Monday, August 3, 2009

The Thrifty Natural Mama

Some would love to be natural mamas, but are short on cash.  It's a popular mis-conception that it costs more to be natural.  Yes, organic food and clothing do cost more... sometimes.  Not if you're buying some of the clothing secondhand and sticking with what you really need, and not if you're growing some of the food, and cutting back on the portions of meat.  And, with the extra $4000 you save using cloth diapers over disposables (way more than that if you use cloth wipes like we do!), you'll probably come out ahead.

I like buying clothes for myself and Isla from secondhand stores.  It's much greener than buying new, (less waste, less pollution from production), and you can get really nice labels and fabrics for less than the brand new, cheaply-made polyester type at Target or Old Navy.  For myself I like swap meets, thrift stores and yard sales, as well as Twice as Nice and The Closet; for Isla The Traveling Pants and Polar Bear.  And saving money buying secondhand makes me feel a lot less guilty when I have to splurge on a nice organic mattress or really want to buy a cool but pricey outfit for Isla.

I love buying antiques, for the same reasons I buy secondhand clothes.  Santa Barbara County is full of antiques stores, especially in Summerland and Carpinteria.

We're getting rid of our water-guzzling front lawn in favor of fruit trees, and the vegetable garden in the back keeps getting bigger.  I used to buy our organic produce at farmer's market and Lazy Acres, which was delicious but pricey.  Our garden saves us so much money, and Isla has fun crawling in it to find and eat the strawberries.  The excess water from the washer waters the backyard.  (I'm planning a future post on greywater, and setting up a system at your home will save tons of money and water.)

If you're a meat-eater, buying grass-fed, free-range meat is really important for your health and the planet.  It's also more expensive.  But if we can change our ideas about what a portion of meat looks like, (or serve it as a side dish, rather than the main) and not necessarily eat it every day, than you will be spending much less money in the end, and have a healthier diet.

Natural cleaning products are really important.  The toxins in conventional cleaning products are really scary, and harmful to you, your baby, and the environment.  There are great natural options available at the supermarket and online, but if you buy vinegar and baking soda (in bulk, even, to save more money and packaging) and a few lemons, you can make your own natural cleaning products, which are really effective and practically free.  

Natural toys also seem to be more expensive, but again I've found that not to be the case.  Isla plays with her natural wood and woolen toys a lot longer than the noisy plastic versions, and we don't need to buy as many toys as we think.  At the top of Isla's list right now: playsilks - for playing peek-a-boo, wearing like a scarf, and taking in and out of her purse.  See earlier posts for more good deals on beautiful, naturally-made toys that will grow with your child.

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