6 Garage Sale Setup Tips to Best Display Your Items & Make More Money

Picture this: You’re cruising down the street one day, and you spot two garage sales on the same block. The first has racks of clothes, bins of books and records, and a few high-value items prominently displayed near the curb. The second features jumbled, messy piles and boxes scattered across the yard.

Which one would you stop at?

Presentation is crucial to a successful yard sale. You can and should advertise your sale, but you also want to encourage passers-by to stop and look at your wares. If your sale doesn’t make a good first impression, most will just keep going.

No matter how much good stuff your sale has, it won’t bring in shoppers who can’t see it easily. People passing on foot only have your sale in their sights for a couple of minutes at most, and drivers on the street see it for as little as a couple of seconds.

To draw them in, you must show off your sale items so effectively their first glimpse convinces them to take a closer look.

Garage Sale Tips for Presentation

A garage sale has two purposes. It’s a way to declutter your home and bring in some extra cash. And the best way to achieve both goals is to attract as many customers as possible.

When you’re trying to draw in shoppers, pricing isn’t the most crucial factor. Yes, yard sale shoppers love bargains, but if your garage sale items don’t look appealing, no one will even stop to look at the price tags.

So before you even get out the price stickers, you need to spend some time thinking about how to set up your yard sale display to catch the eye.

1. Clean Your Items

Suppose you’re shopping yard sales looking for outdoor furniture. You come across a set that looks sturdy, but the chair arms and backs are coated in grime and their cushions are mildewy. Would you buy them or keep looking for a set in better condition?

That illustrates how important cleaning is. Something that’s otherwise in perfectly good shape becomes a complete turn-off for buyers if it’s covered in dirt. Even if you haven’t used something in years, it can come out of storage sporting a thick coat of dust that makes buyers pass it over.

So before you even think about how to display pieces, give each of them a quick touch-up with a dusting cloth. If anything is especially dirty, take the time to scrub it down with soap and water.

Some garage sale items need more specific cleaning treatment. Run clothes through the washer and dryer to remove dirt and odors, and give shoes a quick polish to remove scuff marks. If you have purses or other bags to sell, clean out dirt and debris from their interiors (and while you’re at it, make sure there’s nothing of value left inside).

2. Show Off the Good Stuff

Shoppers get their first glimpse of your garage sale from either the street or the sidewalk. If all they can see in that first look is a bunch of cheap junk, many will keep moving instead of stopping to browse.

There may be some real gems hidden toward the back of your yard or garage, but many prospective buyers will never see them.

If you want to hold a successful garage sale that attracts as many buyers as possible, put your most appealing merchandise front and center. In my experience, the best yard sale items for attracting buyers include:

  • Antiques of any kind — furniture, houseware, jewelry
  • Appliances
  • Board games
  • Clothing and accessories in good condition, such as shoes and purses
  • Electronics like TVs and stereos
  • Furniture
  • Musical instruments
  • Sporting equipment, including bicycles and camping gear
  • Tools, including garden tools like lawn mowers

In general, large items have more curb appeal than small ones. For one thing, they’re easier to see from the street. Also, little things like cheap toys and kitchen utensils aren’t that expensive to buy new, so they don’t offer the potential for a major bargain.

Another helpful strategy is to display merchandise likely to appeal to men, such as golf clubs or power tools, as close to the road as possible. In my experience, women are more likely to stop at a garage sale than men, so you don’t need to go to as much effort to reel them in.

By displaying things that typically appeal to them most prominently, you’ll attract men as well as women to your sale.

3. Group Like Items Together

Once you’ve drawn customers to your sale, you want to keep them there as long as possible. It might seem like the way to do that is to place everything randomly so shoppers looking for specific finds have to hunt through every table at the sale to discover them. But that strategy is likely to backfire.

As a shopper, I always find it frustrating when a yard sale has no clear layout. If I’m looking for something in particular, such as clothing or books, I want to see all the clothing or books available in one place. If they’re scattered across all the tables at the sale, I’m likely to get frustrated and walk away.

To make shopping easy for your buyers, group similar items together. Make one table for clothing, one for books, one for housewares, and one for toys, for example. That way, people can go directly to the table that interests them and start browsing.

If you have a lot of one type of product, sort it into narrower categories, such as children’s books and adult books.

To make it easier for yourself, sort your merchandise into boxes by category before your sale. On the day of the sale, you can simply bring each box to its own table and start laying everything out.

4. Keep Everything Visible

The easiest way for you to sort goods into categories is to leave them in their boxes. But that isn’t easy for your buyers. No one wants to bend over a box pulling out one baby onesie after another until they find the size and color they’re after.

Haphazard piles of stuff aren’t appealing either. I’ve walked away from more than one rummage sale because all the clothes were in massive, unsorted piles on the tables. Digging through them all to find the few outfits in my size would have taken hours with no guarantee I’d find anything I liked.

To make your sale appealing, lay your wares out in ways that make them easy to see at a glance. There are multiple ways to display different types of merchandise, depending on how much of it you have and what condition it’s in.

Clothing

The best way to display clothing is on hangers on a portable clothes rack. That keeps garments off the ground and makes them easy to sort through. If you don’t have a clothing rack, look for a makeshift alternative, such as an old ladder or a sturdy clothesline strung between two trees.

If there’s no way to hang clothes, the next best option is to arrange them in neatly folded piles on a table. That’s also a suitable way to display clothes for babies and small children.

But note your neatly folded and stacked garments will invariably get unfolded and strewn about as the day goes on, so you have to tidy up your piles from time to time.

Whichever method you choose, try sorting clothes by size, type, and gender. That makes it still easier for buyers to find what they want. A nice added perk is to display garments like coats with their extra buttons if you still have them.

Accessories

There’s nothing more frustrating than finding one shoe in your size and then having to hunt around for the other before you can try them on. You can significantly increase your shoe sales by taking the time to line pairs up together, either on a table or on a sheet or blanket on the ground.

You can display purses and bags on tables, on the ground, or neatly lined up in boxes. Or if you have a large tree handy, you can make an eye-catching display by hanging handbags from its limbs.

Jewelry is a high-value commodity, so it’s worth making an extra effort to display it well.

Wrap a piece of cardboard in fabric, then stick in pins or small nails to hang necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. You can pin brooches directly to the fabric. If you have coordinating pieces, such as necklace-and-earring sets, display them together.

Books & Recordings

Books are easiest to see if they’re arranged side by side with their spines facing out so people can view the titles at a glance.

The easiest way to accomplish that is to line them up on a bookcase or shelf. But don’t use a bookcase you’re also planning to sell because if someone buys it, you’ll have to remove all the books in a hurry and find a new location for them.

You can also display books by lining them up in a box with their spines facing up. Or if you have a smaller selection of books, you can fan them out on a table faceup so shoppers can see their covers.

Whatever you do, don’t stack books in boxes or pile them on tables so shoppers have to lift each one out of the way to see what’s below it. For all but the most dedicated book buyers, that’s simply too much work to be worth it.

These same display ideas work well for audio or video recordings, including CDs, DVDs, video game cartridges, records, and cassettes. (Yes, there are still people who have held onto their old boomboxes and are willing to buy tapes if they’re cheap enough.) Make the titles visible, and don’t force your buyers to dig.

Furniture & Home Goods

When displaying furniture at a yard sale, consider what type of buyer it would appeal to.

Place sturdy pieces suitable for families near the street, where they’ll draw buyers in. Older, worn-out pieces might appeal to students furnishing a dorm room or DIY fans looking for pieces to make over. Display these pieces farther back but with prominent labels indicating their low prices.

Antique furniture creates a bit of a dilemma. On one hand, it’s an appealing item that can attract shoppers. However, if you place a lightweight piece too close to the street, an ambitious thief could snatch it when you turn your back. Large and heavy furnishings can go in the front, but it’s best to place smaller ones close to the checkout where you can keep an eye on them.

For smaller home decor, consider maximizing its visual appeal by creating little vignettes.

For instance, you can toss a bedspread over a couch to show off its pattern and add a couple of matching throw pillows. To sell a set of dishes, lay out one whole place setting on a table, complete with a napkin and flatware, and keep the rest stowed in a box.

