11 Frugal Ways To Cut Back On Living Costs

I have a problem.

It’s called Amazon Prime.

I mean, who doesn’t want 2 day shipping, guaranteed? Well sometimes it’s not guaranteed because we have this thing called WINTER in Canada.

Being able to shop for groceries online and have them delivered to your house sounds pretty amazing, right? I’ve never tried it but I was tempted to when my second baby was born, 7 months ago. When you haven’t showered in 5 days and you’re too tired to even put regular clothing on, having groceries delivered sounds like a dream come true.

Convenience is what motivates many of us to make the purchases that we do. But you know what isn’t convenient?

Debt.

I think the majority of people my age, that I personally know have some form of debt whether that be student loans, a mortgage or credit card debt. I have mixed feelings about debt. I think it’s inevitable at some point in your life that you will have some form of debt.

I’m all about finding ways to cut down our our expenses as we have financial goals set for our family. Amazon Prime doesn’t align with my goals of being frugal and owning a home one day. Curse you Amazon Prime!

But I want to share ways we cut back on our spending.

  • Limit or eliminate Eating At Restaurants or Takeout : Why does food always taste better when someone else prepares and cooks it? Seriously. It could be a hotdog someone else microwaved and I’m all over it. Buying lunch usually costs $10 plus a $3 coffee a day (or more if you’re fancy) which adds up to $65 a week alone. If you factor in eating dinner out, a few times a week that’s easily another $50 or so. You could be saving $300 (or more) by limiting take out and packing your own meals.
  • Cook More and Buy Less Packaged (and processed) Foods: Sometimes I enjoy cooking but most of the time I only enjoy it if my husband and I are cooking together. One thing I’ve noticed with our grocery bills is the difference in what we spend when we buy less packaged, processed foods. Packaged is easier, no doubt about it! But it’s also more expensive because it’s convenient. I try to set myself up for success with very simple meals because it’s a generally chaotic time of the day. The more you cook, the healthier meals tend to be, as well. We do NOT eat organic, Keto or paleo. We have no allergies. I Have thoughts on the whole organic thing but that is a post for another day! If eating organic is extremely important to you but you have a tight budget then you will have to adjust your spending and other areas so that you can have a more flexible grocery budget
  • Have A Grocery Budget (and stick to it). When Dave and I first married, we spent about $50 in groceries a week, sometimes less. Since then we’ve fluctuated in what we spend on groceries. Recently I’ve reset our weekly budget because it was OUT OF CONTROL and I’m amazed at how little we can spend if we try. I challenge myself to do a few meatless meals a week, cook with all the meat I already have (in the freezer) and get creative with leftovers. Our budget isn’t $50 a week anymore, partly because we have a baby who drinks formula. But with some tweaking here and there we can typically eat within a budget of $65 to $80 right now, including formula.
  • Buy In Bulk. Speaking of Costco! It might be worth it to consider a Sam’s Club or Costco membership. In Canada a Costco (gold) membership costs $60 per year or $5 a month. You could easily split that cost in half and share with someone else in your family or even a friend. It’s easy to overspend at Costco if you don’t plan ahead. We typically purchase diapers, wipes, toilet paper and paper towels at Costco, once a month.
  • Shop Secondhand (especially for kids): I switched over to purchasing second clothing around the time I was getting married. I watched a documentary about the negative impact fast fashion is having on our world, today. It changed the way I went about purchasing most things. 90% of the clothing we wear as a family is second hand. I’m not a name brand person to begin with but surprisingly you can find some great brands when shopping second hand. So my 7 month old is a few pounds behind his 21 month old brother. Buying new clothing for him would be like lighting my money on fire. I have this mentality with all baby gear and things in our home as well. If I can find it second hand and repurpose it (if it needs it) then I’m going to do it. You can read more about my tips on buying second hand here.
cloth diapers
  • Invest in Reusable, Low or Zero Waste Products: We spend less than $60 a month on diapers. That is because we mostly cloth diaper. It’s fortunate for us that currently, the boys wear the same size diaper. My 7 month old and 21 month old wear the same size diaper! One box of Kirkland’s and one box of Huggies overnights gets us through the month, with 2 weeks worth of Kirkland’s leftover. Cloth diapers has saved us SO MUCH! And if you think we spend a ton on hydro/water from washing them all the time, read THIS. I also use reusable sanitary products which you can read more about here. We bring our reusable grocery and produce bags to the store.
  • Cut Down On Your Utilities. While utilities is included in the cost of our rent, we try to practice being smart with how/when we use our water and electricity because one day we will pay for these things. Where I live in Canada, they have on and off peak times of hydro/water usage. This means that you are charged more on your usage depending on what time of day/day of the week it is. As much as possible, We try to do laundry, shower and run the dishwasher during off peak times. Even with having cloth diapers to wash, I’m only washing them twice a week. Since my husband is in HVAC, he makes sure that the AC/Furnace are running efficiently. He changes out the filter and we close windows when we are running the air or heat. You could open windows for air circulation during the day, turn off lights when not in use and unplug appliances. Reuse dishwater for watering plants etc.
  • Do It Yourself: I am a HUGE fan of DIY. Most people probably think arts and crafts when it comes to DIY. But DIY can apply to so many things in life. It’s kinda scary how dependant we’ve become on others, to do things for us as a society. I’m wary of paying others to do everything for me. It’s good to have some SKILLS, am I right? I’m not very good with power tools but I’m letting my husband teach me. We’ve made all the decor in our home. I’m taking sewing classes this fall and we grow a garden every year. We learned how to can from my husband’s grandfather and we started experimenting with dehydrating different foods a few summers ago. My husband and I both grew up with fathers who were handy so naturally, it’s simple logic for us to learn to do certain things for ourselves. My husband is also in the trades so he’s extremely skilled with tools. We initially took our oldest son to a hairdresser for his first haircut but going forward, I’ll just cut it with my husband’s clippers. I know someone who does hair out of her apartment so I get my hair done (cut and highlights) at half the cost of what I used to pay in a salon. I LOVE a good shellac pedicure but I have a bag full of nail polish that I can use to paint my toenails for FREE.
  • Take Care Of What You Already Have: You might be wondering how this saves you money? I think it’s pretty simple but if you take good care of what you already own, the chances of it breaking and needing to be replaced are less likely. Inevitably there are things in life that will need replacing. But how much money do we waste because we are careless? My husband is in a field of work that places him inside people’s homes. He has seen everything you can imagine. He said what frustrates him is to see how people do not maintain their homes. A home is easily the largest investment of a person’s life. Why wouldn’t you take care of it? We don’t own a home yet but you can imagine that we’ve learned a lot about what not to do from the things my husband has seen. I think it’s important to note here that not everything can be done yourself. Sometimes you need to hire an expert so you don’t try to fix something way beyond your skill set.
  • Have One Car, Walk or Take Public Transit: Apart from a few months when we first married and then 1.5 years when my husband had a job with a work truck, we’ve only ever had one car. Right now he works really close to home and I am able to walk where I need to. Driving places with two babies kinda gives me anxiety right now so one car works well for us but it’s also a mindset. Do I HAVE to go somewhere every day? I usually spend money if I do. Having one car means you are paying less in terms of gas, insurance and car payment (or even LESS if you owe nothing on your car). It’s not always easy during the winter time to have one car but in the past I have driven my husband to work if I needed the car that day. During the summer I walk everywhere with the boys. We are fortunate to live in an area where parks, community centres and grocery stores are within walking distance. My dad takes public transit EVERY day into the city of San Diego. He enjoys his commute for the most part and it’s saving him a fortune in gas!
  • Live In A Place You Can Afford. This is unique to each family based on location, income and financial responsibilities. We currently rent because it’s what fits our budget at this time while we have other financial obligations to resolve before we can take on the cost of a mortgage. The cost of living is quite high, where we live. It could change at some point but we’ve lived the majority of our marriage in basement apartments and always in a shared dwelling place. This means that to some degree where we’ve lived, we’ve had to share the building with another person or family. Do I always LOVE it? Nope. Is it what works for us? Yes! When I really struggle with my perspective in this area, I try to remember that I get to be home with my babies every day for the next few years or longer. I’m so grateful and I wouldn’t trade that for the world even if it means that owning our own home is awhile away for us.

