From the category archives:

frugality

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Photo by aannnddddi

Well, kids, it’s Monday again, and that means one thing around these parts: lists! And on ABDPBT View definition in a new window Personal Finance, the tradition is becoming a list about crazy frugal websites and their uses for common household items. I’ve noticed quite a few cropping up lately about how to put onions to more use, so I thought I’d share. As always, if you have an onion use that you feel is underrepresented, please add it to the comments below.

  1. Use an onion to clean your grill. That’s your barbecue grill, incidentally: I don’t think that rubbing onion on your own grill will do much for your oral hygeine. From Lifehacker via Apartment Therapy, is this tip to use your onion as a grill cleaner. Start by heating your grill very hot to burn off all of the extra grit and grime. Then, when the grill is off but still warm, rub the grill with a half-onion to loosen any detritus left on the metal. Here’s my question, though: does Lifehacker write any of its own posts anymore? Or is it all just summaries of other people’s posts with links and attributions?
  2. Store your onion in old nylons and they will last for six months. If you take a (clean) stocking and put your onion in it, tying a knot after each onion so that it is isolated from the others, your onions will last much longer than otherwise. This apparently works best with yellow onions, but will also work with other types. Tip can be found on the packaging for onions at Trader Joe’s!

  3. Use goggles or hold a slice of bread in your mouth to avoid crying while cutting onions. This really never happens to me, anymore, but I do remember tearing up while slicing onions when I was younger. I wonder if wearing contacts has anything to do with it? Anyway, they now make goggles to combat tears while slicing onions, but my grandmother also showed me that if you put a piece of bread in your mouth–sticking out from your mouth at a 90 degree angle, it will absorb the onion fumes enough to keep you from crying.
  4. Clean off oniony smell from hands with dry salt. Lemon juice is optional. This is a tip from an old cookbook: if your hands smell of onion, you can use salt as an exfoliating scrub to remove the smell. If you want, you can mix in a little lemon juice as well. Then your hands will smell like a margarita instead of an onion, so you know, win-win.

  5. Clean off oniony smell from dishes with baking soda. From Tipnut, oniony smell from dishes by mixing in a teaspoon of baking soda to the dishwater.
  6. “May help remove a wart.” This cryptic claim comes to us from a user on clipmarks without any kind of explanation. Luckily, Lifehackery offers a little bit more explanation for this claim:

    Mix onion slices with crushed aspirin and a little water. Apply the solution to the wart. The onion’s chemical content and the aspirin’s active ingredients will gradually soothe the wart and make it subside. To maximize the solution’s effect, apply some to a piece of duct tape. Stick the tape on the wart. After several hours, the lesion will be nothing more than a distant memory.

    I don’t know. I think I’m going to go with Compound W if I ever actually get a wart. Duct tape and onion on a wart? This is a little too MacGyver for my tastes, personally. But whatever works.

  7. Soothe your insect bites. If you get stung by a bee or bitten by a mosquito this summer during your time in the Hamptons [cough], impress your friends by whipping out the cocktail onion from your martini and rubbing it on your arm! According to Lifehackery, rubbing a half-onion onto an insect bite will ease the pain because of anti-inflammatory properties in the onion’s enzymes.
  8. Soothe a burn. This is along the same lines as the above tip, citing the magical anti-inflammatory qualities of onion “enzymes.” I’m willing to try this one the next time I get a burn, though, since I’ve never been able to find anything that works to soothe a burn other than holding your hand under a faucet for an hour and a half, or that silver cream that you can only get in hospitals. Yes, I have an extensive burn history. Some day I’ll tell you about it.
  9. Insect repellent. Apparently, insects don’t like onions. Which is interesting, because neither do humans–you know, when it’s rubbed all over your body. I think I’m going to stick with DEET.
  10. Remove the odor of paint. Another delightfully vague and mysterious tip from the bowels of the interwebs View definition in a new window. What paint? Why is paint such a problem? Why would you want to replace the smell with onion? This tip raises more questions than it answers.
  11. To polish brass and other metals. Mix several crushed onion slices with water and apply to a dull metal object. Lifehackery admits that “the results may not come as quickly as commercial polishers,” but insists that this “onion-based polish is good enough to be a worthy substitute.” Right. Until you use it on your grandmother’s silverware, and she comes over to dinner and wants to know why the silverware smells like it’s already been used.

  12. Acne treatment. This one is rich: those magical onion enzymes are also effective for “removing acne,” simply mix crushed onion slices with water and apply this mixture to your face. If your face is made of metal, it should also give you a nice polish. Perhaps a pair of goggles would be a good idea in this case, since I don’t think that a slice of bread is going to do you much good. Hey, you know what else works on acne? Acutane.

