A person holding a baby

How to Clean and Restore Carpet Even if It’s Old, Stained, and Disgusting

If you hate your carpet because it’s old, stained, and bordering on disgusting, I have great news. There are steps you can take that will have you falling in love with it all over again.

A person holding a baby

Years ago when we remodeled our home, we replaced some of the carpets with hardwood. What a revelation. Now I could see the dirt and dust and, honestly, I couldn’t believe what accumulated in such a short time on those wood floors. Of course, I never saw it on the carpet but I know it was there all along. What a wake-up call it was to see the old carpet removed, rolled up and hauled away.

Here’s what we need to know and never forget: Regardless of the color, brand, or style—carpet hides dirt. This is not a good thing.

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How to Liquefy Crystallized Honey and Best Way to Store It

It’s discouraging when you reach for the honey, only to discover it is no longer a smooth liquid, but all grainy—like sugar! You may have even tossed it into the trash assuming that it’s gone bad, no longer edible. Truth be told, it is still perfectly delicious and nutritious. It’s easy to turn crystallized honey back into its liquid self.

How to Liquefy Crystallized Honey

First, if your crystallized honey is in a plastic container, transfer all or as much as you want to liquefy to a glass container with a lid. Apply the lid.
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collage of well prepared eggs

Incredibly Edible Eggs: Perfectly Fried, Poached, Scrambled, or Boiled

They’re packed with nutritional goodness, available almost everywhere, and relatively cheap when compared to the soaring cost of other proteins like meat and poultry. But the cheapest and most available eggs in the world are not likely to impact your food budget unless you know how to prepare them perfectly.

Eggs in carton box over brown texture background. Top view, flat lay

In keeping with my belief that it’s good to know how to cook well, I want to share with you several seriously amazing ways to prepare eggs. And I’m talking about the simple things like frying, scrambling, poaching, and boiling. When it comes to well-prepared eggs, it’s 10% eggs and 90% technique.

Fried

A properly fried egg should have a tender, fully cooked white with crisp brown edges that look a bit like lace. The yolk should be slightly thickened, but still fluid.

perfecly fried egg

The great thing about the following method for making perfectly fried eggs for two: no turning or flipping required. Just follow these instructions exactly— no changes and no cheating—and they’ll turn out perfect every time. You will need: Read more

Mistakes Teach Us What Doesn’t Work

Have you made any mistakes lately? Want to talk about it? Most people don’t. Can’t say that I blame them. It’s embarrassing. And when it’s a really dumb mistake, well that’s something you hope to never have to think about again. And that’s a mistake.

Mistakes are useful because they teach us what doesn’t work. But making the same mistake over and over again while expecting different results—well, that’s one definition of insanity. There’s tremendous value in learning from our mistakes. 

I’ve accumulated a list of mistakes over many years. It’s like a trophy now—a specific compilation of things that I do not have to do again because I’ve proven they do not work.

Walking into a supermarket without a plan

Walking into the grocery store (or Costco) without a plan—a written list and cash—is a terrible mistake. I know me. Without a conscious decision to stick to it, I am a $200 mistake just waiting to happen. And if I’m really hungry? Make that $300.

Buying extended warranties on appliances

Statistically, if an appliance is going to fail it will do so in the first 90 days (the product comes with a warranty to cover this time frame) or after five years (extended warranties aren’t that extended). It’s a good exercise to figure out the total cost of an extended warranty, then consider forgoing it in favor of putting that same amount into your savings account instead of the insurer’s pocket. Chances are very good that at the end of the period warranty period, you’ll have a working appliance and a nice nest egg for yourself. For the record, a laptop computer is my personal exception to this mistake. Laptops fail routinely, trust me.

Leasing a car

And it really doesn’t work to roll the shortfall and extra charges at the end of one auto lease into a new auto lease. To have repeated this mistake over and again for no fewer than 22 years straight (yes, me in my dark financial past) was to come dangerously close to insanity.

Buying a 7,000-gallon blow-up swimming pool

Actually, I didn’t know such a thing existed so I can’t even argue it was something we needed. Standing there in the middle of the Home Show I managed to pull off the impulse purchase of the century (thankfully, this was in the last century). That was a mistake that just kept on giving lessons to be learned until the day several years later we begged Goodwill to just take it away. Please.

Carrying more than $100 cash

Carrying a single $100 bill I keep tucked into a secret place in my wallet is for me a great deterrent for overspending. I don’t feel broke, but it’s a bill I hate to break. It is also the tipping point. Carrying around more than $100 (unless it is for a specific and immediate purchase) creates a feeling of excess that burns a hole in my wallet. The overage simply disappears. That’s a lesson I needed to learn and re-learn. Oh, the insanity.

Paying for Christmas with credit

When it comes to mistakes, depending on credit to bridge the gap between what you earn and what you spend is a big one. Debt is a terrible liar, insisting that while you don’t have the money today, you’ll have it next month. Or the next. Debt keeps you stuck in the past, always stealing from the future.

Regularly eating in restaurants

Great fortunes are often lost one dollar at a time. It may not seem like a big deal when you pick up that double cappuccino, grab breakfast on your way into the office, or eat dinner out because you’ve had (another) busy day but every little item adds up. Just $25 per week spent on fast food costs you $1,300 per year, which could go to building your emergency fund, beating down your student loan debt, an extra mortgage payment, or a number of extra car payments.

Using home equity like a piggy bank

Your home is your castle. Refinancing and taking cash out means giving away ownership to someone else. It also costs you thousands of dollars in interest and fees. Smart homeowners build equity so they don’t end up making in perpetuity. The goal is to reach 100% equity—you own it free and clear! If you keep spending the equity through home equity loans (HEL) or home equity lines of credit (HELOC) you’ll never get there, you’ll end up paying way more for your home than it’s worth, which all but guarantees you won’t come out on top when you decide to sell.

My husband and I spent years seeing our home’s meager equity as some kind of ATM. But we learned from that mistake. After years of hard work plus and benefiting from home appreciation we own our home free and clear—no mortgage ever again.

Living paycheck to paycheck

We hear it a lot, “paycheck to paycheck” but what does it mean really? I’ll tell you: Living with no cushion, no savings account, no budget, and no plan—getting paid on Friday, seeing it all but gone by Monday, then white-knuckling by living on credit cards and avoiding creditors until Friday when you get paid and it starts all over again. It’s an awful way to live.

Using retirement savings to pay off debt

You may be thinking that if your debt is costing 19% and your retirement account is making 7%, swapping the retirement for the debt means you will be pocketing the difference. But it’s not that simple. In addition to losing the power of compounding, it’s very hard to pay back those retirement funds, and you could be hit with hefty fees. With the right mindset, borrowing from your retirement account can be a viable option, but even the most disciplined borrowers have a tough time coming up with the money to rebuild these accounts. When the debt gets paid off, the urgency to pay it back usually goes away. It will be very tempting to continue spending at the same pace, which means you’ll fall back into debt again, needing to borrow yet again from that 401(k) to get caught up, and on and on it goes. If you are going to pay off debt with savings, you have to live like you still have a debt to pay—but now it’s to your retirement fund.

Debt is reversible, thankfully—provided you don’t do it over and over expecting that eventually, somehow you will get different results.

That would be insane.

Question: What was the best lesson you ever learned from a financial mistake? If you feel comfortable, share it in the comments area below.


Bugs-Rodents-Natural-Pest-Control

19 DIY Non-Toxic Natural Pest Control Recipes and Solutions

Recently, a friend sent me an S.O.S. asking if I knew of any natural pest control to rid an apartment of fleas—a method that would not be toxic to small children. Treating their pets and animals would be the first step, but surprisingly these folks have no animals. The truth is that flea infestations often occur simply because neighborhood cats or dogs like to lounge near their home or they have purchased an infested piece of furniture from a yard sale.

Bugs-Rodents-Natural-Pest-Control

I headed right for my collection of pest control recipes and retrieved the perfect solution for fleas. I thought you might enjoy knowing that one for fleas, plus natural, non-toxic remedies for all kinds of home and garden pests.

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best gadgets collage

8 Super Useful Kitchen Gadgets

There’s just nothing like a clogged drain in a tub, sink, or shower to get the day off to a bad start. Ack! Now what? Gallons of caustic drain cleaner? A mad online search for an available plumber? Today, I want to share a fabulous anti-clog tool plus seven other kitchen gadgets that I love and adore because they make my life easier. Besides that, I think they’re just plain awesome.

best gadgets collage

1. Zip-It

If you’ve got drains they’re a problem just waiting to happen—but one you can prevent with a slickest little gadget you’ve ever seen.

Many years ago, a faithful reader introduced me to Zip-It,  an ingenious drain cleaning tool that works like a champ on drains prone to gathering hair—showers, bathroom sinks, etc. There are lots of knock-offs out there, but this is the original Zip-It from its inventor, still made in the USA. Totally genius. You’ll find one of these under every sink in my home.

Zip-It is a 25-inch plastic snake with barb-like hooks that when inserted into any drain, twisted, and then pulled out, easily removes all the hair, gunk, and stuff that builds up in those bathroom drains to eventually cause a major clog—stuff that doesn’t easily dissolve using boiling water or other tricks.

Zip-It is 100% environmentally safe and involves no toxic fumes or chemicals. Use it once a month to maintain clean drains in your home and you can say good-bye to future clogs and expensive housecalls.

Amazon sells Zip-It in a 3-pak; Walmart 1-pak.

        WALMART $14.97


2. Classic can opener

I’m pretty sure I’ve tried them all—every type of can opener out there. EZ-DUZ-IT  is the old school, faithful, tried and true can opener, easy-to-use, manual can opener. This kitchen gadget is compact, doesn’t take up counter space and with red handles, I can always find it. (It does come in other colors.) Best of all, EZ-DUZ-IT works. It really does open cans without any hassles, tricks or annoying fails. CAUTION: Do not put this can opener in the dishwasher! Handwash and dry only.

        WALMART $14.47


3. Pocket food thermometer

This ThermoPop super handy, food thermometer gives super fast readings for whatever you’re cooking—and it easily rotates so you can see it no matter the angle required. Even better it has a backlight! It comes in a bunch of cool colors. This is my old faithful because it’s simple to use and I know I can trust ThermoPop. I’ve had mine for years and it still works like new.

ThermoPop

THERMOWORKS $35.00


4. Spiralizer

It was new to me—a non-noodle choice at Noodles World Kitchen restaurant. It’s called zoodles—zucchini noodles! My first thought was, how did they do that? I’m pretty sure they use a gadget and you can have one, too. This Spiralizer will turn out fresh zoodles right there in your kitchen. Of course, it has lots of other uses, too Bonus: So much fun!

        WALMART $24.97


5. Mr. Scrappy

Whether you have a stinky garbage disposal presently or plan to never experience such a thing ever again—this is the kitchen gadget you need. Mr. Scrappy‘s secret is that he will clean under the splash guard (the rubber flange that keeps stuff from splashing out. That’s where gross, nasty stuff gets caught that you cannot see or reach. Just follow the package instructions for use and you’ll have a clean, fresh-smelling garbage disposal in a matter of minutes thanks to the original Mr. Scrappy!

        WALMART $26.21


6. Lemon and lime juicer

As part of my kitchen clean-out-reorganization-spring-clean project, I discarded three useless citrus juicers and replaced them with this one, fabulous, manual gadget. The electric juicer was a piece of junk. It made a big mess, was difficult to clean, and took up too much storage space. The other two had rusted and had never worked well anyway.

This  Zulay Lemon Lime Hand Juicer quickly found a spot on my “it’s a miracle!” list. Seriously easy to use (takes so little effort because it is ergonomically correct) gets out more juice than I would have thought possible—especially from limes.

It has two different sized “bowls” that make it even more useful because one of them always fits whatever I need to juice. Zulay is made of enamel-coated-metal, so no more rust. And so handy. I could not be any happier with my Zulay. NOTE: The cut half goes into this juicer cut-side down. I know that seems weird given the shape and all but therein lies the magic.

Note: Walmart’s Zulay has a single bowl.

        WALMART $28.59


7. Frywall

It’s a splash guard for your favorite skillet. You may know about needing something like this if you’ve prepared our favorite Crispy Skin Chicken Thighs recipe (an EC favorite that makes quite a mess without a Frywall).

Frywall is totally genius. Made of silicone it can handle high-temp sauteing and frying, keeping all that popping grease contained and not all over the stovetop without closing up the top of the skillet, which would prevent you from reaching in to add, stir and move things around. Frywall comes in three sizes to fit 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch skillets. (Make sure you’re using the right size.) It cleans up in the dishwasher then folds up neatly for storage. Frywall is such a cool invention! And it comes in several colors.

        WALMART $27.00


8. Handheld cordless vacuum

This is the new,  updated version of the Black + Decker cordless handheld vac I’ve been using for years and absolutely love. Now with 20v Lithium-ion battery, its super-powerful, holds the charge like forever when off its charger, and has amazing runtime. Lightweight, fast charging.  Comes with a washable (also replaceable) filter and large dirt bowl.

        WALMART $87.78

Revised & Updated 6-9-21


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woman looking into empty pantry

The Emergency Food Items You Need to Stock Up On Now

No one knows how long these challenging times will last. This could drag on for a while; it may be over fairly soon. And there may be new, unexpected national or global crises right around the corner. One thing we know for sure: Life is uncertain. Every home needs a stockpile of non-perishable shelf-stable emergency food items. It’s part of any sensible emergency preparedness plan. You need to stock up now. Today.

woman looking into empty pantry

Good news! You can have all of these emergency food items delivered to your front door by Amazon or by a local grocery store in your area that offers online ordering with pick up or delivery.

What follows is a list of the essential pantry items that need to be stocked in your cupboards and pantry. You may have some of these already. It’s time to check and take inventory.

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clean shower bathroom sparkling

How to Make No-Rinse Daily Shower Cleaner—Cheaper Better Faster

More than 25 years ago, I learned how to make a powerful tub and shower soap scum cleaner that tackles soap scum and beats any commercial product I have ever tested. It rocked my world and it’s done the same for thousands of readers I’ve shared it with through the years.

But we needed to find a way to keep our tubs and showers looking that beautiful every day, without a lot of effort. While homemade Tub and Shower Soap Scum Cleaner works really well—like magic!—it’s not for daily maintenance.

clean shower bathroom sparkling

The only thing better than making my own cleaning products is when what I make turns out to be cheaper, better, and faster than something I might buy in the store to accomplish the same goal. This spray-and-walk-away Daily Shower Cleaner is the perfect solution to keep tubs and showers sparkling between major cleanings.

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high gas price, arm and leg

17 Ways to Cut the Soaring Price of Gasoline

Only a few months ago I paid $1.87 a gallon for gas in Thornton, Colo. That’s nearly a dollar cheaper than I paid this past week at the same location—$2.85 per gallon! What’s going on?

high gas price, arm and leg

According to Forbes, the price for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil tested the $70 level last week, before closing at $69.62. That may be great news for oil producers around the U.S., but it’s bad for America’s families getting ready to hit the road for summer vacations.

And sadly, I have even worse news for travelers. Given industry predictions and what’s coming out of Wash. D.C. these days, the price at the pump won’t be going anywhere but up in the foreseeable future.

While there’s precious little any one of us can do about the national economy, we can do something about our personal economies.

To save a gallon of gas, you need to cut about 22 miles of driving. Here are 17 easy ways to do that:

1. Hop on the bus, Gus

Even if you assume it’s not an option for you, consider public transportation. You may be surprised by all the options that you have never considered. Or carpool. Leaving the car at home and sharing your commute occasionally can help you reach your gallon goal quickly. Sharing the ride—and expense—with another person regularly can cut your gas costs in half. Check out your carpooling opportunities at the eRide Share app, eRideShare.com.

2. Take it easy

The faster you drive, the more gas you use. If your average commute includes 20 miles of highway time and you drive it at 60 mph instead of 70 mph, it will take you only three minutes longer to get there, and you’ll save approximately 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day workweek.

3. Trip-chain

Need to pick up a prescription, mail a package, and go to the bank? Instead of spreading these tasks out over a few trips, chain them together by doing all of them at one time. Park in a central spot and walk from place to place.

4. Shop online

Save the trips to the store, and consider other online services to minimize errands such as banking, buying stamps, and paying bills. Just make sure that any delivery fees are not wiping out the potential savings in gasoline.

5. Drive a sipper, not a guzzler

If you own vehicles of differing sizes, take the smaller, more fuel-efficient one on any long trips that you can. Check with GasBuddy.com for the lowest price in your area.

6. Take a hike (or ride a bike)

Instead of driving everywhere, lace up your sneakers and get some exercise while you save gas. A bicycle can help you rack up car-free miles even faster.

7. Work in your sweats

If you have a job for which working from home might be possible, ask the boss if you and your coworkers can telecommute one day a week to save gas. If you are the boss, consider making it a company-wide initiative.

