Readers' Tips

Inexpensive Drapes

With a set of clip-on curtain hooks, any piece of large fabric can be used as a curtain. You can buy cheap fabric by the yard or convert old sheets and tablecloths to curtains. You may need to cut the fabric to the size you want and hem it, but if you don't sew, you can use iron-on hemming tape.

editor's note: For more on finding inexpensive drapes, please click here.

Tortilla Strips

I love those tortilla strips that stores sell in the crouton aisle, but I don't like the price. I decided to try making my own. I bought a pack of flour tortillas, layered two together, and cut them with my pizza cutter into thin strips. Then I cut the strips in half. I sprayed a baking sheet with cooking spray and laid out the strips. I then lightly sprayed the strips with cooking spray and sprinkled garlic powder on them. Next they went into the oven at 350 degrees for about ten minutes. I took them out, stirred them around, and put them back in for another five minutes. Then I let them cool. This made enough for five days of lunch salad topping at a fraction of the cost.
Juliana T.

Before You Back-to-School Shop

Before splurging at the before-school sales tax holidays offered by many states, be sure the items you want are at prices you consider bargains. Ask yourself if you would hit those sales if the ads said, "7% off!" (or whatever percent your state charges). If you wouldn't pay those prices if you were going to pay the sales tax, consider whether it's a real bargain or if you're being swept up in an appealing but false frugality.

Squirrels in the Attic

To drive squirrels out of your attic, use moth balls. Then find how they're getting in and patch it up. We had the same problem with bats. Moth balls are made out of naphthalene flakes and cost $2 for a one-pound box. Bat and squirrel repellant is made of the same naphthalene flakes, but goes for $10 a box.

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to get squirrels out of your attic

Handy Browned Beef

After buying ground beef on sale, I like to brown the meat right away. Then I freeze it in one-pound packages. It makes for speedy meals, such as spaghetti, pizza, chili, etc. I freeze the browned ground beef in large resealable bags and lay the bags flat in the freezer, stacking one on top of another.

Controlling Ticks

When we built our new house five years ago, I couldn't walk across the backyard without finding a half dozen ticks crawling all over my legs. I had heard that chickens were great for controlling the tick/insect population, but since we are inside the city limits, farm animals were not an option.

As a desperate measure, I started throwing my birdseed all over my yard to lure the wild birds to eat on the ground and hopefully help with the tick problem. It worked! Since I did that, I have not picked up a single tick from our backyard. However, we did have several surprise sunflowers pop up in unexpected areas. We loved it, but if you wouldn't like the sunflowers, you could "bake" the birdseed in a 300-degree oven for about 30 minutes to stop the germination process.

Additional TDS Resource: More on tick control

Upcoming Prom?

If you have a daughter that's going to be a Junior in the upcoming school year and is looking forward to wearing a fancy dress to her Junior Prom, now is the time to visit formal wear shops to check out their clearance sales. The dress we found was more than half off, but there were quite a few beautiful dresses as low as $39 just waiting for some lucky girls to find them.

Helping Kids Grow

Kids love gardens. It's great to teach kids about turning nothing into something. It also helps that organic food is amazing.
Clarity for Consumers (via Facebook)

editor's note: They're referring to our article on organic foods. And, don't forget to visit Clarity for Consumers Facebook page

Controlling Frizzy Hair

My hair turned to frizz due to medication. It used to be shiny and straight. I spent about $50 trying different products until I came upon a natural and inexpensive solution. I keep a big plastic cup in the shower and fill it with about 1/2 cup of apple vinegar and 1/2 cup water. After I rinse the conditioner out of my hair, I use this as a final rinse, making sure to close my eyes tight. Vinegar stings! Vinegar corrects the pH of hair and actually smoothes the cuticle miraculously.

If I need further conditioning, I use that old fashioned Alberto VO5 in a tube. It costs about $2.75, but it lasts virtually forever. I rub it in my palms and run my hands over my hair. Your hair won't look greasy, either.
Maria in Tulsa

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on controlling frizzy hair

Time for Christmas Shopping?

Many states offer sales tax holidays, especially at the start of the school year. For those who want to save up to 8% on their holiday shopping, buy your clothing presents now! Then, you're paying as you go, and you won't get walloped in December!
M. M.

Healthy Skin Care

Want a wonderful, cheap way to exfoliate skin. Use baking soda! Wet a washcloth and place a very small amount of baking soda on the cloth and scrub away to a wonderful feeling. This works great as an entire body scrub.

Additional TDS Resource: Visit the library section on "beauty" for more great ideas for looking good!

Extra Tomatoes?

I am getting an abundance of tomatoes, and being unable to eat them all, I am freezing them. Here's how I do it:

  1. Wash them.
  2. Dry them.
  3. Put them on plastic or wax paper on a tray, but don't let them touch each other.
  4. Freeze overnight.
  5. Remove, put into a bag, and put back in freezer.

You can take these out as needed. To remove skin, simply hold under water a minute and the skin will slide off easily. You can use them in soups or sauces.
Joann S.

Cutting Back on Restaurant Meals

If you are going to eat out less (or stop it altogether), help yourself stay within that budget change by moving part of the "eating out budget" to "groceries." If you cut $100 out of eating out, put $50 into your grocery budget and use the money to buy ingredients to make the items you used to get at restaurants. For example, use that $50 to buy pizza ingredients or burger fixings. Then the cut backs won't feel like such a cut.
Tamara W.

Carpet Cleaning

I've used just about every kind of carpet cleaning solution in my steam cleaner. None of them compare to one simple cheap solution, which is vinegar mixed with water. I use a solution of about 1 to 10 and am amazed at the results every time. It gets rid of spots that come back to the surface and cleans my steam cleaner at the same time. The vinegar smell does stay around until the carpet is completely dry. I usually spray the carpet down with some no-vacuuming foam afterwards while the carpet is still wet and light some candles. I have three messy children and vinegar works great for me!

Additional TDS Resource: More on carpet cleaning solutions

Stretching Your Food Budget

I glean. Depending on where you live, you can go around the neighborhood and check for fruit trees or berry bushes or see who has a grape vine. Does someone have excess sweet corn or garden crops? Ask the person for some. I am not too proud to ask. You might be able to exchange some of your talent, like sewing, housekeeping, etc.
Denise M. (via Facebook)

Smokey Odors

Last week, I was cooking and fell asleep. The water boiled away, and by the time I woke up, I had a house full of smoke. The smoke was pretty easy to clear, but the stench from the smoke was horrible. I had all the windows and doors open, but there was still this lingering odor.

My sister told me to take a regular size bottle of white vinegar, pour it into a pot, and bring it to a rapid boil. Then take the vinegar and pour a small amount into several bowls and set the bowls in the room(s) with the odor, as close to the odor as possible. I was amazed at how fast it worked! All I had was apple cider vinegar, but it also worked. It just left a "cider vinegar" scent for a little while. Once the smoke scent goes away, you can empty the bowls and the vinegar scent will fade quickly. This really made our house a home again!

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