Do It Yourself and Keep the Change

One of the best ways to cut the cost of living is to learn how to do things you’re presently paying others to do for you. That could be anything from pool cleaning to landscape maintenance and pest control. Just be wise. Research first, and learn from the best possible sources.

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DIY flea treatment. Advantage flea products are made with fipronil and imadocloprid. Both available cheap from DoMyOwnPestControl.com. You buy a gallon of the stuff and mix it according to instructions. Compared to the little vials that you break open, you get a thousand percent more product for about half the price of one of the expensive packages that lasts for three months. Or if you just want the convenience, you can buy the ready-to-use version, and pay about half the price of prescription Advantage or Frontline.  I have a farm and keeping fleas and ticks off my farm dogs is what prompted me to search out this resource. Julie

Random Household Hacks

You know what makes me smile and feel smart at the same time? When I know how to perform some random act that makes it easier to accomplish little things around the house. Or on a trip. Or in any area of life. Enjoy some of my favorites:

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Grape ice. Frozen grapes work like ice cubes to chill white wine without watering it down.

Speedy re-heat. When reheating something dense in the microwave–like pasta, potatoes or a casserole, make a well in the middle of the food. It will heat up more quickly.

Quick release trash bag. To avoid suction, which causes resistance, when removing bags from a trash can, drill holes in the bottom of the container. 

Fun and Clever Ways to Use This for That

Recently as I was half way out the door, car keys in hand and on the way to the home improvement center, I remembered that I might already have what I needed. Cooking spray! That’s it. I’d heard that it just might work. It did, and quite perfectly, too. No more squeaks and I saved a trip and purchase, too.

Got a squeaky door or sticky drawer? Spritz a little cooking spray on the hinges or drawer slides then work it back and forth to distribute the “lubricant.” Wipe away any drips with a paper towel.

Use mayonnaise to get rid of white water rings on wood furniture. Make sure the area is completely dry then spread enough full-fat mayonnaise on the spot. Let it sit for several hours, even overnight. Now wipe it clean, and buff with a soft clean cloth. Magical, isn’t it. 

The Truth About Extended Warranties

Recently I stopped into Toys R Us to get a little something for Eli. Yes I am one of those grandmothers. We found the cutest ever toy Shaving Kit, just perfect for bath time. The price was under $10. At check out, and without missing a beat, the sales clerk inquired if I would like to add an extended warranty for just $4.79. Seriously. I laughed. She winced. I apologized but really, I couldn’t help it.

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An extended warranty sounds like a good thing and that’s because it’s designed that way. While I cannot say that every extended warranty would be a rip off, that’s the way I want you to start thinking of them. Every time you are offered and extended warranty, think: RipOff! Then if you have doubts, make that warranty prove to you otherwise.

Readers Weigh in on Bananas, Buttons and Brown Sugar

Not long ago, the produce manager at my supermarket noticed me putting a bunch of bananas in my cart and offered this bit of handy information: When you get home from the store separate the bananas from the bunch and they won’t ripen as fast. 

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Good to know! But will that make them last 7 to 10 days? I doubt it, which is why I’m glad I heard from reader Barb. Read on …

BANANA LONGEVITY. If you will not be able to use those bananas with a day or two, put them into the refrigerator. They will turn black and ugly on the outside, but inside–even after seven to ten days–they will be fresh, firm and delicious. Barb

BROWN SUGAR SUBSTITUTE. To make your own (and much better) brown sugar, mix  1 cup white granulated sugar with 1 to 2 tablespoons molasses, depending on if you want light or dark brown sugar. Mix thoroughly with a fork. This is so much better than commercial brown sugar, you’ll be tempted to make a permanent switch and never again have to deal with hard brown sugar. Melanie

WASHCLOTH ICEPACK. When I need an icepack for my face, I take a face cloth, wet it, fold it lengthwise into thirds and place it in a small plastic bag. Then I place it in the freezer. In just a short time, my freezer pack is ready and on my face. The small size of the facecloth is just right for your face, and when it is no longer needed, you have your facecloth back.  Pat

How to Get All Kinds of Free eBooks

A recent column on where to find free books for today’s popular digital readers brought a flood of responses, a few questions and a bit of a scolding. It seems I overlooked public libraries as a potential source of free ebook downloads. Given the popularity of the subject, I thought it would be wise to revisit this very popular subject of free eBooks.

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By way of review, ebooks, which you download to read on any number of digital readers outfitted with specific software–a computer, iPad, Android, iPhone or other smartphone–are all the rage. Remember: You don’t need a Kindle device, Nook reader or smartphone to download ebooks created for those readers. The software is free to download to your computer. And if you know where to look, you can get an endless supply of ebooks absolutely free, as well.

Libraries. Check with our local library to see if they offer ebook checkouts. As long as you are a library card holder, you may be able to login from home and download ebooks for free. The way it works in most cases is that you check out or put ebooks on reserve, as the number of copies available are limited, and for a specific number of days.

Spice Co-Op Saves Money, Builds Friendship

Sharing readers’ tips with you reminds me just how much we can teach each other. Just when I think I couldn’t possibly learn anything new, here comes another charming way to save time or money every day from readers just like you. You make opening my mail so much fun!

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SPICE CO-OP. My wife often ends up with spices she uses only once or twice before they go stale and she has to throw them out. Her solution? She formed a spice co-op with a close friend. Now whenever either of them buys a new bottle of spice they share half of the bottle. Both save money and end up with a great spice collection. They also have discovered that exchanging spices is a great excuse to get together for a gab session. Gil N., Texas

BULB NUTRITION. This fall resist the urge to remove the foliage after your bulbs have finished blooming. Let the leaves wither naturally so that the bulb has lots of time to manufacture nutrients and fatten up for the next year’s blossoming. Now your bulbs will perform as true perennials. Wilton M.

Novel Ideas to Make Cooking Fun and Rewarding

There’s just something satisfying about knowing how to make perfectly uniform meatballs, chocolate mousse, or baked potatoes in half the time. Today I have a plethora of fun and easy kitchen tips that are sure to raise your Kitchen IQ, and make you smile at the same time.

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PERFECT MEATBALLS. When making a large batch of meatballs, the fast and simple way is to shape the meat mixture into a log and cut off slices. The slices roll easily into balls. Another option is to pat the meat into a large square and cut it into cubes which again easily roll into meatballs of uniform size.

YOGURT SUBSTITUTE. Have a craving for yogurt? Cottage cheese blended until smooth makes an excellent cup-for-cup substitute for plain yogurt. 

WINE COOK-ALIKES. To substitute for white cooking wine use 1/3 cup white grape juice plus 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar. For red cooking wine: 1 cup grape juice, 1 tablespoon strong tea and 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar.

GRATE THE BUTTER. When a recipe says to “dot with butter,” instead of cutting a stick of butter into small pieces, grab the cheese grater and “grate” the cold butter over the large holes right into the casserole, fruit pie or other baked dessert. This will make your butter last longer.