Monthly Topic

51 Money-Saving Uses for Ordinary Kitchen Items

by Michelle Jones

accessed on 10/22/2012

Here’s a great list of ways to stretch that dollar, just by using ordinary items from your very own kitchen! Includes milk bottles, soda bottles, ice cube trays, baby food jars, egg cartons, salt, baking soda and more!  

Recycling not only saves money, but it creates a mindset of making the best with what you have. Kind of like that old saying “If you’ve got lemons, make lemonade.” Well, here’s what you can make with…

Plastic Milk Bottles
1. Cut off a portion of the top, leaving the handle in place. Add birdseed and make a bird feeder, hanging it on a clothesline or tree branch.
2. Make a garbage caddy for the sink, especially great if you don’t have a garbage disposal.
3. Make a caddy for tools or painting supplies.
4. Cut off the bottom and use the top as a funnel.
5. Fill the entire jug with beans and use for exercise weights, or just storage for the beans.

Plastic Soda Bottles
1. Make a homemade tornado, place two bottles together, top to top – filling one with water. Tape the tops together and swirl around to make a tornado effect.
2. You can also make a funnel from the tops of soda bottles.
3. Add some sand or rice and use for a homemade bowling game for the kids, just be sure to glue the caps on.

Ice Cube Trays
1. Add a squirt of lemon to your ice cube tray and you’ll have lemon flavored ice for your tea.
2. Kool-Aid flavored ice for the kids, mix the flavors up for fun.
3. Use trays as drawer organizers for paperclips or sewing notions.
4. Ice cube trays are the perfect size for freezing small portions of left over baby food, or making your own homemade.
5. Freeze tablespoon sized amounts of broth or special sauces for cooking soups and casseroles.

Jelly Jars/Mason Jars
1. Remove labels and use for gifts, placing a pretty piece of fabric on top and tying with a ribbon.
2. Great for pencil holders.
3. Fill with candy.
4. Use for storing cotton balls or q-tips in the bathroom.
5. Store sewing notions, crafts or hardware.

Baby Food Jars
1. Perfect for lost buttons.
2. Store small nails.
3. Keep beads or small craft items sorted easily.

Egg Cartons
1. Great seed starters, get a head start on Spring.
2. Storing plastic Easter eggs.
3. Make a memory game for children, matching up items from around the house.
4. Storage for collectible rocks.
5. Jewelry box, great for earrings.

1. Mix with a little salt for cleaning copper or brass.
2. Remove odors from hands or cutting boards.
3. Keep a supply on hand for seasoning poultry and seafood.

1. Use the peelings to freshen your garbage disposal.
2. Cover with cloves and use as an air freshener or Christmas ornament.
3. Place open halves inside a turkey or chicken before baking to add a great flavor.

1. Remove grease and stains from pans and dishware.
2. Put out a grease fire.
3. Clean a sticky iron plate by sprinkling salt on a piece of paper and moving the hot iron over it.
4. Ease the pain of beestings.

Baking Soda
1. Add to a damp cloth and remove crayon and marker from walls and furniture.
2. Pour a little down the drain with some vinegar, let sit 5 minutes and wash down with warm water to clear clogged drains.
3. Mix with facial cleanser to make an exfoliator.
4. Ease the pain of beestings.
5. Line a litter box to prevent odors.
6. Keep an open box in the fridge to prevent odors, put one in the freezer too.
7. Use ¼ c. on a damp food burned pan, let sit for 5 minutes and scrub clean easily.

Paper Plates
1. Place two plates together, edge to edge, fill with beans or rice, staple the edges together, let children paint and decorate for a fun musical toy.
2. Use as a cover for food to keep warm.
3. Place ½ of a plate on top of a full sized plate, edge to edge, staple edges to create a letter holder. Great for kid’s Valentines.

Coffee Cans
1. Use food bag labels and create unique storage containers for flour, sugar, cornmeal, etc.

Mesh Onion Bags
1. Add leftover pieces of soap and make a scrubber.
2. Contain small items while in the dishwasher.
3. Cut bag open and scrunch together to make a dish scrubber.

Muffin Tins
1. Create a memory game for young children, by filling the muffin cups with small items from around the house.


