Food containers can make great little organizers. For example, Velveeta boxes are sturdy and just the right size to use for a variety of solutions. They’re wonderful to hold small items such as tea bags, pens, batteries, Scotch tape and scissors.
The first reader tip shares how she reuses a Velveeta box.
Velveeta boxes: I wrapped some of the boxes with contact paper and use them as utensil organizers in my kitchen drawer. Four boxes fit perfectly, and now I have more room to stack all of my spoons, knives and forks. — Lisa F., Florida
Shoe organization: I took an old bookcase and painted it, and now use it in the entryway to hold shoes and baskets of hats and gloves. We all have our own shelf and it’s better than having all the shoes and gloves spilling out of the closet — or worse, just kicked off in the entryway. In the winter, I put a boot mat down, too. — Linda, New York
Food combinations: I have a couple of recipe tips that I can’t believe I didn’t know until now. The first one is for red beans and rice, which I’ve been eating since I could eat. I recently discovered that putting just a bit of cinnamon in the dried beans as they cook makes a world of difference. The other tip is for chili — again, I think I’ve cooked a thousand pots of chili in my life. I recently discovered an added tablespoon or so of Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa makes it wonderful! It’s just a delicious and rich flavor. — Sue, Texas
Colorful jack-o’-lanterns: Instead of using candles inside our carved pumpkins, we use glow sticks.
The larger ones work best, but any size will work. They glow in awesome neon colors and I don’t worry about them being blown out by the wind, plus my kids can enjoy the glow sticks for a while after Halloween. — Michelle D., Illinois
Easy pumpkin cookies: These are my favorite fall cookies!
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 2 teaspoons of milk
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1 12-ounce bag of chocolate chips
• Preheat oven to 375. Mix pumpkin, sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, and milk mixture and set aside. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt; after sifting, combine with pumpkin mixture. Add chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Makes seven dozen (many more if you make them smaller than I do). — Amy, Ohio
Pallet garden: I used an old pallet to make a vertical garden. I stapled landscape fabric on the sides and back, and left the top open. Then I placed the pallet on the ground on its back and I planted my plants starting with the top first. Finally, I filled with plants and soil in the openings between the slats. — Gail W., Florida
Pumpkin-shaped snack: For my son in kindergarten, I made chocolate-covered pretzels in the shape of pumpkins for him to take to his class party. Use mini twist pretzels and orange Wilton candy melts (mix red with yellow if you can’t find orange, or Wilton also sells gel colors to add to candy melts or chocolate). Melt the candy wafers or chocolate according to package directions. Dip pretzels into the melted candy or chocolate and place them on wax paper. Either add a green M&M on the top to form a stem or add a Tootsie Roll. Tada! Little pretzel pumpkins. — Alissa J., Wisconsin
Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (www.frugalvillage.com), a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.