Time vs Money vs Quality

October 26, 2015

A local printer near my parent’s house has a sign on his wall, something along the lines of “Your choices are good, cheap and fast. You can get any 2.” Since I first saw it years ago, I’ve seen that line pop up here and there and I always stop and think, is it true?

If I choose good and fast, will it be cheap?

If I choose fast and cheap, will it be good?

If I choose good and cheap, will it be fast?

There are some examples where you can get all three – for instance, if you’re willing to eat those cobwebby “chicken nuggets” from fast food dollar menus, it’s cheap and fast and you must think it’s good or you wouldn’t eat it. I tend to think of it applied to business, or life in general, and try to forget those chicken nuggets exist.

As a work-at-home-mom, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to balance my life and my schedule. I have Work to do (with a capital W, the stuff other people need from me), work to do (lowercase, the little things for my craft business, or just things I’d like to do), keeping the house in decent condition, cooking for my little gourmet eater and my husband, etc etc. Point is, there’s a lot of stuff I need to do, and I need to decide sometimes, what is worth the extra effort.

It comes down to time versus money versus quality. Which one is most important? Can you justify the project with one, two, or all three? Sometimes, I use quality interchangeably with “experience”, because sometimes it’s more one than the other.

I admit, it would be easy to make fun of me. I have a million hobbies, I do so many crafts it’s hard to keep track of, and I’m constantly making more work for myself. People don’t know what to make of it.

  • “You can sew? Like, you just make things?” – countless people, as though sewing is some exotic skill
  • “She bakes too? Bread???” – my husband’s shocked co-worker, when I sent a loaf of fresh baked bread with him for a luncheon party
  • “How do you know how to do these things?!” – people ask me this all the time and the answer is, my mama raised me right

I think it’s important though, to do the things I do. I like making things from scratch and knowing what’s in the food I serve my family. I like to do things the old fashioned way, just to be able to say I’ve done it. The first time I made fresh pierogies from scratch, I was rolling, cutting and pressing, all with my baby on my back. I like to think that some far-off eastern European ancestor was watching and smiling. For me, it’s worth it for the experience and the ability – the ability to do for myself, and the ability to teach my daughter once she’s old enough.

My mother has joked that if we ever did find ourselves in a survival situation, we’re in better shape than most people. I suppose that’s true. The people who can build things, who readily recognize edible plants, who have operated in situations where less is more (thank you, medieval re-enactment) definitely have a leg up on those who are used to everything being ready for them; packaged, prepared and ready to grab.

I like to think of myself as a “light suburban homesteader”. I don’t raise my own chickens and I buy plenty, but I try to plant my garden to maximize space and production. I use fabric I have in the house to make plush toys and play clothes for my daughter. I bake from scratch, and cook from scratch whenever I can.

Sometimes, it’s silly. Was it really truly worth spending $15 on tomatoes to make 4 jars of sauce? Especially when I know full well I can get very decent, no salt added tomato sauce at Trader Joe’s for $1.99 per jar? On this one, the quality and experience won out over time and money. Sure it cost me more, and I spent hours letting the sauce cook (though it largely simmered along while I did other things), but it was the experience that counted – and the fact that I used farm fresh organic tomatoes, I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Baking bread – I have 3 recipes that I cycle through, no-knead or low-knead, with fast rise times. One bakes in a cast iron skillet, one a medium size dutch oven pot, one a pretty blue and white Pyrex bowl (they’re fantastic recipes, seriously, ask me for them if you want). They’re fairly quick and easy, with little hands-on time and let’s face it, flour and yeast (especially in bulk) aren’t very expensive. So this one, I think, can hit on quality and money, maybe even time. That’s pretty good.

Now, I sew. I’m not an expert, but I can get by. It’s happened more than once that I say I need to find a dress for an occasion and someone helpfully blurts out, “why don’t you make it?!” This, my friends, will not be happening. First off, nice fabric isn’t cheap. And like I always tell people looking to sew, sewing isn’t hard, but making clothes fit snugly is a pain. And any errant stitch or uneven hem will blow it for me. The time, effort, and indigestion of working with nice fabric and trying to get it just right isn’t worth it. For this, I want professional. Money, time and quality all point away from me on this one.

I do what I can. I take little steps towards self sufficiency, towards doing things for myself even if it’s for no reason besides “because I can”. Do I waste time sometimes? Sure. Do I spend more money on supplies than if I bought ready made? Sometimes. But largely, it’s worth it.

As I finish typing this, Little Miss has climbed onto my lap. She pretends to type, because she sees mommy typing. If I give her a bowl and spatula to play with while I cook, she does “mix mix” on the floor while mommy does the same on the stove. Once she’s a little older she can actually help, and one day maybe she’ll be doing it on her own. So maybe I waste some time I could spend doing other things, but I’d say its all worth it.

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