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

Readers Share Creative Solutions for Chains, Stains, Sprains and More

CREATIVE GIFTING. My teenage grandchildren don’t want “stuff” any more—they want cash! And I understand; being a teenager can be expensive. But I don’t want to just hand them money. For Christmas last year I got brand new $1.00 bills from the bank (they need to be crisp for this). I took them to a quick print shop where they turned them into glue top pads of money. When the kids needed cash, they could just tear off some dollar bills. (Here are instructions for how to do this yourself. -mh) This year I am going to turn dollar bills into chains, like we used to do with gum wrappers years ago. Things like this make giving money more fun and interesting. Dana

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FROZEN OWNER MANUAL. I keep all the instruction booklets that come with new appliances large and small  in a big envelope should I ever need to refer to them. I just bought a new freezer and thought perhaps I should keep this booklet handy. I put it in a zip-type freezer bag and  put it—you guessed right—in the freezer. Helen

SUEDE SPOT REMOVER. Recently I managed to some kind of ugly gunk on the suede portion of my leather shoe. I grabbed the Folex Carpet Spot Remover (my favorite for carpet spots) and an old tooth brush and went to work on it. It worked fabulously! I have no connection with the Folex company, but have found stains do not reappear later when using this product, which was recommended by a professional carpet cleaner years ago. Thought I’d share this. Melanie

5 Moves to Simplify Your Spending

I know what you’re thinking: “simplify” and “spending” in the same sentence? Ha! Like that’s even possible when we have credit cards, bank accounts, bills, bill-paying options, fees, penalties and interest rates to keep track of.

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How can we possibly make spending simple? By knowing the right tricks. Choose to become accountable, then use every tactic you can to streamline—and de-stress—your financial life. If you can pare things down as follows, you’re well on your way.

USE CASH. When it comes to paying for things like groceries, gas and other daily routine items, there is nothing easier than paying with cash. You can’t overdraft it and you won’t have to worry about fees and interest. Once it’s spent, that’s it. Done. So simple.

ORGANIZE WITH ENVELOPES. This is quite possibly the most effective money management technique. Get a stack of envelopes and label one for each of the ways you’ll be spending your cash (food, gas, and so on). Place the appropriate amount of cash in each envelope. There. You’ve got a spending plan. As a bonus, you’ll have a handy place to keep the receipts from each of those categories. And, they’ll be neatly organized by category if you need to return something in the future, or prepare your taxes.

Cucumbers in Plastic Wrap, and More Great Reader Tips!

I think it’s universally understood that a red flag means stop or some variation of caution. A green flag, on the other hand means, “Wow what a great idea!” That’s how I mark email from my awesome Everyday Cheapskate readers who send me their best tips. Check out this fresh batch of “green-flagged” tips:

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SAVE A CUKE. You know how the expensive English cucumbers at the store are wrapped in plastic? The guys at Cooks Illustrated tested wrapping regular uncut and cut cucumbers in plastic wrap. Both work and amazingly to allow you to keep a cucumber fresh for up to a week! Jessica

LAST MINUTE SEARCH. Before you buy something online do a general search on the Internet for the item you want. You can often save a lot. For example, I recently was shopping online for a new headboard for my bed. After much searching I found the exact one I wanted for $499. Just to see what would happen, I typed the name of the item into my Internet search engine and found exactly the same item on another site for half the price. I’m glad I searched. What a savings. Caitlin

Keep Produce Fresh Weeks Longer

Fews things are as discouraging as opening that refrigerator drawer only to see the produce you just bought (seems like yesterday) has gone bad. Oh, I hate when that happens.

Shouldn’t there be a reasonable way to make fresh greens, vegetables and fruits last at least as long as it takes to reasonably use them up? Apparently there is, and today’s first great reader tip shares the secret!

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PRODUCE LONGEVITY. I wanted to comment on the rusty lettuce. Just in case you weren’t aware of this magic product, called Bluapple. It’s the best thing since lettuce. You place this little device, that looks like a blue apple, into your produce drawer in the refrigerator to absorb ethylene gas—the culprit that causes produce to ripen and get rotten so fast.

I have been using Bluapple in my refrigerator for years now, and have saved so much money. In fact, I went to Europe for 10 days, came back and my lettuce AND spinach were still fresh!  Not kidding. 

 I used to buy the refills in the local market but now get them online at Amazon because the store stopped carrying them. You replace the absorber every 3 months, but it is so worth it. Kathy, Minnesota

LEFTOVERS GOTTA GO. I enjoy your cheapskate information! In our family, we call leftovers “Mustgoes” as in, food that must go. Konnie B., email

10 Easy Ways to Save Fuel

To save a gallon of gas, you need to cut about 22 miles of driving from your week. Here are 10 easy ways to do that:

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Hop on the bus, Gus. Even if you think this is not an option for you, check out PublicTransportation.org. You may be surprised by all the options that you have never considered. Or carpool. Leaving the car at home and sharing your commute occasionally can help you reach your gallon-goal quickly. Sharing the ride—and expense—with another person regularly can cut your gas costs in half. Check out your carpooling opportunities at eRideShare.com.

Take it easy. The faster you drive, the more gas you use. If your average commute includes 20 miles of highway time and you drive it at 60 mph instead of 70 mph, it will take you only three minutes longer to get there, and you’ll save approximately 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day work week.

Trip-chain. Need to pick up a prescription, mail a package and go to the bank? Instead of spreading these tasks out over a few trips, chain them together by doing all of them at one time. Park in a central spot and walk from place to place.

More Little Ways to Save Time and Money

CLOG-FREE PET WASH. When giving your dog or cat a bath in the sink, cut a circle the size of your drain out of a green scrubbie pad. Place the pad in the drain to keep it from clogging with animal hair. Mary

Photo Credit: Qwen Wan

Photo Credit: Qwen Wan

BOOK BARGAINS. Look in the For Sale section of your local library for inexpensive books. We find books for adults and kids for $2 or less. I always look there for a book I am interested in before spending a lot at a bookstore, and sometimes I get lucky.  Sommer

ONLINE THRIFTING. Goodwill is no longer just a chain of walk-in thrift stores. They now have a website, Shopgoodwill.com, an Internet auction site operated by a nonprofit organization. It’s a great place to browse high quality donation items from across the country. You can find designer items like purses or shoes that are in great condition for a fraction of the retail price. Brenda

NOT JUST FOR TEETH. To remove pen or magic marker from nearly any hard surface—stained wood, plastic, baby doll faces, walls, flooring—use toothpaste! It works better than anything I’ve ever tried. Just don’t use whitening varieties on colored surfaces.  Jennifer