Readers' Tips

Renewing Bathroom Sinks

There are companies out there that do this kind of thing, but the cost is almost as much as a new sink. Many years ago, a relative of mine used a kind of epoxy paint to refinish the sink and it lasted until they sold the house. There are probably new products out now, so go to a big box store or a big paint store and ask. They will be able to answer questions.

A second alternative, if you are handy with plumbing, is to watch garage sales for a used sink or to keep your eyes open as you are driving around for sites where someone may be in the process of remodeling. You can probably get a sink for free this way.

editor's note: For more on renewing bathroom sinks, please click here.

The Fry Line

Whenever sausage and/or bacon go on sale, I buy up several packages. Frying them in the kitchen leaves my clothes and kitchen smelling like bacon or sausage all the rest of the day and leaves my stove rather greasy. I have a large old electric skillet, so I plug it in on my patio and fry up several packages of these all at once.

I just make it a project I do maybe once a month or so. I reserve some in the fridge (as much as I'll use in a few days) and then I package up, label, and freeze the rest. I only have to wash the skillet once, have no greasy mess or smell in the house, and have pre-cooked meats ready for many meals after that.

If you don't have an electric skillet, a George Foreman® grill will work well for this job also.

Getting Rid of Lice Safely

My grandkids had lice and the parents had tried every commercial preparation on the market and all the home remedies they heard about and nothing worked. I found this one online, and after one application, the lice were gone. Also, it is perfectly safe.

Soak head with full-strength Listerine®, and generic will do. I put it in a spray bottle and held a wash cloth along the hairline, so it wouldn't get in the kids' eyes. Cover with shower cap and leave in for at least two hours or even overnight if you like. When you remove the shower cap, you will see dead lice in the shower cap. Rinse.

Next soak head with full strength apple cider vinegar. Again I put it in a spray bottle. Cover with a shower cap. Leave in for at least two hours or as long as you like. This kills the nits. Remove shower cap and rinse.

Finally, cover head with cream rinse and start combing. Every time you feel like you have hit a tangle, it is a nit that was stuck to the hair. Rinse.

You can do this as often as you like, but we only did it one time and the lice were gone.

Easy Grout Cleaning

I cleaned my shower recently with my glass-top-stove cream cleaner. I was looking for something that would really scrub without scratching the surface. I also wanted to avoid terrible fumes. It worked so well! DH, who usually does it with a toothbrush and Tilex®, said even he had never been able to get it that clean and we have a pretty bad mildew problem in that one bathroom.

I just wet the walls, squirted a little of the cleaner on, and scrubbed with a kitchen brush over the tiles and in both directions of the grout lines. After a quick rinse, it was done. It took me about 15 minutes to do the whole entire shower where it used to take DH about 50 minutes with the toothbrush and the Tilex®. You can buy the stuff at most grocery stores or at Sears.

Additional TDS Resource: More on how to clean gross grout

Market Timing

I try to go to the local market on Saturdays around closing time as this is when the meat, fruit, and vegetables are put out at very low prices as the market does not re-open until the following Wednesday and it's too hard to keep the produce that long.

Last Saturday, I bought around four kilos of potatoes, 1kg tomatoes, 1kg golden peaches, and 1kg green peppers all for $1 per box so that meant I had to spend $4 for the week as I had other fruit and veggies at home. Because it's summer in Australia, it's very hot, so I don't hang around for long, but it's lovely seeing all the students with their trolleys buying cheap, healthy food. It's also lovely spending only $4 myself for the week.

Free Spring Wardrobe

Having a new spring wardrobe may be out of reach, but if you have a friend who has similar tastes in fashion and who is (or was) your size, there's a way around it. Simply have a clothing swap. If your buddy goes to a different church, perhaps you can trade Easter dresses. Each person would then be able to wear a new (to her) Easter outfit to church. Or maybe you would prefer to trade business outfits or items you'd wear to special events, such as a night on the town or a vacation. The trade can be temporary or permanent. If it's a temporary trade, work out in advance what will happen if the garment is torn or stained.

Winter Windshield Washing

Make your own windshield washer mixture that won't freeze by combining one quart of rubbing alcohol, one cup of water, and two tablespoons of liquid detergent. This formula will not freeze down to -35 degrees F.

