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  • WELCOME!

    Welcome to Simply Driftless! My name is Rebecca and I'm so happy you are here. Joined by my husband Ben, we are on a journey towards a healthier, natural, DIY lifestyle... and we're trying to do it as inexpensively as possible.

    We have made our home in the beautiful Driftless Region of southwest Wisconsin. This area is full of local food and self-sufficiency and we're excited to continue our transition to this way of living.

Cloth Diaper Series Stash #2: $200 budget

This is the second post in the cloth diaper series that features several cloth diapering families sharing about their stash and experience using cloth diapers.

Stash #1 post: HERE

As we prepare to adopt our first child, we’ve had such varied reactions when I tell friends and family our intent to cloth diaper.  Responses range from “Oh, that’s awesome!” to “Gross, why would you want to do that?”  We’ve even had some family members make bets on how long we’ll last with cloth diapers.  🙂  For us, the cost savings, health benefits for the baby, environmental impact, and cuteness factor all played into our decision to use cloth diapers. And, honestly, we’re excited to do this!

Modern cloth diapers have a long way from the days of prefolds and rubber pull-on pants!  These days, options range from the most cost effective option of flats & modern covers, DIY, or even all-in-one options similar to disposables.  I’ve asked some guests to share their experiences with cloth diapers.  Stashes and cloth diapering experiences can vary widely so this will give you a chance to peek into several options.

 

***

Stash #2:  Meet Katelyn McKim, a cloth diapering mother of three.  She’s been cloth diapering for 7 months.

Me: why did you decide to cloth diaper?

Katelyn: Because I currently have two kids in diapers and learned I’d save about $5210 by using cloth (Yes, I did the math!  lol!)   And besides that, my kids always seemed to get rashes in disposables.  With all those reasons, I got the thumbs up from my husband to use cloth.

Me: what cloth diaper system or styles do you use?

Katelyn: My stash is pretty simple.  I have:

  • 30 pocket diapers  (Brands are Alvas, JC Trade, Juicy Ann, Kawaii, and Shine Baby)
  • 8 fitteds (1 Thirsties, 2 GMD Workhouse with snaps, 2 no names and 3 Juicy Ann)
  • 8 covers (1 Albert flip, 1 wonder wrap, 1 bumkin wrap, 2 happy flute and 3 no name)
  • About a dozen prefolds (1 baby kicks wool, and the rest are no name cotton prefolds)
  • 7 cotton flour sack towels.  These are $1 at Wal-Mart and I use them interchangeably with prefolds. (Rebecca’s note – I talk about flour sack towels in this post.)

Me: how does your system work for you?

Katelyn: When I use covers, it depends on how they are made in the inside. With my Albert Flip cover,  I use it with fitted diapers because of where the inside Velcro is positioned. With the rest of my covers, I tri-fold a prefold diaper (or pad-fold a flour sack towel) and just place it in the cover.

Me: how do you store them?

Katelyn:  I have 3 storage systems: one in the bedroom and two in the living room.  The extra storage system is for my extra inserts.  Check out my stash shots below because it will definitely explain it better when you see it!

Me: what is your washing system?

Katelyn:  My washing system is simple.  I hand wash and rinse first then throw them all in the washer with 1/2 cup of my homemade laundry detergent. Afterwards, I ALWAYS line dry anything that has elastic.  After they are dried I may throw them in the dryer for a few minutes on low heat to fluff up. Anything that is all cotton (like prefolds) are dried in the dryer.

Me: Lastly, can you give me an idea of cost for your stash (either total or per child)

Katelyn: Our stash cost about $190, total.  I scoured the interwebz for deals including eBay, Instagram and Facebook.  I even found a Fuzzibunz pocket diaper in excellent condition for 50 cents at a thrift store!  I calculated our savings (including water cost and the cost of all the diapers) at $5,585.  That’s for two kids since my daughter is almost completely potty learned so roughly around $100 per child.

