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5 Kitchen Tips to Save Money and Make Life Easier

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These easy tips can help you stretch your budget.

These easy tips can help you stretch your budget.

Simple-to-Follow, Thrifty Kitchen Secrets

Sometimes a solution to a problem is staring you in the teeth, but you just don't see it. Other times a solution comes to you in a eureka moment. A little bit of lateral thinking is always useful, whether you are in the kitchen, the office, or the garden shed.

Handy Hints From My Own Experiences

During my eventful life, among other things, I've been a housewife, stay-at-home mother, restaurateur, and mature student. I juggled home and work life as a professional adviser until, more recently, I became a retired pensioner and full-time carer, with time to think and put my thoughts into articles that I hope will help other people.

Lots of people have clever ideas for making their life a little easier or saving a bit of money, but they don't necessarily spread the good news around. With my age and experience, I have plenty to say, and I'm planning several articles with handy hints.

Here Are Five Money-Saving Kitchen Tips:

  1. Use Leftover Pickle Vinegar for Cleaning
  2. Use Leftover Pickle Vinegar for Food Preparation
  3. Don't Let Fresh Herbs Go to Waste
  4. Find New Uses for Small Plastic Lids
  5. Use a Dictionary When You Go Shopping
Cleaning a kettle with used vinegar

Cleaning a kettle with used vinegar

1. Use Leftover Pickle Vinegar for Cleaning

If you have food that was pickled in vinegar, don’t waste the vinegar once the pickles are eaten—you can reuse it.

  • Dissolve hardened calcium deposits. Vinegar can be used successfully to dissolve hardened calcium deposits in your kettle. Just soak your kettle overnight in your left-over vinegar, and then wash it out gently with a washing-up brush in the morning to remove all those irritating floating bits of calcium. The kettle will come out clean as a whistle (even if it isn’t a whistling kettle!). If you then boil some water in the kettle, this will get rid of any lingering smell straight away.
  • Dissolve limescale. You can also use vinegar around your taps and basin to dissolve limescale.

2. Use Leftover Pickle Vinegar for Food Preparation

  • Pickle with it. You can reuse the vinegar from shop-bought pickles to pickle your own onions, beetroot, or other produce.
  • Make a salad dressing. I sometimes use left-over pickle vinegar to make a salad dressing (recipe below).
Ingredients for the salad dressing

Ingredients for the salad dressing

Salad Dressing Recipe

Add to your used vinegar all or any of the following, according to taste:

  • some olive oil
  • a little crushed garlic
  • herbs such as marjoram or coriander
  • half a teaspoon of mustard
  • half a teaspoon of sugar
  • a few chili flakes
  • a little soy sauce

It makes a delicious dressing.

Chop and freeze your herbs.

Chop and freeze your herbs.

3. Don't Let Fresh Herbs Go to Waste

Here's how to use every last leaf of your fresh herbs before they go off:

  • Freeze them in bags. Set aside the amount of fresh herbs you can reasonably use in two or three days, and then chop up the rest, put them in a small plastic bag, flatten out the bag as much as possible, tie the top and freeze flat. Freezing the leaves as flat as possible will ensure that, once frozen, the pieces will be fairly separate and thus easy to use without having to melt down a big chunk of more than you require.
  • Make herb ice cubes. Alternatively, put the chopped leaves in an ice cube tray, add a little water, and freeze. You will then have frozen herb ice cubes, which you can bag up and use for cooking as required. These do take up slightly more room in your freezer than storing in plastic bags.
Plastic lids make great spoon rests.

Plastic lids make great spoon rests.

4. Find New Uses for Small Plastic Lids

  • Use them as spoon rests. Keep one or two clean plastic lids from things like yogurt or soup containers on your kitchen counter to rest spoons when cooking.
  • Place teabags on them. Or you can dump teabags on them; it saves dirtying your work surface.

5. Use a Dictionary When You Go Shopping

Yes, I mean it, a foreign language dictionary—I'm not kidding!

It took me fifty-five years in the kitchen to think of this tip, as the idea came to me only recently after someone gave me some food labelled in Polish.

If you live in an ethnically diverse area (like London, where I live), there is a great deal of imported food with labels in a language other than English which you may not understand.

Much of the food imported from Poland, for instance, is cheaper than the English equivalent—butter is about half the price—and there are also things which look as though they might be tasty, but you’re not sure what those bottles of red stuff contain by way of ingredients.

