An Easy Way to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

A couple of weeks ago, the produce market sent me home with a bag of apples containing an unadvertised and undesirable “Free Gift with Purchase”: fruit flies! Unfortunately, this happened at a time when I was traveling a bit, and I didn’t realize I had new roommates until a full-blown infestation was underway.

From the depths of my memory, I recalled a tip advising the use of apple cider vinegar and a jar with holes in the lid to trap fruit flies. Something about the apple cider aspect attracting the fruit flies and tiny holes preventing their escape from the jar.

Since this seemed like an incredibly easy and inexpensive possibility, I gave it a try, but with a slightly different take on it:

mason jar with saran wrap under lid and cider vinegar inside

Not wanting to desecrate any of my jar lids, I put plastic wrap under the jar ring and used a toothpick to poke a few holes in the plastic.

Within minutes I had one fruit fly in the trap and an hour later, there were four or five. By morning, the jar looked like the aftermath of the Great Fruit Fly Massacre of 2013:

expired fruit flies in a mason jar with apple cider vinegar

Fruit Fly Graveyard

So easy, so frugal, and (so far) so very effective.

On the downside, there is a residual amount of guilt from killing semi-innocent fruit flies, but I suspect I’ll get over it.

If you have any effective ways to deal with fruit flies, I’d love to hear them!

Removing Icky, Sticky Spots from Floors

I was mopping my kitchen floor the other night and found an ugly stuck-on piece of…well, it’s a mystery.

ickybsticky spot on linoleum

My best guess is road tar tracked in on the bottom of my sneakers, but who knows, it could be anything. I tried turbo mopping and then a plastic scrubby with no results. Ditto various other implements and cleaning solutions. This mystery gunk was STUCK!

I’d just about decided it would be simpler to pave my kitchen floor with asphalt when I remembered I had an internet connection. Oh yeah…

Bob Vila to the rescue!

For stubborn scuffs, try putting some WD-40 lubricant or jojoba oil on a towel and rub the area until the scuffs disappear. Clean thoroughly with the vinegar and water solution to remove any traces of lubrication.

This was more “stuff” than “scuff”, but it was stubborn and I did happen to have a tiny can of WD-40. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, right?

spot is gone

It took me longer to find the WD-40 (it being right where it was supposed to be in the cabinet of seldom-used-but-important-to-have stuff) than it did to scrub up the spot. Amazing!

Thanks, Bob!

I’m still working on getting all the teensy little divots and dings clean. This is 40-year old vinyl flooring that wasn’t maintained very well by the original owner. The current owner is no Suzy Homemaker, either. :)

Any tips or tricks for deep-cleaning vinyl floors will be greatly appreciated! Given my current budget, I need to keep these around awhile.

Waste Not, Want Not

It’s Tuesday morning, which is trash pick-up day in my neighborhood. That means it’s clean-out-the-fridge day at my house, time to clear out the tired and expired and remind myself of what needs to be used. With my goofy schedule, I forget sometimes. It’s especially problematic in the warmer months with fresh fruits and veggies are available in abundance and I tend to stockpile “cold foods”. With Spring rapidly approaching, I thought it might be a good time to look at a few ways to cut down on food waste.

Look what Susy Morris of Chiot’s Run does to keep track of her freezer inventory:

Yep, she uses a dry erase marker for tracking what’s in her freezer–very clever and very organized! This household of one doesn’t need quite that elaborate a scheme, but after testing a dry erase marker on the wall-side of my fridge, I have recently started using it to keep track of what’s in the fridge or freezer that needs to be used soon. I like having the visual reminder that there’s leftover barbecue chicken in the fridge before I make pasta with marinara for my dinner. :)

While I like the extra space in my fridge after a clean-out, I don’t like having to throw food out. Such a waste. Money Talks News published a good article, 12 Ways to Keep Good Food from Going Bad, with some ideas for making use of foods from your pantry or fridge that you might otherwise toss. (I’ll admit, though, that #9, “Bake old Oreos into crust”, had me laughing. As if Oreos in my pantry would ever go bad. :) )

One thing that might help with reducing waste and committing to eat what you buy, is to calculate the value of foods you purchase but don’t consume and then write a check to the local food bank for that amount. I haven’t had to write one yet, but if I do, that amount will come out of my future grocery budget. That’s actually inspiring me to check my pantry shelves for “aspirational foods” (they seemed like a good idea at the time) and donate them before they expire.

