Life hacks

June 8, 2016


Life hacks can be shortcuts, time savers, money savers or something that has some other benefit that you’ve grown accustomed to. Here are six of mine.

In place of kale salad…

…I make kale chips. I don’t like the bitter taste of kale in a salad. But we get all of the benefits of a kale salad in baked chips. We use the entire head and serve it at dinner as a vegetable side dish. It’s a great snack, of course, because it has salt and crunch, two necessary traits of a great snack. But we’ll serve it more often alongside our main course.  You don’t know how to make them? Or yours don’t turn out so well? Here’s my secret to making perfect kale chips.

life hacks

I had to include a photo of my grandmother’s hand-made, crocheted potholders.

Mama’s hand-made potholders…

…instead of expensive oven mitts. I have had my late grandmother’s crocheted potholders for years and used to use them exclusively. But when I moved to California this last time, I got out of the habit. Regular pot holders aren’t effective against really hot ovenware, so we bought expensive mitts at William-Sonoma. But when I found Mama’s potholders a few months later, I also found that they handled oven heat better than anything else and were more flexible to use than the expensive mitts. Who knew?

Spa tea at home…

,,,,instead of regular iced tea. If I’m making traditional iced tea I might use three to five tea bags to a large pitcher. Spa tea uses only one teabag. Add a flavored teabag to a couple of quarts of water to make an iced tea with just a hint of flavor. I love to use orange spice, red berries, chai or lemon, but any flavor will do. It’s so refreshing for summer!

Iced vanilla or caramel coffee…

…instead of expensive, caloric “hand-crafted” hot drinks at Starbucks. One day I saw that a grande iced coffee with a shot of flavor was only 90 cals and $2.45. It’s refreshing, too. Add a glug of half and half and it’s a great little drink. So when I feel like a over-priced drink, iced vanilla coffee has become my new favorite.

Bake sweet potatoes advance…

…instead of baking while cooking dinner. I buy a couple of large sweet potatoes, wash, pierce the skin and bake them at 425 degrees for an hour and 15 minutes, usually. Once cooled, they go in the refrigerator. At dinner time, I slice a couple pieces and reheat to accompany the rest of our meal. Sweet potatoes get even sweeter after refrigeration, so sometimes we don’t reheat them. Nor do we season them, they’re great just as they are. One large potato makes at least 4 or more servings for us. Saves time, saves energy by cooking a couple at once and they’re absolutely yummy. And good for us, with lots of Vitamin A, C, fiber and all sorts of nutritional benefits. Hot Trainer eats some at just about every meal, by the way.

Sirius XM music…

…instead of thousands of dollars worth of music downloads. It’s true I can’t repeat a favorite song over and over with Sirius, but the vast number of channels and the variety of music (and other audio content) has made this a favorite app for my phone. I “favorited” the channels with music that I love and it’s easy to use during cardio at the gym or any other time.

I know you’ve got some. What life hacks would you add to this list?

71 comments on “Life hacks
  1. This one may seem silly and everyone else does it but when I go grocery shopping when I get all my fresh veggies home I cut them all up and store them in Tupperware Fridge Smart keepers . That way they are all ready for a quick snack whenever I need a healthy crunchy thing to have in a hurry. The prep is all done right when I get home from the grocery store and it is so easy!

  2. Leanne says:

    I can’t think of any hacks off the top of my head – I’ll have to give it some deeper thought. I loved some of yours Carol and I might even try the sweet potato one (I’ve never eaten kale so maybe I need to try that one too!)

  3. I love exploring options to how I can use or make things instead of purchasing overpriced versions or things the are not as meaningful. It makes life much sweeter, eh? P.S. My husband eats sweet potatoes almost every day! He’ll love what you wrote.

  4. Christina says:

    Great hacks!
    Is the Sirius app something you have to pay extra for if you are already a subscriber?

  5. Roz Warren says:

    Since I’m now on a salt-free diet (Thanks, Menieres!) my great snacks can only have crunch. No salt. I’m going to try your kale chip recipe without salt and see what happens. (By the way, I followed the link to check out your recipe and discovered my new favorite phrase. Epic Kale Chips Fail!)

