I CLOTH DIAPERED MYSELF FOR SCIENCE (REVIEW OF THINX AND MAMA CLOTH)

OK, fine. It wasn’t for science. It was to save money. I just couldn’t come up with a better title.

This blog post is for ladies. If you are a dude, you can take your dude bits right outta here. Unless you have a lady in your life and you are comfortable talking to her about saving money on her menstrual cycle, then you can stay. And also you are a good sir.

Ew, right? No one LIKES this time of the month. And you know what makes it worse? Spending $20 a month on supplies to get through it. I saw on the internets these things called THINX (absorbent underwear), so I figured I’d try out those bad boys and see if I could get through my monthly cycle unscathed and never pay $20 for the supplies I need again. Then, I was poking around and heard about Chrissy’s Cloth (homemade cloth pads), and I figured I’d buy some of those and try them, too, and compare all of the things and see how it goes and bloggy blog about them. So…..let’s math, and then review.

I’d say I have a good 15 years or so of dealing with this nonsense before my ovaries dry up. So, 15 years x 12 months x $20 a month = $3600! O.M.G. And just think, if it goes LONGER than 15 years, or if you’re younger than me (I’m 36) and have tons of years to go! THAT IS THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, PEOPLE!!!

THINX are unnapants that absorb ick. They claim to feel like regular underwear and keep you dry feeling and absorb the same as tampons. We’ll see. They have a bunch of absorbency levels, from the heavy hip huggers to the ultra light thong. For THINX, the more you buy, the bigger the discount. If you purchase 7 pairs or more, you get a 20% discount. I figure, you’d probably need 2 pairs for light days, 3 for medium/heavy, so I’d say 20 pair oughta do it for a 7-day cycle, 6 total pair for light, 10 for medium, 4 for heavy. Total for that (free shipping. Nice!) is $520, so, lots smaller than $3600, and that’s all you’d ever need. A savings of over $3000!

So, I bought a pair of the hip huggers for $34 to see how I liked them, if they worked, and if they were rad enough to take the plunge and save myself 3 grand over the next 15 years.

The Good: They feel like regular underwear. No bulky pad feeling. Which made me feel like maybe they wouldn’t absorb very much, but that was proven wrong, too. I wore these on a heavy day, and they lasted a couple of hours, or about the same as a super plus. Another positive is that they were cute. They have lace at the top, so if you wanna feel sexy during your free monthly pregnancy test, hey…there you go. If you’re into that. I’m not, but no judgement, you kinky ladies. Also, you know that icky wet feeling when you’re wearing a pad? These don’t do that. I felt perfectly dry. There’s something in these that makes it immediately wick away the ick, so it’s not sitting on top of the unnapants.

The Bad: User error. I bought a small, which is what my size is. Except everyone knows we gain 67 lbs during that week of the month. So, they were too small, making them slightly uncomfortable. A size up would have fixed this, though. Another negative is that, like cloth diapers, you need a few other accessories. Namely, a wet bag of sorts. I so happened to be out and about when I decided these had had enough and needed to be off of my body. Except…uh…WTF am I supposed to do with this crap? I’ll cloth diaper the heck outta myself to save money, but I can’t abide by carrying around an adult diaper bag for a week. Also, they LOOK like they are leaking, even though they aren’t, but it still made me nervous. I may have changed them before they needed because I could see spillage out of the side of the absorbent pad, and I was paranoid that it would get onto my clothes. It never did, though, and I can’t explain why. Maybe magic or something.

Overall, not too bad. They were comfortable and can save me a lot of money, but they are difficult to take care of when out and about, and I don’t want to have to carry around a diaper bag to keep my underwear in.

Next, I bought a set of Chrissy’s Cloth. A set of these is $20 and comes with 1 liner, 1 medium pad and 1 heavy pad. I’d say you’d probably need 6 sets for a 7-day cycle, so that’s $120. WHAT? That’s amazing and HUGELY cost efficient.

The Good: They are customizable and freaking adorable. You get to pick your fabric, and she has a ton to choose from. I’m sophisticated about my bloody bits, so I chose a pink/grey theme.

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Ignore my weird mauve carpet. My house was built in the 90s. If you are less sophisticated, you can pick Star Wars or Dr. Who or neon butterflies and the like. I’ll just be over here with my pinky in the air.