This week’s clean out was a good one for me. I only had one little stub of a cucumber that had passed it’s prime (and a step below that). It was a humongous cucumber, so I’ll give myself a pass on this one. :)

I hope you found some helpful information from this post. Be sure to leave a comment if you have tips of your own to share!

~

*One more note about the dry erase marker–you can also use it on other appliances. Washing a load of laundry that has an item that needs to be hung to dry rather than moved to the dryer? Write a note on the washer and wipe it away when the load has finished!

Yeast Affection

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. :)

I’m new to the world of bread baking, and I still have a lot to learn. So far, this is my most successful result:

loaf of bread

I think my biggest problem with this loaf was that my yeast wasn’t fresh. I’d had it on the pantry shelf for ??? years, after all. I recently learned that yeast can be kept in the fridge or freezer. You just have to bring to room temp to use. Guess where my yeast is now?

Another thing I didn’t know how to do–or that I needed to do it, for that matter–was how to properly proof the yeast, or to “prove” that it was ready to do its thing. It’s actually easy, according to a friend who knows these things:
1) Prepare a measuring cup with 1 cup of warm-to-the-touch water (about 90-100 degrees).
2) Stir in 1 tablespoon of sugar to feed the yeast.
3) Add the yeast packet and stir.

In 5 minutes or so, you should see something that looks like this:

YeastMixture

With the holidays approaching, I’m looking forward to baking some more bread. Now that I know a little more about yeast, I should get better results!

Do you have any yeast tips for the newbie baker?

Fridge Shelf Savers

Do you loathe cleaning refrigerator shelves as much as I do? Cleaning them in place doesn’t always fully accomplish the task, and removing them is a big pain. So I avoid doing it until stuff starts sticking to the shelves. :)

I had seen a Pinterest tip suggesting using Glad Press ‘n’ Seal to line the fridge shelves. The idea is that when the shelves become dirty, you just peel up the liner and throw it away, which is easy but not exactly environmentally friendly. Not when there’s a better solution just around the corner.

Asia on It’s an Organized Chaos offered this idea:

Use vinyl placemats, cut down to size, to line the shelves. When needed, remove the placemat, give it a good wash, and slide it back into place. Easy, peasy, AND it’s not wasteful!

With the holidays approaching and my fridge in dire need of cleaning, I decided to give this a try. I bought only one placemat this time, just to see how well it works. (And also because I didn’t truly love any of the patterns Target had on hand.)

I plopped the liner on the top shelf of my fridge, marked the edges, and cut away the overlap. The result:

placemat fridge liner

It doesn’t fit perfectly, but it should do the trick.

In further frugal news, the portion of the placemat I cut away can be cut down to fit a door shelf, which is another place that tends to suffer spills and drips. I’m also thinking the vinyl placemat idea (or perhaps a vinyl tablecloth) might be a good solution for lining cabinet shelves as well.

Heck, I might just wallpaper my kitchen with vinyl! LOL

Tips for Separating Egg Yolks

I don’t have many recipes that require only an egg yolk, but I have dozens that call for egg whites only. Since I don’t like to be wasteful, I generally keep pasteurized egg whites on hand for that purpose. (Supposedly you can freeze the egg yolks in an ice cube tray and then bag when frozen, but that just reads science experiment gone wrong to me.)

The other night I needed an egg white and didn’t have my handy carton available. Nothing to do but sacrifice a whole egg and then decide which method I wanted to use to perform the operation. There are several:

Old School Egg Separating Method

baby gunk.This one is super simple. I just crack the egg against the side of a bowl and use my thumbs to gently pull the egg apart, making sure the yolk stays in one side of the shell and allowing the white to spill into the bowl.

Swirl/slightly tilt the yolk side of the egg to push any remaining white up and over.

You can also pour the yolk from one shell half to the other, each time allowing any leftover white to spill out.

So simple.

The Professionals on Food Network Method

Another method I’ve used before is to crack the egg into my (clean) open palm and let the egg white spill between my fingers into the bowl. (I’ve seen the professionals do that on Food Network before, and it looks so…professional!)

The only problem with this method is that you have to stop to wash your hands, both before AND after. Bacteria, you know. (Not that I’ve ever seen the professionals wash their hands after doing it.

The Egg Separator Gadget in My Drawer Method

I have one of these gadgets buried in my kitchen drawer, but I don’t think I’ve actually used it in 20 years. I really should get rid of it.