We are a single income family and we’ve been a single income family the majority of our marriage. I’m sure someone could say, “Just get a job, Sarah.” Thanks but I already have one. I’m raising my kids! And that’s not to say that a mom who works another job outside the home isn’t raising her kids. But where we live the cost of childcare would make going back to work completely pointless, for what I would earn. One income is what we’ve learned to live on. It takes discipline and perspective to live this way and we aren’t perfect at it. I think it’s taught us a lot about what we need versus what we want. It’s also fast tracking us to resolving financial obligations and having more freedom with our hard earned money!

What are ways that you cut down on the cost of living and save in your home? I’d love to hear from you!

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Cloth Diapers On A Budget

Once upon a time, long Ago sweet little babies crawled around, their squishy bums covered in cloth.

Actually, not too long ago cloth diapers were the norm in society and not the trendy luxury that everyone seems to think they are today. In 1948 Johnson and Johnson introduced the first mask-marketed disposable diaper in the U.S. (source)

So less than 80 years ago the majority of babies were wearing cloth and only cloth.

By the year 2006 American babies were wearing 3.6 million TONS of disposable diapers, making of 2.6% of municipal waste. (source)

Typically when cloth diapering comes up in conversation the first thing someone will say to me is, “Wow! I wanted to cloth diaper but I just couldn’t commit to it.” Cost and laundry are usually the top two reasons why most mamas feel overwhelmed by cloth diapers.

Cloth diapers don’t have to break the bank! Don’t believe me? Let me walk you through it.

When I decided to cloth diaper I only knew what little I had been exposed to. You can read more about that here. When I shared that I wanted to cloth diaper with other people, I was met with skepticism. I was told it was expensive and would only add unnecessary work to my already overwhelming role as a new mom.

I didn’t set out to prove anyone wrong. But I knew I had to be smart about the cost part of it and the work part of it, well I wasn’t afraid of a little extra work. Which by the way is A HUGE misconception when it comes to cloth diapers. By the time I was pregnant we were a one income family, living in a 600 square foot basement apartment. We didn’t have extra money to throw around. How was I going to afford a bundle of cloth for my sweet baby?????

