Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Safer Summer Fun - Be Cool in the Shade

I love sunny days but protecting my family against the harmful effects of the sun is one of my challenges during the summer. One of the best purchases I made was the Sun Smarties® Family Beach Cabana Tent. This cabana tent, sold by One Step Ahead, offers a great way to stay cool at the beach, park, or pool. Unlike other products, the Family Beach Cabana Tent offer enough space for the entire family. The tent provides UPF 50+ protection, mesh windows, and a vented roof for air circulation to keep everybody cool and sunburn-free. Both the front and back panels have zippers so you can zip them closed when you are looking for some privacy (diaper change time!). Another great feature is the cabana instantly assembles... no poles or hardware needed (4 spikes help anchor the cabana but that's all there is to do!). You remove it from the bag and it pops into place. Packing it back up into the carry bag takes some practice. I suggest watching the video and practicing at home before you try to do it in public... it can be fun to watch those who never read the instructions or watched the video! You'll master it after a time or two. The Family Beach Cabana Tent provides a large area of shade but fits into a 25" round bag, complete with 2 straps, making it very convenient and easy to carry (or try their Wonder Wheeler All-Terrain Cart).

Tips on Affording Organic Products

As much as I would love to buy only organic foods, it's a bit too costly for a family of four living on one income. Since I believe that it's important to limit as many chemicals and pesticides in my family's diet as possible, here are some tips I use for stretching our grocery budget:

- I purchase organic meats that are about to expire. These are often market down by 33-50% off and can be used or frozen within a day of purchase.

-I stalk the "expiring soon" markdowns at my local grocery and children's store. They often have organic items marked down by at least 50%.

-If you have a grocery outlet, like Amelia's, near you, they often carry organic foods that were either overstock or soon to expire. I often find organic granola bars, cereal, and cookies. Most foods are good beyond their "sell by" date. When in doubt, call the manufacturer for guidance.

-Purchase organic for the "dirty dozen"... and buy conventional for those that are the least contaminated.

-Watch for deals on organic sites like Groupon and Daily Living. Some organic companies often run 50% off deals for their produce, meats, and other items.

-Go to the farmer's market! You can find some great deals on organic at local famers markets, especially around closing time!

-Grow your own! Growing your own organic fruits and veggies is not only inexpensive but it's also a great way to get your kids involved! Kids love to weed, water, and help pick the finished product!

-Use coupons. Many sites, like Stonyfield, have printable coupons on their website. If you are fortunate enough to live near a Whole Foods or Sprouts, I've read that they often have coupons on their websites and in e-newsletters that can be used in conjunction with manufacturer's coupons making for some great savings!

-Subscribe to a newsletter that gives you a heads-up on organic deals. My favorite is which posts deals and sales on organic products, coupons, and more!

Have tips on how to save money on organic? Leave us a comment below!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eat your Veggies!

For some reason most children have an innate aversion to vegetables. Both of my children at veggies as babies but then once they could decide what they'd eat, forget it - veggies were literally off the table! So many moms, like me, need to be creative to make sure the little ones are getting all the vitamins and minerals they need. After all, getting these valuable substances through diet is much safer than through supplements (have you read what's in children's vitamins... including lead and other harmful substances). I've seen juice that has a serving of veggies disguised in the fruit juice but no organic options (we try to eat organic). So I've used my microplane grater and grated carrots into sauces and even desserts but there has to be something easier, right?

I was delighted to find Revolution Foods had expanded their organic snack line to inclue Fruit and Veggie Combinations. These BPA-free, squeezable pouches are 100% real fruit and veggie purees (no added sugar), blended together in kid- appealing varieties like Carroty Chop, Blueberry Blitz, and Beetbox Berry. My little testers tried all three varieties we received and I was surprised at how quickly they gobbled them down. You would never have known that there were any veggies hiding in there.

The pouches are great for the lunchbox or traveling - an ultra conveneint way to give the kids a healthy snack! In addition to being USDA-Certified Organic, these delicious snacks are also GMO-free, Kosher Certified, and Gluten-free. Plus, Revolution Foods gives 3% of sales back to healthy school lunch programs to provide meals to children in underserved schools! A four-pack retails for $4.99 so these aren't something I can afford to give the kids on a daily basis, but they are great to throw in the car as a snack on the way to our next appointment or for a quick pick-me-up at the park. It's great to have a "treat" they can't wait to eat that's actually healthy for them!

Tip: Buy Buy Baby carries Revolution Food Products and you can use their store coupons on these (20% off or $5 off of $15).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Safer Summer Fun - Swimwear

Whenever we go to the beach or the pool I have to struggle to apply sunscreen to wiggly, impatient children! One way I've found to make it easier is to use swimwear that covers more of the body and contains SPF. I've been a fan of One Step Ahead's Sun Smarties Zip Suits for several years. These little "surfer wetsuits" provide great protection and the kids love to wear them. The fabric is lightweight and wears well. The design definitely has children in mind... there's a nice-long zipper to make getting in and out of the suit a breeze! The smaller sizes (up to 24m) also have snaps at the bottom for easy diaper changes. But what's most important to me is that these are safe against my children's skin. While there are other brands that offer similar protection in a similar style, Sun Smarties Zip Suits actually meets Öko-Tex Standard 100, a strict ecological certification process that tests for more than 100 harmful substances. That helps give me peace of mind knowing that what's giving the swimwear it's SPF properties is a safer choice. Just be aware that these are meant to be snug and they do run a little small. I buy a size bigger than the children's normal clothes size. I just purchased another Zip Suit for this year and one for next year since these are on sale right now for 50% OFF! Spend $100 or more and use the Promotion Code DEALS to get 15% off your order or SHIP85 to get free shipping on orders over $85!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Goddess Garden Sunscreen

We've had so much rain lately that I was wondering if we were ever going to test out our new sunscreens! Finally, yesterday was the perfect sunny day to test the Goddess Garden Natural Sunscreens we received.

