People, They’re Flipping Diapers

“Limited edition”.

Those two little words, especially if followed by “bumGenius”, seem to be enough to make people flip out.

The Cotton Babies "limited edition" frenzy... madness or genius?! How much would YOU pay for a "limited edition" print diaper?

Websites will crash. Fists will be pumped in victory, or for those who aren’t fast enough in checking out, swear words will be uttered.

You’ve gotta hand it to Cotton Babies: they created the Cotton Babies Cloth Diaper Flash Mob and turned it into an actual mob more than 10,000 strong. The cover image has a tempting offer: “Want the inside scoop on Cotton Babies news before all your friends crash the server”?

It’s some kind of genius marketing. (“Genius” is, of course, also the name of one their print series…)

Seems to me that Cotton Babies is borrowing from the Beanie Babies playbook to generate all this limited-edition hysteria. The Wikipedia page for Beanie Babies reads, in part:

“Beanie Babies began to emerge as popular collectibles in late 1995, and became a hot toy. The company’s strategy of deliberate scarcity, producing each new design in limited quantity, restricting individual store shipments to limited numbers of each design and regularly retiring designs, created a huge secondary market for the toys and increased their popularity and value as a collectible.”

I’m sure most of us remember the insanity of the Beanie Baby heyday. But take a second to rewind to your pre-baby days. Wouldn’t you have totally LOL’ed if someone told you that there were would be people going every bit as crazy over diapers?!

Chart of bumGenius colors/prints through August 2014 | Image by Erin Falvey

Image credit: Erin Falvey

Over in the Flash Mob and other bumGenius buy/sell/trade groups, mamas post photos of their bumGenius diaper stashes; the more limited-editions you have, the more impressed everyone else is. You thought you were using cloth diapers to go green? Or save green? Yeah, ok, and also making other mamas green. With envy, that is.

When you’ve hunted down all of the available colors and prints, you’ve got what they call a complete rainbow. Behold, a bumGenius stash to die for:

Impressive bumGenius rainbow! What a stash!

Come to think of it, posting an impressive bumGenius stash shot is akin to having a ton of karma on Reddit, although unlike cloth diapers, karma doesn’t actually have any useful purpose. What’s that, your karma can’t absorb baby’s urine or contain blowouts? Take that, Reddit.

And that secondary market the Beanie Babies were so famous for creating? Cotton Babies has definitely fueled a healthy resale market of its own. As soon as the newest Cotton Babies limited editions are no longer available from retailers, the real flipping begins with hard-to-find (“HTF”) prints going for two, three, or four times their typical retail prices.

Wow; crazy listings on eBay for bumGenius diapers!

And who can blame people for buying and reselling the diapers for a profit? Cotton Babies creates an insanely rabid demand for their prints and then only manufactures a very limited quantity. If you’re lucky enough to snag a limited-edition diaper, why wouldn’t you sell it and double (or triple or quadruple or quintuple) your money? Willing buyers are not difficult to find.

Of course, the thing that killed Beanie Babies back in the day was they they became too popular – at which point they no longer seemed so unique and special, so people quickly lost their enthusiasm for them. We’ll just have to wait and see whether Cotton Babies can keep up the excitement surrounding their limited editions, or if people will get tired of all the frenzies.


Do you buy limited edition prints? Why or why not?

A “Real Food” Thanksgiving Challenge

Crunchy Nana's "Real Food" Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 with my three daughters (and one of my four grandchildren)

When I was a young mom, I had visions of “Little House on the Prairie” when it came to raising our family and keeping our home. I cloth diapered all our babies (at a time when disposables were the new and popular thing to do), breastfed those babies, sewed almost all of our clothing, knit sweaters, tended a garden, canned the harvest—well, you get the idea. The years passed quickly and I found myself juggling the demands of three busy little girls and their activities, church duties, PTA meetings, a sewing and alteration business, raising pug puppies, and running an in-home day care for anywhere from 1-5 preschoolers. I started falling into the habit of using a fair amount of processed foods just to speed things along in the kitchen. It didn’t seem like a big deal; I still made most of our meals at home.

