photo by valerie everett

DEAR SARA: Any ideas for odd game pieces? With three kids, I have a big plastic zipper bag of small game pieces. -- Denise, Ohio

DEAR DENISE: You can glue them to frames; make ornaments, magnets and jewelry; use for decorating cakes or gifts; or let kids use them in craft projects.

DEAR SARA: We rarely drink hot chocolate, but I happen to have tons of mix. What can I do with it apart from making hot chocolate? -- Dobby, Canada

DEAR DOBBY: You can add it to coffee; use it to make gifts in a jar; make smoothies; add to pancakes, waffles, French toast or homemade frosting; or mix it into oatmeal, to name a few uses.

DEAR SARA: Is it OK to put yeast packets in the refrigerator? My house gets hot inside so I'm thinking it would keep better in there. -- Tammy, California

DEAR TAMMY: Yes, you can store yeast in the refrigerator or freezer. For best results once opened, wrap it in a resealable bag or container. Before using it, proof the yeast. Red Star Yeast recommends using a 1-cup measuring cup, dissolving 1 teaspoon sugar in 1/2 cup water at 110 F to 115 F. Add up to three packets (each packet is 1/4 ounce or 2-1/4 teaspoons) of yeast, depending on your recipe, and stir until dissolved completely. Let the mixture stand until the yeast begins to foam vigorously (usually five to 10 minutes). You can now add this to the remaining ingredients. Remember to decrease the total liquid in your recipe by 1/2 cup to adjust for the water used in activating (proofing) the yeast. Using a thermometer is the best way to get the most accurate water temperature. Any thermometer will work as long as it can read between 70 F and 130 F. If you don't have a thermometer, make sure that the water is warm, but not hot to the touch. Water that is too hot can kill the yeast, and water that is too cold will slow down or stop yeast activity.

DEAR SARA: How do you pour paint into a paint tray without it splashing everywhere? -- Julie, Indiana

DEAR JULIE: You can buy a paint-can spout for about a dollar or a paint-can pouring lid. Check your local home-improvement store.

DEAR SARA: What types of meals would you make if you were low on cash? -- Fran, e-mail

DEAR FRAN: I sometimes make the following cheap meals regardless of cash flow.
-- Grilled cheese and any type of soup (I'll add wide egg noodles to canned soup if I don't make homemade).
-- Breakfast meals such as pancakes, waffles, eggs (do a breakfast scramble with cubed potatoes) and French toast, and I add fruit and/or cottage cheese.
-- Fried rice with vegetables and any leftover meat.
-- Quesadillas or tortilla wraps (sandwich type) or fajitas.
-- Pasta dishes, such as Fettuccine Alfredo.
-- Chef salad.
-- Chili dogs, baked potatoes with toppings.
-- Shepherd's pie.
-- Buffet of crackers, cheese, cold cuts, fruits and cut vegetables.