Rotisserie Chickens to the Rescue

If you are like me—time-starved but too stubborn to give up home-cooked meals just because life can be chaotic—you need to embrace these two words: Rotisserie chickens.

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photo credit: anotherpintplease

Not exactly take out, not completely home cooked, think of a rotisserie chicken as your ace in the hole; a kitchen assistant with an extra pair of hands to help you get delicious, home-cooked meals on the table in a flash.

These days nearly every grocery store, supermarket–even warehouse clubs–offer fully roasted, hot and ready-to-go rotisserie chickens for around $5. In fact, rotisserie chickens are so readily available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued safety guidelines for selecting and storing them.

Today I want to give you basic guidelines for what to do with a rotisserie chicken as soon as you get home. Then next week I will have several mouth-watering recipes using rotisserie chicken meat that you absolutely do not want to miss.

Reader Mail Both Unpredictable and Enjoyable

For anyone wishing to study human nature, my mailbag would make an interesting research center. I get tons of mail. But rather than arriving in a steady flow it comes in waves. I’ve given up trying to predict which subjects will prompt responses from my readers.

photo credit: Matt McGee

photo credit: matt mcgee

Take the recent column on the inherent dangers associated with debit cards because of a relatively weak law that regulates them, as opposed to the much stronger law that protects users of credit cards. It was, in my humble opinion, empowering information worthy of some measure of positive response. Or at least a few angry challenges from loyal debit-card users. Surprisingly, responses to that column were nearly non-existent.

In Search of High-Quality Individual Bed Sheets

Hi Mary: You mentioned in a recent column there are times it is advisable to buy sheets separately rather than in a set that includes fitted and top sheets plus pillowcases. I need a king-size flat sheet and two extra long twin fitted sheets for our Tempur-Pedic king-size bed. Could you provide a resource for where you bought single sheets? I have been a faithful follower of  your column since 1998 and I really do appreciate your good advice, recipes, helping hints, etc. Thank you for any help you can provide. Dee C.

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Dear Dee: I have had excellent results ordering Utopia bedding online. These sheets are 200 thread count 100% cotton. This Utopia King flat sheet is currently $17.99. I found the sheets to be lovely and soft once laundered as that removes the sizing, added as part of the manufacturing process.  They launder up beautifully and hold a nice, crisp crease. Ironing is not necessary, unless of course you just happen to love to iron, as I do.

These XL Twin fitted sheets from Atlas with generous 12-inch pockets and 180-thread count are $19.83 each currently, and should fit the bed well. They are 55% cotton and 45% polyester, with great reviews.

Reduce your Taxes to Keep More of Your Hard-Earned Money

More than 15 years ago, I met William Lewis, CPA. I’d come across a book he’d written and it piqued my interest.  I gave him a call.

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Bill told me that for years he’d found himself frustrated that his clients who itemize and for whom he prepares their tax returns, were paying more in income taxes than required because they were not keeping track of what they donated to recognized charities like Goodwill and The Salvation Army.

Many clients would donate loads of stuff throughout the year, but then fail to deduct the fair market value of those times, as allowed by the IRS because they were uncertain of what their stuff was worth or how to determine those items’ market value. 

I Know a Magic Trick and I’m Telling All

Is it just me, or do you too love to discover something inexpensive that does the exact same thing as its pricey name-brand cousin? It’s not just the money-saving difference that pushes my buttons, it’s the “knowing” part. I’m not saying it makes me feel smarter, or even smug. On second thought, maybe that’s exactly what I’m saying. Ha.

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Magic erasers. Have you ever wondered what’s the “magic” in Mr. Clean Magic Erasers? They are quite amazing, but expensive. Generally, the Mr. Clean brand erasers run $.87 to $3.50 each depending on where you find them and if you go for the original or magic erasers with fragrance. Generic versions of magic erasers are made of the identical same material for a fraction of the price. I have seen them as low as $.10 each when purchased in a pack of 200.

