How to Get Rid of the Dreaded Toilet Ring Forever!

It’s not the most elegant question I get, but certainly one of the most common. “I’ve tried everything I can think of, but that stubborn, ugly toilet bowl ring won’t go away!” Or ” … It goes away, but just keeps coming back!”

white toilet suffering from a nasty toilet ring

Toilet bowls develop discolorations for many reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the housekeeping. Basically, the toilet ring is the result of hard water conditions together with water standing in a toilet that sees a lot of use.

While there are lots of commercial products out there that promise to remove hard water stains in the toilet, ordinary household pantry items you have already can be just as effective to rid your toilet of the dreaded toilet ring without harsh chemicals.

What are those stains, anyway?

Toilet bowl stains that look like rust are likely due to mineral deposits and hard water. Green, orange or black streaks or rings may be mold. A bacteria called serratia marcescens shows up as pink. Knowing what is causing the ring makes it easier for you to choose the best method for getting rid of it.

Under most conditions, regular weekly cleaning prevents heavy stain buildup and reduces the appearance of any existing stains so the bowl can look pristine and white again.

And when none of that works? Don’t worry, I have the mother of all solutions for that too, in a bit. But let’s start with the easiest.

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How to Wash a Down Comforter

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s okay to wash your down comforter instead of taking it to the dry cleaner, the answer is yes. You can absolutely wash a down comforter without spending upwards of $80, depending on the size, where you live, and how dirty it is, to have it dry cleaned professionally.

To do this, you’ll need mild detergent (our homemade detergent is ideal, or Woolite), wool dryer balls (or tennis balls work as well), an extra-large front loading washing machine (most home models are too small for this task), and an extra-large dryer. Here are step-by-step instructions:

Step 1: Big machine

Load your down comforter into the largest extra-large front-loading washing machine at your local laundromat. The less crowded the comforter is in the washer and dryer, the better the results.

If you have a full-sized washing machine, it may be possible to wash your comforter at home. But this is tricky. The comforter needs ample room to move about inside the washer, making a front-loading machine most ideal.

If your machine has a center agitator, you need to make sure that the comforter doesn’t get tangled and twisted around the agitator. That could cause the cloth cover to tear. Should the feathers and down were to escape the cotton cover, you’ll have one big fat mess on your hands. Your best bet is to head for the laundromat.

Washing machine

Step 2: Detergent

Add a small amount of mild detergent. Do not use any product with additives like softeners or enzymes. Be careful here as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes down or feathers such a superb thermal insulator.

Step 3: Warm and gentle

You want to wash a down comforter using these settings on the washer: Warm wash, cold rinse; gentle (delicate) agitation and two rinse cycles. The last bit of detergent must be rinsed out.

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Coffee

13 Things You Need to Know About How to Reuse Coffee Grounds

If you love your morning cup of Joe, it’s a pretty good bet you’re throwing out spent coffee grounds on a regular basis. Take a look at this list and you just might discover more than a few ways you can recycle and reuse old grounds so you can enjoy them over again!

Not a coffee drinker? These days local coffee shops offer their spent grounds for free. Find one near you, then stop by to pick up a bag or two.

four ways to use spent coffee grounds

Smoke out mosquitoes

According to the EPA, coffee grounds are a safe and effective way to keep pests away. The smoke from burning used ground coffee is especially effective to send mosquitoes away because they are seriously repelled by the smell, which to humans is quite subtle. Remember this outdoor trick for your next summer barbecue.

Start with completely dry, used coffee grounds. Place the grounds in a bowl, on a plate or other flat surface lined with foil and light them with a match around the edges, the way you would light incense. Watch this video. Add a few fresh bay leaves to amplify your repellant. Set the containers(s) upwind to get the scent moving.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Best Ideas for Cooks, Home Chefs, Foodies

Yes, another Holiday Gift Guide, and not so much because I love creating these guides for you (I do!) but due to popular demand. If it wouldn’t have appeared to be overly self-serving, for sure I would have titled this Guide something like “my favorite really awesome kitchen things that foodies, gourmet cooks, and home chefs of all levels are sure to love as much as I do.”

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cropped shot of young couple shopping online with credit card and laptop at christmas

How to Shop with CASH at Amazon

I can think of only a few things worse than waking up on Dec. 26 with a raging debt hangover—an all-too-common after-Christmas condition.

cropped shot of young couple shopping online with credit card and laptop at christmas

The only reason you paid for everything with a credit card is that it was convenient. Besides, it’s not safe to shop online with a debit card, so what were your options?

Of course, you promised yourself that you would be paying the balance in full the minute the statement arrives, but who are we kidding here?

You were already carrying a balance on every card in your wallet, so now all of those new purchases will exacerbate the problem by plunging you even deeper into debt. Worse, you don’t even know for sure how much you spent because who keeps track when you pay for everything with a credit card?

Just imagine if you’d kept your promise that this year would be an all-cash Christmas—that you locked those credit cards away where they were safe from you. You’d be heading into the New Year with a much different attitude. No excuses, no hiding the holiday bills; no worries, and no regrets.

I’ve got some good news for you. This year really can be an all-cash Christmas. You can do it and make your cash stretch even further when you take advantage of the lower prices when you shop online. You really can shop with CASH at Amazon, absolutely no credit card or debit card required.

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Christmas vintage presents on a wooden background

Gift-Giving: What’s the Point?

The simple act of gift-giving has become extremely complicated. I blame that on the consumer credit industry.

Think about it: You can be completely broke but still spend thousands of dollars on Christmas gifts—and believe it is not only your right to do so but that you are obligated to do it.

The culture has created a message that we have to spend a lot on Christmas gifts to be socially acceptable.

Christmas vintage presents on a wooden background

Gift-giving is a custom that has pretty much run amok. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to make wise and reasonable decisions about the gifts we give.

How many of you cannot recall the gifts you gave last Christmas? How about the gifts you received? Come on, let’s see those hands. Okay, that’s just about everybody.

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Roast beef on cutting board with saltcellar and pepper mill

From Chuck Roast to “Prime Rib” in Three Hours Flat

Shortly after I wrote a column on the specific steps to roast a cheap cut of beef so that it turns out like prime rib, I got an email from faithful reader, Mary B. We went back and forth a bit as she prepared this for guests. I thought you would enjoy the feedback.

Roast beef on cutting board with saltcellar and pepper mill

But first, here’s a quick refresher on how to do that:

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my clean kitchen

How to Cook and Keep the Kitchen Clean at the Same Time

my clean kitchen

I love to cook. And I enjoy inviting guests for dinner parties or more casual meals. What I hate is the big ugly mess that happens in the kitchen as I’m cooking and concentrating on getting everything on the table. My kitchen is right out there in the open for all to see, which is why I’ve come up with strategies to cook and keep the kitchen clean at the same time.

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Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes and Gravy


I know what you’re thinking: Make the Thanksgiving mashed potatoes AND gravy ahead of time—several days before the big day? Like serve leftovers for the biggest best meal of the year? You have got to be kidding.

Well yes, that is exactly what I am suggesting and will be doing myself, but let me be clear—this is not leftovers. What you are about to learn is so amazing—and I’m not talking about only the recipes, but also the how-tos and full instructions. This has the potential to completely transform your Thanksgiving dinner prep by moving the two big last-minute tedious kitchen tasks—mashed potatoes and gravy—from the last minute to days ahead.

You gotta’ trust me on this. Once ready to serve, the flavors will have melded in ways you could have not predicted.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

(Full printable recipe card follows)

You can make these amazing fool-proof mashed potatoes several days before you will be serving them. Don’t worry. No one will ever detect your secret. In fact, fabulous mashed potatoes just might become your signature dish.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (see recipe card notes)
  • 2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons onion salt
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • butter, chives, or green onions for optional garnish

Instructions

Several days ahead …

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large cubes.
  2. Place potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water and set over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes or until fork-tender.
  3. Drain. Move potatoes to a large bowl and mash using a potato masher or standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  4. Add cream cheese, sour cream, milk, onion salt, and pepper. Mix well until everything is well incorporated.
  5. Transfer to a large casserole dish for oven method, or to slow cooker inner removable pot. Cover and refrigerate.

