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How to Be a Green Parent (And Save a Heap of Money!)

29/07/2014 15:24 BST | Updated 27/09/2014 10:59 BST

Apparently the cost of raising a child to the age of 21 costs parents a staggering £222,000. That eye-watering figure covers everything from education to food; clothes to toys; and everything inbetween.

When I became pregnant a few years ago, as someone interested in green living I was determined to not fall into the trap of having to buy every single thing glossy parenting magazines told me I needed, and save money where possible.

In this bid to save money and help the environment I've learned some handy things along the way from my daughter's birth to toddlerhood. Please bear in mind these ideas are by no means prescriptive. The thing I've learned most about being a parent is that you have to do whatever works for you. These things work for us - maybe some of them might work for you too, but if they don't then that's ok!

Accept Help

Get a head start and start being a green parent before you've given birth! Put pride to the side and accept offers of help. When I was pregnant my friend Helen gave me her old maternity clothes, which was brilliant, because who wants to buy new clothes that you can only wear for a few months? Other friends gave us baby equipment, and my sister gave us bag of clothes that my niece had long since grown out of.

We were so grateful for all of the help and items given to us. Babies grow so fast, and for the first year especially babies grow out of their clothes in months, so most of the things were in mint condition.

If you don't have any friends or family with older kids then mine Freecycle and the freebies section of Gumtree for people giving away baby things they no longer need. You'll be surprised at what you can find on there!

Reuse As Much As You Can

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Some of our nappies

We used washable nappies and used washable training pants during potty training. Washable nappies are great for the environment, and even though the initial investment is high (we spent £200 on washable nappies) you do end up saving a heap of money as buying disposable nappies and disposable training pants for at least two and a half years soon adds up to some ridiculous figure, especially if you have more than one child.

Using washable nappies wasn't a hassle. It was just a case of putting everything in the washing machine and then hanging it up to dry. No late night dashes in the rain to the shops to buy nappies because we'd ran out, or carrying home bulky packs of nappies, or stinky bins full of discarded nappies - we just put a wash on every time we started to run low. So convenient!

Resist Cheap Tat (Where You Can!)

Now that we're at the toddler stage, we've got to the point that whenever we go to the shop my daughter asks for a little plastic pocket money toy. 9 times out of 10 the toy lasts two minutes before she gets bored or it breaks or gets lost. Instead, say no - this saves plastic and saves you money. At the moment I find promising a trip to the park instead or a snack works miracles at diffusing a fraught temper!

Buy Secondhand Where Possible

I recently bought my daughter's bed secondhand, and try and buy secondhand clothes as much as possible, either in charity shops or through eBay. Children grow so quickly and things like clothes may only be worn a few times before being given to the charity shop or sold online. It helps stop perfectly fine items going to landfill and saves money.

Eat All Together

As soon as we started introducing solid food to our daughter at six months, we made a point of all eating the same things. Up until the age of one babies shouldn't have salt or honey in their food. To get round this we either cooked one meal then seasoned our food separately at the end, or cooked the same thing in separate pots, omitting salty items such as stock from our daughter's pot. After the age of one it's less of a problem, and as we cook a lot of our meals from scratch we know that there is not much salt in our food.

As she has been introduced to most types of food from an early age, my daughter pretty much eats what we eat, with only a very few exceptions. This approach helps reduce food waste; leftovers easily become lunch; batch cooking saves time and money; and I don't have to cook separate meals every night, also cutting costs.

Make What You Can

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I'm not particularly crafty so I don't make my own clothes or anything like that, but something I am good at is making our own fun without having to resort to buying too many toys. A walk in the park, jumping in puddles (a particular favourite), a walk along the beach, animal spotting, feeding the ducks, making things from junk, etc, are all fun things to do with little kids that don't require much money. Your child also benefits from spending quality time with you and having fun experiences. Free Our Kids has a ton of good ideas of how to make your own fun with kids.

I've just shared 6 easy tips but there are probably so many more. Share your tips in the comments below!