  • Buy Used (Secondhand). Buying used DIAPERS? Gross! Actually, it’s not. Most cloth mamas treat their cloth diapers like another child, especially if they bought them brand new. You can find SCADS of secondhand diapers at a fraction of the cost literally all over the Internet. Facebook marketplace is great place to start. If you live in Canada, Kijiji is also a great resource for finding secondhand diapers. If you are looking for the most budget friendly secondhand cloth diapers, FB Marketplace and Kijiji are your best bet. You can usually haggle with people who are trying to sell of parts of a stash. Sometimes a mama will even be selling wet bags, diaper pail and sprayer as part of her stash!

Cloth Diaper Trader is a HUGE resource for finding consigned cloth diapers.

Nicki’s Diapers has really great standards as far as what they sell. Check them out!

  • Shop Deals and Promotions. I recently (and for the first time) purchased new Kawaii Baby diapers through this deal on Amazon. I now receive monthly emails about discounts, deals and promotions that this brand is offering. Brands will also discontinue different styles and put them on clearance. If you keep tabs on your favourite brands, you might be able to snag a deal when something goes on sale!
  • Become a Brand Ambassador. While I’ve never done this during my cloth diaper journey, I’ve seen plenty of moms across the internet who have. A brand ambassador is someone that a company will send diapers to, to try out and review. This usually means that you can get diapers for free or at a major discount. The downside to being a brand ambassador means that you need a website or blog with high traffic. The whole point is that the company is getting free advertising in exchange for letting you try out their diapers.
  • Put cloth diapers on your baby registry! I WISH I had thought of this but it never occurred to me until after the fact. You can score almost everything you need by registering for your stash before you even have your baby.
  • Inherit diapers. My sister gave me a garbage bag full of cloth diapers and it really boosted my stash! If you know a friend or family member who isn’t going to resell or has had used diapers for a long time and wants to just get them gone-try asking. You might be surprised!

Cost Breakdown: New VS Used.

If you are new to cloth, you might be asking yourself how could they possibly cost so much? That all depends on how you go about it. If you MUST have high end, brand new, organic diapers you are going to spend anywhere from $500 to $900 for a stash. For example:

The Charlie Banana brand of diapers sells 3 brand new diapers with 6 organic inserts at the price of $112 CAD. If you are diapering from birth, you’ll need at LEAST 12 diapers a day (and be washing every night) to have enough. That’s a cost of about $350 for 12 diapers (with inserts) or over $37 per diaper. If you go with a budget friendly brand like Kawaii Baby (my FAV!) you are looking at $7 to $12 CAD per diaper with or without inserts, depending on the style. That’s an incredibly GREAT deal at $84 CAD for 12 diapers. But even $84 can feel like a lot when you are on a really tight budget.

When I first started my stash I spent a total of about $180 on everything. I had about 30 pocket diapers with 2 inserts, cloth wipes (given to me for free), 2 brand new wet bags at $15 for both, $50 diaper sprayer, $2 gloves, and 2 buckets ($5) for dirty diapers. If you break down the cost, I spent about $3.60 per diaper including inserts.

I was given more diapers from my sister after she didn’t need them anymore. I’ve resold almost ALL the secondhand diapers I started out with. This enabled me to purchase BRAND NEW diapers this past Christmas. YAY! I now have a total 24 pocket diapers with 2 inserts each, for my boys. I typically wash twice a week. We use cloth Monday through Friday, during the day. We use disposables nights and weekends.

Budget Friendly New Cloth Diapers:

If you aren’t keen on secondhand diapers you can still purchase brand new diapers that are budget friendly. You are still going to spend more than if you bought secondhand but these are the two most affordable brands I’ve seen that I can reccommend.

In conclusion, I’m PRO secondhand diapers all the way. Why? Because it’s the most affordable option when you are starting out. You can also try so many different styles of diapers when you buy secondhand because the cost gives you more freedom. That is how I figured out what brand, style and fit I liked the most and why I eventually purchased brand-new from this company. Cloth diapers don’t have to be a luxury thing. It’s the same way I think about unmedicated birth, midwives, doulas and home birth. Women have been doing these things for ages!

Do you cloth diaper and have you ever tried doing it on a tight budget? I’d love to hear your best tips and tricks!

To The Mama Struggling With Second Child Guilt.

I’ll never forget Family Day 2018. I sat in my bathroom with a pregnancy test in hand watching those two lines form quickly. While I suspected I was pregnant prior to taking a test, there is still something about the finality of a confirmed positive pregnancy test.

That next weekend was my birthday. I spent the majority of the weekend crying and holding my 5 and 1/2 month old. I felt alone, overwhelmed and most of all-I felt incredibly guilty.

Sparing the details of how I became pregnant so quickly (because frankly no-one should ever be asking that question) after the birth of my first, you can gander a wild guess-it wasn’t expected. Unplanned? No. All babies are part of a beautiful plan. But unexpected? Yes.

Mom guilt.

We all have it. It varies in it’s forms. Mom guilt is as complex and as diverse as we are.

