Use This for That to Reduce Clutter and Save Money

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.

Currently, I have standing appointments with Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, Molly Yeh, and Alton Brown. They come to my home and demonstrate every technique imaginable while I sit, front-row-center in front of the television. Or sometimes my coaches show up on my iPad right there on my kitchen counter, where they walk me step-by-step through recipes and techniques.

They’ve taught me the importance of three things: fresh ingredients, the right equipment, and a lot of practice. Which brings me to today’s topic: the right equipment. Read more

Black coin purse or wallet, with US one dollar bill.

Things You’d Be Smart to Buy (and Avoid) at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores are just about everywhere—national chains like Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar, and all kinds of independents, too. What do they hold in common? The promise of good stuff, cheap!

Black coin purse or wallet, with US one dollar bill.

At least a couple of times a week, someone will ask me what I miss most about living in Southern California. Because we lived there many years before pulling up roots and relocating to Colorado, you might assume that it would be a long list.

But my usual response is “Not much!” and not just to get a laugh. Truth be told, I can only think of two things: Good pizza and my beloved 99 Cents Only Store—the best “dollar” store ever.

Read more

male hand opening wallet of money

10 Simple Gadgets That Put Money Back in Your Wallet

There is an old marketing adage that says to make money, you have to spend money. There’s truth in that for businesses, but don’t count on it for personal money management—unless you have a clear strategy.

The quickest and best way to keep more money in your wallet is to cut expenses. Spend less. Just like that, you get the equivalent of a tax-free raise.

male hand opening wallet of money

That’s exactly what these inexpensive yet handy gadgets offer—clear strategies to reduce the high cost of energy to keep your home comfortable and powered up.

1. Outlet Sealers

Electrical sockets and switch plates on interior and exterior walls can be hidden sources of drafts that may lead to high heating and cooling costs.

Outlet (socket) sealers are really easy to install and act as a buffer between your home’s inside and the outdoor air, helping to keep conditioned air in and outside air out. The Duck Brand Socket Sealers Variety Pack comes with 16 outlet sealers, 6 switch plates, and 2 decorative covers.

socket sealers to reduce home energy

2. Window Shrink Film

Chilly winter or hot summer weather can send the home heating/air conditioning bill through the roof. But a little insulation goes a long way.

You can cut a chunk out of your power bill by making your home more energy efficient when you install window shrink film. It’s easy, using a conventional hairdryer and proper film like you can get in a Duck Brand Indoor 10-Window Shrink Film Insulator Kit. This particular kit will insulate the equivalent of ten 3’ x 5’ windows.

Duck Brand Window Kit seals 10 indoor windows

3. Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer

Keeping your refrigerator and freezer cooling at the proper temperature ensures that you aren’t wasting energy by keeping it too cold, but not wasting food either by keeping it not cold enough!

This 2-pack set of freezer refrigerator thermometers is a super cost-effective way to make sure your temps are just right.

fridge and freezer thermometers

4. Surge Protector/Auto-switch

Stop for a moment and think about all of the electronics you have plugged into your home outlets. Can’t remember? Take a walk through the house tonight after dark and check out all the little green electronic “eyes” staring at you. They’re using energy 24/7.

Stop the phantom power drain with a surge protector that automatically turns off power when not in use. That one move will reduce your power bill by saving energy. A p0wer strip like this Energy Saving Surge Protector with Auto-switching Technology is just the ticket.

surge protector

5. Power Conserve Switch

What about your coffee pot, electric grill, clothing, heater, and electric fans that are plugged in all over the house? Rather than a large multi-outlet power strip, use individual power conserve switches—one per electrical item.

The conserve power switch completely shuts off power including standby power to your electronics and appliances with the flip of a switch. Easy to use and a great way to bring your electricity bill down month after month.

6. Kill-A-Watt

With this handy gadget, you can easily figure out which of your appliances are actually worth keeping plugged in. Simply connect these appliances to the Kill A Watt EZ, and it will assess how efficient they really are.

The large LCD display will measure consumption by the kilowatt-hour—the same way your local utility figures it—letting you calculate your cumulative electrical expenses and forecast by the day, week, month, even an entire year. With the amazing P3 International Kill A Watt EZ Electricity Usage Monitor you’ll know (get ready) watts killing you!

kill-a-watt monitor

7. Showerhead

A really good low-flow showerhead will radically cut your water consumption per shower without giving the person showering any sense of deprivation, but your water bill will certainly show the difference.

This Niagara 1.25 GPM Chrome Shower Head is spectacular with its 3 spray functions easily rotates from a gentle needle spray to a forceful jet.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon, no cost to you.

8. Faucet Aerator

A faucet aerator saves water and energy by producing forceful streams in kitchen and bathroom sinks at a reduced flow rate that minimizes the amount of energy needed to heat hot water. Save energy two ways—heating the water and the amount of water used to get the job done. This  0.5 GPM Low Flow Faucet Aerator for kitchen and bath is a great option.

faucet aerator

9. Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat can save you up to 33 percent of your energy bill if used as directed. You set it up to adjust the temperature when you are away or asleep—times when you don’t necessarily need to heat or cool your home to optimum comfort—and your HVAC equipment runs less.

Plus, your heating or cooling comes back to the comfort level you desire before you come home or wake up. This Honeywell 5-2 Day Programmable Thermostat is super easy to install and comes pre-programmed for your convenience.

10. Motion Activated Solar Lights

Solar-powered motion activated light can provide your home, yard, walkways, driveway and garden with free power to light your property for both security and safety. Waterproof Wireless Security Bright Motion Sensor Solar Lights are brighter than other similar lights on the market with high-powered LEDs of up to 80 lumens! Extremely cost-effective in a 4-pack.

A pizza sitting on top of a table

Absolutely the Best Way to Store and Reheat Leftover Pizza

By some miracle, you ended up with more pizza than you could eat—or you intentionally ordered a larger pie just to have leftovers. Don’t let your leftovers sit in the fridge until they dry up, curl up, and turn downright disgusting. Enjoy your pizza just as much the second time around.

A pizza sitting on top of a table

Store leftover pizza

The best way to store leftover pizza is NOT to leave it in the box and shove the whole thing in the refrigerator. The cardboard and air freely circulating around the slices will dehydrate pizza in a big hurry.

Stack and wrap

Place a single layer of slices on a dinner plate, top with a layer of wax, freezer, foil, or parchment paper. Keep stacking, alternating pizza and paper, until all the pizza’s on the plate. Wrap the whole thing tightly up in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. That’s it!

It’s not as easy as just throwing the box in the fridge, but you’ll end up with tastier leftover pizza to reheat.

Properly stored, leftover pizza will retain its best quality for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator or up to 2 months in the freezer.

Read more

female hand in yellow rubber glove holding spray bottle of homemade cleaning solution

5 Fabulous Homemade Cleaning Products that Use the Power of Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol, is extremely useful around the house because it acts as both a solvent and a disinfectant. Add to that, it’s still relatively cheap! All of this makes isopropyl alcohol nearly magical as an ingredient in so many useful homemade solutions.

female hand in yellow rubber glove holding spray bottle of homemade cleaning solution

Rubbing alcohol comes in varying strengths from 70%, which is most common, all the way to 99% strength. While any of these strengths will work well in the five recipes I have for you today, 70% is most common and least expensive—$1.29 for a 16 oz. bottle is typical. Always label homemade solutions clearly and keep them out of the reach of children.

Windshield Washer Fluid

  • 3 cups rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
  • 1 tablespoon liquid soap, like Blue Dawn
  • 10 cups water

Pour ingredients into a gallon-size plastic jug. Shake thoroughly to mix. Use in place of commercial windshield washer fluid in your car’s windshield washer reservoir. Always shake prior to adding to the reservoir. The alcohol speeds the drying time and prevents the solution from freezing in winter.

Eyeglass Lens and Screen Cleaner

  • 1 part rubbing alcohol
  • 1 part water
  • 1 drop liquid soap like Blue Dawn

Combine ingredients and pour into a small spray bottle. Spray onto a microfiber cloth rather than directly onto lenses, computer screens or other devices. Rub to clean away all the fingerprints and other dirty grim. Look at that sparkle!

Read more

rack of Costco rotisserie chickens

How to Use Up Every Last Bit of a Supermarket Rotisserie Chicken

If you’ve ever ducked in the supermarket to pick up a yummy, hot rotisserie chicken for dinner then tossed the remains in the garbage when no one was looking, this is for you. Don’t do that anymore, hear?

rack of Costco rotisserie chickens

There are so many ways you can turn all of that remaining chicken meat, if any, into at least one more meal—and I’m not talking about a meal of leftover rotisserie chicken.

I’m talking brand new meals, using that remaining chicken meat (so easy to pick off the bones) as a key ingredient.

Breakfast

BBQ Chicken Omelet

As odd as this might sound, barbecue for breakfast is fabulous. The flavors in this omelet are just right, too.

You will need:

  • butter
  • bottled barbecue sauce
  • dark rotisserie chicken dark meat, shredded
  • eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • sharp Cheddar cheese
  • scallion (optional)

bbq chicken omelet

BBQ Chicken and Cheddar Omelet

As odd as this might sound, barbecue for breakfast is fabulous. The flavors in this omelet are just right, too.
4.5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 1
Calories: 460kcal
Cost: $.75

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tspn bottled barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup rotisserie chicken dark meat, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp chopped scallion, or onion

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Meanwhile, add barbecue sauce to the chicken and mix well.
  • Whisk eggs with salt and pepper until combined and frothy; add to pan. 
  • Allow the eggs to cook for 1 minute, setting in the pan.
  • Using a wooden spatula, carefully lift the cooked portions of the egg from the pan, allowing the runny portions to reach the heat. Do not scramble. Continue in this manner until no runny portion remains, about 2 minutes.
  • Generously arrange chicken, cheese, and green onions onto one side of the egg mixture.
  • Using a spatula, fold over the other side. Continue to cook just until cheese is melted. 
  • Remove from pan and serve. Serves: 1

Nutrition

Calories: 460kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 582mg | Sodium: 595mg | Potassium: 286mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1411IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 278mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Lunch

Chicken Salad

You will need:

  • rotisserie white chicken, diced
  • mayonnaise
  • finely chopped onion
  • finely chopped celery
  • salt and pepper
A close up of a bowl of salad, with Chicken and Teaspoon

Chicken Salad

Quick and easy, this chicken salad is perfects served as a salad or in a sandwich.
4.5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: lunch
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 161kcal
Cost: $.35 per serving

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rotisserie white chicken diced
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion, or any onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Combine chicken, mayonnaise, onion, and celery in a small mixing bowl. Lightly season with salt and pepper; mix thoroughly.
  • Taste the mixture, adding more salt and pepper to adjust flavoring or mayonnaise for added moisture based on your preference. 
  • Cover and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Serves: 4

Nutrition

Calories: 161kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 293mg | Potassium: 269mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 69IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Snack

Chicken Quesadillas

Super quick and tasty snack! Healthy, too.

  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • dark rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • butter
  • large flour tortillas
  • grated Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • salsa
  • sour cream
rotisserie chicken quesadillas

Chicken Quesadillas

Quick and easy snack or lunch using last night's leftover rotisserie chicken!
4.5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Snack
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 415kcal
Cost: $1

Ingredients

  • 1 tspn chili powder
  • 1 tspn cumin
  • cups dark rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 4 tspns butter, divided
  • 4 large flour tortillas
  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 4 tbsp salsa
  • 4 tbsp sour cream

Instructions

  • Season the chicken with the chili and cumin powder, mix and set aside.
  • Add a teaspoon of butter to a non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted, lay the tortilla flat in the melted butter. On one side of the tortilla, evenly disperse the chicken and cheese.
  • Using tongs, carefully fold the tortilla in half to cover the contents. 
  • Allow the quesadilla to cook until the underside of the tortilla is evenly browned. Carefully flip the quesadilla and brown on the remaining side making sure the cheese is melted.
  • Remove from heat and repeat the procedure for the remaining three quesadillas. (You can keep quesadillas warm in a 200 F oven.)
  • To serve, slice the quesadilla into wedges and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Nutrition

Serving: 1quesadilla | Calories: 415kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 105mg | Sodium: 822mg | Potassium: 310mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 685IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 479mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Dinner

Easy Chicken Divan

Served along with rice and a green salad, this is a great comforting meal that is sure to satisfy the entire family.

  • frozen chopped broccoli, thawed.
  • white and dark rotisserie chicken, chopped
  • cream of mushroom soup
  • mayonnaise
  • lemon juice
  • curry powder
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • sharp Cheddar cheese
  • hot cooked rice
chicken divan casserole

Rotisserie Chicken Divan

Served along with rice and a green salad, this is a great comforting meal that is sure to satisfy the entire family.
4.5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 678kcal
Cost: $2

Ingredients

  • 1 10-oz pg frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
  • 3 cups white and dark rotisserie chicken, chopped
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tspn salt
  • ½ tspn black pepper
  • 2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese can substitute Monterey Jack cheese
  • 6 cups hot, cooked rice

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Drain broccoli and add to the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish along with the chopped chicken.
  • Add soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder, salt, and pepper into a mixing bowl and stir until combined.
  • Pour the mixture over the top of the broccoli and chicken and top with grated cheese. 
  • Place the casserole in the oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes until browned and bubbly. 
  • Serve over hot cooked rice. Serves: 4-6.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 678kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 44g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 120mg | Sodium: 1104mg | Potassium: 352mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 414IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 297mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Prepare these quick and easy meals from that one chicken and what do you have? A pile of bones known as chicken carcass. Now what? Make chicken stock!


Woman giving a thumbs up on no christmas credit card debt white background

How to Do Christmas 2020 Without Debt

If you are or ever have been plagued by credit card debt, I can nearly guarantee expenses related to Christmas have contributed greatly to that miserable situation. You know I’m right and unless we do something to stop that pattern, things are about to get much worse for you. Christmas is right around the corner.

woman stressed out over Christmas debt

The problem is procrastination. Face it, when it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait, the more you’ll spend. The opposite is also true. The sooner you get started, the less you’ll spend.

There are simple things you can do to stop procrastinating.

Get started

There’s no use in trying to ignore the fact that 2020 has been a tough year for all of us. And it’s not over, yet!

This pandemic, the protests, the politics; unemployment, rising costs, devastating losses by fire and riots—need I go on?—could well stretch into 2021. I’m the first to admit the easiest thing in the world would be to throw three sheets to the wind, decide that we deserve a little happiness in all of the chaos, and to just go for it by using up all the credit limits available and try to overcome all we’ve been through. You know, give the kids the best Christmas of their lives—somehow feeling justified in believing, “We’ll deal with the debt later.”

Please don’t do that. It might sound like a reasonable tradeoff today, but I promise that you will regret it soon enough.

Instead, do something positive today to get moving on Christmas, determined you will not spend money you don’t have. Once you are in motion, it will be easier to keep going.

Write it down

Reduce your plans to paper. Seeing things in black and white eliminates the unknown and provides a realistic playing field. Set reasonable limits both in time and in money.

Work with the time you have

Make a simple timeline, then break the project down into small, manageable parts. Even five minutes is enough time to get something done when you have a plan.

Small deadlines

As an example, give yourself a date one week from today to have your gift list written. Share your deadlines with someone who will keep you accountable.

Find the simpler way

To minimize the powerful emotions of the season, determine ways you can reasonably scale back and simplify. Make room in your holiday plans for relaxation and enjoyment.

Be realistic

A big part of the problem is that the December holidays aren’t just about gifts. There are decorations, holiday clothes, parties and trips, special concerts and plays, postage for cards and parcels, and, of course, all that food. The obvious solution is not to spend a lot of money on any of these things. Think about alternative ways to make the holidays happy.

Any time of the year is the best time of the year to start thinking about the most wonderful time of the year. This far out, the pressure is off so you can think clearly. A stress-free debt-free Christmas is likely the very best gift you can give yourself and your family.

Woman giving a thumbs up on no christmas credit card debt white background

Let’s do this together

It’s been 28 years since I launched Cheapskate Monthly newsletter. Lots has changed since then and that’s quite an understatement! What hasn’t changed is that credit card debt is like cancer—or runaway virus! It begins small and seems to be quite manageable. Then it starts to grow, and grow. It multiplies and very soon gets out of hand, taking over and changing our lives.