  6. tp keane says:

    Love these hacks. Never thought of using Kale chips as a side.

  7. Sweet potato sounds yummy!

  8. Michelle says:

    I like the sweet potatoe idea. The tea too. I make my own iced tea with different flavored teas and that way I can sweetened it to my liking. Great ideas here.

  9. Cori says:

    I love that you’re still using the potholders your grandma made! Handmade items seem to last longer to me.

  10. Barbara says:

    I cannot eat kale in any form. I would rather eat your grandmother’s pot holders. I do love the sweet potato idea, though. I usually grill them in the summer instead of heating up the house with the oven but, storing them and reheating seems like a great idea.

  11. Hi Carol! Thanks for all these suggestions! I think we can all learn so much from each other when we share. I think one of my greatest practical tips would be how to keep cats out of your garden and/or your yards. We tried everything until I happen to read somewhere that cats HAT egg shells. Now we sprinkle egg shells in our garden and our yard where there is exposed dirt and don’t have to worry about cats using it for their little box. A natural and easy way to do the job. ~Kathy

  12. I absolutely adore kale chips! I used to spend a fortune on them until I found a great recipe online and started making my own. Thanks for sharing your recipe. I’ll have to try it and see if it’s better than the one I’ve been using, as it is a bit different. 🙂

  13. I have a couple of the same kind pot holder at home that I never use, I guess it’s the holes that worry me. You wouldn’t think something like that would be effective against heat.

  14. Valerie says:

    I love the Sirius radio too. It’s so fun to listen to.

  15. Jay Lickus says:


    You have some great ideas. I like to drink protein shakes for lunch. I use a standard bullet to mix the whey protein with a raw egg, plain Greek yogurt, almond milk and fresh fruit. Preparing the fruit takes too long when I am in a hurry so once a week or so I cut up a bunch of bananas, strawberries, mango, papaya, etc and mix them in a big bowl with blueberries and raspberries and pop them in the freezer. When I am ready to make a shake I just throw in the frozen fruit and eureka….great shake!!

  16. candy says:

    Love you grandmothers potholders. Keepsakes for sure.

  17. Jasmine says:

    Kale chips sound good!Are they just as bitter or do they have a better taste to them?

  18. I guess mine would be to prevent bread from molding make your own without using sugar. Just flour, water, a little course salt and a starter culture. It can sit on your counter for 2 weeks and never turn green.

  19. Kari ann says:

    Aww I love your grandmothers potholders! I cannot love without my green tea, nothing fancy but I love it homemade.

  20. Jacqui Odell says:

    I love the idea of cooking sweet potatoes ahead of time! It will make life a lot easier.

  21. Bodynsoil says:

    I love have foods ready in and ready to go, baked potatoes are one of them. Typically on Sunday, we prep our foods to make the weekly meal cooking go quickly and help us meet our nutrition goals.
    My mother made me a dishcloth, I won’t use it and only keep it as I don’t feel right using her handiwork to wash dishes; which makes her laugh.

  22. Linda wolff says:

    My family will eat anything that looks like chips! I’ll definitely be making the kale chips. Thanks for the recipe!

  23. Kale chips are THE BEST! They are such a great life hack.

  24. Cecilia A says:

    Would have never thought to make kale chips. I will give this a go with my dehydrator.

  25. Great hacks! I bake a couple of sweet potatoes at a time too!

  26. That is brilliant about the sweet potatoes. My challenges are to get in my 10K steps a day and to drink enough water. I keep a big Tervis cup with me all day filled with water and use my Fitbit to keep track of my steps.

  27. I love these hacks and many of them I do.
    I am big about making my own coffee but sometimes I just really enjoy having someone else make it for me and then I can chill in the coffee shop and enjoy the atmosphere and company.

  28. I love all of these except for the kale. I just can’t do the kale. I pretty much only use sweet potatoes or yams since they have so many fewer calories and are loaded with natural estrogen. I bake them ahead of time too, especially in the summer.
    I really need to get better about cutting my veggies up as soon as I get in from shopping. It is one of my least favorite chores.
    Using or wearing anything of my grandmothers give me such a feeling of her presence.

