Feminine Care Prepping & Alternative Products

I’ma be real right now: Periods happen and they ain’t gonna stop just because things get crazy in the world.

If there were another shutdown, would you have your feminine care squared away?

This is a question that’s come up fairly often lately, mostly in mom-prepper and homestead groups I’m in.  It’s also one I’ve been meaning to cover here since before the pandemic.  Time has a way of just running over me, so my apologies for not doing it till now.

Please note… This post is more of a rundown on cost and available options, for stocking up in the event of an emergency.  It doesn’t cover the eco-friendliness of each option, a primer on cup insertion techniques, or a deep dive into each brand for each type of product.  I’d like to do a deeper-dive post at a later time, to cover more.   In the meantime, Wellness Mama has a good post on the eco-friendly aspect of the topic. 

So, are you prepared if we have to hunker down again?  Heck, are you prepared in the event of a financial emergency, or a natural disaster?  Feminine products can get pricey, especially for ladies with heavy flow. 

Stocking Up On Feminine Care

If you use disposables, such as pads, tampons, or menstrual discs, I’d love to talk you out of it!  If I can’t change your mind, though, you’ll at least want to make sure you have a supply that’s going to last you.  Personal care items and toiletries (toilet paper, feminine items, paper towels, etc) are expected to be in short supply this fall/winter.  With this in mind, I’d suggest having at least a 6-month supply on hand to ride this thing out.

Affordability

The cost of things makes it hard to stock up on a tight budget (I know!).  But, what’s the cost of running out and being unable to replenish your supply, or having to pay more to do so?  During shortages, prices often go up to re-balance the supply/demand aspect (notice how T.P. got more expensive this year?). 

Even in good times, it’s advisable to sock away a few dollars here and there.  $5 a week in a jar or savings account, over time, can make or break an emergency response.  It can mean all the difference between being able to take advantage of a solid stock-up deal, or doing without necessities at crucial times.

Use this guide to help calculate the cost of a 6-month supply:

List the items you buy  (tampons, pads, liners, douches, fem-wash, etc), with their associated costs, and calculate by how much product you use in a month.  Then, multiply that by 6 to get your estimated total.

For example, say I use 1 box of 18-ct tampons, 1 box of 24-ct backup pads and 60 pantyliners a month.  (I’m using my local Dollar Store prices here… your costs may be more or less, depending on your area, preferred store, and the products you use.  Adjust accordingly.).  My cost breakdown would look like this:

Almost $50 to be stocked on lady gear for half a year!  It’s a lot to come by in a pinch.  For many, at least where I’m from, this means buying 1-2 items each payday till your supply’s up.  But, if that’s the only way to do it, it can still get done. 

Alternatives to Disposable Feminine Care Products

There are alternatives to buying throwaway items.  While the costs are higher upfront, they last so much longer and will actually save you over time.  On average, items will last about 5-10 years.  I’ve found they can last even longer, with proper care.  Here’s a rundown of some available options:

Menstrual Cup 

With the exception of the Cincinnati-based Keeper brand, that uses rubber, these are made from medical-grade silicone.  They generally come in 2 sizes: pre-pregnancy and post-pregnancy, though I’ve seen some in Small, Large, & X-Large.  Each brand has their own take on the dimensions for the sizes they offer, so shop around and see what might be best for you.  I use a pre-pregnancy size LadyCup, despite having given birth twice, and feel that women should consider their pelvic size and flow more so than whether or not they’ve given birth.  We’re all different.

Using a cup requires a bit of a learning curve and a solid comfort level with your body.  You will be getting up close and personal with your lady parts!  Most cup users will tell you it isn’t so bad, once you figure out your technique, and that they’re actually more comfortable than tampons.  In fact, you can even wear one when you’re simply expecting your period to show up.  And a pantyliner or pad can be used as backup, if you’re worried about leaking.

Cloth Pads/Liners

These are similar to the plastic-y disposable pads available everywhere.  Except they’re cloth…and MUCH more comfortable, in my opinion.  Again, there are different brands and materials:  cotton or organic cotton, bamboo cloth, charcoal-ed cloth, and absorbent French terry cloth are used most often.  Most cloth pads have a PUL (polyurethane laminate) backing, to prevent leaking through.  Yes, it’s a type of plastic and that’s not an ideal situation but it’s a case of pros and cons.  Some women get by just fine with cloth pads that have no PUL backing.

Leaking is a concern many women have when considering whether or not to buy cloth pads.  It’s generally assumed you’ll bleed all through a few layers of cloth.  My personal experience is that they actually hold more and are less likely to leak than disposable pads.  I bought 2 sets earlier this year, one multi-sized set & one pantyliner set, to replace a set I made a decade ago…and they’re amazing!  Let’s just say that, when I cold-rinse them (a pre-wash thing), I’m still always surprised at their capacity.

