I’m crazy about gadgets—everything from quirky can openers to smartphones. Hand me a Swiss Army knife and I’m in heaven—the more blades and utensils the better.

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And how about that One-Second Needle? It was a great idea, but sadly that is one gadget that needs to be put out of its misery, in my humble opinion.

My favorite gadgets, of course, are ones that actually help me to save money and/or time. I’ve been fooled from time to time, spending good money on things that just did not perform well. Or the gadget turned out to be so cumbersome using it actually complicated rather than simplified my life.

But now and then I strike on a gadget that is so magnificent in its functionality and money-saving properties, I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Today I want to tell you about four gadgets for the kitchen that I consider to be wise investments—money savers!

All four are inexpensive enough to pay for themselves in a short period of time—and then to continue paying off in food savings, which is saying a lot as food costs continue to soar. Read more

Over the years I have been uniquely privileged to sit under the personal tutelage of world-famous gourmet cooks the likes of Julia Child, Christopher Kimball, Martin Yan, and Jacques Pepin.

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Currently, I have standing appointments with Ina Garten, Sandra Lee, and Alton Brown. They come to my home and demonstrate every technique imaginable while I assume a prone position, front-row-center in front of the television.

Or sometimes my coaches sit right there on my iPad screen, while they walk me step-by-step through recipes and techniques. Read more

Who among us hasn’t at some time during the hectic days of December said those old familiar words, “Next year I’m going to get started earlier!” I don’t know what you meant by “earlier,” but today seems about right.

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Here for your consideration are three ideas meant to encourage you to head-off the heartbreak of post holiday stress disorder brought on by procrastination, under-planning, and overspending. Read more

When I packed up my kitchen for our big move a few years ago, I was embarrassed to discover what I had accumulated in the spice drawer.

I’m pretty sure there were a couple bottles of something or other in there that were certified antiques, pre-dating the Nixon administration. And that ground allspice? I think the sell-by date was 50 A.D.

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Are spices safe to use indefinitely? We tend to take a long time to use them. The spices have no date anywhere on them. I hate throwing out perfectly good items if they’re safe to use. I also keep my spices and condiments in the fridge. Is that practice okay for the spices? Leroy

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I just asked Siri*, “How do most people relax?” She rattled off a list of activities including, “nosh on chocolate,” “rub your feet over a golf ball,” “count backward,” “meditate” and “drip cold water on your wrists.”

Siri completely missed my favorite way to relax. I iron (not to be confused with I pump iron, which I do not).

No really. There’s something soothing and instantly gratifying about a good iron with a heft of heat and steam gliding back and forth over wrinkled fabric.

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That’s why I was excited to get another request, this time from Marianne, “I need a new iron. I’ve searched the Internet trying to find the best steam iron for the best price and all I get is terribly confused! Any suggestions?”

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Just as I was knee-deep in researching, testing and learning all I could about electric space heaters, this letter popped up in my inbox.

 

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I need your help to figure out how we can reduce our home heating bills. It’s killing us to pay so much to keep our house warm in the winter. We have a gas furnace and where we live the cost of gas has gone up more than 10 percent, while at the same time the cost of electricity has gone down slightly.

Our home is two-story with a basement. Our kids are grown so it’s just the two of us. My husband travels for his work, so I’m the only one here most of the time. Thanks in advance for your help! Jeanine

 

DEAR JEANINE: The most efficient and easiest way to reduce your home heating cost is to heat only the rooms that are occupied while keeping your furnace set very low. Then use a space heater(s) to make occupied rooms comfortable, while they are occupied. You can rely on this method during the day as well as at night.

You could easily see your heating bill drop 35 percent or more by simply keeping the main source of heat set very low, supplementing with electric space heaters. It’s such a simple way to make a huge difference in your home heating costs.

Keep in mind that multiple space heaters could become less efficient and more expensive than running the central heat. It’s a matter of experimentation and careful tracking. Read more

When Gordon Gekko, the main antagonist in the 1987 film, Wall Street declared in no uncertain terms that “Greed is good!” people flocked to the theaters. And cheered.

Please don’t base your belief system on a movie line that might have been memorable and entertaining, but is dead wrong.

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Greed is like a cancer that when left untreated can destroy individuals, families, businesses, governments, and economies. Greed makes financially ignorant people putty in the hands of the consumer credit industry. Read more

Do you know what I love? Learning insider secrets. I’m not talking tabloid headlines or conspiracy theories, which I work hard to avoid—but solid, authentic, and reliable insider trade secrets.

I’ve got one for you today, prompted by a question sent in by a faithful reader.

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I recently purchased a late-model, previously owned vehicle. The dealer tried to sell me a package where they treat the leather seats. Because of the cost, I opted not to purchase the package. My question is, do you know the type of treatment that car dealers use to treat leather seats? Is it even necessary to do this? The car is an expensive purchase for me and I need to know how to take good care of the interior to make it last.Thank you for your very enjoyable column. I read it from top to bottom and always learn or find something I can use daily. Jan G. Read more