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Copyright © 2001 by Michelle Jones.  All rights reserved.

May: Save Money on Electric

While Keeping Cool During Hot Summer Months

Save money on electric bills by following these simple tips, and you’ll find you can stay cool, go green and save some green. Follow these tips to take the pressure off your budget and the power grids during the hot summer months.

Save Money on Electric
Work the Cooler Temps

Do cooking, laundry and bathing in the early morning or late evenings. All of these things raise the humidity in your home and make it tougher for your air conditioner to cool things down. The same goes for other appliances that use heat, such as your irons and blow dryers.

Forget the Stove Altogether

Use a solar oven instead to bake your bread, cakes and cookies. You might as well use that heat for something, and a solar oven will slow cook your food, making it moist and delicious.

Save Money on Electric by
Using Ceiling Fans

Install ceiling fans in every room in your home and use them on a regular basis to save energy. Ceiling fans use only about a tenth of the power an air conditioner does and by constantly circulating the air, they make the room feel cooler and more comfortable.

Save Money on Electric by Keeping the Sun Out

Close your drapes and blinds before you leave for work. If you are home during the day, close them during the mid-morning. They’ll keep the hot sun out and the cooler temps in.

Seal Them Up

Use weather stripping and caulk your windows and door frames. Windows can be notorious for leaking the cool air out and the hot air in during the summer months. Also, remember what your mother said. You can’t afford to air condition the whole outdoors, so shut those door and windows.

Replace Your Windows and
Save Money on Electric

Replace your windows altogether with double- or triple-paned windows to save energy costs. If you can’t afford to replace your windows, you can install clear plastic film across the inside of your windows and frames. Use a blow dryer to heat the plastic until it becomes almost invisible. The plastic film will provide a pocket of air that acts as an insulator that will keep the cool air in and the hot air out.

Dishwashing By Night

Run your dishwasher at night and make sure it’s fully loaded before you do run it. If you choose to run your dishwasher in the morning, then allow your dishes to air dry, rather than using the dishwasher’s drying unit.

Save Money on Electric with
The Right Sized Air Conditioner

Make sure you have the right sized air conditioning unit for your home. The wrong-sized unit can be a terrible energy waster. If you have a unit that is too large, it will cool the area down too quickly, and your unit won’t have a chance to reduce the humidity in your house, making you feel uncomfortable despite the cooler temperature. On the other hand, if your air conditioning unit is too small, it will run constantly on really hot days without cooling things down at all.

Location, Location, Location

Save money on electric bills by changing the location of your air conditioning unit. Granted, not everyone can do this, but if you are planning to have a new unit installed, make sure it won’t be sitting in direct sunlight. It will have to work harder to cool things down. A northern or eastern location or shady spot is always best. Also, keep plants and shrubs away from the unit as they can block the vents and reduce your unit’s ability to exhaust air.

Check the Filter

Check your air conditioning filter once a month. Hold it up to a bright light and try to look through it. If you can’t, then it’s time to replace the filter.

Save Money on Electric Bills by
Closing Off Empty Rooms

If you have an empty room you’re not using, don’t cool it. Close the vents instead.

Make it Automatic

If you aren’t home during the day, there’s no point in cooling it while you’re gone. Save energy by setting automatic timers on your thermostat to turn your unit on half an hour or so before you come home.

Just a Bit Higher Please

Set that thermostat just a bit higher. Raise your thermostat from 73 to 78 degrees, and you can save up to 15% in cooling costs.

Vent That Heat

If you have an attic, install an attic fan to vent out the heat that collects during the day. Get rid of that hot air and your unit will have a much easier job of cooling down your home. Also add a layer of insulation to your attic.

Turn Off That PC

Earlier this summer I couldn’t stand to sit outside with my laptop – it generated so much warmth, it felt like I was carrying around a miniature furnace. Your computer generates a fair amount of heat, so when you are not using it, turn it off and save money on electric.

Use Power Strips

Your television sets and DVD players will still use power even when they are off. So plug them and other electronic equipment into power strips instead and turn the power strips off when they are not in use to save energy.

Cool Down That Water Heater

Set the thermostat on your water heater to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature it will still kill the bacteria in your tank and provide sufficient hot water. Manufacturers set most water heaters at 140 degrees, more heat than most of us need.