On serving day…

Oven method

On the day of serving, remove potatoes from the refrigerator and allow to stand for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 F (165 C). Bake covered casserole in the preheated oven for 35-50 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the dish. Garnish as desired. Serve hot.

Slow cooker method

Four to 6 hours before mealtime, move the slow cooker pot holding the mashed potatoes to the slow cooker unit. Set to Low. Cover. Stir every 2 hours or so. Once thoroughly heated through, move the slow cooker to Warm. Garnish as desired. Serve hot.

Make-Ahead Gravy

(Full printable recipe card follows)

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • Turkey (chicken, beef)  drippings

Instructions

Several days ahead…

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over med-high heat.
  • Whisk in the flour until well incorporated
  • Cook, whisking frequently until this roux is golden brown or about 10 minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock and whisk until combined.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until the gravy is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, salt, and ground pepper.
  • Cool then refrigerate in an airtight container.

On serving day

  1. Transfer refrigerated gravy to saucepan set over low heat.
  2. Pour turkey drippings into a fat separator (or measuring cup and spoon off the fat),
  3. Add the drippings to the gravy.
  4. Stir until well combined and hot.
  5. Pour into a gravy boat and serve.

mashed potatoes with melted butter and chives

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Let me be clear—but this is not about serving leftovers. This has the potential to completely transform your Thanksgiving dinner prep by moving the two big last-minute tedious kitchen tasks—mashed potatoes and gravy—from the last minute to days ahead.
Once ready to serve, the flavors will have melded in ways you could have not predicted. So good!
4.58 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Reheating in oven: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 189kcal
Cost: $6

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes Russet or red-skin potatoes are also good
  • 2 3-oz cream cheese softened
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 tspns onion salt you will not be disappointed
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • butter, chives, green onion for optional garnish at time of serving

Instructions

Several days ahead ...

  • Peel the potatoes and cut into large cubes.
  • Place potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water and set over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain.
  • Move potatoes to large bowl and mash using a potato masher or standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  • Add cream cheese, sour cream, milk, onion salt, and pepper. Mix well until everything is well incorporated.
  • Transfer to a large casserole dish for oven method, or to slow cooker inner removable pot. Cover and refrigerate.

On serving day: Oven method

  • On the day of serving, remove potatoes from the refrigerator and allow to stand for 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 325 F (165 C). Bake covered casserole in the preheated oven for 35-50 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the dish. Garnish as desired. Serve hot.

On serving day: Slow cooker method

  • On the day of serving at least 4 hours before mealtime, move the slow cooker pot holding the mashed potatoes to the slow cooker unit. Set to Low. Cover. Stir every 2 hours or so. Once thoroughly heated through, turn the slow cooker to Warm. Garnish as desired. Serve hot.

Nutrition

Calories: 189kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 96mg | Potassium: 836mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 134IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 55mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Make-Ahead Gravy

Such a great way to make homemade gravy with the last-minute hassle and mess
4.58 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 25 minutes
At time of serving: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 107kcal
Cost: $5

Ingredients

  • 5 tbspn butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbspn Worchestershire Sauce (optional, but delicious!)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tspn Kosher salt, or to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • Turkey drippings or beef, chicken; about 1 cup is ideal but use what you have

Instructions

Several days ahead ...

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over med-high heat.
  • Whisk in the flour until well incorporated
  • Cook, whisking frequently until this roux is golden brown or about 10 minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock and whisk until combined.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until the gravy is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, salt, and ground pepper.
  • Cool then refrigerate in an airtight container.

On serving day ...

  • Transfer refrigerated gravy to saucepan set over low heat.
  • Pour turkey (beef, chicken) drippings into a fat separator (or measuring cup and spoon off the fat),
  • Add the drippings to the gravy.
  • Stir until well combined and hot.
  • Pour into a gravy boat and serve immediately. Yum!

Nutrition

Calories: 107kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 260mg | Potassium: 141mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 154IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
Multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions

How to Get Pet Hair Out of Carpet, Ugly Out of Laundry and More

Once again, it’s time to reach into my virtual mailbag and answer a few questions from my dear readers.

Multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions
What’s inside? Here are the questions I’m answering from my bulging reader mailbag. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. Or just scroll through to read all. Enjoy!

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fun stuff for kids 2020

Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Super Fun Stuff for Kids

2020 Christmas Gift Guide - Fun Stuff Kids

Looking for fun stuff for the kids? Well, yes, because it can’t be ALL about socks, underwear, and science experiments. Sadly, we no longer have the Sears & Roebuck Wish Book to find all kinds of a fun stuff! But you can dry those tears because here are some of the best ideas ever for how to add a lot of fun to all the joys of Christmas for kids of all ages. Check back often as I’m updating daily!

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Set of sale and discount paper labels with red bows and ribbons.

Here Are the Big 10 Holiday Shopping Mistakes to Avoid

It’s still touted as the biggest holiday shopping day of the year. Black Friday—when retailers slash everything to unheard-of rock bottom prices. When customers camp out in store parking lots to make sure they bag a 65-inch TV for $99.

crowded fighting over TVs on Black Friday

Photo credit: DailyHive.com

Black Friday—the day shoppers boast of getting all of their Christmas shopping done in one big, glorious fell swoop!

In case you’ve been living on another planet (lucky you!), things have changed. This year, holiday shopping is moving from a mall near you into cyberspace. And from the looks of my inbox, Black Friday is not waiting for the day after Thanksgiving. Lots of merchants have already begun rolling out their “best” Black Friday Spectaculars.

Please join me in stepping back to take a deep breath.


The ways that we respond to all of the hype this Holiday Season—especially during this coming week—could make or break it for us for years to come.

Look, I know how easily I could justify buying now and paying (and paying and paying) for it later. Because I think we’re a lot alike, I’ll bet you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Today, I’m committing to keeping my head on straight, acknowledging what I know to be true, and doing everything in my power to avoid the big ten shopping mistakes that could so easily land me in a big pile of credit-card debt and terrible regret.

Are you with me?

Mistake 1: Not having a spending plan

Know how much you have to spend, and how you will spend it. Write it down. Then keep track of every penny. Ponder before you load up your shopping cart impulsively by referring to your spending plan. Search, read reviews, think hard before you pull the spending trigger.

Mistake 2: Not holiday shopping with cash

Yes, you can shop online with cash. It takes a bit more planning and preparation, but you can do this. You can shop with cash at Amazon, Kohl’s, Target, and so many other online sites as well.

It’s a 2-step process: Take your cash to a store like Walgreens, big supermarkets, or drug stores. Purchase Gift Cards for the amount of cash you have for the sites you plan to shop.

You can buy Gift Cards for Target, Amazon, Walmart, Apple, Best Buy, Bed Bath, and Beyond—I could go on and on. Nearly all Gift Cards say right on them that they are good for in-store and online purchases. But don’t take my word for that—read the card before you buy it to make sure.

Caution: Bank-issued Gift Cards (VISA Gift Cards, Mastercard Gift Cards, etc.) are typically associated with activation fees, dormancy fees, non-use fees, and service fees. Avoid them!

Mistake 3: Not seeing through the marketing hype

Oh, the slogans and promises we’re hearing and seeing already. Tune your eyes and ears to spot the most ridiculous. My “favorite?” The more you spend, the more you’ll save! I heard that at least 12 times in one day last week.

Here’s the truth: The more you spend, the more you’ll spend! There are no savings involved unless you stop at the bank to deposit all that money you saved didn’t spend! Do you get that? Don’t let such blatant lies coerce or entice you to go outside the plan you have created.

Mistake 4: Spending more to get free shipping

We’ve all done it and soon regretted: Placing two well-thought-out items in the shopping cart, only to realize we need to hit the $99 mark to get free shipping! Then packing the cart foolishly with a bunch of other stuff just to hit the mark. Think about it: Spend, say, $37 to save a $5 shipping charge. Doesn’t make sense, does it!

Mistake 5: Buying intending to return

Can’t decide on the right size or color? Want to grab that sale before it disappears? Both are excuses I’ve used in the past for overbuying like that top in 2 sizes because I’m not quite sure—fully intending to return everything I don’t want. I’ll get the refund that zeros out the purchase, and everything will be just dandy, I say. Yeah, right. It’s not that easy to return things (although I must say Amazon comes as close to perfect as possible).

