Frugality

Frugal Fridays: How I Conserve Dish Soap (and water!)

My kitchen sink
Use less dish soap!

Here's how I do it:

At my kitchen sink, I keep a small pump bottle of dish soap. When it's time to wash dishes, I squirt one pump of soap into the water. I wash until it looks like I need more soap. Sometimes I need more, sometimes not; it just depends on how greasy the dishes are. If I need more, I add another pump of soap.

It's handy (no reaching inside cupboards with wet hands!), keeps the counter looking tidy (no huge bottles setting out), and quickly and efficiently dispenses enough soap but not too much!

If you notice two little pump bottles in the photo, that's because I have hand soap at the sink, also. I just re-fill the same bottles over and over!

Frugal Fridays at BiblicalWomanhood.com!

Bonus Tip: Cleaner, fresher dish water without wasting any water!

1. When I wash dishes, I start with two clean sinks. I plug one of the drains, and stack dirty dishes in that sink. I add a little soap and just enough all-hot water to wash them (usually about 3 inches in the sink). I pile clean dishes (not yet rinsed) in the other sink as I wash.

2. I wash until my water is cold and dirty, and the other sink is packed full of dishes. Occasionally I get all the dishes washed, but usually I am about half done.

3. I let out the dirty wash water, and rinse out the sink. I plug the drain again, and start rinsing all my clean dishes, and piling them into the drainer. By the time I have 3-4 inches of fresh hot rinse water in the sink, I turn off the water and keep rinsing until all the dishes are rinsed.

4. Then, I add a squirt of soap, and start piling in the rest of the dirty dishes. I continue doing this until all the dishes are washed -- sometimes as often as 3 or 4 times!

5. So, I get fresh hot wash water whenever I need it, and I'm not wasting water! (We live in town and have to pay for our water and sewer)

More On Recycling

First, I am not an "environmentalist" and recycling isn't a huge issue to me, but on the other hand, I do think it's good; first to conserve and reduce what we use, and then to recycle. It's much better to not have tons of stuff to recycle, obviously!

I'll be the first to admit that when we lived in a small apartment (with no garage) and trash pick-up was a required flat rate, I didn't think as much about what I was tossing. It was when we started having to pay money based on the amount of trash we accumulated that I got more serious about reducing our waste.

Where we live now, we have a garage, and so I keep the recyclables out there. That's more convenient, since we don't have curb-side recycling pickup, and I store my recyclables for weeks. Even though it's in the garage, I still don't want trash taking up lots of space, so I flatten boxes, smash cans (or stack smaller cans inside larger ones), and things like that so it takes up less space.

Composting: Your lawn or garden will thank you!

Joshua was reading up on compost, since we started our compost pile, and he read that food scraps or organic matter that will turn into compost on a compost pile won't decompose into compost in a landfill, because it's not the right environment. Here's a fascinating article about composting and another article about grass clippings, which are a great boost to your lawn or compost pile, but not-so-great for landfills.  We've dumped lots of garbage on our compost pile, but it keeps sinking and doesn't look like much at all! It would have been several big bags' worth if I were throwing it in the trash. Composting is so much easier than throwing food scraps in the trash, besides being good environmentally, once we started doing it we wondered what had taken us so long!

But how do you make less trash?

The little things add up. It's a slow lifestyle change, and a mindset of constantly thinking of ways to conserve "stuff", which is good for us, the environment, and my bank account.

I guess for example, I try to "conserve" on laundry. We don't wear dirty clothes, but I don't change the childrens' outfits every single day. Joshua's work clothes needs washed after one wear, but his other clothes lasts for a couple days before it needs washed.

So, the less clothes we throw in the wash, the less soap and water we use (and unless it's a very dirty load, I use about 1/2 the recommended soap amount, and never fabric softener). The less soap/fabric softener/etc. we use, the fewer plastic bottles we have to throw away. It sounds like it wouldn't really make a difference, but it's just a lot of little things that add up.

One of the reasons I like home canning (besides the high quality of food :D) is that I have very few glass jars to recycle. Or rather, "recycling" my glass involves washing the canning jar with my dishes and storing it until next year's garden harvest to be re-filled! ;) That's definitely less energy than it takes to recycle glass on a larger scale.