I Saw the “Real Food” Light

Fast forward to 2011. All of our children were grown, but I was still in the habit of using convenience foods in my kitchen. One of my daughters found a blog that she thought I would enjoy, so I started following 100 Days of Real Food.

I couldn’t read about this “real food” thing fast enough! I quickly began to clean out the processed foods from my pantry, refrigerator and freezer. The more I read, the more I wanted to make a lot of changes to the way we were eating, and it felt almost overwhelming.

I had so many things to learn about which products to buy, which cooking techniques are best, and which new kitchen tools would be helpful. In my typical way, I wanted all those things to be accomplished yesterday! (I tend to be a little OCD sometimes – or CDO if you prefer the letters in alphabetical order!)

Encouragement for Your Healthy Eating Changes

Since I began cutting processed foods two years ago, I’ve lost 40 pounds. This happened gradually with no change to my regular exercise routine.

Crunchy Nana lost 40 pounds by cutting out processed foods!

Over the last several years, I’ve done some things “wrong”, but many more things right. My biggest mistake was feeling guilty when I didn’t do everything perfectly- which defeats the whole purpose of adopting a healthy lifestyle. It’s okay to strive for perfection, but realize that you will have fallbacks and triumphs. Most importantly, enjoy your journey and keep it going!

If you’ve recently begun your own journey to eat in a more healthy way and use safer products in your home, take a little something from me: It’s ok to take it one step at a time! Any change you’re making for the better is a good one!

Following the 80/20 rule is a good way for me to stay in balance. I try to “eat real” 80% of the time, and other times, when I eat at restaurants or  with friends, I don’t worry or feel guilty. The important thing is that you are making changes that will benefit you and your family for years to come.

Tools I Recommend

After I cleared my kitchen of processed foods, I slowly began to collect tools that would make cooking from scratch easier and more efficient. I now regularly use my Kitchenaid Mixer for making homemade bread, pasta, or pizza dough. I also have a Crock Pot and pressure cooker to save time on days when I’m going to be gone most of the day.

To save money, I invested in a FoodSaver. Most of the time I am cooking only for my husband and myself, but I still like to purchase food in bulk and make food in large batches. When I come home from my farm co-op or Costco, I spend a little time packing up smaller amounts of food for storage in the freezer or pantry. I am able to get the food at a great price and reduce waste—win/win!

Last week I added one another fun item to my “stash”, a Nutrimill Grain Mill. It makes grinding my own flour a breeze and I feel good about using organic wheat berries that I buy in bulk. Now I’m looking forward to playing around with some other types of whole grains!

Crunchy Nana’s Thanksgiving Challenge

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, why not try to incorporate some “real food” into your traditional meal?  I know this is a busy time of year, but these changes don’t have to be big or time consuming.

Try buying an organic turkey, making a simple dish of fresh fruit, or incorporating organic canned pumpkin (from a BPA-free can) into your pumpkin pie. You could also make this homemade cream of mushroom soup recipe for those green bean casserole that show up on so many tables this time of year. (We had it last year, and it is delicious!)

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How do you keep it real and what are some of your favorite resources? Crunchy Nana would love to chat with you in the comments section below!

Cloth Diaper Sticker Shock

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to educate moms-to-be about cloth diapers at a breastfeeding expo in my town. This scene played itself out many times:

An expectant mother glances over a poster comparing the cost of disposables versus cloth diapers, nodding with excitement and a huge smile. She moves to the display of cloth diapers, picks up the one with the cutest print, turning it over, then touches the inside and marvels at how wonderfully soft it is.

Then comes the question: “How much are diapers like this one?” 

I explain the range of prices for different brands and types.

“But I can get a whole package of Pampers for the cost of just one of those!”

how-much-for-one-cloth-diaper

Some people seem to get that cloth diapers can save a ton of money, but as soon as they hear the price of an individual cloth diaper, they get all confused again. Sticker shock, I suppose.

The same scene plays itself out in many ways in the financial decisions we face as adults. There are a lot of smart things we could do with our money by paying for things upfront, but it’s just more convenient to go with the payment plan.

My husband and I learned this lesson the hard way. During the first four years of our marriage, we bought into that mentality and racked up a serious amount of debt very quickly. (Thanks to the advice in Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, we got serious and paid off our $50k of debt in just 13 months. I will share that story another time – but if you are struggling with debt, you need Dave!)

