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 you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, ”Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”