In a Pinch You Can Use This for That

Have you ever discovered you’re all out of a certain ingredient just when you’re in the middle of preparing a recipe? I hate when that happens. And I know myself well enough that I don’t want to run to the store. For me an unscheduled trip like that could easily cost $40, maybe more. That’s just how impulsive I can be. I’ve learned that when I’m in a pinch— I need a pinch-hitter!

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NEED AN EGG:  Combine two tablespoons of water, two tablespoons of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

THICKEN GRAVY: If you’re out of flour, you can substitute pancake mix up to three tablespoons. It works well, just don’t go over three tablespoons or your guests will be looking for the maple syrup.

BREADCRUMBS: Crumble 1/2 slice of bread and mix 1/4 cup broken crackers to substitute.

BAKING POWDER:  For each teaspoon of baking powder, substitute: 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, and 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

BUTTERMILK: Combine one cup of fresh milk and one tablespoon vinegar.

Every Home’s Most Overlooked (Free!) Heating and Cooling Devices

Who doesn’t love learning about a money-saving tactic or investment that result in a net savings of thousands of dollars a year? I sure do! And I can count on maybe two fingers how many of those I’ve managed to deploy in my home in the past decade.

Room with curtains billowing at open window

It’s easy to think that the tiny things we can do to save money just aren’t worth the time and trouble. But they are because of the cumulative effect. Small things repeated often bring huge results. I call them little ways to save big.

OPEN OR CLOSE YOUR WINDOWS. Your house or apartment is full of free heating and cooling devices. They’re called windows. Using your windows for more than letting in light is a great way to save some serious scratch. If you live where it’s cool at night and warm during the day open your windows at night to let the cool air in and close them in the morning to keep the warm air out.

Use your curtains and blinds to block out the sun and keep daytime cooling costs down. Of course, if you live in a colder climate throwing your curtains and blinds open when the sun is shining can easily raise the interior temperature of your house a few degrees.

UNPLUG IT. Time it, sensor it, put it to sleep and smart power strip it. One way or another, drive a stake into the heart of phantom power drains. You could enjoy a decent dinner and movie for you and someone special once a year (including a generous tip) with money saved by unplugging unused devices.

Improve Your Life: Join a Group

Every night my friend Mary Ann does the unthinkable. She sets her alarm for 4:30 a.m. because every morning she gets up and walks three miles while the rest of the world sleeps.

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photo credit: Nebraska Medicine

How has Mary Ann managed to stick with this early morning fitness routine for so many years years? Simple. She knows that someone is waiting for her. Two people have made a commitment to one another to show up.

The secret of Mary Ann’s success is that she chooses to be accountable, not only to herself but to another person who shares her desire to become physically fit.

And how is this working out? Extremely well, she reports. The faster she and her buddy walk the louder they talk. And laugh. They even argue from time to time. They share their lives and brainstorm their dreams. They get so involved they don’t notice the miles clicking away. The deep friendship that has resulted from this daily event not only makes the task possible, it makes it enjoyable.

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Calif., says the way to get involved in the behemoth-sized church is to get plugged-in to a small group made up of people whose life situations match their own.

Holiday Head Start

During these lazy days of summer I can imagine that Christmas is the farther thing from your mind! And why not? With thoughts of vacation, finding ways to keep cool and big family get-togethers filling these summer days, the sounds of jingle bells and carolers out in the snow are like ancient history.

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I want to break this to you gently, but Christmas decor will be appearing in a store near you in only a matter of weeks—if you haven’t seen hints of that already. Devoting only a few minutes each day to getting started early with your Christmas plans will come back to bless you in money saved. And you’ll have beaten a lot of stress, too, come December.

Here are some quick and easy ways to get started now!

CRASH SAVE. Once each week put $10—or an amount you find appropriate—into an envelope for a service person you will remember with a tip during the holidays. Label and seal. Then make a note in your calendar so you don’t forget where you put it.

GROUP CRAFTING. Spend an evening with three or four friends making holiday decorations. Each brings an idea plus all the materials and supplies. By the end of a very fun evening everyone goes home with three or four new items.

How to Make Ugly Soap Scum, Mildew and Water Marks Disappear Like Magic

When all three messages landed in my inbox on the same day, the problem of soap scum, mildew and hard water buildup grabbed my attention. I’ve been told that if one person actually writes to me with a problem, that represents a thousand with a similar situation. Three in one day tells me this is a common problem.