A better idea is that we nip this in the bud to stop even the thought of going into debt right now. Find better ways to accomplish the same goal. And let’s do this together! How? I have a few ideas:

  1. Don’t miss a single EC daily post. Open the email, click through to the post, and read it! Not all will be Christmas related, but all devoted to saving time and money every day! This is the way to stay motivated.
  2. Leave a comment, share your tips and ideas. Renew your commitment, share your challenges.
  3. Share the daily posts. Click on the buttons, tell your friends and family about EC, and encourage them to subscribe! This will help all of us to keep EC alive and well.
  4. Participate in our coming GIVEAWAYS (gonna’ be so great!). Spread the word.
  5. Stick close! I’m going to make sure you have all you need to reach your goals, with ideas and how-tos to make awesome gifts, finding alternatives to pricey options, and doing things differently. Need more ideas? I’m working feverishly on our 2020 Gift Idea Guides—not to encourage and nudge you into debt, but to give you ideas for gifts that will fit into your Holiday budget.

Ready?

And now it’s time to gather into one enormous huddle to renew our collective commitment to no new debt this holiday season. Are you with me?

Ready … Set … Let’s GO!


woman removing clothes and towels from clothes dryer

How to Use a Clothes Dryer Correctly

If you routinely pluck big wads of lint from the trap of your clothes dryer, you should be wondering—where does all of that come from? You emptied all pockets and you’re certain you did not wash a bag of pillow stuffing.

Horizontal photo of female hand taking the lent out from dirty air filter of the dyer machine

I’ll tell you what it is because I face the same thing and I am not happy about this: It’s visual proof the dryer is wearing out our clothes. Those fibers were neatly woven into these clothes only 30 minutes ago. For all the convenience a clothes dryer offers, it may come at the price of having to replace clothes much too often.

Overdrying clothes causes them to shrink and not only the first time they’re washed. Sleeves and pant legs continually get shorter and shorter when machine dried improperly.

There are tactics to counteract the abuse suffered by a clothes dryer and you don’t have to go back to the days of sheets frozen stiff on the clothesline.

You don’t have to machine dry your clothes to death in order to end up with comfy jeans and fluffy soft towels.

woman removing clothes and towels from clothes dryer

Get the soap out

Residual detergent in fabrics causes them to feel rough. Measure carefully erring on the side of too little rather than too much detergent. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the last rinse. This will help remove the residual detergent from the fabrics. Even when air-dried, they will be softer.

Using inexpensive distilled white vinegar in the laundry will whiten, brighten, reduce odor, and soften clothes without harsh chemicals. The 5% acetic acid in distilled white vinegar is so mild that it will not harm washable fabrics or the washing machine itself. Vinegar is safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers and is beneficial to septic tanks and the environment.

Read more

cleaning black leather boot with olive oil

Secrets for How to Clean Leather Boots, Cast Iron, and More

Every day I learn something new from my clever readers. Take fine leather for example. I think it’s safe to say we’re all aware that Italy is where one would find the best. I’d just never thought about the Italians have superior knowledge for how to care for and clean said leather. While I love today’s first great reader tip, I have to admit that Lysa made me laugh out loud!

female hands cleaning black leather boot with olive oil

Photo credit: Wikihow

Rejuvenate leather

Olive oil removes salt and stains from leather boots and shoes. Shines the leather, too. It’s an Italian thing. Lysa

Good to the last squeeze

I hate wasting any little bit of a product I’ve paid for. After the toothpaste has squeezed out its last glob, I cut off the tube about an inch from the cap. I can get another 5 or 6 brushings from what remains. Debbie

Savings on liquid soap

Those foam pump dispensers are so nice. But they seem expensive for the amount of soap you get compared to the amount of water in the bottle. I save the dispensers and refill about 1/4 of the bottle with liquid hand soap and fill the rest of the bottle with water. Put the top back on and roll the bottle around until the soap dissolves into the water (may take a little time to fully blend the two). Voila! I have a refill bottle of liquid soap that takes me years to use up because I use so little of it to refill a foam dispenser bottle. Kay Read more

Boxer dog tearing through clothes in laundry room hamper

Get Pet Hair and Fragrance Build-Up Out of the Laundry

Dogs and cats shed. A lot. That pet hair can get all over the house—on rugs, on bedsheets, and clothes. It sticks to fabrics and won’t go away. How maddening to find it on the clean clothes from the dryer. What’s a person to do?

Boxer dog tearing through clothes in laundry room hamper

Dear Mary: I am one of your millions of fans. Your insight, tips, products, and recipes are terrific. Thank you for your time and efforts! I’m looking for something I can purchase or make myself to put into the dryer to extract dog hairs from fabric. Years ago I purchased a kind of fabric ball, which looked ordinary enough and worked great. Since then I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m desperate! Thanks, Anita

Dear Anita: I’m pretty sure you’re talking about a Dryer Maid Ball that promises to automatically remove pet hair from clothes while in the dryer, and send it to the lint trap, while at the same time soften clothes and decrease wrinkles.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have not tested this product myself, because I do not have a pet. However, the customer reviews are positive from those who use this product to extract all that pet hair.

What I have tested and love are Wool Dryer Balls. These dryer balls soften as well as reduce static without fragrance or chemicals—and I have noticed that they pick up stray human hair that finds its way into the dryer.

Read more

simple human 30 liter round stainless steel trash can

My Perfect Kitchen Trash Can and Cheap Trash Bags, Too!

I know “hate” is a strong word, but that’s how I feel about trash. Can’t stand it. But my loathing for trash is nothing compared to Lauren Singer, who has been trash-free for seven years. It’s hard to imagine such a thing, but after hearing her story, she’s got my attention.

The entire amount of trash Lauren has produced in 24 months fits into a pint-size Mason jar.

on pint-size jar of trash

I can’t say I’m anywhere close to Lauren when it comes to trash. I’m in that stage where I need a proper trash receptacle strategically located by my desk and in every other room of the house and garage as well.

The most important receptacle is in the kitchen. It needs to be substantial in size, handy by location, as attractive as possible, impeccably clean, and covered.


I have tested, tried, and or reviewed every kind of trash receptacle in my search for the most perfect product out there.

I have come to the well-educated opinion that stainless steel trash cans by Simple Human are the very best. I have the 30-litre/8 gallon round step can model in my kitchen.

simple human 30 liter round stainless steel trash can

This beauty fits in a corner, against a wall—just about anywhere. It has a removable rigid liner for easy cleaning. The steel pedal is sturdy and the lid gives a smooth, silent, soft close every time. It does not show fingerprints—also a big deal for me. And it comes with a 20-year warranty. Read more

A piece of cake sitting on top of a table

Einstein in the Kitchen or Let Them Eat (Carrot) Cake

I have a special treat for you today. It’s a recipe. Normally I sell this recipe for $1,000 but it’s your lucky day. OK, I’m just kidding about that, but honestly, this one is worth its weight in gold, which as I write is about $1,900 per ounce.

A piece of cake sitting on top of a table

In this world, there is carrot cake and then there is scrumptious absolutely to-die-for carrot cake—the kind of cake you’ve only experienced with a $200-per-person meal at a fancy hotel (you do that all the time, right?).

It’s the kind of carrot cake that would surely be named the Grand Champion in a competition at a fine culinary school like Le Cordon Bleu Baking and Pastry Arts Program if I’d ever had such an opportunity to compete.

This is the cake that’s going to make your friends and family think you’re a genius! And don’t be surprised when it becomes your signature cake—the one they request for their birthdays. Imagine how beautiful this cake might look on your Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter buffet table.



As you peruse this recipe, you may be tempted to make a few adjustments. Please do not do that. You’ll think 1 1/2 cups oil is excessive. It’s not. And the pineapple. Seriously? Yes. Do not doubt me.

This is the perfect recipe both in ingredients and proportions, so please follow it exactly. It’s the recipe you’ll be tempted to keep secret and good luck with that! 😉

Read more

How to Make a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

A surefire signal that I’m out of town is the big square burn mark in my best stainless skillet. That’s the tale-tell sign my husband has attempted to prepare the one and only item on his repertoire of home-cooked meals: A grilled cheese sandwich.

The man doesn’t know how to cook.

burnt grilled cheese sandwich on white plate with fork and knife

His grilled cheese sandwiches are burned on the outside, solid on the inside. Poor guy. When it comes to this basic all-American favorite, Harold does just about everything wrong.
He starts with a blazing hot skillet, uses cold butter and unevenly sliced cheese with the thickest parts of the cheese piled up in the middle of the sandwich. This man really needs his wife.

There’s an art to preparing a perfect grilled cheese sandwich that is crispy, golden brown on the outside, soft on the inside with cheese that is evenly melted.

Read more

vintage white slow cooker on white background

8 Surprising Non-Food Ways to Use a Slow Cooker

They’re bulky and take up precious cabinet space, but we’ll never get rid of our slow cookers. They can be such a lifesaver on those days when time is scarce and we just want to make a big batch of something deliciously comforting to get us through.

vintage white slow cooker on white background

A slow cooker, aka Crock-Pot®, is one awesome household appliance for hands-off cooking. If you have one (a recent study says at least 80 percent of us do) you may know what a great time- and money-saver it is.

Surprisingly, your slow cooker is good for other tasks that have nothing to do with eating.

For the projects that follow, you may want to find that old vintage slow cooker gathering dust in the garage so that you have one dedicated for non-food projects. Or pick up a second liner (inner pot) for your multi-cooker Instant Pot.

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Face

6 Easy Spa Treatments You Can Do at Home to Pamper Yourself

If you don’t happen to have an extra hundred bucks to enjoy a day at the spa, don’t sweat it. There are lots of easy DIY spa treatments you can do for yourself, at home for less. A lot less!

Face

Salt scrub

You can pay a small fortune for a jar of salt scrub body exfoliant, or make your own for about a buck.

Find a nice container (a small glass jar or with a tight-fitting lid works well) and fill it about 3/4 full with Epsom salt. Now slowly mix in either almond oil (better) or baby oil (cheaper) and stir until the mixture looks like wet snow.

It’s optional, but you can add your choice of aromatherapy-grade essential oil to add a lovely scent. Lavender is a great choice! And you can substitute sugar for Epsom Salt.

TO USE:  Massage over wet skin in a hot shower with hand or washcloth. Rinse. Scratchy, scaly skin is suddenly gorgeous. Do not use on broken or freshly shaven skin.

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silver flatware forks on linen napkin

Yes! You Can Wash Silver in the Dishwasher

Contrary to popular belief, you can wash silver and silverplate flatware in the dishwasher without causing harm, provided you are careful to follow the rules.

silver flatware forks on linen napkin

I grew up being fearful of the oddest things. I wasn’t bold enough to question why, so I just did as I was told. Here’s one: Never, ever put good dishes or silver flatware in the dishwasher. Ever!

I didn’t know what would happen if I did, but you can be sure that my fear of the unknown made certain I didn’t come close to finding out. Until my rebellious years.

Once I had my own china and my own silver, I was reckless enough to believe I wouldn’t go to jail if I violated this particular “Thou shalt not!” I was reminded of what I’ve learned about putting silver in the dishwasher when the following question showed up in my inbox:

I have a set of silver flatware that I use daily and wash in the dishwasher. I notice that after a few times through a normal cycle, the pieces become very tarnished. It is not a particularly good set, just a nice set of flatware for daily use. Do you think that the dishwashing detergent is tarnishing the silver? Anne

Dear Anne: I believe the serious problem is the way you’re loading the machine and also your choice of dishwasher detergent.

silver pie server on black background

Case in point: This small pie server is one of my favorite things. I love it for its size and the way it feels in my hand. I use it daily and it goes in the dishwasher every evening—by itself in its own little compartment so that it is not touching any other type of metal. Since I inherited it many years ago I have done nothing to it but follow the rules (coming right up), use it, clean it, and enjoy it. Read more

chicken with homemade teriyaki sauce

How to Make a Good Meal Great (It’s All About the Sauce!)

Some time ago, I posted an impromptu fan poll on our Facebook page asking, “What is your greatest financial temptation?” (The answer wasn’t sauce, but that’s where we’re going here.)

Answer choices: accepting more credit, vacation, clothes, new car, stuff for the house, eating out, and none-of-the-above

I thought I could easily predict the outcome. Stuff for the house would win. And I was wrong! The runaway winner at 41% was “eating out.” I should not have been surprised.

chicken with homemade teriyaki sauce

How much do you think the average American spends in a year by eating out at restaurants?

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woman and child using fabric softener in laundry room

5 Ways to Make Safe, Problem-Free Fabric Softener

Fabric softeners are designed to reduce the amount of static in synthetic fibers and make laundry come out feeling soft and smelling great. So why would anyone opt to go to the time and trouble of making homemade fabric softener when the commercial stuff works well? Because commercial store-bought fabric softeners are a problem, not a solution. Consider these three reasons:

woman and child using fabric softener in laundry room

1. Allergies

While I’m blessed to have a healthy family, all of us are sensitive, if not allergic, to fabric softeners, which is common. Commercial fabric softeners are composed of various chemicals, some of which can be major irritants on the skin and body.

If you or your kids develop a skin irritation like a red rash or bumps, itching, pain, tenderness or a localized skin rash, prepare for the dermatologist’s first question: Do you use fabric softener? According to this Mayo Clinic study, the offending ingredients in fabric softeners include quaternium, cobalt chloride, and formaldehyde, which can cause skin irritation, and rash or hives (small swollen welts) to form on the skin.

The fragrance or “fumes” from fabric softeners can irritate some people, leading to tiredness, difficulty breathing, anxiety, dizziness, headaches, faintness, and memory problems.

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kids halloween fun

Free Printables Make Halloween Super Fun

Halloween 2020 is certain to go down as a much different kind of Halloween than any of us have ever experienced. And we are going to crush it with fabulous ideas for how to have great fun, safely!

A six-feet apart (not under!) block party we’ve been invited to has all the kiddos in one neighborhood super excited! From games to entertainment and costume contests, parents are going all out to make sure this socially-distanced, super safe Halloween goes down in the memories of kids and adults as being the best Halloween yet!

No matter the kind of celebration you’ll be seeing this year, this list of Halloween printables for decorating, playing games, coloring, carving, and crafting will keep you and the kids busy. Best to start early. Print exactly what you want—free and easy!

Halloween games. Four laughing emotional good-looking children wearing costumes playing funny Halloween games

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A group of people sitting at a table

Mistakes We Make and the Courage to Fix Them

My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Migaki, taught us it’s important to learn from history so we don’t repeat mistakes we’ve made in the past. He made that lesson real when he said that last year counts as history, and so does last month and last week.

A group of people sitting at a table

Mr. Migaki said that something is only a mistake if you can’t fix it. Sometimes he would let us retake our tests to fix our mistakes. We got do-overs!

He’d grade our papers with a red pen, but if the do-over fixed the original mistake (he never, ever gave us the right answer) he would applaud the success by crossing through the bad grade, turning it into an A.

I couldn’t help but recall this wonderful teacher and give thanks for that life lesson when this message from Jenny turned up in my inbox …

Dear Mary: I have to tell you, in response to Your Consumer Behavior Is Keeping Your Broke, how I fell victim to a good salesman. Fortunately, there’s a happy ending.

I was shopping for groceries and the announcement was to gather around at the end of Aisle 2 in two minutes for an unadvertised giveaway. AND if you got there right away, you got an eyeglass cleaner cloth, which was promised to be your ticket to something special later, as it was first-come, first-served. You know the drill, I’m sure! Read more

empty wallet - woman with no money in purse shopping. Female

Your Consumer Behaviors Are Keeping You Broke!

Do you know what I love? Walking into my supermarket the day after Thanksgiving and hearing the best Christmas music ever. Yeah! And if I wasn’t in the mood to bake Christmas cookies and shop my brains out before I got there, just hearing that lovely music can change everything.

Crazy young woman on a shopping spree. Isolated on white background.

Right there, that proves I am a quintessential, typical, impulsive consumer. That retailer’s got my number. And quite possibly yours, too!

Listen, it’s our consumer behaviors—the ways that we allow retailers to wrap around their little fingers that can unwittingly keep us broke!

While I don’t want to stop loving music (I swoon to the Beach Boys during the summer months because this store has an uncanny way of knowing what I like) what I have changed is the way I hear it while loading up on groceries.