The heavy guilt that I carried for many months into my second pregnancy and that even now, I still struggle with is an unwanted companion. Initially, I was consumed by the guilt of not feeling excited about my unexpected pregnancy. While many struggle to conceive, here I am pregnant again. 5 and 1/2 months postpartum. I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of being sick again for months on end. I was just starting to sleep more at night, now that my son was sleep trained. I wasn’t overjoyed at the thought of my body changing all over again.

Hudson James

Another complex part of my guilt was that I was still struggling with extreme postpartum anxiety from the birth of my first child. Hadn’t my son been robbed of enough? He’d already experienced enough difficult days with my overwhelming emotions. Our bond was not immediate upon his arrival. While I loved my first son from the moment I saw him, our bond was not an immediate thing. As I faced the toll that pregnancy would take on my body and mind again, he too would inevitably be affected by my struggles. In many ways, I felt as if I had lost the chance to deepen my bond with my first child because our time together was cut short.

As I imagined, being pregnant while raising a still very young infant, was harder than anything I’d ever done. Medication helped control my sickness but nothing helped the overwhelming fatigue. Nothing changed that my son would go through developmental milestones I was too tired to appreciate. Nothing changed the sheer physical load I had to bear as I carried a very large child within my body AND on the outside of my body. It didn’t matter that I was heavily pregnant and still getting up with my son in the night when he had sleep disturbances.

The night before my oldest son’s first birthday, I snuck into his room long after he fell asleep, took him from his crib and held him, while I silently cried. I stroked his soft blonde hair and lightly kissed his chubby, full cheeks. I marvelled at his size. I couldn’t believe he was a year old, already. The guilt consumed me that night. I had gritted my teeth through the latter half of his infancy. Not because I resented him or the baby I was carrying. It was because I often resented myself for my lack of perspective.

As my second pregnancy neared the end, I never doubted that I was ready to meet who I thought was going to be our daughter. It was a mistaken guess by the ultrasound technician but we had another boy. Truth be told? I was relieved. If anything, I already knew what to expect in many ways with another boy.

Jack David.

My bond with Jack was immediate and surprising to me. While Hudson is strong, independent, emotionally assertive and rarely affectionate, his brother Jack is incredibly affectionate, easygoing and steady. I initially felt guilty that Jack was (and is) an easier child than his older brother. But I’ve come to reconcile that their differences do not make them better than the other. They are wholly different yet the same because they came from me and my husband. I celebrate how different they are.

The transition to having 2 babies who were fourteen months apart was life changing. Because of my postpartum anxiety, everything felt difficult. Going places by myself with the boys felt like an impossible task. The sheer thought of being alone in the evenings while my husband often worked late, was enough to cause a panic attack. The weeks following Jack’s birth were very busy. I tried diligently to hide from others that I was moments from a massive breakdown and only my husband saw the depth of that. I often felt like I was barely treading water. Our little family went through some of the most difficult months of our lives.

As you can imagine the guilt came back with overwhelming force. I would watch my oldest, now transitioning from baby to toddler. I felt guilt as I watched him become, just become-so much quicker. I knew I was missing moments as I felt overwhelmed with the care of another baby. When did he learn to say that? When did he start doing that? I would watch other families that have only one child, around the age of my oldest son. I would feel envy as they experienced every singular milestone in it’s joy.

I have also felt judgement.

I am the hurried mom. I am the distracted mom at the park as I try to manage an infant and toddler. I’m the frustrated and flustered mom. I’m the get to the point mom. I am the- I don’t have time to shoot the breeze while both my kids scream for their naps, mom. I’m the mom who turns on the TV all day sometimes. I’m the mom who sometimes yells. I am the swear like a sailor when I’m stressed out, mom. I’m the exhausted mom who forgets her loads of laundry for days in the dryer because why? Because I’m caring for two other little people whose needs often feel formidable.

But amidst all this guilt, I’ve asked myself a question. What is most important? I think about the wonderful things that my oldest son is already learning, so early in life. He is learning patience, compassion and consideration. He will never not know a time in his life when he was my only baby. And while that thought may bring me sadness at times- is it more important that my oldest son have the childhood that I think he deserves? What would that even look like?

I have this to say.

The companions of motherhood do not have to be guilt and comparison.

What do these terrible companions do but rob us of precious moments with our children? It’s inevitable that we will all feel some guilt in regards to our children at some point during their existence. But to be wholly consumed is another monster altogether. Heed my caution. Do not let it overtake you. It isn’t worth it.

While my observations are nothing miraculous or new, my journey is mine. I am learning to live in the now and embrace the mother that I am, imperfections and all. I do not relish the guilt. I do not desire the comparison. I am learning to surrender these things I carry to a very faithful, kind, merciful and patient God.

When I look at my sons, it heals another part of me. I often marvel at how God gave me the gifts of my sons and I gave my sons the gift of one another. I can’t imagine life without the both of them, here together. That truth can effectively silence the voice of all guilt.

What is your story? I’d love to hear from you.

3 Reasons Why You Should Let Your Kid Get Messy And How You Can Avoid Total Chaos.

Cat food.

Litter.

Toilet Paper

Garbage.


Oh don’t mind me. I’m just listing a few of the many non-food items that my toddler has eaten in his mere 20 months of life. And if you think those are bad, I’m here to tell you-he’s eaten WORSE.

