Jill Cataldo

Jill Cataldo

Have you resolved to save even more money in the New Year?

My readers have been writing in with some of their favorite ways to save money and maximize their household budgets.

“Dear Jill,

I’m surprised I have made it to the age I am without realizing this, but there are important differences between liquid and powdered laundry detergents.

I have used liquid for years without thinking about it, but here’s what I have learned. Powdered detergents are better for whites and light colors because they have bleaching and brightening agents that are activated by water. These are not stable in liquid forms, so the powdered detergents are more powerful.

On the flipside, powdered detergents are more aggressive cleaners, so they’re not quite what you might want to use on your darks. Since learning this, I use liquid detergents on my dark colors and powders on my lights and whites.

For people who are environmentally conscious, powdered detergents also come in cardboard boxes and have a lower carbon footprint because there is next to no waste.

A good percentage of what you pay for in liquid laundry detergent is water. It’s heavier to ship and transport, and you must recycle the bottles afterwards, too.

Many brands have coupons valid on both powdered and liquid, but I have found that powders are less expensive per load. The powder also lasts a lot longer on the shelf.”

Leonore M.

Great tips! My laundry room counter contains both liquid and powdered detergents.

Like you, I use powders primarily for whites and light colors. They work especially well in hot water for sheets and towels.

You didn’t mention laundry detergent packs, but one of the reasons they’ve grown in popularity is because the premium brands’ packs are designed to keep some water-activated ingredients separate from the other liquid ingredients. They’re able to bring the best of both worlds together in one dose.

However, in the absence of a good deal, laundry detergent packs tend to have the highest per-load cost of any detergent, so if you like them, stock up when you see a great deal.

“Dear Jill,

It seems that spices have gotten more and more expensive at the grocery store, and some of the jars they come in have gotten smaller.

Even with coupons, some spice jars are priced at five dollars or more. We love to cook and keeping our spice cabinet stocked is very important.

We now primarily buy our spices two places: At the dollar store or an ethnic grocer.

If your readers are not looking at the dollar store for spices, they should be, as there are so many common seasonings there for just $1. This is where we buy commonly used spices like garlic powder, cinnamon, paprika, black pepper, oregano and others.

For less common seasonings, look for an ethnic grocery store as they often sell spices in bulk.

We go to an Italian grocer for bulk bags of rosemary, basil, thyme and sage. The Indian market in our area sells ginger, cumin, curry and coriander in bulk, too. All of these options are much less expensive than the traditional grocery.”

Ana S.

Over the years, I’ve seen other “savings experts” speak negatively of dollar store spice prices.

They warn that you must pay attention to the net weight of the spices inside, as the dollar store’s spice shaker labels often wrap entirely around the bottle, concealing the actual height of the spices inside. As long as you’re comfortable with the quantity you’re buying for a dollar, these are hard to beat.

In a 2009 study, Consumer Reports taste-tested multiple spices, including name brands and store brands, noting that while some name brand spices (cinnamon and oregano, namely) had “slightly more intense flavors”, they concluded that “for recipes with many ingredients, you probably don’t need to pay a premium.”

Consumer Reports also noted that premium spices often come in glass jars, and you’ll pay more for this packaging.

One other option to explore: If your store carries its own private label-seasonings, you may find these to be a good value as well.

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Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@supercouponing.com.