Tightwad Wednesday – Fog Free Mirrors & Laundry Pretreatment

Each week, I will test out two tips from the The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and on the following Wednesday I’ll review how they went and evaluate if it is worth my time/effort/money to continue with it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to apologize to everyone for getting this tightwad Wednesday up a day late. Yesterday blew by and between the blinds shopping, meeting with the foreman, and cooking for Thanksgiving, time got away from me. Better late than never, right?

Fog-Free Mirrors

Even though I’ve heard of tricks to keep mirrors fog free I’ve never actually tried them.

On p. 402 of the Tightwad:

To make any mirror fog-free, you need not purchase the expensive anti-fog products. Simply use liquid soap; spread it on glass with a cloth to cover completely, then polish dry with another cloth. This lasts for a long time.

It worked!I was reluctant to spread soap on my clean mirror but to my surprise the soap buffed off nicely and left a shiny mirror. There was no haze like I was expecting. I used cheap hand soap thinned with a little water for my experiment. I then instructed my husband to take a long shower so the mirror got nice and foggy.

Afterwards, I checked on the spot and sure enough, it was fog-free! It worked! And it is still working several showers later! I would definitely recommend this trick if you are battling with foggy mirrors as you get ready for the day.

Laundry Pretreatment

I have to admit that I’m terrible at laundry. It seems about 1/3 of Eric’s shirts have little spots on them and so far no pretreatments have worked to remove them completely. Thank goodness Eric gets a free shirt from work pretty often so we can replenish his “nice” shirt supply.

Anyways, whenever I find a recipe to fight stains I’m likely going to try it since I haven’t had much luck so far. When I saw this one in the Tightwad I added it my list.

On p. 402 of the Tightwad:

1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup ammonia (sudsy or plain)
1/2 cup Wisk
1/2 cup water

Spray on grease or food spots, or dirty collars and cuffs. Wash garment as usual.

Pretreatment - BeforeI followed the directions except I had to substitute Tide for Wisk because the store was out of it. The mix smells repellant with the ammonia but that doesn’t matter if it works, right? I’ve never used ammonia before this experiment so now I’ll have to find uses for it. Luckily, it was only a dollar.

I found a ratty shirt with a stain on it and instead of spraying it I poured it on. I didn’t want to search for a spray bottle and I was hoping more might work better. I let it sit for a while, then put it in a load of laundry.

Pretreatment - AfterWell, it didn’t work. In fact, the stain recipe I tried a while back worked better on getting rid of the stain but it made the colors bleed (that shirt is now lighter in places).

I don’t think this pretreatment formula really did anything to remove the stain. It seems hard to believe the trick is using Wisk specifically but I suppose it could be brand specific. Unfortunately, this one appears to be a loser.

Stay tuned for next week’s Tightwad Wednesday challenge when I will be testing out:

Tightwad Wednesday – Stuck Envelopes & Old Deodorizers

Each week, I will test out two tips from the The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and on the following Wednesday I’ll review how they went and evaluate if it is worth my time/effort/money to continue with it.

Thank goodness this week was a relatively easy tightwad challenge week. With all the packing/cleaning and meetings/calls with contractors I feel like I’m running behind on everything – even life in general, if that makes any sense. Well, let’s see how they went!

Stuck Envelopes

While going through my office stuff I was thrilled to discover some new-in-the-box envelopes. I’m always running short on these because I use them for all sorts of things like organizing coupons, etc. For some reason half of the envelopes were sealed shut already. I was dismayed, not knowing what to do with them other than use them for scrap paper. When I saw this trick in the Tightwad I thought it was definitely worth a try.

This idea for “unsticking” stuck envelopes was found on p. 378 of the Tightwad Gazette:

When new envelopes have sealed closed due to moisture, heat in the microwave for 20 seconds. This will open them all or partway.

I placed the sealed envelope in the microwave and zapped it for 20 seconds, like it recommended. Sure enough, when I pulled it out all it took was a little gentle nudge and the envelope was unsealed. Awesome!

To be sure these were still mail-worthy I licked the glue and resealed it. The glue still worked! I was afraid the glue wouldn’t reseal it again but it did, and securely. Using this trick will restore useable envelopes out of what was once destined for scrap paper duty.