14 Crazy Alternative Uses For Coffee

by anna on May 25, 2009

[singlepic=51,560,560,,center]Photo by emolawn

For this week’s Monday list post, I’ve once again culled the interwebs View definition in a new window to collect crazy repurposing tips for common household products. Somebody, somewhere, must like these tip lists as much as I do–I know it, because there’s a bazillion of them everywhere. Now, I should note that I’ve not used most of these tips myself, except for the first one, which I highly recommend. But the rest? Who knows. Where appropriate, I’ve included objections that people might have to the uses, as well as a little commentary for your amusement. If you have any alternative uses for coffee that I’ve missed, please do add your ideas to the comment section. Enjoy!

  1. To eliminate objectionable odors.
    I use a mesh bag filled with whole coffee beans to destankify the diaper pail, but you can use whole coffee beans almost anywhere that you want to eliminate dank odors. Throw a few beans in stinky shoes, or in a gym bag, or in the bottom of your regular trash can. The beans will make the room smell like Starbucks for about a week, but after that they just absorb the smell. Listen, if it works for drug-sniffing dogs, then you know it will work for diaper stank. Other sites I’ve perused have suggested using coffee grounds to keep refrigerator odors under control. The idea is to put grounds in a pair of old nylons (does anyone wear these anymore?) or a sock for this purpose. I would probably use baking soda before coffee, personally, but if odors in your refrigerator are a big enough problem to require coffee to cure, you might want to look into a different place to keep your diaper pail. Because: 1) what else could be producing that bad of a smell, assuming there are no dead bodies in your refrigerator; and 2) do you want to eat something that smells like this?
  2. To scrub your dishes.
    Word has it that old coffee grounds can be used to scrub hard-to-clean dishes. Via Lifehacker, you can pack the grounds into a piece of square cloth and gather the ends with a rubber band to make a little scrubbing bag. Apparently the coarse texture is perfect for creating enough friction to get your pots and pans clean. And if that doesn’t work, you can always soak the pan with a dryer sheet. Or throw the pan out.
  3. To remove food smells from your hands and/or to soften your hands.
    If you are cooking and have garlicky hands, rub coffee grounds on your hands to eliminate the smell. Using the grounds as a scrub for your hands will soften them as well. Of course, then your hands will smell like coffee, so I guess it’s just a question of which smell is more objectionable to you.

  4. To repel garden pests.
    If you put some coffee grounds in with your plants, garden pests will stay away. Though many people suggested this idea on many different sites, several people also objected because the coffee grounds might be toxic to animals that go in the garden. I don’t really see a cat or a dog eating dirt mixed with coffee grounds, but then I didn’t realize until too late that cat shit is considered to be a delicacy on Planet Golden Retriever, either, so what do I know? Another side effect of putting coffee grounds on your plants that isn’t so widely discussed is the possibility of your plants wanting to wear horn-rimmed glasses, and starting to stay up late discussing Kierkegaard and smoking cigarettes with unemployed philosophy majors.

  5. To increase carrot and radish harvest.
    Mixing carrot and radish seeds with dry coffee grounds before planting them encourages their growth. Why? I don’t really know. But apparently, the coffee can offer protection against pests and animals while they are growing, and because carrot seeds are very fine, they are more likely to stay where they are planted if they are mixed in with coffee.
  6. As a flea rinse.
    According to Natural Home Magazine, you can dilute coffee grounds and use them as a flea-repelling rinse for your dogs. The instructions are to rub the grounds through the dog’s fur and brush to distribute. The advantage of this over using Frontline? I guess it’s theoretically less toxic–but as people point out, dogs can get very sick from coffee, so this seems like a bad idea to me. I’m sure it’s not good for them to ingest Frontline, either, but at least Frontline won’t turn their fur a grainy brownish consistency.
  7. As a facial mask.
    Caffeine is useful for reducing puffiness, so if you add an egg white to 1/4 C of coffee grounds, you can make a homemade, anti-puffiness facial mask. There are no instructions for how long to leave on said mask, but I’d say not more than 15 minutes, unless you want to smell like a greasy spoon diner.
  8. As an exfoliating, anti-cellulite treatment.
    Using old coffee grounds as an exfoliating scrub can slough away dead skin cells and break up cellulite pockets under the skin. Mix some coffee grounds up with body lotion, and rub it into the backs of your thighs and anywhere else you find cellulite. The caffeine will increase blood flow on the affected areas, as well as increasing circulation and reducing the appearance of cellulite immediately underneath the skin. It is recommended that you leave the mixture on for a half hour, and then drink a lot of water afterwards.
  9. Coffee flavored ice cubes.
    Using coffee grounds to make coffee-flavored ice cubes for iced coffee in the summer is advised by a commenter at Lifehacker. The benefit is that then you can have cold iced coffee that doesn’t get watered down.