Time Those Showers

You can save money on electric by keeping a timer in your bathroom and limiting your shower to six minutes. Most people can get the job done in this amount of time and your water heater won’t have to work as hard.

Insulate Your Heater

Put an insulation blanket on your water heater to save energy. Special insulators are available that are made out of fiberglass and are easy to install.

Repainting Soon?

If you plan to repaint the walls in your home anytime soon, choose a light color and help save money on electric bills. Dark colors tend to absorb the light, and you’ll need more lights (and more energy) to brighten your room.

Save While Laundering

If you are thinking about buying a washing machine in the near future, consider a front-loading machine to save energy. They use 25 percent less energy than the standard models. Also switch from a hot/warm cycle to a warm/cold cycle when washing clothes and line dry your clothes instead of using a clothes dryer.


April: 10 Ways to Save Money on Food Shopping
How to eat cheap – but healthfully – despite rising grocery costs

By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

We’re paying more these days not only at the gas pump but also at the grocery store. Blame it on rising oil prices, disappointing crop yields, global warming, and/or the weak dollar. Robert Earl, director of nutrition policy for the Grocery Manufacturer Association, says there are many factors affecting food prices.

What it all means is that shoppers are looking for ways to save money when they’re food shopping without sacrificing nutrition. WebMD asked some experts for tips and strategies on saving money on your grocery bill while still eating healthfully.

Planning Can Help You Save Money on Food

Planning ahead is the most important step to getting more bang for your buck at the grocery store, says Katherine Tallmadge, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

“Take inventory of what you have on hand so you don’t overbuy, create a detailed shopping list based on your needs and weekly menu plan, and take into account how you plan on using leftovers,” she says.

Have a light snack before you go shopping, and stick to your grocery list to help avoid impulse purchases or costly mistakes like falling for the displays at the end of the aisles.

Before you plan your weekly menu, check the ads to see what’s on sale and use coupons to take advantage of sales and money-saving coupons. You can even sign up online to receive coupons and email alerts from your favorite grocers.

Healthy Food Is Cheaper Food

Eating healthier foods can actually save you money, according to a 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The researchers found that when families went on weight loss diets, they not only lost weight but reduced their food budgets.

The savings came from reducing portion sizes and from buying fewer of the high-calorie foods that tend to increase the amount spent at the grocery store, according to authors of the yearlong study. People tend to spend a lot on those “extras” — foods that add calories but little nutritional value, like sodas, bakery items, and chips.

You can get more for your money if you consider the nutritional value of food for the price.  For example, sodas and flavored drinks deliver mostly empty calories and could easily be replaced with less expensive sparkling water with a splash of a 100% fruit juice like cranberry.

“When my clients start eating more healthfully, their grocery bills plummet,” says Tallmadge, author of the book Diet Simple.

She recommends comparing food prices based on the number of servings you’ll get, along with the food’s nutritional contribution. For example, a pound of peaches yields three to four servings. So when you divide the cost per pound,the cost is usually quite reasonable.

“The ideal food is nutrient-dense, not calorie-dense, and the least expensive may be fresh, frozen or canned,” Tallmadge says.

And if you’re craving something sweet?

“Save money by passing on calorie-dense cakes and cookies; instead, opt for seasonal fruit,” says American Dietetic Association president Connie Diekman, RD. “Fruit is fat-free, high in nutrients and fiber, and a natural energizer.”
Look for sales or coupons for light ice cream or nonfat frozen yogurt to enjoy with your fruit, and you have a delicious, fat-free, low-calorie dessert.

Here are 10 simple strategies to beat the rising cost of food and help your grocery dollars go further:

1. Buy produce in season. Check the food section in your newspaper to find the best buys for the week, based on fresh produce in season. Food in season is usually priced to sell. During the summer months, corn on the cob can cost as little as 10 cents an ear; at other times of the year, it may cost 10 times as much. Also, shop your local farmers’ market for great deals on local produce; the prices won’t include shipping costs.

