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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Shopping My Home Supplies and Improvising a Bit

I think most of us, here, try to find supplies for repairs and other projects from the materials we have on hand at home. Let me tell you about my most recent use of supplies I had on hand.

 I had been thinking I needed to go to the store to buy something for a project, then realized I could improvise with what I had on hand.

For my birthday in April, my daughters gave me seeds to some beautiful ruffly, pale pink primroses. A neighbor nearby had some in bloom this spring, and I mentioned to both daughters how pretty I thought they were. Well, my daughters knocked on this couple's door and asked where they bought their primroses. The couple told my daughters that they got a division from another neighbor nearby and didn't know the variety name or where that neighbor bought the original primrose. So my daughters went over to the second neighbor's house and asked there. The lady was very nice and told them what kind they were and what nursery they originally bought the plant from. My daughters got on the phone with several small nurseries in the area and tried ordering a plant for me. When no nursery could obtain one, the last nursery suggested they buy seeds from a particular online seed company. 

That's what my daughters did, and they gave me a packet of these seeds. 

Primrose seeds are tiny and have a long-ish germination time. I had read that they can be fussy to start from seeds unless all conditions are just right. So, I knew I wanted to use seed starting soil and not ordinary potting soil. The seeds have been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks, now. I kept meaning to pick up some seed starting soil, but it just slipped my mind every time I was out and about.

When the sun came back out this morning, I knew I wanted to spend the day doing outdoor work. That's when I thought again about running to the store and buying special soil. And then my mind-lightbulb flickered on. Since what I was after with the seed starting soil was finer particles (so the seeds would have uniform moisture without soaking the soil during the germination period), why not just sift out the large particles in some of the bagged potting soil I already have. 

I set out to find the right level of sifting. At first I tried a piece of hardware cloth (it's wire and not cloth, and has a large grid). The hardware cloth allowed almost all of the potting soil through. 

After looking around for a bit, I remembered the domed screen to our patio fire ring. I checked the holes in its mesh and it looked like it might work. In fact, it worked really well. I rubbed some potting soil over the mesh until the fine particles fell through, leaving large pieces still on the top of the screen. (I later dumped those large particles onto a nearby bed.) 

before sifting

after sifting

After a few minutes of sifting the potting soil I had just enough fine soil for starting my primrose seeds.

Seed starting soil at my local Fred Meyer comes in small bags and is more than twice the price per unit as potting soil. In addition, the extra trip to the store would use gas for just one item. I saved time and money improvising with something I already had at home.

I love when I can find a good substitute in my pantry, garage, sewing basket, or gardening supplies. And I bet you do, too. Most of the time I save time and money using substitutes. 

What was a recent substitution you made for a project or recipe, using what you already had on hand?


  1. Good for you for figuring out an alternative. Besides saving money, I like to use what I have at home because I don't want to hassle with a store. I never really knew what seed starting soil is, so I've learned something. My husband built a frame with mesh to to get rocks and other things out of soil. We have two sizes. I thought we didn't need them, but they are handy.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Those screens do sound handy. I've wanted to build a sifting frame/screen like your husband made for sifting compost, to get the chunks that haven't broken down out and returned to the pile. Maybe this summer will be the summer that I actually get to building that.

  2. I also didn't know what seed starting soil was--you explained it well! You'll have to keep us posted on the progress of your seed-starting venture. The picture of the flowers is really pretty.

    As for a substitution that I recently used--we had a couple ears of corn left over from a meal earlier this week (it's on sale this week for the holiday weekend), so instead of opening a can of corn to add to my taco chicken recipe yesterday, I sliced the corn off the cob and added it in. Not very glamorous, but a good way to avoid wasting food.

    1. Hi Kris,

      Your taco chicken recipe with the corn on the cob sounds like it was even better than using canned corn.

      I'll keep you all updated on the primrose seed starting. I'm hopeful.

  3. Necessity is the mother of invention! That was a great idea. 😊

    1. Hi Belinda,
      I think there's truth to the statement "necessity is the mother of invention." I know it spurs me to think outside the box or consider alternatives. And I hope my improvisation with the soil will work for the seeds I started.

  4. How nice and thoughtful of your daughters to persevere finding the exact primrose variety for you!! I love those gifts the best.

    Everything in my life is one substitution after another lol. Even junk journals that I love to make are substitutions for real journals. It makes sense to use what you have in creative ways before buying a ready made product, saves money and saves the environment. I'm not picky, so it's easy to find substitutions. Our meals are often made substituting ingredients. Lately, I've been altering my old clothes that are too large since I've lost weight. I think that's substitution for buying smaller sized clothes. The ones I no longer want to wear are either deconstructed and sewn into memory blankets or torn into rags. Even shopping is an exercise in finding cheaper alternatives, which is thinking of substitutions.

    Have a nice evening,

    1. Hi Laura,
      I just mentioned to one of my daughters this morning about you and your junk journals. This is the artist daughter. She said she'd like to try making one herself.

      Losing weight is a great reason to need to alter your clothing. Bravo!
      Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Laura!

    2. That's wonderful that your artist daughter is interested in junk journals. I stumbled across the craft while searching for paper craft ideas to do with my granddaughter in the summer of 2017 (if I recall correctly) So many talented crafters making absolutely beautiful journals unlike my real trashy journals. I'm curious what her thoughts are about the craft. Personally, I'm practical and simple so I do only as much as my needs are. Being trained in art, I'm sure she can take it up several levels.

      Hope you had a great weekend,


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