We do have a few things that we simply can't cut out OR recycle. Light bulbs, for example. We are trying to use mostly the energy-efficient light bulbs, which last a long time, but we still have some regular ones and every month or two, there's a dead one to throw away. And spiral notebooks (the metal part), empty pens, etc. So we aren't magical people who wash and re-use everything. ;)

But once you're separating your trash and seeing what is actually accumulating into trash, it's easier to figure out how to reduce. For example, I like to use notebook paper in a 3-ring binder rather than a spiral notebook when possible, because there's less waste. Or, gradually decrease how liberally you use things like shampoo, lotion, laundry detergent, hair gel, etc. and you'll empty fewer containers. It's good to recycle, it's better to re-use (when possible), and it's even better to reduce what you use. :)

And lastly: it's unrealistic to expect to change your lifestyle overnight.

It's a gradual process, and it takes time to learn, like anything new. But once you're accustomed to conserving more, or have made major changes (like switching to cloth napkins, washable cleaning rags/products, or cloth diapers) you'll hardly notice the extra bother.

Frugal Fridays: How we avoid paying for trash pick-up

Frugal Fridays at Biblicalwomanhood.com

Every city seems to have different policies on garbage pick-up. We used to live in a town that required all its residents to pay a flat trash pick-up rate every month. I have heard of other towns that don't charge at all.

Where we currently live, there are a number of different garbage disposal companies, with varying rates, and it's up to the residents to choose what they want to pay for.

However, being the frugal person I hope I am, Wink rather than simply deciding on a cheap garbage service, I decided to try to eliminate the need for grabage pick-up, period.

So, here is how we avoid paying for trash to go into the landfill!

1. Recycle. This takes care of glass, cans, and aluminum for us. If you aren't able to burn your paper waste, you can also recycle cardboard, paper, plastics, old phone books and catalogs, etc. Check locally and see what all they will be willing to take for recycling, and then enjoy dumping your trash off for free while helping conserve energy and resources!

2. Compost. We made a compost pile in a little section of our yard and in our kitchen we have a small "garbage bucket" (actually an old plastic ice cream container) where we throw all our food scraps, banana peels, etc. At least once a day, the bucket is dumped on the pile and washed out, to avoid any bad smells or fruit flies. :)

3. Cloth diapers. For most of this year so far, I had two children in diapers, and by using cloth diapers there were no dirty smelly diapers to have to get rid of. Yay! No paying for diapers, and no paying to get rid of them. And, no super-stinky trash cans of diapers, or the need to buy lots of plastic bags to trap the smell.

4. Re-use things. But even more importantly: the less disposable "trash" you buy, the less you will have to get rid of. Just stop buying the stuff that you're constantly having to throw away... paper plates, styrofoam cups, paper napkins, etc. and you won't need to throw it away anymore. The "extra work" won't be so bad once you get used to re-using things, and the best way to do that is just stop buying trash!

I made my own refried beans!

Homemade refried beans recipe  Okay, I'm sure some of you experienced cooks are thinking, "What's so special about making refried beans? And how could anyone not know how to make them from scratch?!" Well, since I didn't grow up eating beans, and I'm not related to any mexicans, I'm just now learning this stuff!

But I am SO hooked on making my own from now on! They were just wonderful! Normally I eat refried beans along with some meat and cheese and lots of other things to help them taste good. These beans I made today... I could use them plain as a chip-dip and it was delicious!

I also got to make them just the consistency I wanted, which was still slightly lumpy and not too thick and paste-like.

And all along I was thinking, "Yay! One more thing that I don't have to buy in a can!"

We made the yummiest nachos for lunch, using some of these beans. Recipe to come... maybe tomorrow! :D

Yehoshua's haircut photo, cream of chicken soup recipe, grocery shopping, changes, etc.

I made some homemade cream of chicken soup a couple days ago, and added the recipe to the website. I don't make it very often, because I like to make it in large batches and freeze it for individual uses later. I have been doing this for a few years now.

