"She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar."
From my understanding, this verse is not primarily referring to the importance of going a long way to get what you need. The merchant ships brought high quality provisions that could not be gotten or produced locally. It wasn't the distance that matter, it was the type and quality of the goods themselves.
Of course, we cannot just go out and buy quality everything. Nobody has unlimited resources, and most homemakers are accutely aware of exactly how unlimited their resources are. Sometimes, buying the cheapest option is the wisest (or only) option. Often, though, it is not.
There is an old saying that goes, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." Think about it: If you are not purchasing for cheap consumption and really plan on use things up or wearing them out, then it is advisable to purchase quality items in the first place. You may have to make what you have "do" in the meantime, while you're saving up for your purchase, or you may have to (or choose to) do without certain things.
I think there's one more bit of advice that goes well with the above saying, though it doesn't fit into the meter or rhyme: Make it yourself! Many of the things you might pay top dollar for quality for (a loaf of excellent bread, for example) can be had for a small fraction of that price by making it at home with your own hands. Note that this is not true of everything: You can often get quality clothing at thrift stores for much less than it would cost to make, for example.
And, remember that it's not always about frugality--or about quality. It's about good stewardship and a thankful heart. The most admirable homemakers I know are able to cheerfully, creatively, and gratefully put together a home with quality goods, making what they can and taking care that their hard-earned acquisitions be enjoyed thoroughly until they are used up or worn out. In the interim and the dry spells, they make do or do with out, still with joy, creativity, and gratitude.
There is something to be said about those far-off merchant ships, as well. We don't have to join a caravan to bring our provisions from afar, though. We don't even have to leave our living rooms, half the time. That's the beauty of the internet. What are some of your favorite online resources for quality, affordable homemaking purchases?