Plans to return can so easily go awry, so don’t make the mistake in the first place. Don’t buy with definite plans to return.

Mistake 6: Not making returns

Sometimes things do not show up as we intended they should. Maybe it doesn’t fit, or something is broken. Or it just isn’t what you thought it would be. You’ll be making a big mistake if you do not return it immediately. Follow the merchant’s guidelines and then watch to make sure you get that refund or credit.

Mistake 7: Not checking the price

You think you’ve found a great deal—you’re getting a discount and everything! But before you check out, check around. Search that product. Look high and low on the search results. You might be happily surprised by what you find.

Mistake 8: Not shopping anonymously

You may know that many online shopping sites show you prices and selections based on your shopping location, the time of day, shopping history, and so forth. When you shop anonymously, that site thinks you are a visitor—a potential customer. You can be sure they’ll show you their best deals, their best discounts in an effort to convert you into a paying customer.

Use your browser’s private mode to hide your location and history from that site. Or use a search engine like DuckDuckGo.com to do anonymous searches.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means this site gets a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products and services I love and have had a positive experience with. Thank you!

Mistake 9: Shopping sleepy or hungry

I make really dumb mistakes when I’m tired and or hungry. How about you? We need clear minds when holiday shopping in cyberspace.

Mistake 10: Leaving money on the table

Many (many!) holiday shopping sites participate in cashback programs. But they don’t say this on their sites, nor do they remind you at check out. The cashback site I use and rely on is Rakuten. Here’s how that works:  Join Rakuten. Once a member (it’s free), opt to have the Rakuten extension on your browser. Now, when you visit a Rakuten member site, you’ll get a notice at the top of your screen to activate cash back should you make a purchase. Of course, f you do not want the extension, make sure you sign in at the Rakuten site first, then proceed to Kohl’s or Target, etc.


A close up of a metal pan on a stove top oven, with Dough and Yeast

Homemade Artisan Bread—Amazingly Easy and So Delicious!

The year 2007 was a good one for me for lots of reasons. Here’s one: It’s the year I got good at baking homemade bread thanks to a simple discovery that would go on to revolutionize the world of home baking.

Presented in their book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, authors Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoë Franḉois stated that anyone with an oven, flour, yeast, salt, and water could make authentic, artisan bread in just five minutes a day.

Within hours of getting my hands on that book, I was onboard. My first attempt at making homemade bread was ridiculously easy. And so successful I shocked myself and my family!

A more delicious loaf of artisan bread I cannot buy anywhere. And why would I, when I could now make it myself for about $.40 a loaf in just five minutes a day? Read more

A bowl of oranges on a table

Let’s Make Every Day Thanksgiving!

A bowl of oranges on a table

I love Thanksgiving so much it vies for first place in my favorite holiday lineup. I love and adore a classic Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings. I love the fall weather, which always accompanies the day. I love the fact that Thanksgiving ushers in the winter holidays, offering me a front-row seat at the very best time of the year.

I love all of those things. In fact, I kinda’ wish that every day were Thanksgiving! Gratitude is too important in our lives to be considered briefly en masse on this, the fourth Thursday of November.

This has been one awful year. The coronavirus has turned our lives upside down. My heart breaks for those of you who have lost a loved one, a friend, a colleague. I know that many of you are struggling with financial stress due to a layoff or reduced hours, or lost clients. We’ve been filled to the max with heartache and challenge.

Even in the face of such heartache, challenge, and uncertainty, I am more convinced than ever that giving thanks and counting our blessings is good for us. It reminds us of the positive things in life. Gratitude turns bad things into good things, takes our eyes off ourselves, and reminds us to thank others.

Just imagine what might happen if our annual single-day tradition of giving thanks were to become a daily routine? Health professionals suggest we would be rewarded with better health, as medical science reveals more about the strong connection between gratitude and good health.

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A group of people sitting at a table with wine glasses

Gifts That Don’t Cost a Dime

Long on Christmas lists but short on cash this year? What you need are tips, tricks, and Gift Guides to help you save money, right?

“Save money?!” you sneer. “What if we don’t have any money?” 

That, my friend, is a reliable signal that it’s time to get creative. Often the most meaningful gifts and the most difficult ones to give are those that cost no money at all.

A group of people sitting at a table with wine glasses

A gift from the heart is a gift of time and talent. It’s going to require some (all?) of your free time over the next week or so, but it sure beats going into debt to buy a bunch of gifts for others—or missing out altogether because you refuse to show up empty-handed.

No one was more creative than my mother-in-law one Christmas years ago. I’d always admired her beautiful crystal, a wedding gift from her parents in 1942. Imagine how stunned I was when she gave it—all of it—to me. My favorite pieces are the water pitcher and cordials. Her gift, which cost nothing in terms of money, was and continues to be priceless to me.

Are you getting the picture? Great. Consider these idea starters to show someone you care that won’t require spending any cash at all. And please, add your own ideas in the comments!

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A close up of a bottle of wine

Instant Pot Vanilla Extract—One Week from Start-to-Gift

For nearly a decade I’ve been making vanilla extract for Christmas gifts. And every year I find myself scrambling because it’s a process that requires a minimum of three months—six months or even six years is even better! Vanilla extract gets better and better with age. But all that has changed since discovering how to make vanilla extract using my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. Instead of months, Instant Pot vanilla extract takes just one week from start-to-gift!

homemade vanilla extract in amber bottles

For me (and friends and family on my gift list), vanilla extract is still the perfect homemade holiday gift. The difference in taste is extraordinary. And now that pure vanilla extract has become so expensive (more on that in a bit), it’s like pure gold!

Processing homemade vanilla extract in an electric Instant Pot pressure cooker gives it the intensity of aged high-quality store-bought vanilla in a fraction of the time. Now our perfect homemade gift can be a perfect last-minute gift, too.

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bed with heated mattress pad and dual controls

This is the Easiest Way to Cut Winter Heating Bills

Until several years ago, I didn’t know something existed, a heated mattress pad. It makes sense I suppose since I’d lived in Southern California for most of my life, where it is mostly warm all year round.

Relocating to Colorado where the seasons are more pronounced, I had a lot to learn about heating a house without going broke. That first winter our heating bills shot to the moon because we were heating the entire house to a comfortable temperature day and night. Trust me—high heating bills can be shocking.

cold house high energy bills

Lower the temp

We saw a semi-dramatic reduction in the heating bill when we decided to lower the thermostat to 60 F. at night, then using this micathermic space heater in our bedroom. That worked relatively well, but that wasn’t altogether successful. Let’s just say that my husband and I have different internal thermostats. He would be cold while I’d be turning the space heater down a notch or ten.

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womans hand holding steam iron that is bursting with steam

How to Clean a Steam Iron So It Steams and Looks Like New

Before you toss that steam clothes iron because it refuses to steam, and the soleplate is now sporting a brown, burned-on, gross mess—you might want to give it a little love with a good clean out and clean-up. It’s not difficult to bring a tired steam iron back to working like a dream!

womans hand holding steam iron that is bursting with steam

As always, check the owner manual before proceeding with any cleaning process if you’d just as soon not void am active warranty.

Clean the soleplate

The soleplate is the iron’s flat surface that has the tiny holes where the steam comes out—the part that gets hot. Over time, it can get dirty with a buildup of scorched, ugly brown build-up of various stains from melted-on fabric to spray starch. A dirty steam clothes iron will not press fabric properly and leave streaks of dirt and stain behind on your clothing.

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Body Scrub and Coconut oil

5 DIY Body Scrubs to Keep Your Skin Vibrant and Healthy

Body scrubs are popular because they offer a most effective way to exfoliate your skin. Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin using a chemical, granular substance, or exfoliation tool.

Body Scrub and Coconut oil

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, your skin naturally sheds dead skin cells every 30 days or so to make room for new cells. Sometimes, dead cells don’t shed completely, resulting in dry, flaky patches and clogged pores. Exfoliating can help prevent this, keeping your skin looking vibrant and healthy.

While there are plenty of pricey body scrubs to choose from, for just pennies you can make your own equally effective DIY Body Scrubs using ingredients you already have in your pantry.

