Baked on Pots and Pans
I use baking soda followed by a little bit of white vinegar poured on top as a pre-soak for cleaning pots/pans and bakeware with stubborn stains. If the baking soda/vinegar combo is slow to work, put the pan over a very low heat on the stove for about 15 minutes and this will increase the cleaning power.
Family Info Center
I found the cure for my kids asking what is for lunch at school, what time is the party, or what to bring to a church function. We have a three-ring notebook with plastic page covers. School calendars, sport schedules, and event flyers and invitations are posted in the notebook. The kids can go to the notebook to find the answer to all of their questions and my refrigerator is clear of all the notes.
She Likes Wool
Instead of buying an electric blanket, I bought a wool blanket for $5 at a church sale. I think wool is great; I wash it gently in my washing machine, and it's very warm. It's only drawback is that it's itchy, so you need to layer with a sheet. I also use flannel sheets in the winter and can turn my thermostat down to about 58 degrees. The actual temperature when I get up in the morning is about 60 degrees.
Save the Car Mats
Living in the cold and snowy north, our car mats get very full of sand, salt, slush and grime in the winter. I started putting old towels over our car mats in the winter to protect them. I wash the towels every month or so until spring arrives. Our 16-year-old Dodge Spirit has its original car mats that look like new!
Brenda N. in Rochester, MN
Manual Programmable Thermostat
I've been looking at programmable thermostats but can't fit one into the budget just yet, so I made my own. I took a business envelope and wrote "HEAT and ELEC" on one end. I tucked it into my mail holder by the door, so it's the last thing I see when I leave the house. It reminds me to turn down the thermostat and turn off the powerstrips, which run my "phantom" electricity hogs like TV, VCR, and computer.
Jessie in SD
Always ask your professor first before buying the newest (most expensive) version of your textbook. The textbook recommended at the college bookstore was $135. I emailed the professor before the start of the semester (call the admissions office for the information). He said that not much has changed in Physiology, so the first, second or current edition is completely acceptable! When comparing books in class, the only difference was the chapter numbers were switched once or twice. Otherwise, it was identical information. I bought mine from half.com for ten dollars! Doesn't hurt to ask.
Extra Car Key
I've never had much luck with the magnetic key holders that are stuck to the underside of the car. When I needed the key, it wasn't there. My father's solution was to have a spare key made, drill the hole bigger and screw it underneath the license plate. We used a quarter to tighten the screw. When we inadvertently left the keys at a friend's house after carpooling, we used a coin to retrieve our key and were on our way. If your car uses a key that has a chip in it, you may need to use a washer or two on the other screw to create some space between the license plate and the plate holder.
Cook's Sick? No Prolem!
Normally at this time of year, I get really sick after a child in our home has been sick with the flu. Since I am the one who cooks, if I get sick, then my dear hubbie orders in pizza or makes a special trip to the store to buy pre-made meals of some kind.
This year I am going to be prepared. I have been making extra big batches of my family's favorite soups. We eat a meal of it and freeze the rest. Then on the morning that I notice that I am sick, I can pull a meal's worth of soup out of the freezer along with some frozen day old rolls bought on sale. My family can heat up the soup for supper because it is so easy. No more take-out when the cook is ill.
A Free Christmas Tree
We don't ever pay for a Christmas tree, and yet every year we get a picture-perfect tree. Our community has a "tree dump" where you take your trees to be chipped and laid down on nature trails in our area after the holidays. We go to that lot a few days before Christmas and pick out a lovely tree!
There are always beautiful trees left there before "the big day" by people who decorated after Thanksgiving, but who are traveling for Christmas and don't want to leave the tree in their home, so they discard it early. Our family has a theory that the reason the most beautiful trees are thrown away before Christmas is because people with enough money to travel also have enough money to buy the prettiest trees!
If you're too embarrassed to gather up a free tree from the tree dump, you can also keep your ears out for friends who mention that they're going away for the holidays. Ask them if they would like you to take their tree down for them in the busy few days before the holidays and "get rid of it" for them.
Patty & family in Minnesota
(end Dollar Stretcher Tips)