Category Archives: Product Reviews

Kid-tested, mom-tested baby product reviews, toddler product reviews and household product reviews.

Life with cloth diapers (and Smartipants winner!)

So, we’ve made through ten days of (mostly) cloth diapering. (I don’t have that many cloth diapers, so we’ve reverted to a lot of disposables lately.) I always imagined cloth diapering to be very gross—all that toilet dunking and then wet pee-poo-toilet-water diapers to deal with. Plus, washing them? Ugh.

Reality: not that gross. I mean, considering that we’re dealing with pee and poo anyway, it’s not really that different.

The routine
Diaper changes are basically the same, except we can’t use Desitin now (bad for the diapers’ absorbency. Luckily, we’ve also been good about changing her quickly enough—no rash yet). Rather than wrapping up the dirty diaper, if it’s just wet, we pull out the insert (unless it’s our Smartipants or an all-in-one/AIO) and toss it in the diaper pail.

If it’s a poopy diaper, we take the diaper to the bathroom and dump it. Sometimes it’s just dumping, sometimes there’s some shaking, and sometimes we grab the TP and wipe the diaper out as best we can. I don’t flush the diapers, and I wear myself out doing this—I get as much as I can off and trust the rest to come out in the wash. So far, it always has.

The laundry
So we collect “soiled” diapers in a 5 gallon bucket (because we only have about a thousand laying around) (no, I’m not joking). I won’t lie: the bucket stinks. Bad. Woot for airtight lids. I suspect that some of the used diapers we bought need to be “stripped,” either for hard water or just age. And then we’ll grab another bucket. Phew!

Dumping the bucket in the wash is fairly easy—if I’ve remembered to pull out the inserts and do up the laundry tabs as I go. (On velcro-closure diapers, there are extra pads on the back of the diaper to attach the velcro so you don’t make “diaper chains.”)

I use a plain rinse, and then a hot wash cycle with an extra rinse and about half as much detergent as usual (I had to go out and buy a brand that Smartipants doesn’t specifically say not to use, like our regular one).

Every other wash, I dry the diapers on low with three of our extra (dry) towels in the dryer. The rest of the time, I hang them up to dry, usually in the family room. And if I’m really on top of things, I stuff the inserts into the diapers so they’re ready in advance. (I totally need to make myself a diaper stacker!)

Is it a lot more work? No. It’s a little more work, but let’s be honest: I have a washing machine. I dump dirty clothes in, add detergent and switch it on. Life is easy.

Scale of grossness
Dumping or shaking poopy diaper—1 (unless the splash hits you)
Wiping baby’s poopy bum—2
Washing cloth diapers—3
Wiping toddler’s poopy bum—5
Wiping out diaper—6
Wiping out training potty—28

The cost
It is a much bigger investment initially. I bought 24 diapers and inserts for around $200. (Smartipants says 24 should do you.) I used craigslist (not averse to used, clean diapers) and searched out seconds, so I really got a good deal—less than $10/diaper (including insert). There are even message boards where they do lots of “FFS” giveaways/drawings (free for shipping—you pay shipping and you get the diapers free). Brand new diapers can cost up to $20 a piece.

I think our disposables run about $0.30 a piece, so $200 would buy about 670 diapers. At the rate little babies use diapers, that’s about three months’ worth. Not bad—if you can stop yourself from buying all those cute patterns.

One major plus for my experience: my husband is totally on board with me for this. (In fact, he’s been thinking about cloth diapering for longer than I have.) He’s down with using cloth diapers, changing cloth diapers (yes, even poopy ones!), pulling out the inserts, washing them and drying them (line or dryer). Without his support, I probably would have given up a while ago.

The winner!
And I had a Smartipants diaper to give away, too. So let’s have a drumroll please—the winner is:

Kayla of Monkey Sew, Monkey Do!

Congrats! Your diaper will be winging its way to you soon!

