Hohhot Life Hacks, part two: life with kids
This is our second post in a series designed to help you make some everyday aspects of life here cheaper, easier, or more functional. Our first hack post can be found here. We’ll offer five hacks per post. Today’s posts focuses on hacks for kids. Have a Hohhot hack of your own? Leave a comment for us!
SIX: Boxed milk is expensive.
Not as expensive as fresh milk, but still expensive. And yet, the boxes are so convenient to take on-the-go. Anyway, paying 40-60 RMB a case adds up if you do it week after week. Here’s a little trick I’ve learned…
Hack: Check out a smaller grocery store. There is always something half price!
I have found the best prices for the cases of boxes of kid’s milk with straws are the small, local grocery stores, not the big supermarkets. This has been true in both neighborhoods I’ve live in recently. Almost every week, there is something on sale for a buy-one-get-one promotion. Sometimes it’s even the fancy organic milk. Half price is much more affordable!
A side note: I would still read the labels if you’re able. All these boxed milks have pretty high sugar content and some are more like a “milk-like drink” than actual milk. Even the fancy organic milks have sugar listed as an ingredient most of the time.
SEVEN: Kids’ shoes everywhere?
We have two kids and another on the way and I feel like our doorway area is generally a disaster. Winter is even worse when there are coats and hats and mittens and scarves and layers of clothes. I’ve tried multiple systems for organizing our chaos, and one that is working especially well right now is this one:
Hack: Use a small coat rack (or some other kinds of hooks) installed close to the floor.
This method allows my kids to keep their shoes tidy themselves and it cost less 20 RMB. The rack was 15 RMB at a hardware store near our home and the stick- back hooks are about 4-5 RMB for a three pack.
EIGHT: Kids waking up too early?
Summer in Hohhot: where it’s daytime bright at 5:00 am. And although I wish I was up and ready to start the day that early, I’m just not. But if it gets that bright in my kids’ room, they will be.
Even though the installed drapes in the room where they sleep are fairly thick, they were still just letting in too much light.
Hack: Black out curtain
They have these silver, sort-of-plastic-y curtains that are made for blocking the sun. But, I’ve looked everywhere I can think of locally and haven’t found any yet. We used this curtain, hung it up inside the window sill with a tension rod. We have since gone all the way redneck and also fashioned black trash bags to the back of it. I’m sure we’re the most loved neighbors in our complex :). This hack cost about 60 RMB. And our girls are sleeping until 7 most mornings now.
NINE: Diapers are expensive.
I wasn’t aware before we moved back here in 2012 with an almost one year old that diapers are more expensive here than America. In the States we generally bought either Target or some grocery store brand of diapers that cost roughly 1 RMB per diaper when you work out all the math. I don’t think any brand here is that cheap and most cost closer to 2 RMB (or more) per diaper.
I know some people save by ordering from amazon or taobao but I’ve never found significantly better deals there myself. Here’s our solution:
Hack: Use a cloth diaper cover and a “U type” diaper.
Truthfully, I’m not sure how locals use these, but we stick these sticky-backed U shaped diapers into a cloth diaper cover, and it reduces our diaper cost to less than 1 RMB per diaper. This package above is normally 16 RMB for 20 inserts. They hold as much as a typical diaper, they just don’t have anything that wraps around the child’s waist. They have three sections of adhesive which hold them in place inside the cover.
You do have to have cloth diaper covers to make this method effective, but we have plenty of those on hand so it works for us.
TEN: Staying in a typical Chinese hotel with more than one child
China’s standard rooms have two twin beds or one large bed. Sometimes you get lucky and the two beds are a little larger that twin size and generally the large bed is big enough that theoretically parents and child could share, but in our family we’re accustomed to our kids having their own bed. Figuring out where to sleep all four of us comfortably in two small or one large bed is a challenge.
Our solution when we have to travel has been:
Hack: Try a three person room
The pictures above are from a hotel in Si Zi Wang Qi/Wu Lan Hua, which is about 2 hours north of Hohhot. This room with three 1.2 meter beds cost us just over 100 RMB per night. The girls can easily share a bed and we can sleep comfortably.
If you find yourself in Si Zi Wang Qi, here’s the card for the hotel pictured above. (Si Zi Wang Qi is the kind of the middle point between the two closest grasslands tourist areas, Zhao He/Xilamuren and Gegentala).
Another advantage of this room type is that the rooms are not used as often so there’s a chance they are a bit cleaner.
However, we recently tried the strategy when we went to Tianjin and it didn’t work so well. At the hotel in Tianjin the three person rooms were in a separate building than the standard rooms and they were much lower quality than the standard rooms. In that case, the price we were paying wasn’t a good value for the room we got, but we also weren’t cramped into beds that didn’t suit our family.