One of the occupational hazards of being 5'2" (if I stretch the truth by a quarter of an inch) is that things tend to get lost in the upper shelves of cabinets and pantries. Vitamins we bought but didn't like (or couldn't swallow), sleeves of crackers with three crackers still in them, out of date canned goods, expired prescriptions and the like end up cluttering things up and taking up room that could be used for other purposes; but since I don't always see these things or don't take the time to check the dates on the packages I forget to clear them out. This is one of those things my husband is really good at doing; he's meticulous and thorough, and while he's not wasteful in his approach to food he does tend to be realistic about items we may not use or whose expiration dates passed over a year ago.
When he had finished, I was amazed at how much room there really was to store things, and at how many things I'd purchased and never gotten around to using, or especially to using up. My style of meal preparation tends to be more slapdash than it ought to be, and I usually decide what I want to make before I look around to see what there is, or what I've already opened and should really use before it can't be used anymore.
We moms are always examining our budgets, looking for room for improvement, and I've decided that my focus this year is going to be on using what we have. It's far too easy for me--and maybe for you, too--to start replacing perfectly good items either because I've forgotten that I have them, or because I've changed my mind about the color (or, in the kitchen, the flavor); instead of putting a little extra effort in to making whatever it is work anyway, I'm bagging it up for a charity or for the trash, and starting all over again.
There are lots of "thrifty mom" websites out there with some good ideas, but I think that before I start to ask myself whether I need to buy something at Ubiquitous Mart or whether a local thrift store would be a better choice, the first question ought to be "Do I need to buy anything at all?" For instance:
- Do I need to put this item on my grocery list (is it a staple, or something I know I'll use) or is this a relatively uncommon ingredient necessary only for a recipe I haven't tried yet that my family may or may not like?
- Do I need to purchase new toothbrushes, or do we still have a stash of them somewhere from the last time the local discount store had them on sale? (Yes, we've done this: bought extra of something when it was marked down and then forgotten where we've put them, or even that we bought them at all.)
- Does Bookgirl need new clothes, or do I need to have Kitten try on some of the things stashed in the back of her closet to see if they're ready to be handed down?
- Do we need new wastebaskets for the bathrooms, or do we just need to take the old ones out into the back yard for a good hose-down?
- Do the girls actually need any new art supplies, or do we just have to clean out the art cabinet and see what's in there that they've forgotten they have?