You see, disposables are the payment plan in the world of diapers. If you don’t look carefully at the big picture – your total costs – it can seem cheaper to buy diapers one package at a time.

After all, you can easily spend $400 to $700 if you buy a full stash of new cloth diapers and all of the accessories in one pop – which sounds like a lot. It sounds like a lot, that is, until you compare it to the $1,500 to $2,500 you’d spend on disposables during your baby’s diapering years.

Disposable Diapers are a Payment Plan

But let’s say you understand the financial benefits of using cloth diapers and you can afford buy everything you need before your baby arrives. Even then, it might not necessarily be wise to do so. Two years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I were debt-free and living the easy life with two full-time incomes. I knew I wanted to use cloth diapers, so I bought everything I thought I wanted (and then some) upfront a few months before our son was born. Unfortunately, after I had the chance to use those diapers on my baby, I decided that I wasn’t crazy about them. I sold almost everything in online trading forums and started building a new stash slowly, trying different brands and styles every month or so.

I encourage parents to take their time deciding on what cloth diapers to buy. Ease into cloth diapers gradually by taking advantage of a newborn diaper rental, layaway, or cloth diaper trial program. Many specialty cloth diaper retailers such as those listed below offer these types of programs for their customers. (You won’t find that level of service on Amazon!)

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This blog post is a part of the November 2013 ”School of Cloth“ event.  This is a month-long educational event sponsored by the Real Diaper Association, cloth diaper businesses, and various bloggers.

week2

Co-Ops: Five Things You Need to Know

I had never even heard of a co-op (except in the farming sense) until I became a mom. Then, I suddenly noticed all the group-buying frenzies going on across Facebook and other discussion forums. While older women might be notorious for addictions to cable TV home shopping, it seems young moms have a similar addiction: CO-OPS.

I’ve bought various items through co-ops to test the waters for myself. Many of you have too. After all, if you’re reading this, you’re probably a cloth-diapering mom, and let’s be honest: we are suckers for discounts. (Is this a blessing or a curse? I can’t decide.)

Understanding how co-ops work is no easy task, because they’re are thousands* of co-ops run by tens of thousands* of individuals and nothing is standardized. While I had fairly good experiences, many other moms aren’t so lucky. Before jumping to the world of co-ops, it’s important to know how they work and what risks you are taking.

*These numbers are completely made up. I have no idea how many co-ops are out there!

Co-Ops What You Need to Know

So What Is a Co-Op?

The broad definition of a co-op is “a jointly owned commercial enterprise that produces and/or distributes goods and services and for the benefit of its owners”.

For the purposes of this article, co-ops are online groups through which individual moms can buy products at deep discounts. The products include diapers, toys, clothing and accessories, electronics, you name it – all typically unbranded, knock-offs, or made by work-at-home-moms (“WAHMs”). These co-ops are organized by “hosts” in Facebook groups or other online discussion forums. The hosts take responsibility for finding deals, determining minimum order requirements, posting pictures and prices of available products, collecting payments, placing the group order, and sending out the buyers’ individual orders.

Five Things You Should Know Before Buying

Before you get swept away by the giddiness of perceived discounts through co-op purchasing, make sure you’re fully aware of how your particular co-op buy will work. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

You should be comfortable with each of the five risks outlined below before sending off your hard-earned money to a stranger on the internet. Also, check around for feedback on the specific co-op and host you’re considering (like this spreadsheet maintained by the “Co-op Deals and Reviews” Facebook group).

#1: Delays Can Be Significant

Expect to wait a minimum of one month from the time you pay until you get your items (typically 6-12 weeks). Reasons for the long wait include:

  • The time between your own invoice payment and the time when all other buyers have paid up and the host closes the buy.
  • The time from the closing of the group buy until the co-op host places the order. (At this point, there could be additional delays if certain items are no longer in stock. The host would have to contact the buyers about what they want to do, and the group buy could fall back below the minimum order, causing further delay or even cancellation of the entire thing.)
  • Fulfillment time from when the host places the order until it ships. For group buys from WAHMs, this could take quite a while for the seller to make everything by hand. For orders from large manufacturers in China, it may be a fairly quick turnaround.
  • The time for the order to ship to the host, which depends on the shipping method and whether it’s domestic or international. If international, the order could get held up in customs – that’s a gamble.
  • The time for the host to receive the group order, sort and separate items into individual shipments, and send invoices to the buyers for their direct shipping costs.
  • The time for the host to package up and ship out the individual orders to buyers.