Old Room Deodorizers

Tightwad On Reusing Old Room DeodorizersOnce upon a time Eric had placed one of those “stick-up” air fresheners underneath a cabinet in his master bathroom. About 6 years later I found it. It was completely useless by this point and seemed permanently affixed to the wood. I just left it there, thinking we would remove it eventually. Out of sight, out of mind. This tip in the tightwad reminded me of that little air freshener and I loved the idea of being able to make it useful again.

The instructions recommend using pine cleaner to re-fragrance the pad but I’m sure any fragrant cleaner would work. I personally hate the pine smell so I have orange and lemon scented floor cleaners. By using scented cleaners instead of oils you can make your cleaner multitask as an air freshener and keep the cost down.

Opening up the air freshenerI used an old straw to dribble the cleaner on the pad so I didn’t over soak it. It smelled nice so I figured it would work well. I reassembled the unit and set it on my counter to dry a little. I didn’t want it to be wet when I put it back under the cabinet.

I would recommend doing this if you already have those stick-up style air fresheners. These styles of deodorizers seem to lose fragrance really fast and then they just sit there, stuck to whatever you slapped it on.

Just be careful not to over soak the pad because it might drip if it is too wet. Un-diluted cleaning solution is strong smelling stuff. Also, use mild cleaning solutions (I used lemon scented pine-sol) that don’t use harsh chemicals or bleach. Cleaning solutions with lavender or fresh scents would be lovely.

UPDATE: PaidTwice mentioned that I didn’t make it clear whether or not the refurbished deodorizer actually worked. It did work and it smelled good. I recommend reusing your current stick-ups with this method so they are useful again. But because there are so many better deodorizer styles out there don’t buy this style just so you can re-use them. I find stick-up style air fresheners aren’t very effective in the first place and they muck up whatever you stick them on with adhesives.

Stay tuned for next week’s Tightwad Wednesday challenge when I will be testing out:

Tightwad Wednesday – Sensible Substitutes

Each week, I will test out two tips from the The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and on the following Wednesday I’ll review how they went and evaluate if it is worth my time/effort/money to continue with it.

This week we tested a few more of the “sensible substitute” recipes in the Tightwad Gazette. I like the idea of being able to create cheaper substitutes for the seasoning mixes and soup mixes we use all the time. Let’s see how it went!

Note: Because these recipes were almost entirely made up of spices I decided not to calculate the prices myself this time. I have a fully stocked cabinet of spices so I didn’t have to buy anything new and I don’t remember what I paid for some of these quite honestly. However, I have provided the Tightwad’s estimation of price for this round (I think they may be a bit outdated, though).

Onion-Soup Mix

I don’t think I have ever used onion soup mix but I know many people who say it is a good thing to have around the house. I bought some store brand onion soup mix to taste test against the tightwad version in a heads up challenge.

Onion-Soup Mix from The Complete Tightwad Gazette (p.424)

3/4 cup instant minced onion
4 teaspoons onion powder
1/3 cup beef flavored bouillon powder
1/4 teaspoon celery seed, crushed
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and store in an airtight container.

To use, add 2 tablespoons mix to 1 cup boiling water. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. This makes a stronger soup than the store bought mix, so you can use less.

For the taste test I did three things. First, I mixed in some of the dry mixes into a few tablespoons of sour cream to make two dips. Second, I made soups from the mixes according to the directions. Third, I called in my husband to try out the creations in a blind tasting.

Unbelievable! He actually liked the tightwad version better in both tests!

Onion Soup Battle - Store Bought vs TightwadHe felt the dip from the store bought mix had a more pronounced onion flavor but also had an oddly bitter aftertaste. He gave the nod to the tightwad version for the dip and I also agreed with his observations. For the soup we both felt that the tightwad version was better, mainly because it was stronger and the other soup was pretty weak. Several spoonfuls into the test the tightwad soup began to taste too salty. After I cut it with hot water it had a good balance and flavor and was perfect for use as plain soup.

