Readers' Tips

A Puppy for Christmas

Many times a young adult is better to adopt than a puppy. A one- to two-year-old dog has already gone through the chewing stage and should be house broke and kennel trained. For many people, they are a much better option.
Dana (via Facebook)

editor's note: For more on giving a puppy for Christmas, please click here.

Paint Saver

I recently repainted our home office. The first time I painted it, I used a roller to do the job. It took over a gallon of paint. This time, I decided to use a brush because I was doing it over a period of days. The second paint job took only two quarts, looks nicer, and was less messy than the roller job. I could have saved myself the $18 that I spent on the second gallon.
Donald W.

No More Waste!

One thing I hate to do is waste food. However, I inevitably ended up throwing away leftovers because I'd forgotten how old they were. I finally hit on a simple solution. Every time I put something in the fridge, I use a dry-erase pen to write the date on the container. Even when I am in a rush and just put a pan of food in the refrigerator, I write the date on the lid. This helps me to decide later whether something's safe to eat or not and also draws my attention to the container when I look in the fridge, making it more likely that I'll use the food before it gets too old. Just make sure to use the dry-erase pen on a smooth surface. If you do, it will wash right off when you wash your containers.

Burned On Food

I have found it's easy to get burned food off pans, etc. by putting some dry dishwasher detergent in the pan. Then I fill the pan about half full of water and boil a few minutes. I also clean burner liners by boiling them in water and dish detergent. Mix hot water with dishwasher detergent and clean the oven. It works on the toughest jobs, and it doesn't have the smell of commercial oven cleaner. You can only put in a little water at a time, so if oven is very dirty, you'll need to repeat.
Janice T.

Breakfast Bars

1/2 cup butter or margarine
32 large marshmallows or 3 cups miniature marshmallows
instant breakfast drink
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 cups Cheerios cereal
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk

Butter square pan. In a large saucepan, melt butter and marshmallows over low heat, stirring constantly. Stir in peanut butter until melted. Stir in milk and breakfast drink. Fold in raisins and cereal, stirring until evenly coated. With buttered hands, pat evenly in pan. Cool thoroughly.

Additional TDS Resource: More recipes for homemade breakfast bars

Veggie Wash

I work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, so I asked one of our food specialists about veggie washes. It turns out that they are made mainly of vinegar with a few other ingredients. My grandmother always soaked her produce in vinegar/water (equal amounts) and then rinsed with cold water. The commercial products don't really clean any better than this.

As long as you have a large bowl and a colander, you can make your own dip-vat as well. Place the colander inside the bowl, fill with vinegar-water mixture, and put your fruit/vegetables inside. When they've soaked for 5-10 minutes, just lift the colander out and rinse! This works great!
Lynne T.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions for cleaning your veggies

Car Key Fobs

Recently, my key fob stopped working. I had just put in a new battery, but the programming wasn't working. The dealership repair shop wanted $50 to repair it. Plus, I would need to make an appointment and bring it in. In desperation, I did an internet search on programming key fobs.

Once I had the information (a set of crazy-sounding directions involving opening and closing the car door and putting the key in and out), it took me about two minutes to reprogram my own key fob! I put the printout with my user manual and now can quickly and easily reprogram as needed.

Attracting Birds

I enjoy attracting different kinds of birds to my yard by feeding them all year. However, commercial birdseed is very expensive and can really add up in the cold winter months when birds require more food. After a little research, I discovered these inexpensive solutions from bird-feeding websites.

Try chick scratch or scratch grains. This is available at farm supply stores. I buy a 50-pound bag. I mix it with black oil sunflower seed, which is also quite economical. I splurge only on whole peanuts when they are on sale at the local grocery store.

Inexpensive Gift Ideas

While I was still working, I needed some nice, inexpensive gifts to give my co-workers. I knew they liked to eat, so I got busy and made several kinds of fudge and jelly. I then made up a "care package" with layers of fudge and a jar of jelly, and I also purchased a bag of Hershey's® Kisses® and dropped some of those around the jar of jelly to finish off the package. I used colored plastic wrap in the tin and then put in the food.

