Readers' Tips

Homemade Weight Loss Shakes

I like protein shakes as a meal replacement sometimes. The protein keeps me full longer. My favorite is unsweetened vanilla almond milk (1 cup), frozen mango (one serving per package), 1/2 or 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder, and ice. Then I blend it until smooth. Depending on brands, this is around 200 to 300 calories for everything in the blender, which is close to two cups.
Brandi (via Facebook)

editor's note: Visit here for more on homemade weight loss shakes.

Affordable Appliances

Go to a place that repairs kitchen appliances. They usually have refurbished ones at a fraction of the cost of new. I saw brand name, heavy duty kitchen mixers selling from $95 to $220 that are normally $300 to $400. There were scads of microwaves and freezers and other various items. The owner explained that some people get an estimate and then decline to have the appliance repaired and don't want them back or don't want to wait several weeks for a part to be ordered and just purchase another one. Occasionally some are simply abandoned, and after a specified waiting period, they are sold. The ones I saw had 30-day warranties. This might also be a great way to upgrade to a professional grade model.

Removing Mildew

Borax is one of those often forgotten cleaners our grandparents swore by. To remove mildew from upholstery and other fabrics, soak a sponge in a solution of 1/2 cup borax dissolved in 2 cups hot water, and rub it into the affected areas. Let it soak in for several hours until the stain disappears and then rinse well.

To remove mildew from clothing, soak it in a solution of 2 cups borax in 2 quarts water. Of course, modern fabrics can be a bit more fragile than our grandmother's generation, so it's a good idea to test a hidden corner first for sensitivity, but so far I haven't found any problems.
Pam M.

Additional TDS Resource: More on removing mildew

Septic Tank Care

For information on maintaining septic tanks, check with the county public works department or whatever government body issues septic tank permits in your area. Both the county and the people who periodically pump our septic tank said the additives are worthless. The bacteria needed in the tank are present in ample supply in your body waste. Nothing needs to be added.

Think fertilizer. You don't add anything to manure to help it break down in your garden. Nature supplies the additives.

The pumping company also said that the use of any chlorine bleach products, such as are found in many dishwasher soaps and laundry bleaches, kill the beneficial bacteria in a system.

I use bleach sparingly, preferring more environmentally friendly products, such as washing soda, baking soda, vinegar and borax. For a family of four, we have had our tank pumped only once in ten years. The pumping company said the tank is in good shape with very little sediment in the bottom and that we should continue to do as we have been doing.

Keeping Receipts

For many years, I have kept two plastic shoeboxes in my closet to hold my "everyday" receipts. Receipts for groceries, hardware items, etc. are tossed in the box. At the end of the year, I toss out the previous year's receipts to make room for the new year. By using this system, I have two years' worth of receipts to fall back on. It's amazing the number of times I have had to go back and find a receipt to return an item or claim a rebate, etc. This has saved me a bit of money over the past few years. Of course, receipts for big ticket items are kept in a separate place as they normally need to be kept longer.
Evelyn Z.

Older Drivers

If you are over 55 years old, consider taking the AARP or other accredited driving class. Requirements vary by state and according to the driver's age. In my state, this was a four-hour classroom course held on a Saturday. I checked with my insurance company first to be sure there would be a discount for taking the course. The course cost $12, and my insurance dropped by almost $50 a year. Plus, I'm more aware when I'm on the road. We all need a refresher now and then to be a safer driver.

Sweat Stinky Clothes

If clothing has odor in the underarm area, a quick soak in vinegar will remove both odor and bacteria. If sweat stains are left behind, then soak in straight ammonia instead. It may take an hour or more, depending on the heaviness of the stain.

Additional TDS Resource: More on removing sweat stains and odors

The Small Plate Diet

I found some inexpensive dinner plates at a thrift store that were smaller than our regular ones. My husband and I are eating smaller portions, which is good for the waistline and our budget.

Cheap Exercise

There are many things around the house that make good exercise equipment. The easiest are right in your pantry! Use one- or two-pound cans as weights until they become too easy to lift. You'll know they're too easy when you can do 15 reps without a problem. Use your staircase as a stair stepper and for other exercises to build up leg muscles. Put a large towel on the floor to use as a mat for floor exercises.

To build exercise into your daily routine, forget about being efficient. Be effective instead! Park your car at the far end of parking lots. You won't miss the extra two or three minutes you use to get to the door of the store, but you'll see the difference in no time. Go up and down the stairs at home frequently. Wash your own car. Clean your own house. Till your own garden, and shovel your own walks and driveway.

All of these activities and many others around the house qualify as exercise. They really make a difference. I've lost and kept off over 85 pounds, going from size 16-18 to size 4, doing all these things. I also walk around the neighborhood and to nearby stores. I even walk to some of the schools where I substitute teach.

Additional TDS Resource: More on exercise alternatives

Why Twice?

All shampoo bottles say to wash your hair once and then repeat washing again. Sure, that's great for them. Using more shampoo empties the bottle sooner. I have been shampooing only once for the last six months, and my hair turns out just as clean! Of course, the bottle lasts twice as long and so does my money.

Puppy Accidents

If you are potty training a puppy or your dog has an accident, take several sheets of newspaper and place them over the wet area. Stand on top of the paper to use your weight as pressure to extract the urine from the carpet. As the newspaper you are using becomes saturated, use new pieces. Usually it only takes two bunches of paper. The newspaper absorbs the wet so well that you will have trouble finding the spot! This also works well for any other sort of wet spill!

Canning Nuts

It's nut harvesting time. An old timer told me her recipe for canning any kind of nut. Put the nut meats in a clean, warm pint jar. Put a hot, moist lid on the top, and screw the ring down tight. Put the jar in a cold oven. Set the oven to 225 degrees and bake for 45 minutes. When the time is up, turn the oven off and open the oven door. Let the jars cool in place. These nuts will last for years.

Additional TDS Resource: More on learning canning basics

Cleaning Socks

Mismatched socks can make great cleaning/dusting rags! But they often can be hard to separate from all the other socks. To easily identify them, snip the cuff with scissors when you add that sock to your rags. By doing this, sorting will be so easy!
Barb D.

Updating a Bathroom

As a home stager, I see a lot of tired bathrooms that get a new inexpensive "Space Lift" through paint. You can paint the vanity an espresso color (very popular today!) or a white or cream color. Add a few colorful towels and accessories (I love to use seashells or even a few small polished rocks to bring the "outdoors in"), and your bath will look updated and fresh!

Additional TDS Resource: More on a bathroom vanity makeover

Seed Starters

One use for those large plastic detergent caps you used to throw away is to make them into miniature planters. They are the perfect size for tiny individual seedlings and don't take up much room. You can easily tuck them between other plants in a sunny window. I especially like to plant a flower or a green pepper seed or two in them. I then transplant them to bigger containers as they grow.

Reducing Teen Auto Insurance

I enjoyed the article "How to Save on Your Teen's Auto Insurance." I have another tip. When your teen moves out to go to college, ask to change them to an "occasional" driver on your insurance. Different companies may have different policies. With our insurance, if the teen moves 100 miles away from home, they can change to being an "occasional" driver, which will save on your rate.

Additional TDS Resource: More on teen auto insurance

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