Readers' Tips

Bulk Rice Storage

As a survivor of a flour bug infestation, I have found the best way to avoid getting them is to store my rice in empty gallon-sized pretzel jugs. They are the kind used by Utz® and are made with clear, heavy duty plastic. I get mine on my local Freecycle just by asking for them. They have saved me a bundle and I have no more flour bugs. I also have bay leaves scattered on my shelves in my spice cabinet, which helps to keep them away.
Bea in NJ

editor's note: Visit here for more on bulk rice storage.

Having a House Built?

We were about to have a house built. First we picked a quality builder. Then we picked a floor plan from a selection of available models. One of our friends suggested we hire a home inspector to inspect the new home when we had our final walk through. Before they started building our home, we told the builder of our plan for a home inspection. The home inspection cost $400, but we feel that the builder made sure our home was done right because of the inspection. Our inspector said that the home was well built. There were a few minor issues, but nothing important was found. We look at the cost of the inspection as if it were insurance.

Cooking for 1 or 2

When we became "empty nesters," I had a problem with cooking too large! My Mom gave me an answer.

Buy small glass casserole pans at garage sales, thrift stores, etc. When making a meal, make the "normal" amount and split as far as it will go into one- and two-serving dishes. My hubby works occasional nights and the singles get used when he's away. I pull out a two-serving dish for both of us.

It's so nice to have an assortment in the freezer. After adding veggies, bread and fruit, supper is served.

I do have a warning. When heating up a cold (or frozen) glass dish, be sure to put it into cold oven and then turn on oven. Suddenly placing a frozen glass dish into a hot oven will break the dish.
Karen P.

Additional TDS Resource: More on cooking for just 1 or 2

Testing Bird Seed

The cost of bird seed and pellets can be a problem, especially those specially formulated pellets. It's even worse if the first time you buy a brand your bird won't eat it.

I visited the website for many bird food companies. Using their "contact us" link, I asked for samples of their products. I received sample packets, and my birds tried a wide variety of brands. I learned what foods they liked and which ones they didn't.

Clean Shower Curtain

I wash my clear shower curtain liner in the washing machine on hot with a little bleach. It comes out looking like new, and I never need to replace it.

Easy Clean Containers

To get odors and stains out of plastic containers, baby bottles, and glasses or juice containers, use a denture tablet. Generic brands work fine. Fill the container with water. Add one denture tablet and allow the tablet to dissolve. This will rid the object of stains and odors.

Laminate Countertop Update

We found the perfect country cottage, but it hadn't been updated or remodeled since the 1980s. We have a long list of frugal fixes and are turning the cottage into a very special place to retreat. I was stumped about what to do with a perfectly usable kitchen countertop that was an ugly yellow color and badly stained. I didn't want to replace the countertop just yet, so I used a water-based polyurethane to glue a length of tan fabric to the counter. I covered the fabric with multiple coats of poly and was thrilled with the way it came out. I'm careful about food prep and use cutting boards, but I discovered a stain that wouldn't come up, so I cut a sheer floral motif from another fabric and used the poly to stick it over the stain. It's so easy, so cheap, and so cute!

Additional TDS Resource: More on updating laminate countertops

Easy Meal Planning

I usually prepare a large meal on Sunday and another on Monday. Then I rework the leftovers into meals the rest of the week. Last week, on Sunday, I made a smoked butt. On Monday, I made chicken chili, using one large chicken breast that I cooked, deboned, and shredded. On Tuesday, I used leftover pork to make Cuban beans with yellow rice and a Cuban pork butt meat topping. Then I used the remaining beans, rice and pork for shredded pork burritos on Wednesday night. On Thursday, the leftover chili was used on a Frito pie. The pork butt was reduced to $11 when I bought it, and I froze a nice portion for another future meal. For five good, hearty meals for two, I spent about $30.
Lisa (via Facebook)

Removing Urine Stains & Odors

There are several organic products on the market that completely remove pet urine stains and odors. Urine is an organic material and "like dissolves like," which is why inorganic chemicals and perfumes never remove the stains and odors. There are many organic products advertised and sold at pet stores, but the most effective one is called Spot Shot®. It's available at Home Depot. I had a rental property that had many large "pet urine stains." When I followed the directions and did a little scrubbing, it didn't look like the same carpet.

Additional TDS Resource: More on removing pet urine stains & odors

Large Pot, Small Plant

To save on potting soil in large pots or containers, such as wine barrels, place empty milk cartons or soda pop bottles on the bottom first to take up some of the space. Don't use this trick if you're planting a tree in the pot, but only if your using the pots for smaller plants that don't have a large root system.

Tough Stains!

I spilled some white carpenter's glue on the rug and tried to get it out with regular cleaners with very limited results. We lived with it for about six months, and we were renting at the time.

Before we moved out, I hired a professional carpet cleaning company, and they got it out! One of the employees said that they use dry cleaning solution on tough stains. I have since obtained some, and it works great!

Natural Dishwasher Rinse

Our area has very hard water and we noticed that even when using a dishwasher rinse, our clear glasses came out with a light film. Now we just toss a splash (about 1/3 cup) of white vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher before starting the wash cycle. The glasses always come out clear and sparkling, and we have saved money by not buying the rinse. Also, the vinegar keeps the dishwasher free of soap scum and calcium build-up.
Janice D. in Henderson, NV

Additional TDS Resource: More ideas for a homemade dishwasher detergent

PT Student Job

My son's girlfriend makes $150 a week selling cake pops at the high school they attend. Every Sunday and Thursday night, she makes 75 pops, ices them, rolls them in colored sugar, nuts, tiny chocolate chips, etc., and then wraps them. She sells them for $1 each and never has any left! You could do this with homemade cookies or brownies too. Teenagers are always hungry!
Deb C.

editor's note: This is a great idea, but you'll probably want to check with the school administration first to get their approval. You might also want to make sure that you don't violate any laws that apply to restaurants and food services.

Taking in a Roommate

My husband and I have taken in three housemates to go along with our three extra bedrooms. This has allowed us to comfortably afford a house payment on one income while being students. My suggestions are that everyone has at least one chore that is part of the household cleaning in main living areas and that a schedule is created for kitchen and laundry privileges. We have been doing this for almost a year and it has been great. They pay $750 of our $950 mortgage!

Additional TDS Resource: More on taking in roommates

Squeeze Paint

I like to paint just about anything I can get my hands on, but I hate to pry open and hammer close all those cans of paint after every little job. Now I fill well-cleaned ketchup or dish detergent bottles with pop-up caps!

When I'm ready to paint, I just give them a shake to mix the paint, flip the cap, and neatly squirt out the amount of paint I need. It is kind of like the small plastic bottles of craft paints. Remember to only do this with latex paints. Oil-based paints could react with the plastic.

Cheaper Sports Outings

I'm a huge sports fan, and we love to go to various sporting events. We enrolled our kids in our favorite team's "Kids' Club." Generally they're free or very inexpensive. The membership often includes perks, such as sports gear and free food. Our favorite university's kids' club includes free admission to most home games for the kids, and my husband and I get half-price tickets.

Also find out if local businesses sponsor your favorite college team. If they do, often they'll get blocks of tickets for home games, which they give to their customers (like you!). I even called the athletic department of our university and found out which businesses were sponsors. It's been a great source of free tickets!

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