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Homemade goods are a great alternative to the uncertainty of storebought gifts, which are in short supply.
Homemade goods are a great alternative to the uncertainty of storebought gifts, which are in short supply. (iStock)

I’m not one of those people who gets their holiday shopping done before Thanksgiving. Rather, I’m more accustomed to the last-minute panic that comes when I realize it’s two weeks before Christmas and I’ve only managed to purchase novelty socks and a loofa gift set for no one in particular.

Many are noticing products out of stock due to a global supply chain crisis, and the problem is only getting worse. Everything from heating oil to school cafeteria food to toys to electronics to medicine has been affected. By all accounts, it’s going to be an expensive, frustrating holiday season.

Today’s media and politicians are professional blame gamers, analyzing every issue to identify the victims and perpetrators, and the supply chain crisis is no exception. Some hold shopaholic consumers responsible. Others blame pandemic chaos. Still others point fingers at the President, tweeting #BareShelvesBiden.

But I’m not here to assign blame. As a resourceful military spouse, mother of three, jack of all trades and master of none, I’m an excellent problem solver. During deployments and separations, I’ve had to spin multiple plates in the air while wearing various hats. I’ve been mother, father, short order cook, coach, plumber, teacher, counselor, party clown, electrician, medic and Santa Claus. In fact, thanks to my fixer reputation, my sister-in-law affectionately refers to me as Schneider, the mustachioed, alcoholic building superintendent from the sitcom “One Day at a Time.”

Strangely, I’m flattered.

This Black Friday, I won’t be able to punch out my gift list in front of my laptop, unless I’m planning to backorder, spend a fortune and stick a fork in my eye out of sheer frustration. I can’t hit the mall to knock out my holiday shopping, because all the velour robes, Xboxes, Pelotons, Chanel Nº5 parfums and Disney Princess Castles on my list are in shipping containers floating off the coast of Los Angeles.

It’s time to roll up my sleeves, Schneider style. Here are my four fixes to avoid the supply chain crisis altogether and make me look like Saint Nicholas himself:

Fix #1: Secondhand goods. Today, sustainability is all the rage. Truth be told, I’ve been into sustainable (read: used) goods long before it was cool. I can’t turn down a good rummage fair, thrift shop or garage sale. My refusal to pay full price is a curse and a blessing, because I often come home with a big bag of junk, proudly declaring, “Look Honey, I got all this for five bucks!”

However, with a discriminating eye, secondhand sales are a great source of unique gifts. When the kids and our budget were small, I often thrifted nearly-new toys, cleaned them and placed them under our tree. Our daughters, now in their 20s, still ask me to hide vintage costume jewelry in their stockings. And recently, I scored an antique barometer, and — shhhh! — I’m restoring it and giving it to my retired Navy husband for Christmas.

Fix #2: Experiences. Not that I'm directing this to my husband (ahem), but I'd take a trip to the tropics over an Instant Pot any day! Intangible yet meaningful gifts include goat yoga, high tea, paint & wine parties, museum memberships, cooking classes, wine tastings, B&B weekends, mani-pedis, family photo shoots, comedy shows, concert tickets, etc. Carpe diem!

Fix #3: Make it yourself. I’m not suggesting that anyone make me woven potholders or crocheted toilet roll covers (although granny squares are back in style). However, if the thought truly counts, then homemade gifts win because they require thought and creativity. I’ve made baked goods, paintings, beaded jewelry and apple butter as holiday gifts. This year, I’m giving homemade soy candles in thrifted vintage sugar bowls.

Fix #4: Donate. This final fix is the easiest gift of all. Use the time and money you would have spent shopping and shipping, and make a charitable donation in the giftee’s name. Your people may love ripping open wrapped gifts, but philanthropy might give them a deeper sense of gratification.

As Schneider would say, “always remember and please never forget”: store shelves may be bare, but giving comes from the heart.

Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com, and in Lisa’s book, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com. Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@gmail.com.


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