Dollar Stretcher: Love mashed potatoes?

Marco Eagle

Want to live better on the money you already make? Visit to find hundreds of articles to help you stretch your day and your dollar.

Mashed potatoes

Love mashed potatoes?

If you love real mashed potatoes, those flakes just don't cut it, but it takes time to make the real thing. I've found that I can make a big batch at once and freeze portions that are perfect for me and my wife. I take the frozen potatoes and pop them in the microwave, and they taste like I just made them.


Second life: Water heater

My water heater quit working. It wasn't leaking, but it also wasn't putting out hot water. Being electric, I knew there was a heating element. I read an article on how to replace it. It only took one wrench and a trip to the plumbing supply place. For $22, I saved the cost of a new water heater and a plumber to install it.


Quick, easy lunch

Oatmeal makes a great, cheap lunch. I have a large old mug with a lid on it. The night before I put some oatmeal and milk into the mug. Then it goes into the refrigerator. In the morning, I take the mug and some fruit (often a banana) to work. We have a microwave that we can use. It only takes a few minutes, and it costs just pennies.


Spring patio prep

It's snowy now, but I look forward to spring. To help get me in the mood, I'm going to get my patio furniture ready. I've already lightly sanded the wrought iron frames to the chairs and table. Next I'll spray it with a black anti-rust paint. Then I'm going to shop for some new cushions. It'll be just like having a new patio set when spring finally arrives.


More appliance saving

If you need an appliance, spread the word to your friends. My husband's co-worker was moving his grandmother to a retirement home where laundry was provided for clients, so she downsized her furniture and didn't need any appliances. He offered her washing machine to us for $50. He helped my husband haul it out of her basement. It was dirty inside from soap buildup, but after running an empty wash of vinegar and bleach, it was very clean. My friends are complaining that the new agitator-free washers are terrible, leaving clothes dirty, so we'll be keeping our bargain as long as it runs.


Save the garden

Having a large home and surrounding yard with gardens, I've found there are always things to do no matter the time of the year. Since it's easy to get distracted and forget to follow through with a chore, I have learned to keep items listed in a journal by month. By doing this, I can check to see what needs to be done (for example, check snow blower in October) to be ahead of the game. Also, I can add items in my journal as needed. This has been a real time-saver and stress-reducer.

Joni S.

Save the chair

We have an easy chair that my husband loves, but the cushion was worn and dirty. We shopped for a replacement but didn't find anything that he liked and could afford. I decided to see if I could clean the upholstery. It took a little work, but I did it. Next I bought some high density foam and cut a piece to replace the foam in the cushion. For just a couple of dollars, we have an almost new chair that my husband loves.


Family time

Do you have a tough time getting your kids to put down their phones and iPads? I discovered a cure: my kids (early teens) help me cook dinner. Since they can't peel potatoes and play with their phones at the same time, we get to talk. I find out about their day and tell them about mine. I think they looked at it as a chore at first, but now they seem to enjoy our time together. It wasn't really what I had in mind (I just wanted some help getting dinner ready), but I'm glad it turned out this way.

Caroline L.

Storing frozen foods

I love using my freezer, but I hate it when food comes out with freezer burn. Therefore, I researched how to store frozen foods and how long they can stay in the freezer. I've found that the main thing is to wrap items with the least amount of air possible because any air will create ice crystals. I also found that I shouldn't keep food in my freezer for more than three months if it's a frost-free freezer. If it's a deep freeze, I can store properly packed items for up to a year.


Aid to selling used items

When listing an item for sale on Craigslist and Facebook yard sale sites, I search online first to get an idea of a price range for the item. From doing this, I have learned it's also helpful to see what words are used to describe items that photos don't reveal, such as no dents or scratches and other disclosures or alerts like smoke-free or from a home with a dog or cat. When I couldn't pin down a style of a decorative hand-painting, folk art turned up as a useful descriptive. It has also been helpful to see what others say when stating their terms outright, such as cash only, pick up only, and first come, first served. A lot of this (and sometimes re-stating the terms and alerts in messages) saves time by helping to eliminate extra communications back and forth.

Lorraine in NH

More:Dollar Stretcher: Why we grow beans

More:Dollar Stretcher: The dining out do over

Do you have a tip that you’d like to share? Just send your suggestion to