Amy Clark

The Dollar Stretcher Tips 09.27.2007

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Post Hospital Help
I recently broke my foot. Since I live alone, many people I know offered me home cooked food, which was very thoughtful and appreciated. Since I was overwhelmed with food, the idea occurred to me that a gift of first aid items that I needed would have been nice. Since I had pins put in my foot, I had to buy various items. To be quite honest, these items really cost a lot of money. So, in the future, if anyone I know is down on their luck, I will ask if they need supplies instead of food.Cara

Menu Coordination
I’m sure everyone has heard of doing a weekly menu, but I do a monthly one. The last week of each month, I get the school calendar and game schedules and pencil in those nights, including any meetings I’m aware of. I keep a list of freezer contents on the refrigerator (add to list as I put them in the freezer). Then I make the menu. On nights we have games and won’t get home until 8:30pm, it’s a simple meal like tacos or grilled cheese. Other nights it’s meat, potatoes, fruit and vegetables. I let the kids pick out a couple dinner ideas and add them to the menu. I have teenagers so they’re asked to pick one night a month to fix dinner (with my supervision). This has saved me a lot of money! I buy items on sale ahead of time. I get food out to thaw the night before instead of running to the store to pick up dinner items. And this saves me from fast food!Kendra A.

Grocery Totes
I purchased four cheap plastic/canvas type tote bags on clearance (less than $5 each) to use and reuse for grocery shopping. They’re stronger than the plastic bags you get at the store, hold more, and are easier to carry into the house.Patty S. in Norristown, PA

Easy Winter Preparations
I measured our windows and bought enough polar fleece at the fabric store (at 50% off) for all of our windows. I pieces about 2-4″ wider than each window. Polar fleece doesn’t fray or ravel so it needs no sewing. I cut slits in the top and bottom of the fleece to work like belt loops.
I found spring-tension rods at the dollar store. Then I ran the tension rods through these slits. The tension rods fit snuggly inside the window frames. There are two rods for each window with one at the top and one at the bottom. If we need to look outside, the fleece can slide side to side a little, or we can loosen the bottom tension rod so we can lift the fleece. For a kids’ room, fleece with characters or a sports theme may be nice. We don’t have kids, so I chose white for a uniform look from the outside. This immediately reduced window drafts. An excellent option for people who are not very craft- oriented.Gabby in Columbus, Ohio

‘Child Proof’ Solution
I use over-the-counter medicines. My disabilities make it hard to see the arrows on the childproof caps and bottles that need to be lined up before they open. I color them with red permanent marker. Now opening those bottles is a breeze.MR

Deadly Sweetness
Pour sugar on plants that you want to kill. Sugar gets microbes into high gear; that is why teeth rot from sugars. The sugar actually improves the health of your soil long term, but it will cause so much microbe action that the plant/root will overload and die. This is a great way to kill off stubborn thickets or vines, which you keep trimming back.W.

Tasty Rolls
To warm bread or rolls from the refrigerator, put them in the microwave next to a cup of water. This makes them come out fresh, moist and warm.JF

Ground Meat Stretcher
The easiest and cheapest way to stretch ground meat is to add fresh bean sprouts to the raw meat and brown it with the meat. The veggies will pick up the flavor of the meat from the meat juices, and once it is browned, you cannot tell which bite started out as meat and which was veggie sprouts. This works very well for strongly flavored foods like chili, taco meat, etc. I have often stretched two ground beef patties to enough to feed four to six adults this way. And it is lower calorie, higher fiber, etc.
I have used this for bulk sausage, ground beef and ground turkey and see no reason why it would not work with venison or chicken as well.Debbie

Luscious Lips!
The easiest and tastiest lip mask I’ve ever tried is plain honey straight on the lips! A thin layer will do, and it will work miracles if you can resist licking it off before it can work its magic. Make sure your lips are clean. It’s great if used daily for about three days to a week. You can leave it on as long as you’d like, and I like to put it on right before bed and let it sink in all night. My lips are so sweet in the morning!
Honey is bacteria-resistant and has a generally emollient effect. Because it’s such a great skin softener, it can be used on the face and neck as a simple moisturizing mask.Grace H.

