One Big Handy Coaster

I have a can of lacquer thinner that I keep handy for one purpose: To clean up any kind of paint spills on carpet, tile or clothes*. It works well, but it is a pain, to tell you the truth. And now it dawns on me. Why not do something clever to prevent the spills in the first place? Yeah, I like that a lot better.

PAINT CAN COASTER. When I am doing a painting job, I always glue a paper plate to the bottom of the paint can before I open it. That way I can pick up the can whenever I need to move it and I know that the paper plate will catch all the drips and spills. Sam

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DE-SALT THE SAUCE. If you find that your tomato sauce or soup is too salty, just add a little brown sugar. It will neutralize some of the salty taste. Janet

NO-STICK BEATERS. Before you use your electric mixer, spray the beaters with some non-stick cooking spray. It will keep the batter or frosting from clinging to the beaters and clogging them up. Sarah

FREEZING BREAD. Whenever I freeze bread or bagels, I always add a dry paper towel to the inside of the storage bag before slipping it in a freezer. The paper towel soaks up the extra moisture and the bread stays fresher longer once defrosted. Carolyn

SOFTEN HANDS. Here’s a fast and easy way to soften hands: Squirt 2 tablespoons inexpensive lotion into your hands. Add a generous tablespoon of sugar, and rub the concoction all over your hands. The sugar exfoliates your hands and the lotion softens them. Rinse with warm water, wash the solution off, and apply a fresh coat of lotion. Soft, smooth hands for pennies! Brooke

Think Cost Per Serving, Not Price Per Pound

Pop quiz: Which is the better buy: Pork sirloin roast for $2.89 per pound or boneless pork chops at $3.79 per pound? If you answered the roast, you’re in good company (most of us did), but you are wrong. Price-per-pound can be misleading because all cuts of meat and poultry will not yield the same number of servings per pound.

You can feed twice as many people from boneless pork chops as from pork sirloin roast because the boneless chops have about four servings per pound, compared to two servings per pound for pork sirloin roast. What you pay for the edible portion is the important factor.

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If you want to reduce your food costs and at the same time raise your grocery shopping intelligence, start thinking cost-per-serving rather than price-per-pound.

If you could use some help figuring out how much meat to buy, cost per serving and servings per pound from all types of meat cuts, go to the University of Nebraska’s Cooperative Extension. They’ve done all the math and created simple charts you can print to take with you to the supermarket. For example, a whole chicken yields 2 – 2 1/2 servings per pound, while you can count on 3 1/2 to 4 servings from one pound of boneless chicken breasts.

Reader Jacquelyn L., North Carolina, has taken the price-per serving idea further. “I’ve tried clipping coupons religiously and planning meals, but when time runs short these methods fail me.” She says she needed a new method; something that didn’t require organization skills she doesn’t possess. She now uses the one-dollar-per-person-per-meal method. The goal is to feed her family for under one dollar per person per meal.

Protect Yourself Against the Fastest-Growing Crime

Did you get the letter? The one that regrets to inform you that your personal information has been hacked from that company’s database and is now in the hands of who-knows?

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Unless you are living at 123 On-Another-Planet, you know that identity theft is America’s fastest-growing crime—and now more specifically, medical identity theft.

It took Michael W. five years to finally discover who’d been stealing his identity and using it to receive $345,000 in medical care at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. The problem is that Michael, who lives in South Carolina, had never been in Ohio. His driver’s license was stolen six years earlier and the thief had used it to get medical treatment.

I just read about a woman who discovered she’d been identified as the mother of a baby whose drug-addicted birth mother abandoned the baby at the hospital and stole this woman’s health insurance information. What followed is the kind of nightmare that sends chills up my spine.

Child custody authorities attempted to remove her own children from her home, she got hit with huge legal and medical bills on top of the the decimation of her good name and reputation in the community.

Of Meatloaf and “Homade” Chili Sauce

My sweet mother-in-law loved chili sauce. But not any ol’ version. It had to be Homade Chili Sauce,  which for the longest time I thought was her personal spelling of “homemade.”  But she was right. Homade Chili Sauce it is.

She’d put it on almost everything, which surprised me. I’d always thought chili anything meant spicy hot. Her chili sauce was not that way at all. In fact, I’ve come to love it, too. It is slightly sweet, perfectly spiced and yummy delicious.

Photo Credit: Ravenousfig

Photo Credit: Ravenousfig

When Gwen couldn’t bring herself to buy as much Homade Chili Sauce as she wanted (by the case) because it could be pricey if not on sale, she set out to make it herself. After many attempts, she nailed it.