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10 Best Homemade Gifts Under $10

If you have more time than money this Holiday Season—or just prefer to give and receive homemade gifts—here are ten of my best ideas that cost less than ten bucks.

Spa Set

mycrazyblessedlife.com

Photo credit: My Crazy Blessed Life

Give all the stressed-out folks on your gift list the gift of relaxation. Make your own bath products and then assemble them in a nice basket.

Bath Salts

1 cup Epsom salts, 1 cup sea or rock salt, 20 drops fragrance oil, food coloring. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until fully combined and color is even.

Bath Oil

1/2 cup almond oil, 1/2 cup castor oil or aloe vera, the oil from 6-8 Vitamin E capsules, 25-30 drops fragrance oil. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with wooden spoon until combined.

Bubble Bath

Mix 3 cups clear, mild dishwashing detergent; the oil from 6-8 Vitamin E capsules, 1/4 cup glycerin, 25-30 drops fragrance oil, food coloring.

Salt Scrub

Mix together Epsom salts and enough almond oil (better) or baby oil (cheaper) to resemble very wet snow. Add essential or aromatherapy oil for fragrance and soap colorant if you desire. 

Place your spa products in individual bottles or small jars and decorate with ribbons, labels, and or embellishments. Add other items you can pick up at the drug store such as a washcloth, pumice stone, or loofah.

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15 Insanely Simple Ways to Save Money on Groceries

According to the USDA, a normal American family of 4, is spending on average, $1,071.40 a month on food at home. That’s a lot of money for groceries, no matter the size of your family.

shopping disaster couple

The list is long for reasons why we should get groceries for our meals instead of eating out or ordering in. While it’s typically less expensive than eating out for every meal, grocery shopping isn’t exactly cheap. But it is downright expensive if you don’t have a strategy.

Good news: You can slash your grocery costs. These tips require effort, but when combined, they can really add up to significant savings and make a big difference in your household finances.

1. Shake it up, baby!

When buying produce, shake off excess water BEFORE you weigh an item—spinach, lettuce, celery, broccoli, etc. Water weight can add about $1 to your grocery tab PER TRIP—costing you at least $50 a year if you buy groceries each week.


2. Weigh bagged produce

Prebagged potatoes, onions, broccoli, apples, lemons have a fixed price—all those bags are the same price. And they must meet the weight stated in that bag, for example, 5 lbs. potatoes. But rarely does that item weigh exactly the state weight. Take the time to weigh a couple of bags, then choose the one that weighs the most. Take the time and bag the savings with a bag marked 5 lbs that weighs in at 5.5 lbs or more. Prepare to be amazed.

Woman Keeping Piggybank In Shopping Cart Full Of Groceries

3. Don’t pay full price

Here’s the Golden Rule of Groceries: Eat the sales. Don’t put anything in your basket that is not on sale. If it’s not on sale this week, it will be next or soon enough. If chicken is the loss leader this week, don’t plan meals around beef. And when that happens, try to buy enough chicken to last until the next time it’s on sale. You may need to stop being so brand loyal. Typical supermarkets and grocery stores work on a 12-week rotation. That means everything will be on sale at least once every three months.

4. Pass up the grocery cart

Walk on by the carts (aka trollies for my dear readers in the UK) when all you need are a few items. Surely you can carry the “few things” you need. Or get one of the hand-held baskets. The point here is that you won’t be buying more than you can carry.

5. Don’t dawdle

This is not the place you want to hang out to soak in all the great sights and smells from the bakery, deli, and rotisserie chickens. If you weren’t hungry when you arrived, you will be soon. Get what you need and get out of there. For every ten minutes, you delay, plan on spending about another $35.

6. Don’t deprive yourself

Work some “flex spend” into your budget. We all want to try new things, and in the Candyland-of-choice known as the grocery store, this can lead to expensive last-minute choices. In my experience, the best way to combat this is not to fight it. Allow yourself a little flexibility—say, a five-dollar allowance or a single impulse item each week. That’s the way to avoid the feeling that you’re drowning in deprivation. You’ll be less likely to go overboard.

7. Make a list

This is almost a given, but making a list is the easiest way to see what you need and estimate how much it should cost. Here’s a pretty clever interactive grocery list template.

8. Pay with cash

The best way to stick to the budget is to go in with a plan and pay with cash. When you go to the store with cash in hand, you know exactly how much you can spend. And when you’ve spent what you came with, that’s it. No room for impulsive unplanned purchases.

9. Avoid impulse buys

Another way to prevent impulse buys is to stay out of the store altogether. Grocery pickup services offered by mainstream retailers like Kroger, Target, and Walmart allow you to order your groceries online and then have them brought out to you while you wait in your vehicle.

10. Sell-buy dates

Items like dairy, meat, and even some bagged produce come with sell-by dates. Often as that date nears, stores will slap a discounted price tag on them, but not always. If you find items that are close to their sell-by date that are not discounted, speak up. Ask for a discount. As long as you plan to use these items soon, there’s no problem at all. Sell-buy dates allow for that item to be safe and delicious for at least 7 days past the date.

11. Look high and low

Supermarkets and grocery stores regularly place the higher-priced, brand name items at eye level. Have you ever noticed that? That’s no coincidence. Not a fluke!  It’s on purpose, and you’re being set up to behave impulsively. Here’s how to beat ’em at their own game: Look high and low. Expect to find generic alternatives, lower-priced brands, and other options. Compare prices. Don’t give in to the manipulation.

12. Shop the cheap stores

Most dollar stores offer random non-perishable food items and even fresh produce at huge discounted prices, so stop there first. You may be able to mark some items off your grocery list. Private label stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s are notorious for their super lower prices on their food products.

13. Snag manager specials

Most supermarkets’ meat and bakery departments feature “Manager Specials.”  Depending on the season and that particular store’s inventory, you’ll often find discounts as much as 50% off on anything from meat to bread, poultry, fish, and seafood. Buy enough to use and or freeze to last until the next time it goes on sale. Of course, you won’t know exactly when that will be, so estimate provided that stocking up doesn’t bust the budget.

14. Ethnic markets

Even if you’re not into exotic cuisine, Asian, Ethiopian, Latin American food markets are harboring some terrific bargains on items you’re regularly buying at a full price elsewhere. It can’t hurt to check them out! You’re sure to find items like rice, flour, fresh poultry, and produce at regular prices in ethnic markets that beat your supermarket by a mile.

15. Get the app

Your phone is a powerful tool, so download this grocery app. It may be easier than clipping coupons.

Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.

Here’s how it works: Before heading to the store, search for items on your grocery shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes, and with that, you’ll get cash back.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $20 sign-up bonus after redeeming your first 10 bonuses within 14 days.

Question: Given these tips are just a start, what is your favorite way to save money on the food you eat at home? Could you share with us in the comments below?


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A close up of many different types of food on a table

Your Best Thanksgiving Feast Ever, Healthy, Delicious, and Cheap!

If there’s one thing we should be thankful for this Thanksgiving, it’s this: Turkey is cheap*! And the rest of the Thanksgiving dinner can relatively inexpensive, too.

A close up of many different types of food on a table

The secret to enjoying a traditional feast without overspending is to plan ahead and know a few tricks.

I sat down with two highly respected professionals—a butcher and a personal chef. What I learned from John Smith, professional butcher and personal chef, Liz Tarditi, pretty much blew a hole in everything I thought I knew about buying, thawing, and preparing a turkey.

Get the best turkey

Choosing the best turkey is easier said than done unless you fully understand the difference between a store brand and a name brand bird. Just because a turkey is more expensive does not make it any better, says John. All that means is that it has a lot of advertising built into its price.

What customers don’t know is that one turkey processor will slap many different labels on his crop of birds. The turkeys are all the same, only the labels are different.

And now for my conversation with John the butcher:

Fresh or frozen?

JS: First, let me define a “fresh” turkey. According to the people who make the laws, turkeys can be called “fresh” even though the moisture in the bird is frozen! If you press very firmly on the bird the meat is not frozen. The turkey processors have it down to a science. They bring the temperature of the “fresh” birds down to the very legal limit before sending them off to the store two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Frozen turkeys, on the other hand, are quick-frozen immediately upon butchering. So the freshest turkey is really a frozen turkey. The freezing process has no noticeable effect on the quality of the bird.

