Readers' Tips

How to Clean Cement Driveways

We've had a lot of luck with a pressure washer. It works wonders on our cement driveway!

editor's note: For more on how to clean cement driveways, please click here.

Avoiding Freezer Burn

Professional butchers double-wrap everything. In the "olden days," they wrapped in freezer paper and then wrapped again in another piece of freezer paper, taping the ends down with masking tape. Nowadays, they wrap first in heavy-duty plastic wrap and then freezer paper. I have found this works well for me.

Use a big piece of wrap; don't skimp! Place the food in one corner. Roll toward the other corner. Fold the sides over when they stick out enough for the fold to get caught under when you roll. Each piece of wrap should go around the food item at least twice. Tape the outside paper wrap with masking tape, which is cheap and will stick even after it is frozen. Label with the contents and date.
Gail in CA

Additional TDS Resource: More on how to avoid freezer burn

Buying Winter Wear

I always use March and April to buy new gloves and hats for next year. All of the stores have them for at least 75% off. I just picked up a two pack of gloves for 37 cents. I also try to stick with black when buying the thinner gloves. They look great with everything, and if I lose one, all of my extras already match!
Julie G.

Easy Fertilizer

The best garden fertilizer I have found is Epsom salts. The active ingredient is magnesium sulfate. You can purchase it in the first aid aisle of your local store or pharmacy for less than $5. The back of the bag has instructions for use. A bag lasts me all summer. The plants and vegetables grow larger and keep producing as long as you keep using it. No more expensive garden fertilizer for me.

Swiffer Refills

I use dampened paper towels instead of expensive dusting clothes for floor dusters. The paper towel picks up hair beautifully in the bathroom, and I can just throw them away when done.

Custom Body Lotion

I use body lotion after every shower and throughout the day on my hands. Therefore, I go through a lot of it. I love the scented lotions (especially lavender), but they are so expensive. I used to ask for bottles as Christmas or birthday gifts, and then I used it only for special occasions.

Then I realized that I could make my own. I now buy a generic body lotion and put it in a pretty lotion dispenser. As I add the lotion to the dispenser, I add drops of lavender essential oil, mixing as I go. I add 15 to 20 drops of the oil. There are many essential oil scents from which to choose. Although the oils are not cheap, they last a very, very long time. I now use wonderfully scented lotion every day for a fraction of the cost.

Easy Blender Clean-Up

I read this tip a while back, and I recently tested it. I was both amazed and thrilled with the outcome! After using your blender for "smoothies" and such, remove the pitcher and rinse thoroughly. Fill the pitcher with hot water and one little squirt of dishwasher detergent (not dish liquid such as Dawn) and return it to the blender base. Put the pitcher lid on, hit the blend or chop button, and let it run for 10 to 20 seconds, depending on the degree of cleaning required.

Your blender will be squeaky clean! Be sure to rinse thoroughly and let it drain in the dish drainer. You'll occasionally want to wipe off the exterior of the blender base.
Sherry H

Next Year's Property Taxes

I am single, and each year, I have property taxes totaling about $1200. My work offers direct deposit, and I set up a special account. I put $50 per pay period (I get paid every two weeks.) directly into my special account. Now when my taxes are due, I have $1300 waiting for me. Since I don't even see the money, I don't miss it, and I budget with the remaining balance from my paycheck. It works great for me!

Cleaning Range Hood Filters

There's a very easy way to clean range hood filters. Just melt the grease off. Find a pan large enough to hold the filter (something like a jelly roll pan). Put a thick layer of newspaper into the pan (maybe eight pages thick) and set the filter on top. Put the pan into your oven and turn the oven on very low (like 250 degrees or "warm") and just wait awhile. The grease will melt, flow down, and be absorbed into the newspaper.

Once you've melted off as much as possible, run the filter through the dishwasher, using a bit more detergent than usual.

