Real Nappies – Flashy pants and smooth bottoms

Are you a new parent or expecting a little bundle of joy? Wondering whether it’s possible to go green and save money, while ensuring your little one’s bottom stays soft and dry with minimal fuss? Then it’s worth considering real nappies.

Nappy lineGone are the days when they were bulky white squares of terry towelling held together with a safety pin. But what about the smelly bucket of used nappies sat in the corner waiting to be washed?

We get the low down on what you can expect from the modern day real nappies straight from one of our real nappy mums, Ruth, who has written a frank account about her experiences and her growing love for cloth nappies.

Green goddess or green eyed monster?

My baby’s skin is like silk. His rosy cheeks and chubby thighs display the very picture of health, and I’m particularly proud of his bottom.

Yes, that’s right. His wee bum is as smooth as… a baby’s bottom. He has no trace of nappy rash, no irritation and wears his nappy all night up to 12 hours with no ill effects. At 14 weeks old the only thing we have ever used on his skin is coconut oil, and my homemade baby wipes are soaked in a mixture of boiled water, baby oil and lavender oil.

But I believe the real reason for his peachy wee buns to be his delightful set of cloth nappies. And when you have this as an excuse, not to mention the financial and environmental benefits, it’s easy to get carried away.

Carried away? With what?

My name is Ruth and I’m a cute cloth addict.

I recently joined a Facebook group to try and sell on my newborn size ‘stash’ and made a tidy £90 back from my original spend of £120. Result. But in doing so I found myself scanning the ‘for sale’ posts in the group, day and night while waiting for mine to sell.

I have to confess there is now only £23 left in my paypal account. I’ve been unable to resist buying some of the cute designs I’ve seen. And I’ve been telling myself that this is a perfect example of a low carbon cycle – all these nappies are ‘pre-loved’ (let’s not think about all the Carbon Royal Mail are expending pinging these things to and fro across the country from one mad mum to the next).

Like a real addict, I’ve been rooting through my other nappies to see which old tatty ones I can sell on to fund my new habit. I was given a bunch of tired but functional nappies by friends and colleagues and *ping* they just sold tonight. So I’m like a gambler – trying not to be tempted by more cute cloth.

My poor, poor husband. He is becoming increasingly bewildered by my new habit. Lots of new nappies arriving means new systems to work out and new methods, remembering which boosters go with which nappy and so on.

Real Nappies_LittlelambMy favourite type of nappy is a pocket style – you have an outer ‘shell’ with Velcro or poppers to fasten and more poppers to adjust height (so they can fit a baby for a long time). These have an opening at one end so you can insert a booster pad, which is the bit that absorbs all the wee. The leg/waist elastic is what contains any solids and the great thing about pocket nappies is that you can add more boosters for more absorbency. Here’s a picture (copyright Littlelamb).

My favourite booster material is bamboo – not only is it a natural material but it’s super absorbent. It takes a while to dry compared with cotton or microfibre but it’s by far the most effective of the three. You can also get boosters made of hemp and even charcoal… A whole new world eh?

To find out how Ruth got on with night time nappies and how she tackled her bucket of dirty nappies, read the full article Green goddess or green eyed monster? about her real nappies’ experience.

Real NappiesIf you want to be able to see and touch the real nappies for yourself and talk to other parents who have used them, then come along to one of Changeworks’ free Nappuccino events. They are held on the last Thursday of the month in Edinburgh. You can also find out more about real nappies on our website, and can sign up to the Nappuccinos on our Facebook page.

Our next Nappuccino is from 10am to 11:30am on Thursday 27 March 2014, Duncan Place Resource Centre, Duncan Place (just off Duke St, Leith), Edinburgh, EH6 8HW. Come along for a coffee and a chat!

How far can a foodbox go?

Our Affordable Living Advisor, Chris Clyne, recently asked himself that question. He decided to try living off nothing but the contents of an emergency foodbox to try and answer this, and gain valuable insights along the way.


Chris’ foodbox

A foodbox is an emergency food package containing a minimum of three days’ supply of nutritious and non-perishable food which is given to someone in crisis from organisations such as foodbanks eg Midlothian Foodbank (such as those run by the Trussell Trust) and community groups and churches eg Edinburgh City Mission.

To better understand why Chris decided to set himself this personal challenge and to find out how he got on, we caught up with him to ask him some questions.

Hi Chris! What do you do?

Changeworks Advisor Chris Clyne

Chris Clyne, Changeworks’ Affordable Living Advisor

I’m an Affordable Living Advisor at Changeworks. I give energy advice to residents in Midlothian who may be struggling with the cost of keeping their home warm or are worried about their gas or electricity bills. I also give advice on food waste and waste prevention, how to make food stretch further and meal planning. I deliver face to face workshops to help people manage their gas and electricity costs in addition to cutting their food waste, using our Kitchen Canny kit.

I try to help people manage their household budget. I aim to be a first resort, rather than a last resort.

Who do you work with?

I am currently working on the Midlothian Area Resource Co-ordination for Hardship (MARCH) project, a partnership between Midlothian Council, Midlothian Financial Inclusion Network (MFIN) and Changeworks.