Finally, if you’re selling old electronics, make sure you have all their parts — remotes, cords, and the manual if you have it — bundled along with the primary equipment. You can wrap them up and stash them in a clear plastic bag taped to the side.

Customers will appreciate being able to see at a glance that the equipment has all the necessary parts. And if they want to test the device to make sure it works, all the pieces they need are available. Consider running an extension cord to the house for testing purposes or at least having one handy for shoppers to use.

5. Make Space for Everything

Ideally, most of the goods at your yard sale should be on tables, so shoppers don’t have to bend down to look at them. If you don’t have enough tables to display your wares, borrow from neighbors or friends.

Also, look for ways to create more “table” space from scratch. For instance, you can lay plywood over a pair of sawhorses, milk crates, or even cardboard boxes. You can also use any naturally elevated surfaces in your yard, such as porch steps or retaining walls.

If you’ve tried all these tricks and still don’t have enough table space for everything, prioritize. Reserve your table space for high-value merchandise you really want buyers to see and delicate pieces that could break if left on the ground. Everything else can go on blankets or tarps.

Set out comfortable chairs for yourself and any helpers so you don’t have to spend the whole day on your feet. Set them near a small table or another surface you can use for making change and bagging purchases.

6. Promote Your Sale

No matter how good your yard sale looks, it won’t attract customers if no one comes close enough to see it. That’s why even the best yard sale needs adequate signage.

Before putting up signs, check to see if your town has any regulations about them.

For instance, it might regulate how many signs you can put up, how large they can be, what materials you can use, and where you can display them. It may also have rules about how long before the sale you can put signs up and how long you have after the sale to take them down.

While you’re at it, check all the other local regulations.

Some towns require you to get a garage sale permit, and others limit you to a certain number of sales per year. Putting up signs puts you on the local authorities’ radar, so make sure you’re not running afoul of any rules. Otherwise, the fines could eat into if not exceed your profits.

Once you have any necessary permits and are clear about the signage rules, it’s time to set about making them.

Good yard sale signs are large, clear, and easy to read. Include the address as well as an arrow to point passing motorists in the right direction. If your town allows it, hang signs at all the busiest intersections near your house. From there, leave a trail of signs all the way to your house, pointing shoppers the right way at every turn.

Ensure your yard sale signs include the date and times of your sale as well. I always find it frustrating to see a sign that says, “garage sale,” with an address and no date because I never know if the sale is coming up, currently going on, or already over.

Listing the date and taking down signs once the sale is over ensures shoppers don’t show up on the wrong day.

You can advertise your sale online as well. Sites like Garage Sale Finder exist specifically for this purpose. Many local Craigslist groups have a section for garage sale advertising as well. Other places to put the word out include social media sites like Facebook and Nextdoor.


Final Word

A well-organized garage sale takes more work to set up than a haphazard one.

But putting in this extra effort maximizes the chances your sale will succeed once it gets going. Shoppers are more likely to stop for an attractive sale, and those who stop are more likely to stick around long enough to find something they want to buy.

By taking the time to display your goods well and price them right, you can host a great yard sale instead of just an OK one. And that helps you turn more of your clutter into cash.

Source: moneycrashers.com

3 Essential Window Treatment Options for Renters in 2021 | Apartminty

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This year, there’s going to be a more significant number of apartments rented than ever before. That means more renters will be adding their own unique touch. There will be more rooms customized and more apartments fitted to unique styles.

However, it’s crucial to focus on window treatments with any apartment. Natural light, room privacy, and overall customization are vital for any renter. Whether you’re looking for shades or touching up a window with internal blinds, here are three essential window treatment options for renters in 2021.

Magnetic Curtain Rods

If you’re looking to hang a curtain but are worried about the impact it might have on your apartment walls, then magnetic curtain rods may be an ideal choice. These curtain rods can be easily installed as a temporary window treatment.

By magnetically pressing these curtain rods against steel doors or windows, you can hang any lightweight curtain. We particularly recommend sheer curtains for a balance of soft lighting and privacy.

An added tip: curtains on magnetic rods can also be controlled remotely using a smart option in 2021. The SwitchBot Curtain takes 30 seconds to install and motorizes any curtains. You can control this from SwitchBot’s Hub Mini app on your smartphone. 

Command Hooks

Do you have a small curtain or a sports pennant that you want to hang over your window? If so, you might want to try command hooks. These convenient, cost-effective options are among the most popular selections that renters use for apartment window treatment.

Command hooks are made out of different materials such as nickel or plastic. These hooks attach to your walls with adhesive strips and can hang surfaces ranging from metal to tile to wood. However, these hooks cannot hang on vinyl, and it’s recommended that you don’t hang items on command hooks over your bed.

Simply wipe the surface beforehand with rubbing alcohol and attach the command hooks to the wall. After that, you’ll be able to hang lightweight window treatments quickly and easily.

Temporary Shades

If you prefer the functionality of shades, then temporary shades can be a great selection. These lightweight options come in a wide array of styles.

Some temporary shades come in paper shade form. These range in color and can last up to six years. Other temporary shade options can be hung on a tension rod. These types of shades add privacy to your apartment and reduce the amount of heat let in through excess light. This may help save on energy bills as well this year.

No matter your choice, temporary shades can be a wise option for renters.

Renters may not think about window treatment when they first move into their apartment. However, these can be vital choices when it comes to privacy, energy efficiency, and customization. With these tips, renters can find essential window treatment options to enhance their apartments in 2021.

About the Author

Jennifer Bell is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey.

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.

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Source: blog.apartminty.com

7 Tips on How to Take Pictures of Items to Sell

To put it simply: knowing how to take pictures of items to sell online has almost as much of an impact on your success as the actual object. It’s the presentation, the first way a shopper sees your product.
Before Christine Soojung Han of Vintage Sooj even shoots a photograph, she asks herself some philosophical questions. What is she trying to achieve with this photograph? What is she hoping to emulate or what kind of mood does she want to evoke? In essence, what story is she telling with the photograph.
Lighting was the first piece of advice that Chen offered. Finding the right place in your home is a matter of finding south-facing windows and, ideally, more than one window. You want to have lots of natural light. How the light comes through your window will change by season and time of day.

Pro Advice on How to Take Pictures of Items to Sell Online

Han found natural light to be too fickle. She started out with simply soft sunlight, but that was too dependent on the weather. So she bought soft boxes for light and studio lighting for about 0 and that upgraded her lighting set-up.

1. Decide What Style Photography You Want

“Avoid a crazy wallpaper wall,” she said. “That’s not for everybody and it really becomes a distraction. You want to be able to look at your furniture and not your wallpaper.”
Privacy Policy
Chen would post as many photos as possible if she could, but social media sites limit how many photos a seller can post. Chen’s adage is: take as many photos as possible. More photos offer more details and more chances for someone to fall in love with your item.

2. Find the Right Background. Be Consistent.

Ready to stop worrying about money?
You don’t have to have fancy equipment to start: smartphone cameras work fine.
When Han first started, she used props in some of her photos, like pampas grass or a stool. She found the props to be distracting, so now she models the clothes in most of her photos and adds accessories to the outfits. She doesn’t want to take attention away from the product itself.
But don’t worry, we’re about to let you in on some tips to make bank on. We consulted with the pros so you don’t have to do all of that legwork. Instead, let two eCommerce gurus guide you through the art of putting your best foot forward — photographically speaking, that is.
For Chen, staging is pivotal to creating a lived-in scene with her furniture. The important thing with staging is to strike a balance between domestic beauty and distraction. Chen suggests simple objects like a round mirror or a couple of white or black-covered books. She always likes to have vases on hand to hold flowers cut from her garden.
With clothing, much of that comes down to style: do you want something moodier with shadow or do you want crisp and clean images? Is this a stylized portrait or is this simply about the clothes? Researching and having a style of image in mind that you want to achieve makes it easier from the outset.

3. Lighting Matters

Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Chen takes photos to show how deep a dresser drawer is or what the top surface looks like. She shares photos of the furniture legs and hardware, because that can make a difference to a buyer and is often another aspect of her design. If she can add a video, she does. A video gives people the sense of the full scope of an item and what it looks like in natural daylight.

