Helpful Cooking Ideas – Tips To Make Your Life Easier!

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Helpful Cooking Ideas

Helpful Cooking Ideas – Tips To Make Your Life Easier!

  • When measuring honey or molasses, measure your oil for the recipe first. You can spray with cooking spray but doing the oil first saves a step and saves on cooking spray.
  • I use an ice cream scoop to measure my honey and other things. It is exactly one fourth of a cup and with the little scraping arm on the inside, the ice cream scoop gets all of the honey out very nicely.

  • If you need to use a flour sifter, never wash it. Store it in a plastic bag until your next use. Flour sifters rust very easily and washing them can ruin them. If for some reason you really must wash your flour sifter make sure you dry it well. Place the flour sifter in a warm oven to dry it (but make sure you take it out before you use the oven!).
  • If you are out of toothpicks and need to test a cake, use a piece of uncooked spaghetti.
  • When you have small amounts of jam or jelly left over, set the jar in a saucepan of hot water and melt. Use the melted jelly for glazes on meats like ham or pork chops or for sauces on pancakes, waffles, puddings and ice cream. They’re also great poured into a smoothie or milkshake for extra flavor.
  • If your honey, syrup or jelly has crystallized, just warm it by setting it in a pan of water or for a few seconds in the microwave.


For more money saving tips like these along with hundreds of delicious quick and easy recipes, check out our Dining On A Dime Cookbook!

Photo By: Richard Monteverde


  1. Schmoo says

    Jill I love your flour sifter advice but I want to just add-

    Don’t put it in the oven if it’s plastic! My lovely 19 year old daughter would very consciensciously pop my plastic flour sifter in the warm oven without stopping to think that plastic and heat really don’t mix.

  2. rose says

    yes jill, i agree too … great advice!…
    also, if you dont have a flour sifter, you can use one of those colanders with the really really small holes (they look like they are made of mesh wiring and at walmart they are in a bag with 3 for like $5 or something like that) … my daughter uses this same type of colander for when she steams her vegi’s… her’s has little thingies on the end that you can rest on the side of a pot and then she covers the pot with a lid and steams her vegi’s… i am not sure where she got the colander from but i know i got mine at walmart…
    great advice jill! 😀

  3. Hillary says

    My MIL shared with me how she used up the last bit of jam/jelly. Just pour a little milk directly into the jar. Put the lid on tightly and shake. Yummy flavored milk. Works great for a treat for one. My only problem is I have 5 little ones who like this treat :)

  4. Caroline says

    My sister recently quit smoking. Does anyone have any helpful ideas on how to get that odor out of her house? I am sure she could paint and put down new carpet but she doesn’t really have the funds to do those projects right now.

    • Adrian Windsor in Scottsdale, AZ says

      Tear up or chop up some lemons, place them in a saucepan with a lot of water, turn the heat to medium, and let that all cook. When the water level is getting low, add more water. Also, when I prepare to juice a lemon, I scrub it with soap and water, juice the lemon, and then place the lemon peels in a zip lock bag in the freezer. When you have enough lemon peels, you can (1) scrape the lemon skin and save that for other uses, (2) boil the lemon peels in a pan with water to make a good lemon syrup (and you can add sugar), (3) boil the lemon peels with water to deodorize your living space, and (4) finally grind up whatever is left in the disposal.

    • Eyeza says

      I read on another website once that you can take charcoal briquettes and put in any used plastic container (margarine tub) and place them in a corner of any room to absorb odors naturally. I’ve never used it for a smoke filled home, but it does work well in the winter time when the house is closed up for so long. Tell you sister I happy she quit smoking and here”s to her good health.

  5. lucy james says

    ODO BAN is the name of a product sold at sam’s club cost about $10.00. very concentrated. can de used for spraying cleaning, washing, etc. works great. has a nice fragrance. when i worked in ICU. i always had a bottle that sprayed a very fine mist filled with the diluted liquid works better than all theother hospital sprays and did not bother my breating as some of those coverup sprays do.

