Hand-me-downs are a way of life in our home. A change of season means it's time to pull out the tubs of clothing from storage and find out what we will need to purchase, and what we already have. Out of season clothes are put back in the tubs for the next year and the next child. However, sometimes it makes more sense to repurpose winter clothes that still fit than it does to go out and purchase "new" ones.
Clothes that are too worn to pass on are great candidates for repurposing. Jeans with holes in the knees can be turned into shorts by cutting off the bottom of the legs. Long-sleeved shirts can be turned into Tshirts in the same way by cutting off the sleeves. The pant legs and sleeves can be hemmed, but it's not really necessary since the clothes are already grungy and will just be used for play.
Another good time to try repurposing is when you find yourself needing to purchase summer clothes for a child who has no younger siblings. Why give away all their winter clothes when they could just wear the same clothes for another season? In this situation, however, you will want the clothing to look nicer. That's why I love this kind of shirt:
Long-sleeved shirt with layered look
Just fold up the sleeves of the short "over shirt"
Cut off the sleeves of the mock "undershirt" where the two join, being careful not to cut into the material of the overshirt.
I first saw this idea on Pinterest, but it was one of those pins that has been copied so often, the original source seems non-existent. I finally traced it down to a blog post by Robinsunne which came up with an error message. Since I really wanted to do this activity with my girls, and it looked like a bit too much measuring and designing for a 7 & 8 year old to accomplish, I created a notebook page with a pattern. There are lines to help with the number placement, but they are light enough that they are barely visible after the wheel is colored. (The wheel pictured above is the sample I did to show them.) I tried once more to trace down the source before writing this blog post and came up with Robinsunne's Flickr page showing a picture of the multiplication clock that started it all. You can download my Multiplication Wheel Printable if you'd like to try it with your own children, or do it freestyle (as the original was done) by following the instructions linked below. * (You can read Robinsunne's original instructions by typing the URL into The Wayback Machine.)
1. Shop the back to school sales. I know, telling a homeschooler to shop the back to school sales is like telling you to breath. But while you are drooling over those piles of fresh white notepaper, new crayons, and gluesticks, try to imagine a home where every closet is not packed with colored paper, markers, and paintboxes. Yes, such places do exist. And in homes such as those, a box full of art supplies will be welcomed with shrieks of joy. The recipients will be amazed at your generosity, since such items cost a great deal more in December, never suspecting that you were clever enough to stock up when prices were ridiculously low. Don’t forget those homes with preschoolers. Preschoolers LOVE a new box of crayons.
2. Visit the dollar stores. There are two reasons you should be shopping now. First, you will find a lot nicer merchandise than you will at Christmas. Second, the crowds are smaller. Be sure to look for some coloring books to go with those crayons.
3. Yard sales, Goodwill, and other second hand or discount stores are a great place for Christmas shopping. Baskets and jars can be purchased cheeply for creative packaging. Also look for craft supplies and get statred making a few gifts. Toys can often be found in very good condition. Even if you don’t feel comfortable giving a second hand gift to someone else, your own children probably won’t mind. My children enjoy buying affordable gifts for each other.
4. Hit the clearance racks on November 1. Halloween clearance items make great gifts. Also, look for clearance candy that you can use in your holiday baking. Put it in the freezer to keep it fresh.
5. Take advantage of the bounty of nature. Keep an eye out for plants and flowers you can dry which would make nice additions to your holiday decore.
6. FOR NEXT YEAR: Stock up on Christmas clearance items for next year. If you don’t want to store things that long, at least look for stuff you can use for other holidays. Red for Valentines and Fourth of July, green for Easter and Saint Patrick's Day.
This is the first part of what (I hope) will be a series sharing how I, as a mother of nine living in a one-income family, keep bellies full when the wallet is empty. If you have blogged on this topic, please leave a comment with a link to your post.
Theoretically, I make a 2 week menu and go shopping every other week. In reality, the nature of my self-employed husband's occupation doesn't always allow for that. Sometimes he has unexpected gaps between jobs due to schedules being rearranged (he is a trim carpenter and can't trim until other phases of construction have been completed) or he hasn't gotten paid because the job isn't completed. In fact, there are often times when I need to stretch "two weeks" worth of groceries into three or four weeks. Once we even went six weeks without money for groceries. What does a mother of nine do when she has hungry mouths to feed, and "nothing" in the house to feed them?
The best way to make grocery money go farther is to not spend any of it. It is truly amazing how many meals I have been able to make when I have "nothing in the house" by using what was found in the cupboards, fridge, and freezer. This take a little bit of skill in knowing what types of foods taste good together and creativity in coming up with a substitute for a missing ingredient. But it really isn't that hard once you've had a little practice. I like to make a game of it, and sometimes I am (slightly) disappointed when the paycheck comes before I completely run out of food.
If you are used to being able to buy groceries whenever you need to, you might find it easy to over look the obvious when considering what you have on hand. For instance, I spent years throwing away perfectly good broth created by roasting chicken. Now I never take any of those cooking 'by products" for granted. Much of the time I will cook meats before adding sauces and seasonings so I can save the broth for other recipes. This broth is put into a container so the fat can harden and be skimmed off. Often I will use this grease for cooking purposes. (Hamburger grease from high quality beef is much healthier for frying eggs than chemical laden margarine.) If I de-bone meat, I save the bones for soup stock. If we have bits of leftover vegetables, I put them in a container in the freezer to make vegetable soup. I also save the water off canned vegetables for this purpose. I even save the water from canned tuna! It makes a great addition to seafood chowders.
Also, do your best to use food before it spoils. This is the greatest benefit of using what you have on hand. Not only does it keep you from spending more money, but it ensures that the money you've already spent has not been wasted.
For more budget stretching ideas, check out this article by my friend, Jimmie, on How To Skip Buying Groceries For a Week. She has done a great job of outlining a step-by-step process for creating a menu based on what's in your home. It is almost exactly the same method I use when cooking "from the pantry."