I remember how "addicted" I was to the store-bought cans. Not because of the taste, but the convenience! I kept thinking, "Next time I will make homemade." Then I would go to make a recipe that called for cream of chicken soup, and I didn't have any chicken broth handy and/or hadn't left enough time to start from scratch. So I would reach for another can, telling myself that "next time" would be different. ;)

Finally, I just stopped buying the cans. That solved my problem. ;) If I have a problem of using/eating something when I shouldn't, the best solution (for me) sometimes is to just not have any available, at all. :)

But in case you're wondering... I don't think the canned soup is "evil" or something... just not as healthy, and certainly not as cheap as a little leftover chicken broth, some seasonings, and a little milk and flour. ;)

 

 
Yehoshua (28 months old)

Unfortunately (for those friends and readers who love photos!), Yehoshua's cute little smiles are getting more and more difficult to capture these days. He tries to run from the camera, or makes goofy faces. I guess that's how it is, now that he's a "big boy". :) In this picture, he was wrapping the arms of his monkey around his neck. His cute little t-shirt was a gift from my friend Lucy, over a year ago -- and it still fits him! Yay! :D

Joshua headed to the grocery store with Yehoshua not too long ago. We have been trying to stretch out our shopping trips (they're usually weekly) because we seem to save money by doing that. :) Not sure how that works out, since it seems as though we would eat the same amount regardless, but maybe it's just that I have to be more creative with meal planing, and we're even less likely to waste anything or forget about anything when the fridge is more bare. :)

I am so thankful for Joshua's willingness to go get groceries for me. He even takes Yehoshua along! They are "shopping buddies", as Yehoshua says. :) Yehoshua, of course, just loves it! And I love the peaceful time at home with Eliyahu. It's a wonderful break for me. I am so blessed!

This coming week will bring some changes in our household... I'll talk more on those as things unfold. For now, I need to go mop the kitchen floor, make dinner, and try to finish some other chores. :)

Using Dried Legumes

Tomatoes and Black Beans over Pasta 

Preparing Dried Legumes 

Most legumes should be soaked in cold water for at least 4-8 hours before cooking. An alternate way (if you're short on time) is to bring to a boil, turn off heat, and soak for an hour or two. Drain soaking water, add fresh water (this reduces "gassiness" associated with eating beans), and bring to a boil.

Here are some approximate cooking times for legumes:

Split lentils: 15-20 minutes

Whole lentils, aduki beans, mung beans, and split peas: 25-30 minutes

Black-eyed peas, Great Northern beans, lima beans, and navy beans: 45 minutes

Black beans, white kidney beans, and red kidney beans: 60 minutes

Pinto beans and chickpeas (garbanzo beans): 75 minutes

Butter beans and fava beans: 90 minutes

Some tips for cooking with beans:

  • Mix beans with similar cooking times when cooking mixed batches.
  • Season beans near the end of their cooking time, since salt can prevent them from softening.
  • Cooked beans can be refrigerated for several days, or frozen for up to three months.
  • Beans can be added to soups, or mixed with meat (or in place of meat), or even mashed and seasoned as a dip.

When using freshly cooked beans in a recipe that calls for canned beans, substitute 1 1/4 cups of beans per 15.5 ounce can.

Food Budgeting Tips: How We Eat Well On Less

homemade pizza (not yet baked)

Plan ahead

Planning ahead means we'll be less tempted to turn to expensive, prepared foods, or want to go out to eat. It's easy to get in a habit of not planning, and then at the last minute say, "Can we just order pizza?" Problem solved... until the next night's dinnertime arrives... and there's still nothing planned. When you plan a meal, start it in plenty of time. For example, season the chicken for oven-roasted chicken and have it in the fridge, all ready to pop in the oven the next day; or, make a dish of lasagna in the morning so that when your children skip their afternoon naps you don't run behind schedule.

Plan some basic menus. I have written up a few menu-planning tips here. If you're just getting started with menu planning, you can do a simple one-week menu. My main "rule" is to know what I'm making for meals at least one day in advance. I've done menu planning in a variety of ways. Try different ideas until you find a system that is easy for you. Then stick with it until you come across a new idea or system you want to try! I like variety, so I am constantly trying new recipes and methods of meal planning. :)

Shop for sales

You can also save by planning ahead and getting store specials. Find out what you use the most of, and stock up when it's on sale. It may take a little practice to not over-buy or under-buy, but eventually you will be getting just the right amount of things and be paying significantly less for your groceries than if you just shopped randomly. I always get my meat and cheese on sale. Most other items are found on sale or at Aldi's. It's not actually cheaper for us to drive to a Sam's Club/Costco type of place, plus pay membership dues, just to get lower everyday prices, since we can get sale items at local stores. But your situation may be different. The idea is to take what resources you have available and put them to the best use for your family. :)

Use more

Use more of what you -- not me, or someone else you know -- can get for less. Try to utilize ingredients that you and your family actually like to eat and that you can find affordably. For us, that means we get to eat cheese, which we love, because I get it at a low sale price about once every 6 weeks. We buy chicken breast at a sale price every 2-3 months, and try to get enough to last until the next sale.