Image found at Moon Time Store: https://shopperiodpanties.com

Period Panties

I actually don’t know much about these.  They came out after I done settled on what works for me.  Seems to me that, if you’re out and about or wearing pants, changing these several times a day may become an issue.  Or maybe I just have a hangup about that kind of thing.

As with the other options, there are several brands that offer their own sizes and price points.  These can fully replace pads and tampons or act as backup to your current protocol.  I’ve seen reviews that go either way.  What works for one lady may not work for another.  It’s important she know her body and understand its nuances, especially her cycles, when deciding on lady gear.

If you use these, know someone who does, or otherwise know more about them, please feel free to have your say in the comments.

Feminine Product Care

The main caveat on reusable lady gear is that you have to clean and dry them well to keep them in good condition.  For most, this isn’t a problem.  For some, it might not be worth the extra time or they just don’t want to bother with it.

For cloth pads and period panties:

These should be rinsed thoroughly in cold water (until the water runs clear) BEFORE washing with soap and warm/hot water or tossing in the washer.  This will ensure they’re fully clean and help keep smells from setting into the fabric from leftover blood. Both can be air-dried and I think that’s the recommendation for the panties (along with hand-washing).  However, with the clothies, I find a tumble in the dryer can ensure they’re good and dry for storing till the next month.  I tend not to put our “skivvies” on the line anyway.

With menstrual cups:

This process is quicker.  Rinse ‘em out, soap ‘em up, rinse warm/hot, and air dry before storing.  However, I have heard that certain types of soap (generally the more commercial, chemical-laden ones) can break down the material over time.  My personal solution is to use an unscented liquid castile soap with no essential oils added.  I don’t always use my cup and feel this, with the soap I use, is why it’s still near-new after all these years.

Cost Breakdown for Menstrual Alternatives

Prices do vary, depending on product, how many in a set, etc.  For cups, the general range is $30-45.  I got mine on eBay (brand new…don’t EVER buy used lady gear!) 10 years ago for about $25.  Back then, the LadyCup went for $40, so it was a deal. 

The range for cloth pads is about $9 to as much as $40+ for a “full” set.  They can be bought one pad at a time or as a multi-pack.  Buying singles can be cheaper, but one is sometimes as cheap as a comparable set of three. The sets I bought were $24 for the multi-pack and $12 for the pantyliner set (currently, they’re going for $26 and $13, respectively). With the free shipping, I spent $36.  Added to the $25 spent on my cup, I spent the same as 8 months or so worth of disposable product and have enough lady gear to last me till menopause! I’m turning 40 this fall so these may, legit, be the last items I’ll ever need to purchase.

The range for period panties runs roughly $10-44/pair.  This can vary a bit, depending on if you buy a set or singles, which brand you buy, etc.  Consider, though, that you may need 2-4 (or more) a day if you’re using them as your primary period product, multiplied by how many you’d need to keep the rotation going.  That’s a lot of $$ upfront, in my opinion.  If it’s an option you’re into, it might be worth it.  Personally, my frugal ass would give them a hard pass.

Are you stocked up on your feminine items?  Do you, or a loved one, use alternatives for your period?  What’s your experience/opinions on them?  Did I miss an option you’d like to see listed (maybe in the next post on this topic)?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

*I was going to include sea sponges to the reusables list but ran across sources questioning their safety.  Some accounts suggest they may include silica (glass? I should hope not!), are dirty (contributing to TSS and other infections), introduce too much oxygen into the vagina (messing with its natural environment), and so on.  If you know more about these, feel free to comment!

Cover Photo by Vanessa Ramirez from Pexels

Is Covid-19 a Wake-up Call for Humanity?

This crisis has us asking many questions. This is one of mine. But, among the bad, there have been good things happening too.

OK, first I want to state that I don’t want this post to get political or overtly religious. Let’s be real: heated debates on such personal and subjective topics serve nothing in the overall scheme of things. My intent is to get some of my thoughts out about this crazy time we’re all in the midst of. Maybe some of you have had these kind of thoughts as well?

I also want to state that I’m not trying to trivialize this crisis in any way. This virus is truly insidious in its contagion and people have died. I’ve been trying to keep up on the science in real time, as much as possible. And we can’t overlook the economic toll either. These times are unprecedented and folks are suffering. There’s just no sugar-coating it.

Disclaimer aside, I can’t help but feel like Mother Nature has us in the crosshairs. In no time flat, and at a global level, everything just got laid bare. In the raw mess are the flaws of our societies, gutted, wide-open, and glaring. The flaws of our economies, our healthcare systems, our inequalities, our divisions, our loyalties…so on and so forth. Literally. Everything. Is exposed right now.

