Readers' Tips

Keeping Track of Pantry Inventory

We made an Excel spreadsheet of all the pantry staples we use regularly, listing the number we have of each and where they're stored (the regular pantry or our overflow pantry downstairs). We printed out a copy and taped it to the inside of the pantry door, and whenever we use an item, we cross out the number and write in the new amount we have left. This also helps us know when it's time to buy more of something and how many we need. Whenever we restock the pantry, we update the spreadsheet and print out a fresh copy. If you only need to keep track of a few items, an erasable white board and marker might work just as well.

editor's note: Visit here for more on keeping track of pantry inventory.

Debt Payoff Strategy

I have a no fee checking account, so I made a plan to reduce my debt. A few months ago, I set up a schedule with the amount due for each credit card. I then determined to pay half of the amount due to each credit card company on the 6th and the 20th of the month. I have not reduced my original payment amounts even though my balances are going down. Whenever I can make an extra payment, it goes to the card with the highest interest rate.
Shannon V. in Regina, SK Canada

Cleaning Engineered Hardwood Floors

I have engineered hardwood floors and clean them about every other day. I use a sponge mop with a wringer apparatus and plain hot water for light cleanups. For heavier cleaning, I use a little anti-bacterial dish detergent in the hot water. This generally takes off everything except dried-on spots, and those respond well to a fingernail.

Use a damp mop and never leave water standing on these floors. The manufacturers will claim the floors are waterproof, but this is not true. A cooler was left on the living room floor and it had a leaky drain tap. We now have a swollen board where the water entered the particle board, and it will never entirely flatten.

Replace mop heads before they get low enough to scratch the floor. The finishes do scratch and they do chip.

Additional TDS Resource: More on cleaning engineered hardwood floors

More Efficient Snow Blowing

We often have wet packing snow, which clogs up my snow blower spout. So I make sure that I either spray the spout with cooking spray or WD-40(r) before snow blowing. It keeps the stuff from clogging up the spout, and I no longer have to clean out the spout.
Seva in Port Huron, MI

Used Moving Boxes

I know that people like to save by getting used moving boxes from moving companies. I think a caution about bedbugs would be in order. They are so hard to get rid of and it would be very easy to pick them up in used boxes. We have friends who are infested. The house they moved into had them and they didn't know it until their large family moved in. A year after they moved out, they are still having treatments to get rid of them. If the family that moved out of that house used a moving company, their belongings had to have been crawling with the pests. Before reusing any boxes, I'd either inspect them very carefully or put them in a closed space with a bug bomb. It's better to be safe than sorry!

Preventing Freezer Burn

We process deer meat as well as buy in quantity when chicken, pork or any other meat is on sale. Freezer burn is caused by air. Freezer bags are great, but trying to get all the air out is hard. Now I buy gallon size zipper bags and plastic wrap. I wrap all items in serving size portions tightly with plastic wrap and then put several portions into a zipper gallon freezer bag. We save money by using less freezer bags and there is no freezer burn because the plastic wrap is protecting the food from the air.
Ellen B.

Additional TDS Resource: More on avoiding freezer burn

Rough 'n Ready Towels

As a family with an active preschooler and two avid DIYers, we were going through more than our share of paper towels. No matter the sale price, it was wasted money and excess garbage going to the curb. We could have bought expensive cloth towels, but we made our own for free instead! We used old bath towels and outgrown receiving blankets. We cut squares from each and sewed them together. We had one absorbent side for scrubbing and one soft, lint-free side for polishing.

Finer Oatmeal Facial Scrub

I use oatmeal as a facial cleanser. I have been doing this for several years now, but I first put it in my blender (about a cup or so) and grind it up until it is like cornmeal or a little finer. I then take about one tablespoon in my hand, add water until it is a little thinner than a paste, and wash my face with it. It makes my face feel wonderful and soft!
Catherine H.

Troublesome Neighborhood Dogs

To keep neighborhood dogs from doing their 'business' in our yard, we've had great luck with ammonia. We just put it into a spray bottle and spray it along the edge of our property. As soon as the dogs get a whiff, they move on until their noses are clear of the smell. Of course, it works best when the ammonia is fresh. For morning walkers, we get out there first thing. We have to reapply, especially after rain. This bothers any creature, so we use it judiciously. We also use it to keep critters out of the trash.

Additional TDS Resource: More on keeping neighbor dogs out of your yard

Dry Cracked Skin?

An effective treatment for dry, cracked heels or fingers is using apple cider vinegar. Soak feet/fingers daily in apple cider vinegar or apply apple cider vinegar to the dry skin. Organic apple cider vinegar is more effective than the regular apple cider vinegar. Skin feels smooth after a few treatments. Apple cider vinegar can also treat toenail and fingernail fungus infections if applied regularly.
Qin T. in Woodbury, MN

Lunch Club

A friend of mine attends a lunch club, and because she shares office space where there is a kitchen for staff, each week one person from the lunch club brings the bread, salads, spread, tuna, cold cuts, fruit, etc. For about $5 a week, they eat very well.

If you are watching your weight, meals that are consistently the same size with similar ingredients actually help a person to lose weight. And, there's no need to think about what you will have for lunch.

End of Month Furniture Hunt

Apartment-dwellers should always check around the garbage dumpster the weekend before the first of each month. When residents move, they often discard perfectly usable items. Usually people just set the item(s) near the dumpster for someone else to take, so it isn't dirty at all. I've found, at various times, a floor lamp, a stereo, house plants, several chairs and other pieces of furniture, a carton of books, and a box of clothing. I passed on to others the things I couldn't use myself.

Frozen Windshield Wipers?

Save your windshield wipers in freezing weather. Lift your windshield wipers straight out from your windshield. This will prevent them from sticking to your windshield and breaking.
Lilly P

Should We Elope?

My husband and I didn't want to spend a huge amount on our wedding, so we decided on a courthouse wedding. We both wanted a little spotlight though. After all, this was our big day. So we planned a very small, very intimate dinner party the night we were married. It was one of the most special days in my life. A couple of my friends got together while we were off getting married and made a delicious dinner of pot roast, potatoes, and carrots. I treasure the memories of that day and night!

Additional TDS Resource: More on whether you should elope or have a small wedding

Fido Fun

As a dog owner, I'm always trying to find fun ways to keep my dogs from getting bored. I decided one day to use my leftover toilet paper rolls to hold dog treats. I simply fold in the ends and add one treat. My dogs will spend a good half hour trying to get the treats out. I'm not sure this saves money, but I suppose it is better than buying specific toys for this purpose.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions for frugal dog care

Creating Creativity

Our youngest grandson (he's six years old) loves to draw and color. Now that Christmas is over I've cut off the beautiful fronts of all of the Christmas cards we received. He is using the blank sides to recreate the artwork on the front or create original art. It's a great way to nurture his love of art and to get double use out of the beautiful cards.
Sue in San Antonio, TX

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