Tips – if you plan on using this mix for a dip I recommend grinding the bouillon into a fine powder so it gets absorbed more evenly and quickly. If you plan on using it for straight soup make sure to cut it with water before serving or it will be too strong.

Here’s the price breakdown from the Tightwad:

Lipton onion-soup mix: $0.99 for 2 oz, or $0.50 per oz
Homemade: $0.33 per oz

This was a good one for us and I’d recommend trying it.

Seasoned Salt

This one was an uphill battle for the tightwad version from the get-go. After looking at the ingredients I realized that it wouldn’t taste like Lawry’s (the most common seasoned salt around here) so it would be hard to get a good comparison. I wonder if this recipe was made to mimic the “Durkee’s” version because they mention it in the pricing. I’ve never heard of it before this.

Seasoned Salt from The Complete Tightwad Gazette (p.423)

8 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and store in an airtight container.

Seasoned Salt Challenge - Tightwad vs Lawry’sWell, we both didn’t like it much. I felt the salt was overwhelming and the flavor wasn’t strong enough. Eric tried the tightwad one first then the Lawry’s. He immediately pointed at the Lawry’s and said it was much better. I agreed. I normally prefer Emeril’s Bayou Blast mix (less celery flavor than Lawry’s) but even Lawry’s tasted a lot better to me than the tightwad version did.

I wonder if I used granulated garlic and onion instead of powdered if this would taste better. I feel like the powdered versions give it a chalky appearance and a “dryer” flavor. I also think the pepper should be decreased. It’s not a bad mix but not spectacular. And when it comes to seasoning dull food nothing works like a spectacular seasoning mix.

Here’s the price breakdown from the Tightwad:

Durkee’s Seasoned Salt: $0.98 for 3.5oz ($0.28 per oz)
Homemade: $0.14 per oz

I’d say pass on this one.

Taco-Seasoning Mix

Ahhh, my beloved tacos. I was excited when I saw this one because it gave me an excuse to have taco night! For this challenge we compared the flavor to my store-brand taco seasoning mix.

Taco-Seasoning Mix from The Complete Tightwad Gazette (p.423)

6 teaspoons chili powder
4 1/2 teaspoons cumin
5 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons onion powder
2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/8 to 1/4 cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and store in an airtight container.

Taco Seasoning Challenge - Tightwad vs Store BrandI immediately noticed that the competition wasn’t fairly stacked. The tightwad mix had no salt or sugar. Surely, those ingredients would sway our votes for the store-bought team. I decided to add some kosher salt to the tightwad mix for tasting to increase the chances of it being considered tasty on its own.

It wasn’t enough. I don’t think it was bad but it lacked that strong flavor that we like to see in our tacos. It needed a boost with more chili powder, cayenne, and cumin for sure. But even that didn’t boost it above our store brand mix. Eric felt the store mix was far superior even though it still needed more spices to improve it as well.

I wonder if the bright orange color of the store bought version influenced our opinions, too. It even looked more like taco mix. I know it is likely artificial coloring but it is hard to resist.

Here’s the price breakdown from the Tightwad:

Old El Paso taco seasoning mix: $4.95 for 1 pound or $0.31 per oz
Homemade: $0.13 per oz

I will say that I like a lot of spice so maybe for those who don’t this recipe would be great. And the fact that it doesn’t include sugar and salt makes it that much better for you.


One of our readers, my15000DollarYear, mentioned that she would like to see less recipe tightwad challenges and more “other” types of challenges. So I dug through my tightwad this week and chose two non-food related tips I could test out. Without further ado…

Stay tuned for next week’s Tightwad Wednesday challenge when I will be testing out:

Tightwad Wednesday – Tomato Soup & Seasoned-Rice Substitutes

Each week, I will test out two tips from the The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and on the following Wednesday I’ll review how they went and evaluate if it is worth my time/effort/money to continue with it.

I’m excited about this challenge because I like being able to try recipes featuring the original versus the cheaper version. To properly test these “sensible substitutes” on taste and price I made them head to head with their competitors. I also used generic products whenever possible. Let’s see how it went!

Tomato Soup

For this challenge I put the Tightwad’s tomato soup using tomato paste up against my store brand condensed soup in a can.

