Thursday, May 21, 2015

Random Household Tips & Advice

(OR Listen To Your Mama!)

Last week, we tackled cleaning the major areas of the home. Today's post doesn't fit under just one room, but instead, is a random collection of all-over helpful advice from various moms and grandmas... they do know best!

- Laundry Detergent: Get an extra load’s worth of soap out of an “empty” bottle of detergent by filling with water, 
  shaking once or twice, and pouring it all into wash.
- Ironing: Use only distilled water in iron to avoid mineral deposit buildup (which drastically shortens iron life). Keep 
  a cheap spray bottle of distilled water nearby as well to use when spritzing items before ironing. To clean iron, fill 
  with equal parts white vinegar and distilled water, steam up, let cool, then flush with fresh distilled water.
- Don't-Dry Items: Use a dry-erase marker to write on the washing machine lid to indicate which items need to
  be pulled from the load before it moves into the dryer.
- Greasy Stains/Spills: Sprinkle with baking soda or cornstarch to absorb then vacuum.
- Dusty Candles: Wipe down with a cloth dipped in denatured alcohol.
- Musty Linens: Add a “fridge pack” of baking soda to linen closet or cupboard.
- Air Filters: Don’t forget to check filters every couple months and replace as needed!
- Windows: Clean these on a not-too-hot, overcast day—otherwise, they'll dry too quickly and streak. Use the time-
  tested hint of wiping vertically on one side and horizontally on the other so you can tell which side streaks are on.
- Clean Vases: To clean difficult-to-reach vase interiors, use a foaming denture cleaner tablet.
- Nail Holes: I’ve seen many suggestions online for filling small nail holes with white toothpaste—just don’t. It takes 
  mere seconds to properly fill holes, come on, people.
- Vents: Be careful not to block wall air vents with furniture or appliance air vents with other items or by storing in 
  too-small-spacesboth are damaging to belongings and possible fire hazards.
- Fire Safety: Keep an eye out for exposed wires and be wary of overloading electrical outlets.


In addition to the tips above, some amazing women have graciously shared their “mom's top tips” with me! Recognize any that your mom has said over the years?

“No wet towels on the floor. Like, ever.” - Diana S. 
(nasty mildew and a comfy home for creepy crawlies)

"It's silly to worry, and a waste of good time." - Mamaw P.

There's no reason you can't reuse towels—you’re drying off a clean body.” - Sue B. 
(when hung up, two or three uses is one likes extra laundry)

“Be efficient; turn lights off as you leave a room. Also, get everyone to participate in choreshuge tasks become quick ones with help, plus, kids love taking pride in a job well done.” - Stina V.

"Get your cleaning done as early as you can." - Monica T.
(sometimes challenging to do, but once it's done you can enjoy the day!)

"There's no better way to welcome guests to your home than with a freshly baked dessert. And for the love of all things dear, pick up your empty cups!." - Kaysie K.
(I've been eyeing this cup-corraling project for a while now to help with strays)

"Take your time with your laundry, sorting into delicates, whites, and colors" - Nelle M. 
(plus, close buttons and zippersit really does help clothes last longer)

"Tidy the house before you leave for vacation, especially the kitchen, because no one wants to come back from a relaxing vacation to a dirty home."
 - Amanda B.
(this is a major practice of ours; coming back to clean sheets seems to make the vacation-end less awful!)

"Create a master list of maintenance that needs done around the house throughout the year. That way, seasonal items don't get forgotten and you've got a built-in reminder system." - Kristin A. 

"Use color-free dishwashing liquid to soak out stains in clothing. And, it sounds crazy, but hydrogen peroxide works wonders on red wine carpet spills." - Jill

Last but not least, according to my friend Bond, his mom's advice is: "Don't be a bum."

See you next week for a fun project to keep all your day-to-day routines in order!

This post is part of the Modern Simple Homemaking series.
To learn more about this series and see other posts, click the button above.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Top to Bottom Clean: Bathrooms, Etc.

Often the smallest and simultaneously dirtiest room of them all, bathrooms are certainly a cleaning chore. However, as with other spaces, having a cleaning regime here contributes to overall home environment and family health.