When we have fresh garden produce, we eat a lot of whatever we have. Last year we had an abundance of onions and green peppers from the garden, and in order to use them before they went bad, I fried them with ground beef and put it in the freezer.

My menus probably won't work perfectly for your family, because things that are easy to get or inexpensive for me might cost a lot for you. Try to think of (tasty!) uses for things that don't cost you much. :)

Don't waste

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it actually takes some planning. I can't even remember the statistics for how much food the average family in the United States wastes every year, but it's a lot. I never intentionally waste food. I always tell myself that if YHWH provided food for us, I need to be a good steward and not waste any of it... not even a bite! But, neglect and lack of planning can lead to waste. We've probably all cleaned out the refrigerator and found a container of mold that, two weeks ago, could have been a good portion of a meal, or at least been some part of lunch. Sometimes I put off using something until it goes bad, and then I don't feel so guilty about throwing it away.

But developing some good habits can reduce waste. For example, first, notice what it is that you are wasting.

Are you simply forgetting what's in your fridge, and then finding rotten food weeks later? Then try labeling your containers (use a  thick black marker and some masking tape, and CLEARLY label your leftovers with name and date). I try to "clean out" my fridge just about everyday. I know that sounds extreme, but it's really not a big job. I just look through what's in there and try to make sure it's organised. Personally, I have leftovers and opened jars of things (the most easily-forgotten things) on the top shelf; the middle shelf holds eggs, tortillas, lunchmeat, etc., and the bottom shelf has produce, milk, and butter. If a shelf looks dirty, I wipe it down. I also wipe down the door handle if it needs it. I usually do this after dinner each night, and use my dishrag. It only takes a couple minutes and helps me remember what we have already open to use up. It's a habit now... when I wash dinner dishes and put away the leftovers, I clean out the fridge. It's amazing how disorderly it can get in just one day's time!

Sliced peppers and onions (for fajitas)

Do you shred too much cheese at a time, and it gets moldy before you get it used? Shredding a lot of cheese or cutting extra lettuce all at once saves time and dishes, but be sure to balance it with how much you can realistically use before it goes bad. The same goes for making large batches of meals. If you don't want to eat bean soup every day for lunch one week, make a smaller batch. Or, freeze some. Look to see what you need to use up before it spoils, so you can incorporate it into your meals. If you have a gallon of milk that is about to expire, make a big batch of corn chowder, and freeze the leftovers.

Use your freezer for leftovers! Freezing leftovers has been one of my main tickets to reducing waste. I love the convenience of making large batches of soups or taco meat, and then just freezing the leftovers in meal-sized (or two-meal-sized) portions. Then it's like a whole new meal, 3 weeks later, with basically no work. Yay! Now, a freezer can easily get as disorderly as a refrigerator (especially if you have a large one), so be careful. I always CLEARLY mark what I'm putting in. For example, "2 cups cooked ground round, fried with garlic, green peppers, and onions 8-1-06". Then there are no "mystery packages" that have to be made into soup. ;) I have also been known to write things like "GOOD!!!" or "Very Good" on a container of soup, to remind myself that I wasn't just freezing it to get rid of it... it was actually a delicious meal. :D

Another thing to do with leftovers is to make "new" meals from them. For example, leftover meat from taco salad can become chili, or incredibly easy taco pie, or enchiladas, or burritos, or... Leftover chicken meat can be cubed and used in meals that call for cooked chicken. Leftover grilled chicken can be used to top a lettuce salad. This way, you don't "feel" like you're eating leftovers at all! :) Here are some great ideas for meals you can make from leftovers.

homemade wheat bread

Cook from scratch 

And lastly, cook from scratch whenever possible. So many things are cheaper this way. Dried beans are much cheaper than canned ones... but you just have to plan ahead and soak and cook them in time. :) Make "real" oatmeal for breakfast rather than instant. Make homemade breakfast cereals, which are so tasty and would cost several dollars per pound if you were purchasing them. Make your own version of canned condensed soups, stuffing mix, taco meat seasoning, onion soup mix, and whatever else you buy that you use frequently, is expensive, or, is full of MSG!

