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I use leftover Halloween candy for decorating gingerbread houses for the holidays.
I have found that coupons help manage children's behavior in stores and also help them learn to read. If every child is armed with two coupons and must help find the items in the store, they are less likely to throw tantrums about other issues. Also, many include a picture of the item and help children pair a picture with the name. Coupons are a three-way benefit in that they save money, teach reading skills, and redirect behavior.
Many businesses give out magnetic 4 x 6 calendars for the coming year. I save these old calendars and even pick up a handful of the leftover ones. I glue snapshots on the magnets with a glue stick, and I have photos for the fridge or office without taking up space or spending money on frames.
A Natural Beauty
I love saving money using natural beauty products. For years, I wondered why my skin always felt like sandpaper since both my mother's and my aunt's skin were always smooth and silky. A few days ago, I noticed on the back of a package of baking soda that it could be used as an exfoliant! Are you kidding me? I'll try anything. Eureka! My skin has never felt so smooth. I also use olive oil as a lubricant for my lips and sometimes for my skin as well. Both of these items work well and they contain no harmful ingredients.
Just a Pinch!
At my house, we do a lot of ethnic cooking that often requires the use of fresh herbs, grated ginger, etc. After learning the hard way how quickly a ginger root molds in the crisper drawer and how fast expensive store bought herbs wilt, I began chopping up or grating all of the extras, packing them in ice cube trays sprayed lightly with cooking oil, and freezing them into two tablespoon cubes. I store the loose cubes in labeled bags in my freezer. They thaw nicely in the pan with minimal flavor loss, and nothing goes to waste.
Wrapping Paper Alternatives
If you run out of wrapping paper on Christmas Eve, pull out your aluminum foil! It makes marvelous gift wrap, and you don't need any tape! With ribbon and bow, it will fit right in with the other presents under the Christmas tree. Other possibilities include old maps, old sheet music, brown paper bags, and, of course, newspaper comics. The netting bag of produce can be used over tissue paper. If you want something reusable, try using "silk" scarves or linen napkins, tied with ribbon.
Laurie in Bealeton, Virginia
I have found that if I double bag produce (carrots, lettuce, celery, etc.), it keeps much longer. I keep a spray bottle of water on my counter and sometimes give each a "spritz" before closing it. I also double bag things that I put in the freezer for less freezer burn.
Also, if bananas aren't getting used up as fast, I take three at a time (just right for banana bread) and mash them up and then put them in a zipper baggie, flatten, and freeze. I make banana bread to give as gifts at holiday time and teachers love it from the kiddies.
Instead of Cooking Oil
For extra nutrition and to stretch my dollars. I keep 1/2 cup servings of pureed bananas, homemade applesauce (sugar free), pureed carrots and pureed cooked kidney beans in the freezer. When I make a cake or quick bread, I substitute either bananas or applesauce for some or all of the oil.
Of course, I purchase all of my fruits in bulk at greatly reduced prices, so this doesn't cost me a lot. I use the pureed carrots and cooked beans to add to pasta sauce, meatloaf, meatballs, soups, etc. My family is getting extra nutrition, and it makes everything go further. This works very well for my two grandsons who are picky and won't eat veggies. They end up eating them and don't even know it!
Every fall, I go through our winter garb to see who needs new gloves or if last year's garb will still work with the new coat, etc. I am always dismayed at the amount of single gloves, hats that have lost matching scarves, or extra face masks.
Instead of throwing these out, I came up with "emergency packs" for each car. I put the extra items into old duffel bags. We store them in the trunks of each of our cars. If we get stranded on the side of the road and need extra warmth, no one will care that their gloves don't match. Another benefit is that I know where to find the estranged mitten if its partner shows up throughout the year!
Darci L. in Omaha, NE
Giving the Gift Club
I have a teen daughter who loves to read and a teen son who loves movies. Christmas could be very expensive for these two if I purchased all their gifts new, but other than a couple of "open Christmas Day" gifts, they receive a "Book/Movie of the Month Club."
I wrap 12 books and 12 movies for each, labeling with a month to be opened, and place them in a pretty shopping bag. The books and movies come from thrift stores, so they are usually around a dollar each. It seems like a lavish gift because of the sheer volume. Plus, they enjoy the fun of looking forward to Christmas every month. We make a big deal of opening each one on the first of the month. It's a surprise for all of us since I have long forgotten what I purchased last year!
I shop for books and movies all year that I know they will enjoy and toss them in my closet to be wrapped in December. It's become a very fun gift for all of us and could be adapted to many different ideas and ages of kids.
(end Dollar Stretcher Tips)