Once again, working top to bottom:
*Tip: start by coating toilet bowl with cleaner and allowing it to sit for a few minutes while you work on other areas.*

- Ceiling & Walls: Check corners for cobwebs or dust buildup.
- Mirrors: Use glass cleaner to get toothbrush splatters, especially on the lower portion.
- Shower/Tub: I’ve found the easiest way to clean the shower is when you’re actually in it—like literally in the
  process of showering. The steam and running water make the job much easier! A dispenser-scrubbie filled with
  dishwashing liquid works remarkably well. Whether you go this route or a shower-specific spray, make sure to get
  walls, ledges, and especially the “ring area” which tends to form on the lower walls, between 3-5” from the tub
  bottom. Use a squeegee on glass doors between cleanings and shower spray during heavier cleaning. An old
  toothbrush does wonders on door tracks. For curtains liners, wipe these off to prevent mold/scum buildup.
- Surfaces: Use disinfectant wipes or all-purpose cleaner to wipe down any wall shelving, inside any cabinets,
  countertops, and the back ledge of the toilet.
  Note: Regardless of space, aim for minimal countertop toiletries. For health reasons, it's especially recommended
  to keep toothbrushes in a breathable but closed area.
Gorgeous and clutter-free. (source)
- Sink: Disinfectant wipes are great for sink basins and faucets; old toothbrushes are handy for detail scrubbing. 
  For maximum shine on faucets, buff with a dry towel after cleaning.
- Toilet: Now that the cleaner has had a chance to sit, use a toilet brush to scrub the inside of the bowl and rim, 
  then flush cleaner away. Use disinfectant wipes on seat cover, seat (top and underside), and upper rim of bowl.
  And don’t forget to restock TP and periodically bleach the brush.
- Towels: Remove hand and bath towels and replace with freshly laundered ones.
- Floors: Empty wastebasket and sweep floor area, taking time to either shake out or launder floor mats 
  according to care instructions. Finally, use mop or Swiffer to finish off floors. 

Not so bad, was it? I’ll be honest, bathrooms are my very least favorite area of the house to clean BUT there is also nothing I dislike quite so much as using a gross one. I guess its an unavoidable evil necessity.

Now that our major home areas are all “spick and span” (what a strange expression though), let’s not forget about a few other minor spaces to not overlook:

- Front Entry: A simple doormat and cobweb-free front entrance are always welcoming. Keeping the path swept
  and junk-free is a great way to reflect your home’s inner order.  
Simple, clean, and oh-so-inviting! (source)
- Laundry Area: Have a designated home for cleaning supplies and laundry, no matter how simpleeven baskets 
  on the floor look better than just a pile of clothes. Aim to keep shelves moderately organized but definitely free of
  sticky detergent spills.
- Ironing: We don’t yet have a designated “ironing area” but instead, just try to keep iron, board, and other 
  supplies close together. Hanging the board behind a door for storage is also a great Pinterest tip!
- Cleaning Supply Storage: Maximize storage space under sinks by using plastic bins or even tension rods to
  hang bottles. Inexpensive cleaning caddies are also an option as well as over-door shoe organizers. 

For an even more in-depth look at each room with printable checklists, check out the Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning Series on Living Well Spending Less. So detailed!

And thank goodness, now all our major cleaning is done!

This post is part of the Modern Simple Homemaking series.
To learn more about this series and see other posts, click the button above.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Top to Bottom Clean: Kitchen & Dining Area

Basically the same as our kitchen....haha...or not! (source)

Full disclosure, deep cleaning the kitchen can be a real hassle. However, it is really important and thankfully, much easier to manage if you stay on top of it. And if you missed the earlier posts on Living Rooms and Bedrooms, check those out for more tips too. Let’s dig in!

