October 2022 - closeup of a small desktop calendar with a pen, time and business concept

October Best Month to Score Deals Bargains on These 12 Things

How I love this time of year! Cooler weather, sweaters, scarves, pumpkin pie, and beautiful fall colors make it the best time of year. For bargain hunters, October is the calm before the holiday shopping storm, which means the likelihood of finding super deals is high. Here are the great buys you can expect in October.

fall trees

Halloween costumes, decor, party gear

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

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

Jeans

Many retailers (Target, Nordstrom, Kohl’s) typically have an overstock of denim jeans this month—leftover from back-to-school shopping. Watch for super sales and discounts. Don’t expect the 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 for yourself, and the kids..

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Amazon shopping site showing in iphone

Good Deals at Amazon Today 10.3.22

Team EC is adamant about sharing deals we believe are good value. EC gets paid small commissions from some links to companies offering authentic deals, which help us pay the bills and keep this site alive and healthy! Compensation in no way affects our choices, recommendations, and honest opinions for the best deals at Amazon.

Amazon shopping site showing in iphone

Good Deals at Amazon Today 

You may not be able to get a weekly ad from Amazon, but you can find some good deals on products that are currently selling well. Daily deals are one example that Amazon often has the lowest price. Team EC finds the following exceptional bargains in today’s lineup of Daily Deals:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treasure Truck

A great place to find significant discounts is on Amazon’s Treasure Truck item of the day. Once you sign up, you’ll get a text message each day alerting you to the day’s item, offered at a low price until the item sells out.

Amazon Renewed

Ever wonder where all the Amazon returns end up? They don’t find their way back to the inventory shelves from whence they came. Returned items head to a completely different place. Checking Amazon Renewed for these items that have been tested to look and work like new—is a great way to find tech and other items cheap.

For even more savings, shop for open box items at Amazon Warehouse. Or to get an idea of where to buy American products and support local businesses, check out this page at Amazon. Or this page for handmade items.

Compare

If you’re leaning toward buying something, make sure you have searched for the same or similar item elsewhere to price compare. There are helpful tools to make this job easier, such as Google Shopping and CamelCamelCamel.com. If you depend on reviews to help you make an informed decision, check out sites like FakeSpot.com that look for fake reviews on Amazon.

These apps and helpful tools are not 100% infallible or even fully reliable. Learn what you can, then make your own decisions about whether or not it’s a good value.

Prime

As always, Prime members get free shipping. For non-Prime members, shipping is free with most orders of $25 or more. Prime members can also earn digital rewards when they select no-rush shipping. And you can accrue rewards to use on a future digital purchase.

Amazon Digital Coupons

Save with Amazon Coupons. Clip (click the little box under the item’s price where indicated) the Coupon and add the item to your cart. Discount will be applied at checkout.

EverydayCheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

 

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 helpful 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 of plain white vinegar 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 with 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.

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potato doughnuts with chocolate glaze cooling on a rack

How to Get Clever with Leftovers: Mashed Potatoes, Coffee, Meatloaf,

Leftovers and I have a kind of love-hate relationship. I can’t bear the thought of tossing perfectly delicious food into the garbage because I made too much of it. So I pack it, seal it and fill the refrigerator with it. Once a leftover is past prime—looking more like a science project than tomorrow’s dinner—it’s much easier to part with. The solution, of course, is to have an immediate plan for leftovers and then be diligent in following through. Check out these terrific ideas!

potato doughnuts with chocolate glaze cooling on a rack

Image: Taste of Home

Mashed Potatoes

Potato cakes

Mix cold mashed potatoes with an egg or two, leftover pieces of fish, ham, corned beef plus chopped onion and a little flour to hold it all together. Form into small patties and shallow fry in oil, until brown and crispy.

Topping

Use leftover mashed potatoes as a topping on a savory pie filing. You’re not likely to have a great deal of the mashed, so think individual shepherd’s pies or even chicken pot pies.

Lemon, orange cake

Mashed potatoes are an ingredient in many gluten-free desserts, paired with gluten-free self-rising flour, like this Lemon & Orange Cake or this Lemon Drizzle Cake.

Potato doughnuts

So easy to make and drop-dead delicious! You can use the mashed potatoes with the added milk and butter. That becomes one ingredient in Delicious Potato Doughnuts. That plus buttermilk, eggs, and several more ingredients. But no yeast. Already. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? The day after Thanksgiving. The day after Christmas. Actually, the day after any meal that included mashed potatoes!

Coffee

Freeze it

Coffee ice cubes are great in iced coffee; they don’t dilute the drink as the ice melts. Or add your preferred milk and flavorings to the coffee and pour into Popsicle-type molds for a frozen treat tomorrow.

Make a sauce

After pan-frying chicken or pork, deglaze the pan with coffee instead of wine for a deeper, Southern-style gravy.

Beef jerky

Marinate beef slices in strong coffee and your favorite flavorings for up to eight hours, then dry the beef in the oven at 200ºF for about four hours.

Instead of syrup

Combine hot coffee with melted butter and pour over pancakes or waffles.

Brine a chicken

Coffee-based brines that include spices such as cloves, star anise, peppercorns, and plenty of salt make for delicious and super moist roast chicken.

Dress a salad

For a simple coffee vinaigrette, cook equal parts brewed coffee, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup on the stove at low heat until the mixture is syrupy. Top it off with a little lemon juice.

Meatloaf

Chili

Use chopped-up leftover meatloaf in place of ground beef to make homemade chili. It’s all seasoned and ready to go.

Quesadillas

So easy! Mix together chopped-up meatloaf, onion, green pepper or other toppings of choice. Stir in your favorite BBQ sauce. Cover a flour tortilla with the mixture, top with shredded cheese, and top with a second tortilla. Place tortilla in the skillet cook for 1-2 minutes, until cheese starts to melt and the tortilla start to turn brown. Flip, so each side is golden and crisp.

Spaghetti

Replace ground beef with chopped leftover meatloaf in your favorite meat sauce. Over spaghetti, it’s fantastic!

Grilled sandwiches

Add a slice of leftover meatloaf to your next grilled cheese sandwich!

Sliders

Tiny dinner split rolls plus a slice of meatloaf cut to the same size plus your choice of spreads—bacon onion jam, mayonnaise, mustard, you name it, and what do you get? Party Food! with no party necessary.


crossword cartoon

Official EC Puzzles Rules of Play

  1. Everyone is welcome to play EC Puzzles.
  2. Only active EC Daily Email subscribers with a U.S. mailing address are eligible to win prizes. Sign Up.
  3. This puzzle season at Everyday Cheapskate runs from October 1 to December 31, 2022, with a new puzzle every Saturday.
  4. Clues and answers for all crossword puzzles come directly from the designated week’s daily emails, including linked and/or mentioned pages, articles, posts, etc., within those daily emails.
  5. Upon successfully completing a puzzle, the player must register for that specific puzzle with the same email address used as an EC email subscriber if he or she wishes to compete for prizes. A form will pop up prompting the player to register.
  6. Each week, one Weekly Winner will be chosen randomly on Friday (following the Saturday release) at 12:00 noon MT. That winner will be notified and will move on to compete for Monthly Winner, also chosen randomly.
  7. Winners will be notified via email with a request for that winner’s U.S. mailing address. Failure to respond within 24 hours will result in forfeiture.
  8. All prizes will be delivered via U.S. Mail. Cash will be paid by business check.
  9. Mary Hunt will settle any disputes, and decisions will be final.
  10. The rules, terms of competition, and puzzles may change anytime without notice and obligation.
Stainless steel kitchen faucet and sink. Modern kitchen interior

How to Remove Scratches on Stainless Steel Appliances, Sinks, Counters

As sleek and sturdy as it is, stainless steel is not immune to picking up unsightly scratches during everyday household activities. 

Stainless steel kitchen faucet and sink. Modern kitchen interior

Scratches show up on stainless steel sinks, appliances, cabinet hardware, and counters, too. There’s a good chance you can remove scratches on stainless steel surfaces, provided you use the right tools and closely follow these tips.

Is It Coated or Uncoated?

Some stainless steel appliances and products these days are finished in the factory with a protective synthetic clear coat to reduce fingerprints showing up on the surface. Whirlpool, for example, offers a line of fingerprint-resistant stainless steel appliances.

While subtle, I can tell the difference between coated and uncoated stainless steel simply by looking at it. If you are not sure if your stainless is coated or not, check with the manufacturer or owner manual.

Caution

 DO NOT use any of the following techniques on coated stainless steel, often referred to as smudge-proof or fingerprint-resistant. You will end up with a much worse problem than you have already. Sadly, if your stainless is coated and scratched, you may have to learn to live with it. The following techniques are for uncoated stainless steel only.

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crossword cartoon

Everyday Cheapskate Puzzle #1

All clues for Crossword Puzzle #1 come from  EC Daily emails Sept. 25 – Oct. 1, 2022.

If you are not a daily newsletter subscriber, sign up. It’s simple, and don’t worry—we won’t share, sell, or rent your information.

By continuing to play, you certify that you have read, understand, and fully comply with the Official EC Puzzles Rules of Play below.

Can’t see the puzzle clues? Click anywhere in the puzzle, then scroll down.
Correct answers turn green.

Prizes

 Each of 14 Weekly Winners:

Each of 3 Monthly Winners

  • $300 Cash

Official EC Puzzles Rules of Play

  1. Everyone is welcome to play EC Puzzles.
  2. Only active EC Daily Email subscribers with a U.S. mailing address are eligible to win prizes.
  3. This puzzle season at Everyday Cheapskate runs from October 1 to December 31, 2022, with a new puzzle every Saturday.
  4. Clues and answers for all crossword puzzles come directly from the designated week’s daily emails, including linked and/or mentioned pages, articles, posts, etc., within those daily emails.
  5. Upon successfully completing a puzzle, the player must register for that specific puzzle with the same email address used as an EC email subscriber if he or she wishes to compete for prizes. A form will pop up prompting the player to register.
  6. Each week, one Weekly Winner will be chosen randomly on Friday (following the Saturday release) at 12:00 noon MT. That winner will be notified and will move on to compete for Monthly Winner, also chosen randomly.
  7. Winners will be notified via email with a request for that winner’s U.S. mailing address. Failure to respond within 24 hours will result in forfeiture.
  8. All prizes will be delivered via U.S. Mail. Cash will be paid by business check.
  9. Mary Hunt will settle any disputes, and decisions will be final.
  10. The rules, terms of competition, and puzzles may change anytime without notice and obligation.
A box filled with fresh fruit and vegetables on display

Recipes for Tastes of Autumn and Slow Cookers Go Together

There’s just something about the bountiful tastes of autumn and slow cookers that go together. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of testing in my kitchen. While some results have been less than palatable (let me make all the mistakes so you won’t have to), other attempts have turned out even better than I could have dreamed. 

autumn harest vegetables in a wood box

I’m anxious to share three recipes with you and even more anxious to hear how they turn out for you. I have added printable recipe cards for each recipe at the end of this post.

Cheaper and Better

You can make these meals at home for a fraction of the cost of eating out—and I am confident your results will taste a lot better, too.

If you’re keeping track of the cost of meat these days, you’re probably aware that pork remains much cheaper than beef.  Read more

Woman shopping luxury boutique. Girl wear sunglasses and fur coat shopping white background. Lady hold shopping bags. Discount and sale. Buy with discount on black friday. Shopping with promo code.

6 Things a Compulsive Shopper Can Do To Curb the Urge to Splurge

As a compulsive shopper, my compulsive tendencies will forever be part of my personality. Thankfully, I have found ways to quiet those tendencies and make them my allies.

Woman shopping luxury boutique. Girl wear sunglasses and fur coat shopping white background. Lady hold shopping bags. Discount and sale. Buy with discount on black friday. Shopping with promo code.

When it came to handing out compulsive tendencies, there’s no question I received more than the standard allotment. I can sit down fully intending to watch the evening news and end up owning a pasta machine.

I jump online just to look around and come out with three outfits I’ll never wear, a gift I’ll never give, and several things for the house. I can glance at a mail order catalog, and in the time it takes to pull up its website, Adirondack chairs and matching windsocks are winging their way to my front door.

Why? I see what I like, and WHAM! Something goes off in my head, insisting I need it right now. I’m entitled to it and pity the poor soul who tries to prevent me from having it.

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Creamy loaded baked potato soup with scallion

Creamy Baked Potato Soup

You know what they say—everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it! That always makes me laugh, but it is so true. And that’s because we can’t do anything about it, right?

Creamy loaded baked potato soup with scallion

Who wasn’t reminded of this during a past year’s epic blast of extreme weather visited upon North America? I don’t know about you, but I could only think about how much I needed to make soup! At the time, I lived in  Southern California, where the average daily temperature hovered around 70 F, despite Polar Vortex’ best attempts to make it otherwise.

It doesn’t really matter what the thermometer reads. Homemade soup is a great option any time of the year. But it has to be awesome. Otherwise, what’s the point? And boy, do I have a terrific recipe to share with you today.

You might also enjoy:

Creamy loaded baked potato soup with scallion

Creamy Baked Potato Soup

This potato soup recipe is a keeper, trust me on this. It’s great as an entrée served with a salad and crusty bread, as the opener for an elegant dinner party, and just about any other use in between! Even the kids will love it.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Baking potatoes: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 338kcal
Cost: Varies

Ingredients

  • 8 med Idaho potatoes
  • 1 lb bacon cooked, crumbled, divided
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • cup butter
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tspn salt
  • ½ tspn ground black pepper
  • 6 cups milk
  • 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, grated; divided
  • 8 oz sour cream

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  • Wash and dry potatoes. Wrap each in aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour. Remove and let cool.
  • Fry bacon until crisp, drain, and crumble. Set aside.
  • Slice the white part of the onions thinly to about halfway down. Set aside.
  • Peel skins from potatoes and mash with a fork, leaving some chunks. Set aside. 
  • Melt butter in large soup pot. Gradually add flour, salt and pepper, stirring constantly—Cook for about 1 minute.
  • Gradually add milk, constantly stirring until cream base thickens. Add more milk if a thinner soup is desired.
  • Add potatoes, half of the crumbled bacon, diced green onions and one cup of the shredded cheese. Mix well.
  • Stir in sour cream.
  • Pour soup into bowls and top each with remaining bacon, green onions and cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition

Calories: 338kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 91g | Saturated Fat: 42g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 34g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 154mg | Sodium: 483mg | Potassium: 1239mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1190IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 440mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
fresh produce in small baskets

How to Store Fruits and Vegetables at Home to Remain Fresh Longer

Could you use an extra $1,600? You might want to take a look in your garbage. According to the nonprofit organization Feeding America, the average American family of four throws out $1,600 a year by tossing out produce that’s become more suitable for a biology project than human consumption! 

fresh produce in small baskets

Mind-boggling, right? Here’s a fun crash course on how to store fruits and vegetables so you can retrieve all that cash from the trash.

Start following these insanely simple tips, and you’ll be amazed to see far fewer of your food dollars (hopefully, none) in the garbage in the form of stinky, rotten produce.

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woman renewing her mind

How To Renew and Restore Your Mind

Saving money is not only about finding ways to spend less. Living below your means depends heavily on attitude. We are what we think and the choices we make. We choose either to live under our circumstances or above them. From time to time, it’s good to do a mental reset to renew and restore our minds.

woman renewing her mind

Recently, I heard from an extremely negative woman. Her long letter revealed her life philosophy: “If I don’t expect anything good to happen, I won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t!”

She told me of all the devastating things that had happened to her over the years. She was afraid to believe anything good might happen. Because her thoughts were all negative, so was her life.

Maybe you’re like that woman; you’re avoiding hope to protect yourself from being hurt. Let me tell you something: Your negative attitude is setting you up for negative behaviors, and that’s setting you up for a negative lifestyle. Everything becomes negative because your thoughts are negative.

I want you to think about the tremendous power your thoughts have over your life. You have 100 percent control over your thoughts. You can focus on what’s wrong or be thankful for what’s right. Your actions are a direct result of your thoughts.

If you think negatively, you will act that way and make harmful decisions. The converse is true, as well. Force yourself to think positively, refuse to look on the dark side of any issue or action, search for what’s right about your life right now, and focus on it. You’ll be surprised how quickly your behavior begins to change.

It’s called renewing your mind. If you are habitually negative, this will be quite a challenge. But you can do it, I know you can. Want to practice? Using the comments area below, tell me ten good things about your life today.

Can’t think of even one thing? Well, you did wake up this morning. You are breathing. Your mind is clear enough to find the computer keyboard or a piece of paper. You have some method to press those keys or manipulate a writing instrument. You have sufficient eyesight to read this column. Your mind is processing at a level necessary to understand the written word. You do have the proper muscles in your face to turn your mouth into a smile.

