Have you been paying attention to what’s going on with the cost of food? I just read that the average cost of ground beef in the U.S. has once again hit an all-time high. I believe it, and not only beef.  It is shocking how grocery prices are going up, which underscores the need for a well-stocked pantry.

 

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The way to fight back is two-fold:

  1. Buy groceries when they’re on sale
  2. Eat at home

Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Well, it can be if you make sure your kitchen pantry is well-stocked. It’s annoying and expensive to not have basic items on hand. You don’t have what you need and don’t have time to go get it, which means, of course, you’ll just have to go out for dinner. Again. 

Taking the time and effort to make sure you always have the following 9 essential pantry items will save a lot of money, provided you pick these items up as they go on sale. Think of this as a project. 


MORE: 5 Fabulous Ways to Hack a Boxed Cake Mix 


Evaporated milk

I basically detest the stuff because I had to drink it as a kid. But used in cooking and baking, evaporated milk is fabulous! Keeping a few cans in your pantry ensures you’ll always have milk on hand when the recipe calls for it. Read more

If the paper monster has you buried under an avalanche of receipts, bank statements, ATM slips, investment records, paycheck stubs, and bills—the good news is you can probably throw most of it away without worry when you have a simple record keeping routine.

But before you fire up the shredder, you need to know what to keep and for how long.

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Toss all you can

Monthly

Once you have recorded the amounts and reconciled your bank and credit card statements, you can shred ATM receipts, bank deposit slips, credit card receipts and sales receipts at the end of each month.

Exception: Keep receipts for purchases that may be tax deductible, those that involve a warranty and any item whose replacement cost exceeds the deductible on your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance.


MORE: Best Inexpensive Shredders


Yearly

Once you receive and reconcile your W-2 against your final pay stub you can toss your paycheck stubs for the year, along with monthly credit-card and mortgage statements, phone and utility bills and quarterly and monthly investment reports.

The same goes for other statements that detail the entire year’s activity on the final end-of-the-year statement.

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I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around this documented fact: Half of all produce grown in the U.S. is thrown out, while at the same time there is growing hunger and poverty right here in America.

 

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As I read the first paragraph of this news story, I assumed naively that all U.S.-grown produce makes it to market. Then consumers like you and me get it home, let it go bad before we can consume it and into the garbage it goes. That is a factor, but not the whole story.

The truth is that vast quantities of fresh produce are left in the field to rot. It then becomes livestock feed or gets hauled directly to the landfill because of (get ready) cosmetic standards.

Not every potato, watermelon, strawberry or grape cluster turns out photo-perfect. Some are ugly.  And, unfortunately, that means they do not meet retailer and consumer demands for blemish-free, perfect produce.

Just imagine how the retail cost of produce might plummet if all that is produced—even the still-nutritious but ugly produce—were available for sale. More on that in a bit.

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

Modern black smooth glass cooktop on white quartz counter

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 smooth top 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.

Cast iron or stone cookware

Do not use cast iron or stone cookware on a smooth top cooktop or range. It’s tempting I know, because cast iron works so well on a glass induction cooktop. Just don’t do it. Period. The bottom of these types of cookware can be rough, even gritty like sandpaper. Any movement on that cooktop can leave permanent scratches.


MORE: My Hate-Love Relationship with a Cast Iron Skillet


Heavy pots

Do not drag heavy pots across a smooth top cooktop. Always lift to another area of the cooktop to reduce the risk of scratching. Read more

Some time ago, I got a request from EC reader Kelly for a homemade furniture polish recipe. She said that she uses a lot of it and it’s getting so expensive.

 

 

My first thought was, of course, to suggest she time her purchases for when furniture polish goes on sale, and then to stock up. That was fresh on my mind as I’d recently purchased a can of Pledge aerosol polish (reg. $5.49) for $1.50. What a deal! Here’s how I did that:

I’d been harboring a $1 coupon and when Pledge went on sale for 2/$7, I used my coupon (back then my store doubled), bought one can and enjoyed a great bargain.

Kelly didn’t mention environmental issues in her desire to make her own furniture polish, but after doing some research on the matter, I became convinced that may be something all of us should consider—perhaps even more than the high price of quality furniture cleaners, polishes, and protectants.

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For many, Memorial Day has pretty much morphed from a day of remembrance to a much anticipated three-day weekend with exciting outdoor events that officially welcome the start of summer. But it’s more than that.

In fact, it’s not really about a big blowout holiday weekend at all. It’s about remembering our history and those who’ve gone before. The purpose of Memorial Day is to memorialize the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country—who gave their lives to protect our freedom.

 

 

U.S. history was not something stressed or even talked about in my family growing up. I possessed a general timeline of events but that was about it. All of that changed for me when I married a man for whom our American history is more than a few facts memorized to get past a final exam.

My husband Harold lives and breathes our nation’s history. He planned our honeymoon around visits to Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefields, culminating with an all-day visit to Gettysburg National Military Park.

I was gobsmacked by what I didn’t know. Such an emotionally packed tour I’d never experienced. I learned more that day than I’d learned about our nation’s history in my 16 years of formal education.

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Are trips through the closest fast-food joint driving a hole through your food budget? It’s no wonder. Prices on all foods are sky-rocketing, but fast food takes that prize. Yikes!

 

Homemade Chicken Fingers in a Basket Better than Fast-Food Drive-Thru

 

Unlike supermarkets where every week you can find fabulous sales, you’ll never find sales at Wendy’s, McDonald’s or Burger King. Or any other fast-food restaurant for that matter. I don’t consider an occasional coupon to be a Sale.

I know what you’re thinking: Chicken. Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Fingers, Chicken Sandwiches—they’re all so tasty from these places, so convenient and so kid-friendly.

Consider this: In less time than it takes you to get into the car and drive to the closest drive-thru, you can make your own fast-food chicken fare—for half the price, or less. In fact, you can make a fabulous coating mix to mimic the best-coated chicken you’ve ever eaten, in five minutes flat.

And if that’s not enough, you’ll get three bonuses for your effort:

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If the heat of summer is bringing ants into your home and yard, don’t panic. You may not require toxic pest control products or a professional service to take care of the problem. In fact, chances are good you already have everything you need to do it yourself.

 

 

Here are 10 ways to get rid of ants using ordinary things you have around the house or in the garage.

Soap and water

If you have ants or other bugs around the house, pour a 50/50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into an empty spray bottle and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons, and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy cleanup, too.

Mop and vacuum

To get rid of sugar ants, start by mopping the floor at least once a day. Mopping and vacuuming help to remove the ants’ pheromone trails. Cleaning and mopping will also rid your home of the food and crumbs that attract the ants. Make sure you don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink and empty the trash bin regularly.

Black pepper

To deter sugar ants, sprinkle ground black pepper around the home’s entry points to keep the ants from coming inside.

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