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The Dollar Stretcher
by Gary Foreman

StorkNet.com > Columns > The Dollar Stretcher

Dollar Stretcher Tips - November 28, 2013

Electric Savings
Install an extra shower rod or two over your tub. This allows you to partially dry some of your laundry in the dryer and hang it in the shower to finish drying. It's also a good way to introduce some needed moisture into your home during the dry winter months. ~B.

Eliminating Refrigerator Odors
My old boss saved a dorm-sized fridge from being thrown out by the mechanics next door. The fridge had been sitting unplugged with old food in it for a long time. My boss simply took a bottle of vanilla extract (not imitation) and poured it all over the interior. He plugged it in, left it for a day, and then wiped it out with more vanilla. We have used the fridge for years since. ~Sarah in KY

Why Roll?
I recently repainted our home office. The first time I painted it, I used a roller to do the job. It took over a gallon of paint. This time, I decided to use a brush because I was doing it over a period of days. The second paint job took only two quarts and was less messy than the roller job. Plus, it looked nicer the second time around. I could have saved myself the $18 that I spent on the second gallon of paint. ~Donald W.

Personalized Wrap for Small Gifts
Family gift swapping crept up on me, and there I was with several small gifts to wrap and no Christmas bags or paper! I found some Christmas cards from a previous year, cut the fronts to the right size, and glued them to plain brown lunch bags. I added tissue, bows, and pretty gift tags. Every gift was wrapped in its own unique way for very little money. ~Elaine

Kicking Up Ground Meats
I like using ground turkey in lieu of ground beef. I have found if you knead spices into the ground turkey the night before you plan to cook it, the flavor will be greatly improved. I frequently spice ground turkey this way for spaghetti and chili dishes. For spaghetti, I work Italian seasoning, garlic, and onion powder throughout the meat, and for chili, I use chili powder, garlic, and onion powder. I use a lot of spices, and my guests seldom know the meat is turkey! The little extra time it takes is definitely worth it. ~HF

Avoiding Food Waste
The best way to cash in on bargains and stocking up is to properly store food. The easiest rule to remember is "first in, first used." That means you are always using the oldest items first, which should keep you within expiration dates. Canned goods, dry pasta mixes, baking goods, paper products and similar items can be stored in a pantry or shelf. Meat, dairy, bread, etc. should be frozen until used. Most meat is good even after the expiration date, as long as it is frozen and still appears "pink" or fresh. It is easy to throw your items in the freezer or pantry when you get back from the store and then grab the nearest item for supper. But if you consistently rotate your stock so that you are using the oldest items first, you should not have to worry about expiration dates. ~Shaunna

Easy Cloth Diapers?
The reason most people don't use cloth diapers is probably not the folding (which some consider therapeutic) or even the washing, but the "poop" part might turn them off. As I recall, a person can purchase "diaper liners." My mother-in-law advised me to use raggedy old sheets (try your own closet first and then look at garage sales, etc.). Wash them in bleach and rinse twice before using. Then cut pieces, one layer thick, to put inside the diapers. If the "liners" just get wet, wash and reuse them. When they get poopy, toss them like a "disposable diaper." It's really great advice! ~Linda

Thrifty Flavored Coffees
I used to work at a coffee shop before I met my husband, and I had become very used to great flavored coffees for free or almost free. But now that we are married and I stay home with our four-month-old baby, we can't afford them very often. I have figured out that my husband's favorite (Vanilla Cappuccino) is easily made using vanilla extract. I use one shot of espresso, one cup of milk (heated), two tablespoons of sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla. For coffees, I use the opposite proportions of the coffee and creamer (1 cup of coffee and 1 oz. creamer). There are also many other extracts in the baking aisle to try. For any of the other extracts, I suggest purchasing an inexpensive medicine dropper and starting with five drops in a glass. The amount you use will depend on your tastes and the strength of the oil. Do not assume they are all the same strength. Some have a little more aroma and flavoring ability than others do. I ended up pouring a few overdone cups down the sink. Hope you find a few new favorites this way. ~Mandy D.

Handy Breakfast Potatoes
I cook my potatoes whole in my double-deck vegetable steamer. When done, I cube them and put them in large zipper bags in one layer. As I am filling the bags, I stack them all on a cookie sheet. Then I put them in the freezer. When frozen, I remove the cookie sheet. This way my potatoes are loose and easy to put into a pan or, as I prefer, an oblong glass dish to make oven potatoes for breakfast or dinner. Seasonings are added when they go in the oven. My potatoes taste just fine and I do this all the time. ~Ann in California

Replacing Expensive Canned Dog Food
I buy reduced meat at stores and cook it in a pressure cooker along with a sweet potato. Then I mash the sweet potato, cut the meat up into smaller pieces, and keep it in a plastic container in the refrigerator for convenient feeding. The dogs love it and eat well. I know what's in their food. I add a crushed dog vitamin to the mix for each dog. Their coats are shiny, and the dogs are healthy and happy. Their vet approves. The dogs always have a bowl of commercial dry dog food available as they like crunchy food for snacks. I save a bunch of money by buying and preparing their food as canned dog food's pricing keeps escalating. It takes five minutes in the pressure cooker to feed the two dogs for an entire week, so that's not much time at all. My dogs are not getting animal by-products, added wheat, or any of the other fillers usually used in canned food. My dogs are like family. I feed them as well as my family, but very economically. ~Saga

Want to live better on the money you already make? Visit www.stretcher.com/index.cfm?TipsSyn to find hundreds of articles to help you stretch your day and your dollar! Copyright 2013 Dollar Stretcher, Inc.

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