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I always appreciate when my readers take the time to share their own savings tips, and this week, I’m sharing another roundup of ideas from people like you:

DEAR JILL: Use the USDA app to buy stores’ brands to save money. I have an edge in that I’ve worked in the industry for 40-plus years and know many of the players, but most folks shy away from store brands because they don’t know.

All meat and poultry plants have a unique establishment number that enables you to see who actually made the product. — Sharon K.

While I like to think that I’m familiar with many of the apps available for saving money, I hadn’t yet heard of the USDA MPI Directory app until I received Sharon’s email. This app is available for both Android and Apple, and it allows you to access the Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory by searching an “Establishment Number.” If you have ever looked at a USDA packaging label on meat, you may have noticed a number inside the USDA seal. The seal typically reads “U.S. Inspected And Passed By Department of Agriculture” with a code beneath the text, such as “EST. 38.”

If you enter this number into the USDA MPI Directory app, the app will tell you the name of the company that made that product. Indeed, it’s a smart way to know which meat or poultry manufacturer supplied a store-branded meat to your store, especially if you are comfortable or enthusiastic about purchasing from specific manufacturers.

DEAR JILL: I love detergent pods and packs, but I have a hard time justifying the ridiculous markup for “dissolvable plastic”-wrapped detergent.

When I realized convenience is my only reason for loving them, I gathered up a couple dozen microfiber cloths, measured out the amount of liquid detergent I typically use and poured that amount onto each of them. I fold them up and stack them, folds down, so the liquid seeping down pretty much is held in that “packet,” and I stack them in my old bin from a previous single-dose detergent. Voila, “pods” for a couple weeks’ worth of laundry.

Pass the savings on. — Doris S.

You’re not the only one to suggest making your own single-dose laundry detergent! Several other readers emailed to share the liquid-detergent-on-cloths suggestion. Reader Kevin H. suggested cutting the microfiber cloths into more manageable sizes and storing them in an old baby wipes bin. Reader Adrienne C. said she cuts old washcloths into pieces before soaking them in detergent. She lets the cloths dry out on a baking rack on top of her dryer, then stacks what she calls her “detergent chips” inside a small plastic tote. Reader Jessy S. wrote to say that this is her favorite method of packing a couple of loads of laundry detergent for a trip. She folds the detergent-soaked cloth into a reclosable bag, which takes up very little luggage space.

However you want to tackle this idea, it’s an effective one for creating budget-friendly single doses of laundry detergent.

DEAR JILL: Is there any reason I should not refill liquid hand soap dispensers with body wash? I get so many great coupon deals on body wash that I am paying less per ounce for that than I would for liquid soap refills. It does a fine job washing hands so I can’t see any reason why this would be a problem. Can you? — Michelle I.

Considering that hands are part of the body, no, I don’t see it as a problem. Hand soaps may be formulated to remove dirt a bit more effectively, as hand-washing can involve actual dirt that typically isn’t covering one’s entire body. However, if you’re happy with its performance, why stop using it?

In fact, there are multi-use wash products out now for a variety of purposes. I’ve seen (and purchased) bottles of men’s “Hair, Face and Body Wash,” and I’ve also seen and purchased dish detergent marketed as “hand soap and dishwashing liquid,” giving you even more cost-effective options for washing.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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