We did this with a truly disgusting filter when we last moved. The house was 20 years old, and my guess is that the filter hadn't been changed or cleaned in that whole time. We baked it in the oven for an hour and then put it into the dishwasher. The filter sparkled when it came out.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on how to clean range hood filters

Reduce Your Vet Bills

One thing that can drastically reduce vet bills is to keep your cat indoors! Outdoor cats are exposed to a host of things that can harm them and lead to high vet bills. Those things include other animals that may attack, cars that can hit them, parasites, fleas, and ticks. Also, an outdoor cat is much more likely to ingest something harmful, such as antifreeze or garbage. Any good vet will tell you if you want to keep your cat healthy, keep them indoors at all times!
Karen I.

Relaxing Oatmeal Bath

I make my own oatmeal bath! I buy a large container of generic 100% oatmeal and put about two cups into my blender or food processor. I blend on pulse for about three minutes until it's very powdery. Then I pour it into a zipper bag. This is also great for diaper rash soaks or skin rashes, and I saved about $6 by doing it myself.

Planned Obsolescence?

I recently spent some time shopping with a close friend of mine, and in the process, I learned a valuable lesson about thinking long term when purchasing large-scale sporting goods. My friend is an avid outdoorsman. He enjoys skiing, kayaking, and mountain biking. All require a lot of expensive gear in order to participate safely. However, he created a system to minimize those costs and allow him to keep up with new developments in equipment.

Whenever he purchases an expensive item such as a new paddle or a pair of skis, he spends a little time researching the re-sale of that item. He searches eBay, looks at club website classifieds, etc. to find what brands are hot on the re-sale market. He also takes care of his equipment, cleaning it after use and storing it someplace where it will be away from the weather.

At the end of a year or two, he resells his old equipment and uses the money to purchase new gear (always on sale). He is usually able to get at least 60% of his original costs back and sometimes even makes a profit, depending on whether he found a good sale price on the original item. In these times of overstuffed garages and sports that can drain your pocketbook quick, this kind of approach can help you spend more time enjoying the great outdoors and less time cleaning up a cluttered garage or working overtime to pay for your expensive hobbies.
Allison C.

Pet Odors & More

Ammonia works wonders on pet odors! We had a cat that was jealous of my daughter and urinated on different items (clothes left on the floor and an occasional pillow or two).

For clothes, I tossed them into the washing machine with 1/2 cup to 1 cup ammonia and let them soak a good 30 minutes to an hour. I put the ammonia in and allowed the washer to fill first, so the ammonia was evenly distributed. Then I added the clothes.

Twice, however, the urine soaked through to the carpet. After testing a hidden area first, I used a spray bottle to apply the ammonia to the carpet and also used a syringe to inject it through the carpet and into the padding. It was incredible. If you do this, be sure to do it at a time when you can vacate the room for several hours and open the windows to ventilate the room.

My mother used ammonia on their mildew-covered boat last summer. After cleaning the mildew off, she sprayed the fabric and carpeted areas with ammonia and the smell disappeared.

I also use it with every load of towels that I wash. I usually get a lemon-scented generic brand for less than a dollar a bottle. It keeps them smelling fresh for a longer period of time.

Timely Discounts

My husband was in two hospitals in different states in December and January. When we received the bill from the first hospital, it stated plainly that if the bill was paid in full within 10 days, a 10% discount could be taken.

I looked for the same policy when the second bill arrived. I was disappointed not to find it, so I called the hospital's finance department. I explained the first hospital's policy to the woman and asked if their policy was the same even though I didn't see it stated on the bill. I was delighted to hear that it was. So, one toll free call netted us $120!
Joyce in Wisconsin

Quick Meal

When I cook chicken breasts, I always cook two or three extra. Then, I cut them into small chunks and freeze in separate containers. For a quick meal, I add one container of the cut up chicken to a bag of frozen vegetables and a stir fry sauce or soy sauce. In less than fifteen minutes, our main course is ready. You can also add leftovers from the fridge.
Joan M.

Furniture "Water Rings"

I do finish repair for a local furniture manufacturer. To remove water rings and other marks and stains from the finish, I use a paste made of water and cigarette ash. I put this mixture on a soft rag and wipe with the grain of the wood. Then I wipe it off with clean rag. This removes most rings, etc.
Doc D.

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