This is just some of what we do to try to save money while still enjoying nice meals. I'm sure I've forgotten things... it's just such a huge topic! I'd love to hear some tips from those of you who are interested in budgeting and meal-planning!

Cloth diapering: my method, ideas, and tips, with photos!

I'd like to start by saying what a blessing cloth diapers have been to our family. I remember the excitement of pinning a cloth diaper onto Yehoshua for the first time, when he was a few weeks old... and then later the realization that cloth diapering (or changing diapers, period!) was a never-ending process and everyday part of my life. :)

My cloth diapers have been a blessing, first of all, because they were all gifts. I think 6 different people have helped build up my diaper supply (mostly at the baby shower for Yehoshua) by giving me diapers. I was even given some Gerber vinyl covers, which lasted for a long time with Yehoshua and finally wore out with Eliyahu. I have a variety of different thicknesses and kinds of cloth pre-folds (the most basic, cheapest variety of cloth diaper) and have so many that I can wash a full load of diapers and still have some for the baby to wear!

Cloth diapers have also been a blessing financially. I use cloth diapers for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason, I confess, is financial. Even buying the least expensive disposable diapers, and changing the child infrequently, is still more expensive than cloth diapering. If I can avoid spending money every week for disposable diapers (and then spending money on trash pick-up to get rid of them!) we actually do save a lot. (Yes, even including extra water and electric costs and washing machine wear.)

I like the feeling of soft clean cotton against my baby's skin, and being able to change my baby whenever he wets without worrying about how many diapers we're going through. The clean diapers smell so fresh and nice, unlike disposables (which in my opinion stink unless they have perfumes added, which is probably bad for the baby!). I don't mind doing the extra laundry; it's a nice feeling to have a basket full of clean dry diapers, waiting to be used again.

And, it's nice to know that I'm not creating a lot of waste. The average child goes through 7,000 diapers before they're potty trained. That's a lot of waste when it's all in disposables in a landfill. I like washing my diapers. The "waste" goes down the drain and the trashcan doesn't stink. (At least, not from diapers. :D) And can I tell you how nice it is to not need to empty the trash every night because it's smelling up the downstairs?! Better yet, I don't even need to take out the trash anymore because it's all either recyclable, compost, or burnable! :)

And, too, the age-old arguments of the convenience of not having to buy big packages of diapers, and never "running out" of diapers (though there have been times where I was so far behind in things that I was running out of clean ones :D).

I think cloth diapers are more work than disposables. So I'm not going to argue that they're easier. In some ways, yes, they are. But not in every way. For us, the benefits and blessings have outweighed the extra work (which isn't maybe as much as you'd imagine).

I enjoyed using cloth diapers with Yehoshua, and planned to use them with Eliyahu as well. With both children, I have used disposables for the first few weeks, particularly at night, while I was adjusting to new schedules and recovering from the birth. Newborns are so unpredictable (at least, mine were) but after a few weeks, we were settled into somewhat of a schedule.

What I didn't know with Eliyahu (at first, anyway), was that he was sensitive to something (still don't know what, exactly) in disposable diapers. By his third day of life, he was already starting to get diaper rash. It continued despite all my efforts to get rid of it. Someone had given us a package of Huggies diapers, and I somehow realised that when we used that brand, his rash got better. We used Huggies and the rash did start clearing up noticeably within about 12 hours. I tried a number of different brands of disposable diapers, and all caused an awful rash. Huggies diapers, even with coupons, were outrageously expensive, so to cloth we went.

Eliyahu hasn't had a single rash since we started using cloth diapers. Yehoshua only got diaper rash once when he was a baby, and I discovered it was due to some detergent residue in the diapers. I have had such good success with cloth diapering. My house doesn't stink, and I know that my children are in soft, dry, nice-smelling diapers. (I never understood why people used the term "paper diapers" for disposable diapers, until I used cloth for a while and then felt a disposable!)

So there's some back ground for you; just my personal thoughts and why we personally like cloth. Now, for the how-to!