I also can’t help but feel that this may be the only way the human race will make the necessary changes to keep this planet functioning and habitable for future generations. We’ve had years, even decades, of warning and progress has been painfully slow. Blame who or whatever makes you feel better about it but, as a species, we all failed.

So, now what?

While I’d like to say we all wake up and suddenly do better, nothing’s ever so simple (and people are complex, as are their motives). Especially when the catalyst is forcing sudden changes in ways people find incredibly uncomfortable. A lot of folks naturally want to run back under the blanket and go back to sleep. It’s less painful.

But there have been upsides to this disaster and I think we’d be remiss to ignore them or discount them out of hand.

Re-Connecting With Oneself & Loved Ones

Being stuck at home may be annoying to some, particularly if you’re very social. For others, it’s provided a perfect opportunity to get things done around the house, get to know your kids or spouse better, and even get in some solid introspection time. Some have even realized they prefer working from home or homeschooling their kids or cooking from scratch. The time just wasn’t there before, with all of society’s demands.

Re-Evaluating What’s Important to You

This is one of the things many people are currently reflecting on – how much those demands took away from the quality of their lives. It’s making people re-evaluate what’s really important to them. And, they’re adapting to meet the moment. They’re connecting digitally with loved ones, planning/starting businesses that make their hearts sing, and making decisions (lifestyle, financial, personal, etc) that are likely to have some real staying power.

The Correlation Between Reduced Human Activity & Reduced Pollution

After the initial shutdowns kicked in, it became apparent pretty quick how much our hustle and bustle contributed to pollution. With so few cars on the road in major cities, Nature showed us how fast the air quality could start to improve. The slowdown of consumer behavior demonstrates how little we actually need to survive and, perhaps, even how wasteful we had been up to now. Many people are making decisions now, based on this, pledging to buy/use less and save their money, rather than spend it. Our economies will have to adjust to this new norm, as people revert back to the frugality of their ancestors. Nobody wants to get caught with their financial pants down again. It just leaves us too exposed.

The Rise of ESG/SRI Investments

As some stocks took major hits, others held up better in the downward slide. Oil stocks, which were already on the decline due to mass divestment of it and other pollution-related investment products, got pummeled. Companies are shutting down or declaring bankruptcy, many in the retail and restaurant sectors. Many of these, unfortunately, are small businesses (which are our communities backbones). Several shut down where I live, including our favorite date night spot.

In the midst of this, some sectors of the stock market are holding up better than others. Among these are ESGs/SRIs – also called Environmental, Social & Governance and Socially Responsible Investing – and even the Marijuana industry (if you ask me, this one’s gonna explode in coming years, especially if legalized at the federal level). Personally, if I could afford to invest, these are where I’d invest and had wanted to years before the pandemic.

Maybe I’m biased but I have my theories as to why these areas are doing better: because the kind of people who invest in them do so out of principles, not profit. Sure, seeing a return is nice but consider that many of these investors bought in when it wasn’t a popular thing to do at all, and people were even telling them (in their “conventional wisdom”) that these stocks were going nowhere. They bought in because it was something they believed in. Hence, they didn’t see the fear-based mass sell-offs that helped speed up the crash of the markets when the crisis hit.

Now, mind you, I work part-time at a local bank’s investment dept. (in admin, not advising) and I see how many clients are still trying to buy whatever sounds good this week, only to quickly sell it off if there’s even a slight whiff of “so, this isn’t going to help me recoup every cent I lost immediately”. I’m talking a regular 24-hour buy/sell turnaround time here in some cases. It amazes me. Some folks do it out of the stereotypical stock investor mentality of short-sightedness and others do it because they truly rely on the income from their investments to live on (and things just got real).

I can’t help but feel disappointment that folks let themselves fall prey to the fickleness of the markets when they’re so vulnerable to its whims. I mean, it went from dire straits to “hey, we’re back on everyone!” just on the promise that the government might do something – nothing had actually been done at that point and stocks were back on the rise already. If that doesn’t tell you that there isn’t much propping them up, besides hopes and dreams, nothing will. More reason to invest where you really feel it, and hang in there over the long haul, in my humble opinion.

But I digress…my apologies.

My main point here is that, despite the awfulness of our collective situation, there are indications that things can get better from here. I feel good that they will, at least eventually. There are promising developments on a vaccine. People are re-connecting and finding their own versions of a new normal. Economic indicators are positively leaning in the direction of social responsibility, clean energy, and other burgeoning industries that can provide a lot of good jobs in coming years. In the meantime, we have to hang in there and get through this incredibly tough time. I’d like to see us all do this together and by looking out for one another (as much as socially distancing allows us to, anyway, right?).

I’d like to leave you with a song that helps me feel good – Resilient by Rising Appalachia – because we are resilient and we will get through this. Be well, all!