Me: Any last thoughts?

Katelyn: I was lucky because I had two friends start our stash and slowly was able to build it to what I have now. I’ve probably given away over a dozen pockets so far.  Also, we make our own detergent using Borax, washing soda, baking soda, Fels Naptha, Zote, and essential oil, so we save money there too.    Lastly, if we used cloth wipes we’d save another $300 or so, but my husband prefers the convenience of disposable wipes.    (Rebecca’s note – if you are cloth diapering, I suggest researching different detergents and learning if you have hard or soft water. Some people swear by homemade detergent but others find store-bought is more reliable. I think it depends on your washing system, the style of diapers you use, and water type. Do your own research!)

Interested in learning more about the diapers mentioned in this post? These are some of the diapers Katelyn uses (affiliate links):
Prefolds
Flats

Flour sack towels
Flip cover in Albert print

Alva covers/pockets

 

Stay tuned for more in this cloth diaper series!  If you have questions or thoughts about cloth diapers, please comment below or email me at rebecca@simplydriftless.com.  Sometime in February I’ll do a Q&A post that covers the types of diapers a little more in-depth, as well as trying to answer any questions you might have.  Thanks!

 

Cloth Diaper Series: #1 (Mixed styes)

This is the first post in the cloth diaper series that features several cloth diapering families sharing about their cloth diaper stash and experience using cloth diapers.

As we prepare to adopt our first child, we’ve had such varied reactions when I tell friends and family our intent to cloth diaper.  Responses range from “Oh, that’s awesome!” to “Gross, why would you want to do that?”  We’ve even had some family members make bets on how long we’ll last with cloth diapers. 🙂  For us, the cost savings, health benefits for the baby, environmental impact, and cuteness factor all played into our decision to use cloth diapers. And, honestly, we’re excited to do this! On average, it costs $1600 to use disposable diapers on one child.  Cloth diapers typically cost 1/3 or less of that, plus they can be re-used on multiple children.

Modern cloth diapers have a long way from the days of prefolds and rubber pull-on pants!  These days, options range from the most cost effective option of flats & modern covers, DIY, or even all-in-one options similar to disposables.  The variety and ingenuity of these diapers is staggering!  I’ve asked some guests to share their experiences with cloth diapers.  Stashes and cloth diapering experiences can vary widely so this will give you a chance to peek into several options.

 

Above: Bumgenius AIO diapers in newborn size.
***

Stash #1: Vanessa S.  She’s a mother of two and has been cloth diapering for six months.

Me: why did you decide to cloth diaper?
Vanessa: We tossed around the idea of cloth diapering but became convinced to use cloth once we saw the ingredients used in disposables. And also the cost effectiveness appealed to us.

Me: what cloth diaper system or styles do you use?
Vanessa: We have a majority of All-In-Ones (AIO) but also some pockets, fitteds, and wool covers/longies.   Our AIO diapers are Bumgenius Freetimes and Simplex.  Our pocket diapers are Bumgenius 4.0’s.  My fitted diapers and wool covers are all by Sustainablebabyish (also called Sloomb or Sbish).

Me: how does it work for you?
Vanessa: We use All-In-One diapers (AIO) during the day and pocket diapers double stuffed with hemp inserts at night. Hemp is extremely absorbent and trim. It’s also slow to absorb so it lasts through out the night. AIO’s during the day are great for me because I don’t have the time or patience to stuff a bunch of pocket diapers. I suffer from arthritis and carpel tunnel so AIO’s are perfect. And the few pockets we stuff with inserts to use for overnight are much easier than stuffing 15 diapers!  Occasionally we swap out pockets at night for a wool system – wool longies + fitted diaper.  (Note from Rebecca – I’ll have someone else talking about wool in a future post so we’re not going into it much here!)

