Readers' Tips


Generic Dog Food

Look to your local farm and ranch supply store. Often times, they have pet food cheaper.
Brenda (via Facebook)

editor's note: For more on generic dog food, please click here.

Leftover Hotdog Buns

When my daughter was toddler and preschool age, I found that leftover hot dog buns were useful for any type of sandwich for her because the long slender shape was easier for her to handle and eat.
Kay in WV

Spilled Gasoline Odors

We spilled gasoline on our car's carpet. We called a car detail man for advice and he said to spray it down with Febreze® and leave the windows open. We did this once and the odor was gone!
Deborah

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to remove gasoline odors from carpeting

Lemons at the Ready

I love fresh lemons in tea or other summer beverages. When I get home from the farmer's market or store, I cut the lemons into slices and place the slices into a zipper bag to be frozen. As needed, I just get several slices of frozen lemon and place in my beverage. It keeps it cool as well as emits its flavor. Also the frozen lemon ends are easier to grate for zest. Once thawed, I use that in salads, soups, and stews. I never have lemons get soft or go bad as mine are always sliced, frozen, and ready for use. This technique is fabulous for cool, refreshing drinks.
S.

Poison Ivy Cure

I recently was introduced to an old remedy for poison ivy, and it worked beautifully. The eruptions dried up in two days. Simply swab a tiny amount of bleach onto the affected site. I didn't believe it until I tried it and saw how it worked.
H.

Cheap Drop Cloths

Next time you are about to paint indoors or out, look to your shower curtains and liners. When you are changing them out, don't throw them way. Instead, give them a second life as paint drop cloths. They will absorb all the spilled paint and will not cost you anything. Tablecloths purchased at a dollar store work the same way.
Elizabeth H.

Oven Cleaning

We recently purchased a new self-cleaning electric range. I had heard that using the self-cleaning option was quite expensive due to the high temperatures the oven goes to, but I had to clean my oven! I turned it on and the timer went to three hours and 30 minutes. Wow, no wonder it's expensive. After an hour, I went and turned it off. When it cooled down, it was completely clean! All I had to do was use my hand vacuum to get up the ashes. I also turned on the self-cleaning option when I had just finished baking, so it wouldn't have to work as hard.
S.

Grad Gifts

Upon graduation from college, we gave our daughter a remembrance mirror with a picture of her college in the top section.

The cost was minimal because the picture was obtained from a thank you note (or you could get it from a postcard or photo). We scanned the picture and enlarged it on the computer, printed it on photo-quality paper, and placed it into the recycled mirror that I had purchased years ago at a discount store.

My younger daughter saw a similar item, albeit a bit fancier, at her school with a very large price tag. This idea could also be done for a retirement, anniversary, etc.
J in Bridgewater, MA

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions for inexpensive graduation gifts

Inexpensive Sandboxes

For an inexpensive 8'X4' sandbox, my husband purchased six landscaping timbers. He stacked them two high on the sides and used one timber for each end, cut in half in order to stack them as he did the sides. He mitered the corners on all the timbers and anchored the corners with long nails. The timbers are wide enough for the kids to sit on comfortably. The sand was purchased at a gravel company where we shoveled it ourselves. It was much cheaper than the pre-bagged stuff we found at a store in town.

To keep it from becoming a deluxe sized litter box, we simply use an 8'x4' lattice panel that I had purchased but never used. It covers perfectly to keep the cats out but lets rain in, which keeps the sand moist and formable. Our three kids (ages 7, 7, and 6) just slide it off and climb into the box for hours of fun! I have made hash marks on the sides of the box. When the occasional squabble over "territory" develops, I draw the proverbial "lines in the sand" with a stick. It divides the box into thirds and everyone is happy again!
Wendy H.

Additional TDS Resource: More ideas for inexpensive sandboxes

New Old Clothes

I have a favorite cotton sweater that I have worn and washed. I didn't want to reduce it to "wear at home" since it was in perfect condition, so I bought two packages of dye at a dollar store. I followed the instructions and now have a brand "new" sweater. I dyed it almost the same green as it originally was. Now I will look at my other clothes to see if they are dye-able and renewable.
G.

Paying for Your Alarm System

If you have a home alarm system, many of them have a referral program that can either knock $100 off of your alarm system bill or directly earn a $100 check for every referral.
MR

Cast Iron Care

These are the tricks I've found with cast iron pans:

  • Clean it as soon as you are finished with it.
  • Don't ever use any soap. Just use hot water and scrub with a dishtowel.
  • Don't ever use a scouring pad.
  • Once the pan is clean, rinse well with hot water and put back on the burner. If the burner is still hot, it will evaporate the water in the pan. This will keep the pan from rusting.

I love cast iron skillets. I have one that's at least 40 years old.
L.

Repurposing Old Furniture

Looking to make some room and organize my bedroom closet, I started to condense the clothes from an old obtrusive wardrobe into my closet. I have a tiny old bungalow type house. When I emptied the closet, my hubby started to break it apart for the trash.

I had this brainstorm to take out the two drawers, which were like new. I put slider casters on the bottom of them and slid them under my bed! After my DH sawed off an inch, they fit perfectly, and my bed looks like a captains bed. Now I have a place for my t-shirts and socks. It looks terrific, and no one would know they didn't belong to the bed!

For free, I used something we already had and repurposed those drawers to accommodate my storage need! We are always excited to save money being creative and frugal!
Mickey C.

Oven Cleaning

If you don't have a self-cleaning oven, or if you need to clean parts of the oven that are not exposed to high heat, make it simple for yourself. Put a bowl of full strength ammonia in the oven, preferably when the oven is slightly warm, and leave it overnight. The next day, open your kitchen windows a little and then open the oven door carefully. Don't breathe in the fumes! Most grease should wipe right off with paper towels or rags.

While this method does involve a strong chemical, it is super easy and the chemical dissipates quickly if you air the room. You can allow the room to air out a bit before wiping down the oven.

Another method is to use a steel wool pad. This will also clean parts of the oven not exposed to self-cleaning oven heat. However, this method takes a lot more effort and time. Be sure that you never use steel wool on surfaces that are meant to be heated for self-cleaning. You could damage the finish and the oven.

By the way, wiping a small piece of waxed paper over shelf edges after running a self-cleaning cycle will make the shelves glide smoothly again.
Barbara in CT

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on oven cleaning without harsh chemicals

Take Along Some Vinegar

As we prepare to take a small vacation to the lake, I realize there is something I can never do without on a trip, and that is white vinegar. I recently bought two small spray bottles that I will fill with the vinegar and take along.

When my daughter's hair gets tangled from swimming, I just spray some diluted vinegar on it before I comb it, and it works like a charm. Bug bites? Vinegar comes to the rescue. It even works in a pinch as a substitute disinfectant for hands. At the beach, white vinegar is what gets poured on jellyfish stings too!
Julie S.

Plant Sale

When looking for vegetable and flower plants for your garden, check with your local high school or tech school. We've found that some classes have a plant sale to sell off their growing projects. We picked up strong young transplants of tomatoes, beans, peppers, and herbs for cheap!
B.


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