The children both used the Goddess Garden Baby Natural Sunscreen. This product is made with certified organic ingredients and rates in the "low" category on the EWG's toxicity scale - a must in my book! This sunscreen uses zink oxide (20%) to provide broad spectrum protection. The formula was the consistency of the traditional sunscreens (not as thick as some other safer ones we've tested) and was very easy to spread. It went on very quickly and easily which is a plus when it comes to getting it applied correctly on little ones who have no patience. It provided great protection even with us being in the water for 90 minutes. And neither of my children, who both have very sensitive skin, had any reactions.

My husband used the Goddess Garden Kids Natural Sunscreens (trust me, he's a kid at heart!). The tube proudly touts that the formula is 82% Organic - the highest certified organic content Sunscreen available. Again, this sunscreen went on very easily and left a sheer finish (no ghost-like look!).

I tried the Kids Natural Sunscreen Spray. I was curious about the spray and it was a bit different than I had imagined. Instead of "spraying" like you would imagine your cleaning spray bottle's stream, it sprays on little puddles of lotion. I actually liked that since there wasn't spray going everywhere. After all sunscreen isn't cheap - I want to wear it not waste it! The consistency of the spray was not that much more "liquid" than the tube varieties. Both the spray and lotion provided great coverage and protection with a nice texture - not too greasy but not not too "paste-like" either.

We were also sent some cool UV bracelets. These gummi bracelets have ladybugs that change color in the sun, reminding children (and parents) when it's time to reapply the sunscreen. These are great for when you are at the beach where there's no clock and it's easy to loose track of time! Great for kids, too, since they don't have to worry about keeping track of time.

The verdict? Goddess Garden Sunscreens provided great coverage and protection with a wonderful lotion-like texture and no annoying scents or white-ish glow. In addition, only having to re-apply every 90 minutes is a great benefit! At $14-$20 depending on product size/formula, these are a good value for safer sunscreens.

Cut out cans, cut your BPA exposure by up to 60%!

I've suggested ditching the canned food or only using brands that aren't lined with BPA, like Eden Foods, but a recent study by the Breast Cancer Fund found that eating fresh foods, not canned or packaged in plastic, can reduce exposure to BPA by 60%. BPA is linked to cancer, reproductive harm, obesity, ADHD, and immune system problems.! Click here for a list of the top 10 foods to avoid to reduce BPA exposure.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Safer Summer Fun - Sand Toys

I was looking for some fun PVC-free and Phthalate-free "cheap" sand and water toys to play with this summer, but this proved to be a bigger challenge than I though. When I googled " pvc-free sand/water toys" I got mainly brands made in the EU with price tags to match. We have some great "good" toys like Green Toys Sand Play Set but I was looking for a water wheel, some sand molds, shovels, etc. that I wouldn't get upset over if they didn't make it home from the beach or a day of play elsewhere. There had to be something made in the USA that was safer, right? After a bunch of searches I came across American Plastic Toys. I was pretty surprised that googling "PVC-free plastic toys made in America" didn't return American Plastic Toys but nowhere on their site does it say what plastics they use. I called and also posted on their facebook page inqiuring abut what types of plastics they use and was told polypropylene and polyethylene both of which are BPA,PVC, and Phthalate-free! These are sold at many store like Kmart, Target, and The ChristmasTree Shop. I found my sand and water wheel at The ChristmasTree Shop for only $4.99. These aren't thick plastic toys that will last a lifetime like Green Toys but they do the trick and are good quality for a good price. If you are looking for some "better" toys and willing to pay a bit more, try Green Toys Sand Play Set,
Zoë b Biodegradable Beach Toys, or Sand Play Set by Spielstabil
(made in Germany).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Safer Allergy Relief

Finally, nice weather! Time to be outside and enjoy the fresh air and what happens - allergies! I don't like turning to medication unless really needed so I started to investigate some more natural methods. A friend suggested using honey! I had never heard of that before but it makes sense. The bees gather pollen from the same plants that are causing the allergies. For example, if you live in an area where rag weed is a problem you'll find that honeybees will collect pollen from the ragweed and it be present in small amounts in honey. If you eat honey that was produced by bees in your area, the honey will often act as an immune-booster since the allergens are delivered in small doses over time. The effect is very similar to undergoing a whole series of allergy injections but a lot more pleasant and a lot less expensive! To get maximum effect, purchase honey made as close to where you live as possible and take a teaspoon or so a day for several weeks prior to pollen season. You can usually find local honey at an area farmers market. Just keep in mind that honey should not be given to children under one-year of age due to risk of botulism.