  29. Janice Wald says:

    Hi Carol,
    I’ve never had kale, but I know Katie Perry likes it!

  30. Elizabeth O. says:

    Everything is simply better when it’s homemade! You make the same amount of goodness with only a fraction of the price and it’s really not that bad. I like the kale chips idea! It definitely is the perfect snack and thanks for linking the recipe.

  31. For me it’s Apple Music (and before that it was Spotify premium). This saves me so much because I can download whatever I want but I only pay $4.99/mo because I get a student discount.
    Blessed Messes

  32. Amy Putkonen says:

    Great tips, Carol!

    I make my own granola and granola bars with NO SUGAR. It is super easy to make and tastes so much fresher and better than the store bought varieties! I use dates instead of sugar, so my granola bars are still very sweet and so delicious! My granola uses maple syrup instead of sugar and it is all the better for it. Big chunks of yummy goodness too – not all crumbly like the store bought ones!

    I love your kale chips idea. Kale is amazing! Definitely underrated! I love how you incorporate veggies into your meals. So important! The other readers had some great tips too. I will share this!

  33. Amy Putkonen says:

    P.S. I’ve been listening to a book on tape called “How Not to Die” and he has an entire chapter dedicated to KALE. It’s such a good food. If any non-veggie lovers out there want a reason to love veggies, try that book!

  34. Rebecca Swenor says:

    These are all great life hacks and a couple I will have to start doing. My favorite life hack is cleaning with lemon juice and vinegar. This mixer cleans everything brilliantly and is safe for humans along with animals. Vinegar will also keep the spiders away.Thanks for sharing the hacks.

  35. Roxy says:

    I love this list! I’m obsessed with sweet potatoes right now and feel like you just changed my life with that one! Also, where on earth do I find these $2.50 iced coffees???

  36. Oh, those crocheted potholders! We still have a few at home, handcrafted by my great grandmother.

  37. Sami says:

    Hi, the iced vanilla sounds delicious and sirius I’ve heard of before, I’ll check that out today. thanks for the hacks.

  38. Donna says:

    My. Life hacks are mostly about plants…I love to go to Loews and buy plants from the discount shelf, take them home and nurse them back to health. It works most of the time…I love Sirius radio…and I love sweet potatoes. I also like to plant sweet potatoes for the incredible vine they make, without the huge nursery cost.

  39. Awe I remember the old school oven mitts. I’ve gotten all my stuff at the dollar tree and they work just as well as the more expensive ones lol I haven’t burnt my hands yet. I loved my sirius radio but I got repairs to my car and it messed something up and I cancelled it. Now it’s not to bad. I have blue tooth and an aux cord so I use my phone and old ipod to play music or listen to podcasts.

  40. Liz Mays says:

    My daughter taught me about doing the sweet potatoes ahead of time. It’s so perfect, and they’re great for ya.

  41. Andrea says:

    And with the summer finally appearing, I just may have to take advantage of that iced tea “hack” 🙂

  42. The Southern stylista says:

    Oh my gosh, thank you for praising XM radio! I’ve had it in my vehicle and in my home since I was fifteen years old and I LOVE it. Always something good to listen to 🙂

    xoxo, SS

    The Southern Stylista

  43. K. Lee Banks says:

    Thanks for this list! I’ve made kale chips before, but forgot about them and haven’t made any yet this year. I happen to have some kale in the fridge, so I might have to try them again.

    I make “jar salads” using mason jars; I put cherry tomatoes in the bottom, then other cut up veggies like cukes and green peppers, then various greens (lettuce, spinach, kale) on top. If you tighten the covers well, the salad mix stays fresh for up to a week. When you’re ready for salad, you just open the jar, add some dressing, replace the cover and shake to distribute the dressing, then reopen and dump onto a plate or into a bowl.

  44. Amber Starr says:

    Spotify is my favorite for music! $10 a month and you can listen to anything you want.

  45. angie says:

    awesome ideas the use of grandmas goodies is a wonderful idea

  46. Lexie Lane says:

    I like doing my own latte at home, it saves me a lot and I can watch my calories intake. I go to SB once in a while if I only crave for it.