- Ceiling & Walls: Check corners for cobwebs and dust buildup, as well as walls for splatter.
- Ceiling fan: Reminder—use this method for quick, easy cleaning. If blades are especially grimy, consider taking 
  them off the fan entirely and scrubbing with disinfectant wipes or all-purpose cleaners.
- Light fixtures: Chandeliers and light fixtures can get pretty dusty. Use a lightly damp cloth or glass cleaner to 
  touch these up periodically.
- Windows: Kitchen windows are a wonderful thing, but don’t forget them and their treatments when deep
  cleaning. Splatter-free & sparkling glass is nice too!
- Air Vents: Be careful to keep vent covers free of grease buildup, which is easy to happen in the kitchen.
- Upper Cabinets: Don’t forget to clean up cabinet faces which can become grimy with grease, fingerprints, 
  splatter, etc. Murphy’s Oil is a good solution for wooden fixture cleaning.
- Oven Hood: Check the manufacturer’s instructions for how to clean the vent if necessary, otherwise, use 
  disinfectant wipes to remove built up grime on the top and underside of the hood.
- Fridge Top: Don’t neglect this oven-overlooked surface; dust and grime love this hard-to-reach area.
She recommends an Enviro cloth - I haven't used these but wipes seem to work just as well! (source)
- Microwave & Toaster: Whether you have a built-in or countertop model, cleaning the inside of the microwave is
  a must. Microwave a cup of water with a bit of vinegar in it until it steams up a bit. Let it sit a few minutes, remove, 
  then use a damp cloth to wipe messes away. Empty toaster crumb trays too!
- Stovetop & Drip Trays: Clear up stovetop messes well depending on your cooking surface's needs—some need
  specific cleaners, others are fine with disinfectant wipesAnd for those of us still using drip trays, use Bar Keepers
  Friend or a baking soda and vinegar solution to scrub trays till shiny and fresh. Full experiment here!
- Dishes: This is a great time to make sure all your dishes are clean and put away or loaded into the dishwasher. 
  (If you have a dishwasher, check manufacturer recommendations on deep cleaning that as well.)
- Sink: Wipe down sink walls and basin as well as faucet. To freshen drains: sprinkle with baking soda, rinse with 
  white vinegar, wait 15 minutes, then flush thoroughly with hot or boiling water. 
- Countertops & Surfaces: Personally, I love disinfectant wipes for general countertop cleaning, but an all-purpose
  cleaner works well between food prep. If you have specialty counters such as marble, cork, or bamboo, be careful
  to treat them as needed. Depending on your dining table and chairs, special treatment may be required as well. 
  Don’t forget to launder tablecloths and runners periodically too!
- Lower Cabinet Faces: Ditto for the upper surfaces. Magic Erasers are great for shoe scuffs on lower faces.
- Oven: I’ve seen a number of cleaning suggestions for ovens online but most involve harsh cleaners or ammonia,
  which I don’t love. Frankly, my best suggestion is to be careful to prevent spills in the first place. When a mess 
  does occur, use your best judgment as to whether a deep clean is needed or simply letting it soak under a hot, wet
  rag to be wiped out will do the trick.
- Fridge: Disinfectant wipes are a great tool here. Minimize spills and yuckiness by keeping the fridge nicely 
  organized to begin with. When spills do happen, spot clean them with a wipe. Consider using plastic bins or 
  baskets to contain like food items, which are easy to remove and clean. Deep cleaning the fridge annually is 
  still best to do with a secondary cooler and by just removing shelves one at a time.
  TIP: Clean under the fridge by using a tube sock over the end of a yardstick!
  TIP #2: Use an old/cheap toothbrush to detail clean fridge parts, especially the rubber door seal gaskets.

- Trash: Take out garbage and wipe down the interior/exterior of the trash can to help eliminate lingering odors.
- Floors: Finally, sweep up the floors, mop or Swiffer, shake out any rugs outside or vacuum mats if possible. 

Done and done! The kitchen often feels like the most work because it has so many areas that require cleaning while also seeming to accumulate the most grime. However, a clean, fresh kitchen is both a great inspiration for cooking and a good reinforcement for healthy food handling and storage. 

If you’re especially ambitious, super deep kitchen cleaning can also include once-a-year washing of every dish/platter as well as wiping out the cabinets as you do so. Let’s not think about that too much though!

Next Up: Bathrooms & Misc.

This post is part of the Modern Simple Homemaking series.
To learn more about this series and see other posts, click the button above.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Top to Bottom Clean: Bedrooms

Usually the coziest room in the house, bedrooms are like sanctuaries to many people. As such, keeping this area clean will not only create a more peaceful place of rest, but also a healthier respite. Many items here are the same as what we’ve already tackled in the Living Room, so check out that post for more detail on specific tips.

