Readers' Tips

Duct Tape Halloween Costumes

Just Google duct tape Halloween costumes and there are oodles of images of costumes people have made and a lot of links for instructions. The Duck Brand company runs contests from time to time and there are even some YouTube videos.

editor's note: Visit here for more on duct tape Halloween costumes.

Tuna Salad Stretcher

When using water packed tuna for tuna salad, do not drain it. Add about 1/3 cup of uncooked oatmeal, let this sit for a few minutes, and then add your other ingredients. It's the same practice as adding bread crumbs to a meat loaf mixture. It stretches the tuna, as well as adding fiber.

Healthy, Inexpensive Snacks for Kids

I feed five children after school. Kid favorites are cheese and crackers, veggies with dip, granola bars, and animal crackers (I buy a giant three-pound bag at warehouse store). They also enjoy graham crackers with peanut butter, celery with peanut butter and raisins (ants on a log), apples with cheese or peanut butter, and pretzels. Of course, my group does like fruit. I try to avoid concentrated sweets. I make sure to mix protein and carbs. The snacks get washed down with milk if there is not a lot of protein in the snack or juice if they are having cheese or peanut butter.
Lisa C-B (mom of four and babysitter of one)

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions for healthy, inexpensive snacks for kids

Old Coolers

This time of year is a great time to replace any broken coolers you might have. I recently replaced ours. I almost threw away the old one until I needed something to hold wild bird food. It's perfect. I no longer have opened bags (which attract squirrels and mice) all over the shed.

Paper Delivery Bags

I save the long skinny bags that my daily newspaper comes in and keep them in an empty tissue box for easy dispensing. They are great to put used disposable diapers in. To help control the odor, I knot the bag before putting it in the trash. They also make great disposal bags for chicken bones and such. In my diaper bag, I carry one of these bags with a new diaper in it, so I'm ready for a change anytime.

Use by Dates

Almost daily, I open my refrigerator and discover an item I would like to use in a recipe, such as sour cream or some prepackaged chicken pieces. I find myself standing in front of the fridge debating whether to trust the date on the package or not. I smell it and silently hope I am not about to make my family sick.

In my research, the use by or sell by dates are more about food freshness and quality than safety. Use your sense of smell to determine if a food is beyond edible. The most common foods we may wonder about are below.

Eggs: If you keep them in the refrigerator, they should be fresh for three to five weeks after buying them.

Canned food: This food is good for at least a year. Since it is vacuum packed, it has been known to last much longer.

Meat: Lunch meat lasts about three to five days after you buy it. Frozen meat can last up to nine months.
Judith H.

Veggie Spray Alternative

I find the spray to clean fruit sold in the veggie section of the store way too pricey. In reading the ingredients of this spray, it lists baking soda. I wet the apple, peach, etc., sprinkle baking soda on it, rub it around the fruit, and rinse. It's a lot less expensive, and it does a good job.

Finding the Best Bargains

I found that the best bargains occur at some of the most expensive stores. Many of these bargains occur during unannounced sales. The key is to shop often and look in the out of the way parts of the store, usually in the back or in the corners. A well-made item on sale will last you a lot longer than a cheaper one of poorer quality. Looking costs you nothing and makes you aware of what things cost normally. You will be able to tell what is a true sale or a ploy.

Building a Casual Wardrobe

What I have done in the past is "window shop" at home via catalogs. I circle the clothes that I like and set the catalogs aside until the end of the season. I sign up for that company's email notifications of sales, and at the end of the season, I can usually get anywhere from 50-75% off the original sale price in the catalog doing things this way. Occasionally, I can even find free shipping. A really good catalog for simple, stylish, and casual clothes is Blair. They carry many sizes and are very affordable.

Additional TDS Resource: More on building a casual wardrobe

Non-Toxic Heavy-Duty Cleaner

Place the peelings of two oranges (or two grapefruits) in a mason jar. Add white vinegar to the top, and put the top on tightly! You can place in the sun if you want. In two weeks, it is ready to use as a household cleaner. It will take the iron stains off of the sink, faucets, showers and toilets. Did I say it was non-toxic? Of course it is!
Shirley M. (via Facebook)

I Like Fall!

