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Today I am responding to two very frequently asked questions at two one-fell swoops—a phrase I’ve always found to be quite curious but fun to use. This way I get multiple opportunities to kill two birds with one stone. Or something like that!
Q: Air-fryers are all the rage and from what everyone tells me, the new way to enjoy all the deliciousness of deep-fried foods without the calories. Air-frying is a very healthy way to prepare food so it comes out perfectly crisp without a lot of oil. Which air-fryer do you recommend?
I have been dragging my feet on this matter of air-fryers. That’s because I am not a fan. In fact, I think this fairly new kitchen appliance known as an air-fryer is a rip-off. All it is in a tiny oven with a fan. If that sounds at all familiar you know what a convection oven is.
If you have a convection oven—an oven that has a fan(s) to circulate air around food—you already have an air-fryer. If you don’t have a convection oven, you’d be better off purchasing a countertop model because air-fryers are expensive and so limited in their use.
Rather than an air-fryer, my choice for Best Inexpensive™ convection oven is this Oster Countertop Convection Toaster Oven, about $70. When you check the price of air-fryers you’ll see they are much more. This Oster has many functions including Bake, Convection Bake, Broil, Toast, Pizza, Defrost, and Warm. You’ll be able to “air-fry,” bake cookies and casseroles (it is large capacity) and toast up to 6 slices of bread at a time.
Should you be determined to have a single-use air-fryer appliance, go for the Philips AirFryer, about $200. Just know that I do not recommend it, only that for those who must have one, it has a good reputation for reliability and service.
I do recommend highly the AirFryer Cookbook, which is easily adaptable to use with a convection oven.
Imagine for a moment that you were not in debt and didn’t have to send those big payments to credit-card companies every month. What would you do with that money instead?
One reader whom I heard from recently faced that exact, and may I say awesome, situation. Her reward for getting out of debt was the freedom to start paying herself every month instead of Visa and MasterCard!
Recently, after saving for 10 years, I paid cash to remodel my kitchen with stainless steel sinks, granite countertops and new wood cabinets. I’ve been reading your columns and newsletter for many years and used your Debt-Proof Living method to get out of debt and stay out. What advice do you have for caring for my new sinks, counters and cabinets? Thanks, Mary, for changing my debt-ridden life to a beautiful debt-free life! Karen
Dear Karen: Getting out of debt is no small feat, but once you hit that goal, the money you were sending to credit-card companies each month was yours to save. You did it exactly right and I am so proud of you!
STAINLESS STEEL SINK
Daily Stainless Steel Cleaner. Start with a clean 16-oz. spray bottle. Pour in 1 1/3 cups white vinegar, 5 drops Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent and 2/3 cup water. Apply the spray top and shake to mix.
To use: Simply spray on stainless steel sink (appliances, too) then scrub with a cloth or sponge to clean, rinse well then buff with a dry microfiber cloth to shine. (Be sure to label this product clearly, as you DO NOT want to use it on natural countertops of granite, marble or stone because it contains vinegar.)
Then once a week, or as needed, scrub the sink with Bar Keepers Friend cleanser and warm water. Unlike porcelain sinks, durable stainless steel stands up well to abrasive cleansers. BKF is by far the best cleanser for stainless. Remember always to scrub in the direction of the polish lines (look closely and you’ll be able to see these grain lines in your sink) then rinse well with hot
Pop Quiz: What looks like water, is certainly inexpensive, has a pungent odor but is not toxic (in fact you can drink it if you like); is biodegradable, serves as a useful disinfectant and will repel kitties from your kids’ sandbox? Give up? Read on to learn the answer in today’s first great reader tip.
SCAT CAT! Keep cats out of your kids’ sandbox by pouring distilled white vinegar around the box once each month. Keep in mind that vinegar will kill some types of grass and other vegetation so be careful where you pour it. Sally
CLEAN AND DEODORIZE ICE CHEST/COOLER. Add about 1 inch of water to the bottom of the cooler, drop in four Alka Seltzer tablets and allow to sit for an hour. Pour out the dirty water then rinse and dry. All odors will be gone making the cooler clean and ready for its next use. Claudio
Over the years, I’ve learned from my clever, awesome readers that there are always more ways to stretch a buck. Today’s batch of great reader tips is proof positive.
With that, I have only one request: Please, keep your great tips, tricks, and money-saving ideas coming. We love them!
PUDDING STRETCH. My family loves Jello instant pudding, but the mix is expensive and only makes three cups of pudding. In experimenting, I found that I can use 4 cups of milk, rather than 3 cups as the directions instruct, without changing the end result. It turns out thick, and the flavor is still perfect. Linda
DE-STRING THE CELERY. While celery might be a healthy snack, I would avoid it because the strings are such a nuisance. My husband suggested using the vegetable peeler to remove the strings, and it worked. Not only does it vastly improve the taste and texture of the celery for snacking, it makes chopping a breeze. Carol
BABY BATH BASKET. Here’s another way to safely bathe baby—in a standard laundry basket, kind with lots of cutouts, set in the regular bathtub. When baby is old enough to sit up, this works great. Any type of plastic or rubber mat inside the basket will keep baby from slipping. I used a rubber shelf liner from the dollar store, cut to size. The basket also corrals bath toys so they are within easy reach of the baby. Bonnie
[NOTE: Never, ever leave a child unattended in any amount of water, not even for a second and not even in a basket. -mh]
There are days when I open my mailbox and have to sit down because I’m laughing so hard. Some things just strike me funny. Turns out this time, though, the last laugh was on me.