But today I want to talk about children and mess. Because I want you to know that I’m a bit of a control freak. Just ask my very patient, easy going husband. I’m a FREAK. Hey, I own it. I’m workin’ on it, ok? Nothing has stretched me MORE in this area than having a very busy, very independent, very emotionally assertive toddler. Honestly, he’s been all those things since he was born. But the things he gets himself into and the monumental amount of mess he can make in a day, let alone in 10 minutes IS INSANE.

As a former ECE, I’m used to what young children are capable of accomplishing in terms of getting messy but the difference is that we had to control much of what they were doing. We couldn’t let our classroom descend into total chaos. But as a mom, I basically get to decide what my son gets into and how chaotic I let it become.

The other day I was at this indoor playground watching my oldest run around like a total hooligan, stealing people’s snacks (I stopped him from doing that) and being a general wild child. I started chatting with a few moms who were sitting in the infant area with their very sweet, well behaved babies. We got onto the topic of mess and kids. I casually mentioned how I let my son play in the mud and how he eats dirt. I kid you not-both moms GASPED and looked at me in utter horror. One mom said, “Oh no no no! I do NOT let my daughter do that.” You would’ve thought I said I let my toddler play with matches and gasoline, with the way they reacted. It was a good thing I didn’t tell them about the time I set my own backyard on fire when I was 12 years old.

Sorry Dad!

Jack enjoying some pudding play!

Mess is normal. It’s developmental and it’s IMPORTANT to let kids get messy. Does this mean your house has to look like a dumpster fire? No.

Let’s dive into three reasons why it’s important to let your kid (s) make a mess AND how to minimize total chaos.

  • Children are kinaesthetic (tactile) and spatial learners. This means that they have to touch, move, carry, throw and physically experience what they are doing in order to learn. SOME children do not like to be wet, sticky, cold or touch things with texture. I was actually that child, surprisingly. (Or maybe not surprisingly because my control freak tendencies started early?) But more commonly, you will find that children learn by using all their senses and their whole body. They’re learning how to use their senses. They’re learning temperature, texture, how to manipulate objects, building fine (and large) motor skills. I watched a fantastic video of a friend’s toddler the other day, eating yogurt. He was a mess, spooning yogurt into his mouth, sucking on his spoon and using his whole body to enjoy his food. I LOVE THAT. The learning possibilities are endless when you allow a child to get messy. This is a really important from a developmental standpoint.
  • Children learn responsibility when making a mess. It’s up to you as the parent to teach your child how to clean up or that his actions have consequences. It takes FOREVER to teach (sometimes force) my toddler to put away his toys. He’s also learning what is appropriate to throw and what isn’t. We don’t throw in the house. We are teaching him that we don’t throw things at people because it hurts. But outside, I’m the parent letting my kid throw rocks and wood chips, as long as it isn’t at or around someone else. I’ve been frowned at for that one but #sorrynotsorry. What happens when a child dumps water on themselves during water play? They get wet! If they’re ok with that, why not let them? If they aren’t ok with it, you can say; “When you pour water on yourself, you get wet!” When my son eats dirt out of his sensory table he makes this hilarious face because I know it tastes weird. I tell him that dirt isn’t for eating but I don’t freak out. I know it won’t kill him and trust me, he’s eaten far worse. His dirt eating is lessening each day!
  • It’s not about you. Remember how I shared earlier that I’m a control freak. Yeah, you have NO IDEA. My poor family. I’m getting better. There have been times when I’ve totally crushed my babies’ adventurous spirits because I wanted to control the mess. I’m not proud of those moments. I have really limited their learning experiences at times and frustrated us all! In 15 years, what will I think when I look back on this season? Will I remember how I had to be in control all the time? Or will I fondly recall the fun that we had together as I created a safe space for them to grow and play in? It might be hard to hear those things if you struggle with control, like me. I don’t like myself when I’m trying to control everything. You can have a good balance of mess and order. If that sounds impossible, hang in there and continue reading.

Ok so we’ve talked about a few reasons WHY it’s important to let our children make a mess. If you’re sitting there curling your toes and cringing as you think about your home descending into total chaos, just hang on! It’s possible to create a space for your children to get messy AND still maintain a sense of order.

  • Limit materials and STUFF. Basically, keep it simple. Don’t have a billion toys out at one time. Do you have a kid who just DUMPS toys everywhere and then moves onto destroy another part of your house? It’s because he’s in sensory overload mode. I invested in some baskets that are shallow enough for my son to see into, while they are on his toy shelf. I also practice toy rotation. I organized all his toys and materials in labeled bins in his closet. I rotate a few toys out during the week. If you keep things simple you may experience fewer tantrums and more enriched play!
  • Have simple boundaries with what your child is allowed to do with the materials you provide, especially when doing sensory play. When I bring my son’s sensory table inside and fill it with something, I don’t let the material leave the table area. He is learning that things like water STAY in the water table and no you can’t dump water on the cat. If we’re outside, I’m more lax about this but I still don’t let him go bonkers. Then I take it step further and show him a few things he can do with the materials. After that, I let him experiment. I’m always impressed with what he does with the materials I provide.
  • Choose age appropriate materials and toys. This is so important from a developmental and safety viewpoint. You don’t want to give your oral toddler materials they can choke on, right? There are a bazillion age appropriate ideas on the internet. You choose things that are easy to loosely supervise. I have a 6 month old. I can’t be hovering over my son the entire time he’s playing. Simple simple simple!
Hudson enjoying pudding in his sensory table!