Try it right now, even if you are convinced you have absolutely nothing to smile about. Have you reached ten yet? OK, so cheat. Start with the reasons I’ve just given above, making each one personal to you. Then end each with an exclamation point.


laundry vignette

17 Best Laundry Tips, Tricks, and Hacks of All Time

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.

laundry vignette

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.

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.

Easy does it

Almost everyone is guilty of using too much laundry detergent in a load. More detergent does not always equal better cleaning, especially in a front-loading HE machine that uses very little water! In fact, the detergent that can’t get rinsed out settles back on the clothing to the finish dull and stiff, the white looking gray and dingy.

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Apparently prices are soaring in foreign countries as well ;)

The One Quick and Easy Way to Slash the High Cost of Groceries

The news is not good: Grocery prices in August 2022 rose 13.5%, the highest increase since March 1979. Translated to our everyday lives? Americans can still expect to pay up on their next trip to the grocery store.  The cost of food is soaring in ways that are downright shocking.

Inflation

What we’re experiencing is inflation—the cost of goods and services increasing faster than wages. The cost of the things you need to live are going up while your paycheck stays the same. That means you’re losing ground. Nothing ruins an appetite quite like rising food prices. Still, this situation is not without one reasonable, simple solution— guaranteed method of shopping that will reduce your grocery tab by at least 25%.

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boxes of cake mix on marble counter

3 Sneaky Ways to Hack a Cake Mix So No One Has a Clue

If I didn’t know better I’d swear that cake mixes reproduce in the dark of night on the shelves of my pantry. One day not so long ago, I counted 18 boxes. I did a happy dance. Knowing a few glorious cake mix hacks, one simply cannot have too many cake mixes.

boxes of cake mix on marble counter

Here’s how that happens: Cake mixes go on sale routinely. One week it will be Betty Crocker, then Duncan Hines takes its turn and so on. This week in my supermarket Pillsbury cake mixes are on sale for $1.39. That’s a great deal and a good reason to stock up!

Because no one my family is fond of plain, boring cake from a mix, my challenge has been to find better ways to use mixes than to simply follow the instructions on the box.  What follow are my favorite hacks that disguise a mix so well, no one has a clue the delicious cake is not from scratch. And you can be my lips are sealed.

Cake Mix Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • yellow cake mix
  • eggs
  • butter
  • vanilla extract
  • milk
  • semisweet chocolate chips
  • nuts
chocolate chip cookies

Cake Mix Chocolate Chip Cookies

Grab a cake mix to stir up great cookies in just a few minutes!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Baking
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Servings: 42 cookies
Calories: 101kcal
Cost: $5

Ingredients

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • ½ cup butter or margarine softened or substitute with 1/2 cup vegetableoil
  • 1 to 2 tablepoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F (325F for dark or nonstick pans)
  • In a large bowl, beat cake mix, butter, 1 tablespoon milk, vanilla, and egg with electric mixer set to medium speed. Continue until smooth. If dough seems too dry, add 1 more tablespoon milk.
  • Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.
  • Drop dough by spoonfuls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Bake cookie 10-12 minutes or until edges are set (center will be soft and cookies wil be very light in color). Remove from oven and cool 1 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Store in a covered container.

Notes

1.  Because there are so many different kinds of cake mixes (with pudding, with double pudding, extra moist and so on), you may need to make slight adjustments to this recipe. For example, I’ve found that with some varieties of mix the dough is so stiff and dry it’s not possible to form the dough into cookies. When this happens I simply add one or two tablespoons of water until the dough is workable.
2. If you prefer a softer cookie, use only 1/3 cup butter and 2 eggs; omit milk.
3. If you need lots of cookies in a hurry, this recipe multiplies well. Just start with two cake mixes and double the additions.
4. If you want to cut down on fat, try substituting half the oil with applesauce (still 1/2 cup total—half butter, half applesauce).
5. Depending on the type of cake mix you use, these cookies may dry out after two days. To prevent this, store them in an airtight container along with a piece of bread. I don’t know why, but for some reason, this keeps the cookies just as fresh and moist as can be.
6. You can use just about any combination of cake mix and chips. Example: Carrot cake mix with white chocolate chips; chocolate cake mix with peanut butter chips; devils food cake mix with toffee bits chips; German chocolate cake mix with pecans and coconut.

Nutrition

Calories: 101kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 117mg | Potassium: 39mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 104IU | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

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a stick of butter cut into 8 1-oz portions

How Many Tablespoons in a Stick of Butter

a stick of butter cut into 8 tablespoons

One standard stick of butter in the U.S. contains 8 tablespoons, measures 1/2 cup, and weighs 1/4 pound. Typically, a stick of butter comes wrapped in paper with tablespoon measurement lines making it simple to cut the butter into the exact amount you need.


beautiful laundry basked filled with best inexpensive bath towels of multible volors available in 2022

The 5 Best Inexpensive Bath Towels in 2022

When asked to describe the perfect bath towel, most people include the words soft, thick, and thirsty. Cotton Incorporated, a trade association of cotton wholesalers, agrees and says that the best bath towel is a luxurious one that can also stand up to constant use and laundering for at least a decade. 

beautiful laundry basked filled with best inexpensive bath towels of multible volors available in 2022

100% cotton

A towel’s primary duty is to blot up and absorb water. One hundred percent cotton does the best job because cotton naturally attracts water. Synthetic fibers like polyester repel water, making a cotton-polyester blend less absorbent and to be avoided. 

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sandwich made with gluten free white bread

How to Bake Gluten-Free High-Rising Beautiful Soft Sandwich Bread

If you bake gluten-free for yourself or others, you have likely attempted to bake soft, airy, sandwich-worthy bread. And your hopes evaporated quickly when all you got was a flat, hard, soggy mess. So what’s a gluten-free sandwich-lover to do? Bake high-rising, lovely, tender sandwich bread without gluten! You can bake gluten-free bread if you use quality ingredients and know the secret. 

sandwich made with gluten free white bread

Image: King Arthur Flour

Dear Mary: Do you have a good gluten-free bread recipe that can be made in a bread maker? I’ve tried a few, including the recipe that came with the bread maker. Not so good. My quest is to use a simple cup for cup gluten-free flour to make homemade gluten-free bread. I would love your ideas. Thanks, Debbie M., Georgia

Dear Debbie: I feel your pain. Although I only occasionally bake gluten-free, I have had sufficient fails to have discovered why this happens and what not to do.

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washing soda sitting on a wood table

11 Ways to Use Super Washing Soda to Make Your Life Easier

It looks and feels for all the world like laundry detergent. White. Coarse. Powdery. Its official 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.

washing soda sitting on a wood table

A mineral refined from the natural vegetation in dry lake bottoms in the Middle East, the ashes of burned plants, kelp from Scotland, 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.

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 detergents.

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.

Stovetop, oven

First, remove the burners. Sprinkle dry washing soda on a damp sponge and scrub that stovetop, broiler pan, and oven making sure to avoid the heating element.

In the meantime, soak the burners in a 1/2 cup washing soda solution dissolved in a cup of warm water for at least an hour. This will soften and break down the greasy gunk and grime. Finally, scrub as needed, rinse well, and dry.

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A close up of a doughnut

How to Make a Perfect Baked Potato in the Oven

If you’ve ever wondered how some restaurants turn out such perfectly baked potatoes with salty, crispy skin—potatoes that are super fluffy inside and so delicious, you’re about to discover the secrets. And don’t be surprised when once you have the technique down, your family will be all in when you announce that potatoes are what’s for dinner!

perfectly baked potato with saltPotatoes—they’re nutritious, delicious, and inexpensive. And as they come from the oven, they’re gluten-free, low-fat, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan.

How to Bake a Potato

The perfect baked potato is crispy on the outside and soft-as-a-pillow in the middle. Baking a potato in the oven does take more time than the microwave, but the results cannot be compared. If you want the ultimate baked potato, allow the time to do it right.

What is the best type of potato for baking?

Russet potatoes, also referred to as Idaho potatoes in the U.S, are best for baking. A russet’s skin or “jacket” is thicker than other types of potatoes, so it holds together well during baking. The inside of a russet is starchy, sweet, and makes for a fluffy texture once baked. Russets are usually large (6 to 8 ounces), making them perfectly sized for a side dish—or one large russet per person makes a meal on its own.

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cute boy playing with his learning toys

Best Kids’ Learning Toys for 2022

Learning toys do more than sit there and entertain—they stimulate and teach kids by introducing them to basic coding concepts and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). They help kids develop a wide range of skills, from critical thinking and problem-solving to the basics of engineering and the scientific method.

cute boy playing with his learning toys

Writing for Stanford University’s Development and Research in Early Math Education, Alissa A. Lange, Ph.D., shares that even preschool-age children show focus, engagement, and enjoyment while playing and participating in age-appropriate STEM learning activities.

Providing open-ended, imaginative fun opportunities, STEM toys introduce new ideas, reinforce foundational concepts, and stoke kids’ curiosity and creativity.

I love these toys and games for kids of all ages (as young as 6 months) because they’re fun—especially Rush Hour!—but at the same time stimulate learning through creativity and mind-challenging play. Kids won’t want to put these down.

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happy children in car

Careful the Kids are Watching: Raising Financially Responsible Kids

If you speak English in your home, your kids are not likely to come out speaking Italian. Kids learn through observation and imitation. And they don’t miss a thing. Their parents’ lives shape children from the very beginning of life. They are ever-attentive witnesses of grown-up behaviors. Children take their cues from what they see and hear.

happy children in car

Want your kids to grow up with healthy attitudes about money? Start living the way you want them to become. Let them regularly catch you in the act of living financially responsible lives, and you’ll be on your way to raising financially responsible kids.

It’s all about the cash

I recently ran across “10 Ways Warren Buffett’s Frugal Habits Can Save You Money.” Number 9 on the list? He uses cash, not credit. While most of us these days prefer the convenience of a credit card for everyday purchases, Buffett uses hard cash. You should too. For kids and adults alike, cash is real, plastic is just a stand-in for the real thing. It’s human nature to be more casual, even reckless, with plastic; more cautious when having to peel off $20 bills to pay the tab.

Cash might sound old school, but relying less on your credit card can stop you from spending money you don’t have. And looking like Warren Buffet isn’t a bad thing.

20 ways to model healthy money attitudes

You cannot start modeling healthy money attitudes for your kids too early. Here are 20 ways you can start right now to raise financially responsible kids, even if they are still toddlers:

  1. 

Let them observe that you have money and take good care of it.
  2. Let them see you use money as a regular and normal part of life.
  3. Make sure they catch you being generous with others and sharing what you have.
  4. Tell your kids stories about how you have made do with what you have, choosing instead to save, not spend.
  5. Allow them to see you deposit money in the bank.
  6. Let them see the way you pay for groceries with cash.
  7. Teach them that money is essential in our lives because we can exchange it for things we need and want.
  8. Talk about money as casually as you talk about other things like sports and laundry.
  9. Use coins to teach your preschoolers to count. It’s practical and acknowledges their curiosity about money.
  10. Talk about the different shapes and colors of items in the store. It gives little ones something to do instead of wanting everything they see.
  11. While a passenger in the grocery cart, allow your little one to hold the coupons or the list. Talk about finding the best value.
  12. Say, “We don’t choose to spend our money that way” more often than you say, “We can’t afford it.”
  13. Remember, preschoolers are listening and learning from everything they see you do and hear you say.
  14. Use coins to teach the different denominations. Three and four-year-olds can learn to put all the pennies into one cup, the nickels into another, and so on.
  15. Visit the library and park with your preschooler more often than at the market or mall.
  16. Give rewards of hugs and praise-not money. Creating the expectation of cash payment at every turn is a habit you’ll regret in adolescence.
  17. Monitor television time and opt for non-commercial viewing and videotapes when possible.
  18. Let preschoolers participate in household chores to enjoy the security of belonging—not only to get paid.
  19. Intervene between advertisers and your kids. Preschoolers can’t always tell when the television show ends and the ad begins.
  20. Make sure your children grow up knowing that all good things are a blessing from God.

Cash Back - Orange Button on Computer Keyboard. Internet Concept.

This Is Absolutely The Best Way To Get Cash Back When Shopping Online

I could teach you how to be an extreme couponer. I’ve had a lot of experience, including the time I demonstrated on location, live on national TV from a large supermarket. Couponing is a legit way to spend less, but it’s a lot of work and is mainly limited to grocery and drug stores. Earning cash rebates from thousands of retailers actually works much better for me.

Cash Back - Orange Button on Computer Keyboard. Internet Concept.

Imagine a world where you had the equivalent of a big stack of coupons for all the other places you spend money—like Target, JCPenney, Macy’s, Lifelock, Walmart, Kohl’s; Groupon, Great Wolf Lodge, Old Navy, LL Bean, Lands End and thousands more. You do, and it’s called Rakuten.

What are cash rebates?

At Rakuten, you have a digital account that earns you cash instead of presenting a coupon. Think of it as the grocery store clerk handing you that 25 cents when you bought the can of soup with a $.25 coupon and you putting that quarter straight into a savings account.

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A cup of Pumpkin Spice Latte

10 Coffee Hacks, Tips, Tricks, Pumpkin Spice Latte (Starbucks is Going to Miss You!)

Whenever I write about my love of coffee—especially Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte—which 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.

large pumpkin spice latte in paper cup

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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Halloween pumpkin head jack lantern with burning candles

10 Easy Ways to Do Halloween on a Budget This Year

Hear that sound? It’s the first of the major shopping holidays at the door! Halloween is the fourth most popular holiday that gets consumers to open their wallets—the kick-off to a lot of shopping before the end of the year. 

Halloween pumpkin head jack lantern with burning candles

Here are some numbers that should scare you to death, brought to us by the folks at The National Retail Federation:

Americans spent $10.14 billion on Halloween in 2021, up from $8.05 billion in 2020.  Mindboggling, right? This is how that broke down:

  • Candy $3.65 billion
  • Decorations $3.17 billion
  • Costumes $3.32 billion

I don’t know about you, but I find those numbers beyond frightening. Read more

beautifully organized closet

How to Painlessly Declutter and Organize Your Home in Your Free Time

If you think organizing your home or getting your personal affairs in order requires a lot of time, you might be right. However, if you feel that you just don’t have enough time to spend on these tasks, then you’re probably wrong. All you have to do is recognize little chunks of free time throughout the day.

beautifully organized closet

Best Idea Ever

OK, perhaps that’s extreme. But as I contemplate, that idea—a simple tip shared by one of my dear EC readers—has profoundly affected my life; I cannot help but define it as Best Ever. I’ve taken her simple tip—Figure out all the things you can get done in the time it takes to brew your morning coffee—and developed it into ways of organization that has genuinely changed my life.

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chicken tortilla soup

How to Turn Those Leftovers into Awesome Homemade Soup (Recipes!)

Soup is a great frugal, potentially delicious meal that can successfully be made from leftovers. It’s a great way to “waste-not-want-not” because potentially, you can get a free meal for your efforts.

chicken tortilla soup

But I’m not talking about just dumping stuff in a pot willy-nilly. There’s a method here for making really great soup from ingredients you’ve become accustomed to tossing out in the past.

Use wisdom when making soup from leftovers. While soup is a great way to disguise certain food items, if your family didn’t like it the first time, chances are slim they will like it better in soup.

Essential Elements to Make Soup

1. Fat

Olive or other cooking oil, butter, bacon fat.

2. Onion

Yellow, white, or shallots. Celery works well here, too

3. Liquid

Here are the kinds of liquids used in goo soup: broth; stock, bouillon, water, tomato juice, milk, buttermilk, cream.

4. Seasonings

Salt, pepper, garlic, onion salt, and any kinds of dried herbs you enjoy; soy sauce, Tabasco, hot sauce; sugar, paprika, wine, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, basil, rosemary.

5. Fillings

This includes ingredients like meat, poultry, seafood, fish; pasta, rice, potato, and vegetables such as carrot, broccoli, beans, peas, edamame—anything vegetable like that.

The basics

A great starting point is Thursday Night Soup, which got its name from the fact that traditionally workers were paid on Friday, so by Thursday night, you’d be using up whatever you had. Read more

Women shopping in the mall

The Pain and Pleasure Principle vs. The Crazy Fun of Mindless Spending

I don’t care much for pain. In fact, I’ll do almost anything to avoid it. I also know that pain can be a good thing. The human nervous system triggers a pain sensation to stop us from doing something that might cause a severe injury and to let us know something may be wrong.

Women shopping in the mall

While we mostly think of pain in terms of physical well-being, I experience a certain amount of pain in parting with hard-earned money. It hurts. I hate the pain of payment. It takes away from the pleasure of the purchase.

