Readers' Tips

Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipes

BBQ sauce is mainly a mixture of tomato, acid, and sweet. You can make your own with ingredients already in your pantry and fridge.

I've made my own homemade BBQ sauce for years using a combination of tomato paste, garlic and onion powder, balsamic vinegar, yellow mustard, and either honey or real maple syrup. You can let your imagination run wild. A neighbor gave me fresh mangos, so I made mango BBQ sauce.

Open a can of tomato paste and thin it with a little water and whatever vinegar (apple cider, balsamic, white balsamic, etc.) is in the pantry. Add a tablespoon each of garlic and onion powders. Add sweetener to your liking, such as brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, or orange marmalade. The end result should be to your taste.
Stacie G.

editor's note: For more homemade BBQ sauce recipes, please click here.

Easy Chicken Stock

I make my chicken stock in a pasta pot, and it couldn't be easier. I fill a pot with water, add a pasta strainer with carcass and other ingredients inside, and cook away. I remove the pasta strainer when done and everything goes into the compost bucket. There’s no need to fish things out of the pot!
Heather in CA

editor's comment: You could probably accomplish the same thing using a regular strainer.

Backyard Play Structures

I saw a wonderful idea in a book from my local library. They installed two 6x6 posts that were buried below the frost line and went straight up about eight feet. They were about six to eight feet apart. Three or four holes were drilled at parallel distances up the pole starting about two feet up from the ground. A heavy nylon rope was then strung to form horizontal lines between the poles. Another rope was dropped in front of the parallel ropes and tied wherever two ropes met forming a spider web climbing area. Another post was secured across the top of the two poles, overhanging on one side far enough for a swing. It was a perfect jungle gym and swing for the price of three posts and some rope. Ensure that the posts are secure and all knots are tight for safety sake.

Additional TDS Resource: More on backyard play structures

Recycling at Home

My vinyl/flannel-backed tablecloth had seen better days and it was time for a replacement. I wondered what to do with the old one and decided to recycle it by making a garden kneeler. I folded it a few times, placed some large pieces of foam rubber, and then folded it again. The final size was about 27" by 15". After I duct-taped all the edges, I then inserted my new kneeler in a black lawn and leaf bag, folded it to fit, and applied more duct tape to seal it shut. It turned out great and took minutes to make, and my knees will thank me this summer!

editor's question: What have you recycled at home? Send us your ideas here.

Safe Safety

If you keep your safe in a basement, put it on a raised platform in case of basement flooding, especially if you keep important papers in it. Our safe is about two feet off the ground on a simple stand. Accidents happen. It just makes sense to be a little more safe and secure.

Brown Sugar Blocks

I don't know where I first heard of this trick, but I just recently decided to try it. I put a heel from a loaf of bread in a container with hard brown sugar. It softened it in a matter of days. I can't tell you exactly how long it takes. I just know I had some really hard brown sugar, and after putting a heel in with it, it was soft when I needed brown sugar the next time.

The Nail Polish Solution

I use nail polish lids and brushes to paint tiny areas on craft projects. In the past, I bought bottles of polish to brighten up an object or change its color to match my decor. I buy the nail polish and paint it to match. Angel knick-knacks look great with a coat of glitter polish on their wings!

I save the tops and soak the brushes in acetone and then take them to the art teacher at our local elementary and preschool and the senior citizens center. The lids make it easy to hold the brush and the bristles work just as well as a paintbrush. Plus, if you don't like a polish color on your nails, the purchase isn't wasted. You can save half used bottles and create your own custom colors or buy dollar store bottles of polish. I have found yard sale items that needed a few "upgrades," and this idea worked well.

Before You Refinance

We were considering refinancing our mortgage to get a lower rate. We figured it would cost about $2,500 by the time we paid all of the costs. We also learned that by taking a slightly higher rate, the lender would pay the closing costs.

