Readers' Tips

Play Clothes for Nursing Moms

If you can sew, I wonder if restyling a few pieces of your existing wardrobe is possible. For example, tank top straps can be cut off at the front and have buttons stitched on and button holes made on the tank top. I admit tank tops are probably only for teens, but it can be worn underneath a buttoned up shirt. Wear a regular bra underneath. It can be converted into a nursing bra the same way. And there are always "nursing covers" that are, basically, fabric rectangles!
Anelia (via Facebook)

editor's note: Visit here for more on clothing for nursing moms.

No Deposit?

When I was still in school, we needed to find a new place to live but didn't have enough for first, last, and deposit. It was hard, but we did find a place to rent. We were honest with the landlord and told him up front about our problem. We also told him that we'd pay it a little at a time over the first six months. We also had very good references.

He needed some repairs done to the property. We agreed to supply the labor if he bought the materials. That's worked well. It can be hard to find a situation like this, but they're out there if you look hard enough.

Additional TDS Resource: More on finding emergency housing

Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

Here are some lunch ideas that've worked for my daughter who is almost five. Many of these ideas are easily prepared the night before, so all I have to do is grab them and go. We have "stick" lunches with carrot sticks, cheese sticks, celery sticks, bread sticks, and some (homemade) ranch dressing for dipping. My daughter is amused that her whole lunch is sticks. Another favorite is cream cheese spread on a flour tortilla and then sprinkled with chopped olives (black or green). We roll it up and cut it into slices, so the slices look like pinwheels. Also, I like to serve crackers with cheese spread and a little knife, so my daughter can spread it by herself. Apple and cheese slices are always enjoyed. My daughter also likes cheese and apple sandwiches. Cold pasta salad is another favorite. This can be really simple. I include pasta, a few veggies, some cheese chunks, and a bit of Italian dressing.
Judy B.

Additional TDS Resource: More day camp & school lunch ideas for picky eaters

Solar Cooker

I love my solar cooker. It's just like a slow cooker except I don't use any electricity! I generally put my ingredients into a roasting pan the night before and store it in the fridge. In the morning, I put it into the solar cooker and leave it on our picnic table all day.

Making a solar cooker is easy. You can find instructions online. The biggest challenge is deciding what type to make. You may want to consider a box style cooker that's a little bigger than your roasting pans. Try it! You'll have great meals and a cooler kitchen!

Additional TDS Resource: More on solar cooking

Party Menus

Hosting dinner parties is one of my favorite things, but the cost can be a problem, so I decided to try something new. Rather than plan the menu and then look for sales, I do it the other way around. I start with the sales and plan my menu around them! With all the recipe sites, it's easy to find something exciting to do with just about anything I find on sale. And it's always an adventure for my guests, too!

Carpet Odors

Recently, our dog had an accident on the family room carpet. It was late at night and I was out of carpet cleaner. What to do? I reached for my can of shave cream. With a little rubbing, it took the smell out of the carpet without doing any damage. Now I use shave cream instead of the pricey carpet cleaner!

Feeding Baby

For health reasons and for money-saving reasons, I assumed I would need to make all of my daughter's baby food. I could have ground up the food we ate in a food grinder, which would also have been nearly free, but my daughter had a sensitive stomach and couldn't handle some of the harder to digest foods that we were eating.

I discovered a way to feed her organic food nearly free! I would wait until the local big box baby store would put cases of my favorite organic baby food (in jars) on sale. Then I would stock up, and I'd use any coupons I could. The cost often came down to 50 cents per jar. When my daughter finished the baby food, I washed the jars and carefully removed the labels and glue. Then I listed the clean jars for sale on eBay. People who do arts and crafts would buy them from me at 50 cents per jar, plus the cost of shipping. This made the organic baby food nearly free!

Additional TDS Resource: What to do when you can't afford baby formula

Real Cheap Summer Cooling

We have a couple unused upstairs bedrooms that face due west, bake in the summer, and radiate heat to the rest of the upstairs. I took a Mylar blanket ($1.27/each on Amazon) and covered the window of one room behind the curtain. When I went up there the next day, the room with the covered window felt air conditioned, while the other bedroom felt (as usual) baked. I'm going to cover most of the west-facing windows for the rest of spring, summer, and half of fall. I believe it will make a world of difference keeping the house cool.