4. Stage Your Photograph

Chen echoes the same premise for furniture.
When it comes to furniture product photos, Chen says, capturing the details is key. What makes your piece special? Take a photo of that. Examples of Chen’s clean photo styling can be studied on Instagram.

5. Capture the Details of Your Items

Chen calls taking a good photo “50% of the work.” She recently bought a dresser online for . Although Chen usually sands, paints and refurbishes the furniture she sells, this piece was in such good shape that she did nothing to it. She took some well-lit and aesthetically appealing photos and sold it for 5. She made almost 0 off of the dresser with little additional work.
Both Han and Chen say photos have made a difference in attracting buyers. Han will often reshoot a piece that hasn’t sold after some time. She might try different lighting or a different background to highlight the piece. Once she posts that new photo, she can usually sell the item right away.

6. Edit Your Photos

Often, entrepreneurs who start an online business aren’t photographers. Sometimes, they don’t even have a background in a creative industry and it’s unlikely they will have camera equipment beyond their smartphones. They’re passionate about their businesses selling vintage clothing or refurbishing vintage furniture, but they’re self-taught. For many, the internet has been their teacher.

7. Use Multiple Photos

Chen doesn’t like to use artificial lighting, because she finds it changes the color of the furniture in photos.

Photos Make a Difference

The axiom “photo, photo, photo” may be to online selling what “location, location, location” is to real estate.
“You see people use printed backgrounds or landscapes, but I think, no matter what you decide to use, it shouldn’t be distracting, because you want the attention to be on the clothing,” Han said.
Both Han and Sara Chen of the upcycled furniture company Sara Chen Design suggest keeping the background clean and neutral. Chen uses white walls as her backdrop, but in the last year, she has spruced it up by adding board and batten wood paneling to her staging wall. Chen has a space in her house specifically designated for staging, a luxury not everyone has.
Han, who started her business in a tiny apartment, began taking photos with a bedsheet as her background. That got tedious because she had to steam the wrinkles out each time. Now, she uses color paper backdrops that she bought cheaply from a photographer who was looking to downsize equipment. Examples of Han’s backgrounds can be studied on Etsy. Scroll through the pages to see where she used bedsheets. <!–

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“Photos make such a big difference,” Chen said. “You need to take time to take better photos if you want to sell for more money.”

18 Simple Storage Tips for Small Apartments

The average U.S. household has 300,000 things in it.

From the tiniest thumbtack to each book on your shelf and every piece of clothing hanging in your closet, there’s a lot of stuff to keep organized. It’s even more daunting if you’re bringing it all into a smaller apartment.

Many people tend to look at a smaller home and see what’s missing — space. Yet, fewer closets and less built-in storage doesn’t mean you’re missing out on somewhere to put your stuff.

If you’re smart with your furniture choices, color picks and organizational tactics, every corner of a small space can become a “beloved spot.”

Cut the clutter

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When working with a smaller living space, your goal, according to Michelle Crouch writing for Reader’s Digest, should be to remove clutter not create more storage space. Clutter can manifest as items you want to keep, but not display, as well as things that you no longer need.

Certain keepsakes you want to hold onto can spend some time in a storage unit until you have a larger home. Paper records, greeting cards, mementos from special events (that aren’t that special anymore) and old letters from past relationships are all things that no longer need to follow you from place to place.

In fact, having a smaller apartment can help you triage what you really want to keep with you. What’s left can either go into storage or head to the round file (a.k.a. the trash.)

Rearrange what’s left

After narrowing down your necessities, take a look at your apartment for hidden storage opportunities. Each room can yield more space than you may think upon the first inspection. Taking a close and thoughtful look can help you find the right place for all your belongings, even in a small apartment.

Bedroom

bedroombedroom

There are two areas in your bedroom that can be great for storage — your closet and under your bed. Maximizing space in your closet is possible with a variety of storage ideas. From special hangers to repurposing household items, your closet can hold twice as much stuff as you think.

  • Use vertical space: Stack shirts or pants on shelves
  • Shower curtain hangers: Install these in your closet to hold scarves, belts or even tank tops freeing up drawer space in your bedroom for bulkier items
  • Over-the-door shoe organizer: Less stuff on the ground helps your small space feel less cluttered
  • Under-bed storage: Even if you have a bed that’s lower to the ground, special storage bins exist that will slide under. Store your off-season clothing here to free up more space for the items you need.

Bathroom

bathroombathroom

Tips for organizing small spaces are handiest in the bathroom. It’s most likely the tightest space in a small apartment, but there’s room to spare in there, too. Overlooked areas ideal for extra storage include above the toilet and inside cabinets.

  • Over-the-toilet shelf: Since it slides in around the toilet, you’re not adding to the footprint within the bathroom. This is a great place to hold toiletries that don’t fit on the sink.
  • Over-the-door hooks: Perfect for wet towels or bathrobes
  • Shower caddies: Hang these over your shower head to hold soap and shampoo
  • Small storage containers on the inside of your bathroom cabinets: A great place for your hairdryer and straightener
  • A wine rack or special shelf for fresh towels: Putting them up on the wall makes sure they aren’t taking up valuable closet or cabinet space. It also looks decorative if you incorporate towels in vibrant colors.

Kitchen

kitchenkitchen

The best way to increase storage space in your kitchen is to add more counter space.

  • Make use of all free space: Large bowls have a lot of space in them. Condense your Tupperware or dishes by putting smaller objects inside of larger ones.
  • Appliances for storage: No cabinets, no problem! Your oven or microwave is a great place to keep dishes, pots and pans out of sight.
  • Portable chef’s cart: Put cutlery or even small kitchen appliances under it, then wheel the cart near an outlet when you have to plug in something. It gives you an extra surface to prep food, and you can move it out of the way when you’re done.
  • Wall hooks and over-the-door storage: Hang large utensils, pots and pans, cleaning supplies and even pantry staples

Living room

living roomliving room

Most likely the largest room in your apartment, the living room can serve as a catch-all for the stuff you need to store that won’t naturally go somewhere else.

  • Decorative boxes: They can fit under coffee tables or desks, and can hold almost anything. Store magazines, board games and puzzles, along with any personal items you want to keep but don’t need to display.
  • Book cart: If your couch is set up against a wall, consider moving it forward a little bit to create even more storage space. Slide in a cart to hold all your books in a way that’s easy to access.
  • Portable desk: Living rooms in small apartments often double as an office. Make the space less cluttered with the convenience of wheeling your small, portable workstation back into a corner when it’s not in use.

Hallways

hallwayhallway

While not technically a room, don’t dismiss the potential for storage in seemingly useless spaces. Your hallways are the perfect location for things like coats, shoes or umbrellas.

  • Coat rack: Give your guests a spot to hang their coats when they visit, rather than tossing them on a chair or your couch
  • Shoe cubby: Clear some space off the floor and keep your shoes organized

A word about shelving

Small storage shelves can go in almost any space in your home. They’re a universal space-saving device because they turn wall space into storage space. Especially in corners, which can feel like unusable areas of your apartment, shelves can save the day.

Trade in the cute, framed pictures you’ve put up on one wall and install shelves for instant storage. Deeper shelves can hold small bins, masking the appearance of anything that’s not so cute, and special corner shelving units nestle in nicely. There are so many shelving ideas out there, it’ll be easy to incorporate a few in your apartment.

After everything gets put away

Now that you’ve found a spot in your apartment for all your stuff, it’s time to decorate. Just because you have a small space doesn’t mean every nook and cranny has to go to holding stuff.

Leave a little room to make things pretty and transform your small space into the perfect home.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Cheap Mother’s Day Gifts Under $20 Including Shipping

While some families feel safer reuniting for Mother’s Day this year with vaccination programs rolling out across the country, others are still keeping their distance as they wait for everyone to get shots.

Pandemic aside, some of us live across the country or state from dear old Mom and can’t treat her to brunch. Whatever’s keeping you and Mom apart this Mother’s Day, May 9, there are plenty of ways you can show her you love and miss her. Not only that, but you can do it all while going easy on your wallet.

To help, we’ve put together a list of 20 Mother’s Day gifts under $20 you can order online. And that $20 includes shipping — free for some items.