8. Fill up on Monday

Or Tuesday. GasBuddy, a site that tracks gas prices like none other, says that Monday and Tuesday are historically the cheapest days of the week to fill up your tank. And for sure, never on the weekends! And if you’re filling up with unleaded plus or premium-grade gasoline while the owner manual does not specifically require that for your vehicle? Stop doing that! Downgrade to the cheaper unleaded or regular option.

9. Stop idling

According to Linda Gaines, Argonne transportation systems analyst:

“You should shut off your engine. Unless you drive a vintage, carburetor-equipped vehicle, you’ll save fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by turning it off. Some drivers think that idling uses less fuel than restarting, but our research has found that drivers save fuel and reduce emissions by shutting down for stops as brief as 10 seconds. That being said, we don’t recommend turning your car on and off in stop-and-go traffic; driving safely means being able to respond quickly to traffic conditions.”

10. Drive as if gas is being rationed

The time may come that you will be allowed only a set number of gallons per week no matter the cost, no matter your needs (remember the 70s? Anyone?). Start driving now as if you are on a 10-gallons-per-week limit. The practice will do you good.

11. Take up hypermiling

Hypermiling uses extreme techniques to turn ordinary cars into highly efficient vehicles. While some hypermiling techniques are just downright dangerous, others are safe and practicable by everyday people. Here are a few techniques that can increase the gas mileage in your car to otherwise unthinkable levels, such as avoiding overuse of the brakes , reducing your drag, accelerating slowly, and so forth.

12. Get cool with school

As you look forward to getting back to school in the fall, instead of driving your kids to and from school every day, team up with friends and neighbors with kids in the same school to help. You can each take turns picking up the tykes. Ditto for church and sports activities.

13. Lighten up

The heavier the load your car has to carry, the harder its engine has to work to keep the wheels moving, which means the more gas it guzzles. Don’t use your trunk for long-term storage. You could be hauling around the weight equivalent of another person without even realizing it. Do this: Remove everything from the cargo space or trunk. While it’s empty cleaning it out. Return only the items required for safety. Everything else? Find a better storage spot in the garage or house.

14. Check those tires

Most drivers are baffled when it comes to tire pressure. For the everyday driver, refilling the tires usually only happens when they “look low” or a tire pressure light comes on inside the dash. It’s true the tire pressure can affect gas mileage.

For optimal life expectancy of tires and the best gas mileage, check the pressure every time you fill-up with gas. Keep your tires inflated at the PSI (pounds per square inch) recommended in the manual or on that sticker on the edge of the door on the driver side of the door—NOT the PSI you see printed on the tire wall.

The PSI value listed on the tire wall is the maximum pressure at which the tire will be able to safely support its maximum load rating before bursting! This pressure should be considered the tire’s maximum inflation limit.

The PSI value listed on the vehicle’s sticker inside the door jamb or manual is the PSI the manufacturer recommends in order to achieve the best fuel mileage and tire wear for that specific vehicle. Usually, this recommended PSI is lower than the maximum PSI shown on the tire wall.

15. Cruise control is your friend

When you are not in stop-and-go traffic but rather out on the open road, put your vehicle into cruise control. That is a relaxed and joyful way to roll. Your gas mileage agrees as this eliminates fluctuations in speed, which wreak havoc on your miles per gallon.

16. Join the club

Most grocery stores now have clubs. If yours does, join it. Chances are good that the supermarket also has a gas station where you earn points or rewards based on your grocery purchases, or offers these rewards at a station nearby. You’ll actually get discounts on your gas purchases based on your reward points. Club memberships are free and totally worth the effort.

17. Pay with cash

Many gasoline stations give a discount for cash payment. It’s their way of avoiding credit and debit card processing fees, also known as merchant fees. It will be a bit less convenient for you to pay the cashier instead of feeding plastic into the pump, but the savings will be so worth it. Plus you’ll add more steps to reach your daily goal.


couple moving and thowing coins in a piggybank

How to Save Money and Get Financially Confident Starting Now

For a good deal of my life, I lived under a dark cloud of fear that I would end up financially destitute—a bag lady. Studies reveal that I’m not the only one. Most of us have felt that way, not because we’re broke, but because we lack confidence. That makes us timid, worried, and financially insecure.

Look, we don’t have to accept financial insecurity as some kind of life sentence. And that constant and gnawing fear of becoming destitute? Forget it! We can do something about this.

 conceptual portrait of happy senior female lying on bed with piggybank

Become a saver

Saving money is like magic because it changes your attitude and calms your fears. I saved my way out of a six-figure pile of debt. Knowing I had cash tucked away in a safe place quieted my insatiable desires. That is where I found my determination to stick with repaying the debt. I taught myself how to save, beginning with a single $5 bill.

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Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts—Sinfully Delicious!

I see lots of delicious-looking things as I spend time cruising the Internet, searching, and researching. But rarely if ever, do I come across something so compelling, appealing, and downright decadent that it stops me in my tracks and sends me flying to the kitchen to give it a try. I mean really, could there be anything more perfect than an Apple Fritter Waffle Donut?

Admittedly, I may be late to the party on this one, but if you have never heard of such a thing—you’re in for the treat of a lifetime.

Yes, I did make Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts. In fact, I’ve made this recipe four times in the past 30 days. I call it research. You know, honing my pastry skills. My family calls them delicious and please make some more!

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Before we get going here, if you have hopes of this being low-cal, gluten-free, vegan, low-carb dairy-free, Whole30 (did I miss anything?), let me dash those hope right upfront. This is none of that.

This not health food. AFWDs are a special treat, a secret addition for your next camping trip; Christmas morning breakfast indulgence. A lovely item alongside the best semi-homemade Cinnamon Rolls of all time, anytime!


Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

(Complete printable recipe below)

You’ll need:

  • all-purpose flour
  • white granulated sugar
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • cinnamon
  • buttermilk
  • butter
  • eggs
  • vanilla extract
  • apples
  • oil
  • powdered sugar
  • milk

General steps to make AFWDs

1. Make the waffle batter, and use it to make waffles according to your waffle maker manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on your waffle maker, you should come out with about 8 individual waffles.

2. Move waffles to a cooling rack, about 20 minutes.

3. Move waffles to a cooling rack, about 20 minutes.

4. Cut waffles in half, diagonally to make about 16 AFWDs.

5. Once cool, deep fry AFWDs until golden brown.

deep frying Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

6. Drain on paper.

7. Dip the hot AFWDs into the glaze.

There you go … decadent, warm Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts — Wonuts!

Enjoy!

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Absolutely delicious, bordering on decadent! Yummy served warm with ice cream!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin
Course: Dessert, Sweets
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 16
Calories: 376kcal
Cost: $5

Equipment

  • Waffle maker
  • Deep fryer, skillet or wok

Ingredients

WAFFLES

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn baking soda
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 2 tspn cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped apple peels removed, chopped finely
  • oil for frying

GLAZE

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tspn vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat waffle maker,
  • In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt
  • In a separate medium size bowl, combine buttermilk, melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Beat with a fork until well-incorporated.
  • Stir wet ingredients into the dry. Mix until fully incorporated.
  • Fold in chopped apple until evenly distributed.
  • Use batter to make waffles, according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Move waffles to a cooling rack. Once cool, use a knife to cut diagonally or the shape you desire.
  • Heat your oil of choice in a deep fryer, deep skillet or wok to 350 F.
  • Fry two sections, or the number you can easily fit into the oil vessel of choice, until golden brown, about 1 to 2 mins on each side.
  • Remove to paper towels to drain and then to cooling rack.
  • Whisk together the Glaze ingredients and pour into a shallow dish, like a pie pan or the like.
  • Dip "donuts" into the glaze so that all sides are coated. Move back to cooling rack to drip and set up.
  • Wait, if you can, about 20 minutes before serving.

Notes

  1. I use two small apples to equal 2 cups chopped. Your mileage may vary.
  2. I use canola oil for frying, however, vegetable, corn, or peanut oil would also work well.
  3. The deep-frying process goes super fast—it takes about 1 min. on each side, so keep your eye on things!
  4. This is my deep-fryer. It's small, inexpensive and mighty! I recommend it highly for occasional deep-frying, which is the frequency with which I use it. 
  5. Many thanks to Janica of CookingWithJanica.com for teaching me how to make AFWDs❣️.

Nutrition

Calories: 376kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
Bed

Best Inexpensive Bed Sheets—UPDATE!

Let me tell you about my mission to discover the Best Inexpensive bed sheets. It went on for many months. It cost a fortune because as you know when I test products for you I purchase them myself. I do not want to be beholden in any way to a manufacturer, distributor, or company when it comes to determining what I believe is the Best Inexpensive option.

White pillow on bed with table light lamp decoration in bedroom interior bedsheets

Sheet snob

When it comes to bed sheets, I am particular. Call me a sheet snob and you’d have me pegged, which means that my personal standards could be too high to be considered affordable.

It’s not a matter of decor or brand. It’s the way the sheets feel. They should be smooth and wrinkle-free. The sheets need to breathe and not stick to me. But they can’t be slick, slippery, crunchy, or noisy. The weave has to be tight and the sheets can’t feel like sandpaper.

For me, sheets have to fit well, too. The fitted sheet cannot pop off the corners of the mattress; but it can’t be too big, so as to become baggy, which can lead to bunching up. Above all, my sheets must be 100% cotton. Not linen, not microfiber or polyester or any other type of fiber or blend thereof.

Seriously, if the sheets are not right, I don’t sleep well. And by well I mean sound asleep—not tossing, turning, and continuously waking up.

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A close up of food on a plate, with Meatloaf

How to Stretch Ground Beef And Make the High Cost Easier to Swallow

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest official data says in June 2020, the average price of a pound of lean ground beef climbed to a whopping $5.63 per pound. In the intervening year, we’ve seen all kinds of economic turmoil, sending us into inflationary times, when the price of everything is soaring. 

If you and your family are not ready to turn vegetarian—nor are you prepared to pay a king’s ransom for quality hamburger—you do have another option: Get creative. Okay, maybe a little sneaky, too.

A close up of a plate of food, with Ground beef

But first, let’s talk turkey, I mean, ground beef. The really lean option of ground beef, 93/7, is not easy to prepare well. That’s because there’s not enough fat in it to turn out juicy, delicious fare. Super lean ground beef requires careful seasoning as well as careful cooking.

Let’s say that you, like I, prefer organic, lean ground beef. Yesterday I paid $5.00 per pound for the best quality at my supermarket, on sale. Yikes! But I didn’t really pay that.

My effective cost is more like $3.24 per pound. How? Please don’t tell a soul—I stretch it. I take the best quality ground beef and then “extend” it by at least one-third. So whatever the price in the store, I mentally reduce it by 33% to get my effective cost.

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mop on the floor

How to Make Swiffer WetJet Refills—Cleaning Solution and Pads, Too

If you own a Swiffer WetJet Spray Mop, chances are you absolutely love it. But let me guess: You’re not wild about how expensive it is to buy the refills—the bottles of cleaning solution and disposable cleaning pads. Read on for everything you need to know about Swiffer Wetjet refills!

swiffer wetjet job on wood floor

Even more annoying, to the WetJet manufacturer, “refill” means throwing out the empty dispenser bottle entirely and having to purchase the refill liquid in a new bottle. Know what I mean?

And just try to pry the lid off an empty bottle to refill it yourself. That thing is impossible to get off without destroying it and yes, I speak from experience. A single WetJet refill bottle can be as much as $7.50 each. And the disposable pads? At least $.50 each and that’s on a good (sale) day.

Well, you can forget all that bad news because I’ve learned how to get that bottle open, making it totally reusable (it won’t leak!), and how we can save money making our own Swiffer solution and reusable cleaning pads, too.

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ceiling fan white hot day cool inside

How to Keep Your Home Cool This Summer—On a Budget!

Are you dreading the heat of summer? Relax while you consider these ingenious solutions to keep your house comfortable without putting a freeze on your bank account.

ceiling fan white hot day cool inside

Keep furniture clear

Your AC unit needs freedom to blast out air unobstructed by a sofa, drapes, or other thing covering it up or preventing it from doing its best job. Check every room. None of your furniture should be blocking that flow of air. This means you may need to move the sofa and rearrange the bedroom the get the air circulating well.

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How to Get Rid of Ants Quick and Easy Using Ordinary Stuff In Your Pantry

Knowing how to get rid of ants around the house is important. But it’s also fun to learn just how fascinating these creatures are. They’re industrious and super smart as insects go. Some ants can support up to 50 times their own weight while upside down on glass.

ants building a house

More Fun Facts

  • There are more than 12,000 species of ants all over the world.
  • An ant can lift 20 times its own body weight. If a second-grader was as strong as an ant, he or she would be able to pick up a car.
  • Most of the ants we see are workers. They are female, but they cannot reproduce—that is the queen ant’s job.
  • Some queen ants can live for many years and have millions of babies
  • Ants don’t have ears. Ants “hear” by feeling vibrations in the ground through their feet.
  • When ants fight, it is usually to death.
  • When foraging, ants leave a pheromone trail so that they know where they’ve been.
  • Queen ants have wings, which they shed when they start a new nest.
  • Ants don’t have lungs. Oxygen enters through tiny holes all over the body and carbon dioxide leaves through the same holes.
  • Queen ants, sometimes living for up to 30 years, give birth to millions of babies.
  • Male ants’ only job is to mate with the queen. (You’re chuckling).
  • Ants are found almost everywhere on Earth. The largest ant colony ever found was over 3,750 miles wide. And you think you’ve got problems?

Despite how fascinating ants may be, control and management around the home are important for both health and safety reasons. If you suspect you have a serious ant infestation, consider calling a pest control professional. However, most ant problems—especially those teeny tiny sugar ants*—are generally annoying and a problem you can solve quickly with ordinary items you have around the house and garage.

Think of what follows as a buffet of methods to get rid of ants in your home, on your property and perhaps even in the garage. You pick the solution that meets your immediate need with items you have on hand.

1. Mop and vacuum

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

2. Soap and water

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

3. Diatomaceous earth

This is my personal favorite way to get rid of ants because it is natural, quick, and sure. Diatomaceous earth is non-toxic, harmless for pets and kids. Important: Make sure you are using food-grade diatomaceous earth—NOT swimming pool DE, which has been chemically altered and will be completely ineffective to kill ants and other bugs.

Sprinkle the food-grade DE outside around the perimeter of your home. You can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see the ants—along baseboards especially. Do not wet the DE or it will not work.

Once the ants walk in the fine powder they’ll die because the DE quietly destroys their exoskeletons.

*Sugar ants are a common name that many people use to describe any small ant that is attracted to sweets.

4. Black pepper

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

5. All-Natural Outdoor Bug Spray

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Pour the water, garlic, and onion into a 1-quart jar. Allow steeping for 1 hour.
  2. Next mix in the liquid soap.
  3. Then strain through a sieve.
  4. Finally, pour into a spray bottle.

Notes:  This all-purpose insect spray remains potent for only 1 week, so use it up.

A cup of beer on a table

All-Natural Homemade Bug Spray

Chances are really good you have on hand the ingredients to make this all-natural, potent, bug spray that is very effective on ants and other creepy crawlies!
No ratings yet
Print Pin Rate
Course: Pest Control
Cuisine: Garden and Outdoors
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 3 cups
Cost: $.75

Equipment

  • one-quart jar with lid
  • knife
  • sieve
  • measuring spoon
  • 16-oz. spray bottle

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap

Instructions

  • Gather items: jar, water, onions, garlic and tools.
    onion
  • Chop and prepare
    choped onions
  • Pour the water, chopped garlic, chopped onion, and cayenne into a 1-quart jar. Apply the lid and allow to steep for one hour
    Jar
  • Add liquid soap, apply lid, and shake to mix.
    pure castile soap
  • Pour through a sieve into a spray bottle (or into a wider container first, then transfer to spray bottle.)
    A cup of beer on a table

Notes

Note 1: This all-purpose insect spray remains potent for only 1 week, so use it up.
Note 2: Safe around pets and children!
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

6. Vinegar

A 50/50 ratio of water and white vinegar can also deter ants. Use this mixture to spray on countertops, window sills, and high traffic areas.

7. WD-40

Spray any areas where ants are feeding or accessing your house with WD-40. The spray will kill ants and also serve as a deterrent from further access as long as residue from the spray remains. Not sure where they’re coming in? Spray WD-40 along the outside perimeter of the house. They will not cross it because ants hate the smell of WD-40. (So do rabbits!) Repeat as necessary.

8. Chalk

Get rid of ants by drawing a line around your home’s entry points using ordinary blackboard or sidewalk chalk. The calcium carbonate repels ants.