2. Use sales and coupons. Planning meals around what’s on sale can lower your grocery bills, especially if you also use coupons (make sure they’re for item you would buy anyway). Sunday newspapers are full of coupons and sales circulars to get you started. It’s also a good idea to stock up on staples when they’re on sale. “Buy one, get one free” is basically a technique to get you to buy twice as much as you need at half the price. At some markets, though, the product rings up half-price — so you don’t have to buy more than one to get the savings. Use your freezer to store sale items that can be used at a later date.

3. Brown-bag it. Making lunch and taking it with you is a great money-saver and an excellent use of leftovers for meals at work, school, or wherever your destination. “Packing your lunch not only saves you money, but you can control all the ingredients so they are healthy and low in calories,” says Diekman, who is nutrition director at Washington University. Pack a simple sandwich, salad, soup, wrap, and/or a hearty snack of cheese. Use freezer packs and containers to keep food at the proper temperature unless you have access to a refrigerator.

4. Think frozen, canned, or dried. Next time you’re gathering ingredients for a recipe, try using frozen, canned, or dried foods. They may be less expensive than fresh, yet are equally nutritious. Produce is typically frozen, canned, or dried at the peak of ripeness, when nutrients are plentiful. Fish and poultry are often flash-frozen to minimize freezer damage and retain freshness. With frozen foods, you can use only the amount you need, reseal the package, and return it to the freezer. If it’s properly stored, there’s no waste. Canned foods are often sitting in a bath of juice, syrup, or salty water, and usually require rinsing. Dried fruits are concentrated in flavor and a great substitute for fresh fruit. Also consider using powdered or evaporated versions of milk in soups, casseroles, mashed potatoes, or desserts. Buy the form that gives you the best price for your needs.

5. Save on protein foods. When possible, substitute inexpensive, vegetarian sources such as beans, eggs, tofu, and legumes for more expensive meat, fish, or poultry. Eat vegetarian once a week or more to increase your consumption of healthy plant foods while saving money.  Eggs are an excellent, inexpensive source of protein that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You could also try using a smaller portion of meat, fish, or poultry and extending the dish with whole grains, beans, eggs, and/or vegetables.
When you do buy meat, choose smaller portions of lean cuts. For example, lean cuts of beef are those that include the terms “loin” or “round.” (You can tenderize lean cuts of meat mechanically or by marinating it.) You can also buy a whole chicken and cut it up instead of paying the butcher to do it for you, or buy the cheaper “family pack” and portion it into airtight freezer bags.

6. Waste not, want not. Before you toss perishable food into your grocery cart, think about exactly how you’ll use it. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year. Using leftover vegetables, poultry, or meat in soups, stews, salads, and casseroles minimizes cost and demonstrates your creativity in the kitchen. For example, have a roasted chicken for dinner one night, and use the leftovers for dinner the next night. Try topping a bed of fresh greens with vegetables, fruits, and slices of leftover chicken. Add a loaf of whole-grain bread, and presto! You’ve got a nutritious meal in minutes. You can also eat leftovers for breakfast or take them with you for lunch.

7. Go generic. Consider buying store brands instead of pricier national brands. “All food manufacturers follow standards to provide safe food and beverage products of high quality,” says Earl. Many grocery companies buy national-brand products made to their specifications and simply put their own label on the products. Read the ingredient list on the label to be sure you’re getting the most for your money. Ingredients are listed in order by weight. So when you’re buying canned tomatoes, look for a product that lists tomatoes, not water, as the first ingredient. Also look for simpler versions of your favorite foods. For example, buy oatmeal or simple flaked or puffed cereals that contain fewer additives and are less expensive (and often healthier) than fancier cereals.

8. Buy prepackaged only if you need it. Unless you have a coupon or the item is on sale, buying prepackaged, sliced, or washed products comes with a higher price tag. Still, people living alone may find that smaller sizes of perishable products or bags of prepared produce eliminate waste and fit their needs best, despite the extra cost.  You can also save money (and boost nutrition) by passing up the aisles with processed foods, cookies, snack foods and soda.

9. Buy and cook in bulk. Joining a bulk shopping club, like Sam’s, Costco, or BJ’s, can be cost-effective if you frequent the club regularly. Bulk purchases can be a great way to save money — as long as they get used. You might also look in your community for shopping cooperatives that sell food in bulk at a substantial savings. Cooking in bulk can save both money and time, says Tallmadge. “Prepare food in bulk and freeze into family-sized portions, which saves time in the kitchen,” she suggests. For example, making a big batch of tomato sauce will less expensive (and probably tastier) than buying some.

