Readers' Tips

Dry Cleaning Kits

I just read in Woman's Day that those home dry cleaning kits work just fine to clean clothes. Dry cleaners even admitted it! They did recommend using a dry cleaner if clothing has stains or needs heavy duty cleaning, but for regular, everyday cleaning of clothes, they are fine.

editor's note: For more on dry cleaning kits, please click here.

Inexpensive Food Gifts

As a stay-at-home mom, I often seem to have more time to bake than the teachers in my children's schools do. I put together a gift basket of brownies in different flavors and jars of spiced tea or my homemade cocoa mix. I always put a basket together for the gals in the office as they are often forgotten. This year, I plan to add a cookie mix in a jar. They can bake at their leisure during the holidays. The teachers have always loved this gift. I am sure not to bake ahead and freeze, so they have the option to freeze the goodies if they need to. Several have commented to me on how nice it was to have something ready to serve holiday guests.
Karen P.

Additional TDS Resource: More on inexpensive food gifts for the holidays

Better Detergent?

When my dishwasher stopped working, I decided not to have it fixed. I used my dishwasher liquid to wash my dishes by hand when I ran out of dish soap. It worked far better than regular dish soap! My dishes were sparkly clean with minimal hand washing. It did not get suds like regular dish soap, but it sure cleaned better and faster. I also used it to clean the bathroom sink, bathtub, toilet, and floor when I ran out of regular cleaner and again it worked great.
Margaret H.

Cat Litter

Clumping cat litter is expensive compared to clay litter, but it sure is nice. I mix some of the cheaper clay litter into the clumping brand. It works as well and saves money.

Homemade Cream Soups

I don't know why people use canned soup for recipes. It is loaded with salt, and it's expensive. A cream sauce is easy to make! For one cup of sauce, melt two tablespoons butter, whisk in two tablespoons of flour until well blended, and then stir in one cup of milk, broth, or a combination of the two. Cook on medium heat, whisking constantly, until thick. Add salt, pepper, paprika, or melted cheese to taste.

Protect the Peels!

Don't peel your potatoes! Think about all the waste when you peel and toss all of that food! And the most nutritional part of the potato is the skin. Just make sure to scrub them first. I've started leaving the skins on in mashed potatoes and soups. And if you do peel them, bake the skins with cheese as a snack.

Protecting Your Table Top

We recently purchased a folding banquet table to use when serving our holiday meals, but we needed something to go under the tablecloth to protect the plastic top from hot dishes. A padded aluminum car window shade worked wonderfully. When unfolded and taped into place, it covered nearly the entire tabletop and was hidden under the tablecloth. I'm sure they would protect a wood table, too!
Leslie in New Mexico

Something to Think About

Here is the thought for the day. Each dollar saved is worth more than each dollar earned because you do not have to pay taxes on it.

Alternatives to Veggie Wash

For an inexpensive substitute for commercial fruit and vegetable cleaners, use baking soda. I keep some by the sink in a shaker jar. It's not quite as convenient as the sprays, but in my opinion, baking soda does a better job. Just shake some on, rub it around, and rinse. It works great!

Additional TDS Resource: More on cheap, natural veggie wash

Need a Long Curtain Rod?

While looking for a very long curtain rod, I had trouble finding a rod that was 10-feet long. I was about to go to a big decorator store out of town when I chanced into a hardware store where the clerk told me about using copper plumbing pipe. They come as long as 12 feet. They are about half an inch in diameter and cost only a few dollars. They can be cut to any length. Their finish resembles some designer rods, but they are very inexpensive to use and their sturdy material keeps the middle part from sagging as easily as most rods if the curtains are heavy.
Donna C.

Controlled Dispensers

My kids are always using too much shampoo, conditioner, and body soap. I decided to put the soaps into empty liquid hand soap bottles. Now I do not have to buy that stuff as often.
Mary B.

The Christmas Craft Book

My daughter-in-law suggested a great gift for me to do for my homeschooled granddaughters. I went on the web and printed off craft ideas, coloring pages, and many other things. I then bought the ingredients for the crafts. This will be their Christmas present. I spent maybe $50 for the three girls in Walmart for the craft items. I used dividers and found something for every month.

The craft book includes Origami suggestions, Wizard of Oz coloring pages, and many other things. The web is full of many craft ideas. I will cover the notebook with fabric to make it pretty.

Silver Care

After the silver is polished, put some of those little desiccant packets in your storage container (the kind inside vitamin bottles, etc.), and it will really slow down tarnishing. I put some in my silver chest after Christmas last year (which has a lining to supposedly slow down tarnish but doesn't always do a great job), and when I took the pieces out at Thanksgiving, they looked freshly polished. I also put a few of these in my jewelry box along with all my sterling pieces, and they stay shiny bright.

Homemade Wrinkle Releaser

Commercial wrinkle releaser is expensive and even more so when you consider you're paying mostly for water. Put two tablespoons of liquid fabric softener, like Downy®, into a standard spray bottle. Fill the rest with water. Shake. You've made wrinkle releaser. I was lucky enough to have a small sample-sized bottle of fabric softener put in my mailbox about three years ago, so while I use wrinkle releaser at least once a week, I haven't paid for it in years.

Additional TDS Resource: More on homemade wrinkle releasers

Cleaning Hardened Spills

Whenever I have a hardened spill on the floor or counter, I microwave a half cup of water and sometimes add dishwashing liquid. I pour enough hot water over it just to cover the spill. Then I leave it until it's cool enough to wipe up. As another option, I dip an old toothbrush in the hot water to scrub crevices or other tight areas. I love this simple trick. I hope you do, too!

Blood Donation Comment

Concerning the reader who suggested blood donation as a way to defray hospital costs, please be aware that this is not the usual situation in hospitals or blood banks around the country. The amount charged for a blood product is meant to recover the cost of collection, processing, and transfusion. Insurance reimbursement frequently doesn't cover the full amount of all those costs. If anyone intends to donate with the idea of paying less or getting free blood, please check with the hospital or local blood collection agency to see if that applies in your area.

The best idea is simply to donate because someone somewhere needs the blood, not to get something in return for it. People who donate in order to receive some sort of payback frequently misrepresent their medical histories, leading to a less safe blood supply.

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