Make Your Own Ice Pack

Almost everyone strains a muscle or suffers pain from a sprained ankle sometime in their life. At that point, you probably went looking for an ice pack to reduce the swelling or relieve the pain. Crushing ice cubes is a messy business, so why not make your own ice pack to have whenever you need it? It’s really pretty simple.

Start with two zip lock plastic bags – the size depends on how large a pack you want. Fill one bag about halfway with dishwashing liquid. Seal the bag, put it inside the other bag, and seal that bag. Put it in the freezer until you need it. If you have a vacuum sealer, it’s even better, because you only need one vacuum sealer bag, and you won’t have to be concerned with leakage.

Reduce Your Garbage Disposal Use

If you have a kitchen garbage disposal, you probably don’t give much thought to it unless it stops working. It’s certainly convenient to use and saves having to fill up your wastebasket with food remains. However, in order for it to function correctly, it requires a significant amount of water, both while it’s actually chopping up the food, and for a period of time after it’s finished. All that water costs money and wastes valuable resources.

A better solution would be to collect the food scraps in a separate container which can be emptied outdoors into a compost pile. Starting a compost pile will provide you with your own supply of garden fertilizer throughout the spring and summer.

There are a variety of containers for sale which can be used for this purpose. A tight-fitting lid is a necessity to keep out bugs and odors. A carrying handle might also be convenient. Some even have charcoal filters to eliminate odors. Want to save even more money? Make your own. Here’s a site with easy instructions:

Reuse Your Cereal and Cracker Bags

Although recycling has become more popular, the amount of trash we generate could still be reduced further. Think of all the cereal or cracker box liners you throw out weekly while grabbing for a new plastic bag to store various items. Here’s some ideas for reusing those bags.

  1. Pack your lunch or your child’s lunch.
  2. Put snacks in it for long car or plane trips.
  3. Store fruits or vegetables.
  4. Keep your bread or rolls fresh.
  5. Open it up and place over food you reheat in the microwave to keep from splattering.
  6. Cut open and place between layers of hamburgs or boneless chicken breast for freezing.
  7. Use when you want to chop nuts or make cracker or potato chip crumbs.
  8. Use as a container for a shake and bake mix.
  9. Use as a base on counter when rolling out cookie or pie dough.
  10. Lay on the counter when separating packaged chicken or other raw meat into smaller portions. It will keep your counter cleaner.
  11. Take with you when walking your dog to clean up after it.
  12. Spread several out on the table when decorating cookies to contain the mess.
  13. Spread several on the table for your child’s paint projects.
  14. Store small toys in them.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. If you have more ideas, let us know.

Wedding Savings

It is amazing how much people will spend on a wedding and reception that lasts only a few hours. Is it really worth going into debt or spending your retirement money so that your daughter can have an extravagant party? Start planning in advance for ways that you can save money by incorporating some of the following suggestions.

  1. Start by setting a budget and sticking to it.
  2. Cut down the guest list.
  3. Saturdays are the busiest days for weddings. If you have to have a weekend date, choose Friday or Sunday.
  4. How about a winter wedding? January through March are slow periods, and you will have a better chance of getting a reduced rate for a reception rental, and perhaps even catering services or other wedding necessities.
  5. If you want a summer wedding, you can save money by having it at your home or a beautiful beach.
  6. Alcohol costs a lot of money. Think about whether it’s really necessary. Some facilities may let you bring in your own alcohol.
  7. Do the groom a favor and suggest suits or sport coats instead of tuxes for the groom and groomsmen.
  8. There’s lots of options for wedding dresses these days, including renting. If there is a talented seamstress in your family, having a wedding dress made could be a real savings.
  9. A sit-down meal for the reception isn’t a necessity. It can be as simple as coffee, tea and cake, or a light brunch.
  10. Look into making your own wedding invitations online. There are many sites now that specialize in this.
  11. Flowers can be very expensive, and if they’re not in season, will cost even more. If your wedding is in a church, it may already be decorated and adding a plant or candles may be all that’s needed. For a winter wedding, an arrangement of evergreens and pine cones are an attractive substitute.

Using Coupons Wisely

With all of the coupons and discounts available now, it’s sometimes hard to resist using them. When you think you’re getting a great deal, it’s easy to get caught up in buying things you don’t need or wouldn’t normally use.

