Dedicate one day a week to using up any leftovers from meals. Get into the habit of labeling, dating and freezing leftovers for later use, too. A simple weekly or monthly meal plan will help you stick to buying what you need and using what you already have. Borrow books or visit websites such as ZipList.com, RecipeMatcher.com, CookingByNumbers.com and SuperCook.com for ideas on how to plan meals around ingredients you have on hand. Take inventory, clean your fridge and pantry regularly and be organized.
The first reader shares her tip for using leftovers: We do buffet lunch or dinner with all the leftovers. The kids can pick their own meals, and we are less strict about the "at least one from each food group" rule. My kids are little, so this is still fun for them. They take leftovers for lunch during the school year, and during the summer, leftovers are a quick meal that lets them move on to their next activity.
Removing garlic skins: Smash the clove with the flat of a kitchen knife and the skin comes right off. If you get good enough at it, it also minces the garlic at the same time. The next-best method I've found, especially if you're using a lot of garlic at once, is to cut the top part off the bunch while the garlic is still together, break it out onto a plate and microwave for about 10 seconds. The garlic will slide right out of the peel.
Removing garlic skins from the cloves can often be a tedious job. This method reduces the effort considerably: Cut the hairs off the root end of the garlic bulb. Shorten the stem end. Smack the bulb with a closed hand to break the cloves apart. Remove any loose skin. Place in a suitable container. Shake vigorously. Dump contents onto a board and remove any skin clinging to the cloves. Most of the skin will be removed by the shaking in the container, and any parts remaining will have been loosened enough to simply pick off. The bare garlic cloves can be vacuum-stored in a Mason jar and put in the refrigerator.
Slow-cooker tip: Some people use aluminum foil balls to keep chicken off the bottom of the slow cooker. I use several canning jar rings.
Homemade applesauce: You recently gave a simple method to make applesauce. I have a suggestion, since I have made applesauce for decades and even can jars of it.
Wash the apples, cut in half and core them. Remove any bad spots. Do not peel them. Cut them into large slices and place in a covered pot. Add a small amount of water -- just enough to steam them -- and a slight amount of sugar. Lower heat when it comes to a boil and simmer until tender. If you make a large pot of applesauce, stir occasionally. Cool slightly. Put chunks into a blender in batches. If you leave the peels on, the applesauce will be creamier. I also use the apples sold as seconds in stores; you have to ask the produce person for them. They usually have a varied assortment of apples, and variety makes the best applesauce.
Barbara S., email
Electric kettle: It does suck a lot of electricity, but it's also more convenient. The fancier ones have an auto-shutoff button for safety, which also means you don't have to watch the kettle so closely. I use mine to make coffee every morning in a French press. It's easier than a coffee machine. The water boils automatically, then you pour it into the press with grounds. It tastes amazing!
K. Jarrett, forums
• 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 Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.