DEAR MARY: I have a food vacuum sealer but find that it mashes and mangles delicate items, like cookies, bread and brownies.
The main reason I got this machine was so I could send home-baked goodies to family and friends far away. Now what do I do? I could use a canister, but they are expensive, and I wouldn't want to mail that. My machine is not a fancy model, so there is no way to "half vacuum" the air out before the crushing begins, if that's even an option on more expensive models. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated! --Julianne, Illinois
DEAR JULIANNE: I have a FoodSaver vacuum sealer that I use all the time. In fact, this is my third in 25 years. I use it every day and swear by it. My current model does have a manual override option that allows me to complete the seal before delicate items get crushed beyond recognition. But all is not lost if you do not have this feature.
Freeze the items before sealing them. In a frozen state, delicate items are harder to mangle.
My FoodSaver has paid for itself many times over -- but only because it has a permanent place on my kitchen counter with the bags and attachments always at the ready.
DEAR MARY: We need your advice. My husband and I are thinking about putting an addition onto our house. I am 60, and he is 61. I am employed, and my annual income is about $45,000. My husband is on Social Security disability. We have around $85,000 in retirement accounts, $8,000 in credit-card debt, $1,500 in savings, and 15 years to go on our $73,000 mortgage.
Our daughter and grandchild live with us now, but she says she will be moving out soon. Our other daughter just got divorced, so she and her kids may be moving in. If we do build, should we take out a home equity loan or should we refinance the whole thing for 30 years? Or should we not do it at all? -- Maggie, Connecticut
DEAR MAGGIE: Improving your home by adding to your debt would be, in my opinion, a big mistake, given your husband's limitations, your age and your considerable debt. My advice is not to do it at all.
In the years before you retire, your primary focus needs to be on making sure that all of your debts are paid in full, including your mortgage. You are far from that place, even though you have accumulated some funds in your retirement accounts -- money you should not touch at this time.
With each year that passes, the chance of you being able to continue to work full-time diminishes considerably, which makes getting debt-free sooner than later even more urgent.
If you increase your debt now to improve your home to accommodate returning children, you will soon discover you are so far off course it may be impossible to recover in the work years you have remaining. You need to concentrate all of your energies -- physical, emotional and financial -- on getting ready for the next 25 or 30 years of your lives.
As difficult as it will be to break the news to the kids, making sure you do not become a financial burden to your children is the best gift you can give to them.
Do you have a question for Mary? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.