10. Plant a garden. For benefits that go beyond cost savings, plant your own produce. There’s nothing better than a summer-fresh tomato from the garden. Tomatoes even grow well in containers if you don’t have space for a garden, and some neighborhoods offer community gardening spaces. Start small, and see how easy it is to grow fresh herbs or a few simple vegetables. And if you invest a little time in freezing or canning your harvest, you can enjoy summer’s bounty all year long.


March: Understand Recruitment Cycles to Give Your Job Search an Edge

When it comes to connecting with the right job opportunity, timing isn’t everything, but it’s certainly something. Tuning into industries’ and employers’ annual recruitment cycles just might give you a decisive edge.

That’s the consensus of recruiters and employers with fingers on the pulse of seasonal variations in hiring. Here’s a quarter-by-quarter summary of how these hiring dynamics play out.

First Quarter: A New Year’s Wave of Hiring

Sometimes peaks of hiring correspond with workplace factors that are only loosely related, like when people take vacation. “Hiring seems to be done by consensus more than any other decision,” says Scott Testa, chief operating officer of Mindbridge Software in Norristown, Pennsylvania. “So most hiring decisions have to be made when people are in the office.”

Major hiring initiatives may follow close on the heels of the holidays and summer. “The big months for hiring are January and February, and late September and October,” says Testa. “Job seekers who make contact right at the start of these cycles have the best chance of being hired.”

Strong hiring periods like the first quarter, when demand for talent may outweigh the supply of qualified candidates, may be a good time to go for a job with more responsibility or higher pay. “If you’re currently employed and looking to improve your status, you’ll want to look during the peak hiring season,” says Glenn Smith, president of search firm Precise Strategies in O’Fallon, Illinois.

Second Quarter: Gearing Up for Summer

For those whose livelihood depends substantially on fair weather, spring is when hiring peaks. In the construction industry, hiring in April, May and June proceeds at double the pace of December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).

Tourism and hospitality hiring is also very strong in the spring. And businesses looking to hire professional workers before fall often do so now, before key decision makers start rotating out for summer vacation.

Third Quarter: Recruiters Relax a Bit, and Vacation Plays a Role

Hiring slows down in July before picking up at the end of August. For those with nontraditional but impressive employment backgrounds, there’s an advantage to looking in relatively slow hiring months like July and December, says Smith.

For example, recruiters, less pressed for time than in peak months, may be willing to take a longer look at an experienced professional woman seeking to return to work after taking years off to care for children.

Fourth Quarter: A Rush, Then a Lull

The fourth quarter presents the most complex hiring dynamics of the year, with its mix of fall activity, holiday retail hiring, Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s slowdown, and end-of-year financial and budget maneuvering.

“Hiring managers and bank CEOs will typically try to reduce their operating profits by incurring search fees towards the end of each year, to avoid paying taxes,” says Josiah Whitman, an executive recruiter with Financial Placements of Lake Oswego, Oregon. His firm’s job orders are distributed this way: first quarter, 23 percent; second quarter, 21 percent; third quarter, 20 percent; fourth quarter, 36 percent.

Although December hiring is at low levels in many industries, recruiters are determined to fill the year’s remaining openings by December 31, and the supply of applicants dwindles as Christmas and the new year approach.

Major industries classified as information, financial services, and professional and business services, having hired heavily in the second quarter, see their lowest level of hiring in December, says JOLTS.

But December isn’t as slow as it used to be, say some observers. And applications tend to slow down during the holiday season more than openings do — tipping the balance in favor of those who do apply.

“It seems that business just keeps going through the holidays,” says John Challenger, CEO of outplacement and search firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas in Chicago. “There doesn’t seem to be the kind of letup that there used to be.”

So playing the recruitment peaks doesn’t mean waiting out the rest of the year. “You need to be out there looking for opportunities, not finding excuses to avoid looking,” says Tom Johnston, CEO of SearchPath International in Cleveland.

By John Rossheim, Monster Senior Contributing Writer