- Strip the Bed: Launder sheets and pillowcase, but don’t forget to periodically wash the mattress cover and pillow 
  covers as well. Note: Pillow covers are pretty inexpensive, healthy, and extend the life of pillows—this wasn’t a 
  common practice for me growing up, but now, I definitely see the value in it!
- Ceiling & Walls: Mostly just checking corners for cobwebs or dust buildup.
- Ceiling Fan: Reminderuse this method for quick, easy cleaning.
- Air Vents: Bedroom air vents seem extra important to keep clean since they affect the air we breathe during 
  sleep, am I right? Light dusting or a remove-and-wash are both helpful!
- Blinds & Curtains
- Wall Art & Lampshades
- Surfaces: As with the Living Room, don’t cheat yourself with dusting surfaces by just going around items. Take 
  everything off, dust items then the surface, then replace photos and knick knacks. 
- Make the Bed: Who doesn’t love Fresh Sheet Night?! Though “the olden days” employed a more elaborate 
  layering method for making up the bed, I think a simpler setup works just as well: fitted sheet, flat sheet, and 
  comforter/quilt/duvet with extra blankets available on the side.
Sheets: Though I do use the “hospital corners” method for the foot of the bed, I prefer to leave the sides 

  untucked as it makes it easier to get in. Strider, however, would prefer to sleep in a straightjacketweirdo!
  >> Pillows: Though decorative pillows can be nice, they are usually more work than they’re worth. Keep pillow 
  arrangements simple, finding one high-impact accent that can do the job with minimal fuss.
- Floors: Vacuum or sweep & wet-mop accordingly; don’t forget about area rugs. 

Bonus Idea: Folding & Storing Sheets
I’ve seen tons of ideas for folding sheets online--some great, some a bit illogical. Regardless, well-folded sheets really do make storage much pleasanter. 

Growing up, my family put pillowcases in a separate stack from sheets and basically just dug around in the closet, grabbing whichever pieces we found first. I don’t recommend ithaha.

This method works beautifully for us with minimal fuss:
First, grab a partner if possible because, as everyone knows, folding sheets is way easier with a buddy! Start with the flat sheet, making the first fold along the longest length (a “hot dog fold” if you like). This crease will also serve as your midline next time you’re making up the bed. Bring it together into a “hamburger fold” across the mid-line then again along the long length. This will make a long, thing flat surface. Set it aside (trust me!). 

Next, tackle the fitted sheet. Invert one corner and tuck it into its partner, then grabbing the now-corner-less side about 8” from the edge, which will create a straight line with the double-corner-pocket. 
Continue to fold as normal until it is in a small rectangle about the same width as your folded flat sheet (this can be easier or more difficult depending on the sheet style). Set in onto the flat sheet about 10” from the edge.
Fold pillowcases into small rectangles and stack on top of the fitted sheet.

Now the brilliant part! Pull the edge of the flat sheet over the stack and continue to roll it all together until you have a tight little sheet pod. 
Not only do these sheet sets store extremely well, you can also rest easy knowing that every pod has a fitted sheet, flat sheet, and two pillowcases inside. No more hunting down missing pieces! If you have an incomplete set, simply create a new “set” however you like.
Also consider creating a Sheet Rotation Schedule. It may sound crazy, but to help create even wear across sets, make a list of which order sheets should be used in. This can be taped up inside the linen cupboard with seasonal sets listed in parenthesis to be skipped during off-season, as with our heavier grey set. 

Next Up: The Kitchen!

This post is part of the Modern Simple Homemaking series.
To learn more about this series and see other posts, click the button above.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Top to Bottom Clean: Living Room

Okay friends! In this week’s four mini-posts I’ll be looking at detail cleaning one room at a time, touching on the four major living areas: Living Room / Bedroom / Kitchen / Bathroom. 

Lots of this information overlaps between rooms, but I’ll also be including helpful tips for tackling specific items in each room. Naturally, there are plenty of speed cleaning lists online as well as much more in-depth deep cleaning lists. Feel free to simplify or extend your cleaning regimen depending on how much time and determination you have. And if haven’t yet, make sure you have all your products and tools on hand before you start!

The living room is a hugely important area to keep tidy as it's usually the most high-trafficked room in the house. Whether you have a formal living room and a den or just one all-purpose living space, the same routine applies.

