Photo: ThinkstockBy Lynn Andriani
The "What Is This Stuff, Anyway?" Laundry Supply
Not only do dryer sheets contain toxic chemicals (this Scientific American post explains just what's so bad about them), but they're also an unnecessary laundry expense. There are cheaper, safer alternatives, depending on why you use the sheets. If you just like the scent, toss a lavender sachet into the dryer with your clothes or linens. If you use them to soften your laundry, pour a half-cup of vinegar into the fabric-softener compartment of the machine. And if static is your issue, throw a tennis ball in with a load--it'll help keep the pieces of clothing from clinging to each other.
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The Phone You Never Use
A landline can cost between $180 and $480 every year, so it isn't surprising that more people are dropping the service. As of June 2012, 34 percent of U.S. households had gone wireless-only, according to the U.S. National Health Information Study, and the number is even higher (59 percent) among 25- to 29-year-olds. The two classic arguments against ditching the landline--that emergency responders won't be able to locate you if you call from a cell phone and that cell service is unreliable--are becoming less convincing as more cell phones are now equipped with E911 capability (which gives emergency responders information on callers' locations) and service gets better.
The Breakfast Mix of (Lazy) Champions
We know: Making pancakes from scratch is not difficult and does not require many strange ingredients. The thing is, on a hurried weekday morning, we're looking for minimal steps to get breakfast on the table. And while there are some terrific mixes out there, making your own blend is easy, cheap and healthy (plus, no partially hydrogenated oil!). Just throw the dry ingredients--6 cups flour, 6 teaspoons baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt--into an airtight container, cover and shake. When morning comes, scoop out 1 cup of the mix, combine it with an egg and 3/4 to 1 cup milk (the consistency should be pourable but not watery) and ladle spoonfuls onto a hot skillet.
The Organizational Tools That Just Make You Feel Put-Together
Those acrylic containers with twist-lock lids and silicone seals may bring order to your pantry, but such structure comes at a price: The boxes can cost $10 or more each, which adds up quickly. Instead, keep every large glass container that comes into your kitchen, whether it's holding Aunt Betty's homemade pickles or 24 ounces of tomato-basil marinara sauce from the supermarket. Once they're empty, run them through the dishwasher, fill with pasta, cereal, rice or beans, and label on top with a marker and piece of masking tape.
That One Song You Were So Into Last Week
Next time you're about to buy a fad song ("Gangnam Style," anyone?), consider a Spotify subscription instead. It costs between $5 and $10 a month, depending on whether you want to be able to listen to music on your desktop and laptop only, or on all your devices, and whether you want the capability to download music and listen offline. Either way, you can rock out to the latest hit as often as you want to, and when you're over it, move on to the next tune du jour.
A "Magic" Spice Rub
We're going to let you in on a secret: Spice rubs are nothing but a mix of, uh, spices. Make your own, and you'll save money, have one fewer rarely used container knocking around your spice rack and skip the chemicals manufacturers often add, such as silicon dioxide, maltodextrin and "corn syrup solids." Here's a terrific all-purpose rub you can use on pork, chicken, steak or vegetables: 4 teaspoons smoked paprika, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons ground coriander and 2 teaspoons ground cumin.
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Photo: ThinkstockBy Lynn Andriani