Removing Pet Urine Smells
I had a tenant that had an older cat that sprayed and urinated behind their entertainment center. After trying just about everything, I decided to cut out the sub-floor. I had already pulled back the carpet and padding (it was time to replace the carpet anyway) when a neighbor stopped by and suggested I try vanilla flavoring. All I had was pure vanilla extract, so I poured it on. It killed the smell that was emanating from the plywood.Michael E.

Controlling ‘Cling’ Wrap
Plastic wrap or cling wrap often gets wasted as it tears apart or sticks together. A simple solution that I found is to keep it in the freezer. It pulls apart easily with no more wasted wrap.Angie

Spot Free Dishes
Instead of buying expensive spot eliminators for the dishwasher (i.e. Jet Dry), fill the reservoir with plain white household vinegar. It works just as well and it is much cheaper. It’s probably better for the environment as well.Lorre J. in Phoenix, AZ

Easy Dusting
I keep an old paintbrush with my cleaning supplies. Whenever I have to dust the bookshelves, I spray it with Endust and brush the dust away. It’s also made dusting a favorite job for my two kids.Iris S.

Need Extra Freezer Space?
I have a small apartment refrigerator with a freezer above. I have found that I double my freezer space simply by taking the frozen contents out of the boxes that they are purchased in. Most frozen items are sealed in plastic inside a box or other container. I simply cut out the instructions for cooking and tape to the plastic. This works really well for pizzas or boil-in-bag vegetables. Now I take advantage of sales on frozen items and stock up with no worry about freezer space. If you’re concerned about the sell by date, then just cut the date out as well and tape it to the item.Charyl S.

‘Gentle’ Dishwashing
When my son was an infant, we had received a little basket to use on the top rack of the dishwasher to hold the bottle nipples and bottle rings. That came in handy then, and when he was a toddler, I used it for sippy cup parts. Now six years later, I’m still using it, but I’m using it for the little plastic containers and such. We don’t use the heated dry on our dishwasher, so I can even toss in the cream cheese container to wash and re-use for storing single servings after dinner.Jen B.

Last Year’s Backpack
My 5- and 8-year-old boys share a room so storage is an issue. I almost th
rew out their backpacks from last year because they were a little ratty, but instead, I washed them and use them to keep things in under the beds.Cindy B.

Funding Next Year’s Garden
I love to vegetable garden. I always have more than I can use. I take my produce into the office and have a “Take Some and Leave a Quarter” cup next to them. I use this to buy my plants for next year. They get fresh produce, and I haven’t had to pay for new plants in three years! I even take requests.Christian F. in Olathe, KS

Delightful Souvenirs
We travel several times a year. We like to go to a local “antique/junk” shop and browse for a souvenir. There are always local items available that delight us. We have a framed painted feather with the Tuzigoot parrot symbol from AZ, a pair of a child’s Chinese slippers, a enormous skeleton door key from England, and a myriad of other souvenirs. Each time I see one of these items displayed in my house, I think of the place we visited and the money I saved that I can use toward the next trip!Lyn

Used Auto Auctions
We just bought a used van at an auto auction. We took our time and shopped at the auction over a six month time period until we found what met our needs and what constituted a good deal. When we took possession of our recently purchased van (a bank repo that we got for 50% of retail), the engine light was on. We weren’t worried because we did all of the checks. The engine sounds wonderfully quiet. When I took the van to the auto repair shop, they wanted $78 to scan and tell us what the engine light code meant!
Being a do-it-yourselfer, I went home and researched what was needed to do the scan. Just imagine when I found out that I could buy the software and cable hook-up that scans the van for a mere $120. That’s less than having to diagnose two engine lights! We may also let our friends and neighbors know that we will provide this service for a small fee! Our scanner will pay for itself in no time! So, shop and research to make sure that you know what you are getting and what you are paying for! By the way, the scan showed that it was time for an oil change.D. B. in Manitoba, Canada

Brown Sugar
Brown sugar never gets lumpy in my house. I always have it available and I never have to pay the extra price to purchase it either. Instead, I put together just the right amount of brown sugar when I have a recipe that calls for it. I always have granulated sugar and molasses on hand. When I have a recipe that calls for brown sugar, I first measure the granulated sugar for the exact amount the recipes calls for and then pour in a drop or two of the molasses at a time (it only takes a little) and work it in until I get just the right color.Cheryl C. in Midlothian, VA

