Frequently Asked Questions: Groceries Online?! Which AirFryer?

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 supposedly 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.

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Could You Go a Year Without Spending?

A few years back, Eric and Donna Reed shopped for groceries and household products only once for an entire year. How on earth? I know. That was my reaction, too.

The Reeds got the idea after reading a column in USA Today, wherein the writer confessed to his weakness when it came to buying clothes. So driven to buy new sweaters, slacks or shoes every time he stepped inside a clothing store, publicly he announced he was giving up buying anything for one full year.

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Eric and Donna wondered if they could do the same. Their minds went to the grocery and discount stores, the mall and Amazon.com. And what about restaurants and home improvement stores, they pondered. How would they handle gifts and seasonal items every household needs through the course of a year?

The Reeds, like most of us, don’t simply stop into the store to pick up milk. Or eggs. No, they buy the milk—along with a basket of other stuff, too. It’s expensive to be a frequent-buying consumer. But could they plan ahead well enough to make it through a whole year without spending? They decided to see if they were up to it by trying it for one month. One month with no exceptions. Not even gifts. Could they do it? They bought supplies for the month and then gritted their teeth.

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A New Kitchen is Her Reward for Getting Out of Debt

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

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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

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A Nappy Solution for a Common Problem

I love to discover a second use for something most of us have around the house or can easily find. Today’s first tip may give you a big surprise, but for sure a big laugh. By the way, this really works!

POTTY LINER. Line the bottom of baskets and pots with a disposable diaper (yes, clean and unused!) before you put in the potting soil and plants. This keeps the soil from rushing out of the drainage hole and helps retain soil moisture while still allowing the plant to drain. Stacy L.

photo credit: ladybirdln.com

BETTER RUG GRIPPER. Recently I purchase a product, Rug Gripper, for my 5-ft x 3-ft kitchen rug, which was unsatisfactory because it didn’t work to keep the rug in place. I got the bright idea to use a roll of rubberized shelf liner, which I happened to have already. It worked great to keep the rug in place. I am very happy with the results. Florence

SECURITY COMPLIANT. My mom came to visit me recently, she lives in Texas and I live in Kansas City. When I took her to the airport to go home, I had this brilliant idea! I gave her an empty water bottle and told her to fill it up after she got through security so she wouldn’t have to spend $5 to buy water on the other side.  My mom said, “No thanks, I have two empty bottles already in my purse.” HA! Why didn’t she tell ME that a long time ago? Amanda 

THE LAST DAB. To get the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube I use a pair of pliers to squeeze the end near the cap. I can get at least a week more out of the tube. Beverly P., Pennsylvania

HANDY TWINE. To have garden twine handy when you need it, stick a ball of twine in a small clay pot, pull the end of the twine through the drainage hole, and set the pot upside down in the garden. Tuck a small pair of scissors in there as well and you’ll be set and ready to next time you need to tie up a vine or stake. Greg. N., Kansas

DIY DEODORANT. Due to the heavy toxins in commercial deodorant, I’ve wanted to stop using it for years, but didn’t know what the alternatives were. Recently, I stumbled on a recipe for homemade deodorant: 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and 5 tablespoons organic coconut oil. Combine baking soda and cornstarch in a small bowl and mix with a fork. Add the coconut oil, and continue stirring as you work it into a paste. Heat in microwave for about 20 seconds then stir again to fully incorporate all of the ingredients. Store in a small, air-tight container. Sheri R., email

HANDY MEASURE. Turn a long-handled garden or another tool into a measuring stick. Just lay it on the ground placing a measuring tape next to it. Using a permanent marker, write inch and foot marks on the handle. When you need to space plants a certain distance apart (from just an inch to several feet) you’ll have a handy measuring device right there in your hand. Jasmine

Question: Will you be planting a garden this year? 

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Best Inexpensive™: Mattress, Bed Pillows, Duvet Cover

There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! More here.

The idea to buy a mattress online and have it shipped to your home is still rather mind-boggling. It seems so risky, to say nothing of dubious quality. Like who would do such a thing?

It’s a concept whose time has come and one that’s here to stay. The idea of a bed that fits in a shipping box has exploded over the past five years and turned the $15 billion traditional mattress industry on its head!

Bed in a box

The idea is simple: Order online and have your mattress shipped to your home in a box. Once it arrives, carry that box to your room of choice, open it up, unroll the mattress and allow it to de-compress for up to 72 hours. You won’t believe your eyes (or your back!). Behold! A full size, deep, comfortable mattress that can be set on the floor, on a bed frame or other foundation.

Many perks come with bed-in-a-box mattresses including cheaper prices, more convenience, better return policies—all while providing a solid product! These mattresses come with full instructions and easy online support.

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Keep Kitties Out of the Kids’ Sandbox

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.

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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

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Readers Share More Clever Ways to Stretch a Buck

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!

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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]

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Ask Me Anything: Blue Dawn Shampoo, Body Wash

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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