Financial stupidity

Years ago, as merrily I made my way down the path of financial stupidity, I found two ways to avoid the pain of payment so I could fully enjoy the pleasure of purchase. It was like I’d discovered the ultimate way to have my cake and eat it too. I used credit cards. I wrote checks.

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Don’t See Inflation on the Restaurant Menu? Look Carefully to Find it on the Bill

Times are tough. Inflation is at a 40-year high. Restaurants continue to face budget-busting challenges from the pandemic and labor crisis. But that’s not all. As I write this sentence, food prices have increased by 18%, which may have risen even higher when you read it.

Here’s the Weird Thing

Sure, restaurant menu prices have increased some, but none of that adds up to 18% across the board as restaurants attempt to cover the cost of the food. You may look at the menu for your favorite restaurant and see a few price hikes, but nothing that seems unreasonably out of line.

What’s Up?

Are restauranteurs morphing into benevolent philanthropists?  Uh, that would be a negative, although according to OpenTable data, as a group, restaurateurs got into the business because they want to take care of people. They want their hospitality to be accessible no matter the economic climate.

That being said, the answer, my friends, is blowing through the bill—that check the server nonchalantly places next to your water glass at the end of the meal. While nothing that follows has become standardized, it helps paint a picture of what you can expect to see at restaurants near you.

Forget free refills

Enjoy them while you can because it may soon be something for our kids’ I-remember-when collection to tell their kids. Soft drinks and coffee are not a massive expense for a restaurant, but not free iether. Finding enough staff actually to perform beverage refills is making the practice on its way to becoming a relic. Instead, thirsty customers in some establishments need to request and then pay for each refill—a way the restaurant is covering increased costs.

Share the pain

Even though pasta, for example, costs the restaurant about the same as it did months ago you may see big jumps for pasta dishes. Example: Beef steak has gone through the roof, so a restauranteur may tack on some of that increase to the steak menu price to keep customers happy with only a tiny increase, offsetting the balance of the real cost by adding it to the price of say, Fettuccini Alfredo.

Charging for everything

We’re hearing about restaurants starting to charge for add-ons and extras such as condiments, coffee cream, ranch dip, and other add-ons. Don’t be surprised to see a slew of $.50 or $1.00 charges for items that have been previously complimentary.

Care to share?

More restaurants are adding a share fee or split charge, which should be disclosed on the menu, but don’t count on it. If you prefer to share a meal, entree, etc., you can ask for an extra plate but get ready to be charged $5 or more for the privilege.

Reservation deposit

It’s happened a couple of times for me: I make reservations at OpenTable.com, then discover the restaurant requires a credit card with clear instructions that if we don’t show up, there will be a significant fee to cover. It rubs me the wrong way but may indeed indicate what’s coming. I can see how this practice affects a restaurant negatively. Still, I am not a fan of reservation deposits because they come with conditions, i.e., if you cancel within 72 hours, you lose your deposit.

Gratuities no longer optional

This one really gets my goat. And again, with apologies to service persons everywhere, a gratuity is not a given. It is a reward for service rendered beyond what is expected. A gratuity should be optional, a customer’s decision. Get ready to kiss that concept goodbye as more and more restaurants are automatically adding 18% gratuity to the bill, with a nudge to “please add more if you like.”

In the face of this kind of thing, I console myself that the whole activity of eating out is still optional. It’s my choice, and if I choose to dine out, I’d better plan that it comes at a much higher cost than ever before in the history of civilization.

New fees

I first saw this on a restaurant bill in 2020: Covid Recovery Fee: 8%. What? Really? Another was somewhat gentler: Showing Love to Our Staff Fee: 7%. Another place calls it their Back-of-the-House Appreciation Fee: 6%. Or how about this one: Obamacare (ACA): $.20. See how a restaurant can pass inflation to the customer in small bits here and here, hoping to make it unnoticeable?

Get ready

Between April 2021 and April 2022, the total number of restaurants in the United States adding service fees to guest checks increased by 36.4%, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Slash the High Cost of Dining Out

This is easy—cook at home. Instead of seeing restaurant meals as routine, save dining out for special occasions, fully aware that what you see on the menu is only part of what will show up on the bill.

Graphic Courtesy of: OpenTable.com


A close up of a flower pot

19 Surprising Ways Epsom Salts Can Improve Your Life

I can recall vividly—and count on one hand—the migraine headaches I’ve had in my life, all of them before age ten. Once I turned double digits, I outgrew them. Until recently.

A close up of a flower pot

With no warning at all, there I was back to my 8-year-old self, flat on my back with a raging migraine with all the side effects. Why then, after all these years?

In reading up on the latest findings on what might cause my migraine headaches, I discovered the importance of magnesium to overall health.

It turns out that an estimated 68 percent of the U.S. population suffers from magnesium deficiency causing all kinds of health issues—one of them being migraine headaches. One study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine concludes that all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. 

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Hand holding money for buying Christmas gifts. Empty gift list on decorated office table. Top view of Christmas composition .

4 Reasons to Start Planning Your DIY Christmas Now

Brisk mornings, fall colors, pumpkin pie, and apple cider. Autumn is just the best time of year, right? And our minds are leaning toward Halloween and Thanksgiving. Consider this a strong nudge to put a DIY Christmas high on the list. Start planning now, and you’ll benefit in so many ways come December.

Hand holding money for buying Christmas gifts. Empty gift list on decorated office table. Top view of Christmas composition .

Before I find myself dealing with angry responses from readers who find “Christmas creep” to be offensive (a merchandising phenomenon in which merchants and retailers exploit the commercialized status of Christmas by introducing Christmas-themed merchandise or decorations earlier and earlier each year), that’s not what I’m talking about. In fact, I find that quite objectionable myself. I don’t want the Christmas season to start until we’ve cleaned up the last of the Thanksgiving turkey.

Plan and organize

I’m talking about planning and getting organized now without the overwhelming pressure and panic I know will come once I’ve waited too long and believe my only option is to rack up a pile of debt to get through the season. I despise that feeling of being under the gun, driven by guilt and remorse to mark names off a list, compelled to buy something—anything!—to get through the holiday.

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

September is The Best Month of the Year to Shop These 13 Things

Waiting to buy things until they’re on sale is the best way to punch inflation in the face! September is notoriously the month of the year that these 13 things go on sale—the best time to buy if you need them.

Autumn tea with scarf and leaves in front of window

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 on a new school year, perhaps a refreshed budget, and updated personal goals.

September brings predictable bargains—some that could be considered extreme! So buckle up as we head into my favorite time of the year, not only for sweater weather, pumpkin pie, and apple cider but also for bargains! 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.

Smart savers

Savvy 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 intelligent 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 sure, they know what to buy in September.

New models of all kinds of products are hitting the shelves, and that’s great news for bargain hunters. September will be packed with plenty of great deals.

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starbucks pumpkin lattes

DIY Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

With great patience comes great reward. That’s what Starbucks aficionados count on—waiting, patience, more waiting each year for Starbucks to announce the start of its short Pumpkin Spice Latte season. If that’s you, good news! You can quickly learn to make PSLs at home, any time of the year and whenever you want!

starbucks pumpkin lattes

Image: Starbucks

The ingredients are easily obtained, and the process simple to learn. Get ready to claim your role as your household’s official barista!

A PSL consists of espresso, milk, pumpkin, pumpkin spice, whipped cream, and pumpkin syrup. With basic ingredients and the following recipes, you’ll be turning out delicious copycat PSLs in no time!

Starbucks PSL

Originally created by Starbucks, Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) has developed a cult following. It is so popular, PSL even has its own Twitter account! The downside is that PSL is so stinkin’ expensive. And you have to go there, wait in line, order, then wait some more. At more than—gulp!—$6.00 for a Starbucks venti PSL, that’s quite a price to pay!

One of the essential ingredients in PSL is “pumpkin spice.” Curiously, pumpkin spice has no pumpkin in it at all. It is simply a mix of the spices used to make pumpkin pie. As available as pumpkin pie spice is in the spice aisle of most supermarkets, it’s not exactly cheap!

To pull off this DIY project, you need three recipes—one for  Copycat Pumpkin Spice Latte, Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix, and Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Pumpkin Spice Latte

(Printable recipe card below)
  • 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix (below), plus more to garnish
  • freshly ground black pepper, a pinch
  • 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar (sub with Splenda or Stevia )
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup half and half (whole milk, reduced-fat, or skim milk if you must)
  • 1/4 cup hot espresso OR extra strong brewed coffee
  • sweetened whipped cream for serving
  • Pumpkin Spice Syrup to drizzle across the top (optional, but who can resist?)

Combine the half and half, pumpkin, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, pepper, and vanilla in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and vent with a small hole. Microwave until the half and half is hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is foamy, about 30 seconds.

Pour the espresso or coffee into a large mug and add the hot, foamed mixture. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. Yield: 1 large (venti) latte.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

(Printable recipe card with instructions below)

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Syrup

(Printable recipe card with instructions below)

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoonz ground nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
A cup of Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Originally created by Starbucks, Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) has developed a cult following. The downside is that PSL is so stinkin' expensive. And you have to go there, wait in line, order, then wait some more. As the weather is turning crisp and fall-ish, we're gearing up to make Pumpkin Spice Latte—cheaper, better, and faster!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Servings: 1
Calories: 336kcal
Cost: $1

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree NOT pumpkin pie mix; pure puree
  • ¼ teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice (see NOTES)
  • 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar OK to sub with Splenda or Stevia
  • pinch ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup half and half (see NOTES)
  • ¼ cup hot espresso OR hot, strong brewed coffee
  • 1 dollop sweetened whipped cream

Instructions

  • Combine half and half, pumpkin, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, pepper, and vanilla in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and vent with a small hole.
  • Microwave until the half and half is hot, 1 to 2 minutes
  • Whisk vigorously until the mixture is foamy, about 30 seconds
  • Pour the espresso or coffee into a large mug and add the hot foamed mixture.
  • Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

Note 1: Make sure you are NOT using canned Pumpkin Pie Filling. Please!
Note 2: Pumpkin Pie Spice from the supermarket spice aisle can be pricey. You can make it yourself cheaper, better and faster. Recipe here.
Note 3: Not a fan of half and half? Go ahead and substitute whole, reduced-fat, or skim milk ...( if you must). 
Note 4: Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a small bow. Mix well. Store in an airtight container for up to one year.

Nutrition

Calories: 336kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
autumn pumpkin spice latte with milk and cream

Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

You can buy it in the supermarket, but boy is it pricey! Make it yourself and save a bundle.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Seasoning
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Cost: varies

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tspn ground ginger
  • ½ tspn allspice
  • ½ tspn ground cloves
  • ½ tspn ground nutmeg
  • ½ tspn ground mace Can substitute ground nutmeg (See NOTE)

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well. Store in an airtight container for up to one year. Recipe multiplies well.

Notes

Note 1: Can't find ground mace? Substitute by increasing nutmeg to 1 tspn. 
Note 2: Recipe for Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Latte
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
large pumpkin spice latte in paper cup

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Syrup

The perfect drizzle over your DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte! Or add a shot or two to your next cup of coffee. Sublime!
No ratings yet
Print Pin Rate
Course: Beverages
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 8 beverages
Calories: 155kcal
Cost: varies

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup white granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tspn ground cloves
  • tspn ground ginger
  • 2 tspn ground nutmeg
  • 4 tbsp pumpkin purée NOT pumpkin pie filling!

Instructions

  • Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  • Once sugar is dissolved, add cinnamon sticks, ground cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and pumpkin purée, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and immediately strain through cheesecloth.
  • Makes enough syrup for 8 beverages. Keeps up to 7 days in the fridge.

Notes

Can substitute the cloves, ginger and nutmeg with 1 1/2 tablespoon Pumpkin Spice Mix

Nutrition

Calories: 155kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 0.2g | Fat: 0.3g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.02g | Sodium: 4mg | Potassium: 31mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 38g | Vitamin A: 1175IU | Vitamin C: 0.4mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
food store in NYC that is well stocked.

Worried About Global Food Shortages? Don’t Be Scared Be Prepared

If there’s one thing most people take for granted, it is food. U.S. supermarkets are always well-stocked. Fast-food joints and restaurants seem to be overflowing with anything customers might desire. So who cares about how all that food gets there or that we might someday experience global food shortages?

food store in NYC that is well stocked.

When pushed to think about it, I wager most of us assume there are massive warehouses somewhere, filled with enough food to feed the nation for some unknown period of time—with refills available as needed. It just makes sense!

Jitty-Jit-Jit

The truth is, as a nation, we have little to no warehousing backup in the event of a supply shortage. The U.S. concentrated supermarket supply system uses a technology known as JIT (just-in-time), a method made possible by computers, algorithms, and Internet.

How JIT works

Instead of every supermarket needing a warehouse to store large quantities of food to be sold locally, computers keep track of inventory, placing relatively small orders daily.

This precludes the need for massive warehousing. Retailers know their orders will arrive “just in time” via a massive fleet of tractor/trailer trucks to keep the shelves filled and the customers happy. What food shortages?

Does it really matter?

Who cares about all of this talk of food shortage, really? And why should we, as consumers, even concern ourselves? The system seems to be working really well, so why the fuss?

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female hands typing on white computer keyboard on white desk

Ask Me Anything: Pet Odor, Line-Dried Towels, HOT Cold-Brew and MORE!

Here it is mailbag day, when I reach into my virtual mailbag to read and respond to a handful of letters and messages from my wonderful readers. I love hearing from you about your questions, feedback, thoughts, and ideas.

1. Help! Dog, cat odor in carpet

2. My stiff, line-dried laundry

3. HOT cold-brew coffee?

4. Appliances and power strips

5. Lawn mushrooms, garden aphids

6. Cook’s trick to counter sweetness

7. How to safely store linens and textiles

Q1: Help! Dog, cat odor in carpet

After reading about Lestoil and how amazing it is for removing laundry stains and cleaning up all kinds of greasy messes, I’m wanting to know, does Lestoil also removes animal smells like cat and dog pee in carpet? Corinne

Dear Corinne: I can’t confirm that Lestoil will remove that very strong, difficult-to-deal-with odor. I have not tested that, nor have I read anything to suggest Lestoil is that powerful against awful odors.

But I know what will—and with amazing results. You need Nok-Out. It is safe around pets and kids, has no fragrance, fumes, or odor, is not toxic. Provided you use it as directed, it will completely neutralize and remove that odor—even if it has soaked through the carpet, pad, and into the flooring below. Nok-Out is available direct from Nokout.com or at Amazon.

Let me direct you to How to Completely Neutralize and Eliminate Pet Odors for specific instructions on how to use Nok-Out effectively. There’s a lot of science involved so you want to follow the protocol carefully. It’s super easy, but it must be done right to ensure those odors are completely neutralized and removed. Good luck and let us know how that works for you! xo m

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Travels With Vangie: Best Camping Gear Including Resources

It’s been two years now since my husband and I decided to stop dreaming and start doing. We bought a van. We named her Vangie. We hired a van conversion company to transform her from an empty cargo van to a cozy, useful, comfortable, tiny RV. 

Vangie all set up and ready.

While I wrote about the specific van build-out specs previously, in this post, I’m sharing photos of a recent 3-day trip to Poudre Canyon, Roosevelt National Forest, Colo., with resources and more detail on the camping gear that is proving to make our camping experiences absolutely delightful.

Best Camping Gear

GCI Pico Chairs

After much research and paying particular attention to reviews, we opted for these CGO Pico camping chairs. We love them … very study, extra comfortable, and they fold up so compact it’s hard to believe there’s a chair in there!

Propane Stove

Yep, this contraption screwed into a propane canister is a stove. As shown, it has the pot attached. Smaller vessels are available for heating soup, chili, etc.

We’ve tried other methods of boiling water for coffee, but this is without a doubt the fastest and best. And it is considerably cheaper than its competitor, JetBoil. It comes apart, folds up and fits in a small mesh bag, which makes it super mobile.

Blackstone Tabletop Griddle, Stand

We didn’t have our 17-inch, tabletop propane griddle when we started, so we can make reliable comparisons.  This little Blackstone can do anything. The camp stove we had prior? Not so much. In fact, it was an unreliable piece of junk.

This tabletop propane griddle cooks, grills, fries like a high-end appliance. And it cleans up like a breeze. Everything—from bacon, to pancakes, steak, fried rice, stir-fry, hot dogs, fish, fried potatoes, and pizza—comes out extraordinary on this Blackstone.

Adding the stand with the side table moved things up a notch. We no longer require a table to set it on. With the adjustable legs, we can ensure it is level in any terrain. We can be off-grid out in the boonies and cook up a storm like a couple of wannabe home chefs.

