Shopping: the New Frontier

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Yesterday was one of two days a month I try to get ALL of my shopping done.  Occassionally, I forget enough stuff on my list that I have to make another trip or two to the store, but I don’t like doing that and try hard to avoid it if possible.  Why you may ask?

Number one is pretty obvious… gas prices are far too high and I am the one who can cut back.  Pioneer Pa is not able to do that as well as I can, he must be able to get to and from his town-job… so we are trying to put the fuel into Pa’s gas tank instead of in mine wherever possible.

Number two… getting to and from the store and doing all the shopping uses large chunks of Ma’s time and Ma’s physical energy.  In short, it’s a tiring and time-consuming.

Number three… I’d just rather be at home getting stuff done here and not running from store to store to bank to post office etc.

So, yesterday, I shopped for groceries at two different stores (and still managed to forget a couple things), picked up some garden seeds and a bottle of propane (for cooking and clothes dryer) and 2 thrift shops for childrens clothes, kitchen items, patterns and fabric.

But then again, sometimes shopping can be fun.  The fun part of our shopping trip ended up being the part where the Littlest Pioneer Girl and mama were “junking around” in the thrift stores.  We found 5 yards of really cute yellow and lime green seersucker type fabric to make pretty summer outfits for Anna, several patterns for sewing teddy bears, quite a few sewing notions, including some lace, snaps and zippers, 2 pairs of pants for Farmer Boy Charles who’s in the middle of a growth spurt, a pair of adorable pale pink dress shoes and a light jacket in a red banadana print for Anna, a tupperware canister for storing rice (I may use it for brown rice) and a never-been-used Bob the Builder character cake pan made Wilton (at about 1/2 price of new) for one of the boy’s birthday.  Had it been a Thursday, I’d have also hit other thrift store in town too.  However, I was rather sad to see that our local consignment shop had gone out of business.

This part of the shopping day started out being a search for Anna a pair of pretty white dress shoes to go with her Christening Gown, since she will be Baptized on Easter in DeSmet, SD in the church that was built by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s father, Charles Ingalls and many of their neighbors over 125 years ago.  We didn’t find what we were looking for, bought the pink shoes for her even though they are a size too big (infant’s size 3, she currently wears size 2) because they were so cute and she will grow into them before fall.

We have been doing much of our clothing and housewares shopping at thrift shops in the last 18 months or so.  Like so many of our ancestral “Ma’s” of yesteryear… I know that shopping for gently used items in second hand shops, consignment shops and at yard/garage sales (particularly for items like baby clothes and childrens clothes) will stretch our family budget much further orver purchasing new items.

Several of the best finds I’ve made in the thift shops in recent memory had to do with housewares.  In the last 12 months, I’ve found a huge dresser for Farmer Boy Charles’ clothes ($45), a bassinet-sized handmade baby crib which the Littlest Pioneer Girl is currently using ($10), a pan for making hamburger buns ($4), the above mentioned cake pan ($5) and a coffee pot ($3).

That $3 coffee pot has outlasted  the last 2 slightly fancerier brand new models that were purchased for about $20 each and only held up for about 6 months of regular use.  And because I bought it used at the3 Salavation Army, not only did I help somebody in need… I won’t be totally annoyed if this coffee pot kicks-the-bucket on me sometime in the next year or so… the daily pot of coffee or so that it has given me steadily, everyday fro the last year are worht far more than the $3 we spent to purchase it.

This past Christmas, we did most of our clothing gift shopping in the thrift stores too.  Pa recieved several nice shirts and sweaters.  The Farmer Boys each got several shirts, pants and ties and Anna got lots of girlie clothes.  I took each of the boys separately with me to the thrift store, gave them $25 and had them choose a nice church outfit for each other, an outfit for their sister and something for Dad.  This is an effort by us as parents to combat the commercialism of Christmas, to teacher the value of money, helping fellow citizens in our communtiy, and the value of giving to others.