For those of you who didn’t win, I still have good news. If you’re looking to try Smartipants, there’s a good sale on seconds (slightly irregular new diapers—maybe misaligned snaps or crooked stitching). You can get 10 diapers (no inserts) for $69 and free shipping—but girl colors only. (Normally, the seconds are $99.)

Thanks to everyone who entered, and thanks for all the birthday wishes—it was a wonderful birthday, especially since two of my sisters came in from out of state to surprise me!

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Smartipants cloth diaper review (and giveaway!) [CLOSED]

This giveaway has ended.

So the other day, I lost my mind. I got this email from a cloth diaper company, and although I’d poo-pooed the idea before (oh, man, what a pun), and I never respond to PR emails, this cloth diaper sounded so good I had to give it a shot. So I asked for a sample.

And then I kinda went off the deep end and bought a whole bunch of cloth diapers. (I have to have something to compare it to, right?)

The cloth diapers I got a free sample of are called Smartipants (these companies all have these ridiculously cute names). They’re in the style called “pocket diapers”—the plasticized cover and lining are sewn together and you slip an absorbent insert into a pocket in the lining. Smartipants use snaps for the outside closure—a row across the top to fit in the waist, and a few settings on the front to fit in the rise, to make the diaper very adjustable (it’s a “one-size” diaper—some other kinds you have to buy different sizes as your child grows).

Rebecca shows of her Smartipants

One thing that makes Smartipants unique is the design—with other pocket diapers, you have to pull the dirty insert out before washing (on a grossness scale of one to ten, that’s about a 4.5). With Smartipants, the insert is supposed to agitate out in the wash all by itself.

That’s pretty clever.

Especially since it does. Even when you stuff two inserts in there instead of one.

I’ve used the Smartipants diaper and insert three times this week, and it’s probably been one of my favorites of the styles we’ve tried. It did leak once—when I put her down for a nap in it, which turned into an extra-long nap. (Three hours is too long for just about any cloth diaper, but the next day I put two inserts in and her once-again-extra-long nap had no leaks—and no pulling dirty inserts out of the pockets.)

The snaps are super strong—and like many snaps, they’re a little hard to get off. The fit was good (Rebecca is light and short for her age, but somehow manages a serious pot belly and chubby thighs). They’re on the trim side as far as cloth diapers go (I haven’t found any cloth diapers that are as trim as disposables), and they’re the easiest to wash 😀 .

(Perhaps the best testament: I’ve already ordered a bunch more—you know, ones I have to pay for.)

If you’re ready to jump off the deep end, too—or if you’re already there 😉 —and in honor of my birthday (it’s tomorrow), I’m giving away a free sample of Smartipants for one lucky commenter! Comment on this post by noon MDT on Monday to be entered to win!

And lest you think this is an April Fool’s joke—seriously, I’ve been using cloth diapers exclusively since Sunday. I’ll tell you all about it next week, okay?

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Why I Don’t Play The Grocery Game

Yes, you read that headline right. I don’t play The Grocery Game. I know that a lot of bloggers will tell you how wonderful it is, and it’s true that you can save a lot of money. I did try the Grocery Game for 12 weeks and saved a lot of money—when it worked. But here are the reasons why it just didn’t work for us.

Local grocery store sales schedules don’t cooperate
For some reason, the major stores in my area (read: not the cheaper grocery stores, which aren’t included in the Grocery Game) run their sales from Wednesday to the following Tuesday. Teri’s List (The Grocery Game list of the best deals) comes out on Sunday around noon. I don’t shop on Sundays, so that leaves just two days that I can use the grocery list. To get deals, that means I absolutely have to go out on Monday or Tuesday. If I’m busy or sick, too bad.

By the time I could shop, the shelves were picked clean
That wouldn’t be quite as bad except for the fact that, when I finally did get to go out armed with the best coupon/deal/sale combinations, there was nothing left. No, I don’t mean “Oh, my favorite flavor of this is gone, so I’ll have to settle for my second favorite” gone.