Me: how do you store them?
Vanessa: Funny story of how our diaper changing area came to be… we bought our kitchen table off Craigslist.  When we went to pick it up I was about 7 months pregnant and the sellers threw in their old changing table for free because they didn’t need it anymore. It’s become diaper central and works great for us!

Vanessa sent a photo of her “stash” and storage… check it out!

Me: what is your washing system?
Vanessa: We just bought a new GE top loading traditional washer because of all the problems we were having with our Ge Infusor. The Infusor doesn’t have an agitator and diapers weren’t getting clean (I even washed 4x in a row once!). It’s notorious for being a crappy washer, especially for cloth diapering. Our wash routine now is a prewash followed by a heavy duty wash. And I recently fell in love with Purex detergent. We set the dryer on low for 60 minutes and diapers come out smelling great and dry! Wool dryer balls have amazed us as well. We dry all our items on low heat for barely 60 minutes and things dry so fast now and I definitely think it helps keep clothes softer. We haven’t touched fabric softener in months as it’s not cloth diaper friendly.

Me: Lastly, can you give me an idea of cost for your stash (either total or per child)
Vanessa: Ideally you can cloth diaper for well below what you’d spend on disposables. You could spend $500 and be done or even less if you use prefolds and covers. I, however, have an addiction and probably spent a little more than intended because cloth is SO adorable! Disposables (even cheaper brands) will run you about $1,500-$2,000 by the time your child potty trains.  I’ve spent about $600-ish and will be able to sell our used diapers when we’re done, bringing our cost down quite a bit!

Me: Any last thoughts?
Vanessa: I honestly love everything about cloth diapering. It works well for our family and our beliefs in sustainability. We use cloth for every situation where other families probably use a disposable option. I don’t feel right when I use a disposable (so I don’t haha).

Above: Bumgenius Freetime diapers.  These are one-size diapers that are also AIO.  Shown in the smallest setting (snapped) and largest setting (unsnapped).  AIO diapers are very similar to a disposable in how you put them on and wear them… except you throw them in the wash rather than the garbage.

Above: Bumgenius pocket diapers, outside view. Shown snapped and unsnapped to give an idea of size range.  This diaper has a waterproof layer so it needs only this diaper plus an absorbent stuffing.

Below: Bumgenius pocket diapers, inside view.  You can choose whatever absorbent material you wish for the inside, then stuff it in the “pocket” of the diaper.  To wash, remove the stuffing and wash the whole thing.  The benefit is customizing the amount of absorbency that you need.

Below: samples of absorbent inserts and prefold diapers that can be used with a pocket diaper.  Shown are: hemp insert (green stitching), cotton prefold diaper (blue stitching), cotton doubler (yellow stitching) to add extra absorbency with another insert, and a diaper flat (a thin piece of cotton fabric that is folded into shape).  The diaper flat is similar to a flour sack towel. Other common inserts for pocket diapers are microfiber, but I’m not a fan of synthetic materials AND microfiber can’t touch baby’s skin.

 

Interested in learning more about the diapers mentioned in this post? These are the diapers Vanessa uses (affiliate links):

Bumgenius Freetime

Simplex AIO by Blueberry

Bumgenius 4.0 Pockets

Wool – more info in a future post of the cloth diaper series!

Stay tuned for more in this cloth diaper series!  If you have questions about cloth diapers, please email me at rebecca@simplydriftless.com.  Sometime in February I’ll do a Q&A post that covers the types of diapers a little more in-depth, as well as trying to answer any questions you might have.  Thanks!

P.S. All photos in this post are by me, except for Vanessa’s stash shot. 🙂

January 29, 2014 - 4:27 pm

Agi - $1600 sounds like a very high estimate! Also if use some disposable, for on the go and such, Target brand is chlorine free!

January 29, 2014 - 4:48 pm

Rebecca - I’ve seen a pretty wide range of estimates for the cost of cloth. This seems to be a fairly conservative breakdown of some of the different systems and factors in the cost of laundry. Some of the stashes later in the series were built for less than $200 so they would save even more! 🙂 http://www.diaperdecisions.com/pages/cost_of_cloth_diapers.php

Great suggestion for Target brand!

