No Truth to the Rumor that Metal Knives Make Lettuce Turn Brown

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Quite possibly one of my favorite aspects of writing this blog is the mountain of reader feedback it produces. I have the best readers in the universe, too. Nearly every letter turns into a love fest, which of course charges my batteries, making me love my readers all the more!

Do you recall the letter from Pat, who complained of her lettuce turning rusty? I responded that the rust colored stains on lettuce are harmless evidence of the natural breakdown process and indicates that the produce is not exactly fresh.

The parts that are turning brown can be cut away, while the rest of the lettuce remains perfectly edible.

Well, that question together with my response brought in a tsunami of input from readers insisting that Pat’s problem is that she is cutting her lettuce with a metal knife.

Jenny wrote, “While working in a restaurant, a decade ago, I learned to either cut the lettuce with a plastic knife or tear it. I do not know the science behind why metal causes the lettuce to brown but my lettuce stays fresher looking days longer since I stopped using metal knives.”

While this might sound like a plausible explanation for why lettuce turns brown, I’m sorry to tell Jenny and the dozens of others who wrote about using a plastic knife instead of metal to keep lettuce fresher longer—it’s a myth. There is no truth to the rumor.


Simple Strategies to Get Top Dollar When Selling Your Home

So you’re getting ready to sell your house. Just thinking about it can be an overwhelming experience.

Should you hire a Realtor? Do a FSBO (for sale by owner) to keep from paying that big commission? Should you spend a few bucks to paint and re-carpet—at least the front rooms? Where do you start and what can you do to make sure you attract a qualified buyer as quickly as possible?



A Realtor who is successfully moving properties in your neighborhood and comes with references will likely get you a better price for your home than you could get on your own. Most non-professionals (owner sellers) end up losing more in the transaction than the commission they would have paid a professional.


Should you remodel the kitchen? Replace fixtures in the bathrooms? Probably not, unless those fixtures are not working. Frequently, such updates and changes done to achieve a higher sales price don’t pay off. Almost anyone buying your home will want to make their own changes, so you are not likely to recoup that investment of time and money.

Unless your Realtor recommends major changes like a new roof or exterior paint job hold off and put your energy into other areas.


“Curb appeal” is the impression your home makes when a potential buyer sees it for the first time. Here are quick and easy ways make improve your home’s curb appeal:


A Simple Solution for Gross, Smelly Towels

If my inbox is any indicator of what’s going on in the world, and I believe it is, smelly towels are a growing problem for consumers—and for sure EC readers. And it’s a rather new problem, the result of modern things like front-loading high-efficiency washing machines, detergents, fabric softeners and damp conditions. If you’ve noticed the gross smell of stinky, albeit appearing to be washed, dried and ready to go, perhaps you’ve also noticed that your towels have begun to repel rather than absorb water.


SMELL. That moldy, mildewy, gross smell? It’s the result of the build-up of detergents and fabric softeners that have not been rinsed out properly, together with damp, moist conditions. What you have there is a breeding ground for bacteria. No wonder you’ve got a big gross smelly laundry problem.

ABSORBENCY. If your towels have stopped doing what they’re supposed to do well—absorb water—that problem stems from the same source: Detergent and fabric softener build up. Seriously! With detergent and laundry, more is decidedly not better.


Ask Me Anything: Toilet Paper Pricing, Rust Spots on Linens, Rusty Lettuce

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 a thing!

Today’s first question reminded me of that useless tip. It still makes me laugh. It goes like this:

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, stock up.

Dear Mary: Is there a reliable way to compare prices on toilet paper? It should be easy, but so far I haven’t figured out how to do it. There has to be a way, and I’m going to bet you know it. Thanks! Darryl


All You Need to Know to Make Your Own Wool Dryer Balls

Whenever I write about the benefits of using wool dryer balls in place of laundry softeners, I get a few responses gently raking me over the coals for suggesting we should spend money for commercially manufactured wool dryer balls when it’s so easy to make them ourselves.

Yes, I could do that and so could you. But unless you have a super cheap source of 100% wool yarn, it’s going to cost more to make them than to buy, which would be counterintuitive.

Wool dryer balls must be made from 100% wool that has not be treated with chemicals to make it “superwash” or “machine washable.” Natural wool yarn will allow the dryer balls to become “felted.” Otherwise, they would just unwind and fall apart in the dryer.

Felting is a process by which the tiny wool fibers are allowed to rub against one another vigorously so that they become hopelessly entangled so they become a type of stable “fabric.”

To make one dryer ball requires one skein of 100% wool yarn because to be effective each dryer ball needs to be weighty. It needs enough heft to bounce around in the dryer as it fluffs and separate the folds of the wet laundry. One skein per dryer ball is the absolute minimum.

What’s more, you need a set of six dryer balls to be effective in softening a dryer load of laundry. At anywhere from $7 to $15 per skein for wool yarn that can be felted, that pushes the cost just for materials to $42 to $90 for one set. That doesn’t make sense to me when an excellent set of solid 100% pure wool dryer balls costs less than $20!