Berkey Water Filter

We no longer need to carry bottled water, which saves a lot of space in Vangie. This travel-size Berkey Water Filter fits under the sink inside the van. When we get out destination it’s easy to carry out, fill up with whatever water is available (we have a 24 gallon water tank onboard we fill with city water, so that is often the source). Even if all we could find is pond water, this Berkey will filter produces amazing purity. While all Berkey products can appear at first to be pricey, once you do a thorough cost analysis, it becomes affordable. Knowing we have safe, pure, clean, tasty water available at all times is an excellent comfort!

Berkey Travel Water Filter

BERKEY TRAVEL $345.00

 Portable Campfire

There are portable fire pits, but then there is Lava Box. It is better than anything we considered or tested. It’s built from an ammo box and comes with lava rocks. The flame it creates is more robust and higher than all the competition. Made right here in Colorado, we are so happy with this purchase.  Check it out.

Lava Box Portable Campfire

LAVABOX $245.00

Portable Propane Tank with Carry Case

Big Rug

When we saw how big this rug is, (6′ x 15′) we assumed we’d made a big mistake! But after the first use, we felt pretty smart. It is huge, but packs up easily and folds down quite small. Whatever it is made of does not hold dirt. We shake it out and it’s like new. I would highly recommend this for camping or patio.

No service? Oh-oh!

I love to knit but it’s been years since I’ve had the time to pursue this fun hobby. No service gives me guilt-free permission for the fun stuff.

Moonshade Portable Awning

MoonShade is a portable vehicle awning that offers reliable coverage, day or night, to our outdoor sites. With a variety of anchoring systems—magnets, suction cups, etc., it sets up easily and attaches to almost any sturdy structure. MoonShade provides 9ft by 7ft coverage but packs down tight and weighs only 8 lbs, making breakdown and storage a breeze.

Vivaant Burr Grinder

Coffee snobs that we are, having fresh, properly ground coffee is a must have. We just added this hand burr grinder to our gear. It is sweet—once we figured out that unlike other grinders where 6 or 7 is the finest grind, on this Vivaant the 6 or 7 is coarse! Nearly sent it back, but then woke up. Now that we have that straight, I don’t think we could find a better option. It comes apart to make it another compact piece of equipment.

Kalita Coffee Dripper

This Kalita Wave coffee dripper is something fantastic, and I can’t figure out what makes it so different. Normally pour-over method of coffee brewing is so slow! But something about the design of Kalita makes it so fast—maybe as fast as my Bunn coffee maker at home! And since it sits right on top of our coffee mugs, no pot needed. Just add the grinds to the Kalita with filter, pour in the boiling water from Stryker, and seconds later fresh hot amazing coffee … anywhere we find ourselves.

Time to hit the road …

Just one last thing to pack up—the big rug! It is amazing how everything fits inside Vangie, with a good amount of space to spare.


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Effervescent tablet in water to clean dentures and so many other things too

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. Denture cleaning tablets are great little workhorses for all kinds of jobs around the house.

Effervescent tablet in water to clean dentures and so many other things too

Fine Jewelry

Drop a denture tablet into a glass of warm water, followed by your ring, diamond earrings, or other fine pieces. Allow sitting for a few hours. Remove the jewelry and rinse well in cool water to reveal shine and sparkle like you won’t believe!

Unlike toothpaste (which acts as an abrasive on fine jewelry, ultimately doing more harm than good), denture cleaning tablets activated in water are not at all harmful while cleaning. This may be too harsh for costume pieces or thinly silver or gold “plated” items, so proceed with caution.

Enamel cookware

Enamel cookware such as Le Creuset needs a deep clean from time to time and denture-tablet cleaning is ideal. Fill the pot or pan with warm water, plus a tablet or two, depending on its size. Wait a bit. Once the fizzing stops, that enamel pot will be clean.

Unclog a drain

Drop a few tablets into a slow-running drain and run the water until the problem clears. For a more stubborn clog, drop three tablets down the sink, follow that with one cup of white vinegar, and wait a few minutes. Now run hot water down the drain until the clog is gone.

Toilets and sinks

Porcelain fixtures respond well to the cleaning agent in denture tablets. Drop a denture tablet into the toilet bowl. Allow it to fizzle away for about 30 minutes or even overnight. 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 impossible to remove no matter how hard you scrub. And when that’s a narrow vase you cannot reach into without a bottle brush—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.

Crystal and glassware

Of course, you’re hesitant to put your beautiful crystal stemware and vases through the dishwasher, but handwashing never seems to get them as sparkly as you would like. Denture tablets are the secret! Fill a basin or other vessel with hot water and a denture tablet or two. Carefully set those crystal items in the basin and allow them to soak for a while. Rinse and allow to air dry, or use a clean microfiber cloth. Wow!

Stained Tupperware

Tomato-based foods can do a number on plastic storage containers like Tupperware leaving what seems to be permanent stains. Remove these stains with—you guessed it—denture tablets. Fill the container with warm water and let a denture tablet sit in it overnight before you rinse it clean in the morning.

Clean hairbrushes

Surprised? So was I, when I first discovered this great hack. Fill the sink with super hot water and a denture tablet. Pull the hair out of your brushes, toss them in, and let them sit for at least 20 minutes. Swish them around a bit to make sure they come clean. Who knew hairbrushes could get so gnarly—and also come so clean!

Laundry

Denture tablets can brighten dingy white t-shirts and other items that have become dull and dingy. Fill the sink with warm water, toss one to three tablets in, and let them dissolve. Soak those items for at least an hour, then launder as usual.

Stained coffee, tea mugs

Those stains in coffee cups and mugs are so ugly, and denture tablets are the quick and easy way to get rid of them. Fill the cup or mug with warm water, drop in a denture tablet. Once it stops fizzing, wash it as you normally would. For super stubborn stains that have built up over time, you may need to use a bottle or other type of brush to get them super clean. From now on, a denture tablet used occasionally will keep them that way.

Stinky shoes

Flip flops, Crocs, sandals and other footwear that can get wet cleans up like a breeze when hit with the power of a denture tablet. Fill a bucket with hot water and toss in three denture tablets. Place your shoes in for a few hours. This solution will clean and deodorize your shoes. Rinse with water and let dry.

Clean tile and grout

Dissolve three denture tablets in a spray bottle filled with hot water. Wait for a minute or two, then spray on that dingy tile—floor or counter. Walk away for about 30 minutes. Rinse with clean water and allow to dry. For really dirty, tough situations you will want to scrub lightly with Scotchbrite or another type of scrubber.

Burned-on pans

Casseroles, crockpots, and others can get pretty gross and nasty. The meal was awesome but now you’re left with a challenging clean-up job. Denture tablets take all the dread out of those kinds of gross situations. You probably know the routine by now, but here it is anyway: Get it clean by filling it with warm water and tossing in two to three denture tablets. Let it sit for a few hours before you clean it as you normally would.

Clean a showerhead

Have you looked at that thing recently? See all that white buildup around and in the tiny holes that water is supposed to come out of to give you a great shower? You can get rid of that so easily with denture tablets! You’ll need a zip-type plastic bag. Pour a cup or two of warm water into the back along with one or two denture tablets. Hold it up putting the showerhead into the bag so it is submerged in the liquid and zip it closed as far as you can, to hold it in place. Walk away for a few hours. Take the bag off and scrub with a sponge to fully clean.

Retainers, mouth guards

Denture tablets are made to clean only dentures, right? Wrong! Look at the box and read the instructions. They’re for retainers and mouth guards, too. You should clean those things daily to keep them sanitized and super clean. Follow the instruction on the package.

Hydration packs

Hikers and runners—heads up! The bladder on your hydration pack needs to be cleaned regularly to prevent mold and slimy-stuff build-up. Denture tablets can help with that. Just fill it up with warm water and put a denture tablet or two in it. Let the bladder soak for a few hours then rinse well.

Tea kettle

Have you looked in that thing lately? More than likely you’ll see white stuff “growing” on the inside surface. It’s mineral deposits that need to be removed. Fill that kettle with warm water, then a denture tablet. Let it sit for a while then rinse well.

Baby gear

Baby bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups, teething toys. If there’s anything in your home that you want to keep clean and sanitized, it’s baby gear with narrow openings and tight places where stuff builds up. This should be a regular routine: Fill up your sink with warm water and toss your items in so they are submerged. Drop a few tablets in and let everything soak for 20 minutes or so. Remove and rinse well with clean water.

Armpit stains

Those yellow (sweat) stains are so annoying! There are several ways to treat them, but none so simple as warm water and denture tablets. Put the stained shirt in a bucket of warm water along with three denture tablets. Let it soak for about an hour before you launder as normal. This should remove the stain.

All-purpose cleaning spray

Make all-purpose cleaner with some denture tablets. Put three tablets into a spray bottle with some warm water. Let the contents of your bottle sit for 10 minutes before you twist the cap back on and use it. Because denture tablets lose their “power” over time, makeup just the amount you will use with a few hours of mixing.

Good news! Denture tablets can be super cheap. You just need to know where to look!

FAQs

Where can I get denture cleaning tablets?

Look in the toothpaste and dental care aisle of any supermarket, drug store, or dollar store—and Amazon (cheap—about 6 cents each). Denture cleaning tablets come in a box under several different brand names and in varying quantities.

Can I reuse the soaking liquid to clean my mouthguard several nights in a row? Seems like a shame just to throw it down the drain.

Only if you will be reusing it within a few hours. Here's the reason: Once that denture tablet hits the water, it becomes activated to both clean and sanitize. It will fizz and bubble for a while as it cleans. But it loses steam slowly so that by 24 hours later it won't be sufficient to give those baby items, mouthguards, or crystal stemware another go-round of sufficient cleaning and sanitizing. But it may still have enough power to keep your toilet bowl clean!

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases, at no cost to you.

A bag of luggage sitting on top of a car

How to Eliminate Odor of Gasoline Spilled Inside Family Vehicle

A message showed up in my inbox that made my heart sink. I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to lend my car to someone, only to have it come back to me with a little something I’d not counted on—that noxious odor of gasoline! Worse, what if that condition were permanent?! Thankfully, I have good news for at least one desperate reader.

A bag of luggage sitting on top of a car

Dear Mary: I have a problem that I can’t solve and was wondering if you would be able to help. Someone borrowed my car recently and transported a small generator in it. Somehow, the gasoline spilled out inside my Explorer and left a very intense gasoline smell.

“I have tried everything I can think of and nothing has removed the smell. I steamed cleaned it with carpet shampoo, sprinkled it with baking soda and vacuum it up, saturated it with Nok-Out at least three times but to no avail. Can you help? Lisa

My first reaction to Lisa’s dilemma was to wonder if this “someone” was at one time on her list of friends (relatives?) but I won’t go there. Instead, I have a solution that does not involve pushing that SUV off a cliff. It’s long, so bear with me.

This is definitely a job for Nok-Out—an odor-eliminating product that is non-toxic, fragrance-free, and absolutely works wonders to eliminate the strong odor of gasoline, providing it is used specifically and scientifically. While Lisa used Nok-Out to alleviate this problem, if it did not work, she stopped short of using it thoroughly. Read more

Stir fry with chicken, mushrooms, broccoli and peppers - Chinese food. Top view

How to Make Awesome Stir Fry Like a Rockstar—So Quick and Easy!

I can’t think of a more perfect food than stir-fry. It makes good use of leftovers; it’s healthy and, when prepared well, tastes fantastic! 

Stir fry with chicken, mushrooms, broccoli and peppers - Chinese food. Top view

Pam Anderson, author of How to Cook Without a Book, says most home stir-fry comes out a soggy mess because our home stovetops don’t get as hot as restaurant woks.

Cooking everything in small batches and removing the batches from the skillet or wok until the end is Anderson’s secret for making great stir-fry at home.

You can make stir-fry, start to finish in less than 30 minutes. The secret is to get all of your ingredients ready and within easy reach, before you start and your skillet as hot as possible.

Read more

kill mold mildew with nok-out SNiPER

DIY Mold and Mildew Treatment That is Non-Toxic, Safe, and 100% Effective

Mold is a potential source of irritation, including allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory maladies. The EPA tells us that “All molds have the potential to cause health effects.” If you’ve ever called in a professional service to rid your home of mold, you know the meaning of shock and awe—so expensive it brings tears to your eyes!

kill mold mildew with nok-out SNiPER

Dear Cheapskate: Here’s the short version of a long story: Due to an undetected slowly leaking pipe in our home, the basement got very wet over a period of time. The leak has now been fixed and the basement has mostly dried out. But I’m detecting mold and mildew. The smell is awful.We called the pros to get a price on treating this smelly situation. They are estimating between $1,800 and $2,000 to kill the mold and mildew.

Do you think we could do this ourselves for less using the product you recommend for smelly situations? Thanks, Hank

Dear Hank: Before I answer your question, I want to ensure that all of my readers know that mold is a severe situation that can and can have adverse health ramifications for humans and animals alike. Mold is not something you want to live with. It must be treated in a way that will kill what you see on the walls, ceiling, and floor but also the spores you cannot see that are in the air.

Do it yourself

Now to your question: Yes, I believe you can do this yourself.

Most people—myself included until I did more research—assume household bleach will kill mold completely. We assume that because it bleaches the dark color. But that is not necessarily so.

Read more

female hands holding a 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 like Ollie’s Bargain Barn and 99 Cents Only, too. What do they hold in common? The promise of good stuff, cheap!

female hands holding a 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 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

instant pot

How to Use an Instant Pot—It’s Safe and Simple!

Over the last decade we’ve seen a pressure cooker renaissance in America thanks to the modern electric multicooker appliance known as Instant Pot. Our grandmothers knew that day would come, that we would return to her favorite kitchen tool to make fast braises, stews, soups, and casseroles. They just didn’t know how we’d get there.

Instant Pot Duo

If you’re a Nervous Nellie who grew up hearing stories about a great aunt who shellacked her ceiling with country stew when the thing nearly blew her to Oz and back, relax. I’ve powered through the fear and discovered modern pressure cookers have amazing safety features to put all fear to rest.

Read more

woman looking in mirror diagnosing herself with disease to please

Three Easy Ways to Curb the Disease to Please

I could never be a medical transcriptionist. It’s not the typing or the doctors’ handwriting that would deter me. My problem would be reading the symptoms and medical conditions. I’d have all of them. To say that I am easily influenced is like saying the Titanic sprung a leak. Knowing this about myself, I wasn’t all that surprised to end up with yet another condition after watching an episode of Oprah devoted to the Disease to Please.

woman looking in mirror diagnosing herself with disease to please

Self-Diagnosis

I passed Oprah’s “Do You Have the Disease to Please?” self-diagnosis quiz with flying colors.

Do you ever say yes when what you really want to say is no?

Of course, I do. Doesn’t everyone?

Or how about this one:

Is it important to you to be liked by nearly everyone in your life?

I whipped through that quiz in about ten seconds flat answering every question yes, yes, yes, yes and … yes!

Are you fearful of disappointing others?

That’s when I had to admit that this is not something imagined. I test positive for the Disease to Please.

It’s Insidious

I quikcly learned that this “disease” is insidious as it wends its way through mind and body. It is crafty, cunning sneaky and sly. It starts with wanting to be a good person. You want to be liked. You want to be chosen first, never last. You respond to everyone’s requests and just keep doing more and more with promptness and perfection.

In a way, this might seem like more of a conflict than a revelation. After all, aren’t we called to act with generosity, out of hearts of gratitude and service? Isn’t it selfish always to say no?

It can be deadly

There is a huge difference between authentic service and using it as an opportunity to manipulate.
Some doctors say the Disease to Please can actually kill us. The emotional build-up of not being able to say no increases our stress hormones, such as adrenaline. That makes our hearts beat faster than normal, our blood pressure rise and blood vessels narrow. That can lead to a heart attack, stroke or even cancer.

So, what’s the treatment?

1. Analyze your motivation

Before you say yes to anything, do a quick self-analysis. Why am I doing this? Why am I buying this? What am I expecting in return? If you can answer “nothing, in return,” then your motivation is pure. If there’s another answer it’s probably some form of manipulation.

2. Realize you are in control

Becoming assertive is the way to arrest this disease. It takes courage to say no, to be honest, and to set limits. Decide how much you will spend or how much time you can devote to the event or project. Then stick to it.

3. Buy time

Experts say that time is the best antidote for the Disease to Please, whether that’s five minutes or five months. Never answer on the spot. Nothing is so urgent you cannot take time to think about it.

For the joy

Acting to please can be noble and gratifying as long as the decision to do so is for the joy it brings, not to relieve guilt or for what you expect to get in return.