    • Bill says

      Odo-Ban is good, Ozium is another good product. We sell in auto parts stores, use it in A/C vents to get rid of mold/odors etc.

  6. Caroline says

    Thank you very much Lucy. I think she will gives this a try this week. She is at home this week trying to clean and air out her house. So this will be the perfect addition to her line up and hopefully help her house to begin to smell fresh.

  7. apstarple says

    When measuring ingredients for a cake, I break the eggs into the measuring cup I will use for the shortening. It slips right out. If the recipe also calls for peanut butter, the order is eggs, shortening, peanut butter.

  8. jill says

    Lucy is the ODO Ban a disinfectant too? I sort of assumed it was but some cleaners aren’t so was wondering if I could use it as a disinfectant against things like mold and mildew. I often use vinegar and clorox but I have an area that the clorox won’t work and I don’t want the smell of vinegar but something that will make it smell nice.

  9. says

    Hi Jill,
    I am recently divorced and my kids are all grown and out of the house. I find it very difficult to cook for one. Does anyone out there have any hints or recipes for me. I know I can alway freeze items left over or take them for lunch but it gets a little tiring eating the same thing over and over. I find myself losing my desire or know-how when it comes to cooking. It’s almost cheaper to eat out everyday and not buy groceries.

    • Rosemary Hagedorn says

      I would like to hear suggestions too. I also live alone, my daughter is grown and on her own and I lost my husband about 6 years ago. I, too, eat a lot of leftovers for lunch and dinners. I eat low carb/high protein/high fat to maintain my weight and that limits sandwiches, pasta, grains and sugar. I’m a school librarian and we’re fortunate to have both a fridge and microwave in the library.

      • says

        It really is easy to adapt things to our own needs. For example if I was on a low carb diet I would just take all my sandwich fixings in a container and eat it without the bread. I do that all the time only because I run out of bread. I eat tuna or egg salad on lettuce or even all by itself. I would take a thin slice of ham and spread it with a little cream and roll a dill pickle up in it and eat it like that. I eat often a couple of slices of cheese, piece of fruit and a salad for lunch or a hard boiled egg, carrot sticks, cheese and piece of fruit.
        This is not necessarily for you Rosemary but if you have to be on a special diet stop looking at recipes and saying well I can’t do eat this because it has this or that in it but look instead and say if I remove what I can’t have will this still work and more often then not it will.
        I will suggest a pancake breakfast and someone will look at it and say I can’t eat that because I can’t have the pancakes. Well you maybe can’t have the pancakes but you can have the bacon, eggs and fruit in the same meal.
        I know it is hard cooking for one. I have been doing it for over 20 years now but it is pretty much like cooking for four but just use less. Here is a post a wrote about Saving Money on Groceries When You are Single. In it I do list noodles and things like that but you could delete that and add extra meat, yogurt, cheese and things like that.

    • Eyeza says

      you can go to and type in “recipe conversion magnet” and at least 8 items pop up. I recently bought this item from The Pampered Chef and paid $10. Amazon has the Amco Stainless Steel Recipe Divider Refrigerator Magnet for $9.55 plus shipping. They real do work to downsize or size-up a recipe.

  10. becky says

    another use for small amounts of jelly…..add milk and shake…….my grankids love strawberry,grape or even homemade muscadine jelly milk.

  11. says

    boil some ginger root in a pot of water it helps cover and eliminate odours. works for kitty litter here.
    leave jars of vinegar in a room it works well over time.