Study the label of this Polish soup packet. Francuska = French;  Zupa = Soup;   Cebulowa = Onion

Study the label of this Polish soup packet. Francuska = French; Zupa = Soup; Cebulowa = Onion

Sometimes it pays just to study the photographs on the labels, or see if you can make out a couple of words in the list of ingredients which are similar to English or another language that you are more familiar with.

Example: Polish Soup Packet

For instance, take a look at the photograph of a Polish soup packet above—a shrewd guess told me that the word "Frankusca" means French, as it sounds similar in several European languages. "Zupa" sounds a lot like Soup, and "Cebulowa" sounds like the Spanish word for onion, "cebolla," added to which the picture shows a bowl of soup and some onions.

You don't have to be a genius to assume that you are looking at a Polish packet of Knorr French Onion Soup, which you will see I have labelled accordingly in my handwriting.

Bring Your Dictionary to Translate Labels

But I have recently done something so obvious that I should have thought of it years ago—going shopping with a small pocket dictionary in the language of the majority of food imports in a particular shop. Doing this with a Polish dictionary, I managed to translate the labels of every herb, sauce mix and pudding you could think of, and at home, with a marker, I wrote the English equivalent on each packet and bottle. I was so proud of myself.


Unfortunately, recently I have failed to do the labelling translations and have a few packets of products I'm not sure how to use, such as Kascia (Polish) and Salep (Turkish). Eventually, I'll get round to pulling out the appropriate dictionaries from my collection to translate the instructions.

My foreign language dictionaries. NB: This doesn't mean that I can speak all these languages fluently!

My foreign language dictionaries. NB: This doesn't mean that I can speak all these languages fluently!

A Word About Dictionaries and Translations

I confess that being interested in language generally, I have dictionaries and language courses in a lot more languages than most people would, but, hey, you can usually pick up a cheap dictionary at a car boot sale or charity shop or an on-line auction—that’s how I acquired most of mine.

Make a Cheat Sheet

Or you could search online to find a list of translations for the most common foods in any given language (what is known as a Cheat Sheet) and print it off to take on your shopping jaunts. It will save you money and allow you to try out new things without worrying that they contain ingredients which disgust you. In my case, sauerkraut, processed pork, and hazelnuts are foods which I would give a miss to, whilst anything containing anchovies, chili and red peppers would be worth a try.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Diana Grant

Comments and Suggestions

Diana Grant (author) from London on June 25, 2016:

Yes that's a good idea. And that holds good for any vegetables in oil - I particularly like chillies and peppers, which give the oil a good strong flavor

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on June 20, 2016:

I love your hints for making the best use of fresh herbs. I sometimes reuse oils that come in jars of artichoke hearts when I make salad dressings.

Diana Grant (author) from London on June 18, 2015:

I've never heard of using vinegar to get rid of rust - I must remember that, thanks

Mary Hyatt from Florida on May 30, 2015:

I use a lot of vinegar in and out of the house! I just wish it could have a nicer scent. My son-in-law came over yesterday to borrow some of mine. He needed some to get rid of rust in a car part; said it works like a charm.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on April 10, 2015:

A very useful tips most of which I already applied to my housewife life. I have to think about using dictionary too when I go shopping in another country. Here in Germany, the Polish / Italian food descriptions are also written in German. That makes it easy for me to go shopping. Thanks for the tips.

Colleen Swan from County Durham on January 27, 2015:

Some great tips here. I love saving things for other uses. I like the idea of taking a Polish dictionary with me. At the moment it is only the red cabbage I buy. Now I may venture further.

Diana Grant (author) from London on November 08, 2014:

I must try it on my cat's bowl - good idea, thanks

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 07, 2014:

You've shared some useful tips. I'll keep them in mind. I'm sure I'll use them some time soon!

Fay Favored from USA on November 05, 2014:

Vinegar is like the best thing since sliced bread in my house. I keep a small spray bottle in the bathroom for the fixtures to prevent water spots. It works great for soaking pet bowls as well. Thanks for the other tips. They'll come in handy. Pinned to my kitchen board :)

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on November 02, 2014:

Being older My mother taught me not to waste and to this day nothing gets thrown out. Waste not, want not. Thanks interesting hub.