Here’s the secret behind that “magic.” These erasers are small cuts of melamine foam, which comes in big sheets and is used for insulating and soundproofing. Seriously true. Mr. Clean must have a big saw in his basement where he cuts it up into sponge-size pieces. So does that generic company that sells the identical same product for just pennies. Interested readers who want a 4- x 8-foot sheet of melamine insulating foam should Google “melamine foam.” Me? I’m thrilled with the erasers that cost a dime each. A box of 200 lasts a long time, although I have to admit to using them quite freely and for just about every household cleaning opportunity I can think of. Magic makes cleaning fun.

Time to Get Ready for Christmas

It’s October. And you’re reading an article about Christmas.

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When it comes to Christmas prep, there are just two categories of people: Natural-born organizational types who have Christmas all shopped, wrapped and ready-to-go come Independence Day and the rest of us.

I’m not saying that The Rest of Us are just a pathetic lot of procrastinators. Okay, well maybe I am. But I prefer to think of it as patience—waiting until I have time. Or when I get in the holiday mood.

Those of us who tend to wait until the last possible moment to get things done do have our reasons. The biggest of course is that we don’t want to get started until we’re sure we can do it perfectly. Procrastination, I’ve been told, is only a hairsbreadth from perfectionism. And in that tiny gap lurks our worst enemy: paralysis.

It’s time to get unstuck. Time to, at the very least, start thinking and making a few plans for how we’ll handle the mother of all irregular expenses—Christmas.  So, let’s get started, shall we?

Set a budget. You have to get a dollar figure in mind—the amount of money you will need to accomplish your intentions. Believe me, it’s a lot easier to do this now while it is a non-emotional issue. Determining what you’ll need to cover costs is more like a business decision that is easier to do while Christmas is still many months away. With no snow falling or malls calling, you are not feeling bombarded by guilt, fear or panic. And while you’re at it, remember the holidays also create non-gift expenses—parties, postage and pageants; travel costs, extra food for entertaining and all kinds of other expenses galore.

DIY Nontoxic Ant Spray and More

I don’t know about you, but when I learn some new and amazing household tip that promises to save me time and or money, well, it just makes my day. I love it! Not all of the tips I get from you, my faithful readers, are brand new. But since I am not good at keeping 20,000 or more of these delicious little tidbits cataloged in my mind, (yes, you’ve sent in at least that many over the years), even the ones I know already can become a new delight when you remind me of them.

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I hope you enjoy today’s offering of great tips as much as I am.

Those pesky ants. If you have ants or other bugs taking up residence in or around the house, put 50/50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into empty spray bottle and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy clean-up, too. Lynda F.

Slippery clean-up. I enjoy baking, but don’t like measuring sticky ingredients like shortening or peanut butter. To avoid the mess that makes, I spray the measuring cup with a non-stick cooking spray and the sticky ingredient slides right out. I no longer have to spend time scraping the measuring cup or spoon. Joyce R.

Six Ways to Get Out of a Supermarket Without Overspending

This is not the first time in this column that we’ve visited the subject of how to get out of the supermarket with at least some money left in your bank account. Still, who doesn’t need an occasional reminder—a mental tune-up—to remain vigilant and razor-sharp when it comes to making our food dollars stretch until they scream.

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Don’t go in hungry. You believe that you can simply dash in to pick up the infamous few things. But if you’re starving, you’re a dead aim for a couple of steaks and a load of snacks. You know what I’m talking about. This is because of Rule #1: Anything can happen when you are hungry.

Don’t try to remember. Sure, playing Brain Age on your kid’s Game Boy has revitalized your dead brain cells, rendering you the mental acuity of a youngster—but don’t push it. Without a list of the exact items you’ve come to purchase who knows what could happen? It’s normal for our brains to slip into neutral in the face of fabulous food. A written list is the crutch you need desperately to make sure you do not slip and fall, so to speak.