Anyway, they are cute, and she has lots of fabrics to choose from. Also good, these things are absorbent as heck (more magic). Much more than the THINX. The shape is also a huge plus. Unlike regular disposable pads, these are wider at the ends for more coverage and less shifting. Plus, the wings SNAP on instead of having sticky tape, making sure that everything stays in place and nothing goes off the sides (a fear with the THINX). These are bulkier than the THINX, but I still didn’t really feel that I was wearing anything. Disposable pads are always shifting and uncomfortable, sticking to me and folding up on themselves. These don’t do that, so you don’t feel like you’re wearing anything. Like the THINX, these also wicked away the ick via some sort of wizard spell and didn’t make me feel gross.

The Bad: Again with the on the go issue, though these are smaller than THINX, and Chrissy has these that she sent:

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Those are little tiny wet bags that can hold the dirty pads when you change them. They are small and discreet (the large one can hold 3 pads but is still smaller than a regular-sized diaper wet bag). So, you don’t have to carry around an adult diaper bag.

That’s the only negative I can find for Chrissy’s Cloth, and she found a way to solve the problem.

Both products need to be rinsed ASAP when you change them. THINX show less stains than the mama cloth, but you can use stain stick, etc. THINX also get soaked when you rinse, and the mama cloth doesn’t, which just proves how dang absorbent it is. I ran tons of water over it to rinse it off, and the back of the pad never got wet. To wash them, I just threw them into the washing machine on a rinse cycle, and then put them in the regular wash with my other clothes. Both products come with instructions for care.

After the comparison, due to price, super absorbency and convenience when on the go, Chrissy’s Cloth is the better choice. I’ll be ordering 5 more sets, plus a cute little zipper pouch from 31 to hold my stash in nice and neat in my bathroom, so total will be around $150 for everything, saving me $3450 in the long run. WIN!

Since $150 is still a lot of cash up front, head on over to my money-making from home tips to see how to finance your stash fast!

Thanks for reading! More money-saving and money-making tips to come! Feel free to share!

P.S. YOU KNOW WHAT WOULDA BEEN A GREAT TITLE!? “Save thousands of dollars. Period.” Shoot. I’m attached to the original title now. I nurtured that and cared for it until it grew into its own being. I can’t abandon it now!

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Budget Meals Week 1 Reviews

Soooooo, here we are one week out of my groceries on a budget freezer meals. Remember, my meals had to do 3 things:

  1. Be inexpensive (under $300 a month, which was accomplished).
  2. Be convenient (less than 30 minutes in the kitchen at dinner time to give me time to learn to play the ocarina).
  3. Taste delicious!

This here bliggity blog is where we find out if numbers 2 and 3 are working, so….here are our first 5 meals. Meals 6 and 7 were leftovers and dinner out when we were out of town watching Big Man get his black belt because he is awesome. I’ll post the link to the recipes on the TS website next to the meals so you can see how they were made.

Meal 1:  Creamy Salsa Chicken

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I made this the day I made the freezer meals. It was SUPER simple. Throw ingredients in crock pot, turn it on. So, convenience wise, big thumbs up! My family really liked this one. The husband wanted a spoon to finish off the salsa gravy. SUCCESS!

Meal 2: Easy Meatballs and Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

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My daughter asked for seconds of the meatballs. She’s 3, so that’s a big deal. She can’t fit much in her tiny tummy. As for convenience, the meatballs were easy. Thaw them, bake them in muffin tins, done. The biscuits were not a freezer meal but something I made with the “and more” portion of the 30 meals and more that I got from Tastefully Simple. I combined 4 ingredients, mixed it in a bowl and dropped it on a cookie sheet to bake. The end. This one did take all of the 30 minutes to cook in the oven, but only 5 of that was preparing the meal. SCORE.

It also took a little time because this had to happen: *ring ring*

Husband: Hello?
Me: Oh, hi…the oven is on fire. What do I do?
Husband: That’s not the greatest. Don’t open the door and let oxygen in there, and it will die down. Perhaps we should clean it?
Me: Perhaps.

There were French fries at the bottom of the oven apparently. They are now extra crispy, and my cheddar biscuits had an amazing smoky flavor.

Meal 3: Pizza Casserole

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This one was a hit with the family, too, and BONUS, there are at LEAST 3 more meals out of this.  This one was so easy I didn’t know what to do with myself. Thaw it and put it in the crock pot. Since I put my meals in the fridge to thaw 2 days in advance, this took less than a minute. There were so many things that I could have done with that time, it was hard to choose! Do I learn Japanese? Take up croquet? Knit a toilet paper cozy? I DON’T KNOW! In the end, I took an hour and went outside to play with my kids in the leaves.

