Take Your Life Back

Take Your Life Back…some “Cheap Tricks of the trade”

Don’t be overwhelmed by the world. Just tackle your little piece of the assignment.
You’re a drop in the ocean. You can’t see the big picture, and you don’t need to. Just go with the flow.
Clean your own house…it’s good exercise. Wipe on/wipe off.

Clean House on a Budget

Get a copy of Haley’s Hints and Don Aslett’s book. Once you see the basic ingredients and tools, and how easy they are to make and store, you’ll save tons on cleaning products. Look through the thrift store first.

Sweep around the edges and behind the doors before vacuuming (at least once-in-a-while). Dust after vacuuming.

Keep a Thrift Store List

Before you buy something new, check the thrift stores in your area.
Put a few glass plates and lids on that list (various sizes) to top dishes being heated in the microwave. Avoid plastic dishes and packaging. Plastic is a petroleum product and leaks gases into your food when heated. Our country is trying to wean itself off of reliance on mid-East oil.

Be a Safe Driver

Driving is not a video game.
Get a Driver’s Manual and read it! (i.e. Drivers merging must yield to primary traffic. Primary traffic has no obligation to let you in. Turn on your blinker early, watch for an opening, and be up to speed if possible.)
Go the speed limit. Use your blinkers often and far ahead of your turn.
Stop behind the STOP sign, then ease out to look for your opening.
Stay on your own side, and in the middle of your lane. The life you save may be your own (or mine).
Be a defensive driver. Assume that every other driver out there is incompetent.

In the Kitchen

Most important: If you have other people or pets under-foot, always turn and look before walking through the kitchen with hot food or a sharp object. I guess that would hold true for any move you make in any room.

All water in the U.S. meets federal water safety standards. You do not need to do anything special, filter your water, or purify it unless your water district has an alert (rare). Well-water users work with their water districts to meet minimum standards as required. If you get fir needles or actual debris in your indoor water, you may need a filter. Otherwise, it’s a waste and expensive!

You do not need to buy water in plastic bottles unless there is a health alert (will boiling it do the trick?) or unless you need it for the convenience factor (and I say need). It’s expensive. Plastic is a petroleum product, and our nation is trying to wean itself from relying on petroleum. Petroleum leaches into our bodies from plastic bottles. It floats around in miles of surface debris in the oceans. Bottles take up space in our landfills (want one near you?). If you buy water in plastic, it is more expensive than the gas for your car.

In the heat of a car, the plastic leaches into the water. You don’t want petroleum in, or for that matter on, your body. Go organic for things you put on your body. Wear natural fibers. Your skin is your largest organ, and needs to breathe. You wouldn’t wrap yourself in a plastic bag, would you?

Speaking of water, use only cold water from the tap for cooking, tea water, etc. Hot water from the tap has heavy metals in it from the heating elements in your tank. You don’t want to ingest these. Heavy metals in your shower and tub water—and in well water– can do a number on your skin and hair, too. Consult a product specialist for any creams and shampoos you may be using or may replace.

Buy (new) generic cat litter trays that can fit on the shelves under your counters. Use them (instead of fancy, expensive pull-outs on tracks) to hold the things that you’d otherwise be searching for on your hands and knees. Any box the right size will do, also.

Keep the last of a roll of toilet paper under the counter for tiny jobs. Save $ on paper towels. Save our trees. They put oxygen into the air.

Wipe grease off of utensils and pans with a paper towel before washing. Save $ by not having to call a plumber. Save the time your sink would be out of commission.

No anti-bacterial soaps! They kill the bacteria that your hands need to fight the “bad guys”, and have led to the upsurge in “super bugs”. Sneeze into your shirt, sweater or jacket. Much better than sneezing into your elbow.

Use a washcloth or sponge for all other clean-ups, except floors. You rinse them out over and over again in nice soapy water during the day, and change them every day. Sponges can be disinfected by placing them in the microwave for a minute, or in the dishwasher. There are new sponges that don’t allow eggs or cheese to stick. Use a new dish towel every day, and don’t use it for wiping up the counters and floors! It’s for clean hands and dishes. Keep a separate, ugly washcloth for floors; and keep that clean dishcloth or sponge that you change out each day for counters.

Use wood cutting boards. No plastic. Plastic can’t be disinfected. Wood can be cloroxed, killing all germs. That’s a use for that anti-bacterial hand soap that you’re not going to be using on your hands anymore. Rinse well. Apply a thin coat of mineral oil once-in-awhile.

