As a child, you might have grown a sweet potato plant in a glass of water. The tuber's eyes grow slips, and the slips can be removed, rooted and planted outside. You can plant avocado pits, garlic, carrot tops or green onions, too. The first reader tip suggests yet another fun plant to grow at home.
Grown your own: Save a pineapple top and plant it in some potting soil, and watch it grow into a nice plant that will produce another pineapple, for free!
Easy recipe or gift: Beer bread! All you need are 3 cups of self-rising flour, sifted (a bag is around $3 or less and you can make several batches per bag); 4 tablespoons of sugar; and 1 bottle (12 ounces) of beer. Mix dry ingredients, add beer, divide into 2 greased loaf pans, and bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until golden brown. When you tap the top, you can feel a crisp crust. Brush butter (¼ cup) on top, if desired. These make great sandwiches, or just to go along with your meal as a filler.
This is also a super easy, inexpensive jar gift perfect to give to anyone, but guys really appreciate it! Just mix the flour/sugar and put in a jar, and all they need to do is add their liquid and bake.
Editor's note: Add 3 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt if you're not using self-rising flour. Also, if you're adding butter, consider using a drip pan in the oven.
To-do bag: We have been a one-vehicle family now for nearly nine years, so sometimes it feels like I spend a little too much time acting as a taxi service. A lot of times driving people around also involves a lot of waiting around waiting for my husband to come out of work, waiting for my daughter to come out of school, waiting for the doctor, dentist, orthodontist, etc. If you find that a lot of your time is sucked up with sitting in the car waiting, you can make that time productive by keeping a bag of work in the car. Fill it with things that can be done in short spurts, anywhere making menu plans, balancing your checkbook, cutting out coupons, knitting, going through the sales flyers, making shopping lists, writing out Christmas cards, etc. Then, whenever you find yourself stuck somewhere, pull it out and get something accomplished.
Here's an Easy Spice Cake: Combine 1 box of spice cake mix, 1 can (15 ounces) of pumpkin (I use pumpkin-pie filling) and 1 cup of applesauce into a large bowl and mix. Pour into a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 38-40 minutes or until done.
After cake has cooled, frost with 1 can of cream cheese icing. For those of you doing Weight Watchers, the cake cut into 12 pieces is 2 points without the icing; with icing it is 4 points. I prefer to make 24 cupcakes, that way I can have a 1 point snack on hand (without the icing).
• 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 email@example.com.