January 29, 2014 - 8:20 pm

Vanessa - We cloth diaper 24/7. It doesn’t seem cost effective for us to do it part-time or when on the go. Or evironmentally friendly! Our beliefs of sustainability are to preserve our land for current and future generations. 🙂 But if one still want to do a ‘healthier’ disposable, it’s Bambo brand. But better made disposables that are biodegradable start adding up quick $$$! The cost of disposables for approx 3 yrs comes up to about $1,500-$2,00 and that was guesstimating with Luvs (a cheaper brand) and also not factoring in that the price of the bag/box stays the same but the amt of diapers decreases as diaper size increases. That’s also not factoring in disposable wipes which probably adds up to $200 or so, again depending on brand. Believe me, cloth diapering mamas do their math. Over and over and over. Plus cloth dipes retain their resale value. Can’t resell a used disposable, know can ya?! Ew! Haha!

UnPaper Towels: Transitioning to Cloth

The other day I was speaking with a friend about the level of “crunchiness” we’ve achieved over the last few years.  In the broad spectrum of crunchy, I feel like we’re only semi-crunchy.  But I’m proud of the changes we’ve made. It’s all been incremental, and it’s been done in baby steps.

One of my favorite changes is switching our kitchen products to cloth.  I’ve heard the term “unpaper towels” which amuses me. It especially amuses me because so many of the paper towels today use the term “cloth like” or the phrase “just like cloth” in their marketing.

I mean, if finding a product that is just like cloth is such a priority, why wouldn’t someone just use… CLOTH?  It is reusable, less expensive in the long run, and takes up less space in the kitchen.  We never need to worry about forgetting to pick up paper products from the store or running out in the middle of a mess.  About once a week, we just throw our towels in the laundry with our existing laundry so it doesn’t even add an extra load of wash!

This is what our all-cloth set-up looks like, minus a few items that are currently dirty:

We have four types of kitchen cloth in regular use:

  1. 10-ish Flour sack towels or thin flat cloths
  2. 4-ish Bar towels (thick, terry cloth, smaller than a flour sack towel but more absorbent)
  3. 5-ish Bar wash cloths (same as above except smaller)
  4. 20-25-ish cloth napkins.  There are only two of us and this is more than we need but I like variety. And they are so PRETTY!

Really, we could get by with ONLY the flour sack towels (my husband’s preference) and a few cloth napkins but I prefer a mix of the bar towels for drying hands and flour sack towels for wiping counters.  We don’t use the wash cloths terribly often but they are nice to have.  We also have a stash of old “traditional” kitchen towels that never get used (and I should probably find a new use for) and a few prefold diapers that have been dedicated cleaning cloths around the house.

So, grand total for our currently in-use stash of towels: $25.     (This estimate doesn’t include napkins.)

Considering that a few packs of paper towels would cost this much, and we haven’t had to buy paper towels in well over a year, I consider that $20 well spent.  Plus, we have years of life left in our cloths.  Here’s the breakdown:

Flour sack towels: around $1 each at Wal-Mart or Target. Amazon has them a little less, with free shipping.  Check them out HERE.  You could also take some thin COTTON fabric like muslin and sew them yourself.  Note – these become more absorbent with a few washes.  Many cloth diapering parents even use these as diaper flats, so don’t doubt their ability to multi-purpose!
Bar mop towels and wash cloths: around $1.50-$2 each depending on your source.  Amazon has them HERE in fun colors. I think ours were from Target. If you are also on a tight budget, you could use old bath washcloths or you can buy in a multi-pack from the dollar store.
Cloth napkins: we’ve amassed our stash from several locations. My first ones were store-bought on clearance but I’ve also found them in sets of four or more from the thrift store (including brand new Pottery Barn napkins… score!)  I didn’t mention earlier that we have some lovely vintage linen napkins that we keep with our fine china for holidays; our regular napkins are under heavy use so I like to keep the linen ones separate from every day ones.  Personally, I’m going to stick to thrifted cloth napkins in the future because we do this to save money and be a little green.  Just wash them well when you get home and enjoy all that money you save! Note – you could also sew these out of any cotton fabric, even an old sheet, if you are on a budget!