  47. I think that the hacks I use the most involve food and technology. I love finding ways to simplify everyday processes.

  48. katrina gehman says:

    i love me some xm radio. i travel a lot so it’s played a lot. your grandma’s pot holders are awesome.

  49. Lexie Lane says:

    Oooh! Love the pot holders! I could definitely use those! As far as the tea, I’m with you … I love experimenting with teas and flavors. This definitely sounds great!

  50. That spa tea sounds heavenly! I make spa water all the time, but I’ve never made spa tea. I’ll definitely have to try it. Thanks so much for joining the Thursday Three Link-Up! I hope to see your post next week as well 🙂


  51. I’m totally with you! I can’t live without my iced coffee from Dunkin or my Sirus XM. I get in a car with regular FM and i”m like what is this stuff, what are these commercials!

  52. Great hacks!

    We love kale chips, too! I’ll have to bake a couple sweet potatoes again! Such a great side dish or snack!

  53. Diane says:

    Why is everyone so much clever-er than me? That’s okay, I get to benefit from your clever-ness! Mmmm . . . sweet potatoes . . .

  54. Courtneylynne says:

    Great hacks!!!! I never thought of using kale chips for a side! Definitely doing that!

  55. Great hacks, although as Barbara said, I’d rather eat your grandmother’s potholders than kale in any form. In my book kale is just WRONG and there is no pretending otherwise. On the other hand, I love sweet potatoes and prepping them in advance and then enjoying them later is exactly my kind of goodness. Lately I’m all about mixing them with everything, including mango and pineapple cole slaw.

  56. Lindi Mogale says:

    I love life hacks posts. the sweet potato one I am going to use immedialtely my little one loves and consumes tons of the stuff so this should help us

  57. sue says:

    I don’t like the taste of kale although you are the second person in as many weeks who has suggested kale chips. I must try them. Love the colourful pot holders as well.

  58. Linda Hobden says:

    Never eaten kale … not a common veg in the UK.. I prefer hot veg & I add lots of spinach or frozen mixed veg to my curries to bolster out the meat content or to make a quick & easy veg curry. Love using passata too as a tomato based sauce.

    Loved the iced tea suggestion – sounds refreshing but not sure if I could abandon my traditional hot cuppa!

    Sweet potato chips & sweet potato mash with carrots are great alternatves to ordinary chips (fries) and mash potato.

  59. Faye says:

    Kale chips and sweet potato trick are my favorite tips! I’ve always struggled with sweet potatoes taking far too long to prepare — why didn’t I think of that?? Another hack I’m loving at the moment (for those with babies) are doggie pad: I pack a few in my purse and boom – I have cheap, disposable baby changing pads for wherever I go.

  60. Rosemond says:

    I love kale but my recent attempt at kale chips was a soggy disappointment. I need to try your recipe and give it another go!

  61. Stacey W says:

    Love all of those! I have never tried kale chips before.

  62. I like kale chips and have decided that is the only way I can stomach this super food, Carol. I never thought of slicing the baked sweet potatoes to reheat and that’s a great idea. Love the hand crocheted potholders. In our family we have used hand knit cotton dishcloths for years and I have a stack of them my dear late Aunt Amber made. They are the best. One of my life hacks is to cut up a variety of vegetables: white potato, winter squash, turnip, brussel sprouts, carrots and toss with olive oil. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes and you have veggies for the week. This is an autumn hack when all these veggies are locally grown and available at the farmer’s market. They are sweet and delicious warmed up!

  63. Jessica Kirk says:

    I miss my Sirius subscription! There are only a few stations here that I really like and they tend to play the same songs over and over again.

  64. Silly Mummy says:

    Great tips! I’m actually not sure if I’ve ever eaten kale in any form! I had never really considered that the frappuccinos were much lower in calories than the hot drinks, but that makes sense as they are mostly ice!

  65. SKJAM! says:

    I remember when these things were called “helpful household hints.” As for kale, call me when refined sugar becomes a “superfood.”

  66. Debbie Goode says:

    Such awesome ideas….especially love the sweet potato! I desperately need to incorporate more veggies in our diet!

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