All that to say, I’d never found the idea of making my own dryer balls from 100% wool yarn to be a reasonable activity given the reasons above, until just recently when I watched an online video, The Man Who Knits. He doesn’t get his wool yarn from his local yarn shop—he recycles wool sweaters from thrift shops.

By unraveling a quality wool garment, he ends up with enough beautiful yarn to knit new garments. And what a craftsman he is. As a knitter myself, I stand in awe of his work. But I digress.

Typically, a man’s sweater requires 6 to 8 skeins of yarn. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Bingo! Wool dryer balls, right? All right there in one sweater.

Now, there is a process and steps one must follow for do-it-yourself dryer balls. They must be wrapped very tightly. And they must go through a specific process which forces them to become properly felted and ready to go to work in the clothes dryer. You can follow the directions and steps clearly described HERE, which also includes a photo tutorial.

Should you find success with making your own dryer balls from recycled 100% untreated* wool yarn, you may want to make two sets—one light colored, the other black or dark colored to head off that problem of transferring white lint to your dark clothes and vice versa!

*You can quite easily test yarn to see if it will felt by cutting two small lengths, then rubbing them together, vigorously between your hands for a few minutes. Look closely to see if they are becoming connected as the tiny fibers become hopelessly intertwined; if not, you can assume the yarn is either not 100% wool or other suitable natural fiber, or it has been chemically treated.


Clean out Clutter to Improve the Quality of Your Life

What would you do if you actually had to use everything you own, including all that stuff in the drawers, cupboards, closets, shelves, and boxes in your kitchen, bedrooms, living room, basement, attic, garage, rafters, driveway, patio, side yard, and cars?

Most of us will never accomplish such an overwhelming task. Instead, we pack it, stack it and pile it away—even pay rent to store it—and keep accumulating even more.

Here’s the problem: More stuff only dilutes the quality of our lives.

Every possession carries two price tags: 1) the original purchase price and 2) the continuing toll. That second amount is paid in upkeep, time, maintenance, and storage. It can charge its toll in anxiety, depression, relationship conflict, financial distress, and even impaired function.


Every Procrastinator’s Guide to Saving Valentine’s Day

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Friends. This is Friday. Valentine’s Day is Wednesday. I know, I can’t believe it either. Before you start to stress, let’s get a plan together.

The way I see it, you have four options:

  1. Ignore the day altogether and assume your spouse, kids, grandkids, friends, family, and co-workers, will think you forgot and give you a pass.
  2. Get thee to the card shop and post office to pick up Valentine’s cards and plenty of postage stamps, then get them in the mail, pronto!
  3. Make sweet treats in your kitchen befitting the day.
  4. Find that perfect little something for those perfect someones in your life—there is still plenty of time.

Should you be leaning toward option #4, here are 21 great gift ideas sure to please that can be delivered on time and, won’t break the bank:



1. Happy Valentine’s Day Blank Sketchbook. Kids of all ages love to doodle and draw. Here’s a fun sketchpad that will let them keep their creations together in a safe place. About $7.

2. Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink. Love to hear your young readers giggle? Whether they read it themselves or you read it to them, this cute story about Gilbert, a fuzzy-looking woodland creature who comes up with “nice” rhymes for his classmates will bring out the laughter while teaching about kindness and forgiveness. About $5.

3. Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime. Hurray! February 14—Valentime’s Day, as June B. calls it—is just around the corner. Junie B. can’t wait to see all the valentimes she’ll get. But she never expected a big, mushy mystery! Adorable story. About $4.


Ways to Say I Love You That Don’t Cost a Dime

Long ago in my stupid days, I went nuts with credit cards. I ran up a 6-figure debt over a 12-year period. I did pay all of it back plus interest and fees and it was anything but easy. I’m still shocked and embarrassed I let it happen.


The funny thing is I didn’t make any really huge purchases. I didn’t max out a $10,000 credit limit with a single purchase or anything that extravagant. It was just a constant accumulation of smaller purchases exposed to double-digit interest rates and sloppy money management. The truth is I five- and ten-‘dollared’ myself and my family into a kind of financial death.

In love, it’s the little things that add up, too. But in a good way. Sure the big efforts are appreciated, but quite frankly it’s the little day-to-day things we do that make a difference.

I’m not going to discourage you from buying your beloved flowers for Valentine’s Day or making his favorite meal and serving it by candlelight in the bedroom. Not me! But I do have a few suggestions for things you can do that will score big in the Little Things Do Count Department.

1. Get the kids dressed so your spouse can spend an hour in the bathroom by herself. Tell her at least a little bit ahead of time so she can enjoy the anticipation as well.

2. In an uncharacteristic move, take out the trash even though you’ve received no reminder and there’s still a little room left. Repeat often.