Retailers are doing this on purpose—by intentional design—because retailers have irrefutable evidence that the right music can result in increased sales of targeted products to impulse buyers. To put it bluntly, retailers are doing all they can to get as much of our hard-earned money as they can—to keep us broke!

empty wallet - woman with no money in purse shopping. Female

The American Psychological Association suggests that loud music gets people to move through a store more quickly where slower and quieter music makes them stay longer and spend more money.

Classical music at a restaurant makes people buy more than does pop music or no music at all. Music is like tasty bait that retailers purposely thread onto the end of a sharp hook.

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A large bed in a hotel room

Best Inexpensive: Towels, Sheets, Mattress Pad, Down Comforter

In my lifetime, I have spent way too much in an attempt to furnish bedrooms and baths with high-quality towels and bedding. What I have discovered through a lot of trial and error is that the price does not always guarantee great results.

towels linens on a beautiful bedBath towels on the bed of bedroom

Today I want to tell you about my updated picks for the Best Inexpensive bath towels, sheets, mattress pads, and down comforters.

Towels

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that when it comes to towels, my husband and I are picky. They can’t be too thin, but not too thick either. Towels need to be highly absorbent, 100% cotton. We’re not into bath sheets, preferring our bath towels to be somewhere around 30” x 56.” They need to be soft but not too soft, so as not to give an invigorating rub down following a hot shower.

I want towels that launder well—able to handle hot wash, vinegar rinse, and a high-temperature dry with wool dryer balls.

Pro-Tip

Never launder towels using softening products in the washer or dry sheets in the dryer. To do so will eventually eliminate those bath linens’ absorbency. Using too much detergent will leave these linens stiff. The secret is to use only a small amount of detergent in hot water then use wool dryer balls in the dryer.

Best Inexpensive: JCPenneys Liz Claiborne Luxury Egyptian Hygrocotton Loops 625 GPM Bath Towels hand towels, and washcloths. These towels come singly or in sets and in a choice of colors, including white. At this writing the 6-piece towel set: $44 with coupon code FRIENDS4.

Best Overall: Lands’ End Supima Cotton Towel 6-piece Set. Rare supima cotton, combed for added softness; big, thick, thirsty, and ultra-soft that stay that way for many years, wash after wash. Currently, a 6-piece towel set in white: $70 with code: CLEAR.

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Iced coffee in a tall glass

How to Make Perfect Cold Brew Iced Coffee

As a coffee lover, there’s one thing I just didn’t get—Iced Coffee. What?! The idea left me well, cold. Coffee is supposed to be hot. Very, very hot.

And then I made a serious mistake. I accepted a sample of iced coffee in a popular coffee shop. It was strong, sweet, creamy, and icy, icy cold. Wow.

Iced coffee in a tall glass

I needed to figure out how to make this myself—it was that good—because as much as I might want iced coffee again, I was not going to pay the outrageous price to have someone else make it for me. Read more

26 Ways to Use Dryer Sheets Around the House

Apparently, I’m a slow learner. I can’t think of another reason it took years to associate my sons’ and husband’s itchy skin problems with the dryer sheets I used in the clothes dryer.

While we didn’t experience respiratory problems that are often associated with fabric softeners, there are credible medical evidence that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may also cause respiratory problems in some individuals.

One would expect that such a life-impacting revelation (all the skin problems disappeared once I stopped using any fabric softeners or dryer sheets) would have banned those pesky sheets from our home. But that’s not true.

Dryer sheets have so many other uses around that home—indoors, outdoors, and in the garage too—I keep a box of fragrance-free dryer sheets on hand for many other uses. (Even without fragrance, dryer sheets pose a problem for my family when used in the dryer with clothing, sheets and towels).

A used dryer sheet is ideal for many of the applications that follow. However, if you, like me, don’t end up with used sheets from the dryer, simply soak a new sheet in water and then wring it out. Most of the time you want to the sheet to be damp anyway.

Pro Tip

If you are sensitive to dryer sheets, be sure to wear rubber or latex gloves when handling a new sheet.

Spiders, flies

Many of our readers have confirmed that dryer sheets will repel both spiders and flies. Keep a few extra sheets in clothes hampers and around the laundry area and you can kiss all those spiders goodbye.

Luggage

Slip a dryer sheet into your suitcases while they are in storage and they won’t smell musty when you take them out to use.

Repel bugs

Anytime you’re outdoors—whether playing, gardening, hiking, or just picnicking in the park—consider slipping a dryer sheet in your back pocket. Research has shown that a couple of chemical compounds commonly found in the sheets (linalool* and beta-citronellol) will deter the gnats and mosquitoes from hanging around, making this a reasonable and easier-to-use alternative to spray-on bug repellent.

*Linalool is naturally found in lavender and basil, which cosmetic and perfume companies use in their products for its flower-like odor. Linalool is toxic to some types of insects. Beta-citronellol, is found in citronella and repels mosquitoes.

Repel deer

There are reports out there that say new dryer sheets when cut into one-inch strips and tied to the tips of greenery or in trees, will repel plant-munching deer. I  would deerly (!) love any reader reports to either confirm or deny. 

Blinds

Wipe down your blinds with a dryer sheet to prevent static electricity and to keep dust from collecting. Grab that dryer sheet with a pair of kitchen tongs and use that to quickly run over each slat. It’s quick, easy and will even pick up the dust.

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Hello October Header

October Is The Best Time to Buy These 12 Things

Even though, according to the calendar, fall arrived last month, my personal calendar says today’s the day—Autumn has arrived! Oh, how I love this time of year!

Hello October Header

Cooler weather, sweaters, scarves, pumpkin pie, and beautiful fall colors make this, for me, the very best time of year. And there’s more—bargains galore as we head into the best time of the year!

Here’s a quick rundown of bargains we’re sure to find during October:

Halloween costumes, decor, party gear

Traditionally, stores go all-out stock up for Halloween. And as the month goes, they anticipate how much they’ll have left to deal with if they stick to retail pricing. And that means super sales later in the month.

If you hold can up on buying costumes, decor, and party supplies until the 3rd week or even closer to the 31st, you’ll be rewarded well with super clearance prices!

Jeans

Many retailers typically have an overstock of denim jeans this month—leftover from back-to-school shopping. Keep your eyes open for super sales and discount. Don’t expect that greatest selections of styles and sizes, but if you’re willing to search,  now is a great time to buy to score a new pair of jeans.

Toys and games

October is when retailers clear the decks for the hot new Christmas toys. That means getting rid of what’s been filling the shelves. All the old goes on sale. Traditonally the best time during Octobver to scoop up those bargains will be mid-month.

Wedding supplies

Traditionally, summer is wedding season. Come fall, reailers’ overstock can be anything from invitations, lights, cake toppers, and yes even wedding dresses. Almost everything gets a significant price drop during the fall months and then starts to pick back up again after New Year’s as brides start prepping for the summer weddings.

Pizza

Pizza is a huge deal during the month of October—National Pizza Month and almost all pizza chains celebrate this! If history repeats itself, we can count on Papa John’s, Dominos, and Pizza Hut celebrating with awesome pizza deals!

Sign up for emails, download their apps or just keep you eye on social media because the whole month will be filled with amazing deals—even a freebie or two.

Cars

The best time to buy a used car starts now—in the last quarter of the year between October and December. Not only will you find good prices on used cars, but you also get a great selection due to the fact that dealerships see an influx of trade-ins from drivers buying next years’ models.

New-model-year vehicles come out in the fall of the previous year–for example, a 2021 model will debut in the fall of 2020. Often dealerships want last year’s stock gone before the new models arrives. But that doesn’t always work out. If a 2020 model is still on the lot when a 2021 model arrives, dealerships will usually offer heavy discounts on the older model in order to move it out

Stoves

October is the month to land a fabulous deal on a new stove because manufacturers release their new models in winter. To make room for them, retailers routinely slap clearance prices on last year’s models still sitting in their inventory. But that’s not all. Ask about floor models, If you can live with a few surface blemishes, you may be able to land an even better deal.

Pro-Tip

More than one study says that Thursday is the day online retailers are most likely to reduce their prices.

Seasonal fruit

October will see lots of sales on apples, pumpkins, pears, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, oranges, figs, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Expect A=autumn harvest to be the theme everywhere. And don’t be afraid to stock up. You can bake pumpkin pies and freeze them for later. Make applesauce, apple butter, and apple dumplings.

Pro-Tip

Do this to store apples: Individually wrap them in newspaper (black ink only, not those with color ink). Put the wrapped apples in a covered cardboard box and store in a cool place like the basement where it will be cold, but not cold enough to freeze. You’ll be enjoying fresh, crisp, cheap apples all winter long!

Air conditioners

With consumers minds now turning toward cozying up to the  fireplace, retailers know cooling off is not a priority. So what’s a merchant to do? Give their remaining air conditioning units bargain basement prices And it’s not just the price that makes October an ideal month to buy. For those buying window units, it’s easier to install in cool October, rather than waiting for the first steamy day next spring. And for those looking to replace central air conditionging system, there’s less demand in October, which means a faster response and install time from your local HVAC contractor.

Camping gear

Want to find deals on items you can still use this year? Outdoor stores are putting their best camping gear on sale. October is that sweet spot in the year when heat waves have wound down but chances early snow storms are still quite remote. Grabbing super bargains on tents, sleeping bags and othe gear could mean that your best camping trip of the year is right around the corner.

Grills and outdoor furniture

Retailers are now focusing on indoors and the Holiday season ahead. That means they’re also doing their best to get rid of outdoor gear. Expect to find great deals on patio tables, chairs, umbrellas, and grills.

Garden and outdoor tools

Stores that stocked up on lawnmowers, shovels, rakes, weed eaters, gardening gloves, tools, and planters for last spring are ready to clear the decks in those aisels. Stores always put all of that on sale during the month of October to make sure that they have room for their winter products. It’s a great time to replace old, tired, broken garden tools. You’ll be all ready for spring in more ways than one!

Columbus Day sales

This year, we celebrate Columbus Day on Oct. 12. Many stores will take full advantage of that holiday weekend to clear out summer things to give their customers a head start on Christmas shopping.

Amazon Prime Days, Oct. 13-14

Prime Day is an annual deal event exclusively for Prime members, delivering two days of special savings on tons of items.This year, Amazon’s Prime Day 2020 will begin Oct, 13th through Oct. 14th.

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.

Pro-Tip

What I’m about to suggest to my readers who are not an Amazon Prime members is completely legal, ethical and even encouraged by Amazon: Sign up now for a free 30-day trial. You will have all the benefits of Amazon Prime membership, for free—including 2-day shipping and access to all the Amazon Prime Day highly discounted prices for members only. I’ll be posting both days to help point you to what I consider the best bargains.


A piece of cake sitting on top of a wooden table

Best Creative and Inexpensive Homemade Holiday Gifts!

Whether it’s something from your kitchen, craft room, woodworking shop, or computer, there’s nothing like a homemade gift. A tree ornament, a plate of cookies, box of fudge, note cards—just a few of the many homemade gift ideas with universal appeal.

I love homemade gifts both to give and receive. No wonder I have so many favorites!

A piece of cake sitting on top of a wooden table

Hand and Body Lotion

A jar of your own signature luxury hand and body lotion will definitely put you on the map. It’s that good. 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.

A bottle of wine sitting on top of a wooden table

And the best part? Under $5 per gift, depending on where you buy the ingredients and containers.

Gift and Cream

I have created a photo tutorial at How to DIY Gifts of Luxury Hand and Body Cream with all of the step-by-step instructions and specifics on the ingredients and where to get them.

Believe me when I say this is the gift your recipient(s) will rave about. And beg for more. It’s that awesome!

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apple pie in cast iron skillet

Hands Down This is The Best Apple Pie in The Whole World

Classic Apple Pie with a flaky crust, perfectly set filling, and a just a hint of cinnamon—does anything shout Autumn more than this?

apple pie in cast iron skillet

For a recipe that hits the mark while at the same time is simple to make, perfecting The Apple Pie has been irritatingly difficult.

I’m married to an incredibly discriminating apple pie connoisseur. Overpowering spice, an annoying hint of lemon, crust too soggy, “curdled” filling, overcooked, undercooked—I’ve battled every possible variation. I can confirm that this is The One. This is the recipe that makes all my husband’s Apple Pie dreams come true.

The Crust

Here’s what you need for the foolproof, perfect pie crust:

  • all-purpose flour
  • solid vegetable shortening
  • sugar
  • salt
  • egg
  • cold butter
  • vodka
  • ice-cold water

This recipe (see below) makes a perfectly flaky pie crust that can be sweet or savory (for savory simply omit the sugar). And I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking: Why vodka?

Here’s why vodka belongs in your pie crust: The vodka makes the crust flakier and lighter. It stops the gluten in the flour from developing, making the crust tender and super flaky. It will cook out, so no worries when it comes to serving this to your entire family! Just make sure you follow exactly including the “par-bake” step to make sure you avoid the heartbreak of a soggy bottom.

The Filling

The number of ingredients may come as a big surprise. What? No allspice, nutmeg, or cloves?! No tapioca or corn starch? No lemon? Right!

This filling is all about the apples with no distractions. And it comes out perfectly set—not thick or lumpy. Just the clear, pure, uncluttered taste of apples.

  • Granny Smith apples (or your choice)
  • sugar
  • cinnamon
  • butter

That’s it! So pure, so right! And it’s important that you follow the steps exactly. Adding the sugar to the apples too soon will cause the apples to macerate making them too “saucy” and, you guessed it, soggy bottom!

The Pie Pan

This Apple Pie calls for a 9-inch pie pan. My favorite is quite deep, which takes 7 apples to abundantly fill, which is the way we like it. Quite often, I will use this recipe for two 6-inch cast-iron skillets, one pictured below. It works really well!

apple pie in cast iron skillet

apple pie in cast iron skillet

Apple Pie

I'm married to an incredibly discriminating apple pie connoisseur. Overpowering spice, an annoying blast of lemon, bottom crust too soggy, "curdled" filling, overcooked, undercooked—I've battled every possible variation. I can confirm that this is The One. This is the recipe that makes all my husband's Apple Pie dreams come true.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 651kcal
Cost: $7

Equipment

  • One 9-inch pie pan OR a 10-inch cast iron skillet OR two 6-inch cast iron skillets.

Ingredients

The Crust

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening NOTE 2
  • 1/2 cup butter, salted cold, and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp white granulated sugar (omit for a savory crust)
  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 tbsp vodka NOTE 1
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • coarse sugar for top garnish optional

The Filling

  • 6 - 7 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut up thinly or other tart variety of apples
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp butter, cut into slices

Instructions

Crust

  • Combine flour and salt in a large bowl.
  • Cut in shortening and butter using a pastry blender or fork, until it looks evenly lumpy, with lumps the size of a small pea.
  • In a separate bowl, mix egg, water, and vodka together until combined. Pour into flour all at once and blend with a fork until dough forms a ball.
  • Evenly divide into two pieces, form them into disks, wrap and seal in plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least an hour, if not overnight. 
  • Once dough is chilled, preheat oven to 450F.
  • Roll out one disk and press it into a pie pan (traditional glass, ceramic or cast iron skillet(s). Do not prick the bottom with a fork! You do not want to make holes in it. Place it into the 450F oven for just 5 - 7 minutes, or until the bottom just begins to puff up and form "bubbles" and hints at turning brown. Do not take your eyes off of it! This will happen quickly. Remove from oven and fill with apple filling (see below). NOTE 3.
  • Roll out the second disk, lay over top of the apples. Cut holes into the top crust to allow steam to escape. Fold edge to fit and press down gently. Don't worry if it does not fully seal, since the bottom crust has been par-baked. It will meld slightly as the pie bakes. Sprinkle the top with sugar, if desired.
  • Bake at 450F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375F and bake for another 35 minutes or until beautifully browned. Remove from oven to cooling rack. Yum!