Farmer Boy Charles in particular struggles with a very selfish mindset.  Not because he is a mean or selfish child, but because people with autism disorders have a great deal of difficulty understanding the feelings of others. The only feelings they understand are their own and so they are very focused on people giving gifts to them but have difficulty understanding the opposite of that… giving to others and helping others.  Teaching this lesson to Charles may take many many years to cement for him, it will take lots of repetition to get the idea of giving rather than recieving into his brain.

As times become more and more tough economically for families, more and more Americans are discovering the New Shopping Frontier!  The New Shopping Frontier is shopping for gently used clothing, furniture, toys, household items and more.  Families and teens in particular are learning to take second hand items and upcycling them into something new or more “cool” than the original item was considered.  With a few basic sewing skills, an iron, a hot glue gun and items to add interest purchased also in thrift shops or craft stores, simple wardrobe basics like jeans or handbags can be upcycled into something very unique or interesting.

In the April-May Issue of Mary Jane’s Farm (the Everyday Organic Lifestyle Magazine if you would like to check it out to see if you want to subscribe to this mag or not, Mary Jane has a lot of interesting homesteading inf o on her website and in her mag) there is an excellent article about Upcycling Wedding Gowns.  For a bride looking for a gown, it is worth looking at 2nd Hand Shops and Consignment shops first for a gown that could be upcycled into a unique gown you’ll love before shopping for a mass produced, reasonably priced cookie-cutter gown or an extremely expensive custom made one.  A bride or family member of the bride or who has some basic sewing and other decorative D.I.Y. skills can take a pre-loved Wedding gown and turn it into something truly unique and special.  In a tough economy, you can still create a goregous wedding on a tight budget.  This is one area that many couples are really going overboard on, often spending more on a wedding (usually of Mommy and Daddy’s money) than they could afford on their first home.  Parents are starting to look at their kids and say “look we just can’t afford the sit-down-dinner-for-300-people” type of wedding.

My own wedding (which will be 10 years ago on June 29th) was a D.I.Y wedding.  Pa and I both wanted a Christmas Wedding, but we lived in Idaho at the time and travel at that time of year was uncertain at best.  So we decided on a Christmas In June wedding instead.  In doing so, my mother and I banded together to purchase clearanced Holiday decor at 50% to 90% off to decorate the church and reception.  My 1st choice of wedding gown was far out of my budget, so I bought my second choice gown ($250 new) and embellished it with the help of my mother with lace that I fell in love with.  (I wish I’d had the article from Mary Jane’s Farm to read at the time… I’d probably have embelished the gown further if I had).  With the help of my step-dad and 2 youngest brothers, I made my own wedding cake (my menfolk doing the actual baking while us ladies worked on decor of the reception and church, and them my doing the actual cake decorating.)  For the real flowers used in the wedding, we special ordered white and red roses thru Sam’s Club for $13/dozen  and cut juniper branches from some shrubs that needed pruning anyway from the home my husband and I had purchased and delivered them to the florist who was a member of our church. Much of the glassware and other food service pieces were eather purchased at thrift stores or borrowed from relatives. And we put together our own platters of meats, cheeses, fruit and veggies and church ladies brought homemade sandwich rolls and deviled eggs all of which was put together as a soup, salad and sandwich making buffet.  Cost of everything for my wedding (from invitations to shoes, cake, food, champagne… everything) was $1500, a tenth or less of the national average and is was still completely beautiful and wonderful.

I learned my frugal shopping tactics from my Ma and her Ma before her and my Pa’s Ma.  Our grandmothers often grew up in an era of frugal spending, saving everything and repurposing things until they couldn’t be repurposed anymore.   These smart, frugal women have much to teach us about SHOPPING THE NEW FRUGAL FRONTIER and keeping us on budget, no matter the occasion.

I really wanted to bring you some photos from my wedding on today’s post, but technology has advanced so very much in 10 years that I was unable to upload the cd’s with the photos on them to my netbook with the new cd/dvd drive that runs off the USB port (10 years ago only people who repaired computers or did programing knew was a USB port was…now everything from laptops to cell phones have one.)  I will keep searching for a way to get these old cd disks of wedding photos uploaded, as I want to revisit this topic at a later date, perhaps for my anniverary.