Websites such as Groupon deliver daily specials to your inbox. If you have always wanted to try a new restaurant or activity, it’s an opportunity to do so at a cheaper price. More often than not, however, you spend a lot more than the coupon is worth. Or, in my case, I purchased a Groupon coupon for an article of clothing I wanted from an online retailer. After buying the item and congratulating myself on my good fortune, I thought I’d see if there were any other deals for that store. It turns out that I could have paid the same price and received free shipping as well.

So, if you want to save money, discounts and coupons can be a great deal in many cases. However, it pays to consider how you will use them and to shop around for what may be an even better bargain.

Reduce Your Paper Use

Most people waste a lot of paper products, and the cost really adds up. How many times have you gone to the grocery store and spent a good portion of your money on paper or cleaning products? Buying in bulk when items are on sale is always good, but it also helps to find ways you can use less.

My parents always cut their napkins in half, particularly at meals like breakfast or lunch when they ate fewer messy foods. Paper towels can now be purchased in select-a-sizes which allows you to fit the amount you use to the job.

An even better alternative of course is to use cloth napkins. Each member of the family could have their own napkin, identified by color. In most cases, it would last several meals before needing to be washed.

Microfiber cloths are a great substitute for paper towels. If you keep one handy in your kitchen to clean up spills, you will find yourself relying less on the paper variety. The towels clean up easily and dry quickly. Look in the automobile sections of your store where they often sell multi-packs for less.

Don’t Throw Out the Leftovers

How many times have you thrown out half a can of chicken broth or tomato paste because you only needed a small amount for the recipe you’re making? Or, perhaps you put it in the refrigerator, thinking that you would use it later. Instead, you found it in the back six months later when you finally got around to cleaning your fridge.

A better solution would be to freeze the leftovers. Ice cube trays come in handy for this purpose because you can freeze small amounts. Once they have frozen, transfer them to a freezer-proof bag.

Leftovers from your dinner can also be saved for later use. A few peas or potatoes may not seem like much, but added together, they make a great soup. If you also froze some bones from a pot roast or turkey, you will have everything you need.

Cutting Down on Waste

If you get take-out food a lot or use the drive-through window at restaurants, you may have noticed that they almost always give you more napkins and condiments than you need. Usually, the extra ones get thrown away when you dispose of the wrappers. Keeping these, however, will cut down on waste, and save you money at home. They are particularly handy for putting in lunches that you pack for school or work.

The containers in which you get salads at the grocery store or take-out restaurants can also be reused. Instead of spending money on plastic storage bowls, just wash these out and store your leftovers in them. In addition to food storage, they can be used for keeping loose items around the house such as buttons, change, nails etc. Children are always collecting things, and these would help to organize their rooms.

Simple Lamp Repair

I have a table lamp that I have owned for many years, and still love. When the switch stopped working about 10 years ago, I took it in to a repair shop to have it fixed. At the time, I had another lamp to use while waiting for the repair to be done. A few weeks ago, the same switch broke again. My previous substitute lamp was no longer available as it had been broken in an accident. Since I couldn’t live without a lamp for the week it would take to have it repaired, I decided to try my hand at fixing it. To my surprise, it wasn’t that difficult.

The hardest thing for a novice was figuring out how to get to the switch. First, unplug the lamp from the outlet. After removing the lamp shade and light bulb, take off the harp – that’s the metal piece that surrounds the light bulb on which the shade sits. Squeeze it together at the base and pull it out.

The socket has an outer cover which generally just pulls off. Sometimes, however, it can be a little tricky to remove it from its base. You may have to loosen the base with a screwdriver. There will be two screws where the wires are attached to the socket. Loosen these screws and remove the wires, marking them so that you remember which wire goes with which screw. Take the socket to the store and find a matching replacement.

Once you have the new socket, put everything back together, remembering to connect the correct wire to the correct screw.

Homemade Fabric Softener

The dryer sheets that you can buy to lessen static cling are expensive and over time, can cause build-up on your clothes and dryer. In addition, they contain chemicals which some people may be sensitive to. Liquid fabric softeners are not cheap either. In order to save money, and reduce the amount of pollutants you use, you might try some other alternatives.

  • As noted in an earlier blog, white vinegar has a number of uses, one of which is for fabric softening.  Adding it to the rinse cycle of your washing machine will freshen and soften your clothes. Start with a half cup and use more next time if necessary.
  • Some people have had success with putting a tennis ball in with their clothes in the dryer. Another option would be a clean tennis shoe, preferably a small one that your child may have outgrown. Obviously, these cause quite a bit of noise.
  • A small piece of wadded up aluminum foil in the dryer has also produced good results in reducing static cling.