Picture Framing for Less

I recently needed a poster-sized frame and mat for a beautiful poster I picked up, but the cost to frame it was outrageous. Instead, I picked up a matted and framed poster at a garage sale even though the mat was the wrong color. I took the picture from the frame and painted the matting using some leftover paint. Since it was double-matted and I wanted a contrasting color on the inside mat, I just took a fat Sharpie marker and colored in the small space between the mats. The result is absolutely stunning and it looks like I had it professionally done.

Children's Play Structures

We were in the market for a play structure last year. My husband is an excellent woodworker, and I am an architect. We thought that we could easily design and build a play structure for less money than the ready-made ones. In researching the cost of materials and the time involved (we have two small children), it became apparent that we were not going to save that much money. Quality materials (redwood, cedar, etc.) are surprisingly expensive.

Then I started checking the local paper (the "Bargain News"). Many people sell their structures after a few years because their kids outgrow them or they are moving and it is too much trouble to move. We ended up getting a play structure that was only two years old for about a quarter of the cost of a new one. And the best part was that the only labor involved was disassembling and reassembling it at our house. If you see an ad, call immediately. There is a lot of competition for a good quality play structure at a great price!
Sue W

Additional TDS Resource: More on inexpensive play structures

Affordable Charitable Giving

This is in response to the "buy one, get one free" offers at local stores. If your family doesn't use that particular item, buy it anyway and then donate it to your local shelter or Salvation Army. There are many people in need. Because it costs a little at a time, I feel this is a good way to donate.

Stale Bread?

I make most of my own bread. Because it does not contain preservatives, it can get stale quite quickly. I heard someone say that they store their bread in the microwave, so when my old microwave "gave up the ghost," I turned it into a breadbox. Because it seals so well, the bread stays fresh much longer!
Diane L.

Younger Skin Forever

Several years ago, I was given this tip from a woman in her sixties whose skin looked years younger. She told me that she used baking soda to exfoliate her skin. Ever since then, I have been using it, and it works wonders. I mix about a tablespoon in with my facial cleanser and gently rub on my face, neck, hands, etc. I am careful to avoid my eyes. It is amazing how smooth my skin looks and feels.
Barb in TX

Small Plants in Large Pots

To save on potting soil in large pots or containers, such as wine barrels, place empty milk cartons or soda bottles on the bottom first to take up some of the space. Don't use this trick if you're planting a tree in the pot, but only if you're using the pots for smaller plants that don't have a large root system.
Carrie J R

Cheaper Chicken Meals

Chicken thigh and leg meat that is cooked and diced can be used in any casserole dish as a substitute for nearly any other meat. I also use the meat to make enchiladas, burritos, and tacos. It's great to cut up into scalloped potatoes. With some mixed veggies added to the dish, I have a complete meal. It's also good baked with barbecue sauce and in homemade chicken pot pies. After cooking the meat, I dice it and then freeze portions for quick meals. We also like it in spaghetti sauce and manicotti recipes instead of hamburger. The meat also makes great hot sandwiches with pita bread.

Here is one of my family's favorite dishes with this wonderful cheap meat. Cover bottom of a casserole with pasta of your choice (we like little shells). Pour just enough melted margarine over that pasta to coat it (stir well). Then cover the pasta with diced chicken and add a little salt and pepper. Add enough grated cheese over the ingredients to cover them. Add enough skim milk to cover the pasta and some of the cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Additional TDS Resource: More on using cheaper chicken parts

My Weekly Valentine

This past Valentine's Day, my husband and I had a frugal romantic dinner at home after putting the kids to bed. We both dressed up. I cooked a nice meal beforehand that I could just reheat when he got home. It was incredibly nice. We reconnected by talking instead of our usual TV watching. We even danced a little to some music from the radio. It was such a success that we have decided to do it once a week at least. Since going out has gotten to be so expensive, why not have our date night at home? We'll have our Valentine's Day once a week and save money in the process.
Julie S.

Great Gift Wraps

I spend next to nothing for gift wrappings, but my gifts get rave reviews for "creativity." I keep my eyes open for containers, such as inexpensive baskets, unusual boxes that need only a ribbon, free shopping bags, mesh bags from fruit, kids' party bootie bags, etc.

My latest wedding shower gift included cleaning supplies and homemade scrubbies that I made from orange plastic mesh vegetable bags. I arranged the gift in a dollar store basket. All went into a clear plastic bag, and I finished it off with a tag with the words "Woman's Work Is Never Done" that I made on my computer.

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