9. Boiling water

If fire ants plague your yard or patio and you’re tired of getting stung by those tiny attackers, a flowerpot can help you quench the problem. Place the pot upside down over the anthill. Pour boiling water through the drain hole and you’ll be burning them and their house for good.

10. Citrus

To ant-proof your kitchen you don’t need insecticides or ant traps. Just give it the lemon treatment. First, squirt some lemon juice on door thresholds and windowsills. Then squeeze the lemon juice into any holes or cracks where the ants are getting in. Finally, scatter small slices of lemon peel around the outdoor entrance.

11. Coffee

Scatter your used coffee grounds in the garden and around the outside of your house. Ants are repelled by the scent given off by the grounds. Bonus: Coffee grounds are good for your soil and plants.

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

Quick and Easy Outdoor Cleaning and Storage Tips You Can Use

Many outdoor cleaning and storage solutions can be rather expensive, especially when compared to do-it-yourself or homemade alternatives. Here some of my favorite cleaning tips and storage solutions for the garage and patio that will give you the results you need without the costs you don’t.

Charcoal Starter

After the food has been cooked on the barbecue, don’t leave coals to burn out. With a shovel, scoop them up into an empty can and smother them by placing a non-flammable lid over the can. They can be used again.

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Family having dinner in restaurant

How to Cut High Cost of Eating Out? 17 Easy Ways to Get Started

The average American household spends most of its money—62% of an average $60,060 in annual expenditures—on just three things: housing, transportation, and food. If you’re trying to cut costs and save money, food is the place to get started.

Family having dinner in restaurant

Americans spent more than $$659 billion—yes, billion—at restaurants in 2020 and that was during the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association. To turn a profit, restaurants generally charge about four times as much per dish as they paid for its individual ingredients—that’s a 400% markup.

Reducing restaurant visits and increasing your home-cooked meals is a surefire way to cut food costs. And when you do opt to eat out, here are 17 realistic, ethical, and pretty awesome ways to keep your tab lean!

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empty apartment kitchen

The $150 Starter Kitchen

Know anyone getting ready to move into their first apartment? Whether it’s a recent college grad, newlyweds or maybe it’s you, outfitting the kitchen can be a daunting, albeit essential, task. And it can get expensive. The problem is that as long as that kitchen sits idle, someone will be spending a lot of money eating out.

empty apartment kitchen

For less than the cost of a week’s worth of restaurant meals, I can show you how to set up a starter kitchen that will get that special someone in your life excited about cooking at home. Just keep in mind that these aren’t the highest quality items available. But for newly minted grads and couples, this will get them started cooking great cheap meals in the kitchen while they save to one day invest in higher quality cookware.

Pots and Pans

Here’s a budget-friendly cookware set that looks good, cleans up easily, and will get a new kitchen up to speed in a hurry! Tempered glass lids with steam vent make viewing food easy, keep heat and moisture in, and do double duty on the fry pans. Not Induction compatible. Works on gas, electric, glass, ceramic, halogen, etc. Oven-safe to 350F. Dishwasher safe. Two handy utensils are a nice bonus.

Knife

Every kitchen needs one good all-purpose chef’s knife. Of course you could spend hundreds, or not that much at all. This 8-inch knife gets rave reviews, which is surprising given its price.

Coffee Maker

Nothing is more essential than coffee. This coffee maker has no bells or whistles, but it’s a reliable workhorse that will make hundreds and hundreds of great cups of coffee.

Baking Dishes

Any kitchen that’s worth its salt needs at least one Pyrex baking dish. Make it this basic set of two and dinner is sure to be on the table day after day.

Oven Mitts

Oven mitts are essential and this silicon set gets very high reviews. You don’t want to skimp on safety, especially with novices running the kitchen! This pair is flexible, heat resistant to 450 F., and even machine washable. 

Slowcooker

No one should have to live without a slow cooker. This 3-quart slow cooker is a basic starter appliance for making chili’s, stews, sauces, and even a 3 lb. chicken or roast The removable inner stoneware pot is easy to clean.

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases.


outdoor grilling

Outdoor Grilling on a Budget

Getting our outdoor grill cleaned, polished, and ready for summer got me thinking about how much fun it would be to celebrate. After all, the last day of school, first day of summer comes but once a year, so why not do things up right with an amazing menu and a few good friends to kick off the season even if that means grilling on a budget.

What happened next I can only attribute to a momentary lapse of good judgment.

I visited the website of Lobel’s of New York, “The best source for the finest and freshest USDA prime dry-aged steaks, roasts, specialty meats, and gourmet products that money can buy.”

Unveiling the mother of all outdoor grills seemed like an event worthy of a few high-quality American Wagyu steaks delivered overnight on a bed of dry ice. I checked the price. Gulp! Five (minimum order) 20-oz Porterhouse steaks: $769.95—plus overnight shipping.

A close up of a slice of pizza sitting on top of a table

Photo: Lobel’s New York

Just the thought of forking out that kind of money on the best beef money can buy jerked me back to reality with enough force to cause whiplash.

Surely, there has to be frugal ground somewhere between Lobel’s and what’s left of the buy-one-get-one-free hotdogs sitting in the freezer.

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sugru moldable silicone clay

7 Cheap Gadgets That Make Life Easy—Fun, Too

I am nothing if not a cheap gadget lover. Ingenious items that make my life easier are great, but when I find something that’s cool and also has the potential to save money? Well, that’s cause for celebration. Here are a few of my favorite fun finds.

A person posing for the camera

Sugru

I don’t know where this stuff has been hiding (maybe I’m the one who’s been missing?), but my recent cheap gadget discovery has me giddy with joy. It’s called Sugru, or perhaps a better name would be Miracle in a Package. Think: silly putty without the silly part.

Sugru moldable clay

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The 4 Vacuums I Use Every Day and Absolutely Swear By – UPDATED!

If you have hard flooring, carpet or flat surfaces in your home, which just about covers every possibility—there are four specific vacuum cleaners that deserve your attention: an upright, a cordless stick vac , cordless handheld, and robot vacuum. These are the four worker bees that I own, love, and do not want to live without.

Once you familiarize yourself with these vacuums and their specific uses, you’ll know why each one gets my designation for Best Inexpensive in its specific category. Because life is uncertain and things can change with a minute’s notice, today I am updating and republishing this post with new and exciting information.

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Best Inexpensive Home Dehumidifiers and How to Choose

Humidity, or the lack thereof, is a popular topic this time of year. Where I live in northern Colorado, it’s dry! We have like no humidity. Well, not exactly, but it averages 15% to 20% during the summer and fall months. We have a humidifier in our home, and it runs 24/7  for health and comfort.

Recently, lots of readers have inquired about how to deal with the opposite—high humidity, which can get pretty miserable. A dehumidifier can be a godsend for those who live in high humidity areas to remove excess moisture from indoor air.

man hot humid sweaty

What is a dehumidifier?

Think of a dehumidifier as a vacuum that sucks the air from a room, removing the moisture and then blowing dry air back into the room again. The condensation drips into a collection tank inside the machine that must be emptied from time to time.

Many people find that a dehumidifier works together with the air conditioning system to keep the rooms in a home comfortable even on the hottest days with super high humidity. Others rely on a dehumidifier in place of an air conditioner.

Dehumidifiers come in a variety of sizes, typically rated according to how many square feet they can dehumidify and how many pints of water they can produce in a day. Most home dehumidifiers are controlled by thermostats and humidity sensors so you can make the room as hot and dry as you wish.

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The Useful Life of Spice Plus How to Repurpose at the End

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

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

Do spices expire?

The useful life of spices and dried herbs vary but you don’t have to worry about them going bad like other foods. The problem? Over time they can lose flavor, which is the reason we use them at all.

A bottle of curry powder you’ve had for an untold number of years won’t make you sick. But it won’t be as potent and flavorful as when it was fresh. Spices, especially once ground, degrade over time.

As I researched to get to the bottom of this question, I found a reference to an unsupported rule of thumb floating around out there that says we should use or toss herbs and spices after 6 months. What?! That seems a bit short to me. I can’t afford to purge my spice drawer twice a year, which prompted me to check further, with more reliable resources.

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A piece of chocolate cake on a plate

Muffins and “Tulips” to Celebrate Spring

In just a bit I am going to give away all my secrets for how to make muffins that are so great your friends and family will call you a genius. But first, I want to show you what happened one Saturday morning as I was in the middle of making a fabulous—if I do say so myself—brunch.

I was all ready to fill the muffin cups with batter when I remembered that I’d used every last one of my cupcake paper liners. I was in no mood to go to the store. Muffin batter is not kind to those who do not move it quickly to the oven once the wet ingredients have been stirred in.

I wanted to kick myself because I’d planned to splurge and order these very nice Tulip Muffin Papers online …

A piece of cake on a plate, with Muffin and Batter

… but at the last minute felt myself choking at the price: $24.95 plus $9.95. shipping for 250 elegant muffin/cupcake papers—about $.15 each.

How dumb would that be to spend about the cost of the muffin just to bake it in a very cool-looking throw-away paper? Don’t answer. And don’t hate me when I tell you how much I wished that I’d ordered them anyway because at that moment I really needed them. Read more

women asking common money questions

Most Common Money Questions Women Ask

I recently asked a group of women of all ages to tell me the money questions they most wanted to ask. Because they could remain anonymous, the responses poured in. What I learned is that we’re all embarrassed to ask many of the same questions about debt, credit, budgets, divorce, and parent issues. These are the answers that most of you really wanted to know.

women asking common money questions

Social Security Benefits

Q. I’m a stay-at-home mom and haven’t had a paycheck since I was a teenager. Will I be eligible for Social Security benefits?

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

19 Absolutely Brilliant Ways to Clean With Denture Tablets

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

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

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

Fine jewelry

Instead of tossing the cleaning solution, drop in your ring or diamond earrings. Let it sit for a few hours. Remove your jewelry and rinse to enjoy the old sparkle and shine. Unlike toothpaste (that acts as an abrasive on fine jewelry ultimately doing more harm than good), denture cleaning tablets that are activated in water are not at all harmful, while doing a great job of cleaning. This may be too harsh for costume or thinly silver or gold “plated” items, so proceed with caution.

Toilets and sinks

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

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grocery shopping online from Walmart picking up groceries all loaded into the back of a car

8 Ways Online Grocery Shopping Can Actually Help You Save Money

There are few things more annoying than stopping at the supermarket to pick up a few things, hauling bags of groceries into the house only discover you have nothing for dinner. Or putting everything away only to realize you totally forgot the one thing that prompted you to stop at the store in the first place.

Online grocery shopping isn’t for everyone. But if you are prone to impulse shopping or regularly go way over what you intended to spend on groceries for the week—even though you came prepared with a list and a stack of coupons to go with it—shopping for your groceries online might actually save you money. And time! These are the ways that online grocery shopping has become a total game-changer for me.

online grocery shopping

Stop the impulse buys

There’s something about a grocery store that opens the door to my inner-6-year-old. Oh look! Donuts, flowers … fresh corn on the cob! Wow, I forgot I need a new Bundt pan. Adding two grandsons to our family has only increased my impulsivity in our town’s only supermarket, which curiously has a big toy department. My best intentions are tested and rarely come out the winner.

But discovering online grocery shopping—so I don’t have to even walk into the place—has put my inner impulsive self into an extended period of hibernation.

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Homemade Bisquick biscuits with freezer jam

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

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

Homemade Bisquick biscuits with freezer jam

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

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

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hand with a calculator. money saving concept.

Saving Money by Choice, Not by Chance

A question that I answered in a previous post brought a small avalanche of mail, mostly from readers who were aghast that I would suggest they save such a significant portion of their paychecks for retirement. It was money they insisted they could not afford to save.

hand with a calculator. money saving concept.

I can only imagine that for a person who saves nothing, suggesting they should be saving thousands every year can be shocking. Or perceived impossible. Here is one of those messages: Read more

distressed couple financial aid student loan debt advice

Stop Taking Parent Loans for Your Kids’ College Education

You’re a parent, and you are responsible for taking care of your minor child financially. But you are equally responsible to take care of yourself. Taking on student loans so that your child can enroll at the college of his or her dreams may sink your dreams of ever retiring. Or worse.

distressed couple financial aid student loan debt advice

Contrary to the advice you will get from many college and university financial aid officers, you shouldn’t take out loans to pay for your children’s education under any circumstance. Parents should not borrow money to pay for their kids’ college educations.

Locking eyeballs with the financial breakdown for your son or daughter’s first semester will be painful—even if he or she is attending a public college.

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spring garden with daffodils

Cheapskate Gardening Tips, Tricks and Recipes

Is there anything more gratifying than a beautiful garden when you just happen to be the gardener? One trip to the garden center to pick up soil amendment, weed cloth, and weedkiller can pretty much zap all of the joy for the expense that can represent. That’s why I love today’s tips, tricks. And, back by popular demand, homemade weed killer.

But first, check out my garden—spring flowers and a few weeds I treated only yesterday. Hopefully, spring is here to stay!

spring garden with daffodils

Garden vitamins

While you may have no use for spent coffee grounds, your garden will love them. Used coffee grounds are like mega-vitamins for the soil. They’re rich in phosphorus and magnesium—important nutrients that help plants grow. It’s easy to just sprinkle coffee grounds (still wet, or dry) around the plants and work them into the soil. They’re even the right color.

If you’re not much of a coffee drinker, don’t despair. Many coffee shops package up their used coffee grounds in the bags that the beans originally came in and offer them to local gardeners, for free. Check with your barista to see if used coffee grounds are available at your favorite coffeehouse.

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eufy robovac 11S black vac on wood floor showing how it picks up debris

The Best Inexpensive Robot Vacuum (It Really Works!)

Vacuuming sucks. Literally. One year, my idea of giving our adult sons robot vacs for Christmas was intended to help them with that odious chore. What a disappointment. I learned much later that both guys used their robot vacs for only a few months.

The Roombas were ridiculously noisy, needed constant supervision because they were so misbehaved, did a lousy job, and just more trouble than they were worth. But that was then and this is now:

eufy robovac 11S black vac on wood floor showing how it picks up debris

Best Inexpensive Robot Vacuum

Years later, there’s a new robot vacuum in town and Eufy Anker RoboVac 30C Max, is its name. This is truly the best robot vacuum and my pick for Best Inexpensive Robovac. It has renewed my faith that robotic vacuuming is not only possible—it can be amazing.

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Window air conditioner keeping things cool .

Window Air Conditioner: How to Fix It, Clean It, and Make it Like New

The heat of summer will soon be bearing down, giving millions of window-mounted air conditioners a real workout. That means many owners of said units are wondering why their air conditioners aren’t working properly. In most situations, consumers can fix a window air conditioner themselves provided they have the right information and a very inexpensive handy tool. If you have a window air conditioner in your home, here’s what you need to know to fix it, clean it and make it like new.

Window air conditioner keeping things cool .

An easy DIY project

More than any other household appliance, window-type air conditioning units are the most often neglected. This is a pity because they can be big energy users. A little maintenance means that homeowners can save money on both utility and repair bills.

With the right information and access to replacement parts, you should be able to repair a window air conditioner yourself, saving the cost of a service call or worse, replacing the unit altogether.

Basically the same

All residential window air conditioners have a cooling system consisting of four primary components: a compressor, an evaporator, a temperature-sensing device, and a condenser.

Air conditioner cooling systems are better understood if you think of them more as a device that removes heat and humidity from the air than a device that cools the air.

These are the essential maintenance steps you should take to keep your window-mounted air conditioning unit operating in tip-top condition while using the least amount of energy:

Monthly

Every month during the months of operation, replace (or clean) the filter located in the front grill. Cost to replace: About $20.

Annually

The condensing coils on an air conditioner get very dirty, and the dirt tends to accumulate on the inside of the coils, out of sight. Once a year, remove the entire cover of the air conditioner to gain access to the coils and then clean them by blowing compressed or “canned air” on them. Falcon Dust-Ofworks well.

Here are solutions for the top four repair dilemmas with window air conditioners:

1. Bent fins

Don’t despair if you’ve accidentally bent the delicate aluminum fins on the rear of the unit. They need to be straight for the best operation. This is not as tedious as it might appear. RepairClinic.com will send you a handy fin-straightening comb. Cost: $12.78.

2. A motor is running but no air is blowing

Air conditioners have two motors: the compressor and the fan motor. It is possible that only one is running. If, after removing the cover of the unit you discover the fan blade is very stiff and difficult to rotate, the fan motor may need oiling or may need to be replaced.

3. Water leaks from the front of the unit

This is normal. All air conditioners should be installed so they tilt slightly backwards to allow for proper removal of condensed water that accumulates.

4. The air smells musty

Air conditioners remove moisture from the air. Most of it is evaporated from the unit. However, it is possible for some water to stagnate in the base of the air conditioner. Also, dirt, lint, or dust can collect in the water pan at the base of the unit and absorb water, allowing mold and mildew to grow. All this leads to bad smells. Thoroughly clean the water pan each year when you clean the condenser coils.

