Readers' Tips

Soup's On!

I find that making soup is so cheap. It tastes great, and the house smells wonderful while Iím making it. I buy a chicken, cut off the legs to save for a later meal, and then proceed to clean the inside out really well. I fill up a large pot with cold water, immerse the cleaned chicken, and let it come to a boil. Then I turn down the heat and skim off all the foam that sets up on top. Once that is done, I add a sliced carrot or two, a whole onion, sliced celery, a lot of parsley, and salt to taste. Then I let it simmer for three to four hours!

I have a lot of soup to use up during the week in the refrigerator, or I divide it up into containers and freeze for later use. My little ones do not like too much chicken in their soup, so I use the cooked breast to make another meal. I get a lot of meals out of a chicken.
Grammy Fran

Easy Clothes Softener

A great way to soften and deodorize clothes is to pour one teaspoon of baking soda into a liquid softener dispenser (the ball type that opens during the rinse cycle) and then slowly pour vinegar up to the fill line. It will bubble but not overflow if the vinegar isn't poured too fast. Clothes will soften and be free of odor without perfumes and chemicals.

If you really like the softener fragrance, store cut pieces of sponge in a clean glass jar filled with liquid fabric softener. Squeeze out the excess liquid, so that it doesn't drip and throw the sponge into the dryer with the wet clothes like a dryer sheet. When the clothes are dry, just drop it back into the jar to use in the next load.

Keeping Them Warm

My three-year-old daughter likes to play out in the snow, but I hate to see her mittens come up and the snow and wind get to her wrists. Today I cut the ribbed cuffs off an old pair of my socks and pulled them on over her mittens and up over the cuff of her snowsuit. It gave her a chance to play without getting cold!

Natural Facial Care

1 egg white
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Combine ingredients until stiff peaks form. Apply to a clean face and let dry. Rinse. If you have a slant board, lie on this while your mask is drying. It will look like you've had a mini-facelift when you're done.

Additional TDS Resource: More ideas for natural facial masks

Organizing Recipes

Pick one workable format for your recipes that works for you, whether it's all on computer, in a recipe box, or in a binder. I buy lined and unlined 3 x 5 index cards. When I find a recipe in a magazine, I cut it out and tape it to the card, using the back if needed. On my word processing program, I have an index card size template, so when I find a recipe online, I can paste it onto the template and print it onto an index card. Or I rewrite it by hand on a lined card, which only takes a few minutes. I buy tab dividers to separate and label my own categories. I never found a recipe box big enough to hold all of my recipe cards, so my husband put wood dividers into a kitchen drawer. I now have quite a large "recipe box." The recipes stay clean, and I have easy access to them.

Additional TDS Resource: More ideas on how to organize your recipes

Low Cost Family Gift

This Christmas, I'm giving family members a photo album on disc. I borrowed my mom's collection of old family photos and added captions, such as the person's full name, age, location when the photo was taken, and any other interesting information about the photo. I scanned them, but you could use a digital camera. I'll create CDs for all my family members.

Looking for Heat Loss

After the first snowfall of the season, my father noticed that snow in one spot on the roof of his house melted before the sun hit it. He asked me to investigate. Crawling through the attic, I discovered an opening through which I could see light and feel a warm draft from the basement. It was the result of shoddy construction. For several years, Dad had been heating the whole outdoors with heat from the basement. A couple of patches and a layer of insulation later, Dad is looking forward to lower heating bills from now on.

Toddler Crafts

Here are my suggestions for simple toddler crafts. I have experience! I have 6 children! All of my kids could spend hours doing "crafts" with me. Buy washable markers (go cheap because they often leave the tops off). I let them color popsicle sticks. Then we glue them into a square and put a picture in them that was cut out of a magazine, or we use a photograph. We then tie a string on two sides to hang it like a picture.

Or I let them color with a marker on a sheet of paper towel. Paper towels have different, fun prints nowadays. The markers give a soft, watercolor look on the paper towels. Markers color easily with just a touch for the littlest ones, and the older ones can make designs by marking along the raised texture of the towels. They get a kick making it look like a quilt.

