Handmade vs. Store Bought

October 25, 2011 | By | Comments (5)

Sara Jessica Parker in I Don't Know How She Does It


It’s almost become ubiquitous on TV, in popular movies and books: Harried working mom doctoring some store-bought item, trying to pass it off as handmade. Whether it’s cupcakes for a school function, dessert for a dinner party or your daughter’s Halloween costume, who among us has not fretted over whether it’s better, easier, smarter, faster or cheaper to make something or buy.

Take this past weekend for example. On Saturday night, I hosted five couples for dinner club. I sincerely enjoy cooking, but hosting a dinner party is a lot of work, even if you do employ many of the tips found in Real Simple! While every couple contributed something to the shared meal, I decided at the last minute we needed an additional dessert. Instead of buying something for $15 at the Wegman’s bakery, I told myself it would be tastier and cheaper to whip up a flourless chocolate cake from scratch.

The recipe called for 16 oz. of bittersweet chocolate. At $3 a bar for 4 ounces, you can see how this wasn’t necessarily the less expensive option. Add in the almonds and the cream and well, I was past the $15 mark pretty quickly.

The next day I took my kids to buy Halloween costumes. When we were kids they didn’t have these outrageous pop-up Halloween stores with cheaply made costumes and trinkets no one really needs. One of my boys insisted he wanted to be something scary and since that is not a specialty of mine (and I was tired from hosting the dinner party) we hopped in the car. Thirty minutes and $40 later I had two costumes complete with props. Yes, I checked that item off my Sunday “to-do” list quickly, but couldn’t help thinking there had to be a cheaper scary option hiding in the back of my closets somewhere.

When I got home that afternoon I received a Halloween party invitation from a friend. The invite was sent by email which is not standard operating procedure for this gal. In fact, this friend takes Halloween very seriously and usually spends weeks making the party invites by hand. But her daughter is still recovering from emergency surgery and while my guess is it was important to the family that the party go on as usual, for the sake of the kids, mom knew her limits.

For me, Halloween signals the beginning of the crazy busy holiday season, when we try to be the best hostess, gift giver, card sender, cookie baker, home decorator we can be. Sometimes that means handmade and other times it requires store bought. This year I think I’ll give myself permission to make it when the mood strikes and fake it when it doesn’t.

So how do you decide what’s worth making by hand and what’s worth buying? Is it cost, time or both?