Get help

Need more help with your window-mounted air conditioners? Check RepairClinic.com, where you can live chat with a repair technician, plus get the exact parts you may need. Super helpful site!

First published: 6-23-15; Revised & Updated 5-12-21


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Credit report with score on a desk

3 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score

Your 790 credit score might not be as great as you think it is. It all depends on which credit score you’re looking about. If you’re referring to a FICO score of 790 out of 850, that’s excellent, but 790 is only so-so on the VantageScore 2.0 model, which tops out at 990.

Credit report with score on a desk

What credit score is good?

Sound like a super easy question. Well, it’s not. In fact, there is no single answer—not even a definitive range. That’s because you have many different credit scores—current estimates say you have at least 58. Yes, really.

Read more

induction cooktop GE-Cafe

Are You Ready to Make the Switch to Induction Cooking?

I have to tell you that receiving the message in today’s post put the biggest smile on my face. Induction cooking? Oh yes, I do know something about that! But I must confess that the prologue to Cathy’s question is what warmed my heart.

induction cooktop GE-Cafe

Dear Mary: First of all, I want to thank you, thank you, thank you for your years of advice and guidance! I have purchased your books, READ your books, and given them as gifts many times. I hardly EVER buy anything or try a new product without checking with you first. I know that if you have endorsed it, I can trust it. Thank you for promoting quality and value in all the products and ideas you share. Your work is amazing.

That being said, my husband and I just purchased a home. The gas stove and microwave oven are 28 years old. Although they both still work, (I know, they don’t make them like this anymore) they look their age and I question the safety of the microwave. I was all ready to purchase a mid-level free-standing gas range.

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crispy orange chicken with rice

This is How to Make (Awesome!) Crispy Orange Chicken

Not long ago I got a desperate message from C. J. Coffman who lives in Michigan. It seems that he and his family are crazy about a certain item that mysteriously disappeared from the Applebee’s® menu a couple of years ago—Crispy Orange Skillet.

Coffman is not the first reader I’ve heard from about this turn of events. Early on, readers wanted to know how to make this entree at home, as it could become pricey to eat out as often as their cravings dictated. And then a couple of years ago, this hugely popular dish just up and disappeared from the menu! Applebee’s response to my inquiry explained that they appreciate customers’ feedback, but that they make changes to their menus from time to time and “We never know when customer favorites will make a come back.”

In the intervening years, and perhaps prompted by current events creating a new kind of eating out—curbside pickup—the popular dish has made a return, but with a different name. Crispy Orange Chicken Bowl offers a much smaller portion size, and as we might have guessed, an even higher price.

Coffman closed his letter by telling me what a big fan he is of this column, which was a good move on his part. I’m not above a little flattery from time to time.

So, for the C.J. Coffman family and all other Applebee’s fans too, here’s a fabulous (more than reasonable) facsimile of their favorite dish. Enjoy!

Crispy Orange Chicken

You’ll need:

  • 2 lbs boneless chicken pieces, skinned
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1/4 tspn pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tbpn vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Oil (for frying)
  1. Cut chicken pieces into 2-inch pieces and place in a large bowl.
  2. Slightly beat egg, oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl
  3. Pour egg mixture over chicken. Mix well and set aside.
  4. In another large bowl stir cornstarch and flour together and mix well.  
  5. Add chicken pieces to the flour mixture, stirring to coat each piece well.
  6. Pour enough oil to be 1/2-inch deep in a wok or heavy skillet and heat over high heat to 375 F (hot!).
  7. Carefully add chicken pieces in small batches and fry for 3 to 4 minutes turning until golden and crisp. Do not overcook or chicken will be tough and dry.
  8. Remove chicken from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or similar. Continue frying the chicken in small batches until all pieces are nicely browned and crisp. Set aside.

Sweet ‘n Spicy Orange Glaze

  • 2 tbsp oil from skillet
  • 1 tspn minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tspn grated orange zest
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce*
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cool the oil in the skillet slightly, then remove all but 2 tablespoons of oil and set over medium heat.
  2. Sauté garlic in oil for 1 minute (if the oil is too hot the garlic will burn and become bitter).
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to boil. Allow boiling for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens to your liking, stirring frequently.
  5. Pour glaze over chicken.
  6. To serve: Place chicken on a bed of cooked white rice. Garnish with slivered almonds, crispy noodles and stir-fry vegetables like broccoli, snow peas and red peppers (optional). Serves 4 to 6.

*Hoison sauce is available in a can or jar in the Asian aisle of most supermarkets, close to the soy sauce. Also called Peking sauce, this thick, reddish-brown sauce is sweet and spicy and widely used in Chinese cooking. It’s a mixture of soybeans, garlic, chili peppers, and various spices. Hoisin sauce is mainly used as a table condiment and as a flavoring agent for many meats, poultry and shellfish dishes. Once opened, refrigerate bottled hoisin and it will keep indefinitely.

crispy orange chicken with rice

Crispy Orange Chicken

For many, Applebee’s® Crispy Orange Skillet has become a favorite. But it's pricey! More than that, it disappears from the menu and for long periods of time! Here's some good news. You can make this version that is a dead ringer for the Applebee's version, at home spending only a fraction of the cost. And quite possibly in less time than it takes to open an app, place an order, pay online, get in the car, drive to the restaurant, find a parking place, call the number to alert staff you have arrived, wait, accept order, drive home while food is getting soggy and cold, go in the house, open the bag, notice they forgot to include the rice, oh well, enjoy.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American, Asian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 331kcal
Cost: Varies

Equipment

  • deep skillet

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken pieces breast, thigh, leg
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 ½ tspn salt
  • ¼ tspn pepper or to taste
  • ½ cup + 1 tbsn cornstarch
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • oil for frying

Sweet 'n Spicy Orange Glaze

  • 2 tbsp Oil from skillet
  • 1 tspn minced garlic
  • 1 ½ tspn grated orange rind (zest) only the orange part, NONE of the white pith
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • ½ cup Hoison sauce see NOTE
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper optional
  • ¼ cup white granulated sugar
  • salt, pepper to taste

Instructions

Chicken

  • Cut chicken pieces into small pieces (about 1 ½ to 2-inches) and place in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg, oil, salt, pepper with a fork. Pour egg mixture over chicken pieces, mix well, and set aside.
  • Stir cornstarch and flour together in another large bowl and mix well.
  • Add chicken pieces to the flour mixture, stirring to coat each piece well.
  • Pour enough oil to be 1/2-inch deep in a wok or heavy skillet and heat over high heat to 375 F (hot!).
  • Carefully add chicken pieces in small batches and fry for 3 to 4 minutes turning until golden and crisp. Do not overcook or chicken will be tough.
  • Remove chicken from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Continue frying the chicken in small batches until all pieces are nicely browned and crisp. Set aside.

Sweet 'n Spicy Orange Glaze

  • Cool the oil in the skillet slightly, then remove all but 2 tablespoons of oil and set over medium heat.
  • Sauté garlic in oil for 1 minute (if the oil is too hot the garlic will burn and become bitter).
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.
  • Allow boiling for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens to your liking, stirring frequently. 
  • Pour glaze over chicken and toss lightly to make sure all pieces are well glazed.
  • To serve, place chicken on a bed of cooked white rice. Garnish with slivered almonds, crispy noodles, sesame seeds, and stir-fry vegetables like broccoli, snow peas, and red peppers (optional). Serves 4 to 6.

Notes

Hoison sauce is available in a can or jar in the Asian aisle of most supermarkets, close to the soy sauce. Also called Peking sauce, this thick, reddish-brown sauce is sweet and spicy, and widely used in Chinese cooking. It's a mixture of soybeans, garlic, chili peppers and various spices. Hoisin sauce is mainly used as a table condiment and as a flavoring agent for many meat, poultry and shellfish dishes. Once opened, refrigerate bottled hoisin and it will keep indefinitely.

Nutrition

Calories: 331kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 410mg | Potassium: 716mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 147IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
Inflation is the culprit eating away at your budget

Make Sure You Have These 9 Essential Pantry Items

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

Inflation is the culprit eating away at your budget

How to Fight Back Inflation?

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

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

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

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Woman with a shopping list at a grocery store with people shopping in the background

8 Things You Can Do Now To Fight Price Inflation

Nearly everything at the store, from beef and cereal, to fruit and veggies, costs more than it did a year ago. Inflation is the culprit eating away at your budget. Food prices are through the roof—and continuing to skyrocket. The prices of the raw materials used to make almost everything are skyrocketing—oil, steel, copper, corn, lumber.

Woman with a shopping list at a grocery store with people shopping in the background

As I write, Costco executives are reporting that they are paying higher prices for inventory—as much as 20% more for beef, for example, and up to 10% more on clothing. Though the warehouse chain has so far shouldered most of those increases, along with rising costs for freight, transportation, and labor, Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said it may have to raise prices on such staples as its $4.99 rotisserie chicken or 40-pack of bottled water, now $2.99, to maintain profit margins. Inflation pressures abound.

You may not have noticed yet because it takes a while for these changes to trickle down. But we need to be keenly aware of what’s going on to stay ahead of this. We need to know what to do now.

Read more

car trash can

This Really Is the Best Inexpensive Car Trash Container

Wouldn’t you think that if car manufacturers can perfect self-driving cars, they could also come up with a way to conquer the car trash problem? Maybe something in an attractive, solid, waterproof, discreet receptacle that could also qualify for Best Inexpensive?

trash in a car to highlight best inexpensive way to combat the litter

Photo Credit TheOnion.com

I’ve always thought that a built-in trash compactor would be great. Or even better, some kind of incinerator that sucks the accumulation of trash and garbage right out of the car and into a holding tank somewhere that magically converts it into purified drinking water. Or gasoline.

While waiting for that kind of invention to appear, I’ve tried plastic bags, plastic tubs, and every kind of frugal trick and tip you can imagine to handle the annoyance of car trash.

I’ve tested and tried. Some ideas are better than others, but nothing has ever proven 100% satisfactory. Until now.

Read more

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

5 Fabulous Homemade Cleaning Products that Use the Power of Alcohol

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

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.

Read more

oman shredding a piece of paper

How to Protect Yourself from ID Theft and Why You Should

Can someone legally dig through your trash looking for receipts, account numbers, or even your Social Security number?

In the decision California vs. Greenwood, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the “expectation of privacy in trash left for collection in an area accessible to the public… is unreasonable.”

oman shredding a piece of paper

In other words, when you throw something in your trash and then drag that container to the street for pickup, it is available to anyone willing to dig through your trash receptacles. Legally. Think that won’t happen? Think again, my friends.

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States today. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.

Why shred?

Identity fraud is a serious issue as it is responsible for the theft of $112 billion stolen from Americans in the past six years. That equals $35,600 stolen per minute, or enough to buy a house every 8 minutes.

Some of these victims could have prevented this from happening by simply shredding their uniquely identifying documents.

If you do not know how to effectively shred your most important documents, it’s time to learn.

What to shred

The rule of thumb is to shred any paper or document that contains personally identifying information for all member of your household—including the kids regardless of their age—such as your signature, name, address, phone number, Social Security number, account numbers, and any other information that is uniquely yours and theirs.

That means anything and everything from the address labels on junk mail and magazines to luggage tags, pay stubs, ATM receipts, and airline tickets; photocopies of birth certificates, medical prescriptions, school information;  expired passports and most tax returns older than three years.

When in doubt, always err on the side of shredding.

How to shred

As difficult as it is to imagine, some shredded documents can be reconstructed through painstakingly tedious work by motivated identity thieves with pressure-sensitive tape.

If the “shreds” a machine produces are fairly large strips, that becomes yet another potential hazard to your identity. That makes the idea of just tearing up your documents before you put them into the trash a total waste of time. Even a child could put them back together.

Strip-cut

Strip-cut shredders are the least secure, using rotation knives to cut narrow strips as long as the original sheet of paper. These strips can be reassembled, making a strip-cut shredder the least secure. If you are using a stripp-cutting, you need to consider upgrading to a more secure method.

Paper and Cross-cut

Cross-cut

Cross-cut shredders use two contra-rotating drums to cut rectangular, parallelogram, or diamond-shaped shreds. Much better because the shreds are much smaller pieces, which makes it unreasonable if not impossible to reassemble.

AmazonBasics 6-Sheet High-Security Micro-Cut Paper and Credit Card Shredder

Micro-cut

Micro-cut shredders create tiny square or circular pieces. Even better because the debris absolutely cannot be reassembled.

Paper and Micro-cut

Best Inexpensive Home Shredders

Of course, there are many clever ways that one can destroy paper documents. However, if finding a safe way to burn them, soak them in water in hopes of returning the remains back into wood pulp,  or some other creative effort takes more time than you wish to devote to protecting your personally identifying information, you should consider using a paper shredder.

Destroying identifying documents is something you need now and well into the future. The need will not go away until you do. That means you want a quality shredder that performs well, can handle more than a couple of pages at a time, shreds plastic credit cards, CDs, DVDs, and is convenient to use and to empty.

Amazon has come out with its own AmazonBasics brand of excellent home shredders, three of which are our Best Inexpensive picks, to help you match quality with need.

Updated and republished 5-4-21


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

dry clothes inside clothes dryer

15 Things That Should Never Go in the Clothes Dryer

Clothes neatly spaced on a clothesline held in place with wooden clothespins with those sheets, and clothes flapping in the breeze and drying in the sunshine is a sight we seldom see, but a visual that brings me back to my childhood. And oh, that amazing smell of line-dried clean sheets. Know what I mean? Modern-day clothes dryers have all but replaced traditional outdoor clotheslines in most urban areas.

fresh clean items drying on a clothes line rather than in a clothes dryer

Clothes dryers are convenient and home appliances that keep many homeowners in compliance with community standards that forbid the presence of outdoor clotheslines. However, in the same way that outdoor drying has its limitations (weather, effort), a clothes dryer does as well. It can ruin stuff.

While the effect may not be noticeable on the first time or two through the dryer, the destruction will build until that item comes to a tragic end, long before its time.

The solution is quite simple. Learn what can and cannot safely be put into your clothes dryer. Then make sure you keep a good indoor drying rack in a convenient place to ensure easy use—more on that in a bit.

Tennis Shoes, Sneakers

Pair of new white sneakers that should never go in a clothes dryerWhether made of canvas, leather, or other fabric, your tennis shoes will likely do very well in the washing machine. But the dryer? Not at all.

Sure they’ll tumble loudly and perhaps come out OK on the first trip, but what you won’t easily detect is that the glue that holds them together has been compromised. It melts in the dryer’s high heat, then resets but in a much different way than when the shoes were new.

And that canvas or other fabric? Plan on it shrinking and twisting out of shape. Put those two things together—glue melt and fabric shrink—and you get distortion and sole separation.

Now that you know what causes such early demise of sneakers and tennis shoes, know to air-dry your sneakers (typically it takes about 24 hours), you can stop blaming the manufacturer.

Bras, Lingerie

bras and lingerie in a drawer not in a clothes dryerAll bras have some spandex and elastic, which are synthetic products made to stretch and provide shape and comfort. Other lingerie items with the same type of fabric content as well. Heat is the enemy of stretchy things.

If you want your bras and other lingerie items to enjoy a long lifespan, maintaining their original shape and loveliness right to the very end, never put them through the clothes dryer.

Instead, wash bras and lingerie using good mesh zippered lingerie bags, then air dry.

This routine will make all the difference and give you the kind of results and longevity you paid for.

Reusable Fabric Bags

Backpacks, Lunch Bags, and Reusable Shopping Bags that should never be dried in a clothes dryer

Backpacks, lunch bags, fabric tote bags, and reusable grocery bags need to be cleaned frequently—especially if used to carry them for food items that are likely to leak onto the fabric.

More than likely, your washable bags will do nicely in the washing machine, provided you make sure your cycle settings for water temperature and so forth are compatible with the bags’ type of fabric. However, putting fabric bags through the clothes dryer is just asking for trouble. Plan on them shrinking at the least and falling apart at the most.

A much better idea is to allow bags, packs, and totes to air dry. To avoid wrinkles and for the best results, lay bags out on a flat surface so you can reshape them. As for backpacks, stuff them with wadded-up newspaper or clean, dry bath towels to return them to the original shape as they air dry.

Rubber-Backed Mats, Rugs

bathmat with rubber backing that should never be put into a clothes dryer

Have you ever wondered by the rubber backing of your bath mats, placemats, or other scatter rugs gets all stiff and crumbly and eventually peels away, leaving quite a mess?

More than likely, you’ve been putting those washable mats through both the washer and dryer.

The washer is fine, but it’s the heat of a clothes dryer that melts and soon ruins the rubber and other types of non-slip coatings.

