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updated: 12/13/2012 10:18 AM

Frugal living: Stock a beginnger's spice rack

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Q. My daughter is moving into a new home, and she wants me to help her buy spices to stock her pantry. Which spices would you start with?

Linda, New York

A. I'd buy spice blends that can cover meats, poultry and vegetables, as well as spices for sweet and savory dishes. I suggest buying staples such as oregano, cinnamon, garlic and onion powder, basil, thyme, rosemary, chili powder, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, paprika, cumin, ginger, cloves, allspice, celery and parsley. She can add her own baking ingredients (salt, pepper, baking soda, vanilla, etc.) and expand her spices from there.

Q. Do you buy any canned vegetables? I don't, but I'm feeling the need for long-term storage. I've tried different varieties of canned green beans and peas and found them disgusting. I might experiment with canned carrots for soups or add-ins. I've never tried canned potatoes because they just seem like a waste of shelf space. Any thoughts?

C.L., Mississippi

A. I buy a lot of canned tomatoes. I don't mind canned peas, mushrooms and corn. I will sometimes buy canned beans, such as kidney, pinto, garbanzo, etc. I prefer fresh or frozen vegetables, but I don't mind buying canned vegetables from time to time if there's a sale.

Q. I bought some silken tofu this weekend, and I want to use it to make smoothies. How much do I use? How do I store it until it's gone? I will be the only one using it, so it's not going to go really fast.

Traci, Iowa

A. I'd use about cup of silken tofu in smoothies for two servings. As for storage, rinse any remaining tofu and cover it with fresh water. Change the water daily and use the tofu within a week.

Q. We just returned from a great vacation at a resort in Stowe, Vt., that had the best sheets I had ever slept on. After our first night, our group met for breakfast and everyone was raving about the sheets! The label on the sheets said Comphy, and I discovered on the Internet that the company produces high-quality microfiber bedding but does not sell to the public. The Comphy website said the public must buy their sheets through authorized dealers, which are the hotels. Have you ever used microfiber sheets? What do you think of them? Where did you buy them? If I could find a set that was like the hotel sheets, I would go to bed happy every night!

Diana, Iowa

Q. I have used microfiber sheets, pillowcases and comforters. They are nice to sleep on. You can find various brands of microfiber sheets anywhere that sells linens, such as Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, QVC, Sears, etc. As for the Comphy brand, you can buy their sheets for your home. I called their customer service line and a representative recommended buying from this online retailer:

• Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (, a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106, or email

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