As with all housekeeping, working top to bottom is essential. 
And fun music. Seriously, so importantThat being said:

- Ceiling & Walls: I’m not an advocate for wiping down walls on a routine basis—too much work. Instead, just 
  check corners for cobwebs or dust buildup.
- Ceiling fan: Hands-down, the best way I’ve found to clean ceiling fans is to commit an old pillowcase to the task.
  Slide the open end over one fan blade, pinch the edges together, then slide the case off, pulling all the dust off 
  with it. Repeat for each blade. The dust will fall tidily inside the case, which can then be turned out outside or 
  simply tossed into the wash. Easy peasy.
- Air Vents: For a quick clean, dust vent covers with microfiber cloth. To deep clean, remove covers, wash with 
  warm soapy water, air dry, and replace. (Usually an annual task.)
- Blinds & Curtains: For generic blinds, simply turn them to the “closed” position and use disposable dusters or a 
  dry microfiber towel to collect excess dust. For other styles, check manufacturer cleaning recommendations. 
  Curtains can usually just be tossed into the laundry, but check tags for cleaning suggestions just to be sure. Air dry
  and iron before re-hanging. (This is usually just a once/twice-a-year task for me.)
- Lampshades: Sticky lint rollers work wonders on most styles!
- Television: Though there are electronic-safe cleaners out there, I recommend just a dry cloth and a very light
  touch with today’s flat-screen models.
- Wall Art: Make sure to dust frames hung on the wall. Use either a duster or dry towel with a light touch. 

By now, you should have the top portion of the room finished and all dust knocked down to the lower half. 
Halfway done!

- Surfaces: Dust all surfaces (bookshelves, end tables, entertainment console, etc.) still working from top to
  bottom. Don’t shortcut yourself and just dust around items either, take the time to remove things, cleaning them if
  necessary as you do go (picture frames are notorious for dust), clean the surface, then replace items. Usually 
  a duster or dry microfiber cloth is good for everyday cleaning. For deep cleaning, consider the type of surface
  (especially wood) and make considerations if special care needs to be made.
  Note: Overwhelmed by how much there is to remove from surfaces? Consider simplifying your knick knacks.

 Gorgeous space with minimal surface clutter! (source)
- Furniture: For a quick clean, use a lint roller to go over main furniture surfaces. To deep clean, remove cushions
  and use a vacuum attachment to clean cushions and under-cushion areas. Also either spot treat or toss
  pillows/pillow covers in the wash (semi-annually). Take care for special cleaning of leather furniture.
- Floors: For quick cleaning, either vacuum or sweep/wet-mop, depending on your floor covering. For a more
  thorough clean, use a lightly dampened cloth to wipe down baseboards before doing floors. Once or twice a year,
  move furniture to clean under those pieces as well.

There you have it! A perfectly clean living space to enjoy with family and friends.
Plus, a big check off our housecleaning list!

Next Up: Bedrooms!

This post is part of the Modern Simple Homemaking series.
To learn more about this series and see other posts, click the button above.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Household Cleaning

(OR A Petition to Keep Saturdays Fun)

Welcome back, friends! 
Today’s post launches part three in the Modern Simple Homemaking series: Keeping Things Tidy 

Yup...housekeepingNow, before you stop reading and run away, keep in mind that there are very good reasons for keeping a house clean and surprisingly easy ways to manage it. 

First, the reasons. So why do we bother with keeping a house clean?
- It just looks better. Simplicity & budget are big purchasing factors for us when buying household items and 
  frankly, even the least expensive (Craigslist) belongings look nicer when tidy.  
- Cleanliness = healthiness. Dusty, grimy surfaces are breeding grounds for critters, sickness, and allergens. 
- It reduces stress. A well-managed environment mirrors a well-managed mind. When the outside world is 
  chaotic, a clean home provides relief and peace. Plus, it makes it plain easier to find stuff!
- Helps with priorities. When Strider gets home from work, a clean house helps me enjoy our time together, 
  rather than being nagged by the neglected chores I put off. 
- It’s welcoming! If things are tidy at home, there’s no reluctance to jump at opportunities to invite guests in.
- It saves us money. Stuff's just less likely to be broken or lost.
Now that we understand why we bother with cleaning, let’s round up the arsenal.
Though there are cleaning products out there for anything you can imagine, it doesn’t really require much. 
Note: I try to avoid heavily scented cleaners. Despite their best efforts, no company’s chemical scent is ever as pleasant as open windows or lighting a single, good-smelling candle.

To caddy or not to caddy? Many people recommend using a cleaning caddy to take everything you need around with you. I’ve never really gotten into this practice and our apartment isn’t actually big enough for it to be a real issue. Worth considering though.