I am not super mom. So don’t be feeling all guilty over there if you are overwhelmed by all of this. I didn’t start doing a lot of this until recently because I had a baby 6 months ago and his brother is only 14 months older than him. Life is busy to say the least and I’m just now feeling like I have the energy to put these things together.

I’m going to be sharing some of the fun sensory things I’ve been doing with my babies, in an upcoming blog post. But a really great place to start is by going outside and letting your little one experience the outdoors with their whole body. Start there and see where things take you.

What is the messiest thing your child has ever done? Can’t wait to hear some great stories!

The Truth About Reusable Hygiene Products.

If you would’ve told me 6 years ago that I’d be doing some of the things I do now, I would’ve raised an eyebrow at you.

And what I mean by that is how I’ve embraced this journey to living a life filled with less chemicals and opting for more natural alternatives. Sparing you the details of my reproductive history, I want to talk about some things I’ve been doing in the last couple of years that have a made a huge difference in my health.

But let’s start with the not so great news.

When it comes to disposable hygiene products like pads and tampons, did you know there are toxic chemicals in them?

Today, most cotton is genetically engineered (GE) and soaked in pesticides as it is not a consumable product. However, inserting a GE cotton tampon into your vagina several times each month may be worse than ingesting pesticides from GE food, considering the highly permeable nature of the vaginal wall. (Mercola)


The manufacturers of these products aren’t required by the FDA to disclose what is in their product. And while they want you to believe that the amount of chemicals in them is harmless, think about something for a moment. The skin in your lady parts is VERY thin and highly absorbent. ALSO I have a problem with the fact that the FDA isn’t requiring these companies to disclose the toxic ingredients they’re putting in their products? NOT COOL. Also not surprising.

Anyways.

Think about how many YEARS you use these products. The average women menstruates from the time she’s 14 until she’s 50. Many girls are getting their periods as early as 10 years old because of all the synthetic hormones in our food and water. That is a LONG TIME. It’s not hard to imagine that years and years of absorbing harmful chemicals can lead to serious health risks. I sometimes wonder how much those toxic chemicals have played a part in increasing the risk of things like cancer, PCOS, infertility and other reproductive health issues in women. Interesting thought.

I didn’t know any of this until a few years ago when I came across the silicone menstrual cup known as the Diva Cup. It’s exactly what it says it is. A silicone cup that you insert inside of you when you are menstruating. It can hold up to an ounce of liquid (don’t quote me on that) because there are different sizes (and brands) of cups. You can wear it for up to 12 hours but ideally would empty (and rinse it) every few hours.

The Pros:

  • No smell.
  • Can wear much longer (safely) than a tampon.
  • One time cost.
  • More regulated cycles
  • I experienced fewer and then NO cramps after a few cycles of using the cup.
  • Easy to clean once your cycle is over! You can boil your cup on the stove. Let air dry and store in it’s breathable, cloth bag for your next cycle. *Don’t do what I did and leave it out where a child or cat could get it. My cat chewed my first cup because he’s a little A-hole!

The Cons

  • Tricky to insert. It can take a few cycles to get used to inserting and removing the cup.
  • Messy. It CAN be (doesn’t have to be) messy to empty the cup if you aren’t at home. I’m generally home 99% of the time so I empty, rinse in the sink and re-insert. I avoid emptying my cup if I’m not home for sanitary reasons. I avoid public restrooms in general.
  • Can Leak. Leaks are possible if you aren’t wearing the correct size or it isn’t inserted properly.

After the birth of my first son when I had to wear those awesome mesh panties and giant sized pads because you know, afterbirth is just lovely-I discovered I was allergic to these things. All these years and I never knew thats what was going on. I developed a horrific infection and rash while still healing from blowing out a baby. I mean it was worse than labour and delivery, to be honest. I was miserable for at least a month if not longer.

I swore I would invest in cloth pads for after my next baby, when I found out I was pregnant again.

So let’s talk about Cloth Pads. They are exactly what you think they are. You wear them, store them after use and then wash them. Cloth pads can be overwhelming to navigate because there are so many different materials that people use to make them. You could even make your own cloth pads if you are handy with a sewing machine!

Pros:

  • One time cost.
  • Comfortable.
  • Chemical free
  • More regulated cycles
  • Less and then NO cramping after using these for a few cycles
  • Easy to wash! Throw in the wash ( I LOVE Nellie’s) NO fabric softener and then line dry or tumble in the dryer.

Cons:

  • Tricky to find the right style and fabric with the best absorption that feels comfortable for you.
  • A learning curve to store after use when on the go (you need a wet bag)
  • Expensive (deff an investment!)

It’s important to do your own research and figure out which reusable hygiene product works for you. There are so many different brands, materials and models available now. There are quizzes you can take online to determine fit for maximum protection and comfort.

And, again you could even make your own pads if you can sew!