  12. says

    Carol, packet meals are great.
    before you cook them freeze them label them and pull your favourite for that meal it is ready in 1/2 an hour usually.
    meat, potatoe or cooked rice, vegetable spices.
    wrap in foil label.
    if you like mac and cheese make it up but use some of the macaroni and make a nice salad. either mayo base or oil base. that way you have 1/2 size of mac and cheese and a lunch or side for the next few days with the salad.
    Cook chicken breasts or thighs and cut into small strips. Freeze them in small packages and use for salads or stir frys with no extra cooking. Saw a package of them in the store the other day and they were $6. for about 2 chicken breasts. They also had seasonings we don’t care for so I do my own.
    buy one of the rotisserie chickens and first night have a swiss chalet meal. chicken potatoes cole slaw and bun.
    2nd night a chicken salad of chicken bits lettuce cucumber, and some nuts and a bit of dressing.
    3rd meal chicken salad sandwiches along with chicken soup using the bones to make a stock.

    use left over rice add some soy sauce meat bits and a handful of peas I call it mom’s fried rice add a couple egg rolls and it makes a nice meal.

    another tip is to use nice dishes and glasses. Makes the meal more appealing when you are not in a mood to eat alone. put on music you enjoy or even grab a book to read while eating. takes away the aloneness.

  13. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    Cooking for one: I make meatloaf burgers/salmon cakes, etc on my George Foreman grill and freeze them to nuke later. Bake an oven full of potatoes and nuke as you want them warm. Make chili, spagetti, macaroni and cheese, and freeze seperate (not necessarily individual) portions. Buy frozen veggies in a bag, pour out your desired serving, close the bag with a bread tie and put in back in the freezer.

  14. Elisabeth says

    Jill, if you want to clean with vinegar without the smell, it is easy to “flavor” the vinegar with orange peels. Just take a bucket or a metal bowl, throw in your orange peels, and cover with white vinegar. You let it steep for a month, then throw out the peels and there you are! It has a nice, strong orange smell. It might even work as a degreaser…I don’t know how well, because I am still experimenting with mine. It probably doesn’t work as well as the commercial products you can buy, but I like to use natural cleaners as much as possible, you know? Plus, we eat a lot of oranges, and it is nice to get some benefit out of the peels.

    Oh, and a tip for the oranges: it is best if you thoroughly wash them first to remove the wax from the peels. You will also want to store the peels in the fridge so they don’t mold. Or, you can start with the vinegar and just throw your peels in as you go…that works, too!

    • says

      What a good idea Elizabeth. I know many people have a problem with the vinegar smell. Now that I think about it Tawra use to make special vinegars for cooking etc. and she would put spices, herbs in them to flavor them so that makes sense I just never thought about doing it for vinegar for cleaning. Thanks for the tip. Here’s a link to an article of ours on what to do with extra oranges and peels for anyone who needs it.

  15. Lynn Filipowicz says

    hey, I really enjoy the tips and would like to offer one that works well. when I want to cook sweet potatoes quick
    I put some oil on my hands and grease the sweet potatoes
    put then in the micro-way and cook them. the peel comes right off and they are wonderful.and about the vinegar for cleaning it’s very good and the smell goes away fast,it removes odors and cleans your landry also.Baking soda also cleans very good.

  16. barb~ says

    An older woman I know who washes her hair with baking soda and cider vinegar (she’s been hip for yrs.!) uses a rubbing alcohol and water mixture for all of her cleaning and to disinfect. Her house is spotless and smells so fresh all the time.

    • says

      Yes Barb I use alcohol a lot too and it works great. I love it for shining my faucets and I use it the way many use cleaning wipes. I pour some on a rag and just wipe down my sink, toilet and since I have a small bathroom I even wipe down my bathroom floor. It works really nice for shining things like mirrors too. It doesn’t take as much alcohol as you would think. You just dampen the rag with it and swipe.

  17. barb~ says

    With small amts of jams, jellies, or even ketchup, I add a little water in the container and put it in the microwave for a few seconds. I stir it well and then add to variety of things. I use apricot or peach preserve liquid over pork chops when I bake them. I have combined the ketchup mixture with a jam liquid, add a drop of liquid smoke and made a great BBQ sauce. Sometimes, I have poured jam liquids over ice cream, fruit,cake…or even into a half full syrup bottle. I have also used it in place of water for Jello, or as the liquid in cake or muffins.

