3 Tips for 2020

January 1, 2020 Updated: January 15, 2020
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I learned three new things this year that made my life better. I share them with you here, hoping they make your 2020 easier.

My “life hacks” are about popcorn, iPhones, and butter.

Weird? Maybe. Now I report on how politicians wreck just about everything, but on ABC’s show “20/20,” I was a consumer reporter.

None of these ideas requires buying stuff or spending more money. The first will save you some.

1. Popcorn: For years, I bought packages of microwavable popcorn. They were an improvement over pouring raw kernels into a pot, adding the right amount of oil, waiting for it to pop, and shaking the pot, then afterward cleaning the pot and grease splatter.

Microwave bags make popping corn easier, but the packages cost about $6, and sometimes the popcorn smells bad. I’ve also tried special popcorn-making devices, but they cost money, too, and you still have to clean the device.

It turns out we don’t have to do any of that! Just put raw kernels (about a quarter cup) into a paper bag (a lunch bag is fine), put the bag in the microwave, set it to full power, and wait for the corn to pop. When the popping slows, take the bag out.

That’s it! It works. You can eat the popcorn right out of the bag—nothing to clean! Add butter to taste. Try it.

2. Faster Texting: Do you have an iPhone? (I’ve found this trick works on most iPhones and some Androids.)

When writing emails and texts, I get frustrated when I can’t get the cursor to go exactly where I want it to be. It jumps to the start or end of a word or sentence when I want to change something in the middle.

Instead, just hold down the space bar. (It works with other keys, too, but some do different things when held down—space bar is simplest.) Do that, and you can put the cursor exactly where you want it. When I show people this, they smile and laugh. The space bar is a big time-saver and frustration-avoider.

3. Butter: I hate hard butter from the refrigerator. Try to spread it and it tears the bread. In the past, I’ve put it in the microwave to soften it, but then some of it turns to liquid.

But now I know we can leave butter out—the USDA says that “butter and margarine are safe at room temp.”

How can this be? Butter is dairy, and we don’t leave milk out. But because of the way butter is made, and its salt content, butter is safe to leave on the counter for several days. Really. Google it, if you don’t believe me.

There are limits. It’s best to keep butter covered, and if you leave it out too long, it will get rancid. But with those caveats, it’s fine to leave a stick on the counter. You get great, easy-to-spread butter. The only downside is that you’ll probably eat much more of it.

Soft butter, easier texting, and simpler popcorn—my gifts to you for 2020.

Happy New Year.

John Stossel is an Award-winning news correspondent and best-selling author. His latest book is “No, They Can’t: Why Government Fails—But Individuals Succeed.”