Everyone liked the personal touches. I have also gotten some bulk pecans and made sugared nuts. I have even made cookies and boxed them to give to people. Most people do not make these items and really appreciate receiving them and the time you took to make them.

Another idea is to make up a gift certificate for a family member to receive a home-cooked meal at your house. I have done this before, and it went over well.

Additional TDS Resource: More ideas on inexpensive gifts

No More Eggs!

The article on mixes made me remember something. Don't bother to buy powdered eggs as they are very expensive. You can substitute a heaping tablespoon of soy flour and a tablespoon of water for an egg in any baking recipe. I can't tell the difference in anything that I've tried (cookies, cakes, meatloaf, etc.), and it's usually cheaper, too. It's also nice for when you want to bake but don't have any eggs left. We stopped buying eggs altogether except for the occasional Sunday breakfast.

Cleaning Pans

For decades, I have put pots and pans that were encrusted with burned food into a sink filled with hot water and detergent. However, I still had to scrub and scrub to get them clean. One day, while I was "deglazing" a pan prior to making gravy, I thought, "Why can't I do this with my pots and pans?" I tried it, and it works.

Pour an inch or so of water in the bottom of a pot or pan with stuck-on food, heat it up to simmering, and from time to time scrape gently to loosen the food. Let it cool before washing, as it will be hot!
Bonnie F. in Virginia

Storing Your Off-Season Clothes

I fill regular garbage bags with clothing that I am going to store. Then, I take my vacuum sweeper hose and stick it inside the bag. After gathering the plastic bag around the hose, I let it suck the air out and everything shrinks down real tight. I pull the hose out carefully, keeping my hand wrapped around hose. After twisting the bag around several times, I then tape the top down on the bag with masking tape.

I also did this when my daughter was traveling home on a plane. She was going back with more than she came with. It made more room in her suitcase for other things she bought on her trip.
Sharon S.

Wet Cell Phones

My cell phone got wet the other morning, and I immediately took out the battery, dried it off, and put it in some rice to dry out. My husband works with components that need to be tested in a vacuum chamber, and when he got home that night, he said that it was too bad we didn't have a vacuum chamber at home like he had at work, as it would pull the water out in no time. I remembered I had a sample pack of the zipper vacuum bags with the hand vacuum pump. I threw my phone in the bag and pulled the air out as hard as I could and let it sit for an hour or so. The phone was really cold, which my husband said was the water coming out, so I let it sit a bit longer. When I took it out and put the battery back in, the phone worked perfectly!
Kris W. in Gilbert, AZ

Homemade Window De-Icer

To prevent your car's windows/mirrors from icing up in the winter, treat the windows before you go to bed each night. The window treatment can be made up of three parts vinegar to one part water and placed in a spray bottle. This mixture will prevent ice from forming. It is important to spray all of the car's windows and not just the windshield. You can also use the same mixture using rubbing alcohol.

Additional TDS Resource: More on homemade window de-icers

No More Dry Winter Indoor Air

In the winter, the air indoors gets so dry from central heating. Some people buy humidifiers to put some moisture into the air. A cheaper way is to hang up at least some of your wet pajamas, underwear, T-shirts, etc. on hangers around your bedroom to dry. I give each garment a couple of good shakes, which takes care of most of the wrinkles. You will find from experience which clothes work best for this. They will dry by morning, adding moisture to the air and letting you breathe easier. Then you can hang or fold them away. There are several bonuses that include:

  • you save money on electricity (or gas) for the dryer
  • your clothes don't wear out as fast
  • your bedroom gains a subtle but refreshing scent from the clean laundry


A Better Christmas Gift

As a mom of three small boys, I have more than enough toys in my house. Last year, we started asking the grandparents to purchase lessons. This may include swimming, gymnastic, karate, music, etc. lessons, depending on the child's interests. To fulfill the need grandparents have to put a present under the tree, they get a new outfit for the activity or swimsuit and towel and wrap with a homemade gift certificate. There is less clutter in our house, and our children enjoy it as much, if not more, than another toy!
J from CT

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