Readers' Tips

Homemade Beef Marinades

I tend to keep it fairly simple. I mix 2/3 teriyaki sauce and 1/3 red wine. For steaks, I marinate overnight. For roasts, I let sit for a few days, rotating it a few times per day.
David (via Facebook)

editor's note: Visit here for more on homemade beef marinades.


My husband is diabetic and a "sweet-a-holic." When I last made a bundt cake, instead of using the grocery store icing from the can, I mixed a small amount of confectioners' sugar, melted butter, and milk together and poured it all over the top of the cake. We both agreed it was wonderful! Maybe this will work for other diabetics also. This also saves calories too.
Connie from NC

Eliminating Refrigerator Odors

My old boss saved a dorm-sized fridge from being thrown out by the mechanics next door. The fridge had been sitting unplugged with old food in it for a long time. My boss simply took a bottle of vanilla extract (not imitation) and poured it all over the interior. He plugged it in, left it for a day, and then wiped it out with more vanilla. We have used the fridge for years since.
Sarah in KY

Additional TDS Resource: More on eliminating refrigerator odors

Why Roll?

I recently repainted our home office. The first time I painted it, I used a roller to do the job. It took over a gallon of paint. This time, I decided to use a brush because I was doing it over a period of days. The second paint job took only two quarts and was less messy than the roller job. Plus, it looked nicer the second time around. I could have saved myself the $18 that I spent on the second gallon of paint.
Donald W.

The Grateful Guest

I travel quite a bit to visit relatives, friends, etc. Depending on the length of stay, there are a few things that I like to do.

If I am staying at a friend's house and I get a rental car, I go to the nearest supermarket and buy the items that I like to eat for breakfast, lunch, etc. Many of my friends work and leave me at home while they work. I roam around in my car until they return home or eat snacks while watching TV, a movie, etc.

I usually buy a pizza or Chinese for the whole family at least twice during my stay. I also buy a gift certificate at a local grocery store and send it back in a very nice Thank You card. Most of my friends call to say what a nice gesture that was.

Do you think that I save money doing all this? You bet! The savings on lodging are unbelievable.

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to make sure you're invited back again

A Meaningful Gift

Being a mom, I still want to give into my temptation to overspend on my kids. Both are in their early 20s and working hard to make it by themselves out in the world. I wish I could surprise them with a dazzling display of beautifully wrapped gifts. The fact is they have plenty of stuff, and our budget is not nearly as healthy as it was before the recession.

I have learned that giving one gift that is really needed is a much better plan than giving a bunch of stuff they may or may not appreciate, need, or ever use. This year, that means a cell phone with a special education app for my college daughter and a road bike that my son can actually use to commute to and from work. At Thanksgiving, they'll both know what they are getting, but they know that what they get are things they will really use.

Why I Like CSA

I have found that there is a "freshness" factor when considering buying from the grocery store versus a CSA. CSA products are generally picked a day or two before delivery. I have found vegetables that I buy at the grocery store spoil more quickly than those from the CSA. This is especially noticeable with greens, such as lettuce, spinach and kale.
Donna H.

editor's note: Donna was writing in response to an article on Community Supported Agriculture

Easy Cloth Diapers?

The reason most people don't use cloth diapers is probably not the folding (which some consider therapeutic) or even the washing, but the "poop" part might turn them off. As I recall, a person can purchase "diaper liners." My mother-in-law advised me to use raggedy old sheets (try your own closet first and then look at garage sales, etc.). Wash them in bleach and rinse twice before using. Then cut pieces, one layer thick, to put inside the diapers. If the "liners" just get wet, wash and reuse them. When they get poopy, toss them like a "disposable diaper." It's really great advice!

Avoiding Food Waste

The best way to cash in on bargains and stocking up is to properly store food. The easiest rule to remember is "first in, first used." That means you are always using the oldest items first, which should keep you within expiration dates. Canned goods, dry pasta mixes, baking goods, paper products and similar items can be stored in a pantry or shelf. Meat, dairy, bread, etc. should be frozen until used. Most meat is good even after the expiration date, as long as it is frozen and still appears "pink" or fresh.

