How to Clean and Care for a Smoothtop Electric Cooktop

When it comes to kitchen appliances, nothing says modern and sleek like a beautiful new electric smoothtop ceramic or glass cooktop. 

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While a smooth top beats a coil element type cooktop in the style department, it requires a different kind of proactive care to keep it looking good while at the same time preventing discoloration and scratching.

WHAT NOT TO DO. With smoothtop cooktops, it’s all about prevention. If you think of your cooktop as a delicate possession that requires your utmost protection, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Do not use cast iron or stone cookware on a smoothtop cooktop or range. Period. The bottom of these types of cookware can be rough, even gritty like sandpaper. Any movement on that cooktop can leave permanent scratches.

Do not drag heavy pots on the cooktop. Always lift to another area of the cooktop to reduce the risk of scratching.

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A Big Serving of Homemade Laundry Detergent with a Side of Humble Pie

DEAR MARY: For years I made fun of one of my best friends because she made her own laundry detergent. She raved about how much money she saved and how she shared it with her daughter and daughter in-law. She went on and on about how the three of them would to get together and make laundry detergent and have such a great time.

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I would say to her that I had better things to do with my time than to make laundry detergent.

Recently, she and I and our husbands got together for a fun weekend. When I complained about my new LG washing machine and how it didn’t get my clothes as clean as my old Maytag, she started in again about her homemade laundry detergent. Once again, I said, “You have got to be kidding me!”

When I got home I came across your new and improved recipe for homemade laundry detergent. In a weak moment, I decided to try it. And I went a step further—I even substituted white vinegar for my regular liquid fabric softener.

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Prescription Eyeglasses at Bargain Prices

Call me old, call me socially rigid. I’m not sure why but I freaked out the first time I heard that banks and credit unions would allow an account holder to deposit a check to his or her account by using a smartphone to take a picture of it. Are you kidding me? How could that be legal? Forget legal. How could that be safe?!

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It still kinda’ bothers me that this is the accepted way to handle banking, but I am doing better. It’s the new way. And as much as I hate to admit it, it is very cool.

Now that I think about it, I don’t know anyone who still drives to the bank, fills out a deposit slip and hands it to a teller. How archaic! The new way is to do everything online, on smartphone, using a credit or debit card. I’m working hard at wrapping my head around all this because in case you’ve forgotten—cash is my favorite commodity.

I couldn’t help think about my own need to keep up in these digital times when I got a letter from Jessica, questioning the idea of ordering prescription eyeglasses and frames online. I didn’t wince or think for one minute that she was old and rigid when she suggested this was about the most misguided thing anyone had ever suggested to her.  

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Easy Ways To Boost Your Income

My Dear Readers: I love when you forward EC to friends and family. But sometimes, instead of clicking “forward,” you hit “reply.” That sends it back to me! I have a better idea: Instead of using your email provider’s “forward” button, look above. See the buttons with icons for Share, Tweet and Pin? There’s one more and it’s a little envelope icon. Click on THAT to forward this post to a friend. It will work every time, and you’ll help unclog my inbox. Thanks! m

Of all the people I know and love, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t welcome a small income boost this month–or any month, for that matter. Whether you’re between jobs, figuring out how to cover an unexpected bill or hoping to stash more cash into savings, get your creative juices flowing with these ideas.

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DON’T OVERINSURE. You need term life insurance (8 to 10 times the annual income of the single breadwinner; in a two-income family, insure each spouse for 6 to 8 times annual gross salary). But you can confidently cancel duplicate coverage: credit card life insurance, mortgage life insurance, accidental death and child life.

Caution: Get a term life policy first if you don’t have it, then cancel the duplicates. Don’t leave even a tiny gap between coverage.

The Boost: Add up what you’re paying for credit card life insurance, life insurance on the kids and the mortgage, plus any riders you have for accident insurance. What was offered to you for “just pennies a day” is probably more like $100 a month. Or more.

CALL YOUR AUTO INSURER. Has your teenage driver brought home a great report card? Most auto insurance companies will knock about 10 percent off the top if an insured teen maintains a 3.0 GPA. Is there an educator in the family? Mercury Insurance and others give credentialed teachers and educational administrators a discount. If you have a bachelor’s degree in an engineering or a science-related field (biochemistry, mathematics and more), Mercury offers a discount. Insurers also give discounts of 20 percent or more when you insure all of your cars with one company.

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When 58 Days of Pumpkin Spice Lattes are Not Enough

It was 2003 when Starbucks first tested its now famous autumnal beverage, Pumpkin Spice Latte. Sales of the drink exceeded all expectations, prompting the company to offer it in all of its locations the following year.