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See?

Meal 4: Ginger Orange Sriracha Stir-Fry

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SPICY! This was really good, and, again, we have leftovers for the husband of the year to take to work.  This one took around 15 minutes, since that’s how long it takes to make rice. You make the rice, then cook the chicken in oil, then cook the veggies in oil and add the sauce, then mix it all together. The end. Eat and be happy because this is so, SO good. I don’t tolerate spicy at all. I just don’t like it, and even I loved this one. And it had the added bonus of easy portability. This one was made on a day that I had to work in the evening, and I just had to pop it into a Tupperware dish and go about my merry way.

Meal 5: Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

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This is another thaw and reheat on the stove kinda deal, but I had a little mishap, so….

I put this in the freezer before it was all of the way cooled, and it kiiiiiiinda produced condensation and stuck to the bags in front of and behind it. So…when I went to pull it out, the whole top of the bag came off. So, I had to find a way to thaw it without broth going everywhere since I now had a giant cube of frozen chicken soup instead of a giant cube of frozen chicken soup in a bag. So, I turned the stock pot on low heat and put the cube in it and slowly thawed my soup while removing the rest of the plastic bag as it thawed out. This process took a LOOOOONG time.  Over an hour, as I kept having to go back and check to make sure I wasn’t melting plastic bag into my soup.

The result, however, was ASTOUNDING. Seriously, the best chicken and noodles I have ever eaten. I changed the name, because the way I had to thaw it reduced the soup portion to a thicker sauce instead of a broth, which made this meal much more hearty. We ate more of the cheddar biscuits on the side with this, and again, super portable for work. I can’t WAIT to eat those leftovers, they were so, SO good.

The first week of meals did EVERYTHING I wanted it to do! With the money we are saving, we’re gonna get out of debt, and I think go on a cruise from Australia to Fiji (one of the husband’s dreams)! With the time I am saving, I’m going to learn a dozen languages (my dream)! So much win!

tl;dr GREAT SUCCESS!

The Grocery Budget Challenge – A Family of 5 for Under $300

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^These here freezer meals are what this post is all about, dearest readers! Look how pretty! And organized! Each with their little recipe cards stapled to the top (Above the seal. Don’t make the mistake of stapling stuff to a bag full of liquid. Trust me.) All ready to just thaw, heat and eat! I will spend less than 20 minutes per evening preparing my family meals for the next month and a half. WHAT WILL I DO WITH ALL OF THAT EXTRA TIME?!?! Perhaps I’ll take up knitting! Or the trombone! Or recreationally singing show tunes! I CAN DO ANYTHING!

I’ve set myself a challenge this month to spend $300 or less in groceries for my family of 5.  I’m a frugal maven, and even with my couponing and sale watching, our grocery budget has creeped to between $500 and $550 a month. INCONCEIVABLE! However, as well all well know, grocery costs are on the rise, and even with my coupons, that’s crushed my budget. So, I need a new plan. Then, my Tastefully Simple rep messaged me about their 30-meals plan, and I perused and though, hmmmmmmm….Mayhaps this is a good idea. It’s $200 for 30 freezer ready meals. It comes with a recipe plan, all of the spices/sauces you need, and a premade grocery list. Every single one can be premade and popped into the freezer for quick preparation. I have 6479 jobs, plus my husband works full time, we’re a sports/dance family, and we have a son with special needs, so we’re at therapy appointments for forever and ever. This means, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!

For this new plan to work, I need it to do 3 things:

  1. Be inexpensive ($300 a month)
  2. Be convenient (less than 30 minutes in the kitchen per evening)
  3. Taste good and be healthy (I KNOW THAT TECHNICALLY IS 2, BUT A LIST OF 3 IS TIDIER THAN A LIST OF 4, CRETINS!)

First, let us math. Thirty meals for my family will last a month and a half, as we will almost always have leftovers, plus Thanksgiving where we’ll be eating elsewhere. The Little Man is only here on weekends, and the Bot is 3 and doesn’t eat much, though the Big Man does kinda cancel that out because he eats more than all of us combined. WE CAN’T AFFORD A TEENAGER, AND HE’S ONLY 11!  Anyway, these meals will last us around a month and a half.  Since I want the budget to be $300 a month, then a month and a half gives me a budget of $450 to make all 30 of the mealy meals.