Keep a smaller wood cutting board just for cutting meat, and disinfect it after each use. Never use the same cutting board for veggies and fruits.

Leave the microwave door slightly open when not in use (unless the light inside stays on). You’ll save the hinge. Press the open button when closing the door. You’ll save the latch.

By-the-way, clean it out as you go along.

Cut paper towels in half for small jobs, or get the select-a-size type. Save $ by using less. Save trees which put oxygen back into the air.

Wash your knives and dry them right away. They last longer and stay sharper.

Wash out your plastic bags. Hang to dry over a wooden spoon. Think of them as just one more dish.

I keep things that I have to reach for often right out on the counter in crocks. No opening and closing drawers and no searching for things. This style doesn’t work for everyone. Saves me time; and, my friends don’t have to search for things if they’re helping. Small kitchens become larger when drawers and cupboard doors aren’t constantly opening into the space.

Since I live alone, I wash dishes as I go along, and I use my dishwasher for pots and pans, lids, oven racks, Jenn-Air accessories, and baking sheets. So much easier to just pull out the racks. No looking around in the backs of cupboards.

Keep a container in the sink with water for utensils. When it’s time to wash them, there’s no dried-on food.

I use 2 splatter screens instead of just one. It does double duty. My aunt showed me how to pour boiling water from a large tea kettle to cut through the grease periodically on the splatter screen as well as cooking pans. When I do this, I run hot water into the sink with detergent in order to cut any grease going down the drain.

Keep fruit and vegetable waste in a small plastic-bag-lined container on the counter. Keep a glass plate on top for easy access. You won’t have to open and close the cupboards, saving hinges and space. When it’s full, dig it under in your garden. No fancy composting needed. It takes about 6 weeks for the worms to do their thing, and they get to live outside, where they belong.

Several of the things mentioned above can go on your thrift store list.

For meat scraps, place in a plastic bag in the freezer. Ask if you can add your bag every few weeks to a neighbor’s. Do something nice for them in return.

Try to avoid using plastic wrap and aluminum foil near your food. Cover food on a plate with a glass lid or plate for microwave heating, and use a glass lid or plate over it on a plate to store in the fridge.

To keep the bottom of your microwave clean, keep a paper plate in there. A paper plate can be used to cover foods while heating them, also.

Keep a pen handy to add to your grocery list. Keep old grocery receipts to help you write a new list. Write the new list on the back of the last receipt.

I keep often-used office supplies handy on a rattan tray or basket on the counter. I get a lot more done when I can “see and grab”.

I love the look of plants; but, I only have time for a few realistic artificial ones that may need dusting once-in-a-while. I do the same with a bouquet of flowers for each season.

I have a metal door off of my kitchen, and boy, is that handy for keeping track of myself, displaying family pics, hanging the calendar, putting a reminder to check the generator level, and keep track of a few notes that need to be handy.

You can make a cork board (with fabric to go with your décor…or not) for on-going and revolving reminder notes. You can also prop or hang a cookie sheet for use as a magnetic board. It’s great when the kids come, too. They like to move magnetic pics, numbers, letters, etc. around. For that matter, put a magnetic mirror on the fridge door at their height.

Recycle, re-use, re-gift, or whatever it takes to try to get more than one use from the rest of the things that get thrown out at your house. If you give things to a center, ask for the donation receipts and take the deduction at the end of the year.

*For me, it’s kind of fun to see if I can save money and appliance life without taking up my valuable time; instead giving me more money and time.

Ask yourself:

Do I need it?
Do I already have one somewhere?
Do I already have something that will do the job? Improvise.
Can I borrow it?
Can it get it used?
Can I live without it?
Can I make it?
Look at the dollar store first.

When It Comes to Food

I can’t recommend stores in your area; but, look for those that offer locally grown, organic food. Natural is not the same as organic. Read the labels.

Eat around the edges of the store. Fresh, not frozen or canned. Out-of-season veggies are better canned sometimes. Watch the salt content.

Some professionals recommend a daily multi-vitamin. Some don’t. If you’re a little person, maybe ½ a supplement is adequate, especially if a full dose gives you a stomach ache.

Some say “with minerals”. Some don’t. Do your homework. If you have plenty of minerals in your drinking water, and you eat a good diet, maybe you don’t need those minerals. There is a concern that too many minerals may be linked to Alzheimer’s.

