Noah in his sling exclusively until he was 1, and then I traded off with the Ergo.I can't say enough about the Ergo!! It is an amazing carrier and as soon as baby starts to feel heavy in the sling it is the ONLY way to go! I have tried high quality frame packs, slinging him on my back, wrapping him on my back and nothing disperses his weight like an Ergo. I can haul fire wood for 2 hours, hike, grocery shop, cook dinner...anything and everything with him happily seated on my back. I have only just now started feeling him after about 30 minutes and he's a very big, almost 3 year old!
Check out the Learn Baby wearing to learn all the many ways you can wear your baby!
Carseats: The most economical way to do the car seat thing is to buy and all-in-one convertible that goes from newborn to booster seat. We don't need to buy a bucket seat just because the come with every stroller set out there. This is a great way to save a bit of $$ and if you buy your convertible on sale..well, even better!
Strollers: The only time I use a stroller is when we go ice skating. So, if you plan to do baby wearing and you don't ice skate you can easily go without a stroller! I do think that if we adopt twins (can you hear the hope in my...um typing?) that I will buy a twin jogger so that I can run with the babies while the older kids ride. Check out craigs list, ebay or freecycle for deals on second hand strollers. My last 2 strollers have been bought/traded second hand and where in amazing condition! (and even got passed on after me!)Freecycle: for those of you who have never experienced freecycle before, check it out!! Sorted by location you can join a network of people who like to pass things on...for free!! Every morning I get an email from my freecycle community with a list of "to give away" or "wanted". People take what interests them and pass on what they don't need. It is amazing how much kid stuff gets passed on through our lil' freecycle community!!
Clothing:This is one of those areas where people can go a little crazy. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a sweet pair of shoes or an adorable dress just like the next guy BUT I use restraint....a LOT of restraint. I choose to buy 95% of our clothes second hand...I love thrift shops and consignment stores...so many treasures. You get the bonus of fantastic find plus the moral satisfaction of knowing that you are making a green choice by using something that is already there! (not to mention that, as far as non-organic clothing goes, they have already been washed many times and most, if not all of the heavy dyes/chemicals/fire retardants have been removed!)
I also save anything that is in good condition for the next child in line. If there is no "next child" then I find someone who can use them or donate them to the thrift shop. It never ceases to amaze me how often I hear mama's say "oh, you have a child of such-n-such a size? do you need clothes because I have bags taking up space in my closets!"
This is where I splurge. I LOVE good quality footwear. Our babes stay in soft soled shoes until they are 2-ish. Our #1 favorite for spring/winter/fall is the Padraig slipper. (see if you can spot 3 of our kiddos on the website!) Our whole family wears them...we are in love! lol Sooo cute, so warm. When our kids go outside in the winter they were their Padraigs inside their Stonz booties (even in -25!) We also wear Robeez when we don't need something quite as warm.
hmmmm...now that I've practically written a book I'm sure I've forgotten all kinds of key tips. Oh well, if you have a question that you think I mught be able to answer feel free to ask!