The 30 meals from Tastefully Simple is $200, but my rep had a code for $40 off, and it happened to be an old code that actually took $50 off, so we’re off to a great start (my consultants have more of these $40 off codes, too, so if you want them, let me know!) With shipping, my 30-meal plan was only $188 roughly, so I’ve got $262 left in my budget to shop my pantry and freezer, plus the grocery, to finish these meals in $450. This will also give us all of our dinners for Nov/part of Dec, so NO EATING OUT! That will save us a ton, AND some of the leftovers can go with us for lunches, so no eating out while at work, either. CHA-CHING!

I chose Tastefully Simple because I’ve been buying their sauces and seasonings for a long time and using the recipes on their website, and they’ve never let me down on taste. I don’t sell Tastefully Simple, and I’m not being paid or anything to promote them. There are a lot of companies out there that do freezer meals. I just chose TS because I liked the price tag and because they’ve proven delicious.

I will say, if you have read my other money saving tips, you know I’m a couponer and a food storage type person. My pantry and freezer are pretty stocked, so if you’re looking to try this, you may need to invest at first to get a food store up. My food store has taken me a while to get, though it is a little depleted due to financial emergencies that we’ve had come up, so I skipped the market and used our storage for 2 months (that’s what it’s for!) Anyway, how I get my food store up is to STOCK UP when stuff is .25 or less at the store, plus the Mormon storehouse to get rice, sugar, flour, etc. in bulk, plus I buy up any Manager’s Special meat and bread I can find in the store and immediately freeze it. The cost would go up A LOT if I had to purchase all of the meats and dry goods that these meals take. As it is, I had over half of the stuff in my freezer and pantry already, and that will now all need to be replaced slowly as the stuff comes cheap.

LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!

Wednesday 10-28, my Tastefully Simple order comes in! YAY! This was $188 of my $450 budget. I am way too excited to get started! You get all of this!

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Can you see that (click on it to make it bigger if you can’t, but it really was a rhetorical question)? It’s a TON of stuff! In fact, it’s MORE stuff than you need! Ok, so let’s take this step by step.

STEP 1: Take inventory! The order also came with this:

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That’s 3 recipe booklets, a meal-planning sheet and that white one on the bottom left is the grocery list, split up into 6 pages of 5 meals each. That’s where I’m starting. It’s got check boxes, and who doesn’t love a good check list? CRAZY PEOPLE, THAT’S WHO! So, I’ll go into my fridge and pantry and freezer and check off all of the stuff I’ve already got. I’m going to be cooking everything on Sunday (today is Friday), so I went ahead and set the meat to thawing in the fridge over the next 2 days. Side note: I just dropped a 9.5 lb frozen pork loin on my foot. I don’t recommend this step, as the doctor bill from a broken foot completely negates the money you’re trying to save. Also, oooowwwwwwww. This step took me 10 minutes (inventory, not dropping a pig on my foot), so it’s good on the convenience level. If my freezers were both on the same floor of the house, it would have taken even shorter (and been less painful re: foot). Rad.

STEP 2: Make the grocery list! This one’s a big step for me, though it is made a ton easier by the premade list TS sent me. I just put all of the stuff that doesn’t have a check mark on the list and do my normal sale/coupon matching from Bargains to Bounty. This step took me about 30 minutes, which HOLY COW. I usually take an hour to make my stupid grocery list. I HATE grocery list time. Though, both fortunately and unfortunately, I suppose, a lot of the items are fresh produce and meat (yay) so no coupons for them (boo). I think I ended up with $1.50 in coupons and $1.00 in Ibotta rebates when all was said and done (plus, there were 150 Shopkicks at Kroger today). Gonna have to rely on produce/meat sales for this bad boy.

STEP 3: Hit up the grocery store. It’s D-day time. How much of my $262 budget did I spend? Time to find out.

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BAM! $156! Shattered that budget. I even bought a few snacks and drinks and some coffee coffee coffeeeeee. I’m estimating that I’ll be spending another $50-75 or so when we run out of things like bananas and milk and lunch meat, etc. So, that’s a grand total of $419! I still have $30 to play with! I could buy Hot Wheels!

