Dear Cheapskate: Do you know of any place where I can donate empty plastic prescription bottles? It seems such a waste to throw them away. — Susan H., Tennessee
Dear Susan: Call your local veterinarian. Most vets are more than happy to receive cleaned prescription bottles with labels removed for dispensing medicines for animals. Humane societies need bottles to send medications home with newly adopted pets, too.
Medical missionaries doing outreach work in poor countries can always use prescription bottles to dispense the medications that come in large quantities. Check with your pharmacist or church to locate a collection program in your area.
These little plastic bottles are great for storing sewing machine needles, pins and buttons, for small makeup brushes and change for the laundromat and toll booths. They are also the perfect size to hold salad dressing in a packed lunch. They are great for keeping hooks and other items in a tackle box.
Prescription bottles are ideal for storing small beads, garden seeds, pushpins; for carrying aspirin and storing mixed paints for craft and ceramic projects, too.
Dear Cheapskate: I learn so much from your column. What can you tell me about the safety of cooking bags? I love them and find them effective. So, is there any danger of toxicity? — Janet V., California
Dear Janet: There’s been a lot of inaccurate information floating around the Internet that microwave cooking in plastic wrap and cooking bags poses a health concern. But food scientist Dr. Jean Weese (Alabama Cooperative Extension) says that information has been proven to be completely untrue. It’s a hoax!
Dr. Weese advises that cooking food with microwave plastic wrap, in microwavable plastic containers and in cooking bags that have been manufactured for that purpose and labeled for use in the microwave, is extremely safe.
She says we should avoid using plastic storage containers like margarine tubs, takeout containers and other one-time use containers because they can melt or warp, possibly causing chemicals to migrate into the food.
It was so good to hear from you, and many thanks for your kind words!
Dear Cheapskate: Our son is finishing up his college applications, and we’ve also begun investigating financial aid options to help us pay his tuition. A co-worker suggested that we pay a financial planner or some other expert to fill out the forms for us, since they’d better understand the ins and outs of it all. It is a daunting task, but I’m wondering if it’s really worth the money. And where can we go to find help even if we want to fill them out ourselves? — Dolores C., Washington
Dear Dolores: You could hire someone but you would still have to do the hard work of gathering all of your specific financial information. I think you will be way ahead if you do it yourself. I highly recommend the book “Taming the Tuition Tiger” by Kathy Kristof (Bloomberg Press, 2003) to walk you through the process. Check the library.
Another excellent resource is the Federal Student Aid Handbook, a comprehensive resource on student financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education. Grants, loans and work-study are the three major forms of aid available through the department’s Federal Student Aid office. Updated each award year, the handbook tells you about the programs and how to apply for them. It is available free online in English or Spanish. Go to http://www.studentaid.gov to download the handbook. Or call toll free 800-433-3243 to request a copy by mail.
I hope that helps. And please give your son my best wishes as he embarks on this new phase of life!