So, meanwhile, we’ll post some images of those “new to us” Christmas gifts we purchased 2nd hand at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and pics of handmade pajama bottoms I Made the boys as gifts.    I have plans to make the Littlest Pioneer Girl a bib overall dress/jumper to match the bandana print jacket we found yesterday “upcycled” out  of her older brothers jeans that the boys have torn beyond repairs climbing fences and ripping them out right in the seat… but the legs and pockets are still in excellent shape.


3 responses to this post.

  1. This reminded me of my wedding 8 years ago. I found a simple white dress at a thrift store for $3- but it was 1/2 off! Then I bought $90 worth of lace, and a friend did the sewing for me for no charge. We held the wedding in a forest preserve (free) and had a simple picnic lunch. My brother-in-law is a jazz musician and provided the music with some of his students (we paid them a modest fee, but I don’t remember how much). It really is not necessary to go into debt to have a nice wedding. People still comment at times how much they enjoyed the time we all spent together to our wedding.


    • Karen, your wedding sounds lovely. I find myself wishing myself there. A relative or friend with musical talents is such a good idea for brides planning a wedding, especially right now when the economy is slow and everyone is having their stuggles with that. You never know how much a little bit of extra income might help someone you care about, on top of how special it is to have that memory of a loved one performing at your wedding.

      My cousin had a wedding similar to yours, outdoors at a state park near where she lives in Oregon, called Silver Creek Falls, she was married with the Falls as a backdrop, the whole thing was goregous. I didn’t get to go to the wedding, had to cancel as my doctor had put me on bedrest for high blood pressure in my pregnacy with my oldest, but my cousin and grandmother sent pictures.

      At my own wedding, my brother and my best friend’s sister sang a duet, “From This Moment On” by Shania Twain as their wedding gift to us. We went non-traditional with the rest of the music, the church pianist played selections from the Nutcracker and the Sound of Music in keeping with our Christmas theme. My best friend, MaryBeth was my maid of honor, she bought a gorgeous cranberry red gown for herself (alas I have no sisters). My 14 year old cousin, Leanne, was the flower girl. Leanne wore a hunter green prom/brides’ maid dress that she, my grandmother and my mom had found in a thrit shop. The menfolk wore black suits instead of tuxes, my brother-in-law in a tie to match my friend’s dress and my husband in a light green shirt. I skipped the veil because that kind of headgear made me feel like an alien is trying to land on my head and wore a $12 tiara from Claire’s. Wedding favors where a mix of red, gold and green jelly beans I bought at one of those bulk candy stores. (If I had it to do over again with ski8lls I’ve learned since I would probably make mini soap bars of my Champagne & Red Roses goat milk soap for the women and Frontier Cowboy goat milk soap for the gents.) My brothers, also in suits (which my mom bought at the thrift shop) were ushers and a therapy dog belonging to one of the congregants was the ringbearer. (There were actually 2 dogs in attendance, the other was a German Shepherd belonging to the town’s 90 year old retired veterinarian.


      • Thrift stores and consignment shops are such a great place to find semi-formal menswear. Suits, ties and dress shirts are usually something that these types of stores have in abundance. If you don’t find ties to match the wedding colors, purchasing these new are much less expensive than buying an entire suit, the shirt and the tie. Ties can often be found new at a mid-priced dept. store or even a “big box” store like Walmart between $10 and $25 in a wide variety of colors. A friend or family member with sew skills could easily sew up matching vests in a suitable color for each male member of the wedding party, vests take a minimal amount of fabric to make as compared with that needed to sew dresses for their female counterparts in the event. These ideas are also great for proms and other similar parties.
        This week I will be sewing up some matching vests in a paisley print for my sons to wear for their baby sister’s Baptism on Easter, as well as a Christening gown for my daughter. My parents are visiting for the occassional and the Baptism is being held at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in DeSmet, SD (this will be the last “big event” to be held in the Church that Charles Ingalls built in the late 1880’s, as my small family of 5 and an elderly couple are the last remaining parishioners there and the buildings are in need of more repairs than the Diocese can afford to fund… thus our Bishop will be formally closing the church and deconsecrating the building later this spring.)

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