A man that is standing in the grass

5 Home Buying Mistakes That Will Make You House Poor

Buying a home is likely the largest purchase you will ever make. This is not the time to make mistakes that could quickly plunge you into a financial situation you cannot afford. 

A man that is standing in the grass

During my 18-year career as a real estate broker, I learned a lot of things, but none were as valuable as what not to do. I didn’t learn this in a seminar or while studying to pass the licensing exam. I witnessed real-life situations where buyers did really dumb things related to buying real estate—buyers who then went on to regret the decisions they’d made.

Avoid these five home-buying mistakes, and you will avoid getting in over your heads with a house you cannot afford—and save yourself many thousands of dollars and heartaches in the process.

Read more

31 Non-Perishable Foods to Stockpile Now and Where to Store Them—UPDATED!

If recent world events and warnings for what may be ahead have given you one big wake-up call, you are not alone. The message is clear: Every household needs to have some amount of food in storage. Natural disasters like blizzards, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and broken supply chains can come with little or no warning.

Stocking up on the right non-perishable foods with long shelf lives will help you weather any storm (or global pandemic) with less stress. The type and amount of food to store is an individual decision that depends on your financial resources, foods your family will eat, and the storage area available.

Prepared or hoarding?

Stockpiling resources now for use during hard times is not hoarding. It’s called preparedness. Stockpiling is a preparedness-minded person’s insurance investment against a future calamity that may or may not happen.

In my opinion, those who accuse others of hoarding are people who have not prepared. Then when the problem happens that they are not ready for and others are, they blame those who are prepared for hoarding.

Start small

Ideally, your long-term goal is to have stockpiled enough to feed your family for six months. But start with shorter goals, like enough food for one week, then two weeks, and then a month.

This kind of incremental plan won’t bust the budget or throw you into panic buying that can easily lead to burnout and buyer’s remorse.

Long shelf life

Following is a list of foods that won’t spoil quickly, making them good choices to stockpile, so you are prepared for future unknowns.

What do labels mean?

According to the USDA, the terms “sell by,” “use by” and “best by” mean different things:

Sell by: Retailers need to sell or remove the product by this date.
Use by: Consumers should probably eat the item by this date. If the date has passed, the product is often still safe, but the quality may be reduced.
Best by: The product’s quality is guaranteed until this date.

Routine management

Make a list of the foods in your storeroom and go through them once every 6 to 12 months to ensure they’re still good. And don’t forget to have a can opener on hand at all times—all that food won’t be useful if you can’t open it.

1. Beef jerky

Shelf life: 1 to 2 years

Dried pieces of meat known as “jerky” are a delicious snack item in a non-perishable food stockpile. It’s lean, dry, and salted—a combination of qualities that contribute to its longevity if it’s kept in an unopened package.

2. Canned vegetables

Shelf life: 1 to 2 years past “best by” date

Generally, commercially canned foods are good for two to five years from the date they were packed. High acid food like tomato sauce will not keep as long as a can of beans, for example. Canned varieties can provide you with essential nutrients, making these a great hurricane food or natural disaster option.

If not subjected to extreme heat, canned fruits and vegetables stay good for at least one year and possibly two years past the “best by” date on the can. Cans with swollen tops or sides should be discarded, as this may indicate the presence of bacteria.

Read more

A room with beautiful luxury vinyl flooring

Ask Me Anything: Vinyl Flooring Care, Healthy 5-Min Bread, Stubborn Water Spots

Today’s the day I reach into my virtual mailbag and pull out some of your questions. This can be challenging! Still, I want you to feel free to ask me anything!

A room with beautiful luxury vinyl flooring

Here is a quick summary of the questions I’ll answer in today’s post. You can click on one to go straight to it or just scroll down to read all.

Contents

  1. Is it OK to use rubber-backed mats on luxury vinyl?
  2. Are there any healthy recipes for 5-Minute Artisan bread?
  3. Help! Super stubborn watermarks on my outdoor windows

If you’ve ever dealt with vinyl flooring—especially in an older home where the flooring has not been well-cared for—you know the heartbreak of trying to clean it. The problem is tiny grooves and crevices, especially along the baseboards and thresholds where stubborn dirt has built up over time and is now holding on for dear life.

But, truth be told, vinyl flooring is still alive and well—highly improved and quite lovely.

If you have new vinyl, old vinyl, grimy vinyl, or shiny vinyl, it’s good to know how to care for it—what to do and what not to do, which leads us into today’s first reader question.


Vinyl Floor Care

I just installed new vinyl flooring in my home. Is it ok to use rubber-backed mats and rugs? What is the best way to care for it?  Sherry

Dear Sherry: Congratulations! I’ll bet your new luxury vinyl flooring is as gorgeous as it is practical. And affordable, too. Vinyl flooring has come a long way. But the problem remains that petroleum-based products like rubber can, over time, permanently stain vinyl.

Vinyl planks have chemicals in them. Most doormats and all kinds of floor mats with non-slip backing in the market contain rubber that can react with the chemicals found in vinyl planks causing the vinyl to appear stained.

That stain will be an ugly shade of yellow on light color vinyl. On darker vinyl and over time, the stain may give a dark, shadowy appearance on

To prevent discoloration, look for those made of or backed with PVC or polypropylene, which will not damage vinyl. Sierra Concepts offers an impressive line of PVC floor mats, some of which are safe for vinyl flooring. Here is one example:

You could apply lines of silicone caulk (not latex or rubber) to the back of a traditional bath mat with no rubber or latex backing to create a non-skid surface.

Another idea would be to use bath mats with no rubber backing over thick felt rug pads. As long as the pad is heavy and slightly smaller than the rug itself, it should stay in place and provide a luxurious cushion for your feet and protection for your floor.

As for the care and cleaning of vinyl flooring, here are some guidelines:

Preventing dirt and damage

Try minimizing dirt, stains, and abrasions before they occur. Dirt and dust, over time, can wear down and degrade the finish on any type of flooring, including vinyl tile or laminate. That’s why it is is always a good idea to locate a good-quality doormat or area rug in front of doorways so that grit and grime stop there and are not tracked into the house.

Never drag or furniture across vinyl flooring, and always use vinyl coasters under the feet and legs of your furniture to safeguard against permanent indentations.

Cleaning vinyl flooring

Vacuum and mop the floor with plain water to remove surface dirt, dust, hair, and product build-up in a bathroom. For weekly cleaning and disinfecting of vinyl flooring, use diluted plain white vinegar. The acidity helps removes dirt and grime without leaving a build-up of soap or wax.

To Use: Mix one cup vinegar with one-gallon hot water—a weak vinegar dilution. Use a damp mop to clean, rinsing the mop frequently with hot water. If the floor is filthy, add a few drops of Blue Dawn liquid dishwashing soap to the mixture before mopping. Then mop once with the soap mixture, a second time with the weak vinegar as above to rinse.

Super dirty, stained vinyl

This can be a problem, especially in older homes where dirt and grime have been allowed to build up over time; at doorways and along baseboards. The solution: Bar Keepers Friend cleanser.

The folks at BKF have confirmed that Bar Keepers Friend is excellent for deep-cleaning vinyl. Work in a small area, wetting the floor and sprinkling BKF as you go, scrubbing and cleaning as necessary to remove ground-in dirt, and making sure to rinse very well, before moving to another area.

What not to do

Keep these “Do Nots” in mind as you care for your new vinyl floor.

  • Do not use a “beater bar” attachment (or switch that rolling brush off if it is built into the vacuum) when vacuuming vinyl.  This can damage the flooring surface.
  • Never use highly-abrasive scrubbers or steel wool.
  • Do not use detergents, abrasive cleaners, or “mop and shine” products because these can leave a dull film on the floor.
  • Do not use paste wax or solvent-based polishes.
  • Do not use ammonia or ammonia-based cleaning solutions on vinyl flooring; these can break down the material and cause cracks in the flooring.

MORE: DIY Floor Cleaners for Wood, Laminate, Luxury Vinyl, Tile, Swiffer Refill


Healthy Artisan Bread Recipes

Love, love, love all the advice and the warm and caring relationship you have with your readers. Any 5-Minute Artisan Bread recipes that use 100% whole wheat (or whole wheat with oats), please? Cristina

Dear Cristina: Yes! Jeff Hertzberg M.D. and Zoë François, authors and creators of the 5-Minute Artisan Bread method, have published dozens of recipes like those you’re looking for in The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

This is a beautiful book with 33 new recipes and old favorites, including 100% Whole Wheat Bread, Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels, gluten-free breads, and other recipes showcasing whole grains and heirloom flours like spelt, sprouted wheat, and Khorasan.

Also new in this edition is a super-fast natural sourdough, using the quick and easy way to create bread that rival those of the finest bakeries in the world—with just five minutes a day of active preparation time! 

Your kind words mean the world to me. Here’s sending love, love, love right back to you!


Stubborn Water Spots

I’m an avid reader of your column but never thought I’d need your help. However, I let the lawn sprinkler spray all over my large picture window this summer. I thought nothing of it and just expected to be able to clean off the water spots when I got around to it.

First, I tried my regular window cleaning solution of household ammonia in warm water using a squeegee to dry. That didn’t work at all. The water spots were still all over my window. Next, I tried an aerosol spray glass cleaner with ammonia, which also did not clean off the water spots. Help! It is a south-facing window so I suppose the sun just baked those water spots on good, but there must be some way to get them off. Thanks for your help. LaVonne

Dear LaVonne: Have you tried plain white vinegar, straight up? I’d do that first, as vinegar is potent in removing calcium and mineral build-up. This would be the most straightforward option, so it makes sense to try that first.

If those spots remain, you likely have “silica stains.” Silica, which is found in all natural water in varying degrees, has bonded with the glass in your windows, causing them to appear etched. The good news is that you may be able to remove these silica stains yourself and bring your windows back to their original clean and sparkly condition, provided they have not become permanently damaged. Are you up for the challenge?

What you need to remove fine silica is a product that breaks the bond of the silica with the glass. Several very caustic chemicals will do that, but I won’t recommend you go that route because you would have to wear a respirator and heavy-duty gloves. And it could get pricey.

Instead, look at a non-toxic, biodegradable product with no acids, no bleach, and no chlorides, which does the same thing as more caustic options on glass and other surfaces.

AMAZ Water Stain Remover is, well … amazing! I’ve witnessed it remove tough silica stains with great success. It comes with a scrubber, so be sure to use it as you follow the label instructions.

I got a message from a reader not long ago who reported that he finally successfully removed 5-years worth of hard water stains on shower doors with AMAZ, and now the doors look brand new.

We’d love to know how things go, and which method solved your problem.


Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

dramatic kitchen upgrade with new peel n stick backsplash

29 Things Under $30 at Amazon That Will Dramatically Upgrade Your Home

These days, as the cost of just about everything increases, the best way to stretch money is to be smart with it. Could your space use a minor refresh? These affordable home upgrades just might do the trick.

dramatic kitchen upgrade with new peel n stick backsplash

Let’s face it, the cost of everything is skyrocketing.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without breaking the bank.

One way to make our money stretch farther is to scrimp on—or eliminate—things that don’t matter to have money for things that do. These inexpensive finds on Amazon prove it doesn’t have to cost a lot to make a dramatic home improvement.

Read more

A cup of coffee on a table

6 Awesome Gifts of Summer to Make Now for Christmas

Even if you didn’t have an abundant garden this year, don’t worry. You can still make these beautiful gifts of summer to hold onto for Christmas. You can find everything you need at a local farmer’s market. Won’t it be wonderful to welcome the Holiday Season knowing you have gifts ready to go?
Strawberry jam and fresh berries isolated on white

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Homemade Strawberry Jam for Christmast Gifts Sitting in Jars on a tableMix 2 cups crushed fresh strawberries with 4 cups sugar, and let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir one package dry pectin into 3/4 cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 1 minute. Stir the boiling solution into the strawberries. Allow standing for 3 minutes before pouring into jars or other storage containers. Place tops on the containers and leave for 24 hours. Freeze and store frozen until ready to give. Makes 5 pints.

Isn’t that a cute label for “Christmas Jam?” It’s a free printable HERE from AFamilyFeast.com

Read more

Man and woman shaking hands above table having negotiated a signed contract.

Everything I Know About Negotiating I Learned as a Matter of Survival

Every day you negotiate with kids, spouse, bosses, co-workers, employees, creditors, vendors, banks, friends, clerks, and salespeople. You negotiate with telemarketers and repair people, teachers, and neighbors. You negotiate with your words, tone, body language, and even your silence. Sometimes it’s a complex issue, but most of the time, it’s just a series of one-minute negotiations.

Man and woman shaking hands above table having negotiated a signed contract.

Driven to save myself and my family from financial ruin, I jumped into the deep end of the industrial real estate industry. I knew nothing about negotiating. All I knew was that I had to close deals. That meant bringing interested parties together, getting them to agree, and seeing that everyone walked away a winner.

I no longer sell real estate but still rely heavily on my learned negotiating skills. Sometimes it’s a complex issue, but most of the time, it’s just a series of one-minute negotiations. Everything I know about negotiating I learned as a matter of survival.

You are a negotiator

You negotiate with kids, a spouse, bosses, co-workers, employees, creditors, vendors, banks, friends, clerks, and salespeople. You negotiate with telemarketers and repair people, teachers, and neighbors. You negotiate with your words, tone, body language, and even your silence.

Getting what you want

Negotiating is how you get what you want, whether it’s a significant purchase or your teenage son putting the seat down.

Whether your negotiations involve an allowance program for your kids, settling a dispute with a contractor, managing a full refund on a bad purchase, or convincing a creditor to reduce your interest rate, learning to negotiate from strength will reduce tension, relieve stress, and build confidence.

Principles and Skills

Here are three principles and six essential skills that will help you develop your ability as an effective negotiator.

Principles

1. Something for everybody

The goal in a negotiation is not that everyone comes out an equal winner, but everyone should walk away satisfied. Negotiating a deal that gives something of value to each party is the mark of a wise negotiator.

2. The one with the most knowledge wins

Never forget that knowledge is power. The more you know, the better your chances of getting what you want. The actual skill comes in keeping what you know to yourself, revealing only a bit at a time and when doing so is to your advantage. In other words, stop the blather. Don’t feel you must fill every moment of silence with more of your superior knowledge and wisdom. Mark your words. Count to 10 in your mind if you must. When there’s is a dead spot, no one is saying anything—the first one to speak will lose. That alone will give you, who did not speak first, the advantage.

3. The least motivated party is in control

If the other party finds out how desperate you are to make the deal, you’ve just lost control. Anytime you can send non-verbal cues that you are not desperate, you gain an advantage.

A negotiator’s most potent tool is the simple act of calmly and slowly closing (never slamming) a notebook, briefcase, purse, calendar, or newspaper (whatever is handy). Without saying a word, you allow the other party to fear you may not continue.

In a virtual negotiation—on the phone, for example—you can send non-verbal cues such as a noticeable sigh or a well-placed “Hmmmm …” followed by a long silence.

Six Basic Negotiating Skills

1. Prepare

Do the research. Carefully formulate precisely what you want out of the deal.

2. Set limits

Know exactly how far you are willing to go and stick with it. This allows you to focus on your alternatives and keeps you from appearing desperate.

3. Create emotional distance

Stick to the facts. Put your emotions away. How? Visualize a box where you stuff your fear, anger, desperation, doubt, and tears. Apply the lid and tie it up with a big bright bow. Set it on a “shelf” so high you need a ladder to reach. There. Done.

4. Listen effectively

You do know why you have two ears and one mouth, right? Bite your tongue if you must, just make sure you do not interrupt and maintain eye contact. Listen! Then carefully, cautiously react.

5. Communicate clearly

Choose your words carefully, and then be quiet.

6. Know when to close

Perfect skills 1-5, and you will know instinctively how and when to close.

A Life Skill

Negotiating has to be one of my all-time favorite activities. But I do have one tiny concern. I just gave away all my secrets!


A young boy standing in front of a brick wall

What Are the Best Headphones for Kids, Adults, and Every Budget?

Many readers have recently asked about the best inexpensive headphones and earbuds for themselves and their kiddos. Today seems like a great day to respond.

dad and child with headphones against white brick wall

After considerable research and testing, what follows answers the question, “What are the best headphones?” based on value, price, and styles of headphones—for all ages, toddlers through adults.

Best Inexpensive Wireless Headphones

Soundcore by Anker Life Wireless Q30 Hybrid. High-res music and 40 hours playtime!  It’s easy to customize Life Q30’s noise cancellation with 3 modes—Transport minimizes airplane engine noise, Outdoor reduces traffic and wind, and Indoor dampens the sound of busy offices with people talking in the background.

