Homemaking stuff, Kitchen tips, Life hacks

Life Hacks #1

There are a lot of things I wish I would have figured out sooner that save time and money. Thankfully, the Benevolent Dictator is always one step ahead of me on things like that, but I’m a quick study and have learned a few things of my own along the way.  Today I have three life-enhancing things that I have found many people don’t know.

Before you replace it, call the manufacturer.

Irons, blow dryers, hand mixers, kitchen faucets, food processor parts and even paint are things that we have either gotten replaced brand new from the manufacturer (if we couldn’t wait) or gotten reimbursement for our purchase price (in other situations such as the paint).

In Home Depot last week, my husband encountered a woman in the store looking for a Moen faucet to replace the one she had that broke. He asked her if she had called Moen, and she didn’t understand why she would do that. Well, almost all Moen faucets have a lifetime warranty. It breaks, you call them, they send you a brand new express mail one free of charge. She had no idea and her faucet was functioning enough that she could wait the three days for the new one.

Oh, the same thing goes for Fitbits. They send you a new one no questions asked if yours break. My SIL had replaced 3 before we learned and told her to stop wasting her money.

Sometimes it’s smarter to buy used.

In our breakfast nook, there was a cute little round dinette table with a glass table and 4 chairs. It was probably time for a new look in there anyway, but to nudge me along into shopping for a table, our 8-year-old broke the glass.

After a couple of weeks of the occasional trudging into furniture stores as we passed them, I settled on a set at Kane’s Furniture and was all set to stop by there on Sunday to buy it and have it delivered to the house.  I need to make a relevant parenthetical detour:

I have something of a *thing* about withholding as many dollars as possible from the consumerist machine. One of the reasons I love online classified sites for everything from homeschool materials to exercise equipment is that each one of those purchases denies the state more sales taxes and the junk consumer good market more dollars. There is only so much one can do in the context of suburban life, but I do what I can, to my husband’s amusements.

So, I was all set to bite the bullet and replace the dining set when my husband was in bed surfing Craiglist, and on the feed popped up a nice looking dining set for $250. It was very similar to the one I was about to buy, so we texted the guy and asked to see it. He agreed and not only was it in excellent condition, but his table was solid wood and much sturdier than the table I was about to spend $599 for:

Excuse the paper towel. I’m shooting this out on the lunch break.

And look! Same chairs:


That was a coup.

Waffle irons are good for more than just waffles:

I really enjoy freshly made hashed brown but in order for me to get them to that perfect crispness, I have to cook them in small batches. For 7 people, that can take longer than I feel like spending on breakfast some mornings. On Saturday, our oldest daughter suggested that we try doing it this way, which wold yield two servings per batch. It worked!


These were very good.

Well, those are my three life hacks from the past week. I also planted several herbs in the holes of painted cinderblocks but until I yield something we can eat using that idea, it doesn’t qualify as worthy of passing on. We’ll see.

Feel free to share any tricks and tips you use that can make life easier.


Kitchen tips

Make your own brown sugar when you can.

Yesterday, we had a Game Day meal: wings, ribs, baked beans, chips and dips, and a salad thrown in for green measure. The best part about last night -for us at least- was the food. ‘Nough said on that score. Pun intended.

For dessert, I made this cake and it was pretty good. Since our daughter is gluten free, I used a gluten free flour for the cake, which means more liquid is absorbed by the flour than would be in a traditional wheat flour recipe. For the interested, this is my go to flour which works pretty good once you figure out how to compensate for its deficiencies. For example, where the recipe called for one and a quarter cups of flour, I decreased that to one cup using the gluten free mix.

The recipe also calls for 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar, which brings me to the point of this mini-post. Brown sugar is just white sugar, combined with molasses for the uninformed. The more molasses, the darker the brown sugar. Brown sugar infuses more moisture into baked goods because of the molasses.

Several years ago we were out of brown sugar and one of us took to the Internet to find a solution to our particular recipe dilemma. We had sugar, and we had molasses. Problem solved, and freshly homemade brown sugar offers more moisture than store bought brown sugar. Not to mention, no worries about trying to keep stored brown sugar from drying out.

Does this mean I never buy brown sugar? No, it doesn’t, but yesterday was a god reminder of how much better fresh brown sugar is, and it is very fast and easy to make:

For light brown sugar, add a couple of tablespoons of molasses to a cup of sugar and stir about 2 r three minutes. For dark brown sugar, add 1/4 cup of molasses to a cup of sugar and stir about 3 to 4 minutes. A mixer would probably be faster, but I usually just use a fork.

Happy baking!