It’s that time of year again — you can almost hear the wails of small children as they’re dragged out of the swimming pool and into the shopping mall… only to be distracted by shiny new school supplies and the promise of out-swanking their friends in crisp new outfits.
Maybe that wailing noise is coming from the parents, clinging to their slimmed-down wallets and a last vestige of sanity?
The largest expense for many parents is clothing their children. The little buggers grow like weeds and keeping then in school clothes and play clothes and nice clothes can certainly add up quickly.
Keep costs in line, A Little Greener suggests, by organizing a clothing swap to help out kids without older siblings to share hand-me-downs…
My mother was a genius at hemming pant legs and taking in seams to make over last year’s clothes to fit the next kid in line. She helped us feel that the clothes truly were “new to you” by putting on new trim, or letting us pick new buttons from her button box to replace the original ones. (To this day, I can remember the lovely blue glass flower buttons that replaced plain white ones on my older sister’s jumper when it was passed down to me.)
Julie, down the road, has twins in elementary school, a boy and a girl. She puts most of her clothing budget into unisex clothing — tops and jeans — that can be worn quite happily by both of her children. They’re young enough not to mind, and in compensation they get to pick out their own new shoes and jacket for school — within reason, of course! Julie turns clothes shopping into a bit of a treasure hunt for her kids, and teaches them some important financial lessons at the same time.
My friend Kath’s children are old enough that buying their own clothes now, with money saved from summer jobs— but she says the biggest hassle for her was always the rush to get ready each morning, desperately seeking socks in a basket of just-dried laundry, racing to catch the school bus…
Holly and her daughter get around this by choosing a week’s worth of outfits ahead of time.
pencil case photo by sanja gjenero
A little bit of weekend planning helps to solve the last-minute crisis of “Mom, I’ve got nothing to wear!”
And I’d be willing to bet that it also gives mother and daughter a chance to talk about the week ahead, and anything the child might have on her mind… a bit of quality time that’s pure gold when they grow up so fast!
Maybe Kath never quite got on top of the wardrobe issues, but did have one great system for organizing her kids’ school supplies and all the other stuff that goes along with getting a family off to school —
Each of Kath’s children would pick a colour for all of their school supplies — their notebooks and pens and pencil cases and rulers, their backpacks and book bags, even the laces (or charms on laces) in their running shoes.
Color-coded baskets by the back door were assigned to each child’s stuff, and everything needed for the next day had to be tracked down and put in the basket before bedtime. Permission slips and signed report cards, homework, anything that had to go to school went into the basket…
Each child’s lunch went into a color-coded bag, too, to make sure that the guy who hated mustard didn’t get his mustard-loving brother’s sandwich by mistake.
tasty panini photo by roboppy
Ah, yes, those school lunches…
Do you find that you start off the school year with great good intentions but, well, sort of fade out somewhere in early October?
You know, you pledge to provide a variety of nutritious and well-balanced lunches that your kids will love… and somehow end up with the same old rotation of three basic sandwiches, with a juice box, a cookie, and a pickle…?
Crystal is planning ahead to make it easy — she’s drawn up a list of thrifty and healthy lunch ideas including both sandwiches and hot lunches to tote in a thermos, with suggestions for drinks and those little extra snacks that kids do like to see thrown in.
I especially like the fact that she has divided her Sandwich List into two sections, the bread-type part and the various fillings. So I’m thinking you could print out each list and post them on the fridge for quick reference when drawing up the grocery shopping list — then pick “one from Column A, one from Column B” like ordering Chinese from a take-out, to have a never-ending variety of sandwich ideas for those school lunches!
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