Mother’s Day Gifts That Will Help Her Get Outdoors

The outdoors is a safer place to hang out than inside thanks to the coronavirus.

Pickleball Glove for Mom

Pickleball is the hottest team sport these days. This is the perfect season to play socially-distanced and outdoors. If your mom is seriously into this sport, you can pick her up a brand-name pickleball glove on Amazon for between $18 and $20. If you have Prime membership, shipping is free, keeping you under budget.

Annual Flower Bulbs

Does Mom love gardening?

Give her a gift that keeps on giving with annual bulbs. Plant these flowers once, and they will bloom year after year. Bulbs that need a freeze to bloom (iris, daffodils, tulips) are typically put in the ground in the fall before it gets too hard for digging and they pop up and blossom in spring. The following bulbs can be planted in the spring to bloom in the summer.

Gladiolus Flower Bulbs

Gladiolus are beautiful and you can get a lot of them even on a budget. You can pick your color, ordering a bag in white or purple for  $13.95 on Walmart’s platform. Shipping is free.

Lily Flower Bulbs

You can get about three lily bulbs for under $20. Some options from Walmart sellers include:

These options run between $13.95 and $15.99 and come with free shipping.

Gift Certificate to a Local Garden Center

Maybe Mom doesn’t have space for a garden, but does love having flowers and plants around. In this case, consider getting her a gift certificate to her local garden center for $20.

There’s an added bonus to sending your card on Mother’s Day; when she goes shopping after the holiday, excess inventory will be marked down dramatically, giving her more bang for her buck.

A blue butterfly stands out amongst a group of red butterflies.
Getty Images

Butterfly Habitat

Butterfly habitats may be marketed towards children, but Mom can enjoy one, too! This kit from Target is $19.99, and comes with a habitat and voucher for live caterpillars — which ship separately. Your order should qualify for free shipping.

Mom will be able to watch the caterpillars as they build their chrysalises and grow into butterflies, eventually releasing them into the wild. Bonus points for sending a card with a cheesy analogy about how she helped you grow into a butterfly, and what a great job she did.

Sweets & Culinary Gift Ideas for Moms

Mother’s Day is a great time to shower your mom with sweets. Or, if Mom’s great in the kitchen, it’s a fun time to celebrate those skills with gifts.

Personalized Recipe Cards

Mom’s a great cook. Everyone’s always asking her for recipes. Pick her up a set of personalized recipe cards on Etsy so she’ll get full credit when she shares her skills. This set costs $10.75 and ships free to the US.

Heart-Shaped Pan

We’ve all been cooking at home this past year — perhaps way more than normal. Turn the mundane fun with this heart-shaped pan from Ecolution on Amazon.com. Whether your mother’s making pancakes or eggs, she’ll appreciate that Ecolution’s products are eco-friendly yet durable. You’ll appreciate that it clocks in at just $12.51 and ships free with Prime membership.

Fruit Infusion Pitcher

We haven’t just been eating at home a lot more often — we’ve been drinking at home a lot more often, too. This fruit infusion pitcher is great for making mimosas and flavored water alike. It is $19.99 on Amazon.com and ships free with Prime membership.

Chocolate

Believe it or not, you can get a fair amount of good chocolate for under $20. The “ G-Cube” from Godiva comes with an assortment of 22 flavors, and costs $11.95. With shipping, you can expect to pay around $19.95.

Delivery from a Local Bakery

Ask your mom about her favorite local bakery recommendations. Then, place an order for delivery with them on Mother’s Day. This allows you to not only get mom a gift, but also support small businesses in her community.

If the delivery fee would put you over budget and Mom is vaccinated, you can find another way. You could likely request curbside pickup or she could take a very quick trip inside while double-masked to pick up the treats herself.

Self-Care Gifts for Mother’s Day

We all need a little more self-care these days. Help Mom relax with these soothing Mother’s Day gift ideas until you can see each other again.

Comfortable Sleep Mask

A lot of people have experienced insomnia throughout this pandemic. If Mom’s one of them, you might want to consider helping her get some better shut eye. This silk satin sleep mask from Kessom on Walmart’s platform not only comes in under budget with no shipping costs, but also comes with a matching scrunchie and storage pouch.

Shea Butter Replenishing Bar Soap

This shea butter soap, infused with essential oils, lots of benefits. Rebourne Home + Body says it can:

  • Fight inflammation.
  • Heal chapped, dull or prematurely aging skin.
  • Fight eczema.
  • Improve skin elasticity.
  • Increase blood circulation.

Rebourne sells high-quality bath and beauty products. This one will cost you around $19.45 to send to mom after accounting for shipping costs.

A woman puts cucumbers over her eyes as she sits up with a charcoal facial mask on her.
Getty Images

Luxe Face Masks

Charmed Bath & Body offers several different face masks available via Etsy. You can choose from:

  • Matcha
  • Rose clay.
  • White clay
  • Charcoal
  • Turmeric

It should cost you around $15.95 in all to purchase and ship one of these mask powders for Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day Coloring Book

Give Mom an opportunity to de-stress with this Mother’s Day coloring book from Amazon. Each page comes with intricate drawings to color in and encouraging and cute quotes about motherhood.

This book is $14.99 and ships free for Prime members.

Blue Light Glasses

We’ve all been spending a lot more time in front of screens over the past year. That means we’ve been spending a lot more time staring at blue light, which can cause migraines, damage our vision and even throw off circadian rhythms, our natural sleep-wake cycles.

Help Mom out with some self-care she didn’t even know she needed with these blue light blocking glasses from Nordstrom. They’re only $15 and shipping is free.

Sentimental Mother’s Day Gifts Under $20

These sweet, mom-centric products will highlight your relationship as you take a trip down memory lane.

Tell Me Your Story Book (Grandma Edition)

You know what’s been happening a lot less often thanks to the pandemic and social distancing? We aren’t telling each other as many stories on a regular basis. That includes grandmas telling their own life stories and family histories to their grandchildren.

Compensate for the loss over the past year with this memory journal. It’s available for $10 on Amazon.com with free shipping for Prime members.

Tell Me Your Story Book (Mom Edition)

Don’t have kids, but love the memory book idea?

Fear not. There is a version of these products for children to give directly to their moms — no procreation required. This daily journal of childhood memories will run you $12, once again with free shipping for Amazon Prime members.

You & Me Mom Journal

Want to make the memory journal thing a two way street?

This journal from Uncommon Goods can be sent back and forth between you and your mother. Each page has prompts encouraging the two of you to reflect on your life memories and love together over the years. It will run you $13, and should come in just under $20 after accounting for shipping costs.

Photo Book

There’s nothing moms love more than pictures of their kids and grandkids . Photo books can often be cumbersome to create, or come with deceptive discounts and “deals” that don’t account for exorbitant shipping costs.

You can get around all that by creating a book with Google Photos. You can easily import all the pictures already on your Google account, and can create a 20-page, soft-cover photo book that’s sure to put a smile on her face for just $13.95 including shipping.

Cash

You’re shopping on a tight budget, so your wallet is probably thin right now. She might not want to admit it, but money might be tight for your mom in this pandemic, too.

Instead of buying her physical presents, consider sending her the cash. If Mom’s on Venmo or CashApp, you can keep things completely socially distant. Be sure to send a card or heartfelt note.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. She blogs at femmefrugality.com. 



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Full House? Maximize Your Space With These Tips

Make a call to 1-800-Got Junk? Their minimum fee is 9 to remove and dispose of about as much stuff as fits in a pickup truck. There are also local, independent junk removal companies that offer competitive pricing. Or haul it away yourself, donating the usable items to your favorite charity for resale.
“The VIGDA corner room divider can be easily assembled following the provided instructions,” an Ikea spokeswoman said. The VIGDA consists of a track that is attached to the ceiling, with curtains that hang to the floor. It costs while Ikea drapes start at .99 a set.
“He literally took a flat king sheet and drilled screws through it into one corner of the living room,” his mother, Alyssa Brown said. “He made this little triangular room of his own.”

A completes his work from an office set up in his closet at home as his kids spend time in his room beside him. This photo illustrates one way to maximize small spaces: put your office in your closet.
Getty Images

5 Tips for How to Maximize Your Space 

I considered adding air conditioning to the garage, which had two big windows, but that was way too expensive. I thought about converting the dining room to their room, but there would be no way to get to the kitchen without going through it.