I have a kind of diaper called a "pre-fold". There are a lot of "fancy" (and expensive!) very nice cloth diapers out there. I haven't had experience with them, so I won't be talking about them in this article. (As a side note, I have used flat-fold diapers, and don't mind them, but pre-folds do save me time, so I sewed all of my flat-fold diapers into pre-folds.) Pre-folds are the cheapest, most-durable, and easiest-to-wash diapers. They require some sort of waterproof cover, like the Gerber vinyl covers sold at Wal-mart (which I don't recommend--keep reading). 

Prefolded diapers in varying thicknesses

Here is a picture of some of my pre-folded diapers. At the top left, you see a very thin diaper with a washcloth folded in thirds and laid in the center, to increase the absorbency. At the top right, there is one of Eliyahu's nighttime diapers, which is really just two thinner diapers with a washcloth folded inside. The bottom right diaper is a fairly thin daytime diaper for Eliyahu, and the bottom left is Yehoshua's daytime diaper, a medium-thick one.

You can probably see that there isn't really one right way to "do" cloth diapers, at least with pre-folds. I take whatever I have and make it into the absorbency I need. Washcloths are great for increasing the absorbency without increasing the bulk too much.

Here is how I fold my "pre-folds":

Diaper waiting to be folded

   Sides in...

Front up a little...   ...and front up the rest of the way.

This much folding would be good for a very small baby. A larger child would need very little of the front folded under (step 3). The diapers can be folded to fit whatever size baby you have, which is one of the reasons that pre-folds are more economical than fitted diapers, where a variety of sizes are needed.

Diaper covers

Here are some diaper covers. These are the four different kinds I have. There are other, "fancier" covers with which I haven't had experience, so do your research and check your budget and make choices based on what's best for you. I'm just writing about what has worked for me. :)

At the top left, you see a diaper cover that opens at the sides and has snaps. The snaps are very nice, and adjustable (so it fits while the baby grows!), and there's some airflow at the sides because of the snaps. These are all very good features. Side opening = no poop on baby's legs. Adjustable snaps = fits baby longer. Airflow at sides = less chance of rashes. The only slight issue with this cover is that sometimes during a long nap it will leak, especially if the diaper inside isn't as absorbent as it should have been.

At the top middle, you see a Gerber vinyl diaper cover. These can be found at Wal-mart, and they are cheap for a reason. They do work well, but they don't last long at all. If you buy these, you can almost plan on replacing them in a couple months' time. I have found that when these covers crack, plastic tape can be placed over the cracks and will go through the washer and last for a while longer. I don't throw mine away until they are beyond tape-repair. :)

At the bottom of the photo, there is a velcro cover. This cover is vinyl, with cotton cloth on the outside. It has velcro, and elastic around the waist, so it's adjustable and comfortable. There are a lot of great things about this cover (like the first cover mentioned) but a few drawbacks. The cotton on the outside wicks moisture from the edges of the diaper. Velcro wears out a lot faster than snaps, even when it's washed correctly. And this cover tends to leak during naps or nighttime use.

At the very right is my favorite diaper cover. I purchased these nylon diaper covers when my vinyl ones all wore out in the smaller sizes. I can't say enough good things about this cover. It doesn't leak. It's still fairly soft. It's machine-washable. It's affordable. It doesn't wear out. If I have to buy more covers, I plan to get this kind. At $2 each, they're much cheaper than the very nice ones. 

cloth diaper wipes

And the last of my supplies: cloth wipes. If you're washing diapers, you may as well wash wipes, too. And it's so much cheaper and nicer than buying the commercially made ones laden with ingredients I can't pronounce. Top left is a plain white washcloth, top right is some inexpensive baby washcloths. Bottom right is some homemade washcloths which were a gift to me, and bottom left is unhemmed wipes cut from old baby bath towels and socks.

You can also make homemade baby wipes using Bounty paper towels, boiling water, a little baby bath soap, and olive oil. I have made those in the past, but I find it simpler to just use washcloths with plain water.

Eliyahu, getting a clean diaper put on  Eliyahu, with a clean diaper

Here is what the diaper looks like when it's pinned on. I prefer regular pins because they hold well. (I've never poked the baby, though I have poked my own finger a couple times!) I do have a snappi but it won't snag most of my diapers and I'm so clumsy at using it anyway. I know others who love snappis, so I think it's a matter of preference. :)

Cloth diaper covered with Dappi Nylon Diaper Cover Clothes snapped up over diaper

Here is the diaper, covered with a Dappi (brand) nylon cover. And, the happy baby, all snapped up :).