One last note on cloth napkins: my friend Kendra was commenting on our cloth napkin useage a year or two ago and said it just seemed like so much extra laundry that she didn’t think it was worth it. (She has three kids.)  So, for those of you that are thinking this, just remember that you can use a cloth napkin more than once if you are old enough to make minimal mess while eating.  So with a toddler, yeah, it might be a one-time-use. But with older kids or adults, you can use the same napkin for 2-3 meals.  Perhaps everyone could have a special napkin or two assigned to them?  Besides, cloth napkins take up such a small space in your load of laundry! Folding takes just a few seconds.  And it ALWAYS feels nicer to use cloth than paper!

How many of you have switched to cloth in your kitchen?  Do you have plans to transition? What’s holding you back?

Edible gifts: frozen pre-made cookie dough

My husband is notorious for giving gifts early.  If he goes Christmas or birthday shopping a few weeks before the event, I’m certain I’ll be receiving it the day he buys or makes it. Secretly I love this.  Especially because I get to enjoy my gifts early AND it gave me the idea for this post.  Because, let’s face it. Ben is brilliant.  One of this year’s gifts may go down in the history of my favorite gifts of my adult life.  No, it wasn’t the stack of cheesy Christmas movies (he knows how much I love them every year), though that ranks pretty high.  This favorite gift is a homemade gift.

 

What did he do? He knows how much I love chocolate chip cookies, but I am too lazy health conscious to whip up a new batch every night.  And I also particularly love to have only a couple cookies made at a time so that way I don’t eat an entire tray of them.  My willpower when it comes to chocolate chip cookies is completely lacking.

 

We both love homemade gifts, and this year Ben decided to make chocolate chip cookie dough and freeze it in little individual balls of dough.  This way I can pull two or three dough balls (or four, who am I kidding?) out of the freezer, and enjoy just a some cookies fresh from the oven.  GENIUS.  Pure genius. So this is what he did.

 

First, he whipped up a double batch of Martha Stuart’s chocolate chip cookie recipe which you can find HERE.  For the record, those cookies are absolutely delicious.  Another favorite recipe of mine is my friend Kendra’s from Stop Lookin’ Get Cooking.  She made these for my photography gallery’s grand opening and they were a hit!  Recipe is HERE.  Kendra has a bunch of fantastic recipes, including holiday ones on her site, so make sure to check it out.

Next, Ben portioned out individual cookie sizes of dough and froze them flat on a cookie sheet.  Once they were frozen, he put them in a plastic freezer container and separated the layers with wax paper so they wouldn’t stick to eat other. When it’s time to bake them, I let them sit on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes while the oven preheats to 350.  Then I bake them for roughly 12-ish minutes, or until they are golden brown and the edges are slightly crispy.  I’d show you a photo of how great they look after baking, but I may have just eaten my daily cookie allotment so all that is left is a plate with crumbs.  Oops.

Plus, as an added bonus, this is a huge cost saver over buying pre-made dough from the grocery store, AND you know exactly what ingredients are used.  I appreciate knowing there are no mystery ingredients in my food.

DIY: Homemade Brown Mustard

Confession: I don’t like mustard.

Well, I didn’t think I liked mustard for years because I only tried the nasty yellow mustard that has no texture and is served at fast food restaurants and diners across the country.  Then I visited the National Mustard Museum and taste-tested about 15 different varieties.  Turns out that I actually like some of the coarsely ground, more natural mustards.  Who knew?