1. A cleaned-out closet becomes an office nook 

When I got divorced several years ago, we sold our four-bedroom home and I rented a two-bedroom house in a great neighborhood with a lot of character and big yard. With two daughters away at college and a high-school-aged son rotating between his dad and me, I really didn’t need more than two bedrooms.

  • Remove all the shelving, except for perhaps the top shelf for storage.
  • Have your child pick out a color and paint the inside together.
  • Measure the width and depth of the closet then get a piece of scrap countertop or plywood cut at Lowe’s, Home Depot or an independent cabinet and kitchen shop. This could cost $50 to $100 depending on the size and material.
  • Nail wooden slats or 2-by-4s around the perimeter of your closet about 30 inches above the floor.
  • Place the desktop on the supports.
  • Add a bulletin board, plastic file holders, stapler and a cup for markers and pencils. Let your child decorate his or her “classroom” with a few photos or printouts of their favorite heroes and heroines.

2. Got Junk? Then you probably have space.

I put my dresser in the dining room, and my clothes in the hall closet. For a summer when the girls were home, I slept on the sofa in the living room or on a pull-out in the screened porch.

Pro Tip
If you are feeling crowded in your home and considering buying something bigger, it’s scary these days to see how much just a little more space will cost. The median sales price of a home was up 17% for the four weeks ending April 11 compared to the same period in 2020, according to Redfin, the nationwide real estate brokerage.

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

3. A sheet and a drill can create a room

But disappointed would-be homebuyers feeling priced out of the market can make simple changes where they currently live to maximize space and feel less cramped.
“The BEKANT screen provides privacy and absorbs sound to create division within the room,” she added. It costs 9 and is 59 inches high and 32 inches wide.
Here are some ways to create new spaces in your existing house or condo and enjoy it more while waiting for prices to drop. Who knows, you may decide there’s no place like home.
Is it time to pare down your belongings? Use these tips on how to minimize your stuff.

IKEA has organizational devices for small spaces such as the VIDGA, which is a curtain-like room divider and a BEKANT, which is a narrow standing desk.
IKEA has organizational products for small spaces, such as the VIDGA, left, which is a curtain room divider and a BEKANT, right, which is a screen that divides a room, gives privacy and reduces sound. Photo courtesy of IKEA

4. Ikea to the rescue

If a closet or a spare bedroom is packed to the brim with a broken vacuum cleaner or rusty exercise bike covered in old clothes, getting rid of all that offers more space for humans.
The rest of the house was decorated with my stuff, but they still had a room of their own and a place they felt was theirs.
“The MICKE Corner Workstation can be placed anywhere in the room. With shelving and a magnetic board, you can organize this workstation in your own unique way,” the Ikea representative said. It costs 9, and can be placed so that it creates two walls against a corner with a small opening to “get in” to the desk-and-shelf unit.
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Ikea has several products from to 9 that can create partitions or turn a corner into an office or bedroom.

5. Rethink and Reconfigure 

Here are some ways to maximize space and carve out individual rooms for a lot less than adding on or leasing a bigger apartment.
Ultimately, I made the master bedroom their room. I slept in it 90% of the time since they weren’t home often, but it was filled with all their “stuff” and their clothes.
But I struggled with my daughters having to move out of the house where they grew up and all their “stuff” being packed away in boxes in the attic. (“Stuff” defined: photos, embroidered pillows, framed record albums, twinkling lights, artwork, music boxes, stuffed animals, an old bubble gum machine, etc. It’s the “stuff” that makes a room, your room.)
This “corner room” could also house a play space, Lego table or easel in a living room or kitchen, offering privacy to a child and keeping toys out of sight in the main room.
The sheet supplied one wall, and the existing walls completed the rest of his triangular space that had enough room for a comfy chair, end table and a fan. The fan helped drown out the noise of the rest of the three-bedroom apartment. He used earphones when playing his XBox to contain his noise.
A screened porch, sunroom or dining room may be put to better use as a bedroom or classroom when everyone is home. Eat in the kitchen or at a coffee table, and make that dining room into one or even two rooms for sleeping, schooling or working.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
When Beau Brown was a high school senior during the first year of the pandemic, he did school at home alongside his two siblings and his parents, who were working at home. Feeling cramped, he found a way to carve out a little space for himself.  But his easy fix could create a beloved hideaway for a kid for any age. <!–

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Shelving units can be secured on one end to a wall and stick out into a room to divide it into two spaces. One KALLAX shelving system is almost five feet high and three feet wide for . Two of these would make a good-sized wall down the middle of your kids’ shared bedroom, or section off a corner of the living room for an office.

Living Room Remodel: Should You Do It?

Living room makeovers can happen in various stages—they don’t have to be all or nothing. Simple, affordable updates like new lighting, paint or flooring can have a big effect on the room’s welcoming vibe.

Whether you have the budget for a total overhaul or you’re just looking for an easy update, there are some ways to get the living room remodel that works for you.

Recommended: Home Improvement Cost Calculator

Living Room Remodel Ideas: Top Elements To Change

Layout

Effective use of space makes a room feel comfortable and inviting. If your living room seems underused, perhaps changing the layout will make family and friends want to hang out in it more often.

For someone moving into a new home and starting with a blank space, looking first to the layout of the room is a good starting point. Where do you enter the room? Where does your focus go first? Are the windows situated for convenient placement of furnishings?

If you’re currently living in the home, but the living room just isn’t functional, look at the layout in terms of what can be easily changed.

What in the room do you regularly use, e.g., couch or closets? Where do piles tend to accumulate? Do the windows cause a glare on the television? Is your furniture arranged to allow for good traffic flow? The more effortlessly the room setup can support your daily movements, the better.

Recommended: Home Equity Loans vs Personal Loans for Home Improvement

Windows

Windows not only let light in, they affect our perception of how large, open, and welcoming a space is. Replacing them can be pricey, but might increase a home’s value and can generate energy savings: On average, 25% to 30% of a home’s energy use is due to heat gained or lost through the windows .

If the window itself is fine but the aesthetic is not, new window trim or window treatments can make a world of difference. Painting dark-stained trim can make a space feel lighter, brighter, and more modern.

Updating window treatments with floor-length curtains adds drama and interest, while Roman shades that fit inside the window casing keep things unobtrusive while still adding texture.

Lighting

Lighting is functional, of course, but it can also be an aesthetic choice. Think about taking a picture indoors with or without a flash: Room lighting has that same sort of visual resonance, affecting how the other elements of the room appear and how you feel in the space.

In choosing lighting for your living room remodel, consider if you want the fixture to recede out of sight or be a visual focal point. How bright or dim, warm or cool do you want your light levels? Where in the room will you need the most light? And adding dimmer switches to any lighting setup gives you loads of control.

Ceiling

Like the sky outside, what’s hanging above our heads indoors dramatically affects how we feel in a space. If you have a textured or popcorn ceiling, refinishing it to be smooth can instantly brighten and update your living room. It’s a messy DIY project, but one experienced painters or contractors can do while keeping the mess to a minimum.

If the ceiling would benefit from a new coat of paint, veering from the standard white might give the room a stylish quality. Light hues can create the illusion of a taller space, while something a little darker can evoke coziness.

Flooring

Along with layout and paint, flooring has perhaps the biggest impact on a room. It’s a large, dominant, visual element that affects how sound echoes in the room or carries beyond it, how much light reflects into the room, and how much dirt shows up.

When buying a new home, checking what’s under the carpet might reveal lovely hardwood floors in pristine condition—or it might reveal a mess of a subfloor. Knowing what you will have before signing the mortgage agreement will allow you to make a plan for any needed renovations. For a quick change, don’t underestimate a simple area rug.

Recommended: Top 10 Home Projects With the Highest ROI

Molding

Molding hits the sweet spot of a decorative finish that feels structural. The trim around windows and doors, crown molding and baseboards, picture and knee rails—all inform the character of a space and add visual interest and structure. In particular, if things feel blank or sterile, adding decorative trim can make a space a little more impressive.