I talked about experiencing less to no cramps and more regulated cycles when I started using a cup and cloth pads. You might have done a double take?

That isn’t an exaggeration. I used to get wicked PMS with accompanying cramps once my cycle started. I would often resort to OTC pain meds, a hot water bottle and lay on the couch because I was so miserable. But switching to reusable menstrual products has eliminated my cramps and almost all of the PMS I used to experience as well as helped regulate my cycles. You might wonder how that is possible?

I don’t have a super educated answer for you but I suspect it has to do with the fact that I’m no longer exposing my lady parts (inside and out) to toxic chemicals. I also noticed a huge difference in my cycles once I stopped using hormonal birth control, but we’ll save that topic for another day.

That is my spiel on reusable hygiene products. I personally have found the switch to be easy! That might be because I’ve embrace cloth diapers but I want to encourage you-don’t be afraid of reusable hygiene products. You can’t go wrong with something that is good for you AND our environment! IF you struggle with difficult, inconsistent, or painful cycles maybe think about it.

Do you use reusable hygiene products?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

4 Toddler Activities That Build Fine Motor Skills.

I like screen time. Sometimes I even LOVE screen time. And I don’t just mean for myself.

The first word out of my toddler’s mouth in the morning is usually, “BLIPPI!” If you don’t know who Blippi is, go check him out. You may thank me or hate me!

Lately I’ve been putting together some age appropriate activities for my 20 month old to keep him busy throughout the day that don’t involve screen time. I do this for a few reasons. I have a 6 month old who takes a morning nap and I need the house to be somewhat quiet. Now that my oldest is officially a toddler, I feel like he’s capable of learning to be quiet while his brother naps AND able to work on some fine motor skills.

My educational background is in ECE (early childhood education) so I enjoy putting these things together! Its important to remember that every child is different. I could go on a soap box about this. I take some issues with standardized education because I’ve seen the vast differences in a child’s development, during my years of teaching and now, as a mom. We’re taught 7 learning styles when studying ECE. Every human being learns differently and that is why I believe standardized education is too narrow of an approach to learning.

I digress.

Deep breath.

Today I’m going to share 4 toddler activities that build fine motor skills and that I’ve actually tested on my own toddler. The best part is you can put these things together for little to ZERO cost. I had most of these things already or I ran to the dollar store for a few things. As with all baby and toddler activities, PLEASE supervise your child.

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Pom Pom Wisk

Items Needed:

  • Large wisk
  • Pom poms

This activity is pretty simple! The objective is for your toddler to pull the pom poms out of the wisk and/or stuff them back in. This is a wonderful activity that teaches a child critical thinking. It’s challenging but still simple enough that they don’t usually become frustrated.

Pipe Cleaner Threading

Items Needed:

  • Pipe cleaners
  • Straws cut in half
  • Strainer

The objective with this one is to have your child thread the pipe cleaners through the straws or strainer. My toddler took a creative approach and started pushing the straws through the strainer as well! This exercise is great for building muscles children use for their pincer grasp. That comes in handy for holding writing utensils later on.

Cupcake Pom Poms

Items Needed:

  • Tablespoon
  • Cupcake Tin
  • Pom poms

In this activity your child uses the tablespoon to scoop pom poms into the cupcake tin. Grasping the tablespoon is great for building the muscles they need to hold utensils for eating. It also requires hand and eye coordination.

Colour Sorting Pom Poms

Items Needed:

  • Coloured bowls or containers
  • Pom poms in colours that match the bowls
  • Plastic fine motor tweezers or grasping tool

This activity is a bit more advanced. The only reason I’ve done this one with my 20 month old is he’s been recognizing a few of his colours for the past month. I started working with him on colours by sorting his blocks onto the matching colour mat, on the floor in his room. So I thought I would try a colour sorting activity like this. The tweezers can be challenging but fantastic for developing those muscles in the hands. Even if your child doesn’t recognize their colours yet, it’s a great activity to try. I purchased the bowls and poms at the dollar store. You can find grabbing tools here.

A Few Things To Consider When Doing These Activities For Your Toddler:

  • Know when your child is done with the activity and that it’s ok if their attention span isn’t very long. My son is 20 months old and he can spend around 5-10 minutes on these activities. 10 minutes is an incredible amount of time and he has to be quite interested as well as motivated to last that long! Once he starts throwing things, I know he’s telling me he’s done. Developmentally, most children have an attention span of their age plus a few minutes. Do I think throwing is wrong? Nope. I actually don’t. Let me tell you why. Children are scientists. They are the BEST scientists. The are going to figure out cause and effect better, faster and more efficiently than any adult ever could. It’s innate. I let my son throw things. I don’t let my son throw EVERYTHING. I’m teaching him what is ok to throw and what isn’t. He may not understand that concept now but with time he will. So if you see a kid outside throwing rocks into a pond or kicking dirt around-probably my kid. #sorrynotsorry

  • Are they ready? 6 months ago my son wasn’t interested in doing these things. He probably would’ve put everything in his mouth or thrown it all across the room. It’s important to approach activities like this with the question: “Is it developmentally Appropriate?” If your baby/toddler is still very oral then you will have to watch them closely or choose a different activity. This leads me to my next point.