Apple Filling

  • Peel, core and cut apples into medium-thin pieces
  • Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl or cup
  • Pile prepared apples into par-baked pie shell, distributing evenly.
  • Pour the sugar cinnamon mixture evenly over apples.
  • Lay butter slices over the top of the apples and sugar mixture.
  • Proceed to finish pie with the top crust (see above)

Notes

NOTE 1:
Here's why vodka belongs in your pie crust: The vodka makes the crust flakier and lighter. It stops the gluten in the flour from developing, making the crust tender and super flaky. It will cook out, so no worries when it comes to serving this to your entire family! Just make sure you follow exactly including the "par-bake" step to make sure you avoid the heartbreak of a soggy bottom. You can substitute plain white vinegar for vodka, but with a slightly less tender outcome.
NOTE 2:
You can use all shortening (in place of half shortening, half butter) or conversely, all butter.
NOTE 3:
When making this pie in a cast-iron skillet, instead of par-baking in the oven, I set the skillet on a stovetop burner set to Low to Med-Low. Seriously! And I stand over it like a hovering mother bear. I wait until the pastry starts to turn white-ish and begins to puff. Also, my experience is that the bottom crust will not become “browner” or burnt during the baking process, even during the 15 mins. at 450F. That bottom pie crust is stubborn that way. Just make sure you don’t overdo it on the stovetop—but don't "under-do" it, either. You want to give it a really nice headstart.

Nutrition

Calories: 651kcal | Carbohydrates: 97g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 58mg | Sodium: 139mg | Potassium: 366mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 57g | Vitamin A: 631IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
generic gift cards

This is By Far the Best Way to Sell Gift Cards for Cash

According to a survey by the folks over at WalletHub, gift cards were the most popular type of present for the 13th consecutive year in 2019. If you were the recipient of your most desired gift—a gift card to your favorite retailer or service, that’s fantastic.

generic gift cards

But sometimes a gift card doesn’t quite hit the mark, making its way to the back of a wallet, the bottom of a drawer or—gasp!—hopelessly lost in all the spent gift wrap and ribbon that was hauled to the trash.

Consumers spend more than $130 billion on gift cards per year—and roughly $1 billion goes unspent. Every year! Believe it. It’s as absolutely true as it is mind-boggling.

If you got a gift card from a store you’ve never heard of or one you’ll most likely never use—you may be wondering if there’s a way you can exchange it for cash. 

Good news. There is. And not only that new gift card. You may be able to get cash for other gift cards you’ve been collecting—even the ones that you’ve used but still have a decent balance remaining. Read more

male in shower washing hair

This Has to Be the Most Unusual Use for Blue Dawn

There are days when I open my mailbox and have to sit down because I’m laughing so hard. Some things just strike me funny. Turns out this time, though, the last laugh was on me.

I am a cheapskate. I read your column for hot tips, particularly about Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. Recently I have begun to use Dawn for a hair shampoo. My wife is aghast. She says my hair is going to turn blue and I will smell. She claims that shampoos have an acid base balance that ensures shiny luxurious hair. Do you have an opinion? How about using it for body wash, as well? Bill

male in shower washing hair

Dear Bill: l have to admit that I was a bit aghast myself as I read your letter. And I came this close to firing off a response siding with your wife. But I stopped short by sending myself on a research expedition so I could tell you exactly why you should listen to her and never ever shampoo or shower with Blue Dawn.

Boy, was I in for a shock. Not only could I not find credible reasons to not use Blue Dawn for personal care, I discovered a cult-like following of people out there who swear by the stuff not only for hair care and body wash but as a very effective acne treatment, too.

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a plate of dump chicken with rice and vegetables.

More than a Dozen Ways to Make Dump Chicken—Updated!

The meal prep method is called “dump chicken” and it’s genius. Here’s why: You dump chicken pieces and your choice of sauce ingredients into a 1-gallon freezer bag, seal it, label it and stick it in the freezer.

When you’re ready to eat it, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, dump it into your slow cooker (or oven as an alternative), set it—and that’s it!

a plate of dump chicken with rice and vegetables.

General instructions

The following recipes are to be made with about two pounds of chicken—any four to eight pieces of chicken; bone-in or boneless, skin-on or skinless, even whole. Experiment to see what you prefer. Simply mix the sauce ingredients and toss that into the ziplock freezer bag along with the chicken; seal and freeze. (Or toss all the ingredients straight into your slow cooker now for tonight’s dinner).

Note: If you are adding a lot more or a lot less chicken, you may need to adjust the recipes accordingly, i.e. double the ingredients.

To cook the chicken, thaw the bag overnight in the refrigerator. Pour the contents of the bag into a slow cooker on “Low” for 4-6 hours. Your time may vary depending on your slow cooker.

If you do not have a slow cooker, a second option is to prepare these recipes in the oven. Dump ingredients into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and bake at 350F until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165F. Chicken breasts take about 25 to 45 minutes depending on their thickness. Dark meat pieces may take a bit longer.

Basic BBQ Chicken

  • chicken
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dry onion soup mix

Chicken Cacciatore

  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 (24 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning

Caribbean Chicken

  • chicken
  • 1 (8-ounce) can pineapple chunks with juice
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup raisins

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old and obsolete cellphone on white background

How to Get the Most Money for Your Old Phones and Devices

If you’ve ever wondered where old mobile phones and electronic devices like iPhones, Androids, iPads, tablets, and computers go to die, it’s pretty simple.

Some get tossed into a recycle bin somewhere to be parted out and melted down. iPhones are often passed down to children to be used as iPod touch substitutes. A large number of mobile phones are simply abandoned and misplaced due to neglect. Thankfully, growing numbers are finding their next life with a new owner.

old and obsolete cellphone on white background

As a result, the secondary market for electronic devices is on its way to becoming as robust as the primary market.

So let’s say you’re ready to order the new iPhone, Android, iPad, or computer. You paid a lot for your current device and it’s still in great condition. Recycling is good but getting paid to recycle is even better.

So, your plan is to sell that old phone or another device to help pay for the new one. You have options: Sell it yourself or trade it in.

Sell it yourself

Selling your phone, tablet, or computer directly to a new user has the greatest profit potential, provided you are aware of the risks and the best ways to mitigate them.

Friends and family

Seems pretty simple. Just wipe the hard drive or memory clean, name your price, collect the cash and you’re home free. Unless the device or phone dies the next week or its new owner encounters problems getting it unlocked, or some other problem with a new service provider, in the case of a mobile phone.

Craigslist

What amounts to one ginormous online classified ad, Craigslist is a place that will likely turn up buyers for your item—folks willing to pay cash. And things could go very well. Or not. There are pitfalls you should know about.

A chronic problem with Craigslist is that potential buyers make appointments and promises and then fail to show up. Because you won’t want strangers coming to your home you’ll need to establish a well-lit, public pick-up location.

There are tons of flakes using Craigslist, so even if you believe you have made a seamless, easy transaction, don’t count too heavily on that, at least not for a while.

Your customer has your contact information, which means the potential is there for you to receive calls and texts suggesting the item was misrepresented or doesn’t work or isn’t unlocked after all. Consider carefully if you are ready to deal with any of that.

eBay

You can auction your item on eBay and see where that goes. Or list it at a set “buy now” price. You may come out OK, but even in the best case, there will be hefty fees to pay.

Make sure you go in knowing that eBay heavily favors buyers when transactions turn sour. When that happens eBay buyer chargebacks to the seller are all too common.

Should eBay require that you accept the item’s return including a full refund to the buyer, good luck with getting it back in the same condition you sent it out. Been there done that and it was not pretty.

Gazelle

Gazelle, a third-party trade-in company, offers straight cash via check or PayPal—or an Amazon gift card if you prefer—for your phone or electronic device (even old camcorders, calculators, just about any electronic). Even if your phone and or other items you wish to sell are broken to the point it will not even turn on, Gazelle will more than likely still pay you up to $75 for it. Gazelle has kiosks at many stores and malls, where you can make the transaction, on the Gazelle website.

There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through Gazelle to sell or make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more.

SellCell

Gather up all those old cell phones and tablets  and head to SellCell.com. Plug in their information and  SellCell will quickly scan the Internet and compare prices of the top buyers willing to take your items off your hands. Once you choose your buyer and agree on how your preferred method of payment, ship your devices, and wait to get paid. It’s ridiculously easy.

MaxBack

At MaxBack.com you you can recycle just about any electronics just for the joy of doing the right thing. If what you want to get rid of has value, MaxBack will send you a check if it passes its inspection. You can ship devices for free to MaxBack and then wait for your payment.

Trade it in

Trading your phone or another device for cash, store credit or gift cards is the lesser of the profitable methods for getting rid of it, but the safer option because once it leaves your possession, you are not liable for issues that may arise, provided it arrives in the condition you represent.

Apple Trade-In

If Apple is willing to take your older iPhone on trade (programs come and go, so check to see what is currently available) you will be paid in Apple store credit, not cash.

Best Buy Trade-In

You can walk into any Best Buy store and your item’s negotiated value will be paid out to you in Best Buy gift cards. Not bad if you plan to buy your new iPhone there, but not ideal if you want to look elsewhere. Use the trade-in calculator on the website to find out if your item has any value and if so, how much your gift card will be.

Best option

All things considered and after having researched and weighed carefully the options, my recommendation for the safest and most reliable way to resell used iPhones, Samsung phones, computers, tablets, and other electronic devices, is the online third-party trade-in company, Gazelle.

I value your time and your lack of desire for irritating hassles, sketchy meet-ups, shady text messages, unethical buyers, and store credit or gift cards that are redeemable with one merchant that you neither want nor need.

For these reasons, I highly recommend you take a look at what Gazelle, an online company that has been around for a long time, having built a sterling reputation for easy transactions and quick payouts.

You can go to the Gazelle website and without making any commitments, receive an on-the-spot cash offer for your device followed by complete instructions for how to send it in should you wish to proceed.

Gazelle makes it easy, with a box and a prepaid shipping label arriving in your mailbox in less than a week.


How to DIY Gifts of Luxury Hand and Body Cream

Gifting friends, family, co-workers teachers, and others with a jar of your own signature luxury hand and body lotion will definitely put you on the map. It’s a gift you would actually like to receive! It’s that good. And what better time than this weekend to make Christmas gifts? It’s quick and easy!

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 as you desire, and there you go.

Done, and in no time flat!

Ingredients

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

ingredients to make DIY hand and body cream for gifts

1. Any 8-oz tube Bath & Body Works Ultra Shea Body Cream. Again, this year, I’m using Bath & Body  Works’ fragrance A Thousand Wishes because it is fabulous.

ingredients for DIY hand and body cream gifts

2. Any brand 4-oz. jar Vitamin E cream.

ingredients for DIY hand and body cream gifts

3. Any brand 18-oz. fragrance-free baby lotion

ingredients for DIY hand and body cream gifts

4. Any brand 32-oz. fragrance-free hand lotion

ingredients for DIY hand and body cream gifts

5. One 4.5 oz. tube Vaseline Jelly Cream

Equipment

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Electric mixer or hand whisk
  • Gallon-size zip-type or another plastic bag
  • Any 4-oz. 2-oz or other type lotion jars with lids 

ingredients for DIY hand and body cream gifts

Instructions

1. Combine ingredients

Empty all five containers into a large mixing bowl.

gift and cream

2. Whip it

Using an electric hand mixer or whisk, whip together until well incorporated, about five minutes.

ingredients for DIY hand and body cream gifts

3. Fill a large zip-type bag

Close the top. Using scissors, snip off a small portion of one of the bottom corners to create a simple “piping” bag.

ingredients for DIY hand and body cream gifts

4. Fill jars or containers of choice

Fill the jars by gently squeezing the bag so the lotion extrudes from the snipped corner. I use these  4-oz. plastic jars in cobalt blue with black lids.

ingredients for DIY hand and body cream gifts

5. Give your signature lotion a name

Create small labels or tags with your message of choice.

6. Embellish as desired.

That’s it. Beautiful, homemade gifts that will be so well-received because you have just created a very high-quality lotion. Because all of the ingredients except for the shea body cream are unscented or nearly so, your lotion will have a very light, subtle scent—certainly not overpowering or offensive. Simply lovely.

This recipe as stated, yields about 16 (4-oz.) jars of fine hand and body lotion. Your mileage may vary depending on how long and vigorously you whip the lotion. Be careful to not make it too fluffy. I find that no more than five minutes is ideal.

A man and a woman standing in the grass

How to Sell a House for the Highest Price Possible

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

Should you hire a real estate agent? Do a FSBO (for sale by owner) to keep from paying that big commission? Should you spend a lot of money 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 stop sign in front of a house

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Hire a professional

A licensed real estate agent 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. You want the best and most experienced representative possible to sell your house—not your friends’ nephew who’s launching a new career.

No radical changes

Should you remodel the kitchen? Replace counters and fixtures in the bathrooms? Probably not, unless those appliances or 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 licensed agent recommends major changes like a new roof or exterior paint job, hold off and put your energy into other areas.

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modern closet with clothes hanging on rail, white wooden wardrobe, interior design concept

How to Organize Your Closet: The Complete Guide

Want to make your life easier? Clean out, clean up, and get your clothes closet organized. You can see what you have, what fits, and the clothes you love to wear with an organized closet. Even better—everything is easier to find!

modern closet with clothes hanging on rail, white wooden wardrobe, interior design concept

What’s behind your closet door? Orderly rows of shoes, stacks of folded t-shirts, and hanging clothes arranged by color and season? Or do you have a situation that could be declared a national disaster?

If the latter, you might ask the President for federal disaster relief funds or you could get organized.

closet mess with piles of clothes on the floor

Knowing you would feel guilty taking funds from disaster victims, here are simple steps to find calm in all that chaos. By the way, these same principles for organizing a clothes closet apply to linen closets, utility closets, and your food pantry, too.

Here’s the best part: You can do this without spending a dime—using items and tools you have already.

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A pile of luggage sitting on top of a bed

25 Fantastic Items That Will Simplify and Organize Your Life!

Getting organized isn’t easy. But staying organized can be even harder. A place for everything and everything in its place. That’s the mark of an organized home.

woman buried in closet clutter

As a natural-born messie with a bent toward hoarding, I know the struggle. But I’ve learned the joy of decluttering and gaining control over my disorganized self—one drawer, cupboard, closet, and room at a time.

Today I want to update 25 of my best organizational helpers that can help organize your bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, handbag, and car, too. These organizers can quickly turn chaos to calm.

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1. Makeup Organizer

organize itemsThis professional vanity makeup organizer is clear acrylic so you can see exactly what you have and exactly where everything is because it is large enough for everything to be assigned a place!

Holds makeup brushes, skin care products with lots of room for lipsticks, eyeliners, shadows, powders, and more. Easy to assemble. Adjustable shelves.

Brush and Beauty

2. Classic Shower Dispenser

This Classic Shower Dispenser is perfect for eliminating shower bottle clutter. Fill the chambers with your shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. Pumps pre-measure just the right amount, eliminating waste and saving money. Installs in minutes without tools, using silicone.

A close up of a device

3. Hair Styling Tools Organizer

This compact Style Station holds a hairdryer plus two more tools such as a flat iron and curling iron—or brushes and other tools.

Designed for safely cooling down and storing styling tools. Can hang on a towel bar, sit on the countertop or store in a cabinet or drawer.

Brush and Hair

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Open refrigerator with food in kitchen. Food supply for a week.

34 New and Improved Ways to Make Fabulous Meals from Leftovers

How to use leftovers? Oh, let me count the ways. There really are so many ways to make meals from leftovers, something the late Julia Child preferred to call “the remains of the day.” Such an elegant way to refer to leftovers.

Open refrigerator with food in kitchen. Food supply for a week.

Regardless, both terms refer to anything from half a pan of lasagna to a dab of mashed potatoes that sit in the fridge until they turn green, at which time we feel a lot better about throwing those leftovers away, right? These days, with the price of food soaring—that’s like throwing cash in the garbage.

Contents

1. Pasta
2. Pizza!
3. Tortilla chips
4. Bread
5. Cheese
6. Eggs
7. Mashed potatoes
8. Coffee
9. Rice
10. Chicken, turkey
11. Fish
12. Meatloaf
13. How long to safely keep leftovers?

Pasta

Spaghetti Frittata

So, imagine spaghetti for breakfast. Impossible? Not at all, although this recipe works for lunch or dinner, too. For this recipe, you can use any kind of plain pasta—or go wile and use up last night’s leftover pasta smothered with sauce. Basically, you’re going to add protein value with eggs, milk, and veggies. Then, fry it up in a skillet and you’ve got Spaghetti Frittata.

Pasta Stir Fry

Stir-fries are a great way to clear out the refrigerator and use up bits of produce. Stir-frying is really one of the best leftover techniques you can have up your sleeve. It’s a matter of throwing together leftover pasta, vegetables, a protein like chicken and some kind of sauce.

