I had this great idea, years ago, to buy a ton of ground beef (OK, more like 10 pounds) and then brown all of it — all at once. That way I could divide it up into 1-pound portions, freeze it and have it all ready to go when a recipe called for ground beef. Great idea! Did it work? Well, sorta’ — if by “working” you mean taking a long time, making a huge mess of my stove and kitchen, and having to do it in batches because who has a frying pan that big — and basically vowing to never do THAT again.
Last week, when I received today’s first great reader tip in my email box, I couldn’t believe it. Why didn’t I think of that? What a great idea — and, yes, I am going to do this. Can’t wait.
BROWNED GROUND: When it’s on sale, I buy 5 pounds of ground beef, then brown all of it at one time in my slow cooker, set on high for four hours. Then I dump all of it into a colander and rinse it under cold water to remove the grease. The result is perfectly browned ground beef that’s ready to go for any number of meals. I divide it between four freezer zip bags, label and date the bags, and stack them in the freezer. Now I have just the right amount of ground beef for tacos, burritos and spaghetti sauce. — Stephanie, Oregon
QUICK CHILL: Wrap a wet paper towel around a beverage bottle, and place it in the freezer. Wait 15 minutes, and the bottle will be almost completely ice cold. Amazed? Me, too. And it really works well. — Bill, Massachusetts
GRAPE ICE: Frozen grapes work like ice cubes to chill white wine or other types of summer beverages, but without watering them down. It functional and pretty, too. — Sandee, Hawaii
FIRST-CLASS LOVE: If you are on your honeymoon and traveling by air, be sure to let the gate agents know. Your chances of getting an upgrade are very good, provided you are sincere, polite and friendly. And don’t forget to ask for the agent’s name so you can send a note of thanks to the airline. — Pat, Oklahoma
FREE-ISH BULBS: As I am enjoying the blooming daffodils and tulips in my yard this year, I get a double burst of joy knowing just how little I paid for them (many were free!). Last year about this time, I discovered that nurseries and stores are happy to get rid of the pots of blooming bulbs they haven’t sold that are starting to wilt. I’ve already collected several pots this year from my local nursery and grocery store, and will have these blooming again next year. — Jennifer, Washington
DRIP-PAN CLEANER: I clean my range top reflector pans with oven cleaner. It’s designed for removing baked- or cooked-on stuff, which is just the right thing to get those little pans clean, too. — L.E., email
SPIN MASTER: I have my washer set on “extra spin” to double spin every load. If your washer doesn’t have that option, just hit spin again. This makes a HUGE difference in amount of time it takes to dry a load. In fact, it takes about half as long, since the clothes come out of the washer nearly dry, for all of that spinning. And that means a lot of saved energy. — Helene, email
Would you like to send a tip to Mary? You can email her at email@example.com or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. Include your first and last name and state. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com and author of 23 books, including her 2013 release “Cheaper, Better, Faster: Over 2,000 Tips and Tricks to Save You Time and Money Every Day.” To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.