Paint

Fresh paint works wonders. Even if you don’t have time or budget for anything else, reimagine the wall color. Samples painted on the wall will show how the room’s light will affect the paint. Many paint brands now also offer virtual ways to “paint” your room.

Just as a room’s lighting can affect your mood, paint color has an effect on one’s psyche, too. For instance, the color blue has been shown to have a calming effect, while red has a stimulating effect and can create feelings of excitement or even stress in some people.

Furniture and Decoration

You can replace it, move it, or just pull it from another room. Alone or in conjunction with other major changes, furniture and decor have a major effect on the finished space—and keeping layout top-of-mind when selecting furniture will help make sure it’s the right stuff for the space.

Using online room planners or going old school with graph paper to map out, to scale, what will go where is a good way to experiment without the heavy lifting.

The Takeaway

Deciding how much you can—or want—to invest in a living room remodel is likely the place to start after deciding changes need to be made. Some changes, like moving furniture from one room to another or changing a paint color, can probably be done inexpensively. But if the living room makeover is a total one, additional funding might be necessary. That’s where a home improvement loan from SoFi might help.

With lower interest rates than credit cards and no fees, using a SoFi unsecured personal loan to pay for home improvements can get your home into loveable condition in no time.

Check your rate on a home improvement loan from SoFi.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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Source: sofi.com

13 Ways a Food Vacuum Sealer Can Save You Money on Groceries

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. Virtually no market has been left untouched, and that’s especially true of Americans’ grocery shopping and food-related habits.

People are eating at home more often and even baking their own bread. And food preservation systems like vacuum sealers are surging in popularity, according to The Business of Business magazine. It makes sense. With all the stocking up we have to do to limit the number of grocery trips we take, we now need a way to keep all our spoils from spoiling.

With an initial investment of between $20 and $100 or more, depending on type and quality, plus the cost of vacuum-seal bags or storage containers, it costs a little to get started. But ultimately, they can save you much more money in the long run.

Ways a Vacuum Sealer Can Save You Money

One of the selling points of vacuum sealing is that it can help you save money. But can it really save you enough to justify its expense? That depends on what you’re currently doing to save on food and other goods. But if any of these cost-cutting measures would help, the vacuum sealer is probably worth much more than its weight in gold.

1. Eliminate Food Waste

Food waste is a significant problem in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans discard between 30% and 40% of their food.

A separate 2020 study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (and covered by Forbes) backed that up, finding that the average household wasted 31.9%. Those researchers estimated this waste to cost the average household $1,866 per year. A family that can cut food waste in half can save nearly $1,000 per year.

And a vacuum sealer can help you do that. For example, you can buy a large package of meat, cook half of it, and vacuum-seal the rest for later in the week.

You can do something similar with other foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables or cheese. Use only the amount you need, then seal the rest for later, and you’ll finally manage to get through every last bite before it goes bad. But wrap cheese in parchment or wax paper before sealing it to absorb the cheese’s natural moisture (which can cause it to deteriorate) and prevent sticking.

For foods you plan to reach for frequently, such as cheese and fruit, use a plastic vacuum-seal container or reusable plastic bag with a handheld model. For foods you plan to use all at once, such as meat, you can use a traditional countertop model with bag rolls, which allow you to create custom-size bags.

2. Buy in Bulk

If you’ve ever been to a warehouse store like Costco, you’re familiar with the absolutely massive packages of food they sell. Buying meat in 20-pound bulk packages can be cheaper than buying it in a grocery store, but what family can eat 20 pounds of beef before it goes bad?

There are just some things you shouldn’t buy in bulk if you can’t eat them quickly enough. But a vacuum sealer changes the game by extending the shelf life of what you buy.

Using a countertop sealer and custom bags from rolls, you can seal and store many kinds of food long term if you follow the best method for each.

  • Meat. Seal meat in meal-size portions. According to United Kingdom vacuum-sealer company Grutto, vacuum-sealed meat lasts up to two weeks in the refrigerator and between two and three years in the freezer. According to FoodSafety.gov, that’s double to triple the time compared to storing without the seal. How long a specific meat lasts depends on the variety. But in general, discard any meat that smells off, has undergone a color change, or feels slimy or sticky.
  • Beans. According to USA Emergency Supply, dry beans can stay good for up to 10 years at room temperature. If you vacuum-seal the beans, which reduces the amount of moisture that can reach them, that can extend their shelf by another 10 years.
  • Rice. White rice has a long shelf life, but brown rice can go bad within six months at room temperature. According to USA Emergency Supply, vacuum-sealing brown rice can extend its life to as long as two years and extend white rice’s shelf life to a full decade.
  • Flours and Meals. Flour usually has a shelf life of about a year, but USA Emergency Supply notes that vacuum-sealing it can make it last for up to five years at room temperature. To seal flour, place it in your freezer for four days to a week to kill any insects or bugs in it. Then, place the flour in a brown paper bag. Label the bag if desired and fold the top over, but don’t roll it down (air must be able to escape). Place the paper bag in a vacuum-seal bag and seal it. Wrapping it in a paper bag first prevents flour from getting sucked into the sealer. Note that the vacuum-sealing process compresses your flour, so this method is best used by those who measure their flour by weight (ounces or grams) rather than volume (cups). You can use the same approach to seal other dry powdered or ground goods, such as cornmeal, corn flour, or breadcrumbs.
  • Cheese. Wrap your cheese in some parchment or wax paper to absorb its natural moisture before sealing. According to online cheese seller Cheesy Place, this storage method can extend cheese’s freshness by months or longer. However, soft cheeses don’t tend to freeze well.

Before you run out and stock up on everything on this list, note that you’re only saving money if you’re getting a good deal on things you’d buy and use anyway.

3. DIY Dump Recipes

Cooking after a long workday is a daunting task. Sometimes, all you want is something simple with as little prep work as possible.

On days when chopping, slicing, and cutting sounds like a colossal chore, dump recipes can help you put a home-cooked meal on the table with minimal effort. All you have to do is dump the ingredients into a casserole dish or slow cooker or scatter them on a sheet pan, no other prep required.

With a vacuum sealer, you can make DIY dump-meal packets and toss them in the fridge or freezer until you need them.

4. Batch Cooking

Mornings can be chaotic, especially if multiple people are trying to get out of the house. But taking some time to batch-cook ensures you have a filling breakfast that doesn’t involve golden arches, even when you’re short on time.

Batch cooking involves spending a day or two, usually over the weekend, whipping up large batches of food for the week or month ahead. And a vacuum sealer makes your batch-cooked food last even longer.

For example, spend a Saturday putting together some vacuum-sealed breakfast pouches with nuke-and-go meals like breakfast burritos, pancakes, or mini-quiches for days when time just isn’t on your side. Just pre-freeze anything that might squash when sealed, such as rolls. You can then store them in either the freezer or fridge.

And batch cooking isn’t just suitable for breakfast foods.

At lunch, being limited to an hour-long break makes it tough to avoid popping out for fast food every day. But things like hand pies, soup, chili, and stir-fries all keep well in a vacuum-sealed packet. Freeze hand pies before sealing to keep them from squashing. For liquids like soups and chilies, pour the contents into a regular zip-close bag and freeze them flat. Then remove them from the zip-close bag, and vacuum-seal them, placing them back in the freezer for long-term storage or in the fridge for use that week.

If you store them in the freezer, transfer them to the refrigerator the night before. By the time lunch rolls around the next day, they should be mostly defrosted, and a microwave can finish the job.

You can even use a vacuum sealer to batch-cook weeknight freezer meals for evenings when cooking just isn’t an option. Batch-cook large quantities of dishes like lasagna, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, or meatballs for spaghetti or subs, and vacuum-seal them in meal-size portions.

For lasagna, meatloaf, and mashed potatoes, pre-freeze them in smaller containers before removing them to a vacuum-sealer bag.

5. Long-Term Leftovers

Cooking large meals means having leftovers. But it can get boring to eat the same thing repeatedly, especially if you make a considerable amount.

Having a vacuum sealer means you can seal and store these leftovers for weeks or months instead of days like you can in the refrigerator.

