Best Inexpensive Instant Pot, Smart TV and Recipe for Vinyl Siding Cleaner, Too

Dear Mary: I have always valued your comments about various products and can honestly say that I have never been disappointed in anything I bought after reading your recommendations.

Have you done any research on the Instant Pot Multi-Functional pressure cookers? With Christmas around the corner I was thinking that might be a good gift. Thank you so much. Conni

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Dear Conni: Thank you for your kind words and your trust. That means the world to me.

Yes I am very familiar with Instant Pot, a single electric appliance that functions as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, saute/browning, yogurt maker, steamer and warmer—seven appliances in one! What makes Instant Pot so amazing is that is has a micro processor (think: computer) and comes with 14 built-in programs that offer adjustable cooking modes, up to 24 hours of delayed cooking and automatic keep warm for up to 10 hours, to name a few. Instant Pot has all of the features we wished our slow cookers and pressure cookers had.

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This appliance can turn out perfectly poached eggs in 2-3 minutes, baked potatoes in 12 minutes. I don’t want to get too dramatic here, but I really believe that Instant Pot has the power to change a home cook’s life.

I can’t say too many good things about Instant Pot and agree with you that an Instant Pot would make a wonderful gift for a very lucky foodie on your Christmas list.

While there are a number of different Instant Pot models, my pick for the best inexpensive option is Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi Functional Pressure Cooker 6 QT/1000W. It is sweet! About $120. 

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A Homemade Christmas Gift You’d Actually Love to Receive

Gifting friends, family, co-workers teachers and others with a jar of your own signature hand and body lotion this Christmas will definitely put you on the map. It’s that good.

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Not particularly crafty? No worries. If you can assemble, empty, stir and mix well, you’ve got what it takes to make dozens of these gifts start to finish in a single evening. And the best part? About $3.50 per gift, depending on where you buy the ingredients and containers.

Here’s the routine: Purchase the specific ingredients, mix them together, divide between your choice of small containers, apply a label or gift tag, embellish with a ribbon and there you go. Done and in no time flat.

To make this lovely hand and body lotion you’ll need:

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Frugal Food Shopping 101

As food costs continue to soar, it’s a good time to revisit the basics of frugal food shopping. Follow these tips and provided you don’t end up buying twice as much, you really will see your food costs plummet.

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GO WITH CASH ONLY. Shopping with cash—only cash—is one of the best ways to make a severe grocery budget work. If you have the discipline of a superhero, good for you. Use your credit card. If you’re like everyone else in the world, take cash out of the ATM and don’t let yourself spend a penny more. If you’re out of cash and you have 10 days of the month to go, it’s time to start raiding your pantry. You might have an odd menu for a few days, and so what? It won’t kill you.

PLAN IT OUT. Find recipes that fit your budget—recipes, as in cooking and preparing meals from ingredients. With very little cooking background, anyone can learn to make great soups and casseroles. Deciding on recipes and planning meals in advance will become your financial lifesaver.

SKIP PACKAGED ITEMS. You pay a big premium for packaged items like salad kits, meals in a bag, fruit snacks, pre-sliced produce, chips or vegetables that come in a steam bag. Anything that has been processed and packaged comes with an additional markup. Peeling potatoes, slicing apples and chopping lettuce might take extra time, but you will be rewarded well for the effort. And you’ll end up with a fresher, tastier result.

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Your Best Thanksgiving Feast Ever—Healthy, Delicious and … Cheap!

If there’s one thing we should be thankful for this Thanksgiving, it’s this: Turkey is cheap! And the rest of the Thanksgiving dinner can be, too.

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The secret to enjoying a traditional feast without overspending is to know a few tricks. I sat down with two highly respected professionals—a butcher and a personal chef. What I learned from John Smith, professional butcher and author of Confessions of a Butcher: Eat Steak on a Hamburger Budget and Save $$$ and personal chef, Liz Tarditi, pretty much blew a hole in everything I thought I knew about buying, thawing and preparing a turkey.

TRICK #1: GET THE BEST TURKEY

Choosing the best turkey is easier said than done unless you fully understand the difference between a store brand or name brand bird. Just because a turkey is more expensive does not make it any better, says John. All that means is that it has a lot of advertising built into its price.

