Dear Sara:

I have tried cleaning my stainless steel sink with vinegar and with baking soda, but neither worked. Do you have any other suggestions? -- Jim T., email

Dear Jim T.:

Try salt and lemon. I use regular liquid dishwashing detergent with baking soda, washing soda or Borax and a bristled dish brush to scrub. For shine, use furniture polish, baby oil or lemon oil, or wipe down with Windex. You might like the results from using Bon Ami or Bar Keepers Friend, too.

Dear Sara:

Could you please share the recipe for homemade laundry soap? I saw one once on the Frugal Village forums -- it made a very large batch and used Gain Detergent for added scent. -- Shawn R., email

Dear Shawn:

My website has a lot of laundry soap recipes. Here's one that includes Gain detergent, shared by Cricket in Texas:
1 large plastic cat litter tub
2 boxes Borax
2 boxes washing soda
8 pounds baking soda
6 bars Fels-Naptha soap, fine ground in food processor, or use a grater
1 bottle Purex scent crystals (I used lavender), 32-load size. (You can use Downy Unstopables, too.)
1 small box Gain powder (I just added this for the smell. It's optional. Mine was really cheap due to coupons)
I would stir in some of each and continue in layers as it fills the tub and gets hard to mix. I ended up using my hands. I put some into the Purex bottle and use the little cap to measure out about 2 tablespoons. It should last the year. I use it in my HE Whirlpool and am very happy with it. It costs $30-35, which is about 10 cents a load.

Dear Sara:

I have two completely unrelated questions: 1. How do I keep those little black bugs from invading my white flour?
2. Is there a way to reheat French fries? -- Agnes D., Pennsylvania

Dear Agnes:

The black bugs in flour are often weevils. Moths are also common pantry pests. You can prevent an infestation by placing your flour in the freezer. If storing your flour in the pantry, many people have had luck by placing bay leaves or spearmint in their pantry. Clean your kitchen from top to bottom with bleach and water or vinegar.
As for reheating French fries, you can heat a skillet on the stovetop and pan-fry to reheat them, or stick them in a toaster oven or regular oven at 450 degrees F. As I'm sure you know, microwaving produces soggy fries.

Dear Sara:

I got several one-pound packages of fresh asparagus with about 20 spears in each of them for only $1.69 per package. I plan on getting several more bundles. I plan to freeze several packages, but should I blanch the asparagus first? -- Jas, Florida

Dear Jas:

Blanch them for two to four minutes, depending on the size of the spear. After blanching, plunge the spears into ice water. Let the asparagus cool, then drain and place it in freezer storage bags.

photo by espensorvik