With this thing, you put the egg in the holder and the white drips into the bowl via slots in the bottom of the gadget. Not messy, but then you have a gadget to wash.

The Funnel Method

I haven’t done this one before, but I’ve heard that if you pour an egg into a funnel, the yolk will remain in the wide part while the white drains out the narrow part. It might be worth a try, especially if you’re separating lots of yolks and whites.

The This-Might-Be-Interesting-AND-Fun Method

It’s a short video, in which a woman uses a water bottle to “siphon” an egg yolk away from the white. This would be super handy for those times when a yolk escapes the safety of the shell half and slips into the bowl. Usually I just slip a fork under it and lift it out, but this would be way more fun. :)

Those are the methods of which I’m aware. If YOU have other egg separating methods, I’d love to know them!

Measuring Up in the Kitchen

betty crocker measuring cupsNot being a culinary whiz, I tend to avoid investing a lot of money in my cooking accessories. My 4-piece measuring cup set, for example, cost a whopping $1 at Dollar Tree.

What’s not to love? They’re functional and they’re my favorite color, red. It’s the standard 1/4-, 1/3-, 1/2-, and 1-cup set, and I’ve picked up a few unmatched cups, including a handy 1/8-cup measure, at garage sales.

The biggest problem with this imperfect assortment is that they’re messy in my utensil drawer. I’ve thought about doing something like this:


But it’s not really very likely to happen. In addition to not being very good in the kitchen, I’m not very crafty either. (I’m okay with that since neither one is a character flaw. As far as I know, anyway.)

The other day I spotted these nice measuring cups on Amazon:

measuring cups

These are collapsible, plus you can pinch the tops to pour from them. And they’re red. :) They’re also nicely-priced at $12, the exact amount of an Amazon gift certificate I have on hand.

Rather than jump in and order, I decided to check out other options–do a little Windows-shopping, if you will.

These beautiful Izmir cups from Anthropologie are definitely counter-top worthy, if a little pricey (for my budget) at $32:

anthropologie measuring cup

I love these simple dipped measuring cups from West Elm:

west elm dipped measuring cup

These cupcake-shaped measuring cups from Modcloth caught my eye:

modcloth cupcake measuring cups

I like this 7-pc set from King Arthur Flour (my wheat flour of choice), both for the simple design and the extra 2/3- and 3/4-cup measures:

king arthur flour measuring cups

At almost $40, they’re over-budget for me. Maybe I’ll just find some individual versions of those odd-sized cups, or stick to extra dipping. :)

I’m completely smitten with this stacked measuring cup set from Anthropologie:

milk jug measuring cup set

I’m thinking of using the set as a reward for getting my kitchen remodel completed. Should that ever actually occur. (If I’d quit shopping for measuring cups and resume shopping for counter tops, I’d have a better shot.)

With that in mind, I’d better get busy. :)

Recommended: 06/28/2012

Yep, still here. Hot and slightly cranky, but I’m here and for that I’m grateful.

If you’re like me and looking for things to do indoors, here are some interesting articles for your reading pleasure:

HOME
47 Skills You Need to Survive Home Ownership [This Old House]
I wish I’d read this article when I first entered the land of home ownership 20+ years ago. I particularly wish I’d read #9:

“9. Ensure a Lightbulb’s Long Life
You know that popping sound that signals another lightbulb has burned out before its time? The cause: The little brass tab inside the lamp socket that makes contact with the bulb base is dirty or bent, interrupting the connection and causing the filament to imperceptibly flash on and off, shortening its life. With the fixture unplugged or the circuit breaker switched off, clean the tab with a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol; then nudge it up with a screwdriver so that it stays in contact with the bulb base. “

How many light bulbs could I have saved from an early demise, if only I’d known?

RECIPES
12 Cold Soup Recipes [NY Times]
I’m not a big soup eater (AT ALL), but I’ll be trying most of the fruit soups in this collection! (And I call dibs on using “Switch Froot Loops to Fruits Soups” as a future blog post title!]

FINANCE & FRUGALITY
Cut Your Spending by $400 a Month [The Budget Diet]
I could stand to cut more than that, but this is a good place to start. Lots of good tips here, but one that grabbed my attention:

“Save money on prescriptions by avoiding “combo pills.” A combo pill combines more than one type of medication. For example, Lotrel is a blood pressure medicine that costs $70 a month for generic, but you could get a prescription for the two components (Amlodipine and Benazepril) for $6 each.”