The project objectives are to help people:

  • Experiencing hardship and those affected by Welfare Reform to have improved access to welfare advice through increased local and targeted provision
  • Be better able to manage their money, minimise their fuel costs and avoid food waste
  • Access timely and effective support due to improved co-ordination and awareness of sources of hardship support services.

What’s in a foodbox?

According to The Trussell Trust, a typical foodbox contains enough nutritionally balanced, non-perishable food, such as dried and tinned foods, to last an individual or family a minimum of three days.

All foods are donated by schools, churches, businesses and individuals, or through supermarket collections. The donations are then given to foodbanks, who distribute them to people in need.

What is a foodbank?

Foodbanks, such as the Trussell Trust, are usually run in partnership with churches and community groups and provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in the UK. Redundancy, illness, benefit delay, domestic violence, debt, family breakdown and paying for the additional costs of heating during winter are just some of the reasons why people go hungry.

In addition to foodbanks, there are also social and community cafes, some run by parish churches, where the food is free of charge or for a donation.

Where did your foodbox come from?

I actually went to a supermarket and bought the contents myself, rather than from a foodbank. I based contents on a typical food box handed out by a foodbank. The foodboxes at foodbanks are specifically designated for those in need. The cost of the contents came to £20.18.

Why did you decide to try this out yourself?

It came up in conversation in a course I was doing, while working at social cafes. I saw a food parcel and wondered if I could take it to the extreme by making the minimum three days stretch to two weeks.

Also, through the MARCH project I sometimes meet people who receive the foodboxes and thought I could help them better if I understood more what it was like to live off the contents and share my experiences.

What did you think meals would be like?

Spicy tomato pasta with hotdogs

Spicy tomato pasta with hotdogs

I thought they might be repetitive, boring and bland. In some cases that was true due to the limited ingredients. I ate a lot of pepperoni pasta, which became quite repetitive. So I wanted to see if I could come up with recipe suggestions using the contents of the box to make meals more interesting, or at least give people ideas on how to use the contents, even if they vary a bit.

Did you think you would feel hungry?

I thought I would be fine. In the first week I didn’t go to bed hungry at all. However, into the second week I felt hunger pangs and more fatigued than normal. I realised this might be because I usually eat larger portion sizes and also eat between meals.

So were your portion sizes much different from normal?

Breakfast was slightly smaller than usual but lunch was about same size. Evening meals were generally lower in nutritional content. If I was unemployed, I would have been more likely to eat more as I would not have been distracted by work.

How easy was it to live off the contents?

I found it easy to start off with, but towards the end it became more difficult because I started feeling hungry more often.

Did it go as you expected?

Salmon fishcakes

Salmon fishcakes

On the whole it went better than expected. I managed to create  recipes with the contents, for example fish cakes, and salmon with tomatoes in pasta. It forced me to make dishes I would never normally eat, which was actually a good thing.

I thought I could manage for 14 days but in the end I managed 10 days. There was a small amount of food left over, but it had become quite difficult to turn it into a meal without adding additional ingredients from elsewhere.

Did you use any other food stuffs from your cupboards?

Only salt and pepper.

What kitchen and cooking equipment did you use?

I used only one gas ring, a microwave and a kettle to save on electricity. I also used a pot, a pan, bowl and plates. The rest was just the usually crockery and utensils.

How did you feel during this experience?

Rice pudding and peaches

Rice pudding and tinned peaches

The food was not as nutritious as I would normally eat. There were no fresh fruit and vegetables.

I started feeling hungrier into the second week which started to affect my judgement. I also started to get out of bed later. In general I didn’t feel as confident and had difficulty holding conversations with people – partly due to difficulty concentrating, fatigue and tiredness. I can see how easy it could be to fall into a kind of rut.

How did it affect you physically?

It affected me less physically, with only a very slight weight loss noted.

Were your expectations too high?

As the food parcel was expected to last a minimum of three days, I think I did quite well to make it last 10 days. However, by then I think it was already starting to affect my health. If I had no other options, then I would have tried to stretch it to 14 days, but this would have been at a clear cost to my health and wellbeing.

What did you take from this experience?

It certainly gave me an interesting insight into the difficulties people face when food is in short supply. I think that if I was unemployed and eating from a food parcel or even on this kind of diet for a prolonged period, I would have ended up in a rut that would be difficult to get out of. I can see how it could be easier to make mistakes, how my morale and self-esteem could be affected.

I think this experience will help me relate better with people who are undergoing extreme financial hardship. It’s given me more insight into how I could help them in my day to day job.

From a personal point of view, as a result I now enjoy cooking more and I’m more likely to cook from scratch for myself more often. I also eat more regularly throughout the day.

What advice would you give to anyone who receives a foodbox?

It is possible to make the box last longer, maybe six days and have better meals. However, much really depends on the individual, their different appetite and energy levels. I would also suggest trying to have four small meals a day to keep up energy levels rather than trying to stretch it out too much. Store some foods in the freezer or keep in sealed tubs, and plan meals carefully.

Would you change anything about what you did?

Not really. I might try to come up with different recipes.

Thanks for your time Chris! We hope your experience helps you pass on useful insights to anyone who needs them.

You can check out some of Chris’ foodbox recipes here.