STEP 4: Cook it all! This step took me 6 hours, and some improvements could have been made for sure, and as it went, I saw where I could also improve the budget. I’ll put those down there in the tipsies. Most of these meals were “put stuff in a bag, label it, freeze it”. It was awesome, but I quickly realized that I did NOT have enough bags. You need lots and lots of gallon and quart-sized bags.

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Whew. Halfway done.

STEP 5: Eaaaaat! Our first meal was the Chicken and Black Bean Salsa slow cooker meal. Basically, put chicken, half a jar of TS Corn and Black Bean Salsa and a can of cream of chicken soup in the crock pot for 6 hours. Conclusion? Tastefully Simple delivered again! Even the 3-year-old cleared her plate, and the husbandito needed a spoon to finish the sauce off of the plate once he had run out of chicken and potato. Next time, I’ll make rice with it and soak the rice in the salsa gravy.

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Overall, GREAT SUCCESS! It met all 3 of my criteria. This is the first we’ve eaten of them. I”ll continue to review the meals and share the ones we’ve made. The plan is to review the week’s meals on Sundays, but…I’m forgetful and busy, so I’m not promising things.

TIPSIES: There are some improvements I could have made, though. This was my first try, and…mistakes were made. Even more besides dropping a heavy piece of meat on my foot. There was this fiasco:

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TIP 1: Note to self (and readers): 45 seconds is too long for a stick of butter to melt in the microwave. Second, I grabbed the wrong seasoning packet at one point, so my pot roast did not get a packet of garlic and herb cheeseball mix 😦 I went ahead and seasoned it with stuff from my pantry. I accidentally grabbed that garlic mix instead of the sriracha ranch mix for some cheese-stuffed pork burgers, which is OK, because garlic tastes just fine in burgers. So, more careful next time. That was around hour 5. Soooooooo tired.

TIP 2: That brings me to my next tip. Take 2 days to cook. I hung the recipes up on my whiteboard and made them one at a time. That meant that I was making 2 cups of chicken broth for one recipe and then another 4 cups for another, but not at the same time. Next time, I’ll spend some time consolidating the ingredients list and spend the first day browning all of the pounds of meat, shredding cooked chicken, cutting chicken into pieces, and making lots and lots of broth. Anything that needs heated. I spent a LOT of time today waiting for stuff to cool.

TIP 3: Wait for everything to cool off before freezing. I learned this last time I did freezer meals. If you seal up and freeze a hot dish, it will steam up and create water in the freezer bag, and then when you cook it, it will taste bland and watered down. So, if I cook everything that needs heated the day before, it will be cooled and able to be frozen the next day when adding the other ingredients.

TIP 4: I wasted money, you guys! I HATE wasting money! It was due to poor planning. I went ahead and bought EVERYTHING for the 30 meals that was on the grocery list, and it turned out that I didn’t need a lot of it, yet, until the day we eat. Like lettuce for the lettuce wraps, sour cream and cream cheese, etc. Things that don’t get frozen or garnishes. I could have waited to watch for better sales and coupons for that stuff and saved a little cash. I go to the store every 2 weeks for milk and stuff we run out of, and that stuff could have waited. I ended up having to re-arrange the meal plan to eat stuff before I had planned so that the fresh produce that it needs doesn’t go bad. So, I’ll plan better next time, and I think I’ll get the number even lower!

Overall, I’m pretty happy with this plan. There was one negative. Tastefully Simple sent me WAYYYYYYY more mixes, spices and sauces than I used, including desserts. I don’t make desserts every day, so I would have liked a plan that was cheaper and only included the meals I was making. I don’t think there’s an option to buy the meal cards, planner, grocery list, etc. without buying the 30 Meals and More plan, so I didn’t know that I was getting a ton of extras, some of which I likely won’t use.

Though, another big positive is that there ARE extras of the seasonings, etc. I could easily make MORE of these meals because I still have a ton of the seasonings and some of the sauces left, so all I need for those is the meats. More money savers! Next month, I can save by buying the 10 Meals and More plan instead of the 30! I think this has been an incredible investment for our grocery budget.

The last big positive is that my consultants are AAAAAAAH-MAZING! I’ve been purchasing TS for a while. I have 2 consultants because I’m a jerk and not loyal. I alternate back and forth between the two, and I’ve never been disappointed. If you don’t have a TS consultant, and you wanna try this for yourself, please use the links below. I hope you enjoyed the new novel! Please share!

Kelly’s Tastefully Simple

Amy’s Tastefully Simple