Make potato patties from leftover mashed potatoes. Simply add an egg to 2 cups mashed potatoes, form into patties and fry in a pan with a little oil. You can add meat, seasoned bread crumbs, cheese or onion for extra flavor. The first reader tip shares another way to use up leftover mashed potatoes.
Use for leftover mashed potatoes: We use leftover mashed potatoes to make potato soup. Simply thin it down with milk or water until it is the consistency you want, bring to a gentle boil and then top with bacon, cheese, chives and sour cream. An absolute favorite in our house. If you don't have quite enough, add a can of creamed corn to stretch the recipe.
Shake to make: With using mason jars as drinking glasses, you can also create iced tea (from a mix) right in them. Put the powder in and then add the water, put the lid on and shake. I love how convenient this is. I use jars from spaghetti sauce this way, too.
Reuse a cereal box: You can cut apart cereal boxes and make templates for measuring quilting pieces or make stars, bells, etc., and cover them with foil for Christmas decorations. The lightweight pasteboard is useful for many crafts.
Reuse paper towel tubes: I store my shoes on a shoe rack on the closet wall. I noticed that the U-shaped wire made indentations on the leather of the shoes. I now stuff TP cardboard rolls into my shoes first, THEN slide the tube onto the U-shaped wire support. It keeps the shoe from resting against the wire of the rack. I adjust the length of the tube to suit the shoe; sandals get a paper-towel tube.
Sandra N., e-mail
I use the tubes from paper towels, the few I get, to roll linens in so they don't crease and wrinkle. Works well for me.
Re-create: It can be hard to see the potential in thrift-store or recycled items, so I like to approach the problem from the other direction. I browse the high-end stores to find ideas that I like, then search for ways to re-create them. A $200 feather trimmed chenille throw was re-created with a $20 Target chenille throw and $40 of feather trim from my local upholstery shop. Granted, it's still a major splurge. But when company is over, it makes my beat-up, cracked leather love seat look lux.
W. Herdman, e-mail
Another man's trash: I remember my neighbors looking at me oddly when I picked two sets of draperies out of their garbage can. (I had their permission, of course). I didn't see old draperies. I saw new bags for groceries. It took me an enjoyable afternoon to make the totes and have been using them for two years now. They are sturdy and wash beautifully. My neighbors' trash is my treasure, funny though they still think it's trash. What will it take for people to understand that we can be better stewards of our money, our environment and our time?
Sara Noel owns Frugal Village (frugalvillage.com), a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. Send tips, comments or questions to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or firstname.lastname@example.org.