It is easy to throw your items in the freezer or pantry when you get back from the store and then grab the nearest item for supper. But if you consistently rotate your stock so that you are using the oldest items first, you should not have to worry about expiration dates.

Additional TDS Resource: More on storing food to avoid waste

Electric Savings

Install an extra shower rod or two over your tub. This allows you to semi-dry some of your laundry in the dryer and hang it in the shower to finish drying. It's also a good way to introduce some needed moisture into your home during the dry winter months.

Handy Breakfast Potatoes

I cook my potatoes whole in my double-deck vegetable steamer. When done, I cube them and put them in large zipper bags in one layer. As I am filling the bags, I stack them all on a cookie sheet. Then I put them in the freezer. When frozen, I remove the cookie sheet.

This way my potatoes are loose and easy to put into a pan or, as I prefer, an oblong glass dish to make oven potatoes for breakfast or dinner. Seasonings are added when they go in the oven. My potatoes taste just fine and I do this all the time.
Ann in California

Replacing Expensive Canned Dog Food

I buy reduced meat at stores and cook it in a pressure cooker along with a sweet potato. Then I mash the sweet potato, cut the meat up into smaller pieces, and keep it in a plastic container in the refrigerator for convenient feeding. The dogs love it and eat well. I know what's in their food. I add a crushed dog vitamin to the mix for each dog. Their coats are shiny, and the dogs are healthy and happy. Their vet approves. The dogs always have a bowl of commercial dry dog food available as they like crunchy food for snacks.

I save a bunch of money by buying and preparing their food as canned dog food's pricing keeps escalating. It takes five minutes in the pressure cooker to feed the two dogs for an entire week, so that's not much time at all. My dogs are not getting animal by-products, added wheat, or any of the other fillers usually used in canned food. My dogs are like family. I feed them as well as my family, but very economically.

Personalized Wrap for Small Gifts

Family gift swapping crept up on me, and there I was with several small gifts to wrap and no Christmas bags or paper! I found some Christmas cards from a previous year, cut the fronts to the right size, and glued them to plain brown lunch bags. I added tissue, bows, and pretty gift tags. Every gift was wrapped in its own unique way for very little money.

Thrifty Flavored Coffees

I used to work at a coffee shop before I met my husband, and I had become very used to great flavored coffees for free or almost free. But now that we are married and I stay home with our four-month-old baby, we can't afford them very often. I have figured out that my husband's favorite (Vanilla Cappuccino) is easily made using vanilla extract. I use one shot of espresso, one cup of milk (heated), two tablespoons of sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla. For coffees, I use the opposite proportions of the coffee and creamer (1 cup of coffee and 1 oz. creamer). There are also many other extracts in the baking aisle to try.

For any of the other extracts, I suggest purchasing an inexpensive medicine dropper and starting with five drops in a glass. The amount you use will depend on your tastes and the strength of the oil. Do not assume they are all the same strength. Some have a little more aroma and flavoring ability than others do. I ended up pouring a few overdone cups down the sink. Hope you find a few new favorites this way.
Mandy D.

Additional TDS Resource: More thrifty flavored coffees

Kicking Up Ground Meats

I like using ground turkey in lieu of ground beef. I have found if you knead spices into the ground turkey the night before you plan to cook it, the flavor will be greatly improved. I frequently spice ground turkey this way for spaghetti and chili dishes. For spaghetti, I work Italian seasoning, garlic, and onion powder throughout the meat, and for chili, I use chili powder, garlic, and onion powder. I use a lot of spices, and my guests seldom know the meat is turkey! The little extra time it takes is definitely worth it.

Picky Eaters?

Mother had a wonderful way of dealing with picky eaters. She would say, "This is what we are having for supper. If you choose not to eat what is set in front of you, then you can go without. That means no treats later on." A few episodes of the above were enough to get it stopped.

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