From then on it become properly spelled, “homemade” chili sauce,  and stored in the refrigerator in any size container available—even in a few of those cute chubby jars the real stuff comes in.

My mind flooded with memories of my mother-in-law one day recently when I heard from reader, Janie S., Florida. She was kind enough to send us her family’s favorite meatloaf recipe, which to my amazement lists “Grandma’s chili sauce” in the ingredients, along with a note that “homemade from Ball Blue Book Recipes using garden tomatoes also works.”

A Look Behind No-Interest! No-Payments! Come-Ons

Have you ever wondered how retailers can possibly afford to offer the no-interest, no-payments and no-downpayment kind of deals you see advertised? That was the subject of a letter I received recently.

Dear Mary: There are several appliance, electronic and furniture stores in our area that run television commercials offering no money down, no payments and no interest until 2016. It sounds like I can just walk in and take what I want and not pay for a year! How do these companies really make money? Kate

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Dear Kate: First, these offers are on approved credit and come with a lot of other fine print. It takes pristine credit to qualify for those attractive terms. One retailer told me only about 25 percent of the people who apply for the amazing offers that get people through the door, can actually qualify. The other 75 percent are offered some other deal with horrible terms, which they usually accept because by the time it gets to filling out the paperwork, they’re so emotionally involved and have their hearts set on that “free” big screen TV, they’re anxious to sign anything.

How to Slash the High Cost of Gas

I can sum up my response to the price of gasoline soaring once again in just one word: Aargh!

While waiting for prices to come down again (do you think they will?) don’t sit around complaining all the while paying through the nose to drive your car.

Photo Credit: Debbie

Photo Credit: Debbie

There are lots of things you can do to increase the number of miles you can squeeze out of each gallon of gas, effectively reducing its cost. Here are a few:

Empty the trunk. The heavier the car the harder the engine must work to move it around. The harder the engine works, the more fuel it burns. So unload all that other stuff you’ve been carrying around in the trunk for no good reason (please, leave the spare tire and emergency equipment). It’ s trunk, not a mini-storage unit. Unload and you could easily increase your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.

Check tire inflation. Get into the habit of checking tire pressure every time you fill up, but when the tires are cold. The recommended PSI (pounds of pressure per square inch) is written right on the tire itself. Under inflated tires cause the engine to work harder than necessary, over inflation causes tires to wear prematurely.

Clean the air filter. One of the main causes of low gas mileage is a dirty air filter. If yours cannot be cleaned, replace it and repeat often. Check with a knowledgeable professional at an auto parts store or your mechanic about how often to clean or replace the air filter on your particular model. This is a task you can probably do yourself. 

New Life for an Old Eyeglass Case

Recently, I dropped off several out-of-prescription glasses at a facility that collects old eyeglasses for medical missions. With the cost of glasses equalling a year’s salary in some countries, donated eyeglasses are the best hope for bringing sight to many visually impaired people who could simply not afford the cost. The attendant kindly asked, however, that I not leave the cases.

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My first thought was to toss them into the trash on the way out and just be done with it. But it didn’t feel right. There just had to be a way to give new life to these sturdy, protective cases. Some quick research turned up these clever ideas:

Electronic accessories. An eyeglass case is the perfect size for headphones, charging cord for the typical mobile device. No more tangled mess.

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Photo Credit: Details-Etc.

Sewing kit. Travel-size thread, scissors, needles, pins and so on fit easily inside one of these cases. Gluing a couple of magnets in the lid helps to keep sharp items in place so they’re handy.

Photo credit: Sulky

Photo Credit: Sulky

A Compulsive Shoppers Guilt-Free Playground and Other Quick Tips

Today I have a bunch of tips for you. These are short, quick, wonderful ways to save time and money every day. I’m crazy about tips. Actually, I collect them, test them, sort them, categorize them, file them and then turn around and share them with friends like you.

You might find yourself asking, “But Mary, will any one of these ideas really save me any money?” Probably not very much if you consider only one tip, but many tips applied over a period of time can result in serious cumulative savings.

Photo Credit: infomatique

Photo Credit: infomatique

Library. What a fabulous place the library is. There you and your kids will find current newspapers (perhaps you will need to explain to your kids what a newspaper is), magazines, children’s books, adult books, videos, audio books, DVDs, CD’s and wonderful storytellers. You get to take home something new and it doesn’t cost anything. If you like to shop for fun, satisfy the impulse by visiting a library.

Some libraries have begun adding household items you can borrow—things like coffee urns and cake pans in the shape of characters. You can check them out for an event to host a family reunion and make your kids’ birthday cakes in the same way you borrow books.