Pressure Cookers are Back Safer than Ever

Pressure cookers, those big monster pots we recall from childhood, are making a big comeback, and bringing good news with them: They are not the spitting, noisy, steam generators they once were. Modern improvements have made pressure cookers as safe and easy to use as slow cookers, but with decided advantages.

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To understand what a pressure cooker is, think of a pot that you use on the stovetop that has a locking lid. When the liquid inside boils, it is trapped. The steam that is generated builds up pressure creating a higher cooking temperature and shorter cooking time. The pressure is measured in PSI (pounds of force per square inch), a term you’ll find in pressure cooker recipes.

Pressure cookers have a gasket or rubber ring that creates a seal, which, for safety reasons, is essential. Safety valves that automatically release pressure if it builds too high, and safety lids that are impossible to open until the pressure has reduced are huge improvements over old models from yesteryear.

Pressure cooking has so many advantages that you might wonder how you ever lived without one once you give it a try.

Help! Mom’s in Financial Trouble, Leather Seats are Hopelessly Stained and Need Recipe for Window Cleaner

Dear Mary: I read stories about parents with grown children who constantly need bailouts. What do you do when it’s your 62-year-old mother who has the money problem?

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My mom has a job and makes enough money to support herself. A few years ago, she bought a house for $95,000. She had little debt at the time. Since then, she’s refinanced her home twice to cash out her equity and now owes $127,000 on top of extensive credit-card debt.

Recently, she called me saying she was $3,000 in the red. My husband and I sent her the money. This isn’t the first time we’ve bailed her out. My brother and I are at our wits’ end. She is hanging on by a thread. I can’t make her get a roommate, a second job, or take away her checkbook.

What do you do with a person who cannot make good financial decisions? We don’t want her to be homeless and live in her car, but we don’t want her to move in with us, either. Please help! Anonymous

Become a Kitchen Magician with Leftovers

Famed chef Julia Child preferred to call them “remains of the day.” To the rest of us, they’re just leftovers. It’s a term that can mean anything from half a pan of lasagna to a dab of mashed potatoes that sit in the fridge until they turn green, at which time we feel a lot better about throwing them away. These days, that’s like throwing cash in the garbage.

photo credit: grubstreet

photo credit: grubstreet

The secret to stretching the food dollars is to find a delicious use for every last bit of what you buy. You need to see all leftovers as ingredients for new dishes, not just multiple go-rounds of the same thing in an effort to get rid of it. Here are some ideas that have helped me to see leftovers in a new way:

COFFEE. Freeze leftover coffee in cubes to cool off hot coffee. Add black coffee to pot roast to create rich, brown gravy.

HALLOWEEN OR EASTER CANDY. Take all the chocolate candy and break it up into little pieces. Place the pieces into a zip-type bag. Many recipes call for a cup to a cup and a half of chocolate morsels. Use these to replace the morsels. Freeze until ready to use.

COOKED HAM. Brown the last bits of cooked ham in a small amount of butter or margarine in a skillet. Beat a few eggs with water or milk and grated cheese, if desired. Pour scrambled egg mixture into skillet with ham. Cook, as usual, over low heat.

Another option for ham is to thread chunks of it onto skewers, alternating with fresh pineapple chunks and squares of sweet red or green bell pepper. Brush kebabs with butter and grill until browned. Serve with rice and fresh asparagus.

Blown Out Vacuums and Teen Clothing Allowance

Dear Mary: Back in 2012, you posted an article in Everyday Cheapskate regarding blowing out your third Hoover Wind Tunnel and electing to go with the Shark Navigator.  At the time, I wasn’t in need of a vacuum, but I printed off the article and archived it in a folder I hold for future reference.

Recently I’d become so disappointed in the way my current vacuum was performing, I talked my husband into purchasing a Shark Navigator. Taking you at your word, we put the product together when it arrived last week, and then my husband left for a business trip. The morning he left, I pulled out my new Shark and began tearing the house apart to do a deep clean while he was away.  OH. MY. GOSH.  I was not only awe-stricken, I could not believe what was happening. That Shark performed way beyond my expectations and I was amazed at the dirt that was coming out of what I thought was a fairly clean home. I kept calling my husband telling him he would never believe what was happening; as well as kicking myself in the rear-end for not purchasing this item many years earlier.