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We recently remodeled our kitchen with stainless appliances. We have treated well water. The very first week we had a large water stain in water dispenser area that I can’t get off. It looks terrible! Is there anyway to remove it? Help! Pat

How do you remove hard water spots from shower doors? Diane

My shower mat has turned almost black. I have tried to clean it, but unsuccessfully. Can you help me? Ronnie

Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land my mailbox came from a guy who is a professional property manager. He handles rental apartments, and lots of them. As an apartment is vacated, his job is to see that it is thoroughly cleaned and made ready for the next occupants. 

He told me that the biggest challenge is always the bathroom, specifically the tub and shower. He kindly left specific details up to my imagination but let me know that “gross” is not strong enough to describe what he often finds. And that’s when he gave me his super magical potion—the only product he uses to return showers, tubs, tile, enclosures, faucets and doors to their sparkling clean and sanitized condition.

Frozen Summer Treats are Cool

In these sizzling days of summer it’s tempting to load up the freezer with pricey frozen treats. Or to duck into a coffee shop or juice bar to grab one of those decadent blended coffee chillers or a fruit smoothie. But the big price tags can make even the creamiest concoction or slushiest treat hard to swallow.

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Giving up favorite cold treats isn’t your only option. Make these yourself and you have great summertime treats at home for just pennies, not dollars.

Banana Berry Freeze

  • 2 cups ice
  • 1 ripe banana, peeled
  • 3/4 cup strawberry daiquiri mix
  • 1/4 cup Pina Colada mix
  • whipped cream

Place all of the ingredients, except the whipped cream, in a blender and process on high speed for 10-15 seconds until smooth. Pour into two wine glasses and garnish with whipped cream. Yield: 2 servings

Clone of Wendy’s Frosty

  • 1 cup milk (low fat okay)
  • 1/2 cup Nestle’s Quik powdered mix
  • 3 cups vanilla ice cream

Allow ice cream to soften in refrigerator for 1 hour. Mix all ingredients in blender. Yield: 4 servings

How to Double the Life of Cut Flowers

Whether the flowers are from your garden, the market or you receive them as a gift, you can persuade cut flowers to remain beautiful for at least a week—maybe two or even longer, if you are careful to follow a few fabulous flower secrets. 

photo credit: calliope

photo credit: calliope

The two enemies of cut flowers are bacteria and drought. Defeat both and your flowers will last and last. You will be amazed! The two enemies of cut flowers are bacteria and drought. 

START WITH A CLEAN VASE. Scrub it with soap and hot water, rinse well and fill with tap water. Next, add 1/4 teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach for each quart of water. This will retard the growth of bacteria and fungus in the water but not harm the flowers.

REMOVE ANY LEAVES BELOW THE WATER LINE.  Submerged leaves will rot and promote bacteria and algae growth in the water.  

CONDITION THE STEMS. Flowers can die of thirst even when standing in water if the stems have not been conditioned to draw that water all the way to the blooms. That’s because when cut, a flower stem quickly seals its “wound.” That can prevent it from drawing water. Just before plunging the stems into the vase of water cut stems at a 45-degree angle to allow for the greatest amount of water to be absorbed.

Of Samples, Spills and Substitutes

Whether it’s making sure a mailing label remains legible all the way to its destination or packing light for vacation, my readers have the best ideas, tips and tricks. Here’s a small sampling from my mail that is sure to both educate and amuse!

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photo credit: dinner-mom.com

JUST LIKE GRILLED. If you want the same taste as grilled corn on the cob but don’t have a grill or the time, place one corn cob (do not shuck prior to cooking) in the microwave on high for exactly 3 minutes. Use a potholder to remove the corn from the microwave and while cutting through the entire cob and shucks at the bottom of the corn. The corn will slip easily right out of the shucks and it will taste just like grilled corn. Hmmm…good! Suzy

WATERPROOF LABEL. When mailing packages, I rub a candle across the mailing label to make it waterproof. There’s nothing worse than a package not arriving because the address label met up with a rainstorm en route. Macy

LOAD UP ON SAMPLES. All through the year I obtain samples from various websites or phone apps like SampleUp.com, FreeSamples.org, Hunt4Freebies.com and and FreebieFindingMom.com, then save them for vacation. Taking samples size containers of shampoo and other personal care products reduces the volume of stuff in our suitcases and leaves nothing to haul home. Carla