Products to Have Handy:
- Liquid hand soap: No one enjoys picking up a slippery, scummy bar of soap. 
  Also, consider avoiding antibacterial; warm water and suds will do the trick!
- All-purpose cleaner: Meyers, Clorox GreenWorks, or homemade all work well.
- Disinfectant wipes: I love these and affordable, generic ones use the same 
  formulas as the big names.
- Furniture cleaner: Our surfaces are mostly older or unfinished and seem 
  unfazed by aerosols like Pledge, though this isn’t recommended for quality 
  wood. Murphy’s Oil is a good option as is mayonnaise.
- Glass cleaner: Whether store brand or homemade, it’s a good one to have.
- Liquid dish soap: We do a lot of dishes—Meyers and Seventh Gen are my top 
  picks. (If you have a dishwasher, add detergent for that to your list.)
- Toilet bowl cleaner: I use Lysol gel but read that denture tablets work too.
- Laundry detergent & softener: I prefer liquid for bothdryer sheets leave a 
  residue and make materials less absorbent over time. I also try to use 
  unscented detergent paired with a lightly scented softener so our clothes aren’t 
  double-dosed in scents.
- Bleach: This powerful cleaner/disinfectant is always helpful to keep on hand. 
  Note: Never, ever, mix bleach with any other chemical or cleaner, ever. 
  (Though this is mostly common knowledge, it bears repeating.)
- Baking soda: Cheap & one of the most versatile cleaners around.
*Note: Be sure to label all cleaning supplies if not clearly marked on package.*

Tools You’ll Need:
- Broom & dustpan / vacuum: I also recommend a handheld vacuum if you have the budget for it—we got a 
  DustBuster for our wedding and has been used weekly since.
- Mop & bucket/Swiffer: Though Swiffer pads can be pricey, these days a wet mop system really can replace a 
  mop & bucket if you’re inclined to do so.
- Toilet brush & holder / shower squeegee (a new challenge for me with glass shower doors)
- Magic Eraser: I’m a recent convert to this little tool, but it totally worked!
- Dusters: I like disposable ones for quick jobs and spare rags for heavier cleaning.

See, not too bad! Now that you have the “how,” let’s discuss the “when.”

During my childhood, there was virtually no cleaning during the week and by the end of breakfast on Saturday, we’d be saying our prayers to not hear mom’s resigned voice chime, “Guess it’s time to get cleaning, huh girls?Ugh!
I dreaded Saturdays for that reason! Which, I supposed, is why I now try to just do a little cleaning each day so duties don’t roll over and pile up onto the weekend. I prefer spending the weekends doing fun stuff, don’t you?

Many people designate specific days for each task. Tuesdays: groceries, Wednesdays: dusting, etc. Though there are many cleaning schedules available online in that format, I have a hard time always getting the same task done on the same day each week. 

Instead, I have three lists: Daily, Weekly, AnnualI keep the Daily & Weekly tasks on the same sheet, which is laminated & on our fridge. Daily tasks get looked at and mentally checked off each day; Weekly ones get crossed off with a dry-erase marker as they are done, whichever day that may be. 
If this system sounds like it would work for you, snag the free printables below:

Daily & Weekly Cleaning Tasks (with suggestions)

As you can see, I keep the daily list as short as possible. Overview tasks help to keep everything pulled together no matter how busy the day is. I struggle to make the bed every day, but our “15 min pickup” is usually less than 5.

The only list item I don’t have spelled out is laundry. I do laundry once a week (remember, we’re just a family of two). We have two laundry baskets in our closet so we keep it sorted throughout the week, which saves time. I also recommend only doing full loads and doing them back-to-backthis saves time, labor, and energy as the heat in the dryer will cut back on drying times for subsequent loads.

Whether you’re a task-per-day or more flexible type, good music is essential!

There you have it, the tools to get the job done and a solid plan of action. Now buckle your seatbelts because next week, I’ll be putting up four posts in a row looking at cleaning each major area of the home. Get excited!

For some great quick cleaning tips, check out this post on Speed Cleaning over at Living Well Spending Less. Another helpful look at cleaning schedules is available via Apartment Therapy here: The House That Cleans Itself.

This post is part of the Modern Simple Homemaking series.
To learn more about this series and see other posts, click the button above.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Groceries & Food Storage

(OR How To Not Cry In A Walmart)

Welcome back! Today I’m focusing on the essential tail-end of the discussion started last week regarding Meal Planning. We developed a great strategy for weekly meals while also creating a grocery list. You’d think that’s all we need, right? Not quite. 