  10. Removing Sharpie marks form dry-erase boards.Yes, this happens all the time. You know, when you’re using a permanent marker on a dry-erase board, because 1) I’m always around dry-erase boards, and 2) I’m always falling prey to pranksters who leave the permanent markers where I’m sure to use them on white boards. And how useful of an idea it is to rub something dark and black all over a smooth white surface in order to “clean” it? Super useful.
  11. To Stop The Bleeding.
    Here’s another gem from the Lifehacker comments: “Coffee grounds are a natural anticoagulant and can be used in an emergency to stop bleeding.” Right, I won’t dwell on the many alarming questions this comment raises (What bleeding? Do you live in an action movie?), but just remind you that “anti-coagulant” means to stop blood clotting, not to start it. So what coffee would be useful for is to thin the blood in the event View definition in a new window of a potentially fatal blood clot. That is, it would be useful if you could put coffee on the blood clot, which you wouldn’t be able to do. Either way, somebody track that IP address, please.

  12. As fertilizer.Coffee grounds not only repel garden pests, they also serve as good lawn fertilizer. Apparently, the nitrogen-phosphate-potash ration in coffee grounds is similar to that found in commercial fertilizers, and it is free. If you don’t have coffee grounds (or enough coffee grounds) to use as fertilizer, you can get them for free from your local Starbucks, by the way.
  13. Composting and Worm Harvesting.
    You can learn how to compost with coffee grounds here. If you are trying to harvest worms for fishing or for making better soil, you can throw in old coffee grounds for them to eat.
  14. To stain wood and/or cover up scratches on furniture.
    You can use coffee grounds to stain wood, adding more or less water to make it lighter or darker. On a related note, coffee will work as an all-natural dye for scratches on furniture: Just rub wet coffee grounds across the scratch.

Grocery Shopping and The iPhone

by anna on May 22, 2009

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Photo by 3lo0o

Here’s a question from a reader (and also a former member of my high school basketball team–well, before I quit because the coach threw a ball at my head after I corrected his grammar in front of the team, again. And also because I kind of sucked):

I have been looking for an app on the iPhone that will track the price of different items at different stores, so that if you find something on sale you can look up how much it costs normally and see if it’s a deal (including cost per ounce, etc., so I can compare to Costco sizes). Have you found anything like this on the iPhone? I downloaded this “Shopper” one but I don’t think it’s quite what I’m looking for… more about making shopping lists than comparing prices, as far as I can tell. I figured if anyone would know this, it would be you. thanks! -akd

I do remember reading about a Google App that makes its product search function compatible with the iPhone and the Google phone. This allows you to look up online prices for many items while you’re shopping. You can learn more about it here, but that won’t be useful for groceries. Amazon has a similar product called Amazon for Mobile, but again, this is going to be useful on things like electronics, etc., rather than groceries.

I was not able to find any kind of app that updates grocery prices automatically–like something that knows what things cost at specific stores at certain times. That would be awesome, and they have the technology to do it with GPS, but I don’t believe it exists (yet). So, programmers? Get on that. There are many comparison apps that allow you to input prices for items at different stores; for example, Groceries is an application that seems to be a little bit more functional than the one I have (Shopper). Though you still have to input the prices yourself, you can arrange it according to store or aisle without a bunch of clicking around. It aparently also already knows a lot more groceries (by brand name) than Shopper, which was an issue for me because I kept having to customize the shopping lists. You can make different lists for each supermarket or shopping trip. It does not have a function to figure out prices-per-ounce, but you could always use another app like Compare It to do this. Or the calculator function, I suppose.

Here’s the thing: I did not find shopping with an iPhone to be very convenient, personally. I should add that I have not used the Groceries app, and it does sound faster and more functional than Shopper. This could make a big difference. But the last time I tried to comparison shop with my iPhone, I found myself standing in the aisle, tapping on the screen eighty-five million times, trying to figure out if things were well priced, etc. It felt like I was always in somebody’s way. The iPhone does allow me to always have my list with me, which is a real time saver for me because I’m always forgetting lists at home. But overall, I guess I’m making the (dubious) claim that my brain is the more accessible and user-friendly computer for the purpose of tracking grocery prices, even if it’s not always exactly right to the penny. So until my mind finally goes, I’ll probably not use the iPhone for price comparisons.

Anyone disagree with me or have better tips for using the iPhone for shopping and/or price comparisons?

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