Pasta Mama

It’s one of our favorites—for any meal of the week. Does it sound familiar? That’s because you recall Pasta Mama from a previous post. Here is the full recipe.

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Cinnabon buns with cinnamon in baking dish on a wooden board

Cinnamon Rolls—So Decadent, So Simple It Might Be Illegal!

A quick glance at the calendar tells me that the best time of the year is in full view ahead! Oh, how I love autumn for all its bounty, cooling temperatures, falling leaves, holidays and food! Traditional, warm, comforting food.

There was a time that I felt compelled to rise early on Christmas morning to bake Cinnamon Rolls—my family’s breakfast item of choice on that very special day of the year.

cinnamon rolls

When I say early, I mean 3:30 am. It takes hours for sweet bread dough to rise multiple times. And let’s just say that over the years, some attempts have been more successful than others.

Those days are gone. I’m done with that routine and not because I don’t love my family.

Now I sleep in until exactly 43 minutes before I want everyone to wake up to the smell of fresh, hot, decadent, perfect-every-time Cinnamon Rolls.

I may regret letting the cat out of the bag on this because they still think I’m a world-class Cinnamon Roll baker, but for right now, I’m excited to show-and-tell the most outrageously awesome food hack I’ve ever discovered.

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Favorite Household Cleaners You Can Make Yourself for Just Pennies

It pretty much kills me to spend money on things I know I can make myself for less than their pricey commercial cousins. Take cleaning products for example. Knowing how to make things myself for pennies that cost dollars at the store just makes me happy. It’s a no-brainer.

Here are four handy recipes to help you start saving all that money you’ve been spending on household cleaners.

  1. Granite Cleaner
  2. Stainless Steel Cleaner
  3. Carpet Shampoo Solution
  4. Tub, Tile, Shower cleaner

Granite Cleaner

Countertops made of granite, marble, and stone are tricky because these materials are porous and stain easily. You never want to clean them with anything acidic, which means vinegar and lemon juice are both out.

Here is my Homemade Granite Cleaner that will not stain nor is it acidic. Used with a good microfiber cloth, it works like a champ to clean and shine these natural counters. 

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Woman texting on her smartphone

Best Inexpensive Smartphones Under $400

As technology improves, so have prices of high-end smartphones—many now breaking through that thousand-dollar price point. The good news is that today’s budget smartphones have nearly all the same technology and capabilities as their elite cousins—for less than half the price.

Woman texting on her smartphone

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A little girl standing in a kitchen

How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets and Keep Them Looking Gorgeous

Kitchen cabinets are for storing dishes, not grease. Unfortunately, wood cabinets—painted or natural with a clear finish—are prone to all sorts of grease, grime, and gunk from simply being in the kitchen.

Rear view of standing brunette ready to clean the kitchen with yellow gloves

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Depending on just how much grease and grime you’re looking at and the supplies you have available, here are four methods to get those cabinets clean and gorgeous. At least one of these will help to get the job done—plus a Bonus for how to keep them looking that way!

Slightly greasy

Vinegar is not just for making pickles and salad dressing. It has amazing grease-busting, cleaning ability, too.

  1. Dampen a clean, dry cloth with undiluted white vinegar and wipe down greasy cabinets.
  2. Rinse your cloth with warm water, wring out most of the moisture, and use it to rinse the cabinetry.
  3. Dry the damp surfaces with a paper towel, noting any still-sticky spots that need a second attempt.

Repeated applications of vinegar may, over time begin to dull the finish. However, occasional use as suggested here, will not be a problem.

Medium greasy, dirty

The cleaning agents in Blue Dawn absorb grease just as well on kitchen surfaces as they do on dishes.

  1. Add a teaspoon or two Blue Dawn to a bowl of warm water.
  2. Dip the soft side of a sponge in it. Squeeze the sponge until suds form.
  3. Apply to the dirty cabinet working on a small area at a time, wiping the grease with the soft sponge until it is removed.
  4. Immediately dry and buff the surface with a clean cloth to prevent streaking.

Sticky, dirty, gunky

Bust through hardened dingy layers of old, sticky, dust-grabbing grease with vegetable oil and baking soda.

  1. In a bowl, mix one-part any vegetable oil to two-parts baking soda (example: 1/3 cup oil and 2/3 cup baking soda).
  2. Apply this oily paste to dirty areas using a soft cloth, paper towel, or your fingers. That ugly, greasy, dirty build-up on the cabinet surface will begin to soften, fall off and begin to disappear.
  3. Wipe clean and buff with a soft cloth.

Worst case scenario

This is a heavy-duty, industrial-strength solution. Use it on the toughest, most stubborn grease and grime, knowing that depending on the age and condition of that cabinet, it could remove a layer of the finish (which can be reapplied). We’re talking worst case scenario.

  1. Mix equal parts of paint thinner (not mineral spirits, not lacquer thinner—only paint thinner!) and full-strength Murphy Oil Soap.
  2. Using a sponge or paintbrush, wipe the solution away with a rag to clear the dirt. You will likely remove a thin layer of varnish or shellac, because the grime may have melded with it.

Considering the alternative of living with the dirty cabinets, I’d go with clean and a slightly modified finish. As always, test first in an inconspicuous place.

Bonus: Wood Polish and Conditioner

Following rigorous cleaning, wood cabinets are thirsty for moisture and protection. But you want to be careful that you don’t make matters worse by using something that will create a new kind of build-up that becomes a magnet to kitchen grease and grime!

You won’t find a better product to do that than Howard Feed-n-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner. It contains beeswax, carnauba wax, and orange oil to keep the wood from drying out, while at the same time repelling kitchen grease. Fantastic for all of the wood surfaces in your home—not only kitchen cabinets.

First published: 2-19-120; Revised 9-17-20


Ceiling fan

Solved: The Mystery of Ceiling Fan Direction

As a toddler, I must have driven my parents crazy. And I am still doing it, but now to my husband. I can’t help it. I want to know the “Why?!” about everything. Take ceiling fan direction for example. Most ceiling fans have a switch with two options. “Forward” spins one way, “Reverse” the other. But why? What for? What difference does it make?

white Ceiling fan rotating against white ceiling

Years ago, a reader sent in her handy tip, passed along from her husband, a heating and air conditioning specialist: In the winter, make your ceiling fans spin counterclockwise. Or was that clockwise? To be honest, it totally slipped my mind as soon as I shared it with my readers.

A woman posing for a picture

But I do remember the barrage of responses I received. Some thanked me for printing the correct answer to the burning question, while others told me I was wrong and it should spin in the opposite direction. But why?! Who makes up these rules? Does anyone know for certain?

Today, I have the answers.

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Hamilton Beach Set and Forget 6QT slow Cooker

The Best Inexpensive Slow Cooker

Shortly after I married in 1970, the Rival Co. introduced a new kitchen appliance, the Crock-Pot. A hot item in my circles, it was touted to be foolproof and trouble-free. The original slow cooker came in one size with three settings (High, Low, Warm), a few colors, and a retail price of $17.99. I went for the popular Brady Bunch orange and assumed this baby would turn me into a world-class, gourmet cook overnight.

crockpot 1971 wedding 1970

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The reason my first slow cooker landed where it did (carport storage shed) is because it produced overcooked bland tasting meals that could at best be considered only semi-edible.

The problem was that I didn’t know the basic fundamental culinary techniques of slow-cooking. It wasn’t the Crock-Pot, it was me.

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A close up of an animal

These Hair Products Guarantee No More Bad Hair Days

A past post in which I wailed and whined about my very bad hair day started it. You may recall how I mentioned volumizing, styling techniques, and a great can of hairspray. That brought an avalanche of desperate queries, suggesting to me that perhaps I’m not the only one dealing with an occasional bad hair day!

baby orangutan having a bad hair day

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Which volumizer? Hairspray? What? Where?!

Not long after, we visited the world of shampoos and conditioners. That stirred up lots more questions and very specific ones as in exactly which products?

So today, I’ve decided to tell. Exactly. Specifically. And trust me when I say that  I’ve tested many—none of which are sponsored, all of which I buy myself.

(From time to time I see these products at stores like Walgreens, King Soopers, Target, Walmart, but never all of them at the same time in the same place—except on Amazon. I am convinced that overall, Amazon does consistently have the best prices.)

Shampoo

Currently, I’m using Suave Professionals Color Care shampoo. Loving it a lot. It is suitable for all hair-types whether colored or not. The second ingredient is Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), which if you’re following along you know is mild, which makes this shampoo a great choice.

This particular Suave shampoo contains Argon oil, which is not a bad thing! While this shampoo is regularly very affordable when it’s on sale for $1.25 (my local supermarket, and you can be sure I grabbed a few) it is a great deal.

Conditioner

Tigi Bed Head Moisture Maniac Conditioner is still on my shelf, which you might recall I got on a terrific sale. When it’s gone, I’ll move to Nexxus Conditioner, recommended by my hairdresser. My hair is dry, I live in a dry climate, my hair is (surprise!) color-treated and both of these products are very gentle. Both of these conditioners are in huge bottles and since I get at least 4 days out of a hairstyle, they last a very long time.  Read more

toys getting sanitized and cleaned in the dishwasher

27 Surprising Things You Really Can Clean In Your Dishwasher

That dishwasher in your kitchen is a workhorse. It does a great job of cleaning dishes, of course. But you may not have considered so many other things it will clean and sanitize—things like wastebaskets, baseball caps, filters, and toys. And prepared to be amazed to learn that your dishwasher is perfect for de-crystallizing honey. Seriously!

toys getting sanitized and cleaned in the dishwasher

Photo: LilacCityMomma.com via Pinterest

General

As you contemplate using your dishwasher as a household cleaning machine, keep these things in mind.

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A close up of a hand

Money Leaks That May Be Draining Your Wallet Dry

What would it feel like to check your bank balance and find a pile of money you didn’t know you had? Stop wasting money on goods and services that don’t matter in the long run. By plugging all the money leaks in your life, it’s possible you could see the equivalent of working a second job in your wallet.

male hand opening wallet of money

Buying from late-night TV ads

Face it, infomercial products are overpriced and hardly ever turn out to be as wonderful as depicted. And those risk-free trial periods? Don’t believe it. You’ll have to pay the return shipping costs plus a restocking fee if you ever get around to it.

Plug the money leak

Whenever tempted by an infomercial product, take a second to look up the item on eBay. You’ll be shocked to find dozens at a fraction of the price because that’s where they unload all the “as seen on TV” products that get returned. Ask yourself, why so many returns? By then the infomercial should be over and you can get on with your day.

How much you can save

How about those three easy payments of $49.95? Plus shipping and handling. And the shipping charges to return it during the “free” trial period.

Impulsive crafting

Remember the beading supplies and tools you bought because you were sure you’d love the activity but are now sitting in your basement? Or how about the entire scrapbooking outfit that seemed so perfect when you attended a home party? Did the albums even make it out of the bag? It’s way too easy for those of us who share the impulsive gene to make snap decisions.

Plug the money leak

Instead of jumping in with both feet, sign up for a class to check out a new hobby. A few sessions will tell you how committed you are to the craft. And if you decide it’s a go, visit an auction website like eBay.com or Craigslist.org. You’ll be amazed by what you can find for sale by others who got a bit too anxious and bought the whole caboodle.

How much you can save

When you consider that enough yarn to knit a sweater can cost $75 or more, or that a beginning scrapbook kit costs about $115, looking before you leap could keep hundreds in your wallet.

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coffee carafe before after cleaning with salt and ice

Try This Old Restaurant Cleaning Trick

Ever leave the coffee pot on overnight only to wake to a blackened, disgusting, burnt-on mess? Can’t get rid of the gunky build-up in your favorite carafe or thermos—stuff you can see, but not reach? Try an old trick perfected by wait staff in restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops everywhere to get it sparkling clean.

friendly smiling waitress offers a choice between regular or

Dear Mary: I have a big stainless coffee thermos. The opening makes it impossible to get in and clean. I have tried baking soda and vinegar, but that hasn’t worked to dissolve and remove the build-up of coffee stains. I can look in and see stuff I’d rather not see. How can I clean inside my thermos? Karen

Dear Karen: I have the perfect solution: Crushed ice, and salt. Fill the thermos about 1/4 full of crushed ice cubes (give large cubes a whack or two with something heavy). Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of ordinary table salt depending on the size of the thermos. Apply the lid. Now, shake it up baby!

Swirl it round and round, first clockwise then counterclockwise; upside down, up and down. The salt will begin to melt the ice allowing the pieces to move freely. You’ll get a good workout, too.

The salt acts like little non-abrasive sanding blocks. You may have to do this for a few minutes if you have a nasty build-up, repeating as necessary. Rinse well with cool water.

This old restaurant trick works with glass coffee carafes and glass-line thermoses, too. Just make sure the carafe has cooled to roo temperature and crushed iced vubes. It‘s so much fun I almost look forward to a burned-on mess in the bottom of our office coffee pot so I can amuse and amaze myself.

coffee carafe before after cleaning with salt and ice

Dear Mary: My husband contributes 8% to his employer’s 401(k) plan. Would it be wise to temporarily stop that contribution in that we have about $50,000 unsecured debt? Debbie

Dear Debbie: Yes, but only to the amount of a match, if any, the employer is making, and only until your unsecured debts are paid.

Let’s say that of the 8% he contributes, 3% is matched by his employer. That’s free money he would be foolish to leave on the table. So in that case, he should reduce his contribution to 3% only.

Putting your hard-earned money at risk is while you are carrying high-interest consumer debt is not wise. No matter how you cut it, money in a 401(k) is at risk. But investing in your debt carries no risk and offers a guaranteed rate of return. Here’s how that works:

Let’s say you have a $10,000 revolving credit card balance at 18% interest. Each month you are paying $150 in interest ($10,000 x 18% / 12 = $150). Great Aunt Gertie dies and leaves you $10,000. You can either pay off the debt or invest the money.

Let’s say you choose to invest the ten-grand in traditional stocks and bonds. Things don’t go well and you lose some or all of it in the stock market. You still owe that $10,000 on the credit card and you’re still paying $150 interest each month.

Now let’s say you go the other way and use the money to repay the $10,000 debt in full. Every month you get to keep the $150 you were sending to the credit card company. That is your guaranteed 18% return on the $10,000 “investment” you made in your debt. It’s a sure thing regardless of what happens with the economy. Now that’s a good deal!

Caution: Even though you stop making contributions for a season, do not cash in his 40l(k) account. The penalties and tax consequences are too severe. And the minute that debt is is paid in full, unpause the 401(k) contribution and go right back to where you left off.

Dear Mary: It takes about two weeks after I mail my mortgage payment for the check to clear my bank. My sister says my lender is making me pay more interest by delaying depositing my check. Is it true? Mary S.

Dear Mary S: No. Your sister may be confusing your mortgage, which is a “closed-end contract” with an open-end contract like a credit-card account. The law treats the two differently.

A closed-end contract has a fixed payment schedule. The interest portion of your monthly mortgage payment is the same whether you pay it early or at the last minute. A credit-card or revolving open-end contract works differently. Making your payment early allows more of it to go to the principal because interest is figured on the average daily balance.

Federal law stated in The Fair Credit Billing Act requires open-end lenders to credit all payments on the date they’re received, unless no extra charges would result if they failed to do so. But with your mortgage payment, it doesn’t matter on which day during the month it is processed, provided of course it gets there by the due date.

Hope that helps!

couple planning a year without spending using laptop

Could You Go a Year Without Spending?

A few years back, Eric and Donna Reed shopped for groceries and household products only once a year. How on earth? I know. That was my reaction, too.

The Reeds got the idea after reading a column in USA Today, wherein the writer confessed to his weakness when it came to buying clothes. So driven to buy new sweaters, slacks or shoes every time he stepped inside a clothing store, publicly he announced he was giving up buying anything for one full year.

couple planning a year without spending using laptopEric and Donna wondered if they could do the same. Their minds went to the grocery and discount stores, the mall, and Amazon. And what about restaurants and home improvement stores, they pondered. How would they handle gifts and seasonal items every household needs through the course of a year?

The Reeds, like most of us, don’t simply stop into the store to pick up milk. Or eggs. No, they buy the milk—along with a basket of other stuff, too. It’s expensive to be a frequent-buying consumer. But could they plan ahead well enough to make it through a whole year without spending?

