thOur fridge door is full of jars and bottles, some of which look odd. For example, the contents of a spicy brown mustard bottle may seem pale and grainy, or there might be a jar of brine without any pickles. A small jar of homemade jam looks all but empty; so does a bottle of ranch dressing.

When these and other condiments run low, we turn them into something else. If a mayonnaise jar has shoulders that keep us from getting all of it – even with a spatula – we take that as a personal challenge. That last little bit of catsup that won’t come out, even if the bottle stands on its head all night? It will be ours.

Sure, it’s just a few cents’ worth of food, if that. But we see no reason to waste it. Besides, it encourages culinary creativity.

If you too are frustrated by the inaccessibility of those last drops, try these tactics.

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Slip-slidin’ away.

thThe smart money would have been on skipping the movie. Instead, I found myself in the car with DF, creeping toward the Century 16 on roads as glazed as a fresh Krispy Kreme. Freezing rain had been falling for about an hour – maddening, really, since the temperature at our house was 22 degrees. Shouldn’t that have been snow?

Blame the “blast of mid-winter moisture (that) blew north from the tropics,” according to The Anchorage Daily News. My friend Linda B. and I were determined to see “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” on Friday morning and that’s what we did.

It helped that DF is the calmest driver I know, and that Linda B. shrugs off all crappy weather with, “Hey, it’s Alaska.”

He dropped me off on his way to work and she and I enjoyed the film (even though I hadn’t seen the first one I was able to follow along). When we left the theater it was snowing sideways, so we crept carefully over to the Table 6 restaurant and had lunch.

Then came the slippery part.

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thTime to brace yourself for the annual holiday letters – those recaps of hot promotions at work, straight-A report cards, paid internships at Fortune 500 companies, swank housing or automobile upgrades, fabulous vacations and general lack of any downturn.

Throw in a photo of a staggeringly photogenic nuclear family posing with the family pooch and the recipients feel like jumping off bridges.

Their own jobs aren’t going nearly so well, their kids are struggling with algebra and their dogs are butt-ugly (though loyal).

The good news: Paper letters are going the way of the dodo.

The bad news: Now that they’re done electronically the sender can attach video of Junior’s trumpet recital.

How’d you like a $25 gift card to take your mind off the issue?

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9 frugal mood enhancers.Last week DF and I had the chance to watch his granddaughter for a couple of hours. The baby, whom I’ll call “Rose,” recently had  her first birthday.

Her dad brought along a couple of stuffed animals but no other playthings. That was fine, since I’d prepared for her visit by pulling together a few things.

Technically, none of them were “toys.” Here’s what awaited her:

  • A clear plastic jug that once held eight pounds of popcorn
  • A small dough scraper
  • Some metal measuring spoons
  • Two canning-jar rings
  • A large kitchen spatula

For the first 15 minutes or so Rose sat on the couch like a very small queen with a very large diaper butt. She stared all around her, checking out the scene and fingering the textures of the afghans beneath and behind her.

When I gave her the plastic jug with the kitchen items, the fun really began.

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thToday I got a pleasant e-mail from a reader named Britt, who was chosen to win last month’s Swagbucks-sponsored contest. Here’s her communiqué:

“Hi, I wanted to say that I was the winner of the $50 gift card from this drawing, and I wanted to say, THANK YOU so much. I really enjoy your blog, and your past posts on MSN Money and have learned so much. I’m also really grateful that I learned about Swagbucks through your blog.

“Honestly, winning that $50 gift card came at the perfect time, and you have no idea how much it cheered me up. I am one of those people who NEVER win anything. The day before, I was having such a horrible workday, just one of those nasty days where everything seems to go wrong, and stress was incredibly high. The next morning (which happened to be 11/12/13, a “lucky” day, LOL), Swagbucks contacted me via and told me the good news.

“So again, thank you for your part in spreading some good cheer. It’s very much appreciated!

“Also, just want to say to any other readers out there- if you haven’t yet joined Swagbucks, it is so worth it. Not just for the possibility of winning drawings or prizes, either. There are just SO many ways on Swagbucks to earn points and save money. Have a great day!”

I love it when things happen at just the right time.

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