Additional TDS Resource: More ideas on summer cooling

A Cool Gift Basket Idea

One of the best gift basket ideas I've ever come across was an "Ice Cream Sundae" gift basket. You can make this very frugally or extravagantly. Just place sundae or ice cream bowls (can easily be found at dollar stores), some spoons, an ice cream scoop, sprinkles, ice cream sauces (homemade or store bought) and napkins (paper or cloth) in a basket and bring to a shower, birthday party, or housewarming. I plan on giving this to my brother for a wedding present along with an ice cream maker and an ice cream cookbook.

Additional TDS Resource: More gift basket ideas

When Eggs Are Cheap

When eggs are cheap at 99 cents or less a dozen, I buy six to eight dozen and have a weekend cooking marathon. I bake and cook meals for the freezer. All items require eggs and hold up beautifully for months in the freezer. I make meatloaves, casseroles, muffins for breakfast, cupcakes, cakes, cookie dough, breads, and breakfast casseroles. I also freeze some of the eggs to stretch them to the next big sale.

While waiting for the next egg sale, I start restocking the ingredients needed for the next cooking and baking marathon by watching for sales. Not only do I save money, but also a good portion of meals and snacks are always waiting in the freezer ready to eat. This also saves on our home utility bills because I cook and bake with a full oven and use our smaller toaster oven to reheat or bake off meals during the week.

Additional TDS Resource: How to prepare freezer meals

Non-Toxic Nighttime Mosquito Relief

My son was being tormented at night by mosquitos. I didn't want to spray his room with poisons, so I looked for a natural solution. I found an unusual one. It's an old country trick. The solution stated that if you hang dried tomato leaves in a room, mosquitos will leave you alone. It sounded strange, but I figured I'd give it a try. I made small bouquets of dried tomato leaves and wrapped them in raffia. Then I hung one above his bed. He is no longer getting nighttime bites! I don't know why, but it works fine for us.

Additional TDS Resource: More on natural mosquito repellents

Bug Bites

When we were small, my Mom always used an aspirin paste to take away the sting of bug bites. She would take an aspirin and add a little water to make a paste. Then put the paste on the sting. Almost immediately the sting was gone! My family loves to hike and explore in the woods, so we get more than our share of bug bites. I'm still using Mom's trick to stop the sting!

Additional TDS Resource: More on cheap insect bite relief

Don't Need Softener Sheets

Instead of fabric softener sheets, I pour a capful of liquid softener on a hand towel and toss it in the dryer. This works for 10+ loads! When my clothes stop feeling soft, I know it's time to recharge my hand towel! It's not a huge savings, but it all adds up!

Additional TDS Resource: How to save on fabric softeners

No, Doggie!

I've got a tried-and-true remedy for dogs using your lawn as their personal privy. Fill gallon jugs with water. Place them around the perimeter of your yard, every 3' or so. Your neighbors will ask you what the jugs are for and you can tell them that you're sick and tired of dogs messing up your yard and you heard that this would do the trick. It worked for me.
Joanne in California

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

DIY Repair Advice

Sometimes you can find great videos or articles on DIY home repair projects. Often you can find repair parts online, too. But I sometimes have a question and usually there's no way to get it answered. That's why I try to buy my repair parts from my local appliance repair parts store. The owner has been in business for years. He was a repairman before opening the store and really knows his stuff. The best part is that he's willing to talk me through the process or answer questions if I have a question mid-repair.

It may be tempting to buy everything online, but there are still some things that you might want to buy locally.

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our home repair and remodeling library

Why I Wait

I have a habit of waiting to buy anything that costs more than $100. Typically I force myself to delay for one week. That automatically helps me avoid spontaneous purchases and helps me to do proper comparison and price shopping on other items. I don't know how much this trick has saved me, but it's probably a lot!

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