They decided to see if they were up to it by trying it for one month. One month with no exceptions. Not even gifts. Could they do it? They bought supplies for the month and then gritted their teeth.

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laundry day with clean clothes on hanging rack and dryer in the background

How To Make DIY Wrinkle Releaser Static Remover

Unlike myself, not everyone I know loves to iron. I guess I’m just crazy that way. There’s just something soothing about the sound of a good burst of steam, the smell of clean, and then instant results. But enough about me. For most people, ironing is the worst. So when the makers of Downy laundry softener came out with a wrinkle releaser spray that touted also to be a static guard, odor eliminator, iron-in-a-bottle—we were thrilled. And I was first in line to give it a try.

laundry day with clean clothes on hanging rack and dryer in the background

Downy Wrinkle Releaser is a clever product that you spray on clothing, smooth and stretch the material a little bit, let dry and the wrinkles will disappear.

While Downy Wrinkle Releaser works well for non-ironers to remove wrinkles well enough, mostly I love the subtle fragrance.

Over the years, Downy Wrinkle Releaser has become quite pricey. The regular supermarket price of $8 for a 16 oz. bottle is pretty standard. And for what? While Procter and Gamble is quite secretive with the exact ingredients, it’s easy to figure out that it is mostly water.

Here are two DIY recipes to make homemade wrinkle release spray:

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dog and cat in front of white background

The Best Tools You Need to Conquer the Pet Hair Problem

If you love your pets but have just about had it with finding their hair everywhere—from the couch to the bed and even a hair or two with dinner—help is on the way! You can’t stop the shedding but there are a number of brilliant, inexpensive solutions for keeping a pet hair problem under beautiful control.dog and cat in front of white background

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Here’s the deal: All mammals including humans shed some amount of hair. Even the non-shedding Sphynx cat and Poodles who earn their reputation for being none-shedders are going to drop some amount of fuzz, fur, and fine hair. Keeping the problem under control is an ongoing proposition.

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A window in a dark room

Best Inexpensive Home Security System

Several months ago, we had a serious home security wake-up call with the news of a home invasion in our sleepy town, population fewer than 20,000.

A window in a dark room

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There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more here

In the middle of the night, two young, hoodied thugs went from house to house in a beautiful new development until they found an unlocked window. Once inside, they held the terrified homeowners at gunpoint. Eventually, the perpetrators were caught and charged with 7 counts including kidnapping, grand larceny, and attempted murder (what a story, trust me).

I cannot recall a time I was more grateful to have a robust home security system. Thankfully, our neighbors survived, but the trauma of the event together with the tremendous financial loss will be with them indefinitely.

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female hands holding small brown paper wrapped gift with sprig of fresh greenery

How to Make Pure Vanilla Extract—Still the Most Perfect Homemade Holiday Gift!

To me, homemade Christmas gifts are the best gifts—both to give and receive. In the past, I’d begin to scramble about this time of year to come up new and unique ideas for my long list of friends, neighbors and colleagues.

The purpose of these gifts is to deliver my love and best wishes for the Holiday Season. And if I can weave into these messengers a small Wow! factor, well that’s a bonus.

Woman's hands hold christmas or new year decorated gift box. Toned picture

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What always made this so challenging was my list of criteria. My homemade gifts need to be easily mass-produced. They must be consumable, attractive, and appeal to a wide range of tastes. And above all, homemade gifts must be affordable.

Years ago, I came up with a gift idea that just nailed it. That was the year I made homemade Pure Madagascar Vanilla Extract. This was such a hit it has turned into an annual tradition. And I’ve expanded to include Pure Lemon Extract, Pure Chocolate Extract, Pure Coffee Extract, and Pure Almond Extract, too! No more scrambling for me.

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Multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions

Ask Me Anything: Best Robot Vac, Denim Dye Transfer, Medicare HELP! and More

Once again, it time to reach into the mailbag to pull out a handful of questions from you, my dear readers. I never know what I’ll find, but I can usually count on some questions having to do with issues of personal finance, others that zero-in on household quandaries and from time to time, some that are just plain weird. I usually set those aside. And who knows? Perhaps sometime soon, you’ll find an entire post devoted to weirdies from the mailbag.

Multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions

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But for now, on with the questions!

Contents

1. Best robotic vacuums?

2. How to remove denim dye transfer?

3. Resource to compare Medicare options, please

4. Insuring youthful drivers

5. How to dispose of used cooking oil?

6. My deadbeat relatives

Q1: Best robotic vacuums

I’d love to know your opinion of the best robotic vacuums. My situation is that I have a dog that sheds, a home that is 2,000 sq. ft., and floors are laminate and carpet. Thank you in advance for your help.

A: My pick for Best Inexpensive robot vacuum continues to be this Eufy Anker RoboVac 30C. This is the Eufy robot I own and use continuously. It is really awesome.

Because you have a dog that sheds (I don’t, so I cannot give personal experience here, only the unsolicited reports I have received), this iRobot Roomba 614 deserves your consideration. It gets rave reviews from pet owners for its ability to pick up bagfuls of cat and dog hair. Just know that it is not as automatic or “robotic” as the Eufy Anker RoboVac 30C.

Those are the two I recommend you consider and compare thoroughly. Hope that helps!

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Q2: How to remove denim dye transfer

I bought a new pair of Levis last Spring and since then have laundered them 8 to 10 times. They fit great! The problem is these jeans have ruined two light-colored summer purses and continue to transfer dye onto every light surface they come in contact with, including my bone-colored car seats. I contacted Levi’s, who said they were unable to help me and told me to go back to the store I bought them at. I keep receipts for a long time, but not for six months for a pair of pants. Help!

A: Even without seeing the problem, I know what you are talking about. You need Lestoil. I am confident that Lestoil can take care of all of these problems. Spray Lestoil full strength directly on any washable items that have rubbed up against the jean. Let it sit for about 20 mins (or even overnight), then launder as usual.

For the leather purses, I would treat them as well with a weak solution of 2 tablespoons Lestoil in 1 cup warm water, or with a bar of good saddle soap following the instructions on the label.

For those car seats, Lestoil is your friend there, too. Use that solution of Lestoil and warm water with a soft clean white terrycloth to scrub those stains, rinsing well and then buffing dry with another clean soft cloth. You may need to repeat, depending on how long those stains have been there.

As for those Levi’s, I’ll bet they’re dark indigo. That dye is notorious for bleeding and transferring. I don’t have a surefire way to “set” the dye, but there is some evidence out there that soaking them in white household vinegar may help. Fill a container with warm water, add 2 cups of vinegar and then let them soak for a few hours. Rinse, launder as usual in cold water. Never put dark indigo denim in the dryer.

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Q3: Resource to compare Medicare options

Can you recommend a good source to compare the pros and cons of Medicare Advantage vs. Medigap plans? All the sources I have found seem to have a clear bias toward one or the other, often seeming to be promoting their own business. I’m not looking for specific plan details, just a balanced comparison of the two kinds of coverage. Thank you for all of the wonderful information you provide!

A: I do, but first let me commend you for recognizing the clear bias you speak of. Here’s the problem: These resources who are attempting to “educate” you and advise you on your decisions stand to benefit financially when you take their advice. That’s a problem because their advice cannot help but be biased. (These companies are advertising heavily right now during Medicare open season.)

Instead, I recommend that when it comes to any kind of insurance, you research and learn from sources that do not have any vested interest in the decision that you make. That is what you will find in an excellent book which I recommend you read this book from cover to cover: Get What’s Yours for Medicare: Maximize Your Coverage, Minimize Your Costs, by Philip Moeller is easy-to-read and covers everything you need to know so you ask the right questions and make your own well-informed decisions. This book should become required reading for everyone approaching age 65.

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Q4: Insuring youthful drivers

Our 15-year-old daughter recently got her learner’s permit. I called our auto insurance agent about how to handle this and she told us to add our daughter to our policy, which we did. Then we got a bill for an additional premium and paid the bill. Later, we heard that a teen driver with a learner’s permit is already covered under a parent’s (or guardian’s) policy. Do you think we are being charged an additional premium for coverage we have already? I can’t seem to get a straight answer from the company.

A: According to the Insurance Information Institute, most insurers extend coverage for learners on the customer’s existing policy. However, this is not required by law, so it is difficult to say if your company does or not. In that they are vague when you inquire, I’d be a little suspicious, myself.

If you think you are being overcharged, ask the company to provide you with a copy of its underwriting policies so you can read them for yourself. If they are unwilling to do this, contact your  state’s department of insurance for assistance. Should you determine that you’ve been overcharged or feel you’ve been ripped off, contact your local Better Business Bureau as well.

On the other hand, if you discover your company is unique in that it does not cover youthful learners on your existing policy, you should shop around before your next renewal. My thought would be that if they are not competitive in this one area of coverage, are they failing to give you the best rates in other areas as well? They only way to find out it is to look around and ask a lot of questions.

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Q5: How to dispose of used cooking oil?

I need to know what to do with the oil after deep frying, like oil from my FryDaddy that gets cloudy and thick. Can it be filtered somehow, and if not how should I dispose of it?

A: You can reuse oil once or twice, but give it a sniff before the next use; if it smells rancid, get rid of it. Each time you reuse the oil, the oil deteriorates and the smoke point (the temperature at which it will burn) degrades. Strain it through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth to remove any particles and crumbs, and store it in an airtight container in a dark place.

There are several ways to safely dispose of used cooking oil, but it should never be poured down the drain. To throw it away, allow the oil to cool. Carefully pour it into a strong sealable container, such as an old jar, milk carton or another disposable container with a lid. Then, dispose of it with your regular household trash.

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Q6: My deadbeat relatives

How does one go about telling a loved one she is ruining her financial life? I have an older sister who is a spendaholic. Her husband is co-dependent and they have a spoiled brat for a daughter who gets everything she wants. They are at least $25,000 in credit card debt, have a car loan and other debts and bills, yet continue to spend like they have money.

Recently, she picked up a $10,000 bonus check. She told me she was going to “knock down some of the balances.” And this week they are shopping for a hot tub to put in their back yard! What is the best way for me to confront her?

A: I know how difficult it is to stand by and watch as those we love make serious financial blunders. But these are not your dependent children. It is really none of your business what they do with their money or the way they raise their child. The way you conduct your financial life will speak much louder than anything you could say.

Keep your unsolicited advice to yourself and your nose out of their financial lives. In the meantime, devise a plan of recovery you would recommend just in case they come to you and ask for your advice. They just might.

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Got an engaging question you’d like to ask Mary? One that would be of interest to lots of other readers who may be facing the same situation or need? You can send it to her HERE. Then watch for her response in an upcoming “Ask Me Anything” post. 

A kitchen with a sink and a window

12 More Frugal Laundry Tips That Will Save You A Fortune

If you’ve ever suffered the heartbreak of stains, unbearable stink, or other kinds of annoying laundry issues—or just want to know the secrets to get laundry super clean and smelling fantastic—you’re going to love this! These laundry hacks will elevate you to laundry genius in no time.

A kitchen with a sink and a window

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Dried on latex paint

Getting any kind of paint on clothes or other items you care about is awful. Even if latex paint is dried on for a long time—on laundry items, car upholstery, or even carpet—here’s the way to remove it: Lacquer thinner. Not paint thinner or mineral spirits. It must be lacquer thinner (find it in the paint aisle of your home improvement store or Amazon).

Do this in a well-ventilated area: Using a clean white cloth (so you don’t transfer dye or color to make the problem even worse), saturate that paint stain with the lacquer thinner. Allow it to soften for a few minutes and then rub and scrub until it’s gone. Launder as usual, or in the case of carpet, rub and scrub then rinse well. 

Or acrylic paint

Acrylic paints can be tricky to remove from your clothes once dry, but here’s a method that will work most of the time. If your shirt is already ruined you don’t have much to lose by giving this a try: 

Soak a clean white cloth with rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. Now saturate the paint stain. Super saturate it, get it really wet. Use that cloth to really scrub that stain until it begins to lift. Continue with more rubbing alcohol until the stain has disappeared. Launder as usual  

Laundry scent booster

The only thing I miss about the commercial laundry detergent I used to use (before I stared to make my own that’s cheaper and so much better) is the scent it left behind. Sure, I know I can buy laundry products like Downy Unstoppables or Arm and Hammer Scent Boosters Clean Sensations, but I save a lot of money making my own laundry scent booster—and I know what’s in it. 

Pour 2 cups Epsom salt into a big bowl along with 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil. Hint: 15 drops each of lavender oil and lemon oil make for a wonderful, clean scent. Stir well to combine. Allow to sit and dry in the open air for an hour or so, then transfer to a clean glass jar and apply the lid. Label clearly. 

To Use: Add about 1 tablespoon of Laundry Scent Booster to the washing machine before loading the clothes and or linens. Even with laundry detergent and vinegar rinse you’ll notice a subtle clean, fresh smell once the laundry dries. 

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11 Surprising Ways Lemons Can Make Your Life Easier

Several years ago, my son gave me the bounty from the two fruit trees that pretty much rule his backyard. My Mother’s Day gift of Meyer lemons weighed in at 124 pounds. I know, lucky me!

I had to figure out ways to use, share, and preserve lemons in a big hurry. I juiced, cooked, and baked all kinds of lemon things. And I learned so many ways to use lemons in around the house, too! Who knew lemons could be so useful?

Lemon tree branch with leaves on blue sky background

Zap strong odors

To remove odors from garbage disposals, you can drop in leftover lemon peels (cut them small so they don’t jam the blade). Or rub lemon juice onto cutting boards that have retained strong odors or stains. Follow with hot, soapy water. Clean the walls and shelves of the refrigerator with straight lemon juice. Rinse well, and then wipe to dry. Read more

A modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances

15 Ways You Need to Stop Abusing Your Appliances

Is it possible that without knowing it, you’re making damaging even dangerous mistakes with your household appliances? As I have been researching how to take care of our kitchen appliances so they will last longer, I’m learning about the most common appliance abuses that can lead to expensive repairs and even a shortened lifespan.

Modern luxury kitchen interior with stone countertop and stainless steel appliances

It’s true that these days household appliances just aren’t made to last for decades the way refrigerators, ranges, and other household appliances lasted back in our grandparents’ day. “Eight to ten years,” is what the salesman told us is what we could expect from our new refrigerator. He went on, “This machine is designed to stand up to years of use and ordinary wear and tear—assuming you don’t abuse it.”

Modern appliances are not made to deal with abuse, misuse, and mishaps that can damage them and lead to costly repairs. Are you making these damaging and potentially dangerous mistakes? Here are the most common appliance abuses and why you can’t put liquid soap in your dishwasher, open zippers in your washer, or too much food in your fridge.

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Autumn tea with scarf and leaves in front of window, copy space

September Is The Best Time to Buy These Things

Oh, how I love September! It has autumn and new beginnings written all over it. That’s how it feels for me (even more so than January) with a fresh start at a new school year, perhaps a refreshed budget and updated personal goals.

Autumn tea with scarf and leaves in front of window

Smart savers don’t buy things on a whim whenever a passing desire hits them from out of left field. They know what to buy and when.

When these smart shoppers find bargains on items they use up, they stock up with enough to last until the next time that item goes on sale. And for certain, they know what to buy in September.

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A cup of Pumpkin Spice Latte

Coffee Hacks, Tips, Tricks, and Pumpkin Spice Latte (Starbucks is Gonna’ Miss You!)

Whenever I write about my love of coffee that admittedly has turned me into a coffee snob, reader feedback is as enthusiastic as it is voluminous. I’m happy to know I’m not alone in my snobbery.

hot cup of coffee white cup saucer on wood table

Many of you bring up interesting points—questions, too. Like what to do with brewed coffee that is no longer ideally fresh but too good to throw down the drain. Others want to know how to make your own cappuccino, lattes, and even the “steamer,” made popular by Starbucks—surprisingly containing no coffee at all.

Short of purchasing an espresso machine that uses high-pressure steam to make espresso and has a gizmo that steams the milk as well, there are ways we can improvise to create reasonable facsimiles of our favorite coffee drinks.

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Weed

How to Make Natural Weed Killer—Super Easy and Better Than Roundup!

I often wonder why is it that weeds have no problem at all with drought-like conditions. They don’t require a thing—not water, fertilizer, or protection from pests and predators.