I mean the shelves with the sale items were completely empty. The end-of-aisle displays and island displays were gone. There was no more stock in the back. And the next shipment wouldn’t be in for days—till after the sale ended. “Gone” gone. No rainchecks.

Granted, this only happened with the absolute best sales, but it usually happened by Friday night (sometimes as early as 9 PM on day one of the sale, though!). The premise behind the Grocery Game is that sales run in 12 week cycles. If they’re so predictable, why not time the new lists so I can go at the beginning of the sales, before everything is picked over? And, really, are there that many good coupons in the coming week that waiting until the next Sunday’s paper justifies missing most of the good sales?

I’m a terrible stockpiler
Actually, I’m a great stockpiler. Pack rat, even. But I’m not quite as good at remember to use the things I stockpiled. My freezer must be very efficient—it’s always full. (I haven’t been able to buy a substantial amount of frozen food in . . . probably two years.) I’m pretty good at using canned goods (thank you, FIFO organizer), but everything else either takes up space on the shelf, goes bad before I remember it or both.

Frankly, I don’t need this stuff
I saw Jurassic Park the other day for the first time (just the beginning; I can’t stand violence so I made Ryan change the channel). To paraphrase what’s probably the best line (philosophically, at least), the Grocery Game keeps you so preoccupied with whether or not you can, you didn’t stop to think if you should.

To put it another way: I’m a very frugal person. Okay, I’m cheap. I find excuses not to spend money. But give me the Grocery Game list and I’ll buy anything that looks remotely good. And related to the previous point, I don’t even manage to eat all of it. (I have food bought on the Grocery Game that expired more than a year ago. Sure, I saved money on it, but I never liked it and never ate it. So is that saving money?)

It’s just food
I know, I know, food is a little bit important in sustaining life. Right. But the things that coupons come for most of the time will not form part of a complete meal. For example, in this week’s paper, I found coupons for:

  • Fruit snacks
  • Cinnamon rolls, biscuits
  • Cereal
  • Desserts
  • Snack cakes
  • Chips
  • Candy
  • Frozen pizza and pizza-type things
  • Spaghetti-Os

Actual meals in there? Breakfast, biscuits as a side with dinner, freezer pizza and canned spaghetti (which I don’t even like). Healthy.

It’s mostly just food—food I probably didn’t need anyway. Again, even if I can get $50 worth of snack food for $0.50, once again, it doesn’t mean I should. It’s $0.50 I don’t really need to spend (and it’s never just $0.50) and it’s probably 50 pounds I don’t need to gain.

Granted, the Grocery Game lists do note when there’s a good sale on fruit and meat, but I can figure that out myself.

I’m just not convinced
I know that it’s so easy to come home from the Grocery Game with a huge amount listed on the receipt as your “Amount Saved.” The rewards seem very tangible. But when I buy the store brand on sale instead of the name brand, my receipt doesn’t list that as part of my amount saved. While I could be saving just as much, the rewards are less tangible.

For example, I took a look at my grocery receipt for last week and compared prices on a few things that you just can’t use coupons on: store-brand milk, store-brand juice, meat (London broil), cucumbers, tomatoes and nectarines. I chose these because they happened to be on sale at both the discount store and my old Grocery Game store this week. Some were better deals

What did I discover? I was overcharged for my nectarines! I want my $1.47 back! (Why you should always check your receipt, as mentioned in a good post on grocery shopping on Get Rich Slowly.)

Erm, um. . . . In the amounts that I bought of these six things, the discount store was cheaper by more than $5 for one week’s worth of groceries. But if I really wanted to compare prices, one thing I’d have to take into account: I bought 2.23 lbs of meat, and the sale price at the other store (already $1/lb more) only applied to “Super Value Packs,” which would probably be at least twice as much meat. (And then I’d have to figure out a place to store it…)

Taking into account what I’d really have to spend to get that price, assuming I could find a small Super Value Pack (5 lbs, or two London broils), the difference grew to $13.63. On six things. That’s a lot of coupons.