What do I like about the fall? I like football games, making a spice cake, hiking without breaking a sweat, and attending fall festivals everywhere. I also like assembling a cheap costume and going trick-or-treating with a neighbor and children. Fall camping is superb, especially after a frost to kill the skeeters. I enjoy picking persimmons, making individual apple pies or turnovers, cooking apple or pear butter, and making candied or caramel apples. What do you like about the fall?

A Pumpkin Plan

I have a ridiculously good tip for what to do with those $3.88 pumpkins that are stacking up outside grocery stores right now. You can bake them whole for hours and hours on low and then just scoop out the pulp and throw away the skin and seeds. It works great! I always heard that only the "pie" pumpkins can be cooked, but it's not true!

Just take out the extra rack in your oven to make room. Line your biggest cookie sheet with foil. It's better if you have a lip on the edge of the cookie sheet for drippings. Turn your oven to 250 degrees, put the pumpkin on the sheet, and bake it overnight. In the morning, it will be very well cooked. Just peel off the skin and scoop out the pulp, discarding the seeds. You'll get probably eight to ten cups of pulp out of that $4 pumpkin. I divide it into two-cup portions in zipper bags.

So, buy the pumpkins now and use them as fall decorations. They last for a month or two as long as they're not cut. Then when you're tired of them, you can bake them and use them for pies, soup, muffins, pancakes, bread, etc. They'll get double duty. Now that's stretching your dollars!
Anne W.

Frugal Furniture Pads

There are beautiful hardwood floors in the home we recently rented. I had a few felt pads that I used under furniture on the flooring at our last home. The pads were expensive. While shopping at a dollar store last week, I realized that the welcome mats sold there for a dollar would be a great replacement. For $2 (two welcome mats), I had enough material to make furniture pads for under all the furniture. My pads have a rubber side. I put the grip side up. They work perfectly.
Linda B.

Caring for Suede Clothing

After living in North Dakota my entire life and owning a suede coat during college, I found the best way to keep it nice was to purchase a can of the suede protector spray from a leather store in the mall. I sprayed my coat every fall after having it professionally cleaned, and it worked great. I wore it for four years in college (walking everywhere in frigid temps, rain, sleet and snow!) and finally gave it away since I moved to a climate where a suede coat filled with down just wasn't a practical winter coat. The spray repels the water and stains and having it professionally cleaned every year was a must to keep it really looking nice.

Additional TDS Resource: More on caring for suede clothing

Seasonal Kitchen Decor

I love to spruce up my kitchen with seasonal vinyl tablecloths. Many times Wal-Mart, K-Mart, etc. will sell them at the end of a holiday season for a fraction of the original cost.

Since they're folded, they always seem to crease. I discovered that ironing the cloths on their wrong sides with the wool setting gets rid of those awful creases. Since I reuse many of my stored away tablecloths year after year, I am glad I finally found a solution.

Lunch Fun

When my kids were in elementary school, I packed their lunches with a new picture sentence card each day. On a 3x5 note card, I wrote out a simple sentence or phrase, using hand-drawn pictures and stick figures to represent some or all of the words. For example, "spelling bee" could be represented by the letters "ABC" and a picture of a bumble bee. If a word was divided into parts such as "sleeping," it could be depicted by a person lying in a bed with "+ing" to form "sleeping." The answer was written on the back of the card in fine print. This was fun for my kids, a hit among the other kids at the lunch table who were eager to help solve the daily puzzle, and a good way to make new friends. As the year progressed, my kids accumulated a stack of picture sentence cards to play with.
Lorraine in NH

Do you have a money or time-saving tip you'd like to share? Just click here to submit your suggestion. If we use your tip in any of our publications, we'll send you the next three issues of our print newsletter as a thank you!

If you'd like to receive our Dollar Stretcher Tips newsletter, click here to subscribe.

Dollar Stretcher Tips is a weekly feature of The Dollar If you missed last week's tips click here.

Get Out of Debt
Stay Connected with TDS

Do you struggle to get ahead financially?

Surviving Tough Times is a weekly newsletter aimed at helping you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources.

Debt Checklist

And get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble?
A Simple Checklist and What You Can Do About It
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Get Out of Debt