  18. barb~ says

    Hi Carol,
    I am in the same place as you-divorced with grown kids. I am still picking up ideas, but I have learned you have to break the habit of thinking you’re still cooking for a family. Like you said, you get tired of it, or you end up eating way to much. Many leftovers don’t taste as good once they have been frozen, either.
    What are some of your favorite foods for main dishes? Maybe I can help with some recipes if I know what you really enjoy. Grandma’s right, too-make things special for yourself!

  19. fran says

    empty jars of jelly, mustard,ketsup or jams alway get vinegar added to the jar with salt and pepper and oil to be use to salad as dressing.

  20. says

    last night we were having company for dinner. He brought steaks so I made a couple macaroni salads.
    the one with mayo tasted great but the oil and vinegar one I could not get any flavour into it. It was edible but so bland and I was out of all my fancy vinegars. I was looking in the fridge for inspiration and saw my bottle of clamatoe juice. I added a few tbsp. to the salad and it was great.
    Nobody else likes clamatoe juice so I didn’t tell them and the salad disappeared quite nicely.

  21. nancy says

    To Barb and Carol,

    If you know other single people you could get together and do a menu swap. I.E. You have four people you each make one entree dish. Split the entree dish between 4 rubber maid containers. You don’t need the expensive rubber maid either the take-a-long type are fine and can be used several times or hit the dollar tree for cheap containers. You then swap out your entrees. You will only need to provide a side dish and dinner is ready. This will work well if you know some seniors who are now living alone too. Gives everyone something new to try and fellowship.

  22. Yvonne says

    Jill, I have a question. The other day, the home health care provider that comes in and fixes our dinner made some mashed potatoes amd gravy. We had some of each left over. I was wondering if these can be frozen? If they can, for how long?

    • says

      Yvonne, you can freeze mashed potatoes and gravy but they will taste like what you get in TV dinners. If you like that then you are fine. There are a couple of things you can do if you don’t. First if you freeze them warm them in a microwave instead of an oven or on the stove top if you can. This helps with the flavor some.

      Also you may consider not freezing them at all. If the gravy and potatoes are separate use them to make potato pancakes for a meal the next day or make some potato soup and use the potatoes to thicken it. You could also mix the gravy with a little meat and top with the potatoes then bake. This makes kind of a shepard’s pie (you can add veggies too).

      If you are unsure just place some in the freeze and the next day try them to see if you like them. They will separate some but just beat up with a fork.
      Check out the web site by doing a search on Thanksgiving. We have a ton or other recipes with what to do with left over potatoes and gravy. Hope this helps.

  23. Mary Ann says

    Bottom of jelly/jam jar (any flavor)…chop up strawberries, stir into jar.May want to add small amount of sugar. Overnight the mixture becomes very juicy. I like to pour it on angel food cake or pound cake. It could be used in a trifle, etc. Other berries can be used but the berries lose their shape & do not look as nice as strawberries.Can even use the white centers which often don’t taste very good when eaten fresh. This is especially good for using up strawberries which are getting mushy. I am single and have trouble using up the lge containers of strawberries(which are usually less expensive than small containers) before they go bad…once they are added to the jelly/jam they are useable for several days (even up to a week(.

  24. Mary Jane says

    For Caroline, whose sister has quit smoking and is looking for a way to deodorize her home: I have a friend who runs a broker business that puts large loads together with transport truck drivers, to deliver things across the country. She told me that they frequently will deodorize transport truck trailers by putting down fresh, unused coffee grounds on the floor of the trailer. They do this when they have transported something particularly smelly, have a day or two, and then must transport food on the next load. The coffee grounds absorb the previous odours. You might try laying out trays or cake pans full of fresh coffee grounds in several rooms for a few days or so. Stir them up once in a while, and see if that doesn’t help after a week.

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