Noting the high cost, I called our current lender to ask if they would reduce the rate with a change in terms agreement. (This leaves everything in place and only amends the note.) They agreed and charged us a $600 fee (and dropped our rate by over 1.5%). We didn't have to pay for new title work, an appraisal, filing fees, or any of the other costs normally involved.

I was sure the mortgage company wouldn't reduce the rate, but figured that the worst thing they could say was no (at which point we would have just refinanced). I am so glad that I called!

Barking Neighbor Dogs

As an animal control officer for about five years, I would suggest that you get up the nerve to go talk to your neighbor about the barking. Ninety percent of the folks to whom I've issued warnings say that they wished someone had talked to them before calling animal control. Talking to your neighbor is the fastest and most effective way to resolve the problem.

If you just can't do it, leave an extremely polite note on the door with your name and number to discuss the problem. If you want to be really proactive, visit some websites and print up some material about stopping nuisance barking (most dogs bark because they are lonely and bored!) to give to your neighbor. Give it some time; things can't change overnight. Talk to your other neighbors to see if they have a problem with the dog barking.

If your neighbor is unreceptive, then don't hesitate to call animal control or your police department. Find out what your local laws are and the process that needs to be followed and then do it.
Carmen in Colorado

Additional TDS Resource: More on stopping barking dogs

From Closeout to Consignment

I wanted to share a recent consignment store experience with fellow readers. I know that a lot of people swear by shopping at consignment shops for clothing, claiming that the best deals can be found there. I consign my children's outgrown clothes at a local shop. I rarely find anything there to purchase because I seem to find better deals on clearance racks at department or discount stores.

Just last week, I went to the consignment shop to drop off several items and they told me they had money to pay me on my account. With the money, they gave me a print out that listed the items that I consigned and the amount each item sold for. I was flabbergasted when I saw that an outfit I purchased at a discount store for $3.99 two years ago for my two-year-old daughter sold for $9. So, I walked away from the consignment shop with $4.50, actually making 51 cents on an outfit she wore for two summers!

Moisture Control

Following a recent tip about keeping fresh vegetables and lettuce fresh by putting a paper towel over them, I now put a paper towel in my bottle of vitamin E soft gel capsules. They used to clump and stick together whether in the fridge or on the shelf. No more! The paper towel absorbs moisture and the capsules never stick together.

The Disappearing Receipt

This year, I was organized! But, I found that some of my receipts disappeared. With the thermal paper, ink does not stay if heat or light gets to it. They can turn black or disappear.

If you rely on receipts in your tax documents or business, I suggest scanning them when you get them. I purchased a new copier and made sure it scanned as well. Just by asking I was given a program for free to organize me receipts. Another option is to take a picture in case they disappear, so your tax deduction does not!
Judy in NY

Don't Drive Much?

We called our insurance company and explained that we are cyclists and use our bikes for all city errands and commutes. We drive our vehicle only when we go on vacations or on our planned errand day. We managed to put less than 8,000 km on our car last year.

Our insurance was dropped down to an occasional driver status and our rates fell dramatically. If you are a cyclist or use mass transit, it is worth calling your agent!
Brenda K.

Room Deodorizer

The best room deodorizer that I make is plain tap water with several drops of essential oil in it. I normally use lavender. I use about 15 drops for a 32-ounce spray bottle. When needed, I simply mist the air. I use lavender because it's so relaxing!

Additional TDS Resource: More on homemade room & fabric deodorizers

Timely Grocery Bargains

I find that grocery store shopping on Tuesday mornings after ten is the best time to buy leftover weekend specials and find meat bargains. Frequently fresh meat and produce that's put out beginning Thursday morning must be pulled the following week. Since most meat goes right into the freezer anyway, this is a good way to maximize dollars.

Prom Savings

If you have a friend at another school, consider borrowing or trading dresses if the two of you are the same size. If you live a ski parka sort of life and occasionally need a proper winter coat or grown up rain coat for a trip, see if you can borrow one for a weekend or an evening, returning it in good shape and dry cleaned, of course! The same thing is true with an evening bag or dinner jacket.

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