Simple Veggie Wash
Working in a school lunchroom has given me the opportunity to learn some kitchen tricks. We were taught to wash produce with salt water. Just fill your sink with water and add a couple of tablespoons of salt. Make sure the produce is covered with water for about 10 minutes.
Glass Top Stove Clean-Up
I drink a lot of hot tea. I just fill up the kettle and put it on a different burner every time. I overfill it slightly, and the hot water boils onto the stove top. The grease and stains wipe up easily after being hit with the boiling hot water. This is easier and cheaper than any product in the store!
Less Expensive Hair Care
My six-year-old has really thick hair. As a single mom, expensive hair products really hurt my budget. So instead of de-tangling sprays, I use a mixture of 1/3 conditioner and 2/3 water. I keep it in an old spray bottle and shake it before each use. I actually think it's better than the store stuff.
It's hot, but our electric bill forced me into our attic to look at the A/C ductwork. I found cold air leaking at a number of joints. So I got some aluminum insulating tape and eliminated the leaks. I'm not sure how much we'll save, but it sure seems like the A/C is running a lot less than it did before.
Seeing Screen Doors
Our kids (and the adults too) were continually walking into the sliding screen door that leads to our deck because they didn't see it. I got tired of fixing it. Then I saw the decals that they put on glass sliding doors and had an idea. I took some bright thread and wove the outline of a butterfly in the screen at eye level for both kids and adults. Problem solved!
Clean Your Coffeemaker
When I worked at a restaurant, we cleaned our coffeemaker and pots often. We used ice, salt, and lemon juice for the pots. The mix doesn't need to be exact. Just swish it around and the stains disappear! For the coffeemaker, run a cycle with white vinegar (no coffee in the basket!). Then follow with plain water. In two cycles, you're ready to brew some great tasting coffee!
Protect Your Air Conditioning Unit
My friend works for an HVAC company. He does many of their maintenance calls. He told me that there's no reason a homeowner can't do most of it themselves. He told me to clean the outdoor compressor on our system. Trim or remove any bushes that surround the unit. Also remove any debris like sticks or leaves. If possible, it's important to keep the compressor out of the mid-day sun. Some people even build a cover, but the cover shouldn't hinder air flow around the compressor. Clean or replace the inside filters. Finally, pour a little bleach in the lines that carry the condensation outdoors.
Before You Store
We moved from a home we owned to a rental. We planned on purchasing a home when the lease was up in a year. We were planning on taking our fridge, washer, and dryer along and putting them in storage. The storage was going to cost us $90 a month. That's $1,080 for the year. Since they were all getting old, we decided to sell them on Craigslist and save the rental fee. When we buy a house, if it needs appliances, we'll buy new. If the house comes with appliances, we'll save a bunch of money!
If you're going to rent a truck, there are a few things you need to do to protect yourself. First, use your phone to take pictures of any previous damage to the truck. Make sure they're noted on your contract. Then open the back. If the contract says the truck has a hand truck and/or blankets, make sure they're present and that any cable ties are secure. If the ties are broken, it'll be assumed that you used them and you'll be charged. Finally, get in the driver's seat and start the engine. Check lights, turn signals, and the air conditioner. You don't want to load the truck and get ten miles out of town and find out that the air conditioning doesn't work!
Our kitchen and dining room both have west facing windows. I tried putting up drapes to block the sun, but it made the rooms really dark, so I took them down. This made it too hot to eat dinner comfortably. Then I came up with a simple solution. I put three small hooks above each window. I put one on each corner and one in the middle. I bought enough “black out” fabric to cover the windows and sewed up drapes. I added three grommets to the top of each drape that match the hooks. Now I can hang up the drapes mid-afternoon and take them down in the morning. It only took a few seconds and the cost was minimal.
Denise in Phoenix
Do you have a pickup truck and good muscles? Then you, too, may be able to get storage space for just the cost of gasoline. Free entertainment centers pop up on Craigslist all the time where I live. People get rid of them as they purchase flat-screen TVs and no longer need the deep shelves on the entertainment centers. This item of furniture is perfect for us frugal folks who want storage shelves. If you don't mind that the styles and colors don't match, you can get the storage you want easily. Line your basement and/or garage walls with entertainment centers. You can customize them if you like. They can also be turned into cat condos, children's play kitchens, and other things with some work (get online for instructions). I'm on the lookout for one with the right configuration to fit my kitchen wall where it can then house cookbooks, kitchenware, and a cat bed (on the bottom). The area for a TV will be a space to frame my window and give me room for plants.
Appealing Property Tax Appraisals
I just finished fighting the property tax appraisal on our house. I began by using the online services to document other similar properties in my neighborhood that were for sale. I made a spreadsheet that included square footage, number of rooms, and other key features. Then I went to the county database and looked for comparable properties there. Where they were assessed at a lower rate that I was getting I noted them and added them to my spreadsheet. I took the spreadsheet into the appraiser's office. They didn't relent right away, but after a week, they notified me that they were reducing our appraisal by $25k!
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