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Since then, Starbucks has sold more than 200 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes during its very limited annual PSL seasons.

Each year, Starbucks’ PSL season begins in September and ends in early November. In 2015, PSL lovers had only 58 days to enjoy their delicious, albeit pricey, fall beverage. Did you miss out? Are you mourning the passage of yet another very short PSL season? Well, dry those tears. Now you can create your own PSL season anytime you want—fresh, delicious and for a fraction of the price!

Perhaps the most important ingredient in PSL is “pumpkin spice.”  Curiously, pumpkin spice has no pumpkin in it at all. It is simply a mix of the spices used to make pumpkin pie. Available as “pumpkin spice” in the spice aisle of most supermarkets, it’s not exactly cheap.

To pull off this DIY project, you need two recipes—one for the Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix and the other for Pumpkin Spice Latte.

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How to Comparison Shop for Toilet Paper

Over the years I’ve received thousands of money-saving tips from readers—many of which I’ve shared in books, newsletters and this column. And there are plenty that I’ve not shared for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they don’t work. Some don’t work so poorly, they actually end up costing time and money, not saving anything. One of those useless tips still makes me laugh. It goes like this:

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“Start with two empty toilet paper tubes and a new roll of 2-ply toilet tissue. Carefully separate the two layers of toilet tissue, re-rolling each of the layers onto an empty tube to create—ta-da!—two rolls of paper for the price of one.”

Not only does this take an unbelievable amount time, unless you own a toilet tissue rolling machine of some kind, the result is a ginormous, ridiculous mess of toilet tissue that is so thin, it takes at least twice as much to get the job done.

Don’t do that, OK? Instead, learn how to comparison shop for toilet tissue. And when you find it on sale at a great price (much lower that its regular price), stock up.

NO STANDARD. Comparing prices on toilet paper is confusing because no two rolls or packages are alike.  There are no set standards for toilet paper (and I’m not suggesting there should be). We can’t compare roll-for-roll because roll sizes vary from one manufacturer to another. Some companies offer double-rolls, jumbo rolls or even 1000-sheet rolls—all of which are pretty meaningless when trying to make a reasonable price comparison. Same with comparing the number of sheets per roll. There is no set size for a sheet of toilet paper! To make things even more confusing, some rolls are two-ply (layers), others single-ply.

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Dump Chicken STILL Gets Rave Reviews

Some of the most requested recipes I get asked for are for ‘Dump Chicken.’ For those who missed it, and for those always asking, here are the latest recipes again – along with a link to the original. I think I know what I’m making for dinner!

About a year ago I was introduced to Dump Chicken and could not wait to share the idea and recipes with you. Loads of positive feedback confirmed that many of you are fans, too.

I must admit that originally, I was somewhat put off by the name. Dump Chicken doesn’t exactly bring to mind something that is easy, ingenious and flat out delicious. But it should, because that’s what Dump Chicken is.

By way of review, you dump chicken pieces and your choice of sauce into a freezer bag and stick it in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat it, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator, dump it into a pan and bake it. That’s it.

The genius part of this whole thing is the variations. In the original post, I gave you Russian Chicken, Teriyaki Chicken, Spiced Citrus Chicken, Spicy Sweet Glazed Chicken, Sticky Chicken, Honey Sesame Chicken and Pepper Lime Chicken. And in a minute I’m going to give you even more choices.

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Readers Invited to Reveal Favorite DIY Tools and Products

Just this week, I received a great letter with very helpful information plus a suggestion for how all of you, my dear readers, can participate in a fun project. Are you curious? Read on.

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DEAR MARY: I would like to suggest asking your readers to submit a list of the specific tools and or products they find most useful around their homes—inside and out. I think many of your Everyday Cheapskate readers, like myself, are do-it-yourselfers (DIYers) for many things around their homes.

I’m sure there are lots of tools, in the broadest sense, that others find as useful as your Shark Navigator vacuum, your Sonic Duo Floor and Carpet Scrubber and Nok-Out Odor Eliminator are to you.

I’ll go first:

Miller Scratch Fix Pen. This is a great product to hide scratches on furniture, even antiques. Follow the directions exactly. I use a tissue to apply, for the best result. This scratch fix pen, which comes in a variety of stain colors, saved the veneer on my 25-year-old dining room table.

Weldbond Steel Tough Universal Adhesive. This adhesive cleans up with water, is non-toxic, nearly odorless and dries shiny clear. I’ve discovered that it works best if you scuff the materials to be glued  with something like a nail file, which I’ve discovered works well.

This stuff is great on most plastics, wood, metal, tile, porcelain, fabric—the stuff all of us have around our homes that need to be repaired from time to time. Cures fully in only 24 hours. 

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