Keeping Veggies
I have at least doubled the life of my fresh veggies by first washing them, then wrapping them in a paper towel and wetting the paper prior to putting them in the crisper. If you keep the paper towel damp your lettuce and other veggies will last two to three times as long!Jim O. in New Westminster BC

Visit the Country
I live in the suburbs of a large metropolitan area. My sister lives in a rural area, just 10 minutes from my house. My pet recently needed veterinarian care and she suggested her rural vet. I called around and I saved $150 by using her vet over the one down the street. This was well worth the trip! Apparently he makes most of his money on livestock, not household pets.Teresa E.

Frugally Famous
It’s easy to go over the food budget when you’re frequently asked to bring a dish to family, work, church and social events. So become “famous” for something inexpensive. I’m “famous” for my hard rolls. I purchase the yeast at discount pricing and flour on sale. The rolls are five inches in diameter and four inches high with an egg wash glaze. They are tasty and delicious, and even if I include the cost of gas for the oven, 16 cost about 40 cents. Even if I make honey butter to go with them, I spend less than a dollar for my specialty. Never become famous for something like cheesecake. It can destroy the food budget quickly.Mary Ann

Stinky Clothes?
While working in the theater wardrobe department, I learned that Vodka will eliminate odors. Just put in a spray bottle and spray. It evaporates leaving no stains or odors. It not only saves on cleaning bills, but will help conserve your clothing.Susan G.

Before You Begin Christmas Shopping
This would be the time to send out letters to family and friends to finally stop exchanging Christmas gifts. Most people have more than they need, and extra shopping just ends up causing stress. Last year, I received a card that read “a donation has been made in all the names of the people of my Christmas list and sheep have been purchased for an underprivileged village” in a 3rd world country. I was very touched to receive such a gift!WB

Running Tally
I arm myself with a small calculator when I shop for groceries. It’s a snap to keep a running tally of my purchases so I never go over budget. It also reminds me to buy according to needs not wants because I can see immediately what a dent the wants make in my spending.M.

The Code Readers
We had a friend pass along this tip to us that has saved us a ton of money at the car repair shop. Most auto parts stores will hook their reader up to your car when your check engine (or any other light) comes on and tell you exactly what the error message is and what it means. They don’t charge for this service. Recently this happened with one of our cars. We found out that my husband hadn’t screwed the gas cap on all way. We tightened the cap, the auto part store employee reset the light, and it has never come on again. It saved us the time and trouble of taking the car into a repair shop, especially since we have to drive 60 miles to the nearest car dealer.Stacey S. in Muncie, IN

Part-Time Teacher
If you enjoy teaching and have a special skill or hobby that others might enjoy, check with your local community or junior college about their non-credit or adult education classes. Our community college is always looking for new ideas for classes and the instructors to teach them. I have taught several classes on both professional, work-related topics and leisure or travel-related topics. After my class proposal has been accepted, I work with their class coordinator to determine the night(s) and times and we schedule the class. It is printed in their booklet and online, so they take care of the marketing for me. I can either ask them to order a book for the students or I can prepare my own materials. I am paid a flat fee for teaching based on the contact hours. It’s a fun way to earn some extra money, meet new people and, on occasion, create a new business contact.Tina B.

To prevent clothes from wrinkling, place a sheet of tissue paper on the garment and then fold as you normally do. This keeps them from wrinkling both in a drawer or in a suitcase.Eileen K. in Philadelphia, PA

Textbook Savings
The prices for textbooks today are ridiculous. Often, the professors don’t like it either, but don’t have much choice in their assignments. I’ve learned to ask my professors at the beginning of every semester if the previous edition of a text is acceptable for class. When it is, it can mean big savings. The Chemistry book, 10th edition, for my course was $180. The professor said the 9th edition was fine, and I was able to purchase it from (used books online) for $13.
I’ve also ordered international editions of texts. Even with shipping, it was much cheaper to get the international edition of my anatomy text from India. Just remember to allow for s
hipping time. Email your professor before the semester starts if possible. Also check reviews if you’re buying an international edition to make sure it’s the same content.Renee

Published September 27, 2007 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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