a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

When the Catalogs Start Coming. . .

you will save money if you open your mail with your "cap" on.
The old mailbox is the place to find new DIY gift ideas

When a special boyfriend invited me to meet his family and celebrate the birthday of his 16-year-old sister, I spent a great deal of time choosing the perfect gift for a young lady just entering the era of young womanhood (we matured slower back in those days). I chose a beautiful silk chiffon scarf that faded from a brilliant rose to the palest of pink.

I wrapped it in pink paper and painstakingly made satin
ribbon roses in a deeper shade of pink which I cascaded
down the front of the box. I was a little disappointed when Tom picked me up and did not comment on my very feminine package. I was smart enough to realize that most guys weren’t into noticing such things, but I thought an orchid-grower would be somehow different.

At his home that simple disappointment gave way to acute embarrassment as I slid my gift as inconspicuously as possible between the other gifts - a saddle, Indian saddle blanket and the most cowboy-looking cowgirl boots I had ever seen.

From that humiliating experience, I learned to be more aware and much more selective with my choice of gifts and gift wrapping.

What does this have to do with the title of this article? Not much. Just thought, years later, it is kind of amusing.

Marriage and its accompanying tight budget added a new dimension to gift giving occasions - economics! Many times, our budget allowed less for the gift than I had previously spent in wrapping one!

Soon the pre-Christmas rush of catalogs will begin to fill our mailboxes, enticing us with their wares. I rarely order from these catalogs but I do look through them for gift-giving ideas I can recreate at substantial savings.

Be a Copy-cat and You Can Easily Do It Yourself

Using an idea from a children’s gift catalog we copied a $39.95 puppet theater that fits in a doorway. Using sale fabric and two tension-type curtain rods it cost less than $15. You can go to the Copy-cat tab for the directions for the Doorway Puppet Theater.

The same catalog offered a $29.95 set of six hats for little girls to play dress-up and a $39.95 "Let’s Play Grown-up" dress-up set in a trunk (listed at the very bottom of the ad as 15x8x6 inches in size) filled with 15 items.

US Toy in Grandview, Missouri has such a huge array of hats and "jewels" and other pretend stuff at such low prices you can buy enough things to fill a real trunk. Call 1-800-832-0572 for their catalog. Or go to http://www.ustoy.com/cgi-bin/u.sh/2.0/index.html.  Constructive Playthings shares the same building, and has wonderful and educational, though not thrifty, toys.

A trip to a thrift store will usually provide a shawl, purse, frilly skirt or dress to complete the package. It is harder to decide what not to buy than it is to find dress-up clothes.

For our grandsons, we stuffed a copy paper box full with every imaginable hat US Toy offered for less than $25.

In a Housewares catalog. . .
I found a microwave bacon cooker for $39.95 and recreated it with an 89 cent purchase of wooden chopsticks. The commercial product consisted of a clear "box" with plastic rods extending from one side to the other side. You drape your bacon over the rods and place the box in the microwave over a paper towel. Great concept. High price. Using one of my microwave-safe bowls I drape the strips of bacon over the wooden chopsticks, balance the chopsticks across the top of the bowl, place a paper towel over the top to cut down on splatter, and proceed. It works great.

The food and goody gift catalogs. . .
are another great source of copycat ideas. I’ve only noticed one company listing the weight of their gift popcorn and that’s understandable when you read the prices.  The two-gallon tin for $22.50 works out to 90 cents per ounce! The same two-gallon can size of trio snacks (popcorn, tortilla chips, and pretzels- all lightweight and space-consuming) is $21.95!  A dried fruit and nut mix in a decorative tin sells for $17 for 26 ounces.

Yes, the cans are cute. You can buy them at garage sales and thrift stores for almost giveaway prices. Then, when you want to give a gift similar to those in the catalogs, it is simply a matter of choosing the snack combination you like and can afford, and putting them in one of the cute containers you found for a few cents.

This is what I meant at the beginning----put on your thinking cap before you peruse your catalogs.

Happy creating! It’s a good feeling.

What ideas do you have? What recipes would you like to have for "can-fillers?"  Just contact me at thecreativecheapskate.gmail.com and I will do my best to include them---or find them.

Watch for YOUR ideas in the weeks ahead---- plus lots of  how-to's for making your own covered pretzels, copy cat candy bars, flavored popcorns and more.

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