What customers don’t know is that one turkey processor will slap many different labels on his crop of birds. The turkeys are all the same, only the labels are different. This is a rule you can count on, according to John the Butcher: “Always go with the cheapest turkey and you’ll never go wrong. I’ve sold tens of thousands of store brand turkeys to very happy customers.”

EC: Fresh or frozen?

JS: First, let me define a “fresh” turkey. According to the people who make the laws, turkeys can be called “fresh” even though the moisture in the bird is frozen! If you press very firmly on the bird the meat is not frozen. The turkey processors have it down to a science. They bring the temperature of the “fresh” birds down to the very legal limit before sending them off to the store two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Frozen turkeys, on the other hand, are quick-frozen immediately upon butchering. So the freshest turkey is really a frozen turkey. The freezing process has no noticeable effect on the quality of the bird.

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Chromebook Laptops Better Than Ever—Cheaper, Too!

Only a few months ago, I told you about what was happening in the world of Chromebook—a laptop computer that runs Chrome OS as its operating system and is designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet. That in fact, Chromebooks had just (and for the first time in the U.S.) outsold Apple’s range of Macs.

111716image1Chromebooks have become so popular, manufacturers are competing like crazy to expand functionality while at the same time lower the price. You know who wins that game, right? Consumers—and just in time for Christmas!

If you go online or walk into a store’s electronics department to purchase a Chromebook, prepare to be hit with a serious case of FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt. That’s because there are hundreds of Chromebooks from which to choose; from dozens of manufacturers with hundreds of options. But not to worry. I do not expect you to slog through all of this technical stuff to figure out your best inexpensive option. It’s my job to do the hard work so you won’t have to!

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6 Free Websites Help You Save Time and Money


Take a little time from your busy day to check out these six websites—all of them fun, free and designed to help you save time and money … every day!

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RECIPES THAT CROCK is a website created by the slow cooker obsessed blogger Cris Goode. There are a ton of fun, tummy warming recipes to fire up your slow cooker this autumn and beyond. Simply search for recipes at Recipes That Crock, or sign up for the newsletter which arrives a few times per week.

CHECKY. Technology can be a good thing, but when you’re spending too much of your valuable time checking your smartphone every five minutes, it’s just down right distracting. To get insight into how often you’re checking your phone use the Checky app. By discovering how extreme your actual checking habit is you’ll become more mindful instead of mindless when it comes to your smartphone. Also Available for iOS and Android.

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Homemade Tub Tile n’ Shower Cleaner Makes Soap Scum Disappear Like Magic

It’s the number one request that shows up in my inbox—“Can you give me the recipe for that magical soap and scum cleaner?” Well, yes I can! And here it is. (Please make sure to read all of this and follow instructions carefully.) You’re welcome!

Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land my mailbox came from a guy who is a professional property manager. He handles rental apartments near a big university, and lots of them. As an apartment is vacated, his job is to see that it is thoroughly cleaned and made ready for the next occupants.

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He told me that the biggest challenge is always the bathroom, specifically the tub and shower. He kindly left specific details up to my imagination but let me know that “gross” is not strong enough to describe what he often finds. And that’s when he gave me his super magical potion—the only product he uses to return showers, tubs, tile, enclosures, faucets and doors to their sparkling clean and sanitized condition.

I gave his unbelievably simple recipe a try. Since that day, I’ve used nothing else to clean tubs, showers, sinks, toilets, patio furniture—just about anything that will stand still long enough to get sprayed and can be rinsed easily. This product must be rinsed off.

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The Blessing of Self-Government

You’d have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the turmoil and economic agitations going on in the U.S. And the growing debt. Who ever imagined that the word “trillion” would just roll off our tongues, not causing even a flinch. Too bad we can’t do much about it. The truth is that we are powerless.

But I have to say that it’s kinda’ fun, if not momentarily empowering, to think about what we could do if anyone would let us. I’d be wickedly effective as Governor of Colorado. Oh, the things I would do.

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First, I would abolish state income tax. The state would exist rather on fee-income. Coloradans would pay fees for the services they want and use.

I’d adopt a scorched-earth policy in going after government waste and abuse. I’d place a freeze on hiring while I cleared out off the “dead wood” and identified all areas of workplace redundancy within the state government.

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