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Fluffy white towels on table with shutter doors

6 Reasons You Need To Add Vinegar in Laundry

Using inexpensive distilled white vinegar in the laundry is smart because it will whiten, brighten, reduce odor, and soften clothes without harsh chemicals.

Fluffy white towels on table with shutter doors

Vinegar is safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers because it is very mildly acidic.

When buying vinegar to use in the laundry, choose distilled white vinegar with 5% acidity. It contains no natural plant dyes that can stain clothes.

It’s cheapgallon white vinegar

Plain distilled white 5% vinegar runs around 2.5 cents per oz. in the typical supermarket when purchased by the gallon.

Name brand liquid fabric softeners come in at about 8 cents per oz.—nearly three times the cost. As an alternative to liquid softener, dryer sheets are a cheaper way to ruin your clothes and linens, on average about 4 cents per sheet.

It softens

Plain white distilled vinegar with 5% acidity is a natural fabric softener. The acid helps remove detergent and soil that is left clinging to fabric fibers, which is what allows clothes and linens to come out feeling soft and clean.

Commercial softeners work just the opposite. They are designed to coat fibers, leaving behind their scented residue, which can build up over time rendering those items non-absorbent, dingy gray, and anything but soft.

A half-cup of white vinegar when added to the final rinse (pour it into the washer reservoir marked for laundry softener), on the other hand, will soften fabrics and leave no residue at all. A light scent can be added, if you want, with a few drops of lavender oil. However, once dry your laundry will not smell like vinegar.

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, at no cost to you.

It is safe to use

Distilled white vinegar is safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers. At 5% acidity, it is 95% water, which makes it mildly acidic.

Once added to the washer, food-grade vinegar becomes even more diluted onced mixed with gallons of rinse water in the typical machine.

Vinegar in the laundry is not only safe in septic tanks, it is beneficial to that type of system, and to the environment as well.

It whitens, brightens

The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar will not harm washable fabrics because it is so mild, while at the same time strong enough to dissolve the alkalis left by soap and detergent.

Adding one-half cup of vinegar to the final rinse will result in brighter, clearer colors. Add the distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser or add the vinegar manually at the beginning of the rinse cycle if your washer gives you that option.

It reduces odor

Wet towels left sitting in a hamper or forgotten in the washer can produce a sour, moldy smell. To get rid of that problem and to get those towels smelling nice and fresh, do this:

Fill the washer with hot water, add two cups of distilled white vinegar and run a complete wash cycle with no detergent. Run a second complete cycle with detergent added.

This works well for minor situations and small loads. For more serious situations, you’ll want to use this more aggressive treatment.

It releases lint, pet hair

One-half cup of white distilled vinegar in the rinse cycle will help prevent lint and pet hair from clinging to clothes. The vinegar will help the fabric fibers relax and “release” the hair. For the same reason, it helps get rid of the excessive lint if you accidentally washed something dark with something that produces lint, like towels.


chicken tortilla soup

Quick and Cozy Slow Cooker Soup

Dump and run. That’s the kind of slow cooker recipe I love. No muss, no fuss— and no hovering over a hot stove to get dinner on the table.

As the days of autumn bring cooler weather, I find myself thinking about hot soup. And having dinner all planned and taken care of ahead of time.

These hearty soups couldn’t be easier to whip up.

chicken tortilla soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

So easy, so delicious!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Slow Cooking: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 102kcal
Cost: $8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1 15-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
  • 1 10-oz can enchilada sauce
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 4-oz can chopped green chiles
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 14.5 oz chicken broth
  • 1 tspn cumin
  • 1 tspn chili powder
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1/4 tspn ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 10-oz pkg frozen corn
  • tortilla chips, optional garnish
  • sour cream, optional garnish
  • grated cheese, optional garnish

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients into the slow cooker in a 6-qt slow cooker. Stir. Cover.
  • Cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours.
  • Optional: Garnish with tortilla chips, sour cream and grated cheese. Amazing.

Nutrition

Calories: 102kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 99mg | Potassium: 150mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 60IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
Creamy Loaded Baked Potato Soup with Bacon and Cheese

Creamy Potato Soup

Creamy, smooth and delicious, with or without the garnish, this just may be the easiest, yummiest potato soup you've ever served up!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner, Soup
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
slow cook: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 292kcal
Cost: $6

Ingredients

  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 med onion
  • 2 10.5 oz cans condensed chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • ½ tspn salt
  • ½ tspn dried dil weed
  • ½ tspn ground white pepper substitute black pepper OK
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cuyps half and half
  • 1 12-oz can evaporated milk
  • Grated cheese, bacon bits, chopped green onion, optional garnish

Instructions

  • In a small skillet over high heat, sauté the onion with the bacon until bacon is evenly browned.
  • Drain off excess grease and place bacon and onions into slow cooker along with the chicken broth, water, potatoes, salt dill weed and pepper. Cover.
  • Cook on Low for 6 to 7 hours, stirring half way through.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and half and half. 
  • Stir into the soup along with the evaporated milk.
  • Cover and slow cook for another 30 minutes before serving. 
  • Optional garnish: Grated cheese, bacon bits, and chopped green onion. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 292kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 59mg | Potassium: 1332mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin C: 62mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Quick and Easy Chicken and Dumplings

Got 10 minutes? Load up the slow cooker, set it, and forget it. You'll have this delcious, homemade potato soup for dinner!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Slow cooking: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 96kcal
Cost: $6

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 10.75-oz cans condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 14-oz can chicken broth
  • 1 med onion, finely diced
  • 2 10-oz packages refrigerated biscuit dough torn into pieces

Instructions

  • Place the chicken, butter, soup, onion, and chicken broth in a slow cooker. Cover.
  • Slow cook for 5 to 6 hours on High.
  • About 30 minutes before serving, place the torn biscuit dough in the slow cooker. Cook until the dough is no longer raw in the center.
  • You won’t believe how good this is!

Nutrition

Calories: 96kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 94mg | Potassium: 229mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 106IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

How to Make Your House Smell Like the Holidays

Recently, my husband and I made a quick getaway to experience autumn in the tiny town of Lititz, Penn. The fall colors were at their peak; the air crisp with just an occasional sprinkling of rain. In a word? Perfect.

We bundled up to take in a street festival, wandered through tiny shops, and cheered the sounds of a local one-man band who brought new meaning to the word ‘talent.’ We ate delicious local fare and drank coffee. Lots of coffee.

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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 to hear from you with 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, will completely neutralize and remove that odor—even if it has soaked all the way 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 must be done right to make sure those odors are completely neutralized and removed. Good luck and let us know how that works for you! xo m

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You Have Been Hacked Sign illustration design over white

How a Startling Red-Hot Alert Made My Day!

Some days I sit down to write this column and the words just pour from my mind through my fingers and onto the keyboard. Other times, like right now, all systems go blank—one big expansive, frustrating void.

You Have Been Hacked Sign illustration design over white

Just as I was about to run outdoors and bang my head on my new stone wall, I got that little ding letting me know I had mail—this time from Nancy.

Dear Mary: I’m interested in signing up for LifeLock. Do you feel it would be better to take the LifeLock Ultimate Plus (the most expensive) or the LifeLock Advantage plan and why? Thank you for your help. Nancy

That’s when I remembered that I wanted to tell you what happened to me. (Oh, this is so good!)

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Lestoil in laundry basket

10 Things You’ll Be Happy to Know About Lestoil

Have you ever had the occasion to wonder, “Where have I been all my life?” That was my reaction to learning about a simple heavy-duty cleaning product, Lestoil.

Apparently, Lestoil has been manufactured right here in the USA for decades and loved by many. Curiously, I’d never even heard of it—let alone used it like a rabid fan—until only a few years ago.

Lestoil Collage

In the off chance you, too, are not familiar with the powerful cleaner of all things hopelessly dirty, greasy or stained, here are 10 things you will be glad you know.

1. Heavy-duty grease and stain remover

Lestoil (pronounced less-toil … get it?) can be used full-strength on stains—especially really difficult stains; the kind of stains you just give up on like ink, toner, grease, oil, scuff marks, blood, lipstick, nail polish, paint, grass stains, coffee stains, crayon and marker stains on every surface you can imagine.

