My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Saturday, June 30, 2012


I am a big believer in having more than one purpose for any tool in our home.  After all if you can make one tool do two jobs that is one less you tool you need and therefore you save money and storage space. 

I apply this thought to many things in my life as well as tools.  Our dogs are not just wonderful companions that give undivided love to us and we seriously consider part of the family ,they are also hard working animals that alert us when there is an intruder on the property, guard the flock from predators, “find” another family member for us and even “help” with chores. 

The cats are a natural blood pressure lowering agent for us, by helping us focus on the simpler things in life, such as the calming effect of a purr.  They are all excellent mousers, very important in country living, and good at letting us know when something isn’t right in the house.

The birds are pest control, egg production, a country door bell—try making it up our drive without the flock and the dogs letting us know you are here-- comic relief and so much more.  But this article is more about using household items in more than one way.

Let’s start with the muffin tins in the title.  Everyone knows they are great for making muffins and cupcakes in.  After all that is what they were designed for right?  But how about cooking/making other things in them?  Think outside the cake mix box and speed up your cooking in more ways.  After all faster cooking means less heat in your kitchen right?  Less heat, means a lower cooling bill.  Or go a step further and bake in them in your turkey roaster in your summerkitchen.

Simple meals can be created and cooked quickly in a muffin tin.  A few examples are MuffinTin Meatloaves, Muffin Tin Corndogs, Biscuit Tacos, and Pizza Cups.

Make ice cubes of various flavors to float in punches, lemonade pitchers, and other beverages in your muffin tins.  One resourceful lady I know freezes all leftover beverages such as tea, juices, etc.  In her regular ice cube trays and then uses them to cool the next batch of beverages without diluting them.  Once the cubes are frozen she pops them into a freezer container until needed. You can make larger versions of these using your muffin tins.

Freeze leftovers of any sort for a quick freeze job and easy measuring for future recipes.  Again you can use ice cube trays for this too.  It’s really great during the summer growing season to harvest your fresh herbs such as cilantro, and freeze it chopped in normal usage sizes in ice cube trays with a little water.  Then pop into a storage container for a pre-measured usage in recipes that call for fresh herbs in the future.
During a massive holiday baking time, or when having a homemade ice cream sundae party put the toppings in muffin tin cups for easy access while decorating.

Turn your muffin tins upside down and spread tortillas or bread dough of any sort over the bottom of the sprayed pan to create bowls for any numerous types of meals.  Bake in the oven at your normal temperature for the dough you are using.  If you carefully watch them to make sure there is no burning you can do this with rolled cookie dough too for great homemade dessert cups.

Everyone has a junk drawer, come on confess you have at least one (at my house we have one for every room, but that is a story for the Patterson’sPrincess Plan blog. Organize all those small odds and ends in the drawer with muffin tins of various sizes.  They are particularly great for buttons, and mini muffin tins work well for smaller jewelry organization. 

In the crafts room sort beads, findings, and other small items into muffin tins for easy access while working on a project.  When leaving the project you can turn a cookie sheet upside down over the muffin tin as a lid to help keep those oh so helpful cats out of the project.

Little ones finger painting?  Put the different colors in small amounts in the various cups of the muffin tin and let them at it.  They are also great for those artists that want to mix their own colors to use.

Muffin tins can also be used for unique candle holders.  Remember muffin tins come in various sizes and shapes—I have loaf shaped ones that I use for mini fruit bread loaves as well as organizing rectangular shaped items in.

Now that I’ve got you thinking about the possible uses for your muffin tins.  What ideas can you share with me?  I’m always looking for more uses for everything on our homestead in the country.

Moving past the muffin tins another “multi-purpose” tool I am fond of using is my extendable light bulb changer.  You can buy them for under $15 at most home improvement centers.  They are generally bright yellow and come with various attachments, like a suction cup and an expandable basket for changing light bulbs.

As a person who is 5’1” on my tallest of days I am always looking for something to help me “reach” things.  So it was a natural purchase for me when we moved into this house that has 9 foot ceilings in some of the lower level rooms.  It also didn’t take me long to look around for other uses for the poles that will expand out to several feet.

My first non-light bulb use for them was tree fruit picking.  We have several wild plum trees on our property and I found out quickly that by putting the basket attachment on I could safely stand on the ground below the tree and pick plums from the upper branches.  Anything that keeps me off a ladder is a plus in my book.

Over the years we have used the long poles for everything from herding birds to snake removal—the more length the better there as far as I am concerned.  Cat toy retrieval is another big use for them at our house too.

Back to the kitchen for another set of multi-use ideas.  Silicone spatulas not only help you clean out a bowl of cake batter to the last drop, you can use them to stir hot liquids in your saucepans and skillets without scratching the surface, decorate a cake, or empty that science experiment from the refrigerator—cheez, what was that?

In the craft room they become a unique paint brush, a play dough mixer, and a spreader of craft sand.

Canning jars, both old and new become plant starter containers, candle cups, vases, drinking cups, picnic supply holders, silverware holders, and much more.  I have old marbles displayed in an old baled canning jar as part of a decorative touch that contains many old time childhood toys and text books in my home.

Recycle your bottles and other jars for all the above (except maybe the candle cups—you want sturdy heat resistant jars for that job), as well as sorting containers everywhere else in your life. 

I could write for some time about all the things that have dual uses on our place, but now I’ve got your creative juices flowing I’d like to hear about your favorite multi-purpose tool.  Feel free to become a follower and leave a message in the comment section below.

Jan who is rethinking the purposes of most of the items in her home as she works on her Patterson’s Princess Plan in OK

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