#2: No Payment Protection

Perhaps you’ve been warned to stay away from any co-op that asks members to pay for their merchandise as a “gift” (thus circumventing PayPal fees for the seller). After all, sending money as a gift will automatically exclude you from PayPal’s buyer protection, and that sounds like a big risk.

But according to PayPal’s User Agreement (Section 13 – Protection for Buyers, as of 10/22/13), buyers are only eligible for PayPal Purchase Protection if they open a dispute within 45 days of the date the payment was sent. Given the typical timeframe of a co-op, you’d be lucky if you paid for and received your items in time to file a dispute anyway.

However, there’s a final nail in the coffin regarding PayPal protection for co-ops buyers buried in PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy, and it means that you won’t be eligible for PayPal protection in a co-op no matter what you do.

Section 13.3 of the PayPal User Agreement lists items that are not eligible for reimbursement under PayPal Purchase Protection, one of which is “Items prohibited by the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy“. And guess what? It turns out that PayPal specifically prohibits using its service for activities that relate to transactions that are “for the sale of certain items before the seller has control or possession of the item” (see item 3, part d). In other words, using PayPal for group buys is actually a violation of PayPal’s own terms of service, and can result in the host’s PayPal account being frozen.

While most co-ops still use PayPal, some have branched out to other platforms such as WePay. However, WePay lists “buyer’s clubs or discount clubs” as one of the prohibited activities in its Terms of Service with the summary explanation: “Basically, you can’t use WePay for anything illegal, inappropriate, or risky. Just be honest and responsible, and we’ll get along just fine.”

#3: Fees and Mark-Ups Can Add Up

Make sure you understand all possible fees before you sign up to purchase anything, because sometimes hosts will call for payments multiple times before you can receive your order. Common fees include:

  • General co-op fees scaled by order value.
  • Credit card or PayPal transaction fees.
  • “Host supply fees” to cover the costs of shipping labels, mailers, etc.
  • Duty fees that could range anywhere from 2-20%.
  • Shipping costs from the host to you.

Other times, co-ops advertise themselves as “no-fee” but charge their buyers prices that are higher than the actual prices the manufacturer had offered the group. Hosts may or may not disclose this markup to their buyers.

The bottom line is that most moms organizing co-ops spend a lot of time doing so, and they expect to be paid for that time. Fees and mark-ups are how they compensate themselves. This is certainly understandable, but there should be transparency on what fees the buyers will be expected to pay.

#4: No Guarantees on Product Quality

Generally, when you buy through a co-op, there are no product warranties. If you receive a defective product, you’ll have to deal with the manufacturer directly, not the host who coordinated your buy. With imported products, there’s no guarantee that the item will look like the photo on which you based your buying decision.

In addition, imported children’s products likely haven’t conformed with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act requirements (which are mandatory for children’s products manufactured in the US). Similarly, some WAHMs either don’t know about CPSIA requirements or knowingly ignore them.

#5: Some Co-Ops Operate Under False Pretenses

Finally, it’s important to note the distinction between legitimate co-ops and fraudulent co-ops. Legitimate co-ops are transparent about the companies they order from and they don’t demand secrecy in the group. Legitimate co-ops typically buy from three sources:

  1. From Chinese manufacturers selling directly through sites like Alibaba or DHGate.
  2. From companies which openly invite co-ops to do business with them (frequently these companies are importers of Chinese products with a North American presence). Examples include juDanzy (formerly My Little Legs), KAM SnapsKaWaii Baby, and Glow Bug.
  3. From WAHMs.

Fraudulent co-ops, on the other hand, masquerade as retail businesses in order to place group buys from manufacturers that don’t permit discounts for co-ops, hoping to fly beneath the radar and get away with ordering at wholesale prices until they are caught. They often use the sales tax ID number of an unrelated business to establish wholesale accounts.

