Readers' Tips

Get Well Gift Basket Ideas

Rather than making a basket, why not give a call and ask specifically what would be helpful and make life easier? Maybe he/she needs some juice, lemon-lime soda, and chicken noodle soup to help her feel better, but doesn't have them in the pantry. Or how about bringing a meal for her family so she doesn't have to cook (just make a double batch of your own family's dinner), picking up some medicine for her at the pharmacy, or just coming over to watch the kids for a couple of hours so she can take a restful nap? You can always add something fun like a magazine or book, some nice tea bags, or a small bottle of scented lotion or lip balm. Surprises are nice, but sometimes it's even nicer to get exactly what you need.

editor's note: Visit here for more get well gift basket ideas.

The Garden Swap

Are you good at growing one type of fruit or vegetable? Trade your harvest with another green thumb and save on chemical-laden store bought stuff. In this way, I am able to trade excess cherry and heirloom tomatoes for organic cucumbers and berries.

Frugal Tree Removal

A large tree next to our house was growing into the driveway, and the roots were invading our sewer line. My husband borrowed a friend's chainsaw and cut the branches that he was able to get to himself. Another friend, who is in the electric business, had a truck with a lift, and he agreed to cut the higher limbs for us, just charging us for the gas to run his truck. His brother helped him place a chain around the top of the tree before it was felled, to pull it away from the house (so the tree would not fall on the house)!

We could have sold the wood to make back our expenses. Instead, we gave ours to friends. We still have the stump to remove. We are planning to let it soften and then burn it. You can also rent choppers from equipment rental stores that will chop up the stump.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions for frugal tree removal

Natural Flavored Waters

I love gently-flavored waters like those found at expensive day spas, but I hate spending money on bottled drinks. I came upon a cheap, easy, and delicious solution. I find my favorite fruit on sale at the grocery store (or farmer's market), cut it into small chunks, and add it to a quart canning jar. I fill the jar with water and put it in the fridge overnight. The next day I have wonderfully flavored water with no chemicals or artificial additives, and it costs pennies! (Toss the fruit because it's not very good to eat after sitting in water.)

I tried watermelon-basil, peach, strawberry-mint, orange, etc. The flavor varieties are endless, and mixing in fresh herbs gives even more options. Using a glass canning jar means no waste to throw away. I even compost the fruit to use on my garden the next year. So far the only fruit that doesn't work is bananas; everything else has been fantastic!
Karen, Seattle, WA


Often women misplace the small rubber backs that hold earrings in place. These are not only hard to buy, but often extremely overpriced. As only one pair of earring backs are needed at a time, a helpful idea is to remove the backs of all earrings and keep them in a separate container. You will soon realize how many earring backs you have and don't need to buy extras. After all, the only earrings that need backs are those that are currently being worn, not the ones sitting in a jewelry box.

Save on Cooking Sprays

Instead of purchasing expensive cooking sprays, I purchased an inexpensive spray bottle. I fill it with either canola or olive oil with wonderful results. This is a savings both on cost and in calories.

Handy Magnifying Glass

Forgot your glasses and need to read small print? If you have an Android or smart phone with the camera, simply go to the apps and download one of the free magnifying sites. It uses your camera to make the print much larger, using your screen to view the print!
Shirley M.

Cleaning Shower Doors

Instead of taking a pick axe to the shower doors, trying to get soap scum off the glass, simply use "used" Bounce® dryer sheets! They work perfectly with almost no effort!

Urine Stain Removal

To remove urine stains from hardwood floors, try sanding. Use either regular sandpaper cut and fit to a sanding block (supplies at $10 or less) or use/rent an electric sander. Once the stain is gone, just re-stain the area with a combined stain-sealer, matching color as best as you can. Luckily, floors don't come in as many finishes as furniture does, so it shouldn't be hard to come fairly close.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on removing urine stains from hardwood floors

Finding an Orthodontist

Both of my kids wore braces, and we had to find orthodontists twice due to a move. I'd recommend taking advantage of the free evaluation from any orthodontist that has a good reputation. Ask around. I found that the ones that seemed to recommend the treatment I felt the most comfortable with happened to be on the cheaper side.

I've also found this with other businesses like lawn care, building contractors, etc. In every case, I appreciated the great job they did, and I kept using and recommending them. Go to a lot of free evaluations. Take the x-rays from the first place you go to the rest, so you don't have to repeat them, or take them from your regular dentist. Post a request for recommendations on FB and Google each orthodontist's name to find reviews.
Sharon (via Facebook)

editor's note: To be fair to the orthodontists, make sure when you make the appointment, you make it clear you're visiting a number of them before making a selection.

Safe Bulk Food Storage

Our local bakery receives many items like icing and cookie dough in five-gallon buckets with lids. There is no need to worry what the buckets contained. They give them an initial rinse, but it is also necessary to give them a good wash before using them. The bakery sells the buckets and lids for around $2 each. The cost at my local chain store is at least $8 each.

Odor Eliminators

Charcoal briquettes are amazing for eliminating odors in refrigerators and coolers. Just place a few inside and leave overnight. If a stinky item is going to be stored for any length of time, put them in prior to storing. Just make sure you don't use the ones saturated with lighter fluid.

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our library section on odors for more great ideas.

The Dinner Addition

I make a salad almost every night with dinner. This is a very inexpensive way of having our vegetable serving and a side dish at the same time.

Lettuce is relatively inexpensive. I pick up a couple of cucumbers and any other veggie that is on sale. I can make a big salad for very little. We prefer the taste of oil and red wine vinegar rather than pricey bottled dressings. Add some oregano and maybe some salt and pepper if you like and you're done. It's inexpensive, fresh, homemade, and healthy!

"Station Meat"

My family has always made something we call "station meat." The name comes from when Grandma would make it to send to the "station" with Grandpa. When we purchase a beef roast, we buy one larger than what we need for a meal. When the leftovers are cool, we grind the roast with a raw onion and a few dill pickles. Then we stir in enough Miracle Whip® or mayo to hold it together and serve it cold on bread for a sandwich or with crackers.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on lunches without a microwave

Fresh Tortilla Chips

To keep tortilla chips fresh, I put the opened bag in the freezer, secured with a clothespin. They are always fresh when you need them!

editor's question: Do you think this works because the freezer is air-tight or because of the lower temperature?

Vacation Security

Whenever I leave my home for the weekend or a vacation, I stop by my hometown police department and put my home on house watch. It's free. I can either complete an information sheet online or at the police department. My home is checked by a police officer every shift. Doing this eases my mind while I'm away.
Percitia G.

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