Tomato Soup from The Complete Tightwad Gazette (p.424)

1 6 oz can tomato paste
24 oz milk (refill tomato paste can four times)
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon celery seed

Put tomato paste in a small saucepan. Add the milk using the can, rinsing thoroughly. Add the salt and the celery seed. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Since the tightwad’s version used milk to make it a creamy tomato soup I decided to prepare the canned soup in the same fashion. According to my canned soup I could use 1 can water or a 1/2 can whole milk. I compromised and used a full can of my 1% milk. No celery seed was added in our trial – we don’t like the flavor so much.

Store Brand (21.5 oz)   Tightwad (30 oz)    
Ingredient Cost Ingredient Cost  
Condensed Soup $0.59 Tomato paste $0.36  
Milk $0.32 Milk $0.72  
Total $0.91 Total $1.08  
Cost per oz $0.04 Cost per oz $0.03  
    Savings per oz $0.01 or $0.08 a cup

Tightwad vs Store BrandThe savings appear to be pretty small for this test. After tasting them side by side we both felt that the store brand soup was significantly better. It had better flavor and depth. Even the color of the store brand soup looked more appetizing – almost orange rather than pink.

Eric wouldn’t even eat the tightwad soup for dinner, saying it lacked body and richness. I gave him the store brand and I ate the tightwad version. I agree it wasn’t as good but it was passable. I would say spend the extra $0.08 a cup and enjoy the generic condensed soup. The savings aren’t worth it.

Seasoned-Rice Mix

For this challenge I wanted to compare the seasoned-rice mix to Rice-A-Roni. I really like Rice-A-Roni so I was hoping this cheaper version would turn out well.

Seasoned-Rice Mix from The Complete Tightwad Gazette (p.425)

3 cups uncooked rice
1/4 cup dried parsley flakes
6 tablespoons instant chicken or beef bouillon powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix all the ingredients, and store in an airtight container. To use, put 1 cup mix, 2 tablespoons margarine, and 2 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is tender. To more closely approximate Rice-A-Roni, substitute a cup of broken pieces of uncooked spaghetti for a cup of rice.

I used chicken bouillon to make the tightwad version similar to the popular chicken flavored Rice-A-Roni. I didn’t include the price of the margarine because it was equal on both recipes. I did substitute some broken pasta for some of the rice and included that in the cost.

Rice-A-Roni (7.2oz), dry   Tightwad (30oz), dry    
Ingredient Cost Ingredient Cost  
Boxed Mix $1.19 Rice $1.12  
    Pasta $0.41  
    Bouillon $1.08  
    Seasonings $0.10  
Total $1.19 Total $2.71  
Cost per oz $0.17 Cost per oz $0.09  
    Savings per oz $0.08 or $0.64 a cup

Tightwad vs Brand NameI will say that the tightwad recipe was easier to make than the brand name. You just dump it all in a pot and leave it alone. But the texture suffered with that method. The tightwad version was really dark with all that bouillon, too.

Although the savings are somewhat significant at $0.64 a cup, the taste tells the true story. Eric hated the tightwad version. Hated it with a passion. He said he would only consider making it if it saved him $20 a serving. Those are strong words. What good is saving money when your family won’t eat it?

He is right though. The Rice-A-Roni was much, much better. I want to blame it on the fact that my bouillon was looking a little old but honestly this recipe failed in just about every way. I would not recommend this recipe, at least not as is. Just make regular rice. Seriously. Rice with a little butter and salt blows this away in taste and price.

These two recipes showed me something. Sometimes saving money is not worth sacrificing taste.

Stay tuned for next week’s Tightwad Wednesday challenge when I will be testing out several more “sensible substitutes”:

Tightwad Wednesday – Cheap Postal Scale & Crumb Cookies

Each week, I will test out two tips from the The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and on the following Wednesday I’ll review how they went and evaluate if it is worth my time/effort/money to continue with it.

I think both the challenges I tried this week exemplify what being a tightwad is about. One uses items around the house to replace a seldom used gadget and the other makes use of food that typically gets tossed to make something truly yummy. Resourcefulness at it’s best!