You can also freeze leftovers into homemade TV dinners. For example, instead of freezing a leftover half of meatloaf, quart of mashed potatoes, and leftover veggies separately, put enough of each for one person into several vacuum-seal storage containers. All you have to do when you want something easy to eat is take it out of the freezer and reheat. They’re perfect for lunches or hectic school nights when you’re eating dinner solo.

6. Buy Food in Season

If you visit the grocery store, you can buy many fruits and vegetables year-round, but you may notice the price and quality of some foods varies throughout the year. Even though modern supply chains mean you can buy most food items any time of year, fruits and veggies are seasonal products.

With a vacuum sealer, you can buy food while it’s in season — or pick it from your own garden — when it’s at its cheapest and freshest. When you seal it, you preserve its freshness and quality.

Before vacuum-sealing vegetables, blanch them by boiling them for a few minutes, then dropping them into an ice bath. Dry them thoroughly, and place them in a vacuum-seal bag. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, blanching helps preserve the veggies’ flavor, color, and texture.

According to Food Vac Bags, sealed and frozen vegetables stay fresh for two or three years in the freezer compared to the normal eight to 12 months the National Center for Food Preservation says vegetables can stay frozen without vacuum sealing.

To vacuum-seal fresh fruit, start by cutting (if necessary) and freezing the fruit on a flat baking sheet. That prevents it from getting squashed during the sealing process. Place the frozen fruit into bags (preferably in single-use serving sizes) and seal. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, sealed frozen fruit can stay good for up to 12 months. And according to VacMaster, sealed fruit stays fresh for up to two weeks in the fridge.

7. Store Herbs & Spices

Dried herbs and spices have a long shelf life, but they tend to lose their flavor relatively quickly. If you compare the smell and taste of a new spice jar with one that’s a year or two old, you’ll notice the difference.

People use some spices frequently throughout the year, but others are more seasonal. For example, cloves are a popular component in wintery dishes but may not appear as often during other seasons.

Vacuum-sealing spices can help preserve their freshness longer. If you notice you haven’t used certain spices for a while, place them in a small paper bag with the top folded or a plastic zip-close bag with a couple of small holes in it, then place that bag in a larger vacuum-seal bag. Pre-bagging prevents the spice from getting sucked into the vacuum, which could damage the machine. You can unseal them when you need them and don’t have to worry about them losing flavor over time.

You can also use a vacuum sealer to preserve fresh herbs as an alternative to store-bought dried ones. First, blanch the herbs by dropping them into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds, then immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water. That helps them stay fresh for even longer in a vacuum-sealed packet. Just make sure you let the herbs dry completely before sealing them.

Note that herbs might not look nice after vacuum sealing, so they won’t be good garnishes. Vacuum-sealing just preserves their flavor. According to FoodSaver, frozen, vacuum-sealed herbs can stay fresh for months.

8. Save Space in Your Kitchen

Vacuum-sealing eliminates a lot of bulk. That can save you space in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, meaning you can worry less about space.

For example, vacuum-sealed meats, like ground beef, can have a much slimmer profile than meat packaged in the Styrofoam trays from the grocery store. Repackaging them in your own vacuum-seal bags also lets you control the quantity and shape of each chub.

If you like soup and chili, you can vacuum-seal loads of it without taking up too much room. To save space, spoon it into a zip-close bag, seal it carefully, and place it on a flat surface, like a baking sheet, to freeze. You can then remove the frozen meal from the zip-close bag and seal it in a custom bag. That gives you a flat package that’s easy to store in the freezer, either by stacking multiple bags or storing them straight up and down, like a file folder. The flat freezing method also makes it defrost quickly.

Sealing things like beans or grains lets you customize the way you store your dry goods. Some of these products come in awkward packages that are floppy and cumbersome in tight storage spaces. Vacuum-sealing pulls out all the air, creating a sturdy package that doesn’t shift as you search for other goods. Use reusable bags with a handheld sealer so you can grab what you need and reseal. Or you can use a vacuum-seal canister for even greater stability.

You can also seal bags of frozen vegetables or fruits in a single layer to reduce the amount of space they take up in your freezer. That makes it easier to keep them out of the way until you need them. You can also try sealing vegetables in smaller servings so you can use them in a meal without having to reseal what you don’t need.

9. Marinate Faster

Marinating meat or vegetables before cooking adds flavor. But marinating takes precious time. Many recipes call for placing food in the marinade hours before you cook — or even the night before — hardly ideal for on-the-go parents or professionals.

Vacuum-sealing the food in plastic bags can help you marinate it much faster. Make your marinade and pour it over the food into a custom bag made from a bag roll, then vacuum-seal it. With this method, marination takes only half an hour, though you can leave it longer if you want more flavor or tenderness.

When marinating, avoid letting liquid get into your vacuum sealer. A popular strategy is the paper towel method. Just put a paper towel between the food and the top of the bag. The towel catches liquid before it gets sucked into the vacuum sealer. As an alternative to paper products, you can use cheesecloth or something similar.

10. Sous Vide Cooking

Sous vide cooking relies on cooking food sealed in glass jars or plastic bags in a water bath at a precisely regulated temperature. You can use a sous vide cooker without a vacuum sealer, but vacuum-sealing yields the best results.

Using a sous vide cooker makes it easy to cook meat to the exact doneness you desire. Since you can set the temperature of the water bath precisely, the food never heats above a set temperature. That means getting the perfect level of doneness every time you cook with no risk of going over. If you like, you can even give it a quick sear on high heat after it’s done.

That’s fantastic news for those pricey steaks you splurged on. But it can also save you money by letting you buy cheaper cuts of meat. According to Serious Eats, sous vide’s low and slow cooking with consistent temperatures tenderizes the meat.

Sous vide machines are perfect for summer cooking since they don’t heat your home the way ovens do. Plus, you can keep the sous vide running while you’re not home.

You can use it to cook almost anything that benefits from cooking at precise temperatures, such as eggs or meat.

And with sous vide, you can cook your sides along with your mains. For example, toss some sliced potatoes, smashed garlic, milk, and butter for mashed potatoes into one vacuum-seal pack and some broccoli, olive oil, salt, and pepper into another and cook those along with a salmon steak or pork roast.

You can even sous vide foods straight from the freezer.

11. Waterproof Your Valuables & Emergency Supplies

If you’re planning a trip to the beach, expecting a large storm, or simply want to keep your valuables safe, you can use your vacuum sealer to waterproof them.

For example, you can seal things like important documents, your kids’ priceless artwork, and comic books or magazines. But be careful, as the vacuum could transfer the ink to other surfaces, make pages stick together, and crimp the edges. Instead, place them between cardboard sheets to prevent damage, then slide them into a custom-size bag from a roll and use the seal-only function. To ensure they’re also protected from fire, place them inside a fire-resistant envelope before sealing.

Vacuum-sealing is also a safe and efficient way to store emergency supplies like matches, candles, batteries, and flashlights. If a storm knocks out your power or damages your home, you’ll have dry equipment you can use while you wait for help. You can also seal away some cash so you have emergency funds to use during a disaster, when credit card networks may be down.

12. Camping & Hiking

Packing for a hike or family camping trip can be challenging, especially if you plan to stay overnight. You can only fit so much in your backpack without it becoming overly bulky, and you want to minimize weight as much as possible.

The vacuum-pack method works best for consumables or things you can otherwise leave on the trail or at the campsite unless you want to use reusable bags and pack a handheld sealer in your backpack.

A vacuum sealer draws the air from your provisions’ packaging, making it easier to carry more supplies. As a bonus, it weatherproofs the things in your bag so you can keep essentials like food and clothing dry, even if you’re hiking or camping in the rain. And it’s cheaper than buying larger bags or more expensive waterproofing equipment.

13. Save Storage Space in Every Room

The kitchen isn’t the only place storage space is at a premium. Vacuum sealers can help you pack away things you don’t use frequently and reduce the amount of space they take up.

If you want to vacuum-seal bulky items, like comforters and winter coats, you must buy special bags that work with your vacuum cleaner. But you can use your regular countertop kitchen vacuum sealer for smaller items.

For example, you can use a vacuum sealer to store seasonal items, like heavy winter socks, mittens and gloves, and scarves, until it gets cold again. You can just put the bags at the bottom of your sock drawer, where they take up a fraction of the space.