As you may remember, it wasn’t so long ago that I was freshly back from our honeymoon and found myself on the verge of tears at our local Walmart. Somewhat silly, yes, but true. It seems an easy thing to make a grocery list and to go purchase those items, but a little more forethought and strategy can help in leaps and bounds. To help others avoid possible future teary shopping trips, here’s my strategy for smart, successful marketing:

1. Shop intentionally/bring a list. And if at all possible, limit trips to the store to one main trip each week with 
    a second quick stop later in the week for fresh meat/fish.

2. Stick to the list, even for generalities. Sometimes I list a broad category to give myself the freedom to see 
    what’s the best option that week. Ex: I often write “snack-packs” and then look to see whether crackers, fruit 
    snacks, etc. are on sale.

3. Be realistic about what you will use in a reasonable amount time and about your available storage space. 
    Do you have a sizeable pantry? A chest freezer? We don’t.
This much pantry space? In my dreams!
4. Stock up on favorites/staples when they’re on sale. Two-for-one loaves of bread or bags of bagels never go 
    amiss in our home. Freezing breads wasn’t a common practice in my house growing up but doing so now allows 
    me to take advantage of savings I would have overlooked before. 

5. Check the price per unit—buying in bulk is not always cheaper BUT 
    buying pre-portioned is always more expensive, sometimes astronomically 
    so. Strider loves baked cheese crackers and pretzels so instead of 
    purchasing the “snack” boxes at the store, I buy family sized boxes and 
    divide portions up in zip baggies. These “snack-packs” as we call them are 
    the perfect grab & go size he likes but without the added cost.

6. Check end caps or sale bins for deals...but only if you will really use 
    them! BOGO deals on Swiss Cake Rolls or Hamburger Helper may be 
    tempting, but neither is a good choice for the healthy & homemade meal 
    goals in our home.

7. Note unsuccessful items. If an item is too expensive at your regular store or out of stock, circle it on your list to 
    be picked up later during your quick-fresh-necessities store run later in the week.

8. Allow for creativity: When an item is just too pricey or when money is extra tight, think outside the box and 
    use what is already in the pantry. There are now online resources that can give you a recipe based on what you 
    have in the cabinet. Additionally, cooking bears up pretty well to substitution. Ex: Not long ago, I wanted to try a 
    recipe that called for a very expensive cut of fish; I simple used tilapia instead and it turned out great!

9. Pay attention & don’t be afraid to ask. If a can is damaged or if you notice the sell-by date is very close, take 
    the chance to ask the cashier if they can reduce the price for you—they’re often obliging. And if prices ring up 
    incorrectly when scanned, be sure to point it out.

Helpful Grocery & Food Storage Hints:
- FIFO! Make grocery shopping the last stop before home and put items away immediately. Follow the First-In-First-
  Out policy of foodservice so the first items in storage (older) are always the first out (in front of new purchases). 
  Simple but brilliant. To check out the FDA's recommendations on food storage, click here.
- Barter so you can share in the bounty! Not too long ago, superstores weren’t dotting the land and people 
  shared their skills and trade. I’ve traded homemade bread for garden-fresh veggies and home-canned jams on 
  more than one occasion. Keep an open mind to what you have to offer. And let me know if you keep chickens!
- Don’t write off the “Spaceship Chicken”: Affectionately named for its personal Buzz-Lightyear-like craft, the 
  whole rotisserie chicken can be a great bargain. The meat can be used in quesadillas, salads, etc. and leftovers 
  make great cold sandwiches. More ideas here.  
- Store food safely! Store pasta, sugar, and beans in glass jars or airtight plastic containers in the pantry to 
  minimize cardboard weevils. Store flour, cornmeal, graham crackers, and other flours in glass jars as a minimum 
  in pantry, however, the best option for them is in the freezer to eliminate bugs and to promote longer life. Bringing 
  them back to room temp before using isn’t necessary and will cause them to pick up unwanted moisture. 
  Additionally, nuts stored in the freezer will also last much longer.
- Keep your fridge organized. Keeping refrigerators clean and orderly not only reduces waste but also helps 
  eliminate cross contamination. Click here or here for more info on cleaning up your fridge.

Also check out my Pinterest Kitchen Management board for more tips!

If you've embraced the digital age, maybe consider a grocery app to help you keep it all in order. Our Groceries and Out of Milk are both highly rated. I still prefer the handwritten method using a this free Printable Meal Planning & Grocery List template demonstrated in my last post.

Part Three of the Modern Simple Homemaking series launches next week!

This post is part of the Modern Simple Homemaking series.
To learn more about this series and see other posts, click the button above.