Great for both soft and hard surfaces like laundry, shoes, carpet, garage floors, counters, linoleum, tile, patios and plastic, Even the sticky stuff left behind by stickers and labels.

Apply Lestoil full strength to that stain, rub it in then allow it to sit for a few minutes, hours, or even overnight. Launder as usual or in the case of upholstery or other situations that cannot be laundered, rinse and blot; repeat as necessary (especially if the stain is old and the item has been washed and dryed repeatedly).

2. Really old

Lestoil has been around since 1933. While I have not been around quite that long, this makes me wonder where I have been, since I’ve only learned about Lestoil more recently. Lestoil is a registered trade name of Clorox for a heavy-duty multi-purpose cleanser product, although it contains no chlorine bleach, which we usually associate with “Clorox.”

3. So far 100%

Lestoil has removed every old stain I’d given up on as well as every new stain I’ve acquired since the two of us met—on clothing, carpet, concrete, and all kinds of patio furniture including molded plastic. It removed black stains that accumulated on outdoor furniture covers.

Lestoil made short order of some ugly stains on cultured stone. It removed that gross, sticky residue that shows up on vinyl and plastic, restoring it back to its former glory.

So far, Lestoil has worked on everything I’ve tried, most recently this shirt (with apologies to all of my expert photography readers—I promise to work on my lighting ).

Lestoil and Stain

Before After Results of Lestoil Heavy-Duty Stain Treatment

4. It’s soapy

Lestoil contains, among other things, sodium tallate (Tall Oil Acid), which is a type of soap. This means that once the job is done, it must be rinsed out, washed off, or otherwise removed to make sure the item being treated doesn’t retain a residue that will attract a new stain. Complete list of ingredients.

To clean: Use one-quarter cup Lestoil per gallon of water, rinse as needed. For tough jobs, use full strength and rinse immediately. Works on grease, tar, oil, fresh paint, scuff marks, and stains. Brush when necessary. With prolonged use, wear rubber gloves. For laundry, apply Lestoil to soiled areas. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Launder in the hottest water recommended on the garment label. Do not use on wool or silk. Before use, test inconspicuous area of garment for colorfastness.

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Baking ingredients on a wooden board, horizontal, close-up

Find Out the Best Time to Buy Baking Ingredients + Free Printable Cheat Sheet

Look up the word ‘impulsive’ in the dictionary and prepare to see my face. In my basement pantry, I have bags of chocolate chips to prove it. They are the ghosts of a Christmas past—left over from one of my Gift-in-a-Jar marathon projects.

And those two containers of candied fruit that must be ten years old by now, which I keep only because they’ve become a novelty. They appear to be the same as the day I bought them and perhaps one of the reasons fruit cake has gotten such a bad rap!

Baking ingredients on a wooden board, horizontal, close-up

I still have bags of all-purpose flour from last holiday season, which I bought for $.99 each, which I’ve stored in the freezer. Sugar is cheap during the holidays, too. Ditto for other holiday baking ingredients from marshmallows to sweetened condensed milk dates to nuts.

One of my basic rules of grocery shopping is this: When it’s on sale, buy enough to last until the next time it’s on sale. Baking supplies become so cheap this time of year, now is the time to stock up.

Which begs the question: How long will baking supplies last in the event you decide to buy enough to last the year? It all depends on the items and if you have the storage space to keep them at their optimum.

To make the information that follows more useful I put together a handy cheat sheet for you. Below you’ll see a link to download a free printable version that you can attach to the inside of a cabinet or another place to serve as a reminder.

Shelf life and Cheat sheet

Shelf life

Baking powder

Store in a tightly lidded container; 18 months unopened, six months opened. Stored in the freezer, baking powder is good indefinitely.

Baking soda

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place; good for two years unopened, six months opened. Kept in the freezer, good indefinitely.

Brown sugarbrown sugar keeper

Store in freezer and use within six months opened or unopened. If you don’t have freezer space, brown sugar will become hard as a brick, even stored unopened. Another option is to vacuum seal brown sugar in small amounts, like 1 or 2 lbs.

This, amazing little brown sugar keeper will make sure brown sugar is always soft and easy-to-use. I can fill it with hardened brown sugar, follow instructions to soak that little disk in water and place it in the lid, close the container, and in no time the brown sugar is soft and usable. Really cool.

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Butter

Comes two ways: salted and unsalted. Salt is added for flavor and as a preservative, so it will have a longer shelf life. Salted lasts up to five months refrigerated; unsalted has a short shelf life of about three months in the refrigerator.

If you do not plan to use unsalted butter right away, it is best to freeze it. When properly wrapped so it won’t pick up any odors, butter can be frozen for around six months. It’s best to defrost butter overnight in the refrigerator.

Canned evaporated milk

Store unopened on the pantry shelf for up to six months. Best to check the “use by” date on the product. After this time, it will not turn sour, but it will turn yellow and lose its flavor.

Chocolate chips

Store in a cupboard at room temperature; 18-24 months unopened, one year if opened. I can attest to the fact that chocolate chips will last what seems like forever in the freezer. They may get a white haze, but this will not affect the taste when used in baking.

Cooking oils

Store on pantry shelves at room temperature; good for up to a year; check if still good with the smell test. Oils can become rancid.

Eggs

Properly stored in the refrigerator, fresh eggs are good for four to five weeks past the “sell by” date.

Extracts

Expect these to last up to three or four years when kept at room temperature. (See pure vanilla extract below).

Flour

Unopened flour lasts for up to a year; opened, six to eight months. Whole wheat flour is good for up to a year unopened but use within six months if opened. If you have room, store flour in the freezer.

Granulated sugar

Store in a cool, dry place; good for two years unopened; use within six months if opened.

Karo syrup

ACH Food Companies, Inc., the conglomerate that owns and markets Karo syrup, says its Karo syrups are safe for consumption for an indefinite period of time whether it has been opened or not. I know, kinda’ creepy, but that’s the fact.

Light corn syrup may turn slightly yellow with age, but this is normal and not harmful. Storage conditions affect product quality.

Before or after opening, Karo syrup may be stored at room temperature. Bottles may be refrigerated after opening; however, the syrup will be thicker and pour more slowly.

Marshmallow creme

Store at room temperature for four months unopened; store in the refrigerator once opened and use within two months.

Marshmallows

Keep in an airtight container on the pantry shelf; good for three months.

Molasses

Store unopened in a cool, dark place for one year; store opened for six months in a cool, dry place or the refrigerator. Make sure the lid is tightly sealed.

Nuts

Stored in a tightly sealed container, shelled nuts will be good for up to six months in the pantry; 9 months to a year in the freezer.

Powdered sugar

Store in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator); good for 18 months unopened.

Pure vanilla extract

Store at room temperature; as long as it is pure, it has an indefinite shelf life. In fact, it even gets better with age.

Raisins

Up to three years stored on the pantry shelf at temperatures up to 80 F. Can be refrigerated.

Shortening

Store in the pantry at room temperature. Unopened, shortening lasts up to a year; opened, three to four months until it turns rancid.

Spices, ground

Store in a cool, dry place for two to three years. Here’s a tip to extend the shelf life: Don’t measure or sprinkle spices over a boiling pot. The steam from the pot will hasten the loss of flavor for what spice remains in the bottle. Measure spices into a bowl beforehand and then add them to the pot. Paprika and cayenne pepper will last longer when refrigerted, but it’s not necessary.

Spices, whole

Whole and ground spices don’t spoil, they just lose their strength. Store in a cool, dry place for two to four years.

Sweetened condensed milk

Store in a dry, clean, and cool place; good for one year unopened; invert can every two months. Carnation does not recommend using sweetened condensed milk past its “best before date” for quality reasons.

I am still searching for information on candied fruit. So far I can find no indication that it will ever spoil

I’ll keep you posted.

Gifts in a Jar—FREE eBook

Surprise! Here’s an early holiday gift. Click on the image and my 55-page eBook will open. You can either print or save it to your device. Enjoy!


keychain with tools

9 of the Best Pocket Tools and Gadgets Out There

I’ve been doing some early Christmas shopping, specifically for unique but useful gadgets—stocking stuffers for the adults in my family, some of who can be hard-to-buy-for.

