Home & Family Articles

Sometimes home, sweet home can seem like a money pit. But your house and family don’t have to cost you tons for care and upkeep when you use ingenuity, creativity, shopping sense, and savings sense to bring out the best without breaking the bank.

In this category, you’ll find some sweet and sensible ideas, tips and ideas—from how to make your own cleaning products (yes!), wash a down comforter (forget the dry cleaners); the worst and best ways to clean your eyeglasses,  the very best way to kill weeds ( it’s not Roundup) and so much more.

Here you’ll find so many sweet and sensible ideas for making your house a wonderful home with money and time to spare!

How to Make Breakfast a Required Subject

Back-to-school for most kids means new shoes, a cool backpack, and an unspoiled 64-pack of crayons. It also means getting back to a morning routine. This year, make breakfast a required subject in your house. All you need is fifteen minutes plus these quick and easy breakfast ideas, tips, tricks, and hurry-up secrets.

 

Back to school kids breakfast, pancakes with raspberry jam

 

Fruit shakes

Start with the basic recipe and then customize with what’s in the refrigerator: Pour 1 cup juice, 1 cup water, 1 egg (optional), 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup crushed ice in the blender and blend until smooth. Customize your smoothies by adding fresh fruit, yogurt, protein powder, leftover pudding, applesauce—even left-over Jell-O.

Keep peeled banana slices in plastic bags in the freezer. Add them to any fruit shake or just plain milk. Read more

The Proper Care and Feeding of the One Thing Every Home Must Have

My heart was pounding, the smoke alarm was screaming and I was in full-on panic mode. Flames were reaching toward the adjacent wood cabinets. It happened so fast! I didn’t have time to run to the pantry to search for baking soda.

I had a rip-roaring fire on my hands and I was in slow motion thinking about how sad it would be to be homeless for Christmas.

I’d turned my back for a few seconds to find a utensil. When I returned, small flames were shooting from the burner. My quick thinking told me to smother a grease fire, so I grabbed a pot lid to do that, but it wasn’t airtight and soon the flames were double the size and spreading.

That’s when I locked eyeballs with the fire extinguisher that had been sitting on the counter for so long it blended into the décor.

I’d never engaged a fire extinguisher before. I read the instructions once but that’s about it. Not knowing what to expect, I grabbed that thing, jerked out the red plastic ring (it came out easily), pointed the nozzle and pulled the trigger. It put out the fire with one mighty blast of fine yellow powder so strong and powerful it nearly knocked me off my feet.

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9 Super Cool Summer Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

Whatever end-of-summer adventures you have planned for the last month of summer—the beach, pool, or even your own backyard—these cool summer tips, tricks, hacks, and DIYs will bring a smile to your face and perhaps even a sigh of relief. There’s still plenty of time to get out there and do summer like a champ!

Child going on summer vacation. Car travel and beach concept

Sand-free Electronics

Stick your smartphone, notebook, CD player or other electronic inside a zip-type plastic and zip it up. You can operate item without ever opening the bag. It will stay sand-free and totally dry.

Pack a Fitted Sheet

Take a fitted bed sheet with you to the beach. Do this first thing once you locate you spot. Spread out the sheet and turn up the corners up and place something heavy in each one (the cooler, food basket, etc.) This will keep it spread out and all of your gear (and you, too) free of sand without having to make sure you’re lying on a small towel.

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10 Cool Gadgets That Put Money Back in Your Pocket

There is an old marketing adage that insists that for a business to make money it has to spend money. There’s truth in that for business, but when it comes to personal money management don’t count on it unless you have a clear strategy. That’s exactly what these inexpensive yet handy gadgets offer—clear strategies reduce the high cost of energy—your home’s electricity, water and gas.

 

Jeans pocket with 100's bills sticking out

 

Don’t get me wrong—I am not saying that you cannot reduce your energy consumption without buying a gadget to do it, but the following ten such gadgets sure do make the job a lot easier, which means you’re more likely to carry through to see the net savings!

Outlet Sealers

Electrical sockets and switch plates on exterior walls can be hidden sources of drafts that may lead to high heating and cooling costs. Socket sealers are really easy to install and act as a buffer between your home’s inside and the outdoor air, helping to keep conditioned air in and outside air out. The Duck Brand 283333 Socket Sealers Variety Pack comes with 16 outlet sealers, 6 switch plates and 2 decorative covers, gadgets that save money.

Window Shrink Film

Chilly winter or hot summer weather can send the home heating/air conditioning bill through the roof. But a little insulation goes a long way. You can cut a chunk out of your power bill by making your home your home more energy efficient when you install window shrink film. It’s easy, using a conventional hair dryer with film like you can get in a Duck Brand 281506 Indoor 10-Window Shrink Film Insulator Kit. This particular kit will insulate the equivalent of ten 3’ x 5’ windows. Read more

How to Make Even an Old Dishwasher Perform Like New

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.

 

dishwasher-filled-with-clean-dishes-and-bright-start

 

During our recent kitchen remodel, we got rid of the appliances, all except for my stripped down 14-year-old Whirlpool dishwasher.

Even though it has been 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.

It doesn’t matter how old your dishwasher is. If it will turn on, spray hot water and go through some kind of cycle, you can turn out sparkling clean dishes. You just need to know a few secrets about cleaning, maintaining, and operating it.

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6 Super Easy Ways to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

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.

 

Homemade fruit fly trap that's filled with dead fruit flies

 

Once inside, they reproduce like crazy. 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!

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Make Your Own Natural Non-Toxic Ant Spray

If you’ve ever had to deal with an invasion of ants, you may know the meaning of exasperation. While the kids think ants are so cute the way they march in formation, stop to help one another, and work hard to prepare for their own life challenges ahead, it’s better to study these amazing creatures than to wake up to find a million or so feasting on that last piece of pie someone left out on the counter last night. While commercial ant sprays work well, most brands are expensive if not toxic.

 

Team of ants constructing wooden house in forest, teamwork, ant tales

Of course there are dozens of homemade remedies for dealing with ants—from poisoning them with boric acid, borax, or ammonia, but even those ingredients can create toxic situations for crawling babies, pets, and that salad you’re about to make on the counter where you just dealt with an ant attack.

Other methods, like one that promises to blow up their digestive systems with cornmeal—while perhaps better to use than harsh chemicals—can create a new challenge when the solution turns out to be messier than the problem.

All natural option

Today, I want to tell you about an effective recipe for an all-natural DIY ant spray made from ingredients that are toxic to ants but perfectly safe for pets* and people.

This recipe is safe, quick, natural (did I say that already?) and highly effective. And so handy. Just grab and go whenever you see a problem. You are going to love it.

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14 Ways to Use Dryer Sheets That Have Nothing To Do with Laundry

Perhaps you’ve seen the list of uses for dryer sheets floating around the Internet. Who knows where that list came from. What we do know is not all of the alternative uses can be verified as true.

 

Box of dryer sheets

 

For example, we have no confidence at all that Bounce or any other brand of dryer sheet will repel mosquitoes. We’ve tried and nope, those suckers seem to enjoy dry sheets! But spiders and flies? Or how about stinky shoes? Read on.

Pests

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

 

Active house spider

Luggage

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

Blinds

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

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