Everyday Cheapskate: How To Make a Cake From (Almost) Scratch and More Great Reader Tips

September 22, 2020 Updated: September 25, 2020

This week, my supermarket has brand-name cake mixes on sale for $1 each, so I’ve stocked up. And just in the nick of time, here’s a clever tip from a reader for how I can make my cake mixes taste for all the world like I made them from scratch.

Cake Mix

To make a boxed cake even better, my friend Ida taught me to add three things: 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/2 cup flour, and 1 teaspoon baking powder. It really does make a superior cake. —Toni D.

Cutting Onions

I got so fed up with the tears when cutting up onions one day, and this idea came to me: I put my cutting board on the stove (while the burners were off, of course) and turned on the range’s vent fan. I now chop my onions tear-free! —Sarah S.

Frost-Free Doors

My mom had a great tip for preventing car doors from freezing shut: Put a piece of newspaper in the door, and shut the door on the newspaper. You can still lock the door and protect your car, and the door will not stick and freeze up! It works every time! —Becky W.

Decluttering

Catalog Choice is a website where you can opt out of hundreds of catalogs you no longer wish to receive. It is a free service, and the company will not sell your information to any online marketers or emailers. Their service saves the environment and saves you money because there is no longer that temptation to buy. —Ann P.

Changing Coins

We don’t like to get shortchanged, so here’s what we do when our coins start to pile up. We take them down to the post office and plug them into the stamp vending machine. We get our full value in stamps, and the process is fun and educational for kids, too. —George, Frank, and Tom

Flower Vases

Instead of throwing away those empty vases and baskets that your flowers came in or letting them turn into more clutter, ask your florist if they take the containers and baskets back. Mine not only takes them but also gives me fresh flowers in exchange. It’s a nice way to recycle and get something in return. —Ruth P.

Heart-Shaped Cake

Baking a heart-shaped cake is easy! Just bake your cake in one square cake pan and one round cake pan. After they cool, cut the round cake in half. Turn the square one to form a diamond, and then place one-half of the round cake along each of the top two sides. Just make sure the sizes of the two pans match—for example, an 8-inch square pan with an 8-inch-diameter round pan. —Kate

Thrifty Throw Pillows

Make throw pillows from cloth table napkins. Sew (or glue) two napkins right sides together (don’t forget to leave an opening for stuffing). Turn the right side out. Stuff. Close the opening. For a different effect, before turning the right side out, wrap a rubber band tightly around each corner. This causes a softer, gathered corner. I find napkins at a local outlet store for 79 cents each. The pillows turn out lovely. —Jenny H.

Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments, and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Copyright 2020 Creators.com