Weed

Weeds don’t even need soil. They’re happy to bloom where they are planted even if that is in a sidewalk crack—or asphalt!

Weeds don’t complain, don’t need to be babied, and do their best work under the worst of circumstances—the hotter the better. Weeds never give up. I wish I were more like weeds.

Still, weeds are the bane of every gardener; a problem for every homeowner. Read more

A plate of food on a table, with Blue cheese dressing

13 Quick and Easy Recipes to Make The Best Salad Dressings From Scratch

If you think eating well means eating out—which these days can mean home delivery, pick-up, or dining-in—you may be feeling the effects in your wallet as the cost of restaurant meals is now soaring in ways we’ve not seen before.

A plate of food on a table, with Blue cheese and Salad

Yesterday, I was shocked to read the new (disposable) menu at a small local hamburger joint in our town. The same classic hamburger that was $7.95 pre-virus, is now $11.95. Will prices decline as this thing settles down? I wouldn’t bet on it.

It’s time for us to change our thinking and start digging in to find every realistic way imaginable that we can cut the costs food without giving up quality and yummy deliciousness!

If I can make the leap from being a diner-in-debt to making irresistible meals at home that often taste even better than those from a restaurant—at a fraction of the cost of eating out—you can, too. One way to do this is to learn how to make fabulous, easy (quick, too!)  gourmet salad dressings from scratch.

What follows is my entire collection of tried and true homemade salad dressing recipes. Your family will absolutely be unable to resist fresh, healthy salads once you have these quick and super easy homemade dressing recipes. Yum!

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Multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions

Ask Me Anything: Dry Slow Cooking, Clean Grout, Home Safe, Cloudy Glassware, Not-Drying Dryer, and Lots More!

I don’t mention it as often as I should, but the truth is that I’d be lost without you, my loyal, encouraging, and responsive audience. Thank you for being there every day and for filling my inbox to overflowing with your comments, questions, and outpourings of love and gratitude. Please don’t stop. Ever.

Speaking of questions, let’s take a few from my proverbial mailbag.

Multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions

What’s inside?

You can click on the number to jump to that question, or sit back, grab some coffee and read straight through!

1. Slow cooker turning out super dry results

2. Best Inexpensive slow cooker?

3. Which home safe is best?

4. Help! Horrible chemical smell in car

5. Dishwasher leaving glassware cloudy

6. Dryer gets hot but clothes not getting dry

7. Do I HAVE to use HE laundry detergent?

8. How to clean grout?

9. Shower soap and scum remover, please!

10. Help! Snow and salt residue car carpet

11. Is daughter liable for parents’ debt upon their deaths?

Q1: Why is my new slow cooker turning out super dry meals?

 I am having a problem with slow-cooker cooking. I got a new cooker and now everything—even pot roast—is turning out dry! Any ideas on what I’m doing wrong?

Slow cookers cook at a much higher temperature now than they did say 20 years ago. It is due to food safety concerns, but in reality and in my opinion, that has taken the advantage of the slow cooker away—the advantage for working families to start meals before work and come home to tasty, properly cooked food even if it’s been cooking for 8 hours or longer.

All too often results are mushy, dry, and flavorless.

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Hand picked a wet wipes in package box, Wet wipes in a woman's hand

27 Ways to Use Baby Wipes That Don’t Require a Baby

Recently, in my never-ending quest to organize my home, I came across the half-full case of baby wipes I’d purchased more than five years ago when our younger grandson was born. My first thought was that since Sam is all potty trained now, I should find someone with a baby or donate them to the church nursery—both good ideas provided those wipes are still good.

Hand picked a wet wipes in package box, Wet wipes in a woman's hand

That’s when my mind flooded with all of the tips, tricks, and ideas I’ve gathered over the years for alternative uses for handy-dandy baby wipes. I did a quick search to discover even more baby wipe tips, tricks, and clever ideas. Here are a few of my favorites—plus a bonus.

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A close up of a metal pan

How to Deep Clean a Garbage Disposal and Why You Need To

Germs—bacteria and viruses—are pretty much everywhere. Most of them are harmless, but one percent of all those germs can actually cause anything from a runny nose to a life-threatening infection. Common sense dictates that when we clean our homes, we target places such as the toilet and counters to eliminate these germs—but we haven’t even scratched the surface of where germs lurk.

A close up of a metal pan

Photo credit: Wikimedia.org

According to Prevention magazine, there are more than half a million bacteria in the kitchen sink, about 1,000 times more than the average toilet.

The garbage disposal collects germs from raw food, like chicken, eggs, and spinach, and that food can be filled with harmful bacteria, like salmonella. It can make anyone, especially children, the elderly, or anyone with a compromised immune system, very sick.

The metal part of the garbage disposal in a kitchen sink produces ions that can help kill germs, but they love to grow on the crevices in and around the slimy rubber splash guard. Your disposal can become a real breeding ground for bacteria, contaminating your hands, and everything you touch, like your dishes and utensils. All that rotting gunk and grime can cause quite a stink, too!

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A bottle on the counter

29 Brilliant Ways to Use Vinegar That May Surprise You

It’s cheap. It’s available in every supermarket and home center in the universe and so useful around your home, you may have a difficult time believing it. That’s the power of white vinegar—the same vinegar you cook with and pour on your salad!

A bottle on the counter

Windows

Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to a quart of very warm water to make a good window cleaner. Wipe with a microfiber cloth and your windows will sparkle.



Computer mouse

Clean your mouse that has a removable tracking ball with a 50/50 vinegar-water solution. First, remove the ball from underneath the mouse by twisting off the cover. Dip a clean cloth into the solution, wring it out, and then wipe the ball clean. Next, remove fingerprints and dirt from the mouse itself. Then use a vinegar-moistened cotton swab to clean out the gunk and debris from inside the ball chamber. Allow all parts to dry a couple of hours before reinserting the ball.

Laundry

Instead of fabric softener or dry sheets, add 1/2 (one-half) to 1 cup vinegar to the last rinse in your washing machine (as you would liquid softener). Your clothes will come out soft because the vinegar helps to remove every trace of laundry detergent, which causes fabrics to stiffen.

Watermarks

Vinegar will dissolve hard-water marks like those on shower doors, faucets and in vases. If the vinegar is hot (heat in the microwave) it works even faster.

Ballpoint pen ink

Got ink marks from ballpoint pen adorning a wall, desktop, or other inappropriate space? No worries. Dab full-strength white vinegar on the ink using a cloth or a sponge. Repeat until the marks are gone. Then buy your child a nice big sketch pad.

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Healthcare cost concept using US Dollars with white medicine pills spilling from medicine bottle.

Simple Ways to Cut the High Cost of Prescription Drugs

These days the skyrocketing cost of some prescription drugs is enough to give you a heart attack. If medication drug costs have gotten you down, cheer up! Then check out these seven ways you can save money on prescription medications—plus where to get some medicines (antibiotics!) for free.

USdollars under a variety of prescription drugs

GoodRX

What a fantastic resource. GoodRX is a website with no sign-up or credit card required. You can easily access the site on your computer, or download the mobile app for IOS and Android. First, set your location using your address and or zip code. Next, type in the drug name in the space provided. You can easily compare prices at different pharmacies near you  AND get coupons to cut the cost even further.

It sounds like a hoax I know, but it’s not. This is one of the best reliable resources on the Internet. Drug prices vary wildly between pharmacies and GoodRX finds you the lowest prices plus discounts on top of the published price.

Click on “Get Free Coupon,” print it, then hand it to your pharmacist.

Examples

Here’s an example in the Los Angeles area, as I update this information, for 90 capsules of 300mg Gabapentin (generic Neurontin) with the average price of $69.03: Vons Pharmacy: $7.99; Costco $7.99; Ralph’s $8.39; Walmart $17.52; Walgreens $26.38. Within just a few miles the price for that particular medication is all over the place! GoodRx.com makes sure you find the lowest price available.

Lipitor (generic atorvastatin) 30 tablets of 40mg . The lowest GoodRx price for the most common version of generic Lipitor is around $8.25, 87% off the average retail price of $86.51.

Tamiflu (oseltamivir) 10 capsules of 75mg (one dose pack). The lowest GoodRx price for the most common version of generic Tamiflu is around $25.99, 76% off the average retail price of $112.23.

A note about Medicare

Medicare is supposed to make your prescription drugs affordable. But, as many seniors know, some drugs are still expensive, and some aren’t covered at all. And, of course, there’s the infamous donut hole.

GoodRx makes it easy to compare your Medicare co-pays against GoodRx coupon prices to see which can save you more. Keep in mind that you cannot use GoodRx and Medicare at the same time. However, you can use GoodRx instead of government-funded programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid, to pay for your prescription medications.

NeedyMeds

Another site you might want to check if you can’t afford your medications: NeedyMeds.org. The site lists programs that help people reduce their healthcare costs, including patient assistance programs and co-pay cards offered by drug companies. Coupons and rebates, too. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card may save you up to 80% off the cash price of your prescriptions, OTC medications, and pet prescriptions purchased from a pharmacy.

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Homemade Pulled Chicken Sandwich

This is the Best Shredded Barbecue Chicken Ever

I have discovered over the years that “barbecue” has varying definitions depending on where you live. Where I live in Colorado anything cooked on an outdoor grill qualifies.

Homemade Pulled Chicken Sandwich

We barbecue burgers, fish and steaks, fresh vegetables, slices of pineapple—even pizza dough. However, if you live in the south you know “barbecue” is defined by these two words: Long and slow. And trust me, you’d better have proof that the brisket or rack of ribs were on the grill for the better part of a couple of days if you dare to call it barbecue!

Knowing there is a bit of regional controversy over what constitutes right and proper barbecue, I was intrigued to receive a recipe from Laura Koontz of Ohio for Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken, with a resounding endorsement from her husband Bill, “You’ve just got to try this!” And so I did. Again and again and again.

Best shredded barbecue

If you love a good pulled chicken (or pork) barbecue sandwiches, this recipe is going to knock your socks off. It’s tender, moist, and perfectly seasoned—a great solution for any busy cook who longs to serve authentic barbecue.

To make shredded barbecue chicken you will need a slow cooker and these ingredients (full recipe below):

  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • vinegar
  • cumin
  • bottled barbecue sauce

Place chicken, water, Worchestershire sauce, vinegar, and cumin in slow cooker set on “Low.” Cook for 6 hours. Drain juices. Shred chicken right in the slow cooker using two forks to pull it all apart. Pour in barbecue sauce, stir to combine. Cook on “Low” for one additional hour. Serve on buns with coleslaw. Serves 8-10.

Laura sent along a bottle of Montgomery Inn Barbecue Sauce with the recipe and it is fabulous. However, any barbecue sauce will work so experiment with your favorite. Feeling adventurous? Substitute pork or beef for the chicken. Yum.

By the way, the Montgomery Inn located in Cincinnati, Ohio, is world-famous for its ribs and barbecue sauce. The exact recipe, however, is a closely guarded secret known only to proprietor Ted’s wife, Matula, and her daughters.

Montgomery Inn barbecue sauce is fat-free and made with all-natural ingredients is a heavenly blend of tomatoes, garlic, onions, molasses and secret spices. It’s specially blended to be heated and then brushed or poured on hot after cooking.

I only know all of this because after trying this recipe the first time I knew I had to find a way to get my hands on more sauce.

Great news! Montgomery Inn ships. I know this because I harbor a precious stash of Montgomery Inn Barbecue Sauce in my pantry. Suddenly I have become famous with family and friends for my amazing Chicken Barbecue Sandwiches, the recipe for which shall remain closely guarded secret known only to me. And now you.

Thanks, Laura.

Slow Cooker Shredded Barbecue Chicken

Homemade Pulled Chicken Sandwich

Slow Cooker Shredded Barbecue Chicken

If you love a good pulled chicken barbecue sandwich, this recipe is going to knock your socks off! It’s tender, moist, and perfectly seasoned—a great solution for any busy cook who longs to serve authentic, pulled chicken (pork or beef) barbecue.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sandwiches
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Slow Cooking: 7 hours
Total Time: 7 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 10
Calories: 349kcal
Cost: $15

Equipment

  • Slow cooker

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs chicken breasts boneless, skinless (NOTE 1)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp vinegar any type
  • 1 tspn cumin
  • 28 oz. bottled barbecue sauce

Instructions

  • Place chicken, water, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and cumin in slow cooker set on “Low.” 
  • Cook for 6 hours.
  • Drain juices. 
  • Shred chicken right in the slow cooker using two forks to pull it all apart.
  • Pour in barbecue sauce, stir to combine.
  • Cook on “Low” for an additional hour. 
  • Serving Suggestion: Serve on buns with coleslaw. Serves 8-10.

Notes

  1. Can substitute boneless pork or beef.
  2. Use any bottled barbecue sauce of your choosing.
  3. Refrigerate leftovers in a tightly closed container for up to a week.

Nutrition

Calories: 349kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 116mg | Sodium: 1076mg | Potassium: 896mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 232IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Creamy Coleslaw

salad

Creamy Coleslaw

Here’s the coleslaw recipe you want to accompany grilled meats, chicken, or fish. Just to be on the safe side you might want to double the recipe. That’s how good it is.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Chill in refrigerator: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 239kcal
Cost: $5

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh cabbage, shredded OR a 16-oz bag coleslaw mix
  • 2 tbspns diced onion
  • cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tbspns vegetable oil
  • ½ cup granulated, white sugar
  • 1 tbspn white vinegar
  • ¼ tspn salt
  • ½ tspn poppy seeds

Instructions

  • Combine the shredded cabbage (or coleslaw mix) and onion in a large bowl.
  • Whisk together the mayonnaise, vegetable oil, sugar, vinegar, salt, and poppy seeds in a medium bowl; blend thoroughly. 
  • Pour dressing mixture over cabbage (or coleslaw mix) and toss to coat. 
  • Chill at least 2 hours before serving. 

Nutrition

Calories: 239kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 141mg | Potassium: 102mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 68IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Pulled Barbecue Chicken Sliders

Up Next:

The Easiest Summer Barbecue Ever— Ribs, Beans, Slaw, Dessert

How to Turn Your Barbecue Grill into a Baking Oven

Worst and Best Ways to Grill Chicken

An insect on the ground

9 Ways to Wage War Against Mosquitoes—and Win!

Mosquitoes are nasty creatures. They bite, they transmit terrible diseases to people and pets, and from what I read, have absolutely no redeeming value in the ecosystem.

An insect on an arm

Malaria, transmitted by the female mosquito, infects some 247 million people worldwide each year, and in 2018 killed 405,000 people. Mosquitoes spread yellow fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, Rift Valley fever, Chikungunya virus, and West Nile virus.

If that’s not reason enough to hate them, they can turn a beautiful backyard, deck or patio into a nightmare area not fit for humans during mosquito season. But it doesn’t have to be that way provided you are diligent to take control of your home and property.

Mosquito trap

When I discovered we’d be dealing with mosquitoes here in northern Colorado, my research led to purchasing a Dynatrap, mosquito trap. It works well for us.

This insect trap is engineered for 3-way protection. First, a UV fluorescent bulb generates a warm light, attracting insects.

Then a second lure, an exclusive Ti02 titanium dioxide-coated surface, produces harmless CO2, which mosquitoes find irresistible (no wonder they love you so much—you emit CO2, too).

Third, a powerful, whisper-quiet vacuum fan sucks insects into the retaining cage where they dehydrate and die.

Every few weeks I empty my mosquito morgue, I mean trap. A full trap is proof-positive that this thing is very effective. I’ve inspected carefully to see what’s getting trapped and while there are lot of moths, wasps, and flies, mosquitoes win the highest population prize. Dynatrap is definitely not a bug zapper. No sizzle noises, odors, or other annoyances. I give Dynatrap two thumbs up and five stars, too.

A more economical option that is getting great reviews, this VIVIK Bug Zapper.

Read more

crystal drinking glass cleaned with denture tablet with red roses in background

19 Absolutely Brilliant Ways to Clean With Denture Tablets

Not many households keep a supply of denture tablets. But every household should because there are so many cleaning jobs that effervescent denture tablets can do from making coffee stains disappear to cleaning fine jewelry and clearing a clogged drain, too.