  • Don’t compare. Comparing our children to others isn’t fair to them. Take it from an ECE with close to 15 years experience working with kids. I’m not an expert but I’ve seen enough in my years working with young children to understand that they develop skills at different paces. My son is quite verbal at 20 months old. But I know another child around his age who isn’t verbal at all. I know children who started walking as early as 9 months. My son was about 15 months old when he started fully walking. Comparison usually only serves to stir up jealousy, guilt, insecurities and mean mom competition. It can also cause you to hold your child to unrealistic standards. Love your child for who he is, not who you think they should be. You’ll be surprised at all the amazing things they are capable of as they grow in the security of your love.

*I’m not suggesting that you disregard the advice of any doctor or health professional if they are concerned about something developmental with your child. If you suspect your child may need help in a specific area, please seek help.

I’ve really been enjoying new activities with my son and soon enough his little brother will be joining him. Check back for more posts on fun, developmentally appropriate (and inexpensive) activities for babies and toddlers!

A Toddler and Infant Routine For A Stay At Home Mama. (Revised)

A few days ago I sat down to eat my lunch after I had put both my boys down for a nap when I started to smell something strange.

Well, not really strange. It was just the smell of poop.

Instead of enjoying my warm lunch while both my boys miraculously napped, I began tearing my house apart in search of the poop smell. I don’t keep poopy diapers in the house. The cloth ones get rinsed and go straight in a bucket. Disposables go straight to the outside garbage.

WHAT AND WHERE WAS IT?!

Come to find out, my cat had pooped in my son’s overnight bag. How nice of him. At least he didn’t poop on the floor, right?

Anyways.

I wanted to share what our daily routine looks like now that Jack is 6 months old and Hudson is 20 months old. Things have changed quite a bit in the past few months! When I became pregnant with Jack, I was googling toddler/infant routines. I’m a routine person and routines help us thrive in our home. Our routine changes, based on the season and ages of my children. I also sleep train and bottle feed, in case you are wondering.

Right now we are entering SPRING and I AM SO HAPPY! We go outside as much as possible, get dirty and sunburnt. I love it! I’m also starting to do some very basic (but intentional) educational, sensory and fine motor play with Hudson. I purchased these preschool posters on Amazon and a kind friend laminated them for me. Hudson LOVES them! There are 9 posters that go through numbers, letters, colours, shapes, emotions, days of the week, months, seasons and animals.

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So here is what our daily routine loosely looks like! Of course, I adjust for play dates, appointments and such.

6-7 AM Wakeup, cartoons, bottles and diaper changes.

7-8AM Breakfast, prep for Jack’s nap (dadda goes to work by 7:45).

8 AM-9:45AM Jack naps, Hudson and Mama get dressed. Sensory or independent play inside or outside.

10 AM Snack for Hudson and bottle for Jack, diaper changes, Mama does chore of the day, tidys the house etc.

11 AM Walk to the park, sometimes meet up with friends to play or sensory/independent play in the backyard.

12:30 -3:30 PM Lunch and Nap routines. *I’ve made it a rule that I do not cook, clean, fold laundry or do any type of work during nap time. It’s often the only time I get to rest during the day. I learned the hard way that not taking time for myself when the boys nap results in a super cranky mommy the rest of the afternoon.

3/3:30 PM Snack for Hudson, bottle for Jack, change diapers.

3:30-5 PM Outside play (pending weather) Sometimes we will meet up with friends again at the park or go for a walk!

5-8 PM Dinner, baths and bedtimes. This is a large window of time and I am very flexible with it for a few reasons. Jack always goes to bed an hour or so earlier than Hudson. Their bedtimes are generally consistent but I adjust according to how well (and long) they napped. My husband also works flexible hours. Sometimes he’s home by dinner and other nights he’s home after everyone is put to bed. If we can, we try to eat dinner together and tag team baths/bedtimes.

When you are creating a routine for yourself and your kid(s) it’s important to consider a few things:

  • Obviously, how many kids do you have? Based on how many and their ages, you will have to adjust for different nap times and keeping older siblings busy. Things like sensory play, busy boxes, and toy rotation can be great ways to entertain an older sibling. (When we had so much ice and snow this winter, I would fill up a small, plastic bin with soapy warm water and fun toys. I would throw down a bunch of towels on the kitchen floor, crank up the heat, strip Hudson to his diaper and let him have at it. HE LOVED IT!
  • Will you sleep train? I’m a huge sleep training advocate. Routines and sleep training flow really well together. While you can’t 100% guarantee that your children will sleep perfectly, you can certainly help them learn to create healthy sleep habits. You can read more about my take on sleep training here.
  • How important is routine to you? I know people with small children who don’t follow any daily routine and while I personally would lose my mind, I’m guessing it works for them!

I love routine because it gives me a sense of purpose in what can feel like chaos. We are homebodies most of the time. I really enjoy coming home to my own space with my family. We share our home with tenants living below us but it’s decently private and I LOVE doing my own thing my kiddos. It’s such a blessing to be home with my boys. I don’t have the pressure of an outside job and I can put their needs first. While some days are harder than others, I wouldn’t trade this season for anything in all the world!

Do you like routine or do you let loose and go with the flow? How do you spend your days with your littles?