So, my basic supplies are: cotton pre-folded diapers, nylon diaper covers, and a pair of diaper pins.

Optional supplies for me include rectangular fleece liners (cut from an old blanket) which can be used to line the diaper so the baby feels dry; I don't mind using them but found that they were more bother to hang on the clothesline than they were really worth.

Now for the exciting part: washing and drying cloth diapers.

I want to be sure to mention that cloth diapers is just another part of parenting, and your method will probably depend more on your circumstances, such as your house or lifestyle, rather than a certain "right" or best way. I have changed how I do things several times. Here is a basic overview:

With a baby who is exclusively breastfed, diapers can just be thrown into the washer. Do a pre-soak/rinse, and then your normal wash cycle with an extra rinse. I did this with Yehoshua, and it saved me a lot of time (rather than washing out all the poopy ones). With Eliyahu, he likes to fill his diaper only once every day or two, so I wash his out in the toilet since they're so full and far between. :) With a child who is eating solid foods, diapers need to be rinsed/scrubbed out in the toilet.

I have always done a "dry pail" which means I don't keep any water in my diaper pail. I do sometimes toss some baking soda in the pail with the diapers, but not always.

The night before I plan to wash the diapers, I put them in the washer and start it (cold water). I leave the lid up so it washed and then just soaks. The next morning, I continue the wash, adding a small amount of detergent and some baking soda. Then I do a second wash/rinse (warm/cold) with plain water (no more soap). This gets the diapers nice and clean. If I remember, I add a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to the final rinse water, as a natural fabric softener and to combat hard-water smell.

And lastly, if at all possible, I hang the diapers (and covers!) out in the sun. Any stains on the diapers magically disappear after a few hours in the sun, leaving bright white diapers and somehow also helping combat the likelihood of diaper rash. Sun-drying diapers is the way to go if at all possible.

My clean basket of diapers and pail of dirty ones...

This is the usual state of my diaper supply: a laundry basket full of unfolded clean diapers, and a pail of dirty ones. I love to have my diapers all folded and stacked neatly. With both children still in diapers, I use about 25 diapers + 10 wipes/washcloths/liners each day. I have about a 3-day supply of diapers. All my efforts at folding and neatly stacking are used up within 48 hours. So for now, I just store them in the basket and grab what I need. The exception is that I do fold nighttime diapers, so I can change Eliyahu during the night with minimal effort. (I change him on the bed in the dark!)

Combatting Diaper Rash

Here are some things I have found useful for keeping diaper rash away:

1. Change baby frequently. Check for wet diapers all the time, and change as often as needed!

2. When changing a diaper, gently pat (not rub) the diaper area with a soft dry washcloth, removing any excess moisture. Allow baby's bottom to completely air-dry between diaper changes; don't just stick a new diaper on right away. Give baby a toy to occupy him during this length of time :D

3. Switch covers. Diaper covers that were used for wet diapers don't need to be washed after every use. However, they should be air-dried between uses. I usually have 2-3 covers "in rotation" so I always have a dry one to put on the baby.

4. Make sure you use very little detergent when you wash your diapers. Very little. Open your washer and look to see if there are soap suds in your final rinse. You might be surprised at how far a little detergent goes.

5. Don't use perfumed detergent. Don't use fabric softener (ever!!).

6. Give your diapers as much sunlight as possible.

7. Use only water when you clean baby's bottom. Be sure to air-dry after you've washed baby's bottom AND when changing wet diapers (which don't require wipes). Allow baby's bottom as much exposure to the fresh air as is possible. My diaper changes usually take 5-15 minutes.

8. If the rash is really bad, lengthen the amount of fresh air it receives. Consider using a little rash ointment for your baby's comfort. (Try not to get the ointment on the cloth diaper, though, as it's nearly impossible to wash out!) Switch to disposables if needed, so you can use a more liberal amount of ointment without ruining your cloth diapers.

This has gotten long, and I'm sure I haven't covered everything! If you have questions, please leave comments and I will either reply to your comment or edit my post. There are also some great websites about cloth diapering, such as diaper safari, the diaper hyena, and diaper pin.

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