Dollar Stretcher: Natural holiday decor

Marco Eagle

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Cleaning your fireplace

If you have a fireplace, it's probably a centerpiece for your holiday decorations, and you probably want it to look its best. Here's an easy way to clean your grate, screen and tools: oven cleaner. Just spray it on and let it work for about half an hour. Wipe clean with paper towels or a clean cloth. It's easy.


Freezer basics

My brother is a butcher. He says that the trick to avoiding freezer-burned meat is to get all of the air out of the package before freezing it, and not leaving it in the freezer for more than six months. Whether using butcher paper or plastic wrap, suck all the air out of the package. He also suggests keeping the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.


Protecting your table

We recently purchased a dining room set. With the holidays approaching, I can't wait to have the family gathered around our new table, but I am worried about placing hot serving plates on the table. I priced table pads and they're expensive. My husband suggested that I use a couple of the solar car window shades. I cut them to shape, and they will work perfectly!


After grilling season

If you want your grill to be in good working order next spring, now is the time to spend a few minutes putting it to bed for the winter. I put a kettle of water in the grill and run it on high until the inside is steamy. After doing this, I'm able to get the grilling surface completely clean. Then I disconnect the propane tank, put it in the storage shed and hose off the outside of the grill. Some years, I give it a quick spray with black oven-rated paint. Then it goes into the garage until I cook my first steak of the spring.


My recycle network

Before I buy anything big, I ask my friends at work and church if they know of anyone looking to get rid of one. I wanted a student desk for my guestroom and asked around. Someone at work was willing to give it away. I know that I can use Freecycle, but sometimes it's more convenient to just pick it up at work. I also ask around any time I'm getting ready to part with something. We moved to a condo and couldn't take our firepit; a friend that I see every Sunday was glad to have it. That's what I call recycling.


Embracing a frugal lifestyle

Many of my friends post pictures of their new stuff like (cars, furniture, etc.) on Facebook, and while I'm happy for them, I've wondered what I should post since I pride myself on the things I don't buy. Therefore, I've been posting something different; I post pictures of the things that I don't buy and how much I didn't spend. In a few cases, I've even figured out how much that money would be worth by the time I retire and added that to the post. I've had a few comments that hurt, but most have encouraged me for living the lifestyle that I want even if it is different from others.


Fake bargains

Avoid falling for fake bargains. Be careful when you see a price tag showing a high original price and a comparatively low "sale" price. Those are designed to trigger a person's impulse to scoop up perceived bargains. The "original price" shown isn't necessarily true or accurate. There may be a bargain to be had, but there may not. And if the price coaxes you to buy something you don't need, there isn't any bargain at all. Do your homework before purchasing luxury items or items you hadn't thought of buying before seeing the sale.


Thoughtful low-cost gift idea

Here's a low-cost gift idea that's personalized. My sister is always posting pictures on her social media accounts. I've taken a group of them from the past year, printed them on high quality paper, and turned them into a collage. I'll use a frame that I salvaged from a thrift store and repainted. The result will be something that's a wonderful family reminder for just a couple of dollars and a few minutes of time.


Natural holiday decor

Each year when I decorate, I stop at a Christmas tree stand and ask for some of the limbs that they trim from the trees. Sometimes they just give them to me. Sometimes I need to buy them for a few dollars. I use some for a centerpiece for my table. Some go on our fireplace mantle and others on my buffet. I generally add some spray snow, a few colored balls and/or some lights. It always looks pretty and festive.


Preparing your home for winter

We order wood for the fire. My husband brings it all in and stacks it. We get out the warm blankets for the bed and the living room, so if we are chilled, we can snuggle up. The winter clothes come out and we dress in layers with hats, mittens and boots at the ready. We get the snow blower filled with gas and make sure it's in good working order and move the snow shovel to where it's needed. The insulated curtains are up and help to block out the drafts when the sun goes down. The chickens have an extra heavy layer of bedding to keep them warm, and the water is changed out daily. The roof rake is put together and ready for the snow. We make sure the window washer fluid in the car is full, and the ice scraper is in the car. I think we are ready for when the snow flies.

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