Ankers Q30 noise cancelling headphones have ultra-soft protein leather earcups with memory foam padding to fit snugly over your ears. The lightweight build also ensures they’re comfortable for long listening sessions.

Best Inexpensive Wireless Earbuds

For the price, the Nord Buds are too good to pass up, especially for anyone who desires quality true wireless performance for less. Sound is dynamic and bass heavy at times, but the EQ customization helps balance things out. The controls work without a hitch and fast charging is a bonus.

Best Inexpensive Headphones for Toddlers

BuddyPhones Explore+, Volume-Limiting Kids Headphones are specific for toddlers, and cute as a button. Chatting online is a breeze with the inline microphone and built-in call button. Lightweight and foldable to around half the size, they’re ideal for taking on trips. These all-in-one headphones are great for online studying, gaming, traveling and everything in between.

Best Inexpensive Little Kids’ Headphones

The  Noot Foldable Wired Headphone is just perfect for kids who don’t need ultra-high quality sound. Tired of replacing busted headphones? These are about as indestructible as headphones can come and are designed to be volume-limiting—good for hearing health. So darned cute, too, coming in a variety of bright colors.

Best Wireless Headphones Kindergarten to ‘Tweens

Standard headphones are designed for adults and are too big for kids. These JBuddies over-ear headphones were specifically designed for children so that the headphones fit comfortably and don’t fall off. Over-ear design with comfy Eco Leather Cushions and padded headband offer all-day comfort for all ages, from grade school tykes to ‘tweens.

Best Inexpensive In-ear Bluetooth Sport/Fitness Earbuds

These Senso Bluetooth Headphones are ideal for the active listener who cannot be dealing with a cord draping from the ears to the device. Bluetooth is a highly state-of-the-art method by which headphones and a listening device can communicate with one another without a visible connection.

Personally, I love the style of these earbuds with their flexible behind-the-ear hooks that keep the headphones comfortably firm in place while I tap dance, turn cartwheels, and bunny jump—all while listening to my favorite music. You believe that? What you can believe is the part about me loving this particular style of wireless headphone.

Best Inexpensive Over-Ear Gaming Headset

The SteelSeries Arctis 3 All-Platform Gaming Headset is the best gaming headset overall, offering great sound, consistent wireless performance;  comfy, attractive design at a reasonable price.

Best Mid-Level Wired Headphones

1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones deliver an extremely accurate music-listening experience. For the discriminating listener as they delivery dynamic power and clarity. You’ll love the sizzling highs and deep lows. The built-in microphone and remote are Apple and Android compatible.

Best Mid-Level Over-Ear Wireless Headphones

Get ready for an elevated audio experience with the Skullcandy Hesh 2 Bluetooth Headphones. This is a sleek and simplified headset which will deliver amazing sound and long-lasting battery life (12 hours after a full charge). The backup cable comes with mic plus remote functionality, just in cas

https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.phpe. Powerful 50mm drivers for crystal clear, refreshingly loud and clear playback. Extremely comfortable, too.

Best High-End Over-Ear Headphones for Voice and Video Calls

Both Apple and Google have produced some pretty good over-the-ear headphones. However, they don’t offer anything special when it comes to intelligently minimizing ambient noise. If you’re looking for something better, look no further than Bose 700, which has the reputation of producing both the best over-year headphones for or calls and video. Bose’ intelligent microphone minimizes the amount of ambient noise.

Best High-End In-Ear Headphones for Voice and Video Calls

Like the Bose 700 (above), the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are a pair of largely music-focused headphones that also manage to deliver outstanding overall quality in voice and video calls. They use the same intelligent microphone arrays, only everything is squeezed into a much smaller pair of truly wireless earbuds.


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Canned peaches with large pot or canner

The Basics of Home Canning and How to Get Started—Quick & Easy!

Canned peaches with large pot or canner

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?

Your choices are  1) quickly consume your harvest before it spoils 2) give it away or 3) preserve it to enjoy in the future. One of the best ways to preserve—the method of food preservation that is making a big comeback—is known as “home canning.” Canning is not tricky, but it is a procedure that should be followed precisely.

Home Canning Overview

Generally, the process begins by sterilizing canning jars in boiling water. Then, once you’ve filled them with hot jam or another prepared recipe and applied lids, you boil them again. Proper canning or “heat-processing” hermetically seals the jar, meaning no air or tiny organisms can get in. It also kills any undesirables that may be present, like bacteria, yeast, or mold. In addition, it destroys naturally occurring enzymes that cause food to spoil.

For this process, known as home canning, you need a few pieces of equipment, a little time, and beautifully ripe produce. Your investment will pay off in spades come winter when you can enjoy summer all over again.

Beginners should start with fruit, jams, pickles, and tomatoes because these items are highly acidic and do not require a pressure canner—a process used for low-acid vegetables like green beans using high pressure plus high heat.

How to Can

1. Sterilize the jars, lids, and rings

In a big cooking pot filled with water, place jars and lids in the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Allow boiling for 10 minutes. Keep jars hot by turning heat down to simmer until ready to fill.

2. Make the recipe

Use one of the recipes below or another recipe of your choice that has been created specifically for canning. Again, if you are a beginning canner, start with a nice jam recipe or fruit in syrup.

3. Carefully remove jars from the pot

Empty the hot water from each jar back into the pot so you won’t have to heat new water later.

4. Place jars on a wooden cutting board or towel

Placing jars on a cold countertop could cause thermal shock, which could crack the jars. Place the funnel in the mouth of the jar; carefully ladle in the food item you have just prepared.

5. Fill jars allowing for headspace

The empty space between the food’s top and the jar’s top is called headspace. The amount of space depends on what you’re canning. Your recipe should indicate the amount of headspace required by that particular item.

6. Release air bubbles

Air bubbles can prevent jars from sealing and may affect the color of canned goods. Get rid of bubbles by sliding a nonmetal spatula or something like a plastic chopstick between the food and the inside of the jar. Make sure the item you use has been sterilized. You don’t want to introduce bacteria once you’ve been so careful to sterilize everything.

7. Clean up jars

Wipe jar rim and threads (the grooves the lid screws onto) with a clean, damp cloth. Food left on the jar rim or threads might prevent the jar from sealing once the lid and ring have been applied.

8. Apply lids and rings

With tongs, transfer one jar lid from the hot water to the top of each jar, ensuring it is centered perfectly on top of the jar. Apply a screw ring to each jar and twist until it is just finger-tight. Do not over tighten. The ring is to hold the lid in the correct position so that the seal can take place as the contents of the jar cool.

9. Process

Now, you are ready to process the jars. Place them back into the large pot of hot water. Once all the jars that will fit are in the pot, add enough water to cover the jars by at least one inch. Cover the pot and bring the water to a rapid boil over high heat. Boil jars for the required “processing time” indicated in your recipe of choice. For proper canning, water must boil rapidly during the entire processing time.

11. Turn off the heat

Remove lid from the large pot. Let jars cool in the water for five minutes. Remove jars from the pot, being careful not to tilt the jars. Place them on a towel. Allow sitting undisturbed for 24 hours.

12. Test for proper seal

To test each jar to make sure it is properly sealed, look at the lid from the side. It should be concave, slightly curved like the inside of a bowl. Next, press on the lid with your finger. If the lid springs back, the jar is not sealed. Immediately reprocess that jar or refrigerate it to be consumed within the next few days. The contents are perfectly edible and delicious, but, since it did not seal properly you would not want to put it on the shelf to be eaten six months from now.

13. Label and store

Make and apply labels for your jars that indicate the name of the contents and the date canned. Store in a cool, dark, non-humid place for up to one year.

Basic Equipment

Home canning jars

These are specially made, tempered jars with lids designed for canning. The jars can be reused for many years, but you will always want to use new lids (super cheap, easy to find).

Canning jars come in various sizes and are usually sold in boxes of 6 or 12. Each jar includes a two-piece lid. Look for canning jars online, in supermarkets, hardware stores, and discount department stores like Walmart and Target.

This set of twelve 8-oz (half-pint) jars with lids and rings is perfect for jams, jellies, and pickles.

Large covered water bath canner

A water bath canner must be deep enough to completely immerse the jars with 1 to 2 inches of water covering the top of the lids. Canners have a rack to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. You can improvise by using any large stockpot with a wire cooling rack or trivet placed in the bottom.

Jar lifter

A jar lifter is a very handy tong-like tool for removing freshly processed jars from the boiling water without tilting them. It looks like wide tongs.

Wide mouth canning funnel

A canning funnel makes filling your jars simple in a safe and tidy way.

A non-metallic spatula

You want to avoid anything metallic from coming in contact with your prepared food item, so use a non-metallic spatula, a long plastic knife, or chopstick to run through the filled jars to release trapped air bubbles.

Linens

Clean dishcloths or small towels to wipe the rims before placing the lids on the jars and a heavy dish towel or absorbent mat to set the hot jars on after they’ve been removed from the canner.

Resources

Pick-Your-Own Farms Near Me

This is a useful website that will help you find local pick-your-own orchards and farms in your local area.

National Center for Home Food Preservation

This NCHFP offers free, comprehensive information that covers every aspect of canning and food preservation. You can take self-study courses, and find the answers to just about any question you can imagine.

Free USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning

This free guide contains complete instructions for how to can peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines, and vegetables like peppers, beans, okra, and corn. You’ll need a pressure canner to process low-acid vegetables at 240 F.

Books

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, by Judi Kingry, is considered by many to be the bible of home canning. This book includes comprehensive directions on safe canning and preserving methods plus lists of required equipment and utensils. Specific instructions for first-timers and handy tips for the experienced make the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving a valuable addition to any kitchen library. It also includes 400 enticing recipes.

Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry, by Liana Krissoff. A hip, modern guide to home canning, chock-full of approachable, time-tested, accurate recipes, and intriguing new flavor pairings. In this Updated and Expanded Edition, Krissoff includes 50 new recipes for food preservation in addition to her favorites.

Website

The Simply Canning website is designed so that even a beginner can fill a pantry! The site offers hundreds of recipes created specifically for home canning, plus lots of instruction, helps, tips and tricks.

Home Canning Kit

The Granite Ware Canning Essentials Kit, 8-Piece Set includes a 21-quart canner, lid, 7-jar rack, bubble remover, jar lifter,  lid wrench, funnel, tongs, and magnetic lid lifter—everything needed to begin canning (except the jars), at a price much lower than if you acquire each of the essential items separately. Look for similar kits at stores like Walmart and Target.

Fabulous Starter Recipes

peach raspberry homemade jam in hands of woman

Blushing Peach Jam

A decadent blend of peaches and raspberries with just a hint of almond ... oh my! This is the jam you will want in the middle of winter. So easy to make and preserve so that you can enjoy it many, many months from now. Or ... Holiday Gifts!
4.75 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 64
Calories: 89kcal
Cost: Varies

Equipment

  • Stock pot or canner

Ingredients

  • 2 cups peaches peeled, pitted, and crushed
  • 2 cups red raspberries crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 7 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 6-oz. liquid fruit pectin
  • few drops almond extract

Instructions

  • Sterilze jars and lids in boiling water or dishwasher on hottest "sterlize" setting.
  • In the meantime, to the peaches add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Let stand while preparing raspberries.
  • Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice to the raspberries.
  • Combine peaches and raspberries with sugar in a heavy saucepan. Mix well and bring to a boil. Boil hard for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and add pectin. Stir and skim; add a few drops of almond extract.
  • Pour into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
  • Process in boiling bath for 10 minutes. Yield: 4 half-pint jars jam.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tblspn | Calories: 89kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 11mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 16IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
Tasty home canning caramel apple jam in glass jars.

Tasty apple and cinnamon jams in glass jars.

Tasty home canning caramel apple jam in glass jars.

Caramel Apple Jam

Autumn in a jar! That's what you'll think every time you spread this yummy jam on toast. Or pour it on top of ice cream! Simply amazing.
4.75 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 91
Calories: 50kcal
Cost: Varies

Equipment

  • Stock pot or canner
  • 7 half-pint canning jars with rings and lids

Ingredients

  • 6 cups apples, Granny Smith or Gala peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tspn butter
  • 1 pkg fruit pectin, powder 1.8 oz.
  • 3 cups white granulated sugar
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar packed tightly
  • ½ tspn ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tspn ground nutmeg

Instructions

  • Sterilize jars and lids in boiling water or the "sterilize" hottest setting on dishwasher.
  • In the meantime, mix apples, water, and butter in a heavy pot. Cook over low heat, stirring until apples are soft but not mushy.
  • Stir in pectin.
  • Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly.
  • Add sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • Return to a rolling boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat; skim foam.
  • Pour into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Apply lids and rings, loosely.
  • Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Yield: 7 half-pint jars.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tblspn | Calories: 50kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 15mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 4IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

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 affiliated sites. 


all purpose cleaners on the store shelves

Best All-Purpose Cleaners For Every Place in Your Home

All-purpose cleaners are designed to clean everything from dust bunnies to toilet rings and grease spills. We evaluated many commercial products for effectiveness, ease of use, versatility, price, and overall value. These are our picks for the seven best all-purpose cleaning products for keeping your house clean.

all purpose cleaners on the store shelves

Contents

1. Best Inexpensive
2. Best for Gunk
3. Best for Kitchen
4. Best Overall
5. Best Concentrate
6. Best Scent
7. Best Value

Best Inexpensive

Don’t let that low price fool you. Soft Scrub is fantastic for cleaning almost anything, including countertops, sinks, showers, toilet bowls, and appliances. It removes grease, grime, sticky stuff, soap scum, lime scale, and hard water stains from surfaces. It’s fast-acting and easy to use. Simply spray on a cloth or tissue and wipe away any mess.

Best for Gunky Grunge

Is The Pink Stuff really a miracle cleaner? Millions of social media fans think it is since becoming all the rage on TikTok. But we weren’t buying all the hype without trying it.

We tried this on a few grungy, grimy situations, and it performed really well on porcelain sinks, tubs, and toilets—even on those decals and antislip patches on the bottom of older tubs. It left stainless steel faucets, fixtures and appliances dazzling! It made quick work out of cleaning the glass oven door and glass cooktop to like-new sparkle. But it did nothing to clean white grout, which is puzzling.

So it is a miracle? Actually, I would put it in that category for gunky, grungy situations, as mentioned, but not across the board for every cleaning job. Bottom line, you won’t be disappointed with the price for all the things that The Pink Stuff can do.

As always, test any new product first in an inconspicuous place!

Best for Kitchen

As a natural, plant-based product, Better Life All-Purpose cleaner is an exceptional option for cleaning in the kitchen. It’s safe, non-toxic, and scent-free. Ingredients listed include soap bark, cocoanut and corn: no harsh chemicals or synthetic soaps. You can even skip that extra rinse. Not only for the kitchen, but this product is also excellent for daily bathroom cleaning.

Best Overall All-Purpose Cleaner

If you can have only one all-purpose cleaning product in the cupboard, without a doubt, it should be Mr. Clean’s Clean Freak Deep Cleaning Mist spray. First, it comes in a unique spray bottle that actually works. And Mr. Clean Freak cleans grout, tile, appliances, cabinets, countertops, showers, sinks, toilets, mirrors, windows, ceilings, and walls like a clean freak!

It removes soap scum, urine stains, water rings, and grease stains—on just about any surface you can think of and any messy situation you can imagine. Easy to use, too. Just spray and wipe away with a damp cloth. Simply spray onto the area where the cleaning needs to take place then wipe off with a damp cloth

Amazingly, 82% of 13,400 Amazon reviewers give Mr. Clean Freak Deep-Cleaning Mist 5-stars, and we know why. It’s an excellent cleaning product.

Best Multi-Purpose Cleaning Concentrate

Short on storage space for cleaning products? Consider this gallon jug of Fabuloso Concentrate. When diluted per label instructions it makes 64 gallons of multi-purpose cleaning liquid—just 1/4 cup concentrated Fabuloso to one-gallon water. Depending on how often you clean, this could last for years. Six-four gallons!

Even more, it works well for routine cleaning and maintenance.

Best Scent in an All-Purpose Cleaner

Sure homemade cleaners can work well, but you might find something missing. Things look clean, but you miss that subtle, fragrant scent that makes everything smell clean. If this describes you and your family, you will be thrilled with Mrs. Meyer’s. It’s a great cleaner, available in lemon verbena or lavender scent.

Best Value All-Purpose Cleaner

Of all the choices, Lysol Disinfectant Clean & Fresh will likely give you the best bang for your buck. That’s because it is a disinfectant plus an excellent surface cleaner. When applied to hard surfaces, the multi-use formula kills 99.9% t of germs in one minute flat. And it goes beyond disinfecting. This all-in-one cleanser removes stains, cuts through grease, and melts away soap scum.  It works best on non-porous surfaces like plastic, tile, and glass, but you can safely use this product to clean almost everything.