This may not be noticeable on the first trip or two through the dryer. But when you continue drying them in the machine, the backing will fail. The crumbling rubber can create a fire hazard.

Instead, allow rubber-backed mats of all kinds to air dry.

Swimwear

woman's swim suit that should be air dryed, not put into a clothes dryer

Swimming suits, trunks, and other swimwear should be washed after every use to remove chlorine and salt, depending on where they’ve been swimming. And it’s only natural to throw these items into the clothes dryer as well. But no.

Really, the heat of the dryer will soon destroy the Spandex and other synthetic properties of great swimwear.

Your family’s swimwear will last seasons longer if you get into the habit of skipping the dryer and allowing these pieces to (you know what’s coming)—air dry!

Leather, Real or Faux

Mens brown leather gloves on white background

Even when the care tag on that beautiful leather jacket, those awesome gloves, or faux leather throw pillow clearly states “Washable,” don’t skip the part about drying! Don’t assume you can toss leather anything, real or faux, in the dryer.

The heat of a clothes dryer can cause these leather products, both fake and real, to crack and distort. That means one sleeve could get all wrinkled (permanently) while the other is stretched out of shape. It’s not worth finding out how your item will react.

Instead, hang leather jackets, pants, gloves, hats,  and other items in a dry area away from direct heat or sunlight.

Silk, Lace, Delicate Fabrics

silk delicate lace wedding gownWhile silk fabric and garments are hand-washable, silk should never go in a clothes dryer.

Silk is very delicate, and the high temperatures of the tumble dryer can shrink or damage silk. The chances are great that it will come out permanently wrinkled.

And lace? Whether a large piece or simply an embellishment, lace can get easily torn because it is so delicate.

Activewear

activewearWorkout wear typically contains a high percentage of Spandex and elastic. When these types of garments meet up with clothes dry heat, those fabrics and fibers are weakened.

These garments often include liners designed to wick away sweat and perspiration. Don’t take a chance by putting your workout clothes into the clothes dryer, which is sure to weaken those synthetics and destroy the wicking qualities.

Sweaters

sweaters in a stack

Whether a sweater is hand- or machine-knit, it is delicate—especially if made from wool or another natural product. And if made from synthetic or man-made fiber, the fact that it is knitted rather than woven makes it sensitive to a clothes dryer’s heat and tumbling action.

Tossing it into the dryer to be heated up and tumbled simultaneously increases the likelihood that it will come out of the dryer completely out of shape. And if that’s not bad enough, expect to see “pilling” on the sweater’s surface, which makes it look old, tired, and worn out.

Fur, Natural or Faux

fur trimmed sweater

I doubt that you’d toss your grandmother’s mink stole into the washer or dryer, but how about that fur trim on your favorite t-shirt hoody? Of the cuffs on your cool winter gloves?

Stop and think before you do that. While it’s true that real fur comes from animals who do survive wet conditions quite nicely, but the way that fur—whether it’s real or faux—has been attached to this garment presents trouble just waiting to happen in a hot clothes dryer. Whether it can be laundered at all is open to question, so follow the care label. Then air-dry.

Tights, Hosiery

You may assume that you can put tights, pantyhose, and other delicate hosiery into the clothes dryer, provided you place them in a mesh laundry bag first. But don’t believe it.

These items are very delicate, made from synthetic fibers. Heat is the problem, and not just very high heat. Once dried in this way, you will shorten that item’s useful life.

Another problem: Chances are also good that your delicate hosiery will get snagged by catching on a button, zipper, or another similar hazard in the dryer. Don’t take a chance. Always air-dry hosiery.

Sequins, Beads

beaded top

It never dawned on me that one of my favorite knit tops (not the one pictured) should not go through the washer and dryer—that I should be hand washing it. This top is beaded, which may sound super cheesy, but it’s not.

It’s not sparkly, and the beads are not particularly noticeable that they are beads!  The subtle design has been accomplished by gluing on hundreds of tiny beads.

Washing and drying this knit top wasn’t a problem in the beginning. But then, as if overnight, more than half of the design just disappeared and not in a good way.

I can only imagine that those tiny glued-on beads went down the drain or into the lint trap. Lesson learned: Never expose an item with sequins or beads to the heat of a clothes dryer. Instead, wash by hand, then allow to air dry.

Slippers, Slip-Proof Socks

Male home slippers and wool blanket on table. Home relaxing in wintertime concept

Fabric slippers appear to be washable, and most are. For sure, slippers should not be dried in a clothes dryer. You must assume that glue has been used to attach the soles and trim. And quite possibly to close seams.

The heat of a clothes dryer is likely to melt the glue, causing the soles on slippers and the non-slip coating on socks to separate. You may not notice this until you’re flat on your face having run down the stairs or moved a bit too quickly into the kitchen.

Wool

Stack of woolen plaid blankets

Wool requires special care when it comes to cleaning. Assume that it will shrink if exposed to hot water or heat.

Always wash in cool water and allow to air dry. Follow that rule, and you won’t have to deal with shrunken socks, sweaters, throws, and blankets.

Clothes dryers don’t have an adequate wool cycle, a pretty good indicator that they’re not equipped to handle wool. Wool sweaters, scarves, blankets, and throws should be laid flat to dry to prevent them from stretching or misshapen.

NOTE: If your socks are made of treated “superwash wool” yarns, they represent an exception to the foregoing. Generally, you can machine wash items made from superwash wool yarn with warm water and regular laundry detergent. And they can be tumble dried on low heat. Just don’t make the mistake of using a hot water wash cycle or high heat in the dryer, which can damage the protective resin coating on the yarn, which makes it “superwash.”

Oil, Grease Saturated Rags

mechanic holding greasy oily rag

Do not put oily rags or towels in a dryer—even if washed to be reused. When discarding oily rags, hang them outside to dry them before putting them in a trash bin or garbage receptacle.

Hotels and restaurants have reported incidents where rags or towels used to clean up oily spills (such as oil from deep fryers) were washed and then thrown in the dryer only to burst into flames due to “spontaneous combustion.” Clearly, the washing process did not remove all of that oil. These are considered flammable stains.

What I’m describing is not even close to the rags and towels we use in our kitchens. I’m talking about heavy-duty garage and mechanic use rags, saturated with grease, oil, and or solvents.

When oily rags are bunched up and piled on top of each other or placed in a dryer, heat can build to a point where it ignites an already flammable material. No matches, torches, or open flames required.

Bottom line: Never put oily rags in a clothes dryer. Spread them out to air dry before tossing them in the trash can or washing them to re-use. Even then, out of an abundance of caution, air-dry only.

Drying Rack

My idea of a great rack is collapsible, so I can put it away without requiring much effort or storage space; it allows air to flow through the wet items from both sides, is sturdy, and also adaptable to handle the size and weight of a variety of items to be air-dried. And it should be able to accommodate both hanging and laying flat.

Best Inexpensive Drying Rack

indoor drying rack

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

closeup of female hands pouring hydrogen peroxide into a clean cloth

20 Amazing Ways Hydrogen Peroxide Can Make Your Life Easier

Some time ago I got a message, which reminded me about the wonders of hydrogen peroxide—an ordinary item that most people have somewhere in the house. Georgia wrote …

closeup of female hands pouring hydrogen peroxide into a clean cloth

I had a cut on my hand that opened up while I was putting my expensive duvet cover on my comforter. Now I have blood stains where I touched it. Is there any hope of getting these stains out completely? I tried using a carpet cleaning solution and washing it but those stains remain. I’m worried they’ll be there permanently. Thanks so much for your help! 

I responded immediately, directing Georgia to soak the stains with fresh, full-strength hydrogen peroxide. I heard back quickly. The hydrogen peroxide lightened the stains almost immediately, and within hours they disappeared completely.

I’ll be honest that for many years, removing blood stains was about all I ever used hydrogen peroxide for. And because it has such a short shelf life, I was forever throwing out old, useless hydrogen peroxide.

Since then, I’ve learned so much and done extensive research and wow. The stuff is downright wonderful from cleaning to mouthwash—so awesome in fact, I never throw hydrogen peroxide away anymore. It doesn’t have time in my home to age out. That’s how much I use it.

Read more

sparkling clean dishwasher

How to Make a Dishwasher Perform Like New (Even If It’s Old)

There are many things in my life that I enjoy, but would not be completely devastated if required to give them up. My dishwasher is not one of them.

sparkling clean dishwasher

During our recent kitchen remodel, we got rid of the appliances, all except for my bare bones, no-bells-or-whistles, 14-year-old Whirlpool dishwasher.

Even though it was replaced, it has found a new home across town with our son and family. It continues to do a flawless job, not because it’s such a high-end machine (it’s not), but because I have learned the secrets of how to get any dishwasher to perform well.

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young casual woman with paint roller sitting on floor and looking at half yellow painted wall

How to Redecorate on a Dime

Changing your environment can greatly improve your outlook. And that doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

The key to great decor isn’t how much money you have to spend. More importantly, it’s about seeing possibilities in what you have already. You’ll be surprised at what you can do yourself for little or no cost.

young casual woman with paint roller sitting on floor and looking at half yellow painted wall

Use what you have

I have a friend who calls herself a Professional Arranger because people hire her to come to their homes and “redecorate” with the things they have already. 

She goes through every room, the attic, and basement taking inventory of everything available for her final designs. Then, she completely clears the room and starts from scratch to furnish and decorate with only the things that she found in the home. The results are absolutely amazing! I’m convinced that good design and decorating well requires creative talent and she’s got it!

If that triggered something in you that whispered, “I wish someone would pay me to do that,” think about it seriously! Offer to do this for a few friends, take before and after photos, and order business cards. You do not need a license or any particular certification to become a professional arranger.

Check out the International Association of Home Staging Professionals.

Paint is Cheap

Changing the color of one wall can change the entire mood and look of that room. One quart of paint is all you need. You can fool the eye with the way you use paint, therefore making a room appear larger or smaller just by the choice of color. 

Pick a spot

It doesn’t have to be an entire wall. Paint the inside of drawers, cupboards or closets a bright coordinating color, to give yourself a fresh reason to keep that space organized.

Cool off

Cool colors and lighter tints make walls look farther apart; rich, dark colors bring walls dramatically closer, creating an intimate look in a large room. Consider these tips to make the job much easier.

Goof Aisle

Every paint store, be it Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot, or Lowe’s and others, has a shelf or table where they sell absolutely excellent paint in colors that were mis-mixed or never picked up by the customers who ordered them. Or someone changed her mind—for whatever reason, the paint is now available at a super discounted price. One reader painted her entire house for just $45 using three super discounted five-gallon buckets of brand new but leftover high-quality construction paint she found in the “We Goofed!” aisle.

Cheap dropcloths

Use an old vinyl tablecloth as a drop cloth or spend a buck for one at a dollar thrift store. They are heavier than the plastic drop cloths at home centers like Lowe’s and Home Depot and will last for many rooms of painting. When you’re done, just hose it off and hang it over a clothesline or fence to dry before folding and storing.

Keep together

When you take off the outlet and switch covers, put the screws back into the holes so they don’t get lost. Or put the covers and screws in a sandwich bag.

Pan liner

Line your roller pan with a plastic grocery bag (inside out if it has printing on it) on the paint tray. Then you can just invert the bag when you’re done and throw it away.

Useful dryer sheet

Clean your brushes with a dryer sheet. A glass jar works great for this. Stuff the dryer sheet into it then fill with warm water. Place brushes bristles down into the water and allow them to stand for 3-4 hours. Rinse brushes well and dry.

Strategic placement

The furniture you use most should be farthest from the entrance. If possible, avoid positioning couches, chairs, dining tables, or desks against walls. Give yourself at least three feet between the furniture and walls. Check out these no-fail tricks for arranging furniture.

Pictures and art

Most people hang pictures and art too high. The focal point for a single picture or the center of a group of pictures should be at eye-level for a person who is five feet and seven inches tall. If that’s not you, I’ll bet you know someone who is that height.

Groups of pictures, wall art

How you group and hang pictures on your walls makes all the difference between a room that is boring and one that is inviting. 

A bunch of furniture in it

Photo credit: Shelterness.com

Gather

Gather all the pictures and items you want in a particular grouping.

Big piece of paper

Next, get a large piece of paper the size of the area where you will hang these pictures, and lay it on the floor. 

Arrange

Place the frames and items on the paper the way you want them hung on the wall. Once you have it just right, Use a marker to draw around each item. Remove the pictures and tape the paper to the wall. Make sure it is straight!

Attach hangers

Now, you can easily see where to place each nail or hanger. 

Step back, enjoy

Once the nails are in place, carefully pull the paper away, and hang the pictures in their proper places.

Plants

Houseplants should be right for the light available in the area where you want to display them. Some easy growers that don’t require a lot of extra care include Philodendron and Boston fern.

A vase of flowers sitting on top of a green plant

Check out this how to for Philodendron houseplants—especially the part on breeding and you’ll understand how I’ve turned one fairly sick-looking little Philodendron that I rescued from Home Depot into four big, healthy specimens for my home. Easy peasy!

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Do it yourself

Whether it’s making slipcovers, painting a wall or ceiling, or laying tile, you’ll save a ton of money when you can do these things yourself. 

Find inspiration in a blog or website that reflects your taste. I have several, but my current favorite is Tidbits-Cami.com. This girl can turn trash into treasures and she’s telling all her secrets. While I haven’t jumped into all-white-with-touches-of-pale-pink in our home (she does that so beautifully) I just can’t get enough of Cami’s amazing photography. Her blog posts, projects, and photos inspire me to no end!

Learn from the pros

Search online or take a class at your local home improvement center. Typically these are free or you pay only for the cost of materials. Do a search of what you need to know. Watch YouTube videos—these days you can find one to show you how to do just about anything around the house! 

The parks and recreation departments of many cities also offer low-cost classes, as do community colleges and universities. 

Need an emotional pick-me-up? Change up your environment and see how good it feels. Then send me pictures!


crispy skin chicken honey garlic salmon

Two Recipes on the Menu Every Week at My House

There are the two meals I prepare nearly every week—Crispy Skin Chicken Thighs and Honey Garlic Salmon. They’re my go-tos because both are quick and easy—and so delicious they never grow old.

quick and easy crispy chicken thighs and honey garlic salmon recipes

Crispy Skin Chicken Thighs

This dish is perfect for a hectic mid-week dinner but sophisticated enough for company, too. Even my grandsons, ages 6 and 12, agree. You should see them dive into this chicken. They’d eat it every meal if they had their way. The ingredients are shockingly few. The secret for success and rave reviews from old and young alike is technique. It’s all about the technique! Get this right and you’ll have a new technique to use in other applications.

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The 1-Percent Savings Solution

Want a simple, pain-free plan to increase your savings in 2020? CPA, author, and blogger Mike Piper says to save 1 percent more. “Increase your savings contributions by 1 percent of your gross income,” suggests Piper. Just 1 percent—a good get-started savings plan!

It might be difficult to imagine how such a small change could make any difference at all, but according to Piper, this strategy can work wonders, especially if you are young. It’s so simple: Get a savings plan.

Anything you can do to become a consistent saver is going to come back to bless you in the future. A personal program of consistent savings does more than increasing your bank account. It changes your attitude. It quiets your insatiable desires and moves you away from the financial edge where it is easy to worry and panic.

Money in the bank changes everything. Read more

Frozen berries and vegetables in bags in freezer close up

Money-Saving Tips, Tricks, and Hacks to Put Your Freezer To Work

Whether yours is a stand-alone unit or it’s is part of your refrigerator, your freezer is either costing a lot in wasted energy or saving you a bundle in food costs.

Frozen berries and vegetables in bags in freezer close up

The day I discovered I could freeze certain fresh herbs in olive oil—sage, thyme, rosemary, and oregano do best using this method—I fell in love with my freezer all over again.

By preparing recipe-size portions to have on hand later for winter stews, soups, stews (recipes that typically call for oil to start with) we can enjoy the taste of fresh summer herbs all year round.

Just grab a cube of frozen oil and herbs to use as a base for the dish. Sautè the onions and garlic in this infused oil.

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7 Easy Ways to Give New Life to Leftover Rice

Instead of pitching the leftover cooked rice from tonight’s dinner, try using it in different ways in your next meal. Just don’t make the fatal mistake of calling it “leftovers.”

fried rice in a brown bowl with chopsticks

Provided you think of leftover cooked rice as an ingredient in a future meal, you’re home free and all your picky eaters will be none the wiser.

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A bowl of pasta sits on a plate, with Casserole

How to Make Fabulous Meals Using a Formula, Not a Recipe

Ever feel like a kitchen klutz? Wish you could take that odd assortment of stuff in the pantry and freezer, mix it with leftovers in the fridge to make something delicious without a specific recipe and without having to run to the market? That’s called cooking with a formula, not a recipe.

tasty pasta in baking dish, food italian

Well, grab your whisk and shout for joy! Thanks to this Fool-Proof 5-Step Formula you can create fabulous, original, homemade, delicious, and nutritious casseroles designed by You, using the items you have on hand—pantry, refrigerator, and or freezer!

