Planting a backyard vegetable garden is a terrific idea, but it can be a pricey — and time-consuming.
Today's first reader has a great tip: Let the master gardeners foot the bill and do all the work while you have a laid-back summer. Then show up to get in on the harvest. It's all perfectly legal, and quite ethical, too.
CHEAPER THAN A GARDEN
I used to attempt to grow my own vegetables, but I never enjoyed it. And it can be very expensive. Here's what works for me: I pick my own produce at a local farm for steep discounts on bulk fruits and vegetables. A few weeks ago, I picked 10 pounds of green beans at 95 cents per pound (total $9.50) and 40 pounds of beets at 35 cents per pound (total $14). I canned all of it, giving me 12 jars of fresh green beans and 21 jars of beets. I do this all spring and summer with everything from peaches, apples and berries to green beans and beets, and I end up with plenty to last through fall and winter. — Johnette
When a friend spilled cooking grease on her carpet, she tried everything to remove it. What finally worked was foam-type shaving cream. She spread it on over the grease stain and let it dry overnight. In the morning, she vacuumed it up and the grease stain was gone. I tried it myself and used a hair dryer to speed the drying process. — Jean
BASKETS OF NAPKINS
I like cloth napkins. We recently hosted a party, and I needed more napkins than I had. I purchased inexpensive mismatched cloth napkins at a thrift store. Then I rolled them and arranged them in baskets. They looked like colorful bouquets and were wonderfully festive! — Sue
FLOOR MAT RENEW
I found that the rubber backing was coming off of my floor rugs, so I applied caulking to them and let it dry. Suddenly, the nonslip backing was as good as new, and I had a great new tool. Next, I tried the caulking on the ends of my clothes hangers to keep my tops from sliding off, and that worked, too! — Bernice
SMART PACKING MATERIAL
I never use Styrofoam peanuts when packing an item for shipping or storing. Instead, I save our shredded junk mail and old files. When I need to ship items, I put the shredded paper in a plastic bag, which will conform to whatever shape I need. Then, the recipient doesn't have a mess on his or her hands with loose packing material when she opens the box. — Retha
TINY, MIGHTY CLEANING BRUSHES
I've found that used mascara wands are great for cleaning in tight places. I rinse the mascara from them thoroughly and use them to clean my sewing machine, little grooves on plastic container lids and other crevices around the house. Once I started using these little wands, I found all sorts of handy uses. — Susie
I have two small boys who love toy cars and marbles. These things inevitably end up under the couch, so I put a pool noodle under the couch. It sits under the skirt, so it isn't visible, but it buffers the perimeter so that toys don't get lost underneath the furniture anymore. — Paige
Ants like to gather around my cat, Spanky's, food bowl. I don't want to use bug sprays around his food, so I cut a cucumber into slices and put them around his bowl. Ants hate cucumbers, so it's a natural repellant, and it won't harm my kitty. As an added precaution, sometimes I place his small food dish inside a larger bowl and fill the larger bowl partway with water, creating a moat around his food. If ants try to get his food, they drown instead. — Rhonda
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.