FAQs

What is an all-purpose cleaner used for?

All-purpose cleaners contain ingredients designed to remove surface dirt and grime from most types of surfaces. Make sure to check the labels on any cleaning products before using them on surfaces where they could damage them. Most cleaners can be used on countertops, sinks, and fixtures, though some may not be suitable for certain surfaces. You can use some products to clean glass surfaces and hard surface flooring too.

How do you use an all-purpose cleaner?

Spray bottle cleaners can be used directly on the dirty surface, or they can be applied to a cleaning cloth. Liquid all-purpose cleaners come in larger bottles that are typically diluted with water. Make sure you read the label before using any cleaning products. Best cleaning products don't need rinsing after they've been used.

What is an all-purpose cleaner?

An all-purpose cleaner is a product that removes grease and grime from various surfaces without requiring vigorous scrubbing, leaving no residue behind. Spray applications are best for small areas and quick clean-ups, while concentrated products are generally better for floors and large cleaning jobs.


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The Super EZ Way to Clean Messy Burnt Pots, Pans, Casseroles

I consider myself an expert on this topic. I have the unique talent of creating horrible burnt-on messes in casserole dishes, skillets, stainless steel pots—even a Le Creuset dutch oven. I can do this on the stovetop, in the oven, outdoor grill, and microwave, too.

A person standing in front of a refrigerator

I did it again just the other night. I returned a stainless steel frying pan to the burner set to medium after I’d plated most of its contents and walked away.

We had a lovely meal of Shrimp Scampi Bowls (thank you, Home Chef) while that pan sat there and created yet another opportunity for me to demonstrate my unique skill. It was bad.

Dumb me, I didn’t think to snap a photo to show you the “before” until that mess was halfway through cleaning itself. Here is a semi-before and after comparison.

cooking pans

There are multiple ways to deal with this kind of kitchen challenge—most of which will work to some degree, eventually. But as far as I am concerned, there is only one method that is totally amazing because it’s pretty much automatic and works all by itself in an hour—more or less—depending on the severity of the situation.

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man smelling sour milk and not enjoying the experience

Don’t Throw That Out! 7 Ways to Safely Reclaim Spoiled Food

Have you ever walked into the kitchen to get that first cup of coffee only to discover someone left the ice cream on the counter all night? Or the milk? I don’t hate spoiled food as much as I did before I found clever ways to use items I used to throw out.

man smelling spoiled food sour milk and not enjoying the experience

Sour Milk

It often happens in warm weather, with even a limited milk supply; some of it turns sour before you can use it. Don’t throw it out, even if there is only a little. Sour milk is a valuable kitchen asset!

Have a clean glass to pour the remnants in, and keep it in the fridge until you have accumulated one cup. Then plan to use it as soon as it thickens since milk becomes bitter if it stands too long. Note: Recipes using sour milk must include baking soda. Sour Milk Biscuits.


Melted Ice Cream

Use melted ice cream for baking a cake. Your liquid, fat, and flavorings are premeasured in the ice cream. And if that ice cream just happens to have big chunks of chocolate, pralines, cookie dough, cherries or nuts, all the better. Like the ice cream, your cake will be filled with yummy goodness. Melted Ice Cream Cake.

Stale Bread

Fear not if you can’t finish that loaf or baker’s dozen before it goes stale. Day-old croissants, muffins, cornbread, or bread make great bread pudding. For every 2 cups of these cubes, add 1 cup of milk or half-and-half, an egg, and some sugar and raisins to a buttered baking dish. Bake at 350° F until it’s slightly quivery when jiggled.

Stale chips, crackers

Use leftover potato chips by crunching them over baked casseroles. Stale crackers and tortilla chips are also excellent candidates to add that crunch factor.

Leafy Vegetables

Stop and reassess before you toss wilted, soggy, leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and lettuce into the garbage. Their beauty may have waned, but they are still nutrient-dense and a great addition to your next morning smoothie. Put them in a bag and store in the freezer.

HINT: Do the same with grapes and berries that are on their last leg before turning to mush. Apple peelings, too.

Zucchini

Using all the zucchini while they are still firm and fresh is not always easy. Here’s an idea for zucchinis that aren’t as crisp as you’d prefer: Snip off the ends and grate on a cheese grater. Squeeze to remove as much water as possible, then toss with egg, flour, and parmesan cheese to make Easy Zucchini Fritters.

Cheese

Fromage fort. It’s not what you’re thinking—blankets of cheese spread over furniture for kids’ play! Actually, it’s French for “strong cheese.” Translated, it is a delightfully economical blend of whatever odds and ends of cheese you have, plus some wine, garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs.

Basically, you throw all of it (think leftovers from last night’s party) into the blender and Voila!, a spread for crackers and baguette, or a dip for veggies. This really is quite amazing.

There are no rules or recipes, just guidelines. But the main thing, the salient bit, is that you just wing it.  Check it out!


money under lock chain to show concept of retirement account

5 Reasons Busting Into Your Retirement Account is Super Risky

Millions of workers are now dipping into retirement accounts to cover everything from weddings and vacations to ordinary living expenses. Perhaps you’ve considered it yourself. Seeing a retirement account as a savings account—or worse, a personal ATM—is super risky. Sure it’s your money, but it’s not your money now. It’s for later. 

money under lock chain to show concept of retirement account

The beauty of an IRS-sanctioned employer-sponsored retirement account (401k, 403b etc.)  is that you get to save pre-tax dollars.

It’s no secret that what you see in your paycheck is not the full amount you earned. In fact, the amount in your paycheck is shrinking, and many of our elected officials are trying to shrink that even further by increasing taxes. You know what I mean if you live in California—one of the most heavily taxed states. But I digress.

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Collage depicting many uses for baking soda

36 Clever and Frugal Uses for Baking Soda (Not Just for Baking!)

You’ll find it in small boxes in the supermarket aisle next to flour, sugar, and cake mixes. It comes in 10-lb. bags at Costco, shelved next to the pancake and waffle mix. It’s a key ingredient in light, fluffy biscuits. But baking soda is not just for baking.

Collage depicting many uses for baking soda

What is baking soda, anyway?

Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda or bicarbonate of soda, is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3. It is a salt composed of a sodium cation and a bicarbonate anion. This simple chemical compound is found in nature, harvested, and ground to a fine powder for household use.

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homemade wasp trap from empty plastic bottle hanging in a tree

DIY Wasp Trap That Really Works and Other Great Reader Tips

Are you aware that your health insurance may cover the cost of gym membership? Or everything you need to trap wasps is as close as your trash can and food pantry. Your fellow readers know all of that and lots more—and they’re ready to share.

homemade wasp trap from empty plastic bottle hanging in a tree

Wasp trap

We have a lot of wasps in the summer, and commercial wasp traps at my grocery store cost $16.99 each, so I make my own. I take an empty plastic bottle, cut the top off just below the point where it tapers up to the screw-on lid, then inverted the top and place it inside the bottom portion. I bait my trap with a few inches of this mixture: 3/4 cup white vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt.  Then I set it on my deck, or hang it in a tree—anywhere wasps appear.  The wasps can’t resist so they fly or crawl into the bottle, can’t figure out how to get out, and eventually die. It works like a charm, and it’s almost free. When the trap gets full, I toss it out and make another.

Hotel insider info

Always check the hotel website before making a reservation. That’s where you will find our best rates. At the hotel where I work, when you reserve through Travelocity and Expedia, you’ll end up paying the full rate plus the third-party commission—really pricey! Carey

Good deal on men’s belts

Popular discount clothing stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross frequently have a pretty good selection of high-quality men’s leather belts. The only problem for me is that the name-brand belts they carry are usually in sizes too big for me. I buy them anyway and take them to a shoe repairman near my home who removes the buckles, cuts off the extra inches, and reattaches the buckles. He charges me $3 to $5 a belt. I spend, on average, $15 to $20 for a belt that retails in department stores for $50 to $80 or more. Bob

Fee-free gym membership

As one who struggles with being overweight, I was happy to learn that my health insurance company would pay for a three-month gym membership. But there’s more: If I lost weight at the end of three months, they would continue paying for a year. I have just completed three months and lost 9 pounds. I am so excited! Check with your insurance company. You may have the same, similar, or even better benefit just waiting for you to claim. Lydia

Easy clean fridge

Empty and then wash the inside of your refrigerator and let it dry. Once dry, apply Glad Press’n Seal plastic food wrap to each shelf and another horizontal surface. Now put everything back in. When something spills or otherwise gets yucky, simply remove your items, peel off the dirty Glad Wrap, put another layer down and refill. No muss, no fuss, easy, fast, and simple. Tim

Free college texts

Both of my kids attended University of California schools. One borrowed required textbooks from the library and the other found .pdf copies of books online. Neither had to purchase more than two books in the four years of their schooling. Corina

M.O.M eliminates odors

I have always had a very strong body odor. It didn’t matter what kind of deodorant or antiperspirant I used, it never worked for me. Then I heard that regular milk of magnesia worked as a daily deodorant. I tried it and have been using it for over a decade. I pour a little bit of the store-brand milk of magnesia on a cotton square, pat it on my armpit, and then repeat with the other armpit. A little bit lasts all day. Milk of magnesia can dry out quickly in the bottle, so just add a little water and shake well. Lynda


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A Vacuum Cleaner Story So Disgusting It Is Embarrassing to Tell

Even though not 100% organized, I pride myself on housekeeping to the point of being accused a time or two of being a wee bit compulsive. This brings me to the matter of vacuum cleaners. I’m particular, if not freakish, about vacuums. There was a time when I wore out vacuums so often that the folks at the Recycling Center knew me by name.

Let me take you back to 2007. I’d just blown out my third Hoover Wind Tunnel, having worn that thing down to its last gasp. I carried it in pieces to the Recycle Center. I was planning to replace it with the latest and greatest from Hoover until I heard about the Shark Navigator.

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You Need an Emergency Fund (How to Get Started!)

Emergencies are a fact of life. When faced with an unexpected event—from a broken bone to a job layoff—it’s good to be prepared. Nothing new there, I’m sure. We know what we should do. It’s actually doing it that eludes so many.

Meet Mitch and Jenn

Several years ago, Mitch and Jenn had a string of bad luck. Mitch broke his leg in a skiing accident, Jenn’s car broke down, requiring major repairs and their home’s aged roof failed right in the middle of a major winter storm.

The timing for all of this wasn’t ideal—four weeks before Christmas. The financial and emotional toll of these events continues to be huge. Still, nothing like it might have been if they hadn’t been diligently building their Contingency Fund, more commonly known as an emergency fund.

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Credit cards. Financial business background.

When Breaking Up (with a Credit Card) is Hard to Do

Reaching into my virtual mailbag for today’s post, I found several questions on the same general subject: credit cards—how to manage them and how to safely close a credit card account. 

Credit cards. Financial business background.

Boy, does this flood my mind with memories of not dealing well with credit myself. As you may know, my trip into the pit of credit card despair and the long but glorious journey out—all the way to debt-free!—not only changed the course of my life, I’ve had the joy of leading thousands of others out of that debilitating lifestyle as well. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

Slammed by a rate increase

Dear Mary: We have only one credit card with a balance of $18,000. The bank just gave us 45-days notice that our rate is going from 9.9% to 22.9%. I called to find out why and learned the bank pulled our credit reports that showed too much credit with balances that are too high. We have no late payments and decent credit scores. They will do nothing unless I can prove the credit report they pulled months ago had incorrect information on it. It was correct at the time. Is there anything we do? Donna

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woman removing clothes and towels from clothes dryer

How to Stop Ruining Your Clothes and Household Linens

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 certain you did not wash a bag of pillow stuffing!

hand removing dirty lint screen of dryer while doing laundry

I’ll tell you what it is because I face the same thing and am not happy about this: It’s visual proof that the dryer is prematurely wearing out our clothes and household linens. Those fibers were neatly woven into these clothes only 30 minutes ago. A clothes dryer’s convenience can come at the price of having to replace clothes much too often if used improperly.

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personalized pencils make inexpensive awesome gifts

Great $1 Gift Idea for People of All Ages—Kids Teens Adults

Does this sound at all familiar to you? It’s the week before Christmas, and you thought you were done shopping. But then you remembered the little kids across the street. And the guys at the office. Oh, the kids’ teachers and the nice ladies at the library. And your children want to give little gifts to all their friends. Yikes! Your list is expanding right before your eyes. 

personalized pencils make inexpensive awesome gifts

How could you have possibly forgotten so many special people? You want to give a little something, but what? You don’t have a lot of money and even less time. You’re feeling the urge to charge up a pile of last-minute gifts, and it doesn’t feel good.

Teachers know best

Reader Ceil Humphreys, a retired Florida school teacher has come up with the perfect solution to this dilemma we’ve all experienced at one time or another. She’s famous for giving personalized pencils. Ceil doesn’t limit herself to a person’s name. Instead, she has fun coming up with words that describe that person.

One year Ceil gave her university-professor brother-in-law pencils that read, “Mr. Tom the Science Guy.” He loved it! Her high school nephew won the coveted role as his high school mascot, so that year, his pencils insisted that Tigers Rule.

Let your mind run wild

Unleash your imagination and see how this idea works for all ages. Big Man on Campus, My Kids’ Dad, Princess Alysha, I’m the Big Sister, Office Mama, I Brake for Quilts, Spoiled Rotten, World’s Best Nana, Cool Dude. Everyone loves to see themselves in print.

Ceil orders pencils from For Teachers Only, an online store owned by the Atlas Pen and Pencil Corp. Good news. This site is NOT for teachers only! Trust me, I’ve called and verified that.

Not for teachers only

Log on to ForTeachersOnly.com and click on “Pencils.” Scroll down to see “Personalized Pencils,” a set of three colorful, No. 2 pencils personalized in gold (maximum 60 letters and spaces on one line) that come in a neat vinyl pencil pouch (item T-17) for just $1.10. Use the code WELCOME15 to get 15% off through Dec. 31, 2022. That’s a $1 gift. And if you are a teacher? A buck-a-student these days makes for a very affordable gift idea.

NOTE: There is a $30 minimum order requirement, but that could be easily met if you have an extended list or a few friends who’d like to share your order.

Don’t wait until last minute

This is not a gift idea you can leave for the last minute. First, you need time to come up with clever names. And then there’s ordering time. Even though it’s still summer, you have no time to waste if you’re thinking Christmas.


Sweet Homemade Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake Ready to Eat

Killer Chocolate Fudge Bundt Cake

Just in time for your weekend plans, the most decadent, intensely chocolatey, take-a-sliver-every-time-you-pass-it chocolate cake. Moist and rich, the secret ingredient is (wait for it) … yogurt! That’s what makes this cake so moist and yummy. I dare you not to love it at first bite.

Sweet Homemade Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake Ready to Eat

Hot Wheels, Anyone?

Let me tell you about this cake. It goes back to my two super-fun years at Mattel Toys, 6th Floor, Hot Wheels Package Engineering, Hawthorne, Calif. My supervisor and I had become fast friends. Mel was the best.

Together, we’d mastered the all-new Friden 5610 Computyper, now proudly displayed in the National Museum of American History (I know, right?!). This new technology was challenging for sure, but we had so much fun learning how to use the thing because Mel had that delightful way of keeping me in stitches with her keen sense of humor.

The Hot Wheels Package Engineering team was small but mighty, bonded together by all the goodies Mel would bring and display proudly in the break room.

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A pan of food on a plate, with Steak

Best Inexpensive Cast Iron Skillet and How to Love It

The venerable cast iron skillet is making a big comeback among home cooks. Our grandmothers would be so proud! And why not? The best quality cast iron skillet is super cheap compared to its pricey stainless and non-stick competitors, cast iron lasts forever and face it—it’s cool to cook in cast iron.

A plate of food on a table, with Steak

I must have been all of 10 years old the day I decided to surprise my mother by cleaning her old black cast iron skillet. It embarrassed me that, over the years, it had become so gross. Naively, I assumed that she’d burned too many Sunday roasts in it, and that’s why it was never shiny with a copper bottom—like the rest of our pots and pans.

I started with a household cleanser and steel wool. I scrubbed on a single spot for what seemed like hours. I couldn’t break through that burned-on “crust” to save my soul. Finally, I just gave up.

I wouldn’t realize until years later that I was working on a fine piece of cast iron—a skillet I’m sure I managed to un-do years of coveted “seasoning” that makes a cast iron skillet virtually nonstick.

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Group of kids going to school together.

Back to School, Ready or Not!

Just when we’re getting used to the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, compelling ads tell us it’s time to unload our wallets at back-to-school sales.

Group of kids going to school together.