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A bowl of fruit sitting on a table, with Pickle

16 Brilliant Reasons to Stop Throwing Out Pickle Juice

It was a weird request. My friend Mary Ann asked if she could borrow some pickle juice. Huh? Who keeps pickle juice? The purpose of pickle juice is to keep the pickles fresh and flavorful. And when the pickles are gone, out goes the juice, right? That practice makes Mary Ann cringe.

A bowl of fruit sitting on a table, with Pickle and Vinegar

Here’s the deal: Mary Ann is famous for her potato salad. She makes ten pounds at a time and it disappears faster than homemade ice cream on a hot summer day. Her secret (which she confides to only a chosen few) is sweet pickle juice. Not pickles, not relish—only the juice. And lots of it.

So, I wondered if there might be other uses for the briny stuff? A quick search of the multiple thousands of tips readers have sent to me over the years plus research online came up amazingly positive!

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dust on a wood surface

How to Make Your Own Dusting Spray

Let’s talk about dust, shall we? I’m not fond of it. As I write, every surface in my home has a layer of the finest dust you can imagine. It’s so bad, I am tempted to adopt the philosophy that dust is a protective coating for fine furniture and just leave it be!

dust on a wood surface

Here’s what happened: We had the wood floors in our home refinished. That required one full day of sanding through all the layers of finish and stain, right down to the bare wood.

Even the biggest, best “dustless” sanding machine cannot boast 100% effectiveness. The machine’s collection system got most of the sanding debris; the rest has been uniformly distributed to every flat surface throughout the house.

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A close up of a persons hand

The All-Natural Way to Get Rid of Bedbugs, Insects, and Other Creepy Crawlies

Got crawling insects like centipedes, spiders, bedbugs, ants, silverfish, cockroaches, fleas, and all other creepy crawlies trying to take over your home or garden? Don’t call an exterminator quite yet. I’m confident this is a problem you can fix yourself with non-toxic, completely safe, natural diatomaceous earth (DE)—cheaper and faster!

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous Earth (DE), an off-white talc-like powder, is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton that have been ground to a fine powder. If you could take a look at it through a microscope you’d see that it resembles shards of glass. It comes in bags and is easily found online ,and in the garden department of stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart and Tractor Supply.

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wool dryer balls in a basket

How to Use Wool Dryer Balls and Why You Should

A previous post, on why laundry softening products are a real problem continues to strike a chord with thousands of readers. I know because you send me messages and letters, which I love—even ones from some who are not 100% satisfied making the switch from problematic laundry softeners to wool dryer balls. But first, let’s review the problem:

wool dryer balls in a basket

The trouble with fabric softeners

The medical website, WebMD.com, reports that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may cause skin problems. Fabric softeners are very allergenic and can cause eczema, which appears as dry, itchy skin.

Dryer sheets contain fragrance and volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde and butane, which can cause respiratory irritation. Fabric softener chemicals known as quaternary ammonium compounds have been linked to asthma. Acetone, also used in dryer sheets, can cause nervous system effects like headaches or dizziness.

Fabric softeners are also known to reduce and finally eliminate the effectiveness of water-resistant materials and reduce the absorbency of terry cloth and microfiber towels.

If you find your towels aren’t drying as well after a few cycles with fabric softener—liquid softener in the washer and or dryer sheets in the dryer—it’s time to find a better alternative that will give great results without doing harm.

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pink tulip flower on wood background with copy Mother's Day Gift guide 2021

Mother’s Day Gift Guide 2021

pink tulip flower on wood background with copy Mother's Day Gift guide 2021

Enjoy this Mother’s Day Gift Guide 2021—a fun selection of gifts to delight every kind of mother, even those who say they don’t need a thing. But hurry. Some of these items are time-sensitive, which means you have no time to lose. Prefer to make a gift for Mom or Grandma? You’ll find lots of ideas and helps with that as well. One thing is for certain: Mother’s Day will be here before we know it!

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brown leather sofa with pillows of contrasting color

How to Clean, Condition, and Maintain Leather Furniture

When it comes to furnishing your home, it’s difficult to find anything more luxurious and elegant than fine leather. With that elegance comes the challenge of how to clean leather furniture, keeping it free of stains, and well-maintained so that it gets even better with age.

brown leather sofa with pillows of contrasting color

Photo credit: ter-burg

Improper attempts to clean fine leather can result in the heartbreak of permanent damage. If your leather furniture is stained or looking a little on the tired side, follow these suggestions to perk it up.

Type of leather

To get started, determine the type of leather you’re working with. Typically, this information will be found on the tags that were attached or the brochure you were given when you acquired the leather item. This written information will generally provide tips on cleaning your specific furniture and should be your first line of defense.

What if you don’t have any instructions? Generally, when dealing with leather upholstery, there are two types: aniline leather and top-coated leather.

Aniline leather

This is a type of leather that has been dyed with soluble dyes that are absorbed into the leather. The dye colors the leather without producing a heavy topcoat or sealant. Aniline leather has a very soft finish, is supple, very absorbent, and stains easily. Consider your leather piece extremely delicate.

If you are dealing with aniline, just one instruction: Do everything you can to keep it free of stains and spills. In an emergency, a clear, mild dishwashing detergent may safely remove a grease stain from this type of leather.

Top-coated leather

This is the most commonly used finishing technique for leather used to upholster furniture and automobile seats. The finish consists of an opaque base coat followed by a protective topcoat. Since the natural color of the leather is covered completely, the leather can be identified by its uniform color. Top-coat leather is known for its durability and protection from stains and spilling.

Most leather furniture these days uses top-coat protected leather, which is usually safe to clean by following these guidelines:

Vacuum

You need to remove all the loose dirt, dust, and debris from the item to be cleaned. A vacuum with the soft brush attachment is the best option as it will get into the seams and crevices. Be gentle, though. Leather is delicate and you don’t want to scratch it as you are vacuuming.

Treat stains

Before you do a general cleaning, you want to treat and hopefully remove, any stains on the leather.

Ink stains

Dip a cotton swab in rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol and rub over the ink stain. Dry with a blow dryer set on its lowest setting.

Dark stains

For food, blood, or other dark stains (even those whose origin you’re not sure of) make a paste of one part Cream of Tartar with one part lemon juice. Rub this paste on the stain and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Remove the paste with a damp rag and moisturizing soap (as described below) for general cleaning. Rinse, dry, and buff the leather dry with a soft cloth.

Grease stains

Apply a thick coating of white talcum powder to the surface of the stain. Allow it to sit overnight to draw the grease or oils from the leather. Gently wipe clean using a lint-free cloth or that handy vacuum.

Clean

Mix a few drops of a mild liquid facial cleanser or body wash such as Dove Body Wash, Neutrogena Facial Cleanser or any shampoo that does not contain Sodium Laurel Sulfate (a harsh ingredient that could dry out the leather) with one quart of distilled water (chlorine and other contaminants in regular tap water can damage the surface of leather) until suds form.



Test

Using a soft white cloth, test this cleaner in an inconspicuous place on your leather item by scrubbing a small area. Observe to see how the leather responds.

Dive in

Assuming the test gives a good result, dip the clean, white soft cloth into the soapy water and wring it out thoroughly. Working on a small section at a time, wipe the surface of the furniture with the damp rag.

Rinse

Dip another soft, clean white rag into clean distilled water, wring it out thoroughly then wiping away the soap residue.

Dry

Immediately, using yet another clean, soft white rag, dry the area.

Buff

With a fourth clean, soft white cloth, buff well to restore the luster.

Condition

Treat the surface with a non-toxic, high-quality leather protector/conditioner such as Leather Rescue Conditioner, following the label instructions. Trust me, this stuff is awesome because not only does it rescue and restore the appearance of leather, it covers scratches, too!

Maintain

Going forward, be sure to clean spills immediately. Consider a product like KevianClean Leather Cleaner & Conditioner,  Leather is porous. Assume that it will soak up just about anything.

Never use harsh cleaners or any kind of oil, furniture polish, baby wipes, household cleaners, or any product containing wax or silicone on your leather furniture. This could damage and/or leave the surface feeling sticky.

While you may be tempted, don’t use saddle soap, varnish, or any ammonia-based cleaners (like Windex) or bleach on leather furniture. Any or all of these methods could cause discoloration at the leas,t and serious damage at the most.



Position properly

To keep your fine leather furniture from fading, drying out or cracking, avoid placing it in direct sunlight. Keep it at least two feet from anything that produces heat like heating vents, fireplaces, radiators and also air-conditioning sources.

Test first, always

Again, be sure to always test any treatment in an inconspicuous area, especially with aniline. In an emergency, a clear, mild dishwashing detergent may safely remove grease stains from leather.


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First published: 6-27-16; Revised & Updated 4-19-21

A cat sitting in front of a window

7 Common House Plants That Are Pet Safe (and 12 That Are Not)

I love plants, especially beautiful house plants. Healthy, economical plants can make any space warm and inviting—not just for humans, but pets, too! Some cats and dogs enjoy taking a nibble or two and that’s a problem because some indoor plants are toxic to cats and dogs. If you have pets, check out these houseplants that are pet safe.

A cat sitting in front of a window

If you have pets and enjoy beautiful indoor foliage, you want to find a few plants conducive to your home and design taste, then stick to them.

With the exception of edibles like cat grass, it’s always better to keep house plants out of a pet’s reach if you can. The following options are recognized as non-toxic for pets, according to the ASPCA*.

African Violet

A vase filled with purple flowers

One of the most popular house plants, African violets (saintpaulia), are amazing indoors because they have the ability to bloom in low light and love the same kind of indoor conditions that humans enjoy, too—moderate temperatures and average humidity. These beauties, with their velvet-like leaves, are available in many varieties and colors.

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A person sitting at a table using a laptop computer

22 Legit Ways You Can Make Money at Home

For all the convenience and access to information that the Internet offers, the ability to earn money at home—honestly and legitimately—just might be one of the most useful. At a minimum, you need an Internet connection and computer. Or for some jobs, just a smartphone will do.

The challenge is to wade through all the muck and pitches for free get-rich opportunities to find authentic ways to make money.

The opportunities for online jobs are out there. But it’s not like winning the lottery. Most require hard work and dedication before you get paid for your time. But isn’t that true of just about any kind of job? None of what follows will make you an overnight millionaire, but each represents a legitimate way to earn extra money online.

A close up of a computer keyboard

Contents

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Instant Pot New York

Instant Pot New York Cheesecake—Fast, Easy, Perfect!

You could have knocked me over with a feather as I was searching for ways to use my Instant Pot and locked eyeballs with—Instant Pot Cheesecake. What?! I can bake in this thing?

New York Cheesecake made in an Instant Pot

Every day, it seems, I learn something new that I can do with my Instant Pot multi-cooker. But cheesecake? I had visions of throwing cheesecake ingredients into a pot of boiling water and expecting some kind of miracle.

Well, I’m excited (and relieved) to report that I was way off base with the boiling water scene, but a miracle? Spot on! We’re talking silky smooth New York-style cheesecake that doesn’t come out dry or cracked—with a delightfully firm and crunchy crust—exactly the way it should be. Fast and so easy, too.

One time in my life, I’d attempted to make cheesecake long before I knew anything about pressure cooking. The results were less than stellar. I turned out a dry, rough-textured specimen with a big crack down the middle. It was quite awful. But that was then, and this is now!

There aren’t enough words to describe just how great this instant pot cheesecake recipe is. Instead, I’m going to show you. Prepare to be amazed.

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kitchen with green painted floor

What is the Best Way to Clean a Painted Wood Floor?

A message in my inbox this week came from Joan who asked, “What is the best way to clean a very grimy painted wood floor?”

kitchen with green painted floor

Before I get to an answer for Joan, let’s talk generally about wood floors and the difference between a painted wood floor and a finished wood floor. I would never suggest that anyone treat them as equals when it comes to cleaning.

Please, make sure you never use a painted floor cleaning formula on your finished hardwood or laminate floor because it will be too harsh and could cause damage.

Paint by definition is different than say a polyurethane finish, typically used on hardwood floors. Paint is tougher, especially latex enamel that has been formulated for wood floors.

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spring cleaning concept with tools and products

The Best Players For Your Spring Clean Team

There’s an illness that has been documented by poets for centuries and I’ve got it. It’s Spring Fever, that wonderfully amorphous disease we all recognize come April and May. Spring fever remains a fuzzy medical category, but there has been a great deal of research on how seasonal changes affect our mood and behavior. I know how it affects me—it makes me want to spring clean!

spring cleaning concept with tools and products

While I don’t invite all my friends over to help, I have built a cleaning team of DIY cleaners and equipment that make the job not necessarily fun, but at least enjoyable. Today, I’d like to introduce you to my spring clean A-team.

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Kitchen thumbs up

25 More Kitchen Hacks You’ll Wish You’d Known Sooner

Here is a wonderfully creative collection of tips that spotlight my readers’ resourcefulness and intelligence in the kitchen and pantry. You’re about to learn how to make the most of your time and money in the kitchen. From clever tricks involving coffee filters, kitchen mallets, and shower caps (yes, shower caps!) to simple storage solutions for sugars and spices—get ready to take conventional wisdom to an unconventional level.

Kitchen thumbs up

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

Have you noticed? The cost of everything is climbing and not just a little bit. Lumber prices are up 250% in just the past three months. The cost of gasoline is soaring, with the U.S. avg. hitting $2.87 per gal—nearing $6 a gal in Calif. Wholesale coffee prices have shot up 25% over the past few months. The cost of food is soaring in ways that are downright shocking.

What?! Apparently, food prices are soaring worldwide 😉

Inflation

What we’re experiencing is inflation—the cost of goods and services increasing faster than wages. The cost of the things you need to live is going up while your paycheck stays the same. That means you’re losing ground, Last month you could buy a gallon of gas for $2.25 but this month that same amount of money might get you only 3/4 of a gallon.

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before and after picture of getting clothes organized

14 Simple Organization and Storage Tips

“Sorry, my place is such a mess!” If you have to pull out that one every time you welcome friends or family into your house, it might be time to get organized. Marla Cilley, know as The Flylady, calls that C.H.A.O.S—can’t have anyone over syndrome!

before and after picture of getting clothes organized

Organization is an important aspect of any home. And we’re quite familiar with the rule: A place for everything and everything in its place. Right? The challenge is finding that place and then actually following through by making sure that place is regularly occupied!

What follows is a random selection of tips and tricks I’ve received over the years from my dear readers. Undoubtedly, some will have a ring of familiarity, while others will have you smacking palm to forehead wondering “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

Reading all the way to the end just might give you an uncontrollable urge to get started. Should come up with your own organization and storage tips and tricks, which we hope you’ll share!

Cord Corral

Computer cords and charging cables make homes and offices unsightly. Camouflage the cords by threading them through a length of 1/2-inch PVC pipe you’ve attached to the wall.

Drainer Do-Over

Take a forgotten dish drainer that’s most likely stashed under your kitchen sink and give it a new life in the office. Use it for organizing paper, pencils, pads, cards, and envelopes. It works great and will save you a few bucks from buy buying a desk organizer.

Earring Screen

Earring organizers are all the rage in stores and boutiques. You can make your own by removing the glass and cardboard backing from a picture frame and replacing it with a piece of vinyl window screen purchased at a home improvement center like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Cut it to the same size as the glass. Tack it in place in the same manner that the screen was secured. Now you can hang your earrings through the screening so they stay organized and easy to find.

Earring Holder

The next time you come across a piece of thin foam wrap (not bubble wrap) used to package fragile items, cut a strip that will fit nicely into a drawer or a compartment of your jewelry box. It makes a handy and convenient earring holder. Simply push the shank through the foam wrap and attach the earring back to the other side. The convenience of having all of your earrings secured and in the same place is well worth the few seconds it takes to attach them to a foam strip.

Earring Organization

Clearly, there is no single way to accomplish the matter of keeping earrings organized and not hopelessly orphaned! Here’s one more:

Are you always rummaging through your jewelry box in the morning to find a matching pair of earrings? Purchase a 28-day pill organizer from a dollar store to organize your earrings. The box is clear plastic so you can easily see all of your earrings at a glance. Now they’re all organized. No more rummaging.

Donate to Drama

If Halloween costumes (old prom and bridesmaids dresses) end up in boxes in your attic or garage, never to see the dark of night again, get all of them out and donate them to a theatrical group, school, or church drama department. You’ll get a tax recipe and free up some much-needed storage space, too.

