The Many Faces of Pickle Juice


I’m guilty of what my friend Amy says is the most egregious of all culinary crimes: I throw out pickle juice. And why not, I argue. It’s there to keep the pickles fresh and flavorful, so when they’re gone, out goes the juice–a practice that makes Amy go ballistic.


Here’s the deal: Amy is famous for her potato salad. She makes ten pounds at a time and it disappears faster than homemade ice cream on a hot summer day. Her secret, which she confides to only a chosen few, is sweet pickle juice. Not pickles, not relish–only the juice. And lots of it.

So, I said to myself, I wonder if there might be other uses for the briny stuff? A quick search of the multiple thousands of tips people have sent to me over the years came up positive. Really, I had no idea.

Sweet pickled chops. Arrange four pork chops in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt. Place a slice of onion and a tablespoon of catsup on the top of each. Pour 1/2 cup of sweet pickle juice around chops. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Yum!

Salesman Says Replace, Don’t Repair


Dear Mary: We will need a new stove soon—a slide-in type with a glass cooktop. On preliminary pricing, it will cost about $1,200 to replace our current model. We’ve just moved in and I am not sure when (or if) we will be remodeling the kitchen and what the new configuration will be. What are your suggestions for a cheap stop gap option? Sears wants $600 to fix the problems with the current oven and advised getting a new one because it is fifteen years old. I have enjoyed all of your tips and tricks over the years! –Cristy M., email


Dear Cristy: Given your plans to remodel, I’d go with getting your current stove repaired. You don’t say how soon you will be remodeling, but let’s say it’s in five years. If you opt for a new stove now, you may feel compelled to design your new kitchen around a five-year-old stove you purchased to fit an existing space. By repairing your current stove, you’ll save money now and also give yourselves more options when it’s time to tear out and start over. A lot can happen in five years. I wonder if maybe your salesman was thinking more about his commission than your best interests when he suggested you should buy a new stove.

Where to Find Good Free Stuff


Everyday perfectly serviceable items find their way to landfills simply because they are no longer wanted or needed by their owners. And that’s a shame because there are so many people who could really use the very items being cast off by others. There’s a fabulous movement in this country that is matching up useable cast-offs with anxious users.

FIND FREE STUFF. The website is a great resource to find free furniture and all kinds of items in your local area. If you have usable items that you don’t want or need anymore, instead of filling up the landfills, post them on FreeCycle and let someone else take the item for free! Anyone is welcome to sign up and post or to take free items. –Tamara W., email

Some rights reserved by khawkins04

Some rights reserved by khawkins04

TABLECLOTH STORAGE. My great hint for storing tablecloths is to fold them the long way and hang them from a hanger in the closet. They are easy to find and can be stored by the season. –Dawn W., email

The Best $10 Gifts


Check the calendar. We’re moving into “Crunch Time”—those last few days before Christmas when some of us have a tendency to panic over gifts. This condition can easily lead to frantic overspending or worse—grabbing a bunch of $25 gift cards, putting them on an already overloaded credit card and just calling it a day. Anything to just check a bunch of names off a list.

But wait! It’s not too late to stick to your plan of not going into debt in order to give thoughtful gifts to those you love.


Let’s say you are committed to a $10-per-gift limit. There is no doubt that you will need to use your imagination to stick to that budget, but I know you can do it. There’s lots you can do with ten bucks! And you still have plenty of time to do it.

Have no idea where to begin? Let me help. Here are 16 of my favorite $10 gifts for kids, babies, men and women.

Simplifying Saves Time and Money


When our lives get chaotic, we pay dearly in terms of stress and money. There are hundreds of things you can do to simplify your life. Here are seven to help you get started … one a day for the next week.

1. Carry only the keys you use every day. Clean everything else off your key ring. If you don`t recognize what a key is for, toss it. If you have keys you use occasionally, keep them on separate rings in a safe place. I carry only three keys: house, car and office. They’re not bulky, simple to select AND fit into a small pocket in my purse. Not only has this small trick simplified my life, my car’s ignition is happier too. Heavy keys pull the ignition out of alignment causing it to eventually fail.


2. Get rid of all but one credit card. One statement, one bill. Having so many credit cards can really stress your life and it is not necessary. In fact many cards are hazardous to your wealth. Start today with the goal to strategically get rid of all but one on which you carry $0 balance.

3. Downsize your purse or briefcase. Carry only the minimum essentials. If you’re anything like me, no matter what size of bag I carry, it is completely filled and then some. Ditch the bag that’s the size of Nebraska in favor of something small and compact. Now carry only the items you really need.

Make Your Own Mixes


They’re convenient and tasty, but have you ever considered the high cost of your favorite prepared mixes and spices?

In less time than it takes you to run to the market to pick up a box of Rice a Roni or Shake ‘N Bake, you can make it yourself, and save a bundle in the process.

photo  by gailanng

photo by gailanng

With each of these “copy cat” recipes, I’ve indicated the approximate price of the “real thing” in my grocery store as this goes to print. It’s difficult to say for sure what these recipes will cost by comparison because there are so many variables, but I can assure you it’s pennies, not dollars!

Like Lipton Onion Soup Mix

  • 3/4 cup dry minced onion flakes
  • 1/3 cup beef bouillon powder
  • 4 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

Pyramid Scam or Great Opportunity?


Dear Mary: My brother-in-law told me about a plan he is involved with regarding DRIPs (direct reinvestment plans). I would pay him a token fee ($10) which would enable me to buy a single stock in a company without the hassle of paying a stockbroker a commission. I could then “sell” this information to someone else, thereby regaining my initial payout to him. I am interested in buying stock, but do not have much to invest. This sounds like a pyramid scheme, but he insists it is working for him. What can you tell me about DRIPs? –Johanna, email


Dear Johanna: The word “DRIP” is an acronym for “direct reinvestment plan,” but “DRIP” also describes the way the plan works. With DRIPs, an individual like yourself buys stocks directly without going through a brokerage. Then dividends that investor receives from a company go toward the purchase of more stock, making the investment in the company grow little by little. 

Got Airline Miles? Think Fast!


If you willingly pay an annual fee for a credit card that earns airmiles (most reward cards do come with a hefty price), you might want to re-think that decision. The problem is airlines are changing the rules to shorten the time before miles expire. Several years ago I learned this the hard way.

It looked like junk mail but for some reason I opened the envelope from United Airlines. Turns out it wasn’t junk, but I have a sneaky suspicion whoever designed this mailer hoped I’d toss it in the shredder. It was notification that my 38,000 MileagePlus miles would expire on New Year’s Eve if I didn’t activate my account by adding more miles to it before the stroke of midnight. Quite frankly, in the hustle and bustle of the season, booking a flight just so I could log a few more miles wasn’t exactly on my Christmas list.

source: pvw

source: pvw

It’s not easy to rack up 38,000 air miles. Either you have to actually put $38,000 on a qualifying credit card or fly a lot on that airline, which is how I earn miles. Thankfully, I wasn’t so loyal that I’d purposely book a United flight at a higher price, just to earn the miles. Having enough miles in my account to actually book a free trip someday was like a trophy to me. But knowing the miles were about to evaporate got me thinking in a new way.