Close up view of Christmas stockings hanging on fireplace

This is a task I usually leave until the last minute, which sends me scrambling. But not this year. I’m way ahead of the game since I found the perfect gifts—these super cool, unique, and useful, pocket-size tools and gadgets.

Leatherman Micro Tool

A pair of scissors
ImageLeatherman Squirt PS4 Multitool, the quintessential gadget, is a mere 2-1/4 inches in length when closed, and 2 oz. in weight—pocket size! Its spring-action clip easily attaches to a key ring or backpack or slides easily into a small pocket in a handbag.

With its three screwdrivers, wire cutter, scissors, knife blade, file, tweezers and bottle opener, you’ll have 9 tools powerful enough to keep you going when things fall apart. And did I say practical?

This little Squirt PS4 requires only one hand to open and to use all the tools, too. Remarkable! The Leatherman Squirt PS4 Multitool is super cool, available in three colors and comes with 25-year warranty.

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Windex and paper towel

17 Ways to Use Windex That Will Make You Happy

Recently, while digging out, cleaning up, and reorganizing our storage room I discovered a half-full jug of Windex. I have to admit that for a few moments, it was like Christmas and not because I was itching to clean windows. It’s because I know lots of situations where Windex comes to the rescue to make life easier!

A bottle of water on a table

What’s in it?

Windex now comes in at least 14 varieties of cleaners including Windex with ammonia, with vinegar, a crystal clear option, and even Windex Electronics Screen Wipes. But the original version remains the most popular and readily available.

According to SC Johnson, the original formula Windex contains cleaning agents, wetting agents, fragrance, and color. This makes it ideal for more than just cleaning glass and mirrors:

Laundry stains

Windex makes for a super effective stain remover on non-silk washable fabrics—especially on difficult red stains like red wine and tomato sauce and ketchup. Spray the stain liberally with Windex, allow to soak in and work for 20 minutes or so, then rinse it out with cold water. Launder as usual. Caution: Stick with the clear colorless version of Windex when using it to remove stains from white or light items.


Bug spray

Hit those ants and other creepy crawlies with a mist of Windex and watch them curl up and die. Many readers have reported this works really well but once cleaned up, it will not prevent the bugs from coming back. To do that, spray the cleaned up area with a light mist of white vinegar to create a more lasting barrier.

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dull gray laundry

Dingy Gray Laundry is the Problem—This is the Solution!

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Laundry stripping—it’s a hot topic around the internet these days, especially on cloth diapering and laundry forums. So is laundry stripping just a trendy topic or a fabulous laundry technique to solve an age-old problem?

The problem of dingy gray laundry is not foreign to my email inbox. In fact, it’s a subject that shows up a lot. Why do bedsheets, towels, socks, and t-shirts turn dull and gray, feeling stiff, and losing absorbency?

dull gray laundry

It’s the residue and buildup of detergent, fabric softeners, and minerals from hard water that we’re not removing with regular washing methods. Add to that the accumulation of sweat, body soil, deodorant, lotions, shampoo, conditioners and more that adhere and get stuck to the fibers of the fabric, and what do we get? Linens and clothes we think are clean but may come out with lingering odors and poor appearance.

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Gift and Bacon

Bacon Jam: Just Maybe the Best Homemade Holiday Gift Ever

When the holiday season arrives, the best gifts just might be from your kitchen. And when those gifts are extra decadent, well that just makes them even better.

A couple of years ago I got the crazy idea to take my homemade gifts of food beyond cookies, cakes and pure vanilla extract to bacon. Seriously. More specifically Bacon Jam.

Yes! And I have to say that with all the challenges you’ll discover as you read to the end, Bacon Jam is quite possibly the best holiday gift ever. I say that because it’s what local friends and family clamor for.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An aerosol can of spray dispensing its content against a backlit black background.

How to Rid Bathroom of Hairspray Overspray (and 13 More!)

Hairspray is wonderful for your hair. Not so great on the floor, sink, walls, mirror, and counter where you get ready every morning. Unless you are diligent to step outdoors every time you spray your hair, it’s a good bet hairspray overspray is landing on the nearby surfaces of your bathroom.

An aerosol can of spray dispensing its content against a backlit black background.

When allowed to build up day after day, hairspray can be tough to remove. What you need is a solvent that will melt the hairspray without harming the surfaces. Bonus points if that solvent does the job then dries quickly without leaving streaks.

Chances are good you already have the perfect product to remove hairspray buildup.

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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!

A close up of food, with Baked potato

Potatoes—they’re nutritious, delicious, and inexpensive. And as they come from the oven, they’re gluten-free, low-fat, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan, too.

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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A store front at day

19 Hobby Lobby Money-Saving Hacks, Tips, and Tricks

I was late to the party but somehow managed to catch up quickly. While Hobby Lobby has now expanded to California, I’d never stepped foot into one of the more than 800 stores until moving to Colorado.

How I lived for the greater part of my life without Hobby Lobby remains a mystery. Remarkably, somehow I survived.

A store front at day

Hobby Lobby is basically an arts-and-crafts heaven but also includes hobbies, picture frames and framing; jewelry making, fabrics, floral and wedding supplies, cards and party ware, baskets, wearable art, home accents and holiday merchandise. And let me tell you, this company runs a tight ship.

Generally, the prices at Hobby Lobby are good. But if you know the secrets—these hacks, tips, and tricks—you’ll never pay the full price on anything at Hobby Lobby again. And you’ll routinely be saving 50% (sometimes up to 90%).

Know the Hobby Lobby Sale Schedule

Just about everything in the store goes on sale for 50% off at some time or another. Knowing how to anticipate those sales is the secret to saving big.

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teeth

How To Make Your Own Teeth Whitener—Cheap and Easy

According to this study by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the most important thing people want to change about their smile is the whiteness of their teeth.

teeth

There are plenty of ways to achieve beautifully white teeth with over-the-counter kits, whitening products, and whitening procedures at dental offices—all good ways to get white teeth. And that can get expensive.

But here’s the deal: Bright smiles and white teeth were desirable long before there were whitening kits, strips, trays, pens, toothpaste, mouthwash, and professional treatments. Homemade whitening pastes are cheap to make, easy to use, and remarkably effective.

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Cheap Source for LED Lightbulbs and More Great Reader Tips

Not all companies are starving for business these days. In fact, some are setting records for growth. Any kind of repair business is doing great during these economically turbulent times.

Makes sense. After all, it doesn’t require a Mensa membership to know that most often it is cheaper to repair than to replace. And how about those dollar stores! If you can separate the good stuff from junk, it’s likely you’ll discover lots of ways to spend less.

Which leads me to today’s first in a fun collection of my readers’ great money-saving tips, tricks and bright ideas!

LED light bulbs

Another dollar store item you can buy cheaper and not sacrifice quality: LED light bulbs! I got this tip from a man who works at my town’s Home Energy Audit office. According to this expert, the quality is equal to those found at Home Depot and Lowe’s, but so much cheaper. I now keep a stash of bulbs from my local 99 Cents Only store. Other dollar stores stock them, too. Jan

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How to Make Easy 3-Ingredients Party Dips

Here’s my idea of a fabulous Halloween, New Year’s Eve, Super Bowl, or any other kind of party—one that includes a smorgasbord of dips and things to dip in them.

I’m talking about absolutely delicious hot, cold, savory, spicy, even sweet dips—an amazing variety sure to please all—beautifully arranged so that everyone can easily graze through the evening. All said dips need to be quick and easy to make, too, requiring only 3-ingredients (all available in local grocery and supermarkets).

Are you with me?


Queso (Cheese) Dip

Who doesn’t love smooth queso made with real cheese? Paired with tortilla or corn chips expect this queso to disappear quickly. Thankfully, you can make another batch in oh, about 5 minutes.

You will need:

  • half and half
  • cornstarch
  • medium sharp Cheddar cheese

Queso (Cheese) Dip

Who doesn't love smooth queso made with real cheese? Paired with tortilla or corn chips expect this queso to disappear quickly. Thankfully, you can make another batch in oh, about 5 minutes.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 214kcal
Cost: $5

Ingredients

  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 tbspn cornstarch
  • 8 oz. medium sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions

  • Place half and half and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Whisk until smooth.
  • Heat over medium heat stirring constantly just until it begins to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, continuing to stir, for about 30 seconds. 
  • Remove from heat.
  • Immediately stir in shredded cheese and continue to stir until smooth and lovely. Serve hot, immediately.