Cabinet Storage Guide

Once you have your kitchen cabinets organized, take photos of every item that goes into each of our kitchen cabinets and drawers. Then print them in thumbnail view, one page per cabinet. Tape each handy reference guide to the inside of the cabinet door and now your family is perfectly clear about what goes where. It’s a quick guide to finding what you have stored in deep or low cabinets as well.

Golf Bag Revival

An old golf bag makes a great caddy for all of those long-handled tools in your garage or garden storage shed. It looks cool, too.

Safe Keeping

For things you would hate to lose in a fire or tornado but won’t fit into a safety deposit box, do this: Put them in freezer bags and store them in the freezer. Chances are they will survive a disaster quite nicely.

Storage Space Solution

If your storage space is limited and you have to stack several boxes on top of each other, make a diagram on an index card and keep it in a handy place. When you look for something, you’ll know exactly where it is. Store items that you’re more likely to use often toward the front with less frequently used items at the back.

Stored Cords

Tangled, unorganized cords can quickly clutter your space. But when you need to use that item, you need its specific cord, too. Use empty paper towel and tissue rolls to store appliance cords, It keeps them neat and you can write on the roll the appliance or item it belongs to.

The Law

To keep your possessions from overtaking your life and your space, declare a new personal dictum: For every new thing that comes in, something old must go out. You must obey The Law. It’ll work. In fact, there will be times that you’ll really want to bring home something new but the thought of getting rid of something of equal size or value will help you distinguish between a true need and a passing desire.

Flower Power

Use a terra-cotta flowerpot (super inexpensive in the garden department) to hold all your kitchen-cleaning tools under the sink. The terra cotta absorbs moisture, which will help to keep your tools dry and rust-free.

The Perfect Box

Buy milk from Costco, two gallons to a carton, and recycle the box they come in, which is perfect for storing 8-by-11 sized documents and magazines. These sturdy boxes are easy to manage because they are smaller and hold less than typical storage boxes.

chicken breasts on a plate ready to be cooked

How to Cook Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (No-Fail Secrets!)

They’re convenient and, we’re told, more healthy. But there are few things quite as boring or more difficult to prepare well than boneless skinless chicken breasts.

A plate of food on a table, with Chicken breast

Here’s the problem: Chicken skin helps to keep the chicken moist and the bones add flavor. Remove both and what do you have? The potential for dry, tasteless, tough chicken.

But not to worry. Here are two foolproof methods to prepare boneless skinless chicken breasts (BSCB) so they come out and tender and juicy every time—provided that you follow these instructions exactly.

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US Pennies shiny new

16 Facts and Uses for the One-Cent Piece That are Worth Every Penny

For some people, pennies are so annoying, they don’t even bother picking up strays that end up on sidewalks and streets. Then there are those who eagerly collect the copper coin, living up to the Benjamin Franklin quote that a penny saved is a penny earned.

Assuming that the rest of us fall somewhere between those extremes, today I thought it would be fun to take a look at a few facts and uses for the lowest value coin in the U.S. currency lineup—the lowly penny.

US Pennies in a pile

Four, no more

Carry four pennies with you at all times so you always have just enough to avoid paying the odd cents when you make a purchase. This way you avoid getting pennies back in change. Serious “change savers” save other coins but want to get rid of the pennies as quickly as possible. This method will do it.

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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 $.50 a loaf in just five minutes a day? Read more

How to Make Ketchup Just Like Heinz

So this is a first for me. Honestly, Heinz Ketchup is about as common a product as any in the Hunt refrigerator. So why on earth would I even think of making it myself? If you haven’t seen today’s headlines, brace.

The U.S. is experiencing a ketchup shortage. Not kidding. Ketchup! And specifically, our favorite brand, Heinz.

French fries with ketchup on wood tray

Packets, what packets?

Seems that manufacturing has not kept up with demand. With the pivot to drive-thrus and curbside pickup, Americans have fairly devoured the entirety of the national supply of those little packets of ketchup.

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Tired cleaning lady on white with spray bottle that won't spray!

Some (But Not All) Spray Bottles are Designed to Fail

Many commercial household cleaning products—glass and window cleaner for example—routinely come in a bottle with a hand sprayer. And we love that, as long as it works the way we expect that it should, which is not for long.

Tired cleaning lady on white with spray bottle that won't spray!

First, there’s the problem of a bottle design that makes it impossible to spray out every last bit of product because that tube doesn’t go all the way to the bottom. Or the mother of all frustrations: When the nozzle clogs up or for some other reason the thing just refuses to spray. Grrrrr!

There’s no way to fix that bottle design, but with a little diligence, you should be able to get the sprayer unclogged and working again for at least as long as it takes to use up the product (hot water, a paper clip to clear the nozzle, taking it all apart).

Meant to be disposable

The sad truth is the nifty sprayer that comes with that window cleaner or all-purpose cleaner is meant to be disposable. It was designed to die about the time you need to buy more cleaner. Think of these sprayers as you do cottage cheese containers and screw-cap soda bottles. They’re considered single-purpose, one-and-done. Know this going in and you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration.

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Put a Big Smile on Your Face with a Dental Savings Plan

I opened my inbox and right near the top was a frantic letter from Lisa, who’s facing an emergency dental situation with a $15,000 price tag on it. She is desperate for options that will let her keep her teeth while not plunging her into debt.

Dentist

Another letter from the Madison family related that their finances are so tight, they cannot afford the luxury of regular dental care—not even routine x-rays and cleaning. That letter ended, “Is there a dental plan for families in our situation? Please answer soon before our teeth fall out!”

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Randy Quaid posing for the camera

A Gracious Guide for How to Be a Good House Guest

It was shocking if not surreal. The email message was from a woman I’d never met and whose name I recognized only because a few months earlier she mailed me a book she’d written.

The message announced that she and her family were planning a cross-country road trip to Disneyland and would just love to stay with us since (at the time) we lived nearby and oh wouldn’t that be so much fun. She gave a tentative date they would be arriving. 

Everything I know about what not to do as a house guest, I learned from that experience, from the moment they drove up to the time they finally departed—far too many days hence.

Randy Quaid posing for the camera

House Guests Cousin Eddie and Family from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

In the interest of full disclosure, because I have friends and relatives who read these posts, be it known that all other house guests we have ever had in all of our lives have been wonderful. Exemplary. Do not worry. This is not about you.

Invitation

It need not be engraved on parchment, but you do need some kind of indication that you are invited to be a guest in another’s home. Do not send a cryptic message (“Looks like we will be in your area in a couple of weeks!”), hoping that will wrangle an invitation. And for goodness sake, don’t just show up. That would forever designate you as either an interloper or freeloader. 

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Basket with easter eggs on white background

How to Cook Perfectly Boiled Eggs

Eggs. They’re nutritious, delicious, cheap and so beautiful when dyed and decorated for Easter. Cooking them properly is quite simple, provided you know a few secrets.

Basket with easter eggs on white background

A perfectly boiled egg has a yolk that is set all the way to the center and it is a clean, beautiful yellow color with no hint of ugly green where the yolk and white meet. A perfectly boiled egg slides smoothly away from the cracked shell.

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Hands of employees raising hands to ask question at business conference, focus on foreground

Ask Me Anything: How to Store Potatoes, Adult Children Money Matters, Shrinking Tuna, and More

It’s Mailbag day and time to reach in my a file named ECMailbag. That’s where I save all of the questions and letters that you, my dear readers, send to me. I don’t have the time to respond personally so I love it when I get to respond to your questions here.

Questions Mark ( ? ) word in paper note on blue background

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

Contents

1. Why not store potatoes in the fridge?

2. Lights: Turn off or leave on when leaving a room?

3. Should I rescue my adult child from her deep debt?

4. Let’s talk about that missing ounce of tuna

5. How to get out the Wite-Out?

6. How to deal with ugly baked-on crud on baking sheets?

Dear Mary: I just read your past column on keeping produce fresh longer. You said to not refrigerate potatoes. Why not? I have been doing this for several years. Dee

Dear Dee: When potatoes are stored below 40℉, the starch in them turns to sugar. This gives them an unnatural taste and you will also notice that refrigerated potatoes turn an ugly brownish color when cooked.

The ideal storage conditions for potatoes are places that are dark, cool, and well-ventilated—like the lowest shelf in a pantry. Too much light makes potatoes turn green. If that happens or if they spout, you can still use them. Just cut off the green spots and the sprouts before you cook them.

Next time you cruise the produce section at the supermarket notice how and where the potatoes are handled: They’re never refrigerated and kept perfectly dry.

Dear Mary: Is it better to turn off fluorescent lights when you leave the room? I was always told that it took more electricity to turn them on than to let them burn all day. Shirley

Dear Shirley: When it comes to residential use, the Department of Energy suggests generally that if you leave a room for more than 15 minutes, it is most cost-effective to turn all lights off whether fluorescent, incandescent, LED, or halogen, although you would be wise to turn off the incandescents the minute you leave. You can install smart timers that will do this for you. Check with your local home improvement center.

Dear Mary: I have two daughters in their twenties, both are married. One has a terrible credit score, and is diving deeper and deeper into debt. The other daughter and her husband have recently graduated from college and are very good money managers. They are budgeting, saving a down payment for a house, and paying off their college loans very quickly. I am afraid that my one daughter will become very jealous of her sister’s financial successes. Do I just stand back and do nothing? I see this as a disaster just waiting to happen. Cheryl

Dear Cheryl: You’ve got a sympathetic ear in me. We have two sons adult sons and I know how my mother’s heart wants to fix everything little thing in their lives. But we both know that’s about the worse thing we can do for our adult children. Our “brilliant help” is not always appreciated the way we think it should be. So I’m going tell you what I would tell myself if I were in your situation: Back off. If you are not a co-signer on your wild child’s debt, it really is none of your business.

Your children are adults with lives of their own. Both of your daughters are learning to live with the consequences of the choices they make, whether good and bad.

As tempting as it might be for you to give or lend money to your spendthrift daughter in an effort to level the playing field (I’m assuming that’s what you have in mind here), that would be a terrible mistake. It will only put a Band-Aid on the real problem and it could alienate the other girl.

I suggest that you focus your energy on coming up with a list of resources she’ll need, like credit counseling, books, and other resources so that if and when she does comes to you for help, you’ll be ready to give her what she really needs—and wants—to make a U-turn on her road to financial devastation.

Dear Mary: In response to your column in my local newspaper, “A Can of Tuna in the Real World,” where do you find 6-ounce cans of tuna? l have not seen a 6-ounce can of tuna in years. They’re all 5-ounces now! Ted

Dear Ted: You are mostly right, and my apologies for mistakenly referring to the out-of-date 6-oz. size. Many brands of canned fish and meat have joined a list of dozens of products that have downsized over the last decade with no price reduction, including cereals, coffee, toilet paper, and even mayonnaise.

I say “mostly right” because the only brand of tuna I buy is Kirkland Signature Solid White Albacore Tuna, 7-oz. cans in an 8-pack, for $16.99, available at Costco warehouse clubs and also online for members. It is the best canned tuna I know of as measured in both quality and value. Costco also offers an 8-pack Chicken of the Sea Solid White Albacore in 7 oz. cans, $16.49.

Dear Mary: I so messed up. I spilled a bottle of Wite-Out on my wood dining table. It’s not the finest table in the world, but still, I’m heartsick because low-quality or not I love the style. Ann-Marie

Dear Ann-Marie: There are two products that will remove the Wite-Out from finished wood or other surfaces. You may even have one or both in your garage. WD-40 or Goo Gone will work well. Both are available online or at your local home improvement store, in the paint aisle, or online.

Just spray either product on the Wite-Out spill and allow it sit for a few minutes until it begins to soften. Then gently scrape it off with a blunt object like a plastic knife edge. That should do it!

Dear Mary: Is there a way to remove baked-on grease on my favorite baking sheet pan? Love your column for all its great inexpensive ideas. Maggie

Dear Maggie: Yes, there are several. My favorite is with Dawn Dish Power Dissolver, a remarkable cleaner, albeit somewhat hard to find, that melts baked-on crud with no fumes, requiring little effort. It even leaves a pleasant fragrance.

A good oven cleaner like Easy-Off Fume-Free Oven Cleaner can be an effective oven crud cleaner, requiring more effort and elbow grease.

Here’s a DIY option, some readers have reported as being effective: Make a paste of baking soda and fresh hydrogen peroxide. Spread this over the problem area on that sheet pan. Let it sit for a while, then using a good amount of elbow grease and a scrubbing pad, go to work on it. This will work in most situations, leaving that pan looking nice and clean. I can’t guarantee it will look like new, but much better than it looks now!

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


gardening dirt and tools

How to Make Dirt: Compost 101

There is no doubt that this whole “cheapskate” thing can be taken too far. There are matters of time, if not personal dignity, that dictate for each of us to what extent we are willing to go to maximize our resources. That can change from time to time given the personal challenges that we face.

gardening dirt and tools

Take dumpster diving, for example. I draw the line at any activity that requires me to climb into and root around containers filled with trash destined for the landfill. I just don’t go there.

However, if my children were starving, I have no doubt that I would experience a miraculous change of heart. All that to say that, generally, I am not one who could easily be convinced to make dirt. The earth seems to be well endowed.

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A woman preparing food in a kitchen

17 Things You Need to Know About How to Use Your Garbage Disposal

I would like to personally thank the late John W. Hammes, an architect working in Racine, Wisc., who in 1927 invented the garbage disposal. What a brilliant idea. Is there anything more convenient in a kitchen than a garbage disposal? For me, it’s right up there with my dishwasher.

A woman preparing food in a kitchen

I’ve learned the hard way that there’s a lot we need to know about how to use a garbage disposal.

It took me a ridiculously long time to recognize the obvious connection between holidays, dinner parties, and emergency calls to the plumber due to hopelessly clogged drains. Why was it always on a holiday, always embarrassing with a houseful of company, always after hours, and always super expensive?

I’ll tell you why: Because that’s when I would do stupid things like peel ten pounds of potatoes, cram all of the peels into the garbage disposal and expect it to all magically disappear. Dittos with prepping artichokes. Or I’d throw a couple of whole lemons in there, thinking that would freshen up the thing before the guests arrive.

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

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

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

How to Make Upholstery Cleaner

You’ll need:

✅  cheese grater

✅  egg beater or whisk

✅  medium mixing bowl

✅  6 tablespoons grated Fels Naptha laundry bar soap*

✅  2 tablespoons borax*

✅  2 cups boiling water

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

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

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

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

To use:

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

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

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

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

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

How to store

This recipe makes a big batch of DIY cleaner. It’s been 3 weeks since I transferred the remaining amount of foamy cleaner to a food storage bowl with a tight lid. I stored it on a cupboard in my laundry room. So far it has not separated or turned to liquid, as I assumed it might. It appears to be as useful and ready-to-clean as it was when I first made it.

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

Before and after examples

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

chair seat before after cleaning

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

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

chair seat before after cleaning

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

Cost analysis

My actual cost to make the full recipe of this cleaner is about $.75, which is a generous estimate. Hoover Upholstery Cleaner Aerosol Spray runs about $7. While that’s a loose comparison, for a homemade product that cleans as well as it does, it’s clear to me that making it myself is just one more way to keep more money in my pocket, while getting this kind of job done well.

Homemade Upholstery Cleaner

You could go to the store and buy a good upholstery cleaner, or keep the cash and make it yourself! This quick and easy recipe is surprisingly effective. Use it to hand clean or machine clean spots and stains on upholstered furniture.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Housekeeping, Upholstery Cleaning
Cuisine: How-To
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cooling down: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 8 cups (approx)
Cost: $.75

Equipment

  • cheese grater
  • whisk, egg beater, or electric mixer
  • medium mixing bowl

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp grated Fels Naptha Laundry Bar Soap
  • 2 tbsp borax
  • 2 cups boiling water

Instructions

  • Place the Fels Naptha, borax, and boiling water in the mixing bowl.
  • Using the egg beater to whisk, carefully mix until all ingredients are dissolved and well incorporated.
  • Allow to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes, or until cool enough that the mixture begins to gel.
  • Using an egg beater, whisk, or electric mixer, whip the mixture until it looks like whipped cream or shaving cream. It will start out bubbly but then become foam.
  • Transferred the remaining amount of foamy cleaner to a food storage bowl with a tight lid and store in a cupboard.

Notes

If you don't want to make up more cleaner than you need for a specific job, you can easily cut this recipe in half: 3 tbsp grated Fels Nathpa, 1 tbsp borax, 1 cup boiling water.
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

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

Healthy Homemade Carrot Cake Ready for Easter

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 $1,700 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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A green fire hydrant sitting on the side of a road

Yesterday I Turned Back Time

Yesterday I turned back time. Really! I reset my lawn sprinkler timer, which was more than an hour off. It was surreal to watch the numbers go backward — so much so that when I reached the desired time, I didn’t stop. I let it go back a full 24 hours, one hour at a time.

