Dear Sara:

You mention products such as castile soap and washing soda. Where can I buy these products? -- Emily, Ohio

Dear Emily:

Super Washing Soda is made by Arm & Hammer. It can usually be found in the laundry aisle of your grocery store. Check hardware stores, discount department stores, drugstores or health-food stores as well. If your grocery store doesn't carry it, ask the manager to order it. You can call Arm & Hammer's customer service department at (800) 524-1328 and order it directly or ask them for the closest retailer that sells it.
Castile soap can be found at many of the same stores (Target, Walmart, Walgreens, etc.) as Super Washing Soda. Two popular brands are Kirk's ( and Dr. Bronner's (

Dear Sara:

Do you buy secondhand shoes for your kids? I do sometimes, but then my mom (who doesn't understand why anyone would buy anything secondhand) told me it is bad for their feet, as the soles have already been molded by another child's foot. Is this true? Should I only buy new? Has your child had foot issues because of secondhand shoes? -- Janine, Canada

Dear Janine:

There's used and there's USED. I simply look at how much wear the shoes have received, and if they're new or near new, I might pick them up. I don't feel that it's bad for my children, because they aren't wearing these secondhand shoes exclusively. My experience has been that kids outgrow shoes quickly, and if there's little to no wear on them, it's not going to be harmful to my kids to wear them in rotation with their other shoes. My biggest concerns are that their shoes are breathable, fit them well and are well-constructed.
Some experts discourage kids wearing secondhand shoes, and while I understand their concerns, it really depends on the shoes for me. I'm not going to pass up a pair of new shoes simply because they're being sold at a thrift store or garage sale. I'm also not going to buy my kids only secondhand shoes to wear. Keep in mind that new shoes are often tried on by numerous people in stores, and the possibility for foot "issues" exists with any of the new shoes your child owns, too.
I recommend cleaning and disinfecting secondhand shoes. Use Lysol spray or bowling-shoe disinfectant, or simply replace the insoles to avoid any risk of fungal infection. To deodorize, use baking soda. You can also call your local shoe-repair shops and ask whether they clean shoes and how much they charge.

Dear Sara:

Sports for kids are costly. I've looked into gymnastics, figure skating, dance, etc., and I can't believe the cost of some of these activities. I can't shell out a lot of money for sports, but I also don't want my daughter turning into a couch potato. Do you have any suggestions for frugal kids' sports? -- Greg H., Illinois

Dear Greg H.:

Running would be my top choice for an inexpensive sport for kids. My kids are in multiple sports, but they do a lot of dry-land practice that doesn't cost us much of anything. Running, jump-roping, biking, swimming and climbing the stairs at the high school stadium are some of the ways they cross-train. Look for a community youth running club (cross country and track) such as Fleet Feet, or see if your school offers a "Girls on the Run" program or something similar.