Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Making Do

How often, in this convenience-centered world of ours, do we miss opportunities to learn new skills because we think we don't have time?

If you're a mom committed to living frugally, or just starting out trying to cut expenses, I have a challenge for you. I'm not going to ask you to give up any and all convenience foods and make everything from scratch. BUT--the next time you start cooking something for supper and see you're out of one of the ingredients, see if you can 'make do' with something you have on hand. Or if you start a project and are missing a non-essential element, use your imagination to see what you can come up with as a replacement.

I think that so many times, we overlook our capacity for creativity. If we give ourselves a minute to stop and think, I think we could be surprised by what we can do.

People often look at my craft projects and tell me I'm so creative and they could never do that. But that's really not true! I grew up as the bookworm who always followed directions and did what she was told. My mother often reprimanded me for not thinking about what I was doing and not having common sense. I never even took an art class after elementary school--it was never required in Jr. High and High School. I think you get my drift that I'm not naturally the artistic/creative 'type'.

But I *learned* to be creative through the first years of marriage when money was tight and new babies were showing up every other year. I *had* to make do with what I had, because we couldn't afford to run to the store every day or two, and even if I could--we all know that dragging little kids to the store in the middle of the afternoon when they're all tired and/or hungry, is not a fun time.

So, I substituted different types of pasta. Or used canned veggies instead of frozen. Or made up my own seasoning mixes from recipes found online. As time went on, I got more daring. Out of tater tots for tater tot casserole? I bet french fries would work fine. No tortilla chips? I can make some out of tortillas--flour or corn, baked or fried.

I learned to make my own bread if we ran low for the week. Make biscuits so I didn't have to buy the canned ones. Found a recipe for homemade cream of chicken soup that I could use in a pinch, and taped it inside my cupboard so it would be handy.

If you're low on milk for mashed potatoes, mix together some sour cream and water or broth and use that (hey, it's dairy--and it's pretty yummy, even!) What about that can of evaporated milk in the back of the cupboard--reconstitute it by adding an equal amount of water, and you're in business for baking or cooking pretty much anything.

And, while I've focused on cooking here, this mentality really can spill over into anything you do. I ran out of gallon-sized baggies last week. So as I used up the contents of a few baggies in the fridge, I quickly shook/wiped them out and re-used them. Sewing projects can be completed using un-needed pillowcases, worn-out jeans, or unloved shirts. Need to organize a drawer? Try the boxes from those bricks of processed American cheese, nice and sturdy. Or cut down cereal boxes to the right size. I've got my entire medicine/health cabinet organized with these, labeled on the ends so I can see at a glance where things are.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Let's see what we can accomplish, and how much money we can save our households, by 'making do'.


  1. Great post :) I'm in the same "making do" mindset as you are. I've been having lots of fun the last couple years making quilts out of stuff I had on hand -- old shirts, worn out blue jeans, pillowcases with holes in them, etc. They probably wouldn't win any beauty contests ;) but I have had all kinds of fun making something out of nothing.

  2. I often make do when I am cooking - sometimes it works sometimes it doesnt' but in over 20 years of cooking i have only pitched 2 meals because they were unedible ;o) a little frugalness can be fun!