I'm no expert on the no-poo method but wanted to weigh in on one thing you mentioned. I have long thick hair (which I believe you also do) and a nickle sized amount of conditioner wouldn't do much for me. I use two or three big blobs - more like quarter or half-dollar size - to be able to finger comb through the tangles in my wet hair.
I try to find good salon quality conditioners on sale - often at places like Loehmanns or TJ Maxx.