July 6th 2011

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you’d like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

Household spending is a complicated aspect of nearly every budget. If only there were a way to use products already in the pantry to help alleviate this monthly strain. Well, good news: There is! Many items you currently have in your home can serve more than their original purpose. The following are a few I use regularly.

The mesh bags onions and potatoes come in from the grocery store generally end up in the garbage can. Instead of tossing them, I save a few and use their naturally abrasive texture to scrub pots and pans. The bags are far more gentle on hands than S.O.S pads filled with chemicals.

Paper towels are ridiculously expensive. Many people have moved to cleaning with old washcloths or a sponge, and that is certainly a great alternative. However, I am one of those people who prefer to throw away things I have used to wipe the toilet. If you are like me, try using cheap coffee filters. They clean better than paper towels (especially mirrors), and are way cheaper.

Speaking of cleaning, “going green” is in these days, so why not hop on that bandwagon for some of your kitchen and bathroom cleansers? Simple ingredients like baking soda splashed with vinegar are terrific for cleaning showers and toilets, and they’re especially great at opening drains. If your bathtub drains are clogged with hair, replace the Drano with a few shakes of baking soda, a splash or three of vinegar, and a kettleful of boiling water. These products are generally in the pantry already, and when combined they make amazing cleaning agents.

I love baking soda. It has so many uses. Another of my favorite tips is to pour about half a cup of baking soda into a small dish, add 12 drops of essential oil (or your favorite scented oil from Bath & Body Works), and place the dish wherever a little freshening is needed. I like to put a dish in the car after I’ve forgotten to bring in a cup of coffee and the spoiled cream has left a distasteful odor.

While I’m discussing cleaning, I would be remiss in not bringing attention to the most amazing corn cleaner ever. I love corn on the cob, but I hate the corn silk that can seem impossible to remove. Now I just use an unused toothbrush to brush the corn. The bristles do a great job of cleaning out all the silk, and I don’t have to spend half an hour per ear of corn.

Finally, the easiest of them all. Outdoor activities like concerts or picnics can be less comfortable if you are sitting on a blanket in soggy grass. I like to keep a cheap shower curtain liner with my picnic blanket for these occasions. The liner keeps the blanket dry, and my family and I no longer have to worry about wet bottoms after our picnic.

It’s surprising how many things you already own that can serve multiple purposes. Try these, and venture into the realm of repurposing. As you find even more new uses for old objects, share your knowledge with all of your friends.

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About KathyBlanchard, Realtor

I am a full service Realtor in Newberg, Oregon. I specialize in Yamhill County, but I can work anywhere in Oregon for your relocation needs. My family moved to this beautiful wine country in 2008 and love it here. I have a love for the history and mystery in old homes. My husband and I play golf and have logged many thousands of miles on a motorcycle.
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