Anyway, last Christmas, Ben and I were looking for some projects to make that would be awesome for us to eat AND serve double duty as an item in the Christmas food baskets we make as gifts for family members.  I found a few recipes for mustard, tweaked them to fit what we had in our kitchen, and presto.  Tasty mustard.  So what I’m going to share isn’t exactly a recipe… it’s more of a tutorial.  My reasoning is that you can tweak pretty much anything in here and still come up with a delicious and more-than-passable mustard.  Ready?  Here we go.

To start with, you should know mustard has three main ingredients:

  1. mustard seeds
  2. vinegar
  3. alcohol

The different varieties come from adding different types of vinegar and alcohol, as well as different ratios of yellow and brown mustards.  We also add herbs to our mustard to give it a little extra zing.  What can I say?  We like-a the zing.

Anyway, here’s what we do.

First, we mix and soak the mustard seeds.  Yellow seeds are the mildest and brown is a bit more pungent.   So, you might want to use 2/3 cup yellow mustard and 1/3 cup brown mustard seeds but feel free to experiment and see what you prefer.  Mix them together in a jar (remember my mason jar post last week?  They work great for this).

Then you add liquid.  I use a mix of alcohol and vinegar.  We usually experiment with several different batches each time we make mustard, so we play around with different versions.  We have used red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and regular vinegar.  For alcohol – you can use beer, wine, or a non-flavored liquor like rum, vodka, whiskey, etc.  (Side note – I have seen recipes that call for water rather than alcohol so I think you could easily substitute that if you prefer no spirits.)  Basically, any combination you use will give your mustard a slightly different taste.  One combo that I particularly like is a cup of dark brown beer and 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar.  Or a cup of dry white wine like chardonnay with 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar.  But seriously, use whatever you have!

Pour your liquid over the mustard seeds, then let it sit.  At least for a day, but we’ve had better luck letting it sit for several days while it soaks up the liquid.  (This last batch sat for a week and it was great!)  Note: I HIGHLY recommend labeling your batch(es) with whatever you added to your recipe.  That way you can remember what you tried and note if you liked this combo.  This is especially helpful if you are making multiple batches at a time.  If all the liquid gets soaked up, add a smidge more so you can visibly see a little liquid over the top of the mustard seeds.

If you’d like to add herbs, now is a great time.  Ben loves to add cilantro to his mustard.  I like to add thyme or rosemary. Or both.

 

Once the seeds have soaked, it’s time to food process them.  Pull out your food processor, dump the whole mixture in, and blend.  Some people add honey, brown sugar, more herbs, maple syrup, etc.  Ben likes to add horseradish or garlic. Blend/process until it’s a creamy mixture.  It will still have some texture so don’t worry about it being completely smooth.  Put it in a jar and refrigerate.  This stuff stays good for an insanely long time.  Months.  In fact, this fall we were still eating the mustard we made last September when we finally ran out.  I’m guessing that the vinegar and alcohol does a pretty good job of preserving it though I’m not a food scientist and you should do your own research on this.


We whipped up a few batches tonight and had some with our burgers.  It was soooo good.  Maybe I do enjoy mustard a little bit after all.

You should be able to find mustard seeds at your local grocery store or food co-op.  Our local co-op carries them in bulk.  Hooray!  But the first time I made this, I ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs and they are a great resource for items you are not able to find locally.  Click HERE or on the Mountain Rose Herbs banner below and it will take you right to the site.  I purchased our brown and yellow mustard seeds there, as well as some bulk herbs and essential oils.  This is an affiliate link for a company that I have used and recommend.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c
This post is linked at Frugally Sustainable, Far Above Rubies, Growing Home, Ladybug Blessings, Simply Sugar & Gluten Free blogs.

December 16, 2013 - 6:21 pm

Ericka - This looks fantastic!! I seriously can’t wait to try these!!

December 23, 2013 - 12:08 am

Elizabeth - I just got VERY excited for Christmas 🙂