A fire hydrant sitting on the side of a road

As the numbers counted backward, I let my mind wander. If I could, would I want to re-live the time that has passed? Would I want to put my life on rewind?

At first, the idea was exhilarating. I would get another chance to accept or reject all those credit card offers that brought me to my knees. Having the chance to apply all that I know now to my life the way it was then—surely that would change the course of my life dramatically.

But the more I thought, the more I rejected the idea. If I couldn’t do things perfectly the first time around, would I get it right the second time? Or would I want a third, fourth, or even fifth try? Knowing me, that would be a real problem; I’d get stuck in an endless loop of trying to live life perfectly.

As ashamed as I am about all the boneheaded decisions I made and things that I did, and as much as I might want to have a chance to right those wrongs, everything that has happened in my life brings me to the place where I am right now.

While I may not be proud of each individual choice I’ve made, the choices are woven together into an intricate pattern, a tapestry that is my life.

Just like any piece of stitchery, a tapestry has a wrong side and a right side. The back is where all the knots and mixed-up threads hide. When you turn it over, it can be amazing to see how all of those random pieces of thread work together to become something beautiful.

I couldn’t help but think about the beautiful word ‘redemption’—the act of buying back or repurchasing something that has been pawned or mortgaged. As I repaid the horrific debt I ran up so many years ago, I got my life back one dollar at a time. I realized full redemption when the debt was fully repaid.

I finally got the sprinkler’s clock set correctly. With great relief, I shut the little door and walked away, in real time. I walked into a new day, an unspoiled 24 hours. It was an opportunity to do things right, to make good choices and wise decisions.

We don’t have to turn back time to clean the slate. That’s what we do every morning. Today, make your clean slate count. Make this a day filled with joy and wise decisions that never will make you wish you could turn back time.


Couple choosing washing machine, electronics store

Ask Me Anything: Washer Dryer Purchase, Christmas Cactus Care and Feeding

Time to reach into the mailbag to answer a few of the questions from my dear readers. It’s kinda’ my favorite day, which should give you an idea of how much I love to hear from you. While I cannot respond personally to all of your messages and letters, know that I read every one, selecting those to answer here which I believe will have a more universal appeal.

Couple choosing washing machine, electronics store

Replacing a washer and dryer

Dear Mary: The pump in our older washing machine has gone out so rather than the big repair bill to have it replaced we’ve decided it’s time for a new washer and dryer. Are high-efficiency models worth it? And which brands do you recommend? Ben

Dear Ben: High efficiency (HE) washers do a fine job of washing clothes. for normal home laundry use. The benefit over a typical top-loading machine is that they use a lot less water—the reason they’re labeled high-efficiency.

Another benefit of a front-loading machine is that it can be “stacked” with a dryer sitting on top of it. Of course, one would need to purchase the stacking hardware that securely attaches a dryer to sit on top of it.

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Why House Plants Turn Brown and How to Stop It

Not only do houseplants bring warmth and a sense of calm to a home, but it’s also an inexpensive way to decorate. Keeping your beautiful house plants looking healthy and green, is the challenge. The most common question is why do the leaves turn brown?

househplants in white pots

Why do plant leaves turn brown?

According to The Smart Garden Guide, there are many reasons why the leaves on your indoor plants may turn brown:

  • improper watering fertilizing
  • transplant shock
  • environmental causes due to lighting, heat, drafts, or humidity
  • pest or disease issues
  • natural causes such as acclimatization or age

The first step in solving the problem is to determine where on the plant leaf the problem is occurring. Is it along the edges, on the tip of the leaf or looks like brown spots?

Brown leaf tips

When the tips of the leaves appear dried out, thin like paper, and crumbly, that’s a good indication that you have a water or fertilizer issue going on.

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How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies Quick and Easy

Fruit flies are amazing and by that, I mean amazingly annoying! These tiny creatures can detect the smell of ripe fruits and vegetables from miles away.

If there’s a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter, there’s probably a fruit fly or two looking for a way into your home to get to it. They’re so small, they can get in through window screens or crevices around windows or doors. Unlike houseflies, which may spread disease, fruit flies are harmless.

Once inside, fruit flies reproduce like crazy. They lay their eggs near the surface of your ripe fruit—and they can lay up to 500 eggs at a time! About 30 hours later, tiny larvae emerge and feed on the fruit, eventually turning into pupae. A week later, they are ready to take to the air.

All it takes is one pregnant fruit fly to get in and before you know it, you’re dealing with a full-fledged fruit fly infestation. I know. I’ve been battling this problem, too!

If you’re tired of fruit flies taking over, start by tossing out anything fresh that is overripe. Next, clean the muck from your sink drains and eliminate wet sponges, mops, and the like. Then try one of these effective remedies to banish fruit flies from your home.

Those disgusting little flies are no match for these super easy traps and potent potions!

A bowl of soup on a clear day, with Fruit and Fly

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woman distressed job loss

Practical Tips to Follow If You’re Out of a Job

These days it’s practically inevitable that you or someone close to you will face a period of unemployment. Consider these practical tips every unemployed person should keep in mind while dealing with the financial and emotional toll of leaving one job and searching for another.

Young dismissed female worker sitting near the carton box with her belongings in office not knowing what to do next. Getting fired concept.

Don’t take it personally

Losing a job can cause shame, humiliation, and embarrassment. You may feel depressed and lose your confidence. Yes, it’s a very stressful time, but don’t take it personally. Thousands and thousands of people have lost their jobs in this pandemic. Don’t hibernate, and be good to yourself. If you need it, seek emotional counseling. Let your friends and family be there for you.

Remember, time heals. This too will pass.

Collect your benefits

You may have unemployment benefits, a lump-sum payout from your ex-employer, a severance package, and options regarding health insurance. Find out exactly what you qualify for and the limitations and rules regarding each benefit.

The U.S. Department of Labor website has a handy list of all unemployment offices in each state. Some states now allow you to apply online or over the phone. Generally, it takes two to three weeks from the time you file your claim to receive your first benefit check.

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bird house in bottle

Rehab is for the Birds and More Great Reader Tips

If you’re planning a home rehab—or in the throes of that right now—just imagine how wonderful it would be if all it took to make the place like new was a spritz or two of our favorite odor-eliminating and cleaning spray. That’s all it took for some very lucky birds!

bird house in bottle

Fresh home

I have another use for Nok-Out. I have a gourd birdhouse and I thought it was getting too full of nesting material so I cleaned it out thinking the birds would start over the next spring building a nest in it. I was wrong. I went two years and still no bird nested. I decided to spray it with Nok-Out because maybe a bird could smell the prior resident, so to speak. I sprayed it; let it dry in the sun, hung it back up and now I have a new resident. Love your column. Kathy

Nok-Out is an amazing product, and proven safe for all things aviary! Something else amazing?  -mh

Cash iron restore

Just read your article on cast iron pans. These are better than any non-stick cookware on the market. An easier way to get rid of rust on an old cast iron pan is to fill the pan or pot with Coca-Cola and boil it. This will take the pan down to bare metal and ready to be properly seasoned. Jim Read more

man holding US cash in his hands

Your Money Temperament and Why it Matters

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you do have a money temperament. Everyone does. It’s the way you naturally think about, behave, or react to money. To loosely assess your money temperament and to have a little fun with this, consider the following premise then choose the response closest to what you would do.

man holding US cash in his hands

Your rich uncle learns that you are in desperate need of transportation. In a surprise move, he comes to your rescue with  a gift of $15,000 and the instruction to buy a car. What do you do?

a.) Make a $15,000 down payment on your dream car.
b.) Pay cash for a $15,000 previously-owned car.
c.) Exercise extreme patience, flexibility, consumer savvy, and negotiating skills to find a dandy used, late-model, low-mileage, well-maintained car for $7,500 then stash $7,500 into a savings account.

Putting aside your humble columnist’s obvious bias, let’s analyze the options.

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wool yarn balls in basket

How to Make Wool Dryer Balls

When I write about the benefits of using wool dryer balls in place of laundry softeners, I get a few responses gently raking me over the coals for suggesting we should spend money on commercially manufactured products when it’s so easy to make your own wool dryer balls.

Yes, I could do that and so could you. But unless you have a super cheap source of 100% wool yarn, it could cost more to make them than to buy them, which would be counterintuitive.

wool yarn balls in basket

100% wool yarn

First of all, wool dryer balls must be made from 100% wool that has not been treated with chemicals to make it “superwash” or “machine washable.” As a result, natural wool yarn will allow the dryer balls to become “felted.” Otherwise, they will just unwind and fall apart in the dryer. Take a look at these Smart Sheep 100% Wool Dryer Balls to see what beautifully felted dryer balls look like.

Felting is a process by which the tiny wool fibers are allowed to rub against one another vigorously. As a result, the fibers become hopelessly entangled creating a type of stable “fabric.”

You’ll need lots of yarn

To make one dryer ball requires one skein, about 100 yards, of 100% wool yarn. Each dryer ball needs to be weighty. This is because each one needs enough heft to bounce around in the dryer as it fluffs and separates the folds of the wet laundry. One skein per dryer ball is the absolute minimum.

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5 Ways a Tax Refund Can Make Your Life Better

Discovering that you’ll be getting a tax refund is certainly not the worst news you’ve had in your life. In fact, it’s easy to see a tax refund as some kind of gift from the universe. You might even be feeling kinda’ proud of your forced saving account to which you knowingly contribute every payday while living from paycheck to paycheck and relying on credit to make ends meet.

But here’s the truth: A tax refund isn’t a gift—it’s part of every paycheck you should have been getting all along. It’s not a saver’s reward. You overpaid your taxes. Plan now for how you’ll manage that check or your tax refund could evaporate into thin air.

Get smart

Change your withholding (use this calculator to determine the amount you should be having withheld along with instructions on how to change it). Your goal is to neither owe nor to be owed at the end of the year. A big tax refund is not a good thing! If you can come within $100 of that goal, you’re golden.

But wait, you’re not done. Lock eyeballs with the additional amount you see in your next paycheck—the amount you will not be sending to the IRS to hold onto for you. Do what good money managers do—create an automatic deposit authorization at your bank or credit union for that amount to be transferred into your savings account. Out of sight, out of mind. If you leave it in your checking account I promise it will simply evaporate in your routine spending. Now is your opportunity to act responsibly.

As for this tax refund, you have options—at least five that follow. The decision you make for what to do with that check could either make things worse or it could make your life so much better. Choose well.

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How to Get Out of a Supermarket Without Overspending

This is not the first time that we’ve visited the subject of how to get out of the supermarket with at least some money left in your bank account. Still, who doesn’t need an occasional reminder—a mental tune-up—to remain vigilant and razor-sharp when it comes to making our food dollars stretch until they scream.

Don’t go in hungry

You believe that you can simply dash in to pick up the infamous few things. But if you’re starving, you’re a dead aim for a couple of steaks and a load of snacks. You know what I’m talking about. This is because of Rule #1: Anything can happen when you are hungry.

Don’t try to remember

Sure, playing Brain Age on your kid’s Nintendo Switch has revitalized your dead brain cells, rendering you the mental acuity of a youngster—but don’t push it. Without a list of the exact items you’ve come to purchase, who knows what could happen?

It’s normal for our brains to slip into neutral in the face of fabulous food. A written list is the crutch you need desperately to make sure you do not slip and fall, so to speak. Read more

Collage depicting many uses for baking soda

36 Clever and Frugal Uses for Baking Soda

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

Collage depicting many uses for baking soda

What is baking soda, anyway?

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

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Ants getting into a house

Quick and Easy Ways to Get Rid of Pesky Ants

If the arrival of Spring is ushering an ant infestation into your home and yard, don’t panic. You may not require toxic pest control products or a professional service to take get rid of these pesky creatures.

In fact, chances are good you already have everything you need to do it yourself. Or if you prefer a commercial product that is eco-friendly and really works fast, I’ve got that for you, too.

Ants getting into a house

Knowing how to get rid of ants around the house is important. But it’s also fun to know just how fascinating these creatures are.

Some ants can support up to 50 times their own weight while upside down on glass. Most of the ants we see are workers. They are female, but they cannot reproduce.

Queen ants, sometimes living for up to 30 years, give birth to millions of babies! Male ants’ only job is to mate with the queen. (You’re chuckling.)

Ants are found almost everywhere on Earth. The largest ant colony ever found was over 3,750 miles wide. And you think you’ve got problems?

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Ask Me Anything: Help! Rust Stains on My Fiberglass Bathtub and MORE

Every day when I open my inbox, I find dozens, if not hundreds, of questions from the audience. Want to know the most-asked-about subject? Stains. Nasty, ugly, stubborn stains on everything you can imagine from concrete to laundry, and teeth, too.

Dear Mary: Our water is very hard and as a result has created rust-colored stains in the fiberglass bathtub. I’ve tried to scrub it away with Comet, but that did nothing. How can I remove these terrible stains? MaryAnne

Dear MaryAnne: Does your tub look similar to anything pictured above? If so, you have several options, starting with pantry items and a specific commercial product you may have already:

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mac n cheese from Panera and Lemon Loaf from Starbucks

Make It Better Yourself: Panera Mac n’ Cheese, Starbucks Lemon Loaf

According to a Reuters news story that ran long before we had to teach our kids the meaning of “quarantine,” one-third of U.S. adults are eating out less frequently than three months prior. The reason? Mostly the cost. No surprise there. Not even drive-thru fast food or curbside pick-up is inexpensive these days.

In the same survey cited by Reuters, two-thirds of the respondents said they consider eating at home to be very or somewhat cheap. And that’s because … it is!

A dining room table

Now, somewhere in between not-eating-out because it’s too expensive and eating-at-home because it’s cheaper there has to be a solution that makes eating at home not only cheap, but satisfyingly delicious, too.

Copycat Panera Mac & Cheese

Everyone has their weakness—mine happens to be macaroni and cheese and in my opinion, it’s hard to beat Panera’s signature Mac & Cheese. But that $9 price tag is hard to swallow.

Everything in me has been determined to figure out how to make this myself at home, and for more like $.80 a serving. And now that’s exactly what I do—as often as I dare.

A bowl of Macaroni and cheese

This Copycat Panera’s Mac and Cheese Recipe is, in my opinion even better than Panera’s. It’s smooth and creamy thanks to a secret ingredient that may make some of my dear readers wince.

In a word: Velveeta.

I know what you’re thinking, but if an ingredient or technique makes a dish taste better and gives it a heavenly texture, I am all for it. The key lies in how much Velveeta you use—only a very small amount.

I promise you, people will go nuts for this Mac & Cheese. Just don’t mention the V-word. It’ll be our little secret.

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cleaning supplies equipment

Spring Cleaning Mistakes You Want to Avoid

The sun is shining; birds are chirping, daffodils and crocuses are pushing their way out of their long winter slumber. Suddenly you feel that familiar urge to spring clean everything in sight. But before you get started, do yourself a big favor and consider these spring cleaning mistakes you definitely want to avoid.

cleaning supplies equipment

Mistake: Starting Out Too Big

Who among us has never undertaken the proverbial biting off more than we can chew? Just as I thought, and you sure didn’t see me raise my hand on that one! I’m talking about deciding to dejunk, clean, paint, and reorganize the garage. In one day.

Here’s what happened: Ended up just shoving everything back in about dinnertime, with plans to “finish up tomorrow.” It’s clear to see why that project turned into one big fail. It was too large, too nebulous, absolutely impossible.

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daffodil collage

Lessons from a Daffodil Garden

I love the story author Jaroldeen Edwards tells (Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner) of the trip she took with her daughter one bleak and rainy day. She wasn’t thrilled to drive more than two hours to see flowers some woman had planted. But her daughter insisted. “You’re going to love this, Mom!” Tell me what mom could resist going along with that kind of enthusiasm.

Mountains in fog
They drove along the Rim of the World Highway, inching their way toward Lake Arrowhead through fog and drizzle in the San Bernardino Mountains, north of Los Angeles, Calif.

By now, Jaroldeen was so agitated, she was certain she was being kidnapped by her daughter. Still not convinced this could be worth the trouble, she kept her mouth shut while Carolyn parked next to a small stone church and announced they would need to walk along a path, through huge, black-green evergreens and over a thick blanket of old pine needles.

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Homemade Corned Beef and Cabbage with Carrots and Potatoes

A Simple Meal to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Years ago on March 17, I surprised my DPL* staff by bringing a homemade meal to the office to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It was such a hit, I’ve done a repeat performance every year since.

Homemade Corned Beef and Cabbage with Carrots and Potatoes

The menu is simple and remarkably inexpensive:

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes and Carrots*

Irish Soda Bread*

Lime Jell-O with Pears

*Printable recipe cards follow

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These Cheap and Useful Items Will Make Your Life Easier

Stainless Steel Spoon Rest and Pot Holder