Notes

Nutrition

Calories: 214kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 55mg | Sodium: 251mg | Potassium: 89mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 522IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 315mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

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sink drain unclogged with clear water running freely

How to Unclog a Drain Without Caustic Chemicals

A plugged up sink, shower, or tub drain sends most people running for either a bottle of caustic drain cleaner or a plumber’s phone number. But wait. Unclogging a drain could well be a job you can do yourself successfully without chemicals or a big bill.

sink drain unclogged with clear water running freely

Assess the situation

Turn on taps to allow water down other drains in the house. If everything else is flowing freely, you can be fairly certain you have a localized clog—and probably near that clogged drain’s opening.

If this is involving other drains, you could have a bigger problem that may well require a professional. Assuming it’s only the one drain, let’s move on.

Boiling water

Get a large pot and boil up as much water as it will hold*. Now carefully and slowly, pour boiling water down the drain in two to three stages so that the hot water can work for a few minutes in between each pour. This is the easiest and quickest way to unclog a drain if it works, which usually it does with a satisfying swoosh.

*Or fill the pot with your very hottest tap water if you are dealing with a very old porcelain sink and/or PVC pipes, in which case there’s a slight chance that boiling water could cause damage.

Blue Dawn

Pour 1/2 cup of Blue Dawn detergent (no substitutes for best result)  into the drain. For tough clogs, use a full cup.

While that sits, bring a half pot of water (about 4 cups) to boil. Pour this into the drain slowly but steadily to avoid getting burned by splashing water. Next, run water down the drain to check how freely water flows through.

If the clog remains or seems to be clearing, but the drain is still slow-running, repeat the boiling water step until the drain runs free.

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, at no cost to you.

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A close up of a bottle on a table

7 Things You Should Never Plug Into a Power Strip

Whether you live in a house, apartment, condo, mobile home or dorm room, having enough electrical outlets to handle all of the accessories, appliances, and tools you need can be a challenge. And that’s when knowing how to use a power strip device safely sure comes in handy.

Power strip and Computer

While one of these devices can offer a reasonable solution for too few wall outlets, it’s a mistake to rely on power strips too much. Or to use one incorrectly. For safety’s sake, never plug these items into a power strip.

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Use This for That to Reduce Clutter and Save Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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male hand opening wallet of money

10 Simple Gadgets That Put Money Back in Your Wallet

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

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

male hand opening wallet of money

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

1. Outlet Sealers

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

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

socket sealers to reduce home energy

2. Window Shrink Film

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

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

Duck Brand Window Kit seals 10 indoor windows

3. Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer

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

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

fridge and freezer thermometers

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4. Surge Protector/Auto-switch

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

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

surge protector

5. Power Conserve Switch

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

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

6. Kill-A-Watt

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

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

kill-a-watt monitor

7. Showerhead

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

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

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

8. Faucet Aerator

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

faucet aerator

9. Programmable Thermostat

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

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

10. Motion Activated Solar Lights

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

A pizza sitting on top of a table

Absolutely the Best Way to Store and Reheat Leftover Pizza

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

A pizza sitting on top of a table

Store leftover pizza

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

Stack and wrap

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

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

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

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

5 Fabulous Homemade Cleaning Products that Use the Power of Alcohol

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

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

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

Windshield Washer Fluid

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

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

Eyeglass Lens and Screen Cleaner

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

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

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

rack of Costco rotisserie chickens

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

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

Breakfast

BBQ Chicken Omelet

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

You will need:

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

bbq chicken omelet

BBQ Chicken and Cheddar Omelet

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Nutrition

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

Lunch

Chicken Salad

You will need:

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

Chicken Salad

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Nutrition

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

Snack

Chicken Quesadillas

Super quick and tasty snack! Healthy, too.

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

Chicken Quesadillas

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Nutrition

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

Dinner

Easy Chicken Divan

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

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

Rotisserie Chicken Divan

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Nutrition

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

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


Christmas pattern made of colorful christmas baubles on red background. Flat lay, top view. New year concept

How to Do Christmas 2020 Without Debt

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

woman stressed out over Christmas debt

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

There are simple things you can do to stop procrastinating.

Get started

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

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

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

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

Write it down

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

Work with the time you have

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

Small deadlines

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

Find the simpler way

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

Be realistic

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

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

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

Let’s do this together

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

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

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

Ready?

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

Ready … Set … Let’s GO!


woman removing clothes and towels from clothes dryer

How to Use a Clothes Dryer Correctly

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

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

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

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

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

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

woman removing clothes and towels from clothes dryer

Get the soap out

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

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

Read more

cleaning black leather boot with olive oil

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

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

female hands cleaning black leather boot with olive oil

Photo credit: Wikihow

Rejuvenate leather

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

Good to the last squeeze

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

Savings on liquid soap

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

Boxer dog tearing through clothes in laundry room hamper

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

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

Boxer dog tearing through clothes in laundry room hamper

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

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

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

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

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simple human 30 liter round stainless steel trash can

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

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

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

on pint-size jar of trash

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

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


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

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

simple human 30 liter round stainless steel trash can

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

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, at no cost to you.

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A piece of cake sitting on top of a table

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

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

A piece of cake sitting on top of a table

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

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

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



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

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

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How to Make a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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

The man doesn’t know how to cook.

burnt grilled cheese sandwich on white plate with fork and knife

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

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

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vintage white slow cooker on white background

8 Surprising Non-Food Ways to Use a Slow Cooker

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

vintage white slow cooker on white background

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

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

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

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Scrub skin treatment while relax in spa

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

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

Face

Salt scrub

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

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

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

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

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, at no cost to you.

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silver flatware forks on linen napkin

Yes! You Can Wash Silver in the Dishwasher

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

silver flatware forks on linen napkin

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

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

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

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

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

silver pie server on black background

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

chicken with homemade teriyaki sauce

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

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

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

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

chicken with homemade teriyaki sauce

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

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woman and child using fabric softener in laundry room

5 Ways to Make Safe, Problem-Free Fabric Softener

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

woman and child using fabric softener in laundry room

1. Allergies

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

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

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

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kids halloween fun

Free Printables Make Halloween Super Fun

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

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

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

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

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A group of people sitting at a table

Mistakes We Make and the Courage to Fix Them

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

A group of people sitting at a table

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Consumer Behaviors Are Keeping You Broke!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

A large bed in a hotel room

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

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

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

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

Towels

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

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

Pro-Tip

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

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

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

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Iced coffee in a tall glass

How to Make Perfect Cold Brew Iced Coffee

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

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

Iced coffee in a tall glass

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

26 Ways to Use Dryer Sheets Around the House

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

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

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

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

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

Pro Tip

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

Spiders, flies

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

Luggage

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

Repel bugs

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

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

Repel deer

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

Blinds

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

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Hello October Header

October Is The Best Time to Buy These 12 Things

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

Hello October Header

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

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

Halloween costumes, decor, party gear

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

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

Jeans

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

Toys and games

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

Wedding supplies

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

Pizza

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

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

Cars

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

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

Stoves

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

Pro-Tip

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

Seasonal fruit

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

Pro-Tip

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

Air conditioners

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

Camping gear

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

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Grills and outdoor furniture

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

Garden and outdoor tools

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

Columbus Day sales

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

Amazon Prime Days, Oct. 13-14

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

 

Pro-Tip

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


A piece of cake sitting on top of a wooden table

Best Creative and Inexpensive Homemade Holiday Gifts!

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

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

A piece of cake sitting on top of a wooden table

Hand and Body Lotion

A jar of your own signature luxury hand and body lotion will definitely put you on the map. It’s that good. Not particularly crafty? No worries.

If you can assemble, empty, stir and mix well, you’ve got what it takes to make dozens of these gifts start to finish in a single evening.

A bottle of wine sitting on top of a wooden table

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

Gift and Cream

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

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

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apple pie in cast iron skillet

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

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

apple pie in cast iron skillet

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

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

The Crust

(Full recipe and printable recipe card below)

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

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

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

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

The Filling

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

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

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

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

The Pie Pan

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

apple pie in cast iron skillet