Dear Mary, Do you know where I can donate empty plastic prescription bottles? It seems such a waste to throw them away. -- Susan H., Tenn.
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, or small makeup brushes and change for the laundromat and tollbooths. They are 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 and pushpins, or for carrying aspirin and storing mixed paints for craft and ceramic projects, too.
Dear Mary, 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., Calif.
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. She advises that cooking food in microwaves with plastic wrap, in microwavable plastic containers and in cooking bags that have been manufactured for that purpose is extremely safe. Dr. Weese 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.
Dear Mary, We have a 17-year-old set of Encyclopedia Britannica that I am desperate to get rid of. But my husband hates to just throw these books out. We are hoping you can advise us. Thanks. -- Rosie H., Idaho
Dear Rosie, The Salvation Army will pick up your encyclopedias. Either call the number you find in your local directory or go to satruck.com. Some Goodwill outlets, goodwill.org, will also be happy to have your encyclopedias, but you must bring them to a collection center, as Goodwill only picks up furniture and large items. When you itemize your tax return, the IRS allows you to deduct the fair market value of your donations, so be sure to get an IRS-approved tax receipt. The folks who publish Money for Your Used Clothing (available for purchase at debtproofliving.com) tell me your set has a current market value of $2 to $10 depending on the condition.
Mary invites questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.