I actually take that medication, and I’m hoping my doctor will agree that I no longer need it when I see him next month. (I’ve been in the “high-normal” range for a few years now and am taking the lowest dose possible.) If he’s adamant that I still need to take it, you can bet I’ll be asking about the two components.

PRODUCTIVITY
How Many Goals Are You Chasing Right Now and Do You Have Too Many?[Pick the Brain]
I have five major goals, and I’ve been attempting to make progress on each of them. That’s not really working for me. (If by “really” I mean “at all.”) I’m going to try this approach for a while and see if I can make more progress.

SELF
Seven Lessons to Reboot Your Life [Dumb Little Man]
This author shares lessons she learned while recovering from a brain aneurysm.

“I saw that the very same strategies that a business owner needs to build a strong brand, create a transformational organization, and save her sanity also apply to our lives at large. Especially when life smacks you full on in the face and you need to reboot and reframe the conversation if you want to get back in the game.”

MADE ME SMILE

The Life of Spice

 Spice Storage
While rummaging through my spice shelf the other day (let’s pretend it was the bhg spice shelf shown above) to replenish my DIY Taco Seasoning Mix, I found an old note listing the recommended shelf life of spices, seasonings, and extracts. I’d forgotten I had it and I’d forgotten the information on it. In the event you’re as forgetful as I am, I’ll share the info here.

Spices don’t actually have expiration dates; however, they do lose their flavor over time as the oils that give them their punch begin to break down. Generally speaking, the recommended shelf life is as follows:

spice chart

Most spices have a Best Used By date on the bottom of the container. If you buy McCormick Spices, you’ll see a code instead. You can check the code at their website, where they note that if it was packaged in Baltimore, or if it’s in a tin, it’s at least 15 years old. Except black pepper. They still sell that in the tin.

If you’re like me and purchase spices from the bulk container at Whole Foods, or if you’ve transferred your spices to a set of matchy-matchy containers, you don’t have a date to check! In that case, simply smell the container’s contents (you’ll want to crush or break a whole spice). If the scent is strong, use it. If not, toss it.

To prolong the life of your spices, store them properly. For the first 25 years of my adult life, I stored my spices in the small cabinet above the stove. That’s where my mother and my grandmother stored their spices, and that was good enough for me!

Wrong. Spices should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Heatt, air, and moisture are spice kryptonite.

Here’s another thing I’ve been doing wrong. According to Spice Islands, you should never shake a spice container over a boiling pot:

Moisture from steam may diminish the potency of spices or herbs remaining in the jar. Pour a small amount into your hand or a ramekin, then add to dishes.

If I had a nickel for every time I’d done that…well, I’d have enough for a new container of chili seasoning. That’s the spice I’m most likely to shaken into a boiling pot. Ah well, now I know better.

I hope you found something useful in this information. Herbs and spices are pricey these days, and any extra life we can squeeze from them can only help!

Two-fer Tuesday: At the Grocery Store

I’ll make a wild assumption here that I’m not the only person trying to stretch her grocery-shopping dollars these days. If you’re like me, some months the elastic gives out.

Here are a couple of tips that may help, one I use now and one I’m starting next week.

grocer y sack 1If you need only a small amount of a certain type of produce, check out the salad bar at the grocery store for the pre-cut version. Yes, it costs more per pound, but if you only need a tiny amount, it’s fewer dollars out of pocket and you don’t have to worry about using up the leftovers or worse, tossing them. (Tossing = BAD, in my book.) Buying from the salad bar is also helpful in one of those pre-vaction periods when you don’t want to be stocking the produce drawer before an extended absence.

grocery bag 2As I passed the gift card aisle at Kroger the other day, it occurred to me that a good cost control mechanism might be to purchase a store gift card in the amount of my monthly budget and then make all my purchases using the gift card.

This won’t cover all my food purchases since I shop at a local produce market for my fruits and veggies. My produce store doesn’t have gift cards, so I’m going to try the envelope method for those purchases. I’ll just put the budgeted cash in a clearly designated envelope and pay from there. Oooh, and I can write my expenditures on the envelope to keep up with where the money goes! (Some days, my genius astounds even me! LOL)

If nothing else, this will keep me mindful of the necessity of choosing certain foods. Like, say, Bear Naked’s Chocolate Granola.

Have you tried any new grocery budgeting ideas recently? I’d love to hear about them!