Retailers expect we will buy an entire year’s worth of clothes for each child (on sale, of course) and hope we’ll do that with a credit card. They know that plastic-packing shoppers spend far more than those with cash. And you’ll know just how lucrative credit sales are for them in the end by how many clerks suggest you open a new credit line to get 15% off your first purchase.

Well, my frugal friends, there is a better way. We can change the rules. We have alternatives.

Buck the system

There is no good reason to buy an entire school year’s worth of clothes and supplies at the beginning of a new school year. Kids don’t need their whole school wardrobe the first week. New shoes and a special outfit for the first day help a child feel comfortable and confident. Just buy a few things now, then supplement as the school year progresses and the kids go through their growth spurts.

Set a spending plan

Let your kids know how much cash you’ve allotted to prepare for school. Rather than saying, “That’s all we can afford,” say, “This is the amount we choose to spend now.” Then stick to your guns. When parents say nothing about spending limits, kids assume their resources are unlimited.

Think creatively

Some of the best sales are held after the back-to-school sales when all the overstock is dumped on the bargain racks in anticipation of the holidays.

Match quality with the need

Because they grow so fast, it is pointlessly expensive to dress children in brand-name clothes unless you can find them at rock-bottom prices. But when it comes to items they will not outgrow, like backpacks, opt for the best quality you can afford. Cheap backpacks will wear out before the end of one year, while a name brand like Jansport or Eastpak will last for many years. Check out Jansport’s lifetime no-hassle warranty at Jansport.com.

If a zipper breaks on a Jansport backpack, the seam pops open, or that warranted backpack gives out for any reason, send it to the company. They really will fix or replace it. I have reports from readers whose kids took their original purchase in elementary school on to college. On several occasions, it wasn’t the same backpack (due to replacements along the way), but they made that single purchase. Now that’s what I call value!

Let the kids help

Loosening the purse strings and allowing the kids access to money for their school clothes and supplies might be scary, but it can be amazingly effective. Give your mature children the money allotted for their back-to-school shopping and let them handle it within the guidelines you’ve set and your family’s values. Allow them latitude to make their own decisions without your intervention, even if that means blowing the whole amount on a single pair of jeans. A foolish decision? Yes, and one your young lady may not have to learn again, especially when she sees her little sister bought several outfits with the same amount.

Discover consignment shops

These are upscale second-hand stores where customers are both buyers and sellers. Many specialize in children’s clothing, much are brand-new items with tags attached. As a general rule of thumb, expect to pay 25 to 30 percent of the new price. Some parents buy brand-name clothing for growing children because those items typically land in consignment shops. It’s a way for them to recoup a portion of the purchase price potentially.

Shop garage sales

You can find excellent kids’ clothing bargains at garage sales. Top-of-the-line quality can be picked up for a song, provided you’re in the right place at the right time and have a flexible spirit. The garage sale season is fading fast, so time is of the essence.

School supplies

Check office supply stores for the best price on everything from crayons to binders and notebook paper. When you find a remarkable sale (notebook paper, for example, is dirt cheap now at Staples stores and Staples.com, but only once a year), stock up for the school year. If you work in an office, keep your eyes open for binders hitting the trash and blank computer paper on one side that can be recycled in the classroom and at home. Check with your student’s teachers first, but many will accept homework printed on recycled office paper.

Question: As a parent, which do (or did) you prefer for your kiddos, and why:

1. School uniforms

2. School’s basic dress code

3. Free-for-all—show up wearing anything you want

Response in the comments area below, keeping in brief and on subject. Thanks!

girls-children-dog-pet

15 Ways to Cut the Cost of Owning a Pet

No one was more surprised than I when my first granddog, Sir Boddington the English Bulldog, nuzzled a place in my heart. I knew I was smitten the day I loaded up on toys, milk bones, and other doggie delights. 

girls-children-dog-pet

I blame it on Boddie that I so willingly became a member of the U.S. population currently spending $58 billion a year on food, supplies, and services such as grooming, boarding, and medical care for their 42.7 million pets. So how can you afford to care for your furry friend in sickness and in health? Make prevention and maintenance your top priority as a pet owner.

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female using Chromebook on desk

Chromebook Laptops Better Than Ever—Cheaper, Too!

It’s no secret that Chromebooks are taking over the computer market. And now they’re better than ever—improved functionality and an excellent user experience!

female using Chromebook on desk

The need for a traditional Windows or macOS laptop computer is no longer dire. Phones and tablets are often more than sufficient for casual users. And when should a laptop computing device becomes necessary, a Chromebook may fill the bill—at a fraction of the cost of macOS or Windows laptop.

This post will answer all your questions—what a Chromebook is exactly, how it differs from a traditional PC, and which ones you should consider.

What is a Chromebook?

You may be used to choosing between Apple’s macOS and Windows when shopping for a new computer. Since 2011, Chromebooks have offered a third option. These computers don’t run Windows or macOS operating systems. Instead, they run on Linux-based Chrome OS.

Chromebooks have become so popular manufacturers are competing like crazy to expand functionality while at the same time lowering the price. You know who wins that game, right? Consumers—college students for sure, and just in time for Christmas, too! Chromebooks are ideal for the budget-conscious, especially if you’re looking for a new computer that you can take on the go.

12 Reasons You Might Like a Chromebook

The main thing to remember when comparing a laptop to a Chromebook is that it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. The main difference, besides price, is the operating system. Chromebooks are vastly different from a laptop, and some of those differences make them an excellent choice for a notebook computer. Some of the reasons a Chromebook might be for you include:

  1. The price. If you have a tight budget, you can pick up a new Chromebook for around $300—just don’t blink. Electronics prices, like everything else, are soaring.
  2. Quick boot up. Chromebook powers up in less than 10 seconds.
  3. It has no programs installed—no bloatware or freeware, relying on web-based programs and websites. All of your docs are stored in the cloud.
  4. Chromebook is great for surfing the Internet, handling email, and enjoying entertainment and music. As long as you have an Internet connection, you’re in like Flynn.
  5. Chrome OS is nearly impervious to online attacks, and has built-in security and the ability to heal itself.
  6. You have access to free apps through the Google marketplace.
  7. Some Chromebooks can run Android apps.
  8. It has long-lasting battery life.
  9. Chromebooks are lightweight and easy to take along on the go—to class, a meeting, or a trip.
  10. Chromebooks have an easy-to-use interface, which is good even for school children.
  11. Chromebooks have automatic OS updates, so you don’t need to do anything.
  12. Makes a great backup. A Chromebook makes an excellent and affordable secondary device if you already have a PC or laptop.

How Chromebook is different from a traditional laptop computer

  1. When setting up a Chromebook, you must log in using your Google account and password. You can head right to Google Docs, Google’s browser-based word processor. You can create, edit, and share documents online and access them from any computer or device with an Internet connection. This makes the Chromebook an ideal choice for college students because wifi is abundantly available all over campus including in dorms.
  2. Some Chromebook keyboards have unique keys like “Search” and “Launcher.” Where a normal Windows or Command key would be on another computer, you will see a button that opens up Google Assistant.
  3. Chromebooks aren’t known for their speed or robustness. If you’re looking for a high-quality computer replacement or a laptop for work, a Chromebook might not be right. They’re not ideal for games or anything that needs lots of power. So, you should look for an Apple Macbook or a more expensive Windows computer if you want to use your laptop for gaming.
  4. If you’re used to Windows or macOS, Google’s minimalist Chrome operating system may not have all the necessary functionality. But then again, perhaps it does. With some Chromebooks dipping below $300, you stand to save a bundle of cash by foregoing the features you don’t use anyway.

Chromebook overview

A Chromebook laptop is ideal for someone who wants to surf the Internet, communicate by email, stream movies and videos, manage photos, and collect tons of music. While each of the computers I’m about to recommend has internal storage plus ports to add external hard drives, flash drives, and even memory cards, generally, a Chromebook is designed to be used while connected to the Internet.

There are countless Google apps (software) for Chromebooks, and they’re all free. Just remember, a Chromebook is not a Microsoft Windows computer. Chromebooks vs. Windows Laptops: The Real Story does a great job of listing the differences—and why a in many situations chromebook is so much better (and so much cheaper) in many situations. A Chromebook operates with a secure, fast, and super simple OS. You know, the opposite of Windows.

Finding a decent Chromebook in stock during the back-to-school shopping season can be difficult. If none of our picks are available, we recommend setting up stock alerts using NowInStock.net or browser extensions like Keepa. If you can’t find a new Chromebook anywhere, consider a used one, but double-check the official end-of-support date before buying.

How to select the right Chromebook?

If you go online or walk into a store’s electronics department to purchase a Chromebook for the first time, prepare to be hit with a serious case of FUD—fear, uncertainty, and doubt. That’s because hundreds Chromebooks from dozens of manufacturers have tons of options. But not to worry. I do not expect you to slog through all of this technical stuff to figure out your best inexpensive option. It’s my job to do the hard work so you won’t have to. I suggest you start by looking at these:

EC Best Inexpensive

Both Lenovo Chromebook—Flex 5 (13″) and Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook (13″)—are remarkable. Both are great laptops with faster performance than most Chromebooks under $500.

Also great …

Not the most inexpensive, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is faster, smaller, lighter than Lenovo Flex 5, and has longer battery life. How could that matter? If you frequently have dozens of tabs open and run multiple Android apps. It has greatly increased memory, too and these two upgrades could make things infinitely better for you. Of course, you will pay for them as this Chromebook is quite a bit more expensive than the two above. Note: This Chromebook has only USB-C ports. You will need a dongle or dock to accommodate older peripherals i.e, printer etc.


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family travel airport

Random, Useful, Fun Travel Tips

Whether you’ll be traveling in the next few weeks or have plans for a trip over the Holidays, it’s always a good time for travel tips. Start thinking because you’ll have an opportunity to share your favorite travel tips.

family travel airport

No Room for Air

Sure, you can find cheap plane tickets, but you’ll pay many extra fees if you don’t stay aware. Thankfully, most airlines still allow one free carry-on bag. The way to win this game is to make the most of that one fee-free bag using the sit-and-zip packing method to create more room in your suitcase:

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rack of Costco rotisserie chickens

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

If you’ve ever ducked into the supermarket to pick up a yummy, hot rotisserie chicken for dinner and then tossed the remains in the garbage when no one was looking, this is for you. Chances are excellent that you won’t do that anymore once you try these rotisserie chicken recipes.

supermarket 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—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks—using that remaining chicken meat (so easy to pick off the bones) as a key ingredient.

Here are some of my favorite rotisserie chicken recipes …

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mom and three kids finding a geocaching treasure

10 Ways to Have Fun Without Spending Money

Got more time than money? No problem. You and your family can do so many fun things without spending money—next weekend or any time of the year. Consider these ideas to help get some plans in motion.

mom and three kids finding a geocaching treasure

Go geocaching

Not exactly a sporting event, geocaching (pronounced GEE-ō-cashing) is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which participants of all ages use a handheld GPS or a GPS-enabled cell phone to hide and seek containers (caches). A typical cache is a small waterproof container concealing a logbook or “treasure,” usually toys or trinkets of little value.

More than 750,000 geocaches are registered on various websites devoted to this wholesome pastime. If you have a handheld GPS or a GPS-enabled cell phone, or you can borrow one, you’re ready to go. Go to Geocaching.com and read “Geocaching 101.” You’ll need to register to download the Geocaching app—and it’s all free. Once you’re ready, type in your zip code and start exploring!

Many websites are dedicated to beginning geocaching and family geocaching, so you may want to do additional research to get up and geocaching right away. You can even get a free printable notebook.

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

8 Easy Ways to Slash the High Cost of Prescription Drugs in 2022

We know that the cost of just about everything is on the rise. The shocking news is that prescription drug costs are increasing at more than double the inflation rate.

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

There’s no denying it—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 ways, updated for 2022, that you can save a lot of money on prescription medications—plus where to get some medicines (antibiotics!) for free.

1. Cost Plus Drug Company

In Jan. 2022, billionaire Mark Cuban founded Cost Plus Drugs Company, a registered pharmaceutical wholesaler that purchases drugs directly from manufacturers, bypassing middlemen to lower the price of more than 100 medications (adding more every month).

For example, the leukemia drug Imatinib is priced at $47 a month on MCCPDC compared to the $9,657 retail price. Atorvastatin (Lipitor) 10mg, 30 count just $3.60 while retail at other pharmacies is $55.20.

Why is Cuban doing this? Because he believes that every American should have access to safe, affordable medicines. If you don’t have insurance or have a high deductible plan, you know that even the most basic medications can cost a fortune. Many people are spending crazy amounts of money each month just to stay healthy. No American should have to suffer or worse because they can’t afford basic prescription medications. Read more.

How does Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug work?

  • Find your medication in the online store by searching, browsing alphabetically, or by medical condition.
  • Once you’ve found your medication, sign up for an account.
  • Reach out to your doctor or provider with provided instructions to receive your prescriptions.
  • Once Cost Plus receives a prescription from your doctor, you’ll be notified to checkout.
  • Your medications will be delivered straight to your door in just a few days.

2. 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 nearby pharmacies 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 “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 $137.42: Costco $7.09; Ralph’s $9.29; Walgreens $10.21; Walmart $10.11; Target (CVS) $13.33. 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.

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You’ll Want to Make a Batch of This Effective DIY Upholstery Cleaner

While we have lots of DIY cleaner recipes in our EC arsenal, a good, reliable upholstery cleaner was missing. And now we can check it off with this new handy, effective DIY recipe for homemade upholstery cleaner.

This DIY recipe is easy to make, super effective and (you know what’s coming … ) cheap!

How to Make Upholstery Cleaner

You’ll need:

✅  cheese grater

✅  egg beater or whisk

✅  medium mixing bowl

✅  6 tablespoons grated Fels Naptha laundry bar soap*

✅  2 tablespoons borax*

✅  2 cups boiling water

Place the Fels Naptha, borax, and boiling water in the mixing bowl. Using the egg beater to whisk, carefully mix until all ingredients are dissolved and well incorporated.

Allow to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes, or until cool enough that the mixture begins to gel.

Using an egg beater, whisk, or electric mixer, whip the mixture until it looks like whipped cream or shaving cream. It will start out bubbly but then become foam.

*available in most supermarkets in the laundry aisle, or online using the links below.

To use:

By hand: I dipped a clean white terry cloth into the foaming cleaner and applied it a stain on my white sofa, then scrubbed it into the stain working in a circular motion. (For a very stubborn stain you may need to use a brush.)

I followed with a wet clean white terry cloth to rinse, then allowed it to air dry

By machine: I used my Bissell SpotClean Machine and this DIY upholstery cleaner foam on a stained chair seat to see how this would work:

First, I filled the machine reservoir with clean water. Then I applied some of the foam to the spot on the seat. Using the machine without pulling the trigger (that would normally dispense water and cleaner from the reservoir), and using only the scrubbing action, I went to work on that spot. In only a few seconds the spot was gone.

I pulled the trigger to dispense the clean water and the machine’s suction to rinse thoroughly. It worked like a charm!

How to store

This recipe makes a big batch of DIY cleaner. It’s been 18 months since I transferred the remaining amount of foamy cleaner to a food storage bowl with a tight lid. I stored it on a cupboard in my laundry room. So far it has not separated or turned to liquid, as I assumed it might. It appears to be as useful and ready-to-clean as it was when I first made it.

If you don’t want to make up more cleaner than you need for a specific job, you can easily cut this recipe in half: 3 tbsp grated Fels Nathpa, 1 tbsp borax, 1 cup boiling water.

Before and after examples

I admit that when I first discovered this recipe and cleaning method, I was skeptical. It seemed way too easy to be effective. But it works well. Check out these before and after examples brought to you by a very amateur photographer (me):

chair seat before after cleaning

Folding chair with fabric seat before and after cleaning by machine with DIY upholstery cleaner

White sofa seat cushion before and after cleaning by hand with DIY upholstery cleaner

chair seat before after cleaning

White sofa back cushion before and after cleaning by hand with DIY upholstery cleaner

Cost analysis

My actual cost to make the full recipe of this cleaner is about $.75, which is a generous estimate. Hoover Upholstery Cleaner Aerosol Spray runs about $8. While that’s a loose comparison, for a homemade product that cleans as well as it does, it’s clear to me that making it myself is just one more way to keep more money in my pocket while getting this kind of job done well.

Homemade Upholstery Cleaner

You could go to the store and buy a good upholstery cleaner, or keep the cash and make it yourself! This quick and easy recipe is surprisingly effective. Use it to hand clean or machine clean spots and stains on upholstered furniture.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Housekeeping, Upholstery Cleaning
Cuisine: How-To
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cooling down: