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Secrets of Super Savvy Grocery Shoppers

I flinched at the thought. Buy produce from that store where nothing costs more than a dollar? I probably came across as a snob when I asked my friend if it was even safe. I mean, where would food that cheap come from?

She pushed, so I agreed to go along, but only as a spectator.

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Oh, the bargains I found there—beautiful, first-quality produce: lettuce, scallions, a seriously large bag of ginger root, five pounds of Russet potatoes and six heads of gourmet garlic in a mesh fabric bag. Five items, just 99 cents each for a total of $4.94. On that day the same items would have cost $11.88 at the neighboring supermarket. My skepticism evaporated quickly making me a convert and a regular.

My experience with chopping the cost of produce is a drop in the bucket compared to the food shopping methods of people I consider extreme grocery shoppers. Just keep this in mind: Not every method works for every person. Discover what works for you and then hone that method to a razor’s edge. Soon you’ll be bagging bargains and bringing your food costs down—extremely!

Cheapskate Gardening Tips, Tricks and Recipes

Is there anything more gratifying than a beautiful garden when you just happen to be the gardener? One trip to the garden center to pick up soil amendment, weed cloth and weed killer can pretty much zap all of the joy for the expense that can represent. That’s why I love today’s tips, tricks and, back by popular demand, homemade weed killer.

But first, check out my garden—spring flowers and a few weeds I treated only yesterday.

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GARDEN VITAMINS. While you may have no use for spent coffee grounds, your garden would love them. Used coffee grounds are like mega-vitamins for the soil. They’re rich in phosphorus and magnesium—important nutrients that help plants grow. It’s easy to just sprinkle coffee grounds around the plants and work them into the soil. They’re even the right color. If you’re not much of a coffee drinker, don’t despair. Starbucks has a program called Grounds for Your Garden, where they package up their used coffee grounds in the bags that the beans originally came in and offer them to local gardeners, for free. Pre-packaged bags of Grounds for Your Garden may not be available in all stores. Check with your barista to see if used coffee grounds are available at your local Starbucks.

Cybercrime Alert for Grandparents

There is a very real and terrible scam going on in the U.S. and abroad, in which grandparents are being targeted.

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The scam begins with something most grandparents don’t get enough of—a phone call, email message or a message through Facebook from a grandchild. The scammer, impersonating that grandchild, is frantic and says he’s been hurt in a car accident, or arrested, or gotten in some kind of trouble and needs money fast.

One former scammer told CBS News that he can easily make $10,000 in a single day. He just keeps calling until someone bites. Then he does it again and again.

A typical conversation goes like this:

Hey, Grandma, Hi Grandpa … It’s me Johnny. I’m in a little bit of trouble right now. Yeah, Ashley is good. But I’ve got a problem. If I tell you, just keep it between us. Don’t tell Mom and Dad—they’d freak out and they wouldn’t understand. I’m on vacation, but I got into a little accident, and I was arrested for a DUI. Things got out of control, and I need you to pleeeeeze send me money.

Extremely Offensive Odors and How to Deal with Them

Many years ago, Nok-Out and I met completely by accident. We found one another in my desperate search for ways my readers could deal with extremely  offensive odors. I’ve used Nok-Out continuously in my home and business since then and have recommended it to readers facing serious and potentially expensive odor issues.

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DEAR MARY: Recently you gave the tip of diluting Nok-Out in a 1:4 ratio with water. I had always wondered if you could do that but didn’t want to waste the valuable product testing it only to find out it needs to be used full strength. I had some clothes that had a terrible odor no matter how many times I washed them. I was to the point of having to throw them away as they were not wearable in that smelly state. I diluted the Nok-Out as you said, soaked the clothes in this solution, wrung them out, and then washed as usual. It worked! Nok-Out saved my clothes. The odor is completely gone. This product is so worth the money. Loyal reader, Robyn

DEAR ROBYN: Great news! Nok-Out is so highly concentrated, diluted 1:4 it remains highly effective. There are times you can dilute it even more. And then there are rare times you really need to use it full strength. Read on ….

Confused by Product Dating? Yes, We Are!

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Pop quiz: You pull a chicken from the fridge to fix for dinner and notice that yesterday was the “Sell By” date. You should:

A. Throw it away because not many emergency rooms offer a stomach pumping family plan.

B. Cook it to an internal temperature of 195 F. minimum to kill the salmonella; serve with a pungent sauce to mask any residual fowl odor.

C. Relax. You and the supermarket have complied with FDA regulations requiring that this chicken be sold before the date on the label.

D. Refuse to answer on the grounds that obviously this is some kind of a trick question.

If you selected “D” you are right. This is a trick question and what better way to introduce an article on confusing dates than with a confusing pop quiz!

The truth is that “C” would be correct if not for that word “regulations.” Except for infant formula and some baby foods, product dating is not required by federal regulations. It is a convenience offered to store owners by food manufacturers.

Although dating of some products is required in 20 states, dating is voluntary on the part of manufacturers and processors. To further shake your confidence, stores are not legally required to remove outdated products from their shelves. So, it’s up to you to make sure you are getting the freshest products.

That means scrutinizing the package labeling and purchasing items with the most recent dates.

A Good Hot Cup of Coffee

So you like coffee. A lot. Me too. I like it so much I’m a home roaster. And an importer. That’s right. I import green coffee beans direct from the La Minita plantation in the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica. Why? Well, because (get ready) it’s the best inexpensive way to enjoy the best organic, free-trade, gourmet coffee on earth.

Apparently, I am not the only coffee lover in our EC family. You send me lots of questions and comments on the subject. Here one:

Which coffeemaker makes coffee the hottest and then keeps it hot without burning it?

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“Hot” is a nebulous term when it comes to coffee. For McDonalds, hot meant a big lawsuit when its hot coffee burned a customer who spilled it in her lap. For my grandson Eli, hot means anything even slightly warmer than tepid.

Coffee aficionados insist that the water temperature for a drip coffee brewer needs to be hot at exactly 179 F. the moment it hits the coffee grounds. Personally, I find that to be on the cool side, which confirms “hot” is a matter of personal taste.

Can’t Remove the Carpet Stain? Cut it Out!

DEAR MARY: How can I fix carpet that has bleach spots on it? I tried using fabric pens about the same color as the tan carpet but the spots turned orange! Carol

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DEAR CAROL: Bleach means done deal. There is no way you can “un-bleach” those spots. If you have a piece of spare carpet left over from when the carpet was installed, you can cut out the stained carpet and replace it with a patch from the new piece. If you don’t have that, cut the patch out of an inconspicuous area, like the back of a closet. Stick double-sided carpet tape onto the floor (or the pad if there is one) and press the patch into place. Because carpet has “nap,” done well the patch will be seamless and totally undetectable. If you are uncomfortable doing this yourself, call a local carpet repair expert. It should not be costly if you have the carpet piece ready to go. Good luck!

DEAR MARY: I can’t afford to replace my 50-year old light oak cupboards. They are still in good condition but look dull. Can you recommend a product that will clean and/or revitalize them? I ordered the Cosmas hardware you recommended and love them. (Cosmas makes a great oil rubbed bronze cabinet round knob for as little a $1.15 per knob in a pack of 25 -mh.) Thanks for all the products and tips you share with us. Judy

DEAR JUDY: I think you will be thrilled to pieces with your classic cabinets once  you deep clean them with Howards Feed-N-Wax Orange Oil Polish and Conditioner (about $8 for 16 oz.). Even if you need two or three bottles of this product, your cabinets are going to shine like a new penny! Howards contains beeswax and orange oil that replenish the oils in finished and oiled wood. I’m predicting that Howards plus Cosmas equals a big “Wow!” in your kitchen.  

Our Best Mother’s Day Gift Guide Yet!

Since Mother’s Day is two weeks away and since I have a feeling you’re as surprised by that as I am and since I’m a mom and most of you are moms or know a mom or have a mother figure in your life–I’ve taken the liberty of assuming that you might appreciate some help coming up with an awesome Mother’s Day gift!

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I wouldn’t say I am the ultimate expert when it comes to selecting perfect Mother’s Day gifts, but I know what I like and think I may not be too far off from what most moms would also enjoy. Here’s the deal: You love your mom. She’ll love these gifts. Easy as that.