Additional TDS Resource: More on toddler craft ideas

Flannel and Fleece Fan

I have found that flannel sheets on our bed are great and polar fleece blankets and clothing is very warm. I bought remnants of fleece fabric that were blanket sized and didn't have to hem them since fleece doesn't unravel. I got three nice sized blankets for just a few dollars this way. We like to use these for covers while watching TV in the evenings. I found a flannel duvet cover for our comforter, so we really feel snuggly even without extra blankets.

Checking Deals

I belong to several of the deal sites, such as Groupon, Living Social, etc. One thing I am finding out is that these don't always have the cheapest price when it comes to their "Goods" section. Now I always compare something I am thinking of buying by checking the price of it on eBay or other websites that might also have the item. Several times I have found it to be less expensive by quite a bit on the other sites than on the deal sites.

Just Say "No"!

Each year on January 1st, I begin a "no consuming" policy. Of course, I still need non-negotiable items, such as gasoline, food, electricity, etc. But I play a game with myself to see how far I can go into the new year without buying one unnecessary item. I have turned it into a game I enjoy and have added nicely to my savings over the years. This year, I intend to add cleaning out the pantry and freezer by planning meals for the week using what I have and only buying fresh fruit, dairy, etc.
Dr. Terry K.

Quick Bed

Sometimes my 12-year-old daughter gives up her bedroom for guests and wants to sleep in my bedroom. After considering fold-out chairs, sofa beds and yoga mats, I came up with a no-cost solution.

First, I lay a bath towel on the floor next to the wall in my room. Next, I remove the seat cushions from the two easy chairs in my living room. Then I fold a thick blanket in thirds and lay it across the cushions. I cover all this with a regular single bed sheet and add pillows and a blanket. I end up with an extra bed for free, and my daughter loves this cozy bed. The next morning, I take the "bed" apart and put everything back in its original place. There is no extra storage space required for this freebie.
Debbie F.

Keeping Toddlers Warm at Night

The key to keeping your toddler warm at night is layering. I turn the heat down at night, but my grandson stays warm. I start with a t-shirt, socks, and his diaper. I then add a turtleneck or a long-sleeve onesie. Then, I put on a toddler blanket sleeper with feet. They zip up easily. If it is very cold, you might want to include tights instead of the socks for an extra leg layer. When we dress my grandson this way at night, there are no worries about him kicking off the blankets. Often, he only requires a very light blanket at night and keeps nice and warm even though the heat is turned down to 60 degrees.
Elizabeth in Denver, CO

Additional TDS Resource: More on keeping toddlers warm

Affordable Last Minute Gifts

Need a last-minute Christmas gift for an adult or family? Buy fruit at the grocery store or farmer's market. If you need to make more than one gift, various fruits, such as apples and oranges, come in bulk bags that are very economical.

Go home to see if you have any (empty) gift baskets left over from last year. If not, most thrift stores have them really cheap. Stack the fruit in an attractive arrangement in the basket. As an option, you may put the fruit on top of shredded paper or even leftover artificial Easter grass. If you want, toss in such things as walnuts, pecans, candy canes, peppermints, chocolate Santas, individually packaged tea bags, small boxes of crackers, small cheese packages, etc. Decorate with gift wrap bows, pine cones, or package decorations. If desired, you can use clear plastic wrap to hold the items in the basket.

You now have a unique gift/fruit basket that's a lot more economical than the outrageously priced baskets sold at mall kiosks.

Making Hand Soap Last

Here is an affordable way to make hand soap and make it last. There are many uses for Dr. Bronner's Castile Liquid Soap. One use is hand soap for the bathroom. To make it thick, I use a foaming soap dispenser that I purchased at the local Bed, Bath & Beyond for $14.99. It came in brushed nickel, smoked glass, and clear glass.

To make the soap, use 1/4 of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap and water. When you use it in the foaming dispenser, it comes out like shaving cream. Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap comes in many scents, but peppermint is the most popular. Just using that one bottle of Dr. Bronner's for hand soap, it will last for six months or more depending on how many people use the dispenser, but the savings will add up.
Jeff S.

editor's note: While we're fans of Dr. Bronner's soap, there are other brands of similar soaps that should work just as well.

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