What Works for Me
I still clip and use coupons (when I remember and feel like it). When I was on top of couponing, I review my stock of coupons before looking at the cheaper grocery store’s fliers. That was until the Sunday-only rate for the newspaper went up threefold (Ryan says that it went up sixfold; even worse). We unsubscribed.

Then I look at the fliers and plan the week’s meals around what’s on sale. Then I write down anything else that’s a good deal that we normally eat and check my shelves to see if we’re low. Finally, I see if I have a coupon for anything in the flier and decide whether I really want it.

My favorite shopping trick: Local stores periodically offer “case lot sales,” where canned goods (usually store brand) are marked down considerably—usually less than $0.40 a can. I stockpile canned goods during these sales. We use a FIFO organizer (first in, first out) and I’ve never run out of canned goods since we started really stockpiling during these sales.

The Grocery Game can work for you. But I prefer shopping when and where I want, bringing less junk food into my house, and bringing home meals and food we’ll actually eat. To me, that’s the most cost effective way to get our grocery shopping done. I’m sure that many passionate Grocery Gamers will vociferously disagree with the points I’ve made here, but it doesn’t change the fact that this has been my experience.

Busy Baby nursing cover wraps giveaway

Sweet Life in the Valley is hosting a giveaway for nursing covers from Busy Baby. With six gorgeous colors to choose from and 100% washable natural cotton (preshrunk 😀 ), these modest nursing wraps are designed to be functional and pretty.

Busy Baby also gives back 1% of every purchase to help premature babies.

To enter to win a free nursing wrap, visit Sweet Life in the Valley!

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Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

As part of a blog tour, I read Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst. The novel follows the adventures of the contestants in a reality television show somewhat along the lines of The Amazing Race. The two main characters are a mother and daughter team, but the book is also narrated from the view points of several other characters, including the “ex-gay” Christian couple (who are using the show to promote their “ex-gay” ministry).

The book looks at the intricacies of parenting through traumatic situations, the nature of reality, what it means to keep a secret and the definition of shame. It also deals with the “reality” of reality TV. I know I wondered several times if Parkhurst had even been on one (nope). The changing of narrators every chapter in a way also reminded me of the way that reality shows have to jump from story line to story line.

Like Christine at The Bean Blog, I rooted for the “ex-gay” couple not necessarily to win the game (I was very pleased with who won the game!) but because I really believe that their characters largely represented how difficult it would be to choose to leave a gay lifestyle. They didn’t instantly change; they still worked on it every day. And like Christine at The Bean Blog, I was terribly disappointed when, as she put it, “when they couldn’t be true to themselves.”

It was a very fast read—I read it in two days and it’s nearly 300 pages long (and I have a part time job and a small child, so I thought that was pretty quick). It’s good for a fast summer read. Oddly enough, after finishing (though I was glad to be through), I wanted to know what ended up airing on the show (the book ends soon after the end of taping).

(I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you that there are a couple of scenes I considered quite graphic and it’s definitely not something you want your kids reading!)

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NeatReceipts Scanalizer

My husband and I have a tough time keeping track of all our receipts.  To be honest, while we’re quite conservative financially, we don’t really keep track of where our money goes.

NeatReceipts Scanalizer is a nifty little device designed to scan your receipts to your computer and store that information.  For us, it would help us with groceries and budgeting as well as keeping track of my work expenses.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit on the pricey side (almost $200).  Fortunately, 5 Minutes for Moms (you remember them from our interview, right?) is giving away 10 of these babies to their lucky readers.  To enter, you have to comment on the giveaway post and either blog about it or, if you don’t have a blog, forward the post to two friends.

I’ve entered; have you?

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