Cheapskate Postal Scale

This trick is supposed to help you figure out postage by determining whether or not a letter is under 1 oz (only needing one stamp). Page 115 of the Gazette states:

You need a 12″ ruler, a pencil, and five quarters. Put the ruler on the pencil so that it is centered over the 6″ mark, or in the center. Place the quarters (which weigh 1 oz) on the 3″ mark. Center your sealed envelope on the 9″ mark (the 3″ and the 9″ marks are the same distance from the ends of the ruler.) If the quarters don’t move you know your letter is under 1 oz.

The first thing I noticed was that the 5 quarters didn’t add up to 1 oz on my fancy-smancy food scale. Thinking something might be wrong with my quarters I got new ones. Nope. The 5 quarters came in at 7/8 oz every time. I added a penny on top and bingo, I got 1 oz. I figure it is better to weigh over than under anyway.

I weighed my 3 test envelopes:

  1. Light envelope = 3/8 oz
  2. Envelope w/ Coupons = 7/8 oz
  3. Envelope w/ Coupons + receipts = 1 1/8 oz

I couldn’t for the life of me find a pencil in my house so I used a pen for this experiment instead.

Envelope 1Envelope 1: When I placed the letter on the ruler he quarters didn’t move. It was pretty obvious that it was under 1 oz so no surprise there.

Envelope 2Envelope 2: When I placed the envelope on the ruler the pen moved a bit (probably because it is round) so I had to rebalance. The quarters were not moved but this time I could see that the ruler was bending a little. I’m happy to see that it indicates less than 1 oz but it seems so close that it could be hard to trust.

Envelope 3Envelope 3: When I placed the receipts on top of the envelope to simulate a letter weighing over 1 oz the quarters actually rose off the table! I was shocked! I tested it several times and saw the same results. Even with it only being a little over 1 oz it seemed to work.

Although the results of my testing indicate that this cheapskate scale works I still feel a little uneasy with it. Maybe that’s because my quarters didn’t add up to exactly 1 oz or because I don’t have the comfort of seeing real numbers. It appears to accurate though. I think this works well enough to use in a pinch and it’s better than buying a postal scale if you don’t do a lot of mailing. Try it out for yourself. I bet it works for you, too!

Bread Crumb Cookies

This recipe came at the perfect time. We have been experiementing with off-brand bread for a few weeks now, trying to find one that measures up to our favorite Nature’s Own 9-grain loaf. The one we tried last week, Honey Wheat-berry, was not a hit. It was too soft and overloaded with wheat-berries. Very odd texture. I had several slices leftover from this loaf just begging to be transformed into something else rather than thrown away.

Bread Crumb Cookies from The Complete Tightwad Gazette (p. 132)

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup melted shortening
2 cups bread crumbs

Sift together dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients and add to dry mixture. Add melted shortening and bread crumbs. Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until done.

This is a remarkably easy recipe. For the breadcrumbs I simply tore the soft bread into small pieces. I could have used the crusts but I decided against it (it is a cookie, after all) so I put the crusts in the freezer to use as topping on a savory dish.

I used butter flavored shortening because it was what I had around. I made tablespoon size cookies and baked them as directed, for 15 minutes.

Bread Crumb CookiesAt first, I didn’t like them very much. I thought the first batch was too crunchy and I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate cookies to begin with. But after baking them for only 10-12 minutes I found they were softer and much better.

They have grown on me. These cookies are light and not very dense. They remind me of a crumbly cake. Surprisingly, they seemed to get better overnight. I had one for breakfast this morning and it was downright delicious!

I was a little nervous about using the bread that I did. I thought that all the wheat berries would hurt the cookie but it didn’t really. It was odd but then it reminded me of chopped nuts. It added that texture without the price. I bet it would be more cookie-like with white bread though.

I love that this recipe because it can be used with healthful breads like whole wheat. What a fantastic way to “disguise” it from children who dislike wheat.

This recipe is going in my file because it is inventive. I think I will try to make a non-chocolate version next time. This is a great way to use up stale bread and give your family a treat at the same time.

Stay tuned for next week’s Tightwad Wednesday challenge where I will be testing out:

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