Some say, “No root vegetables, only their high-in-antioxidant tops.” Some disagree.

Read the section on Nutrition on layne-staley.com.

Eliminate corn, sugars, white and wheat, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, etc. You want to live to a ripe old—healthy– age, don’t you?

Read Sugar Blues, and Get the Sugar Out.

I like the information I got from reading Eat Right for your Blood Type, Peter d’Adamo. If you know your blood type, it is an interesting take on things. As with all information, “take what you like and leave the rest”.

The internet has so much interesting information. Take everything with a grain of salt. (If the web site is in pink, a business has paid for it like an ad.) After all, you know your body, and how new ideas may sound…or even feel.

I Hate To Cook Book, by Peg Bracken, was our family’s standard. I’ve had to change out some ingredients for healthier ones.

Make your own salad dressings. It’s easy. Buy the dry packets in the condiments section at the grocer’s. It’s so much less expensive, and you can change vinegars to change flavors. Add this and that. They’re much tastier. If you’re cutting back, you can add half the oil and water for the remainder.

I cook chicken longer than they do in the stores. I let it baked @400 for a good hour and half. So tender. Just falls from the bone. Lots of meals: chicken dinner; chicken salad; chicken sandwich; chicken soup. Of course, you can do this with any meat.

When it comes to soup, I save all my vegetable water from steaming veggies, put it in a mayo jar when cooled, and keep it in the freezer. I also save any left-over or old veggies, and keep them in the freezer. Keep adding to it ‘til you have enough for a nice pot of hot, veggie soup. Cut veggies into it, and heat ‘til they’re soft-ish. Add any cooked, non-white/non-wheat pasta, rice, grains or beans. Add a dollop of sr. cream. Easy, peasy.

And, by-the-way, quinoa is an almost perfect vegetable protein. Use as a hot cereal, in salads, as a side dish or stuffing, or in soup. Cooks fast!

Don’t get me going on recipes. I’m sure you have your own; but, here’s one you’ll love.
In a sauce pan, heat 1 can chopped flavored tomatoes, 1 can creamed corn (I hate creamed corn, but it’s delicious in this soup), and 1 can ofyour favorite chili. Top w/shredded cheese. There you have it.


Get an etiquette book, and read it. What you learn will bridge some of the social gaps in your education, and make you able to feel comfortable in most situations.


You may need to use a de-mineralizing shampoo to strip accumulated minerals form your hair and body. Water has minerals in it that can add up and become itchy.

Want healthy, shiny hair? Grandma was right. One hundred strokes a night with a gentle brush.

No anti-perspirants! Use a salt stick for deodorant. Anti-perspirants block the pores leading from the lymph nodes, which is the route that toxins take when banished from the body by your immune system.


If you haven’t discovered any of the 12-step programs for problem-solving, you’re behind the times. The internet will give times and places of meetings. They’re everywhere, often and free. It doesn’t matter the issue. The steps to solutions are all the same.

Wonder if you’re making a good decision? Read Ann Landers or Dear Abby books. The sisters had a pretty good sense of things.

And for a funny take on life, read Irma Bombeck.

For a spiritual take, I recommend What’s So Amazing About Grace?, by Phillip Yancey. You’ll love the stories, and the Woodstock ending will stay with you.


Only donate to reputable, registered charities. You can check with the Better Business Bureau.

The federal government, and every state, county, and city has a list of publicly provided services on their web site. You have already donated to support these services for your friends and the homeless through various taxes. Maneuvering the system isn’t easy; but, I’d rather know that my taxes pay for healthy alternatives to the street.

A person living on the street already has the opportunity to avail themselves of all of the help they need. If they choose to stay on the street, mental health counseling will do far more than spare change spent on booze. Begging is an organized business. Some make more than you and I do in a day. Who wrote that pathetic sign that looks like all of the other pathetic signs, and says essentially the same thing? Who drives the “beggars” to and from their specially selected, appointed corners each day? Who gets a cut at the end of the day? “Johns & pimps”, that’s who.

Soap Box: I think living on the street should be against the law. Living in excessive cold or heat, amongst filth and squalor (which one is only adding to) is not what our society should be about. Bring our donation dollars home.

Only loan, invest, gift or gamble money or things that you can afford to lose for good!!

My advice on how to save money is…Don’t spend it!

From your kooky, bossy, cheap friend. Remember, I said it first!