Denture cleaning tablets are great little workhorses for all kinds of jobs around the house, some you’ve never heard of.

crystal drinking glass cleaned with denture tablet with red roses in background

Fine jewelry

Instead of tossing the cleaning solution, drop in your ring or diamond earrings. Let it sit for a few hours. Remove your jewelry and rinse to enjoy the old sparkle and shine. Unlike toothpaste (that acts as an abrasive on fine jewelry ultimately doing more harm than good), denture cleaning tablets that are activated in water are not at all harmful, while doing a great job of cleaning.

Toilets and sinks

Porcelain fixtures respond to the cleaning agent in denture tablets. Drop a denture tablet into the toilet bowl. Allow it to fizzle away for about 30 minutes. Use a toilet brush to easily remove tough stains, flush, and enjoy that sparkle!

Narrow vases

Fresh flowers often leave a hard water ring on glass vases that seems to be impossible to remove no matter how hard you scrub. And when that’s a narrow vase you cannot reach into without a bottle brush—and even then, it can be all but impossible— it’s even more annoying!

Here’s the solution: Fill the vase with water and drop in a denture tablet. Let it sit for a few hours or until all of the mineral deposits are gone. Use the same method to clean thermos bottles, cruets, glasses, and coffee decanters.

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Cat in litter box isolated

Cat Litter Box Care and Cleaning Basics You Should Know

There are few more difficult odors to control than those associated with a cat litter box. Poor maintenance is enough to bring tears to your eyes. And not only yours, but to your kitty’s, too.

Cat in litter box isolated

Cats hate dirty litter boxes, and that drives them to find substitutes, whether a pile of clothes in a laundry basket or a corner of the carpet behind the door.

Your cat’s sense of smell is 9 to 16 times stronger than yours, so a litter box that smells reasonably clean to you may outright stink to your cat.

Select the right box

Start with is a plain rectangular littler box, making sure that it is large enough that your cat can move around in it comfortably, with no overhang. If the box is smaller than your cat, you’re just asking for trouble and I’m talking cat litter strewn outside of the box—or a box that is not being used at all.

You want it large enough to hold enough litter to preclude the bottom of the box getting too soiled and wet between cleanings. If the box is too small or too many cats per box, prepare for your pets to choose another place in the house other than the box.

How many litter boxes?

The rule of thumb for indoor cats is one litter box per cat plus one extra. So if you have a cat, you need two litter boxes. Three cats? Four boxes. With multiple cats in the household, you can quickly feel like you’re running out of logical places for boxes.

 two striped cat close

That is when you should consider a “litter station,” placing the boxes side-by-side to accommodate more than one cat at a time. This kind of arrangement will make it easier to scoop and clean when the boxes are all located in the same area.

Box location

The location of the litter box is important. It should be as far from family and food activities as possible and placed away from doors and windows. Cats want privacy so this rules out the kitchen or other high-activity locations. The more secluded the area, the better.

Care and cleaning

Until someone figures out how to successfully potty-train cats including teaching them to flush, the next best option is to know how to keep your cat’s litter box clean and odor-free is Nok-Out.

Clever Abyssinian Cat uses a toilet bowl

Once you are sure that the cats love their litter, the boxes are well-placed and everything appears to be going well (save for that horrible odor), you’re ready to put Nok-Out to work.

In the past, we’ve had cats in our home and I can tell you without any hesitation that Nok-Out was the only way we could keep litter box odor under control—and I’m talking about no odor at all. nok out bottles with spray tops

1. Spray it with Nok-Out

Spray the bottom of the clean litter box with Nok-Out. You will do this each and every time you change and clean the box, which should be frequently. Nok-Out is ideal for litter boxes because other cleaners can leave a disinfectant or masking odor that repels cats.

2. Fill the box with litter

Consider a clumping unscented litter. You won’t need a pan liner and unscented litter tends to be preferred by most cats, which means they’ll use it happily.

Non-clumping litter is more challenging because depending on the number of cats in the house, it will likely need to be emptied and the box washed much more often as the urine will eventually collect at the bottom of the box. And that odor? Yikes! It will be so bad you’ll have tears in your eyes and very quickly.

Start with about two inches of litter and experiment until you find the right depth for your cat. Most litter manufacturers recommend using two to three inches of litter. However, if your cat is a deep scratcher, you may want to settle on three to four inches, You don’t your cat to feel as if he or she needs to dig all the way to the bottom of the box to get the job done.

Once the box is filled with clean, fresh, unscented litter, give the litter a final leveling off so the cats have a nice, smooth surface to dig in.

3. Spray again with Nok-Out

Next, lightly spray the top of the litter with Nok-Out.

Note: Diluted 50:50 with water, Nok-Out retains its effectiveness when treating cat litter. That means one gallon of Nok-Out can stretch to two gallons.

4. Remove solids

You’re going to need to dispose of your cat’s waste properly, and odor can be an issue. However, it will be much easier if you disposing of clumps frequently. Then frequently treating the urine-soaked litter with Nok-Out. Frequently!

Every time you remove solid wastes—multiple times a day or as clumps appear—smooth and spray the litter surface again.

Nok-Out is odor-free and leaves no smells that will offend the cats, but it does have residual effects that continue to combat odors long after the litter is dry. And it will extend the life of your litter because no odor will send the cats away and the box will remain sanitary and clean. That’s because Nok-Out (and also its companion product SNiPER) destroys everything in cat urine that causes odor and can create disease problems.

diaper genie system5. Litter Genie

With a product like the Litter Genie, scooping as well as disposal of litter is much easier. The way it works:

Insert the roll of plastic bagging material inside the Genie, tie a knot at the end of it, secure it to a wheel, and turn the handle a half turn. Then open the top and drop in all the scoopings. Turn the handle again, and the waste is safely hidden at the bottom of the Litter Locker to keep all of the odors confined inside.

On trash day, just remove the bag and contents and discard in the garbage can.

If you’ve ever seen or used a Diaper Genie, you know exactly how this works. It is truly genius!

cat box liners6. What about liners?

Plastic cat box liners are not necessary, but it does make emptying a litter box of used non-clumping litter tidier.

If you are using non-clumping litter you will be changing it more often so you might consider using liners.

Just keep in mind, however, if you’re following the Nok-Out protocol described above, you won’t be emptying and throwing out litter.

You will be scooping out solids, treating the litter that remains with Nok-Out, and then replenishing with fresh litter only as needed.

More reading

Nok-Out and SNiPER are absolutely safe around pets and children The active ingredient in Nok-Out and SNiPER is chlorine dioxide.

Introducing Chlorine Dioxide clo2

The Effects of Chlorine Dioxide Around Animals

Up Next:

11 Everyday Uses for Nok-Out—the World’s Best Odor Eliminator

7 Common House Plants That Are Pet-Friendly, Low Maintenance

How to Completely Neutralize and Eliminate Pet Odors


There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.

A close up of a person wearing glasses

All You Need to Know to Get Prescription Eyeglasses Online

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say right up front that when I first heard that I could order prescription eyeglasses online, I scoffed. I rolled my eyes. What next? Mail order surgery? Online doctor visits? Not me. 

woman holding prescription eyeglasses online

It does seem weird if not downright irresponsible to get prescription eyeglasses online. I’m the first to admit it.

I mean, what kind of person would trust her eyesight to some website in the sky by forwarding a doctor’s written prescription, selecting frames online and expect said unknown entity to grind those lenses properly, fit them into the frames of choice, return these prescription eyeglasses to said person, having them fit perfectly, charging him or her a fraction of the cost he or she would pay locally and expect any of this to turn out well?

Do not be surprised when I say that I would be that kind of person. I’ve had an epiphany, a change of heart. Now I’m one of those believers who has and will order glasses online!

Up until the past decade, I’d not worn glasses, enjoying perfect vision. But life happens (perhaps you’ve noticed this). I was totally unprepared for the mind-numbing cost of prescription eyewear. 

I went to a top-notch optometrist (I still do) and assumed that to take the best care of my eyes, I needed to purchase my new glasses from the little boutique in his office.

When the bill totaled more than $750 for my designer frames, lenses, anti-scratch coating (don’t assume that means scratch-proof), UV protection, and the anti-glare option, I was shocked. And more than ready to consider learning how to order glasses online. Read more

A person standing in front of a window

How to Make Glass, Mirror and Window Cleaner

If there’s one thing you confidently can stop buying ever again, it’s glass cleaner. You already have ingredients around the house that will work to clean glass, windows and mirrors—from vinegar to vodka (true!) to warm soapy water. The problem is that these items, used as single ingredients, have significant drawbacks. 

A person standing in front of a window

Vinegar will do a fairly decent job if your windows have water spots, but it’s not that great if they have any kind of stubborn dirt and sticky residue. Used on its own, you’ll end up with annoying streaks. 

Rubbing alcohol, because it acts as a solvent, works well to clean glass. But used straight up it’s harsh and so strong-smelling you’ll want to wear a face mask or use that as an excuse to not clean those windows! Can’t find it? Denatured alcohol (paint aisle of home improvement center) works equally well, although it has a stronger odor

Vodka works similarly to rubbing alcohol but way more expensive, so unless you’re about to throw it out anyway, let’s go ahead and eliminate vodka as a reasonable option.

The secret to making your own glass cleaner is to combine ordinary ingredients to create a highly effective, super cheap cleaner that easily cuts through dirt, dust and greasy sticky residue then wipes away easily without leaving streaks. 

Mixing homemade glass cleaner

Start with a new, empty spray bottle with a high-quality sprayer top. Label bottle clearly so you use it exclusively for glass cleaner in the future. This eliminates the possibility of a toxic chemical reaction between the new ingredients and whatever mystery thing was in the bottle previously. Always keep cleaning products out of the reach of children and pets.

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peach raspberry homemade jam in hands of woman

Home Canning: How to Preserve Summer’s Bounty

So, you planted a garden, lucked out when your property included fruit trees, stumbled upon a produce sale you just couldn’t pass up, or joined a CSA. Good for you! Now what? What will you do with all that bounty?

Canned peaches with large pot or canner

You have options:

  • quickly consume your harvest before it spoils
  • give it away
  • preserve it to enjoy in the future, or for gifting!

One of the best ways to preserve is known as “home canning”— or water bath canning, a method of food preservation that is making a big comeback.

Canning is not difficult, but it is a procedure that should be followed precisely. You begin by sterilizing canning jars in boiling water. Then, once you’ve filled them with fruit,  salsa, tomatoes, jam, jelly, or another prepared recipe, you boil them again.

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Close up photo beautiful yelling her she lady eyes closed open toothy mouth arms fists raised up air brown eyes ecstatic wear green knitted pullover jumper clothes isolated yellow background

How to Get a Better Deal on Anything

Not everyone is comfortable with asking for a better deal or for a lower rate—for a fee or penalty to be waived. It’s a process known as bargaining or “haggling.”

man seated at desk with phone in hand having just scored a big win

Face it. Some of us are just more bold than others when it comes to negotiating. It’s a bit of an art, a learned skill. If haggling gives you sweaty palms, don’t give up.

According to The Many Benefits of Online Haggling, 69 percent of the online shoppers who tried to negotiate a better deal on a TV, computer, or other electronic product were rewarded with a price reduction.

Take Amazon for example. Negotiating via live chat is the ideal way to haggle online, provided you can track down a rep. (Here’s where you start.) Hint: Amazon reps are willing to price match, discount shipping costs and even grant refunds if a product doesn’t live up to your expectations. You can even ask for a better price.

Read more

A woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

Worst and Best Ways to Clean Your Eyeglasses

You just paid a small fortune for new eyeglasses. On top of the cost for prescription lenses and fashionable frames, you opted for anti-reflective, anti-scratch, and UV coatings too. 

A woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

After all, eyesight is a precious thing and it’s only wise to do all you can to protect it, right? Absolutely! But here’s the deal: You may be destroying your investment one cleaning at a time.

Read more

Homemade Bisquick biscuits with freezer jam

How to Make Homemade Bisquick (It’s Cheaper, Better)

Last week, a friend called asking me to send her “That Recipe!” Of course, I was puzzled, but it didn’t take long to figure out what she was talking about when she mentioned,  homemade biscuits with freezer jam. Apparently, I served that for breakfast the last time she visited.

Homemade Bisquick biscuits with freezer jam

“That Recipe” is my Master Mix. It’s like Bisquick but a lot better. Not only does it keep really well, it contains dry milk so at baking time you add water (not milk as most Bisquick use recipes call for).

While Master Mix makes fabulous biscuits, it’s an all-purpose mix to make everything from dumplings to coffee cake, shortcake, and so much more.

Read more

blue jeans hanging by their ankles from a clothesline in a wooded grassy area

12 of My Favorite Laundry Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

I love to do laundry. I’m crazy that way. And I enjoy discovering new laundry tips that help me do it more efficiently—and by efficient I do mean cheaper, better, and faster.

In fact, I was about ready to give myself a proper title, The Laundress, until I discovered a couple of very bright young women in New York City beat me to it.

It’s OK. They can keep the title and charge an arm and a leg for their chi-chi laundry products in little bottles. Me? I’d rather use every tip I can find to create equally beautiful results and keep my money, too. Are you with me? Great! Here are some of my favorite laundry tips to get going.

blue jeans hanging by their ankles from a clothesline in a wooded grassy area

When wrong is right

Wash your clothes inside out to keep them looking newer longer. In this way, the wrong side of the garment takes the abuse and fading caused by the agitation, not the right side. Clothes get just as clean when washed inside-out.

Soft dry jeans

You’ll never experience the heartbreak shrunken jeans if you do this: Put them in the dryer set to medium or low heat for only 10 minutes. That’s enough to soften them.

Take them out still wet and hang on a hanger from ankles. The weight of the semi-wet jeans will pull out the wrinkles and keep them at their proper length when fully dry. Read more

Jar

11 Ways Washing Soda Will Make Your Life Easier

It looks and feels for all the world like laundry detergent. White. Coarse. Powdery. Its real name is sodium carbonate, but this stuff also goes by soda ash, Na2CO3, and good old Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda—not to be confused with baking soda!

A mineral mined from the vegetation in dry lake bottoms in the Middle East, the ashes of burned plants, kelp from Scotland, and seaweed from Spain, this all-natural miracle-in-a-box is used to make glass, bricks, paper, rayon, and toothpaste. It cleans silver and softens water.

A sign on a table

Washing soda and I go way back. For years, I have added washing soda to the washer for cleaner, whiter, brighter laundry. It’s one of the key ingredients in our homemade laundry detergent.

More recently, I am discovering that washing soda is much more than a laundry detergent booster. With a powerful pH of 11, washing soda acts as a solvent all around the house, garage. Sodium carbonate removes dirt, grime, greasy build-up, and a range of stains. Best of all, depending on the source, sodium carbonate is cheap.

Read more

Young female college freshman with no clue how to manage money

How to Manage Money: Crash Course for College Freshmen and Others, Too

All around the country, newly-minted high school graduates are heading off to college. They’ll be taking a lot of things with them, but statistics tell us that financial literacy is one of them. If I could spend a little time with these awesome students, I’d attempt to cram the basics for how to manage money into their heads, then pray that it penetrates their hearts.

A diverse group of college freshmen who need to learn how to manage money

A budget is your friend

That means …

  1. You have a written plan for how you are going to spend and manage your money.
  2. You use that written plan like you would a road map, consulting it often and
  3. You use a site like Mint.com or a pencil and paper to record how you spend every nickel.

Do those three things and you will be 90% on your way to becoming a rockstar for how to manage money.

Check out this monthly budget worksheet you can print out to help you estimate your costs and keep expenses under control. Do not attempt to do this “keeping track” thing in your head. You are amazing, but don’t push it.

Live with cash

Your generation has been somewhat brainwashed to believe that plastic is the only safe way to pay for things. That may be true if you buy things online, but overall it is just not true. Even then, there is a really cool way that you can shop on Amazon with cash.

I don’t have the time or space to get into a long dissertation on the subject, just believe me when I tell you that using cash—currency, greenbacks, dollars, coins—will simplify your life and it will keep you from overspending.

I understand that cash seems archaic, old-fashioned and what old people do. And I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere along the line you’ve picked up the notion that carrying cash is not safe. Really? But carrying a debit-card is? Think that through.

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23 Best College Dorm Room Essentials of 2020

The days of cramming undergraduates into shared dorm rooms with a communal bathroom down the hall may be coming to an end. As colleges and universities across the country scramble to figure out how they will reopen in just a few weeks, new protocols are not only changing how students learn but also how they live.