I just wanted to take a moment to write you and tell you how thankful I am that you wrote that article; as well as to let you know how much I enjoy reading all your information. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and information with the rest of the world.  I look forward to many more years of helpful tips and information. Kind regards, Robyn

Steps to Take When Your Identity is Stolen

While it’s not something most of us choose to think about, the truth is that identity theft remains the fastest growing crime in America. The number of identity theft incidents has reached 9.9 million a year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Every minute about 19 people fall victim to identity theft. It takes the average victim an estimated $500 and 30 hours to resolve each identity theft crime.

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Basically, there are two ways we can respond to the matter of identity theft: 1) Self-protect by moving into action the minute a compromise is detected to keep the damage to a bare minimum or 2) Purchase identity theft protection that detects fraudulent applications and activity to stop it in its tracks before it can create damage.

For many years, I have opted for identity theft protection with LifeLock, which has proven for my family to be more than worth the price.

While identity theft protection is quite reasonable given how effective it is—not to mention the  peace of mind it offers, not every household can justify the cost. In that case, it’s important that you know exactly what to do so you can move into action the moment you have even an inkling that your identity—or that of your spouse or minor children—has been compromised.

Join a CSA for Your Health and Your Wealth

Being a savvy consumer can mean a lot of things. It can refer to a person who knows how to get the lowest price on whatever he or she is buying. It can also mean finding the best value—the highest quality product for the most reasonable price. Or, it can refer to someone who shops ethically, according to his or her values.

photo credit: GoodEarthFarm.net

photo credit: GoodEarthFarm.net

However you define “savvy consumer,” becoming one requires research and education about the products that you buy according to your individual priorities. When it comes to shopping for food, today’s savvy consumers know where their food comes from, and, if they do things right, they save money, too.

While stories of contaminated goods permeate the news, the locally grown food movement has been gaining momentum. At the same time, the high cost of food is challenging all of us to find new ways to cut costs without sacrificing healthy eating..

Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs) are popping up all over the country. Through a CSA, consumers can choose to buy shares in a local farm and then receive portions of the farm’s produce once it is harvested. In some areas, CSAs have become so popular that there are waiting lists to join.

Go local. Food that has not been genetically altered, harvested prematurely or infused with chemicals to be able to withstand a 1,000 mile or longer journey from the farm to your table tastes better. Members of CSAs tend to eat seasonally. And they eat very fresh produce, which has been proven to be much more nutritious.

Back-to-School Clothes Shopping

Your money is limited and time is short. Here is my best advice to make sure back-to-school clothes shopping doesn’t send you to the poorhouse.

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Set spending limits. Time to get real. How much money (not credit) do you have available for school clothes? Write it down.

Take an inventory. Sort through your kids’ clothes and decide which ones you want to keep and which ones they don’t wear due to wear and tear, or because they no longer fit. This gives you a clear idea of what you have, and what you need to buy.

Sell the old to buy the new. If you have gently used clothes in good condition, sell them and use the money towards the purchase of back-to-school clothing. You can sell on eBay or on Craigslist, at a garage sale or by taking them to a resale consignment shop to sell or use as trade items.

Living Below Your Means is the Only Way to Live

Being thought of as cheap was to me the ultimate insult. I equated frugality with digging through dumpsters in search of food and who-knows-what-else.

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To me cheap people skipped out without leaving a tip. They were slovenly in appearance, lacking dignity and self respect. Cheap people were just plain tacky. I couldn’t bear the thought of living that way and to make sure I would never be mistaken for someone who did, I charged my way through life, bent on proving to the world (and more likely to myself) that I was not cheap.

I accepted the offers of freedom that credit-card companies offered to me. It was so simple. I could have a $200 outfit and pay only $10 a month. I could fix up the house, treat the kids, have new clothes, drive nice cars—just about anything I could think of. And it worked for awhile.

I know you’re way ahead of me. You know what happened. By the time I came to my senses I wasn’t experiencing freedom at all. It was all a lie. I sold myself into bondage one dollar at a time.