Consider this: if the people organizing your co-op buy are intentionally dishonest to the manufacturers they order from, how can you believe that they will do business with you in a fair and trustworthy manner? Stay away from groups like these. (They’re easy to spot because they’re always warning members about the importance of secrecy.)

So… Caveat Emptor

The former Latin scholar in me insisted on that phrase. But it’s simply the best conclusion: Buyer Beware. You can certainly find honest, well-run co-ops if you do your research and ask a lot of questions. Unfortunately, though, there is ample room for abuse in the co-op marketplaces, which operate in a “Wild West” corner of the internet. After the costs of fees and shipping, plus the long wait time and the lack of buyer protection, you may find that those amazing deals are really just kind of meh.


Share the experiences you’ve had in co-ops – good or bad – in the comments below. 

Disposable-Obsessed Society

If you currently use cloth diapers, you know that using less disposable stuff translates into having more disposable income. More efficiently put:

Waste Not Want Not

On a recent trip to Target I decided to play a game and see how many disposable products I could find. It was certainly an eye-opening experience that made me realize how much cloth diapering has changed my attitude about throwaway things.

I’m starting to think that we live in a disposable-obsessed society, and I don’t really want to take part in the frenzy. I am not pretending that I have the perfect, eco-friendly household. Don’t take my sarcasm in the commentary below as a holier-than-thou attitude or anything – I am guilty of using several of the products I photographed. However, as a whole, looking at all of the types of products that consumers buy, use once, and throw away simply shocked me! Over the last year and a half, I’ve found a lot of ways to substitute reusable products for disposable ones, and this has inspired me to keep at it. I hope it will inspire others, too.

Let’s start in the baby aisle, since avoiding the waste and expense of the most obvious type of disposable baby product is the main reason that most of you are probably reading Diaper Wrecker in the first place.

You can buy disposable diapers, disposable swim diapers, and disposable trainers. One and done, baby!

Baby IMG_1829

Baby IMG_1836   Baby IMG_1824

Of course, you also need disposable wipes (baby or toddler) and can also find other specific types of wipes such as pacifier wipes or booger wipes.

Baby IMG_1827

Baby IMG_1832

One mustn’t forget the throwaway baggies in which to throw away all the throwaway diapers and wipes!  Baby IMG_1830

You can throw away nursing pads…Baby IMG_1831

…and placemats (guilty)…Baby IMG_1833

And all kinds of individually packaged food products. Baby IMG_1835

Speaking of food, let’s go to the kitchen aisle! This was a treasure trove. There are single-use plates…Kitchen IMG_1814

And cups…Kitchen IMG_1813

And the straws for your cups…Kitchen IMG_1812

And “special occasion flatware” so you can impress people without cleaning up after them… Kitchen IMG_1810

The marketing folks are onto something. They know that no one really wants to clean anything. Especially a slow cooker. But wait… you don’t have to! Kitchen IMG_1809

That’s right – “No mess. Just toss bag.”

Kitchen IMG_1808You can also throw away food baggies…

Kitchen IMG_1807

…and napkins…

Kitchen IMG_1803

…and paper towels, too! Kitchen IMG_1806

Speaking of towels, ugh – who wants to wash hand towels, anyway? Let’s just throw them away, too!

Personal IMG_1806

And handkerchiefs are only for old people, right?

Personal IMG_1804

You can wash your face with throwaway towelettes…

Personal IMG_1817

And shave your legs with disposable razors!

Personal IMG_1815

Rags? Never heard of ’em.

Cleaning IMG_1823

A duster? Wait, isn’t that something you throw away when you’re done with it, too?

Cleaning IMG_1821

And your mop should always have a disposable pad on the end of it.

Cleaning IMG_1820

Speaking of “always” and “pads”…

Personal IMG_1818

And if your dog isn’t housetrained yet, you can throw away that kind of pad, too! Pet IMG_1840

Unfortunately, my scavenger hunt had to end abruptly when my tiny shopping companion (unintentionally dressed like a Target employee that day) demanded lunch.

IMG_1802

What other disposable products did I miss on this excursion? Which ones have you found awesome, money-saving, no-guilt reusable alternatives for?