You can also use a sealer to seal things for backup or long-term storage, such as old baby clothing you plan to reuse for your next child or extra tea towels, handkerchiefs, or bulk-purchased cotton balls to protect them from water damage and pests, even if you store them in the garage.


Types of Vacuum Sealers

Before you buy a vacuum sealer, it’s crucial you understand the pros and cons of the different types of sealers and the kinds of containers they work with.

  • Countertop. Traditional countertop vacuum sealers are the most versatile. But they need space on your countertop, at least temporarily, which is a negative if countertop or storage space is already at a premium. Countertop sealers are designed to work with bag rolls, which allow you to create custom-size bags. But most also work with generic sealable containers and reusable bags via a hose you can attach to the unit. Countertop vacuum sealers tend to have the most efficient seal of the three when used with the bag rolls. But if you need to access something frequently, such as cheese or snacks, you have to create and seal a new bag each time. And they’re clunky to use with containers and bags if you don’t plan to keep it on your counter. Countertop sealers usually cost between $25 and $50 for a cheaper model, such as the NutriChef, up to $200 or more for a high-end model like the FoodSaver V4840.
  • Handheld. Smaller handheld vacuum sealers don’t take up much space. However, they only work with specially designed boxes or bags that are more expensive than generic vacuum-seal bag rolls. Handheld sealers often run between $20 for a budget unit and $30 for a more powerful sealer like the MXBold. That said, they’re not as powerful as countertop models, and some air will eventually get into the package after you seal it due to points of entry and escape in the sealing hole and zipper. That makes them best for short-term sealing or foods you reach for frequently.
  • Specialized Vacuum Sealers. There are a lot of specialized sealers that are designed to fit different needs. One example of this is the Vacuvita, which starts at $300. It sits on your countertop full time and is intended for frequent sealing and unsealing. It’s also more suitable for things like bread and chips, which a traditional sealer would crush. But it doesn’t lend itself to long-term storage. Then there are chamber vacuum sealers, like the VacMaster chamber sealer. They’re expensive but highly efficient and quieter than many other sealers. They’re great for people who want to customize how they seal food or who have lots of things to seal at once. It can also vacuum-seal liquid like marinades and soups for long-term storage. Chamber sealers are often commercial equipment, but there are comparatively less expensive prosumer (professional-consumer) models for home use.

The solution you seek may rely on having more than one kind of sealer. But you’ll most certainly need more than one type of storage solution. And there are several types to choose from.

  • Bag Rolls. Traditional countertop vacuum sealers work with special bag rolls, which are customizable. They’re essentially long tubes of plastic. You use the vacuum sealer’s seal function to melt the plastic together on one open end of the bag, cut the bag to the size you want, and fill it. Then you use the vacuum-and-seal function to pull out the air and seal the remaining open end. They’re also relatively inexpensive. However, you can’t reuse them, which means you need to restock regularly. These are optimum for long-term storage because they have the best seal and lose less vacuum over time than any other storage method.
  • Reusable Bags. Reusable bags are a fixed size and more expensive than bag rolls. But you can use them more than once, which can save you money in the long run. They’re suitable for foods you plan to use often because you can reseal them rather than discard them and start over like you have to do with bags from rolls. But they aren’t as impervious as the custom bags. The sealing hole and zipper are potential points of air introduction, and they can lose vacuum over time, meaning they’re not ideal for long-term storage. They can be a pain to clean and fully dry, and it’s best to avoid using them for things like raw meat or foods that can stain, such as tomato sauce.
  • Specialized Mason Jar Lids. You can buy special vacuum-seal Mason jar lids to seal jarred foods. For long-term storage, these are best for staples like cereal and dry goods. Vacuum-sealing with them isn’t meant to take the place of proper canning techniques. But they’re fine for short-term storage of things like soup and chili.
  • Plastic Storage Containers. For leftovers and meal prep, you can’t beat vacuum-seal storage containers. They’re expensive but reusable. But over time, these containers’ seals may weaken, especially if the initial seal isn’t good or there’s too much moisture in the container.

Just ensure whatever container you buy works with your sealer model.


Final Word

Vacuum sealers are useful kitchen gadgets that can help you save space and money. However, they’re not one-size-fits-all. You may even need a couple of different types of vacuum sealers to meet your needs.

For example, a countertop model that works with bag rolls can help you vacuum-seal foods for long-term storage. But you’ll probably prefer to keep a handheld model for everyday use, like storing leftovers in the fridge or sealing cheese or deli meat for lunches.

With vacuum sealers, the possibilities are endless. You can vacuum-seal almost anything, so you might find new and interesting ways to save space and safely store things throughout your home.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Write a Holiday Thank You Note

The holidays have come and gone.

Dinner parties were had, gifts were given and everyone was merry.

But even after the last present has been unwrapped and the last piece of silverware washed and put away, there’s still something else that must be done.

You need to plan how you’ll show your gratitude to those who share in the holiday season with you.

The lost art of saying thanks

Long before text messages and Instagram posts conveyed the innermost thoughts of people, cards sharing best wishes and kind appreciation were handwritten and mailed as thank you notes.

Receiving an actual letter in the mail amidst all the junk that still comes through can bring more joy to someone than whatever you’re actually thanking them for doing. The importance of taking a few minutes to jot down a special message for the people you appreciate, especially during the holidays, isn’t as common anymore, but it’s an easy gesture with a big impact.

Where to start

Before you begin thinking about the message you want to write, you need to have the right materials. Put aside blank sheets of printer paper and ripped off pages from notepads. They only convey a lazy sentiment and that you rushed to get this note written.

Instead, invest in a pack of nice cards to have on hand when needed. You don’t have to spend a lot of money at a stationary store in order to be prepared – just about every drug store sells them. If you’re in a situation where you’ll be thanking the same person more than once in a short time period, consider getting a set of notecards with different designs on the front, for some variety.

The pen you use is important, too. No pencil and no typing. Stick with ink colors that are easy to read and ones that stand out against the color of the notecard. Dark blue, purple or green might be good choices, but stay away from black, especially if your notecard is white. According to color studies, the black and white combination of colors is the hardest to remember.

Pick your handwriting style that’s easiest to read as well. If you can pull off an elegant cursive, go for it. Otherwise, stick to print. Don’t worry if your handwriting isn’t perfect, either. The fact that you’re taking the time to physically write out a note will make a positive impression no matter how neat the handwriting.

Write the right message

A typical thank you note doesn’t have to be long. A short, heartfelt message will do the trick. What’s important is that you speak in your own voice, share a message that’s complimentary and kind, and personalize each note with specific details related to the recipient.

Your purpose is to express gratitude, so make sure that clearly comes across. It’s OK to say thank you more than once in your note, as well. It’s also a nice touch to add a line about when you’ll see them again, or that you hope to see them soon.

Mailing the thank you note

Once the note is complete, it’s time to pop it in the mail. Again, hand write the recipient’s address on the envelope. Don’t print out labels, even if you’re writing quite a few notes. Show off that you’ve put time into this special message.

Consider purchasing holiday themed stamps for a little something extra, and keep return address labels on hand, even if you’re not sending out that much mail these days. Stationary stores also offer return address stamps or embossers if you’re interested in adding a classier element to your mail.

What are you thankful for

Two of the most common reasons to write a thank you note are for gifts you’ve received or to show gratitude toward someone who came to an event you hosted. Sometimes these sentiments are combined in a single note, like at a birthday party, but during the holidays, they’re often separate.

Here are two sample thank you notes which convey the tips already shared.

1. Thank you for coming to my holiday party

Dear Jill,

Thank you for coming to my holiday party this past weekend. It was such a fun night, and I was happy you were able to join in the festivities. It was so thoughtful of you to bring cookies to share with everyone. I appreciated the extra dessert and they were so delicious. I hope you have a wonderful holiday and look forward to seeing you again.

Jane

2. Thank you for the lovely holiday gift

Dear Clark and Lois,

Thank you so much for the wine of the month club subscription. I love trying new wine and it’s exciting to know I’ll be sampling bottles from around the world. I really appreciate you thinking of us during the holidays with such a kind gift. You’ll have to come over one month for a wine tasting! Have a wonderful holiday.

Diana

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