How to Use Your Dishwasher

A dishwasher is a luxury we often take for granted. Did you know there is a right and a wrong way to wash your dishes in the washer? To get the most out of your appliance follow these simple guidelines.

Use only the recommended amount of detergent. Using too much detergent can leave behind a residue on your dishes.

Run only full loads of dishes; this saves on water and electricity.

Don’t pack dishes too tightly. The washer needs to be able to spray water and get to all of the dishes.

When loading the dishes stacking items facing downward and inwards. Make sure all the arms can spin freely before running the dishwasher.

Don’t rinse dishes by hand use the Rinse-Hold cycle. This can waste an extra 20 gallons of water per load; that is 6,500 gallons per household each year.

If you have hard water use a rinse aid. Rinse aids help dishes dry quicker,  preventing droplets from forming on your dishes. Don’t use rinse aid if you have a water softener.

Dry dishes on the lowest temperature setting. Higher temperatures leave spots on glassware.

Check the labels of your dishes to see what if dishwasher safe.

Following these simple tips will have your dishes cleaner and your washer running for many years to come.

Ten Ways to Save on Groceries

If you are looking for ways save money, cutting back on grocery expenses is often an easy way to reduce your spending.

Here are ten tips to master frugal grocery shopping. A little planning can save you some big bucks over the long term.

1. Make a list.

Before you head out to the store, prepare a list of everything you need, making sure you have everything needed for your weekly menu. Before you leave, check to make sure you don’t have it in your pantry, fridge or freezer. Stick to that list and don’t buy anything else.

2. Plan a menu.

Plan a weekly menu for each week. This way you will know exactly what to buy. Be sure to plan a leftovers night.

3. Don’t shop hungry.

When you’re hungry, everything looks good. When you shop hungry you’ll end up spending a lot more. Eat first and then you will be able to stick to your list.

4. Set a budget.

When you go to the store, know exactly how much you can spend. Then try your best to stick within that limit. Keep a running tally as you shop to ensure that you’re within your budget.

5. Create a grocery spreadsheet.

Keep your grocery receipts, then enter into a spreadsheet. This will be your price and comparison list. Use it so you know when bulk or sale items are a good deal.

6. Cook and freeze.

Plan to cook a big amount of food and freeze it for multiple dinners. A great idea is to use one Sunday and cook a week’s (or even a month’s) worth of dinners. Plan 5-6 freezable dinners and cook them all at once.

7. Shop for specials.

Every store has specials. Be sure to look for them in the newspaper, or when you get to the store. Don’t buy things you don’t use just because they are on sale; make sure you will use the items.

8. Buy store brands.

Brand names are often no better than generic, and you’re paying for all the advertising they do to have a brand name. Give the store brand a try, and often you won’t notice a difference.

9. No “one-item” trips.

They waste gas, and almost inevitably, you buy more than that one item. If you plan ahead, make a weekly menu, and shop with a list, this should drastically reduce the number of trips you make for a small number of items.

10. Stock up.

Sale items can be a great deal. If it’s an item you normally use, buy a bunch of them.

How to Hire a Chimney Sweep

The weather is getting colder and you may be thinking about firing up the wood stove or stoking up the fireplace. Before you do that you want to make sure your chimney is in good working order. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends hiring a certified, professional chimney sweep to inspect your chimney.

The CSIA has a list of questions you should ask your chimney sweep before hiring them:

1. How long has the chimney sweeping company been in business?
2. Does the company offer current references?
3. Does the company have unresolved complaints filed within the city or state consumer protection agency or Better Business Bureau?
4. Does the company or individual carry a valid business liability insurance policy to protect your home and furnishings against accidents?
5. Does the company ensure that a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep will be on the job site?

It is important to get your chimney professionally inspected annually. The proper care and maintenance of a chimney can help protect people from unnecessary fires and carbon monoxide poisonings.

Home Maintenance Checklist

We think of the spring and fall as home clean up time but taking advantage of the warmer weather and time off from work makes summer the perfect time to do a home maintenance checkup.

Get Ready for Cooler Weather

Do an Energy Audit
Take a walk around your home and take an inventory of gaps and cracks. Plugging leaks can save you 20% on heating and cooling bills. Look for gaps under switch plates. If you find gaps install foam inserts. Make sure to turn off the electricity at the circuit box before doing this.

Don’t forget to check where windows meet walls, walls meet floors and pipes and wires enter the home. Plug all gaps with caulk. Other places to find leaks are fireplace dampers, mail slots, air conditioners, attic doors, baseboards and the weather stripping surrounding doors. Look for daylight, feel for drafts and listen for rattles; all clues to escaping heat.

Now look outside the house. Look for gaps or damage where pipes, vents or wiring enter. Also check siding for gaps or damage, pay attention to corners where the material joins and where it meets other materials, like chimneys, windows or the foundation.

Save Money on Heat and Hot Water
Save on heating costs next winter by insulating the hot-water pipes in the basement or crawl space. Insulating pipes is easy; all you need to do is snap foam jackets (called sleeves) around the pipes. Make sure you know the pipe’s diameter to get the correct fit.

Get the Outside in Tip-Top Shape

Pretty the Patio
There is nothing more uninviting than dirty patio furniture. Mix up a bucketful of soapy bleach solution to keep your patio furniture squeaky clean. Mix 2/3 cup trisodium phosphate (TSP), 1/3 cup laundry soap powder, a quart of bleach and three quarts of warm water. Use a rag and soft-bristle brush to remove embedded dirt on synthetic coverings, metal and wood furniture. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.

Don’t destroy the deck
Don’t let your pretty deck flowers rot your wood deck. Make drainage room in your potted plants by setting pots on pot “feet”. For a frugal solution; just prop bricks under the pots.

Look out for tree trouble
Trees that hang over your roof, rub against gutters or dropping loads of leaves and sticks onto the roof should be pruned. Overhanging branches can provide a ladder for rats and squirrels, and diseased or damaged trees may fall on your home in a storm.

Fix the fence
Look for damage along the fence line. Mow the grass next to the fence low so you can get good visibility. Keep your fence in tip-top shape by make prompt repairs. Check fence posts for signs of rot (poke soft spots in the wood for crumbling or decay). Remove and replace the damaged areas. Keep fences painted or stained to protect the wood. If dogs or other animals are tunneling under the fence attach a 2-foot-wide apron of wire mesh around the inside perimeter of the fence.