I am a cheapskate. I read your column for hot tips, particularly about Blue Dawn Dishwashing liquid. Recently I have begun to use Dawn for a hair shampoo. My wife is aghast. She says my hair is going to turn blue and I will smell. She claims that shampoos have an acid base balance that ensures shiny luxurious hair. Do you have an opinion? How about using it for body wash, as well? Bill
Dear Bill: l have to admit that I was a bit aghast myself as I read your letter. And I came this close to firing off a response siding with your wife but stopped short by sending myself on a research expedition so I could tell you exactly why you should listen to her and never ever shampoo or shower with Blue Dawn.
Boy, was I in for a shock. Not only could I not find credible reasons to not use Blue Dawn for personal care, I discovered a cult-like following of people out there who swear by the stuff not only for hair care and body wash but as a very effective acne treatment, too.
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If you’ve ever wondered if it’s okay to wash your down comforter without taking it to the dry cleaners, the answer is yes.
You can absolutely wash your down comforter without spending upwards of $60 (depending on the size, where you live and how dirty it is) to have it dry cleaned professionally. All you need is a mild detergent, wool dryer balls (or tennis balls), a few hours to spend at a laundromat, and patience. And if yours is a king-size comforter, a lot of patience.
To do this, you’ll need mild detergent (our homemade detergent is ideal, or Woolite), wool dryer balls (or tennis balls work well), an extra-large front loading washing machine (most home models are too small for this task) and an extra-large dryer. Here are step-by-step instructions:
Step 1. Load your down comforter into the largest extra large front-loading washing machine at your local laundromat. The less crowded the comforter is in the washer and dryer, the better the results.
Step 2. Add a small amount of mild detergent. Be careful here as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes down or feathers such a wonderful thermal insulator.
Step 3. Select the gentle or delicate setting on the washer and two rinse cycles. It is very important that the last bit of detergent to be rinsed out.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, the typical U.S. family spends at least $2,200 a year on home utility bills of which almost half goes for heating and cooling.
If your home has a fireplace with a flue that is not adequately “weatherstripped,” it’s like leaving a door or window open. You’re losing expensive warmed air in the winter and cooled air in the summer. Today’s first reader has a terrific recommendation for how you can easily take care of this problem and pocket some serious energy savings in the process.
DRAFT DODGER. Last year I bought two Battic Fireplace Plugs. They look a lot like little life rafts. You insert them up against the flue (when the fireplace is not in use) and inflate them to keep warm air from escaping through your leaky chimney damper, sealing out the draft. The difference in our heating bill the month after installing them was astounding. Flues rarely fit snugly and so much heat is lost up the chimney. I have no affiliation with the company, but I certainly have not been shy about recommending them to my friends. Chris
AUTOMATIC SOCK MATCHER. You need: A box of safety pins and a container to keep them where you take your socks off. Remove socks and join together with a safety pin. Socks will remain together in washer and dryer. Remove from dryer and your socks are ready to go into the sock drawer already matched and they don’t get lost or attached to other items. Think of all the time you’ve wasted matching socks! Jeanne
Recently, I reached into the pile known as my mail and pulled out a great question, “How can I restore the finish to an original, classic mid-century modern Formica top table that has some noticeable dull spots?” I have the answer but misplaced the letter. So while I don’t know your name, you know who you are and that’s all that matters.
Dear Reader: Don Aslett, America’s #1 Cleaning Expert says to brighten dull or scratched laminate, rub it down with Jubilee Kitchen Wax (a venerable product, still available online) or a good paste car wax, Meguiar’s Gold Class Carnauba. Just follow the instructions on the package. By the way, Jubilee Kitchen Wax is for use on almost anything: cars, boats, bikes, countertops, skis, your glasses, but don’t apply it to floors. It’s too slick. As I recall you are very fond of your table, so if you don’t already have one of the recommended products, a $10 investment might be worth the price.
Dear Mary: I have a silverfish problem in my home. Nothing I have tried works. Please help. Helene
Dear Helene: Silverfish are such a pesky problem. They’re nocturnal, so you won’t see them much during the day. And silverfish are so hardy they can go without food for up to a year. When they do eat, they find cardboard and wallpaper to be quite tasty.
An excellent pesticide for silverfish is food-grade diatomaceous earth, available at garden centers or hardware stores. Make certain you purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth, NOT the variety used in swimming pools, which has been chemically altered and will not work as a pesticide.
When silverfish and other crawling insects come in contact with the powdery substance they dehydrate. Even silverfish cannot live without water.