4 Things Your Fridge Needs to Work Less and Save More!

Inside of RefrigeratorThe following article is a guest post by Rheney Williams. Please see her bio at the end of the article.

If your refrigerator could quote movie lines, it would probably shout out: “Help me help you. Help ME! Help YOU!”

Indeed, how many times have you opened the refrigerator door, stood there for several minutes trying to decide what you want, heard the compressor kick on, and watched as the frosty air continued to pour out while you tried to make up your mind?

Or maybe you know exactly what you’re looking for – you know it’s in there because you just bought it two days ago! – but, you simply can’t find it. It could be buried behind taller items or underneath veggies in the bins? there’s really no telling.

The good news is that there are things we can all do to enhance our fridge’s efficiency and of course, help ourselves in the process. To help with that, here are four things your refrigerator needs from you in order to do its job more effectively and conserve time, money, and energy for you both.

1. Ditch the Dinge.

The first thing you should do is conduct a thorough deep clean of your fridge’s interior. Remove everything before you start cleaning and wait until all surfaces are thoroughly dry before you restock.

I usually start by pulling out my bins and lining things up on the counter while I allow the bins to soak in warm soapy water in my sink. Then I remove everything else and wipe down the entire inside of the fridge with a soft cloth soaked in distilled white vinegar.

While the fridge and the bins dry, go through and toss all of the food that has expired or make plans to use the ingredients immediately if they are close to their expiration date.

*Money-Saving Tip: Americans end up throwing out an estimated 10% of all groceries we buy, so by staying on top of your refrigerated items’ expiration dates, you ensure less food is wasted and more money stays in your pocket.

2. Cleanse the Clutter.

Every time you open the door, you lose some of the power that your fridge has built up, but the energy loss increases exponentially when you leave the door open for any significant amount of time. To save more of your time and the fridge’s energy, a better solution is to organize like items together and consolidate packages whenever possible.

One great example of this is butter. Because I bake frequently, I always need to have fresh butter on hand. But because the sticks come in bulky boxes, they can take up quite a bit of room in the fridge. Any time I buy more butter, I always remove the remaining sticks from the open box, discard that, and place the wrapped sticks on top of the unopened new box. This also helps me to see when I’m running low and need to buy more.

3. Stock Smarter.

After you cleanse, consolidate and de-clutter, load your fridge in a way that facilitates order and efficiency. Make sure that you can see all of your refrigerated options and that you don’t have to pull everything back out to access things.

  • Keep commonly used items front and center or stored in the side doors.
  • Function under the “First In First Out” method: Whatever went in to the refrigerator first goes out first. When you restock with fresh items, put those behind duplicates that have been in the fridge longer and arrange them according to expiration date.
  • Separate fresh produce from fresh and frozen meats and do not store them in the same bins.
  • Likewise, do not store fresh deli meats with packaged meats like raw hamburger or chicken.
  • Always keep raw meats on the bottom of the fridge in the event the packaging is punctured: The last thing you need is harmful, bacteria-laden uncooked chicken juices dripping down all over your fresh fruit.

4. Fill the Freezer.

Something else you may not realize is that a stocked fridge and freezer work more efficiently, but not when they’re crammed and filled to the brim. Find that balance between keeping them full without overflowing and always make sure that air can circulate around the items.

One simple trick that is especially effective in the summer is to fill water bottles with either water or all-natural fruit drinks, keep them stored in the freezer and pull them out as needed in the morning and they’ll be ready to drink by lunchtime! Not only does this keep your freezer sufficiently full – and appropriately efficient – but it also eliminates the need to add ice to your drinks when you’re out and about or worry about warm beverages when you and the kids need a cool drink after hours out by the pool or on the beach.

What other work-whittling ways have you found to enhance your fridge’s efficiency?

Rheney Williams writes about home décor and home efficiency tips for Home Depot. Rheney’s Charleston, S.C., home gives Rheney plenty of opportunities to test out her DIY plans. Refrigerator models similar to Rheney’s, as well as dozens of additional styles, can be viewed on the Home Depot website here.

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How To Curb Your Impulse Spending

Piggy Bank SavingsImpulse spending can cause havoc to any well-developed budget. No matter how carefully you plan your budget, if you impulsively diverge from your spending plan, your budget will be worthless. Controlling impulse spending is imperative if you are going to live frugally.

Getting away from the impulses that urge you to make unplanned purchases is often an exercise in trial and error. The system that works for one person may not work for another. Fortunately, there are several different methods of curbing these impulses. Try one of these to see if they help you. (I didn’t mention freezing your money but hey if it works give it a shot!)

Avoid temptation.
Stay away from your weak points that tempt you to make impulse purchases. If you are compelled by the attractive window displays at your local mall to buy the featured items, you can choose not to go into the mall. Likewise, if discount stores like Wal-mart and Target are your weakness, make a shopping list and send your spouse to the store.

Leave credit cards at home.
Credit cards make it easy to make purchases without worrying about the financial consequences of your purchase. You won’t feel the pinch of credit card purchases until the monthly statement arrives at your house. If credit cards are your Achilles’ heel when it comes to spending, leave them at home. When you plan to use your card, you can remove it from its hiding spot and return it after the purchase is complete.

Make it hard to make purchases.
Carrying only the money that you need each day will make it very difficult to make unplanned purchases. If you don’t have the means to buy anything, you simply can’t do it.

Get off the mailing lists.
Catalogs often inundate people with temptation to buy something. Maybe the catalog featuring clothes for next seasons is simply too good to pass up. Maybe the clearance items compel you to make a bargain purchase. As these catalogs appear in your mailbox, call the customer service number on the back and ask to be removed from the mailing list. Then, throw the catalog away before it can tempt you.

Get inspired.
Dieters use motivational pictures all the time to help them work towards their goal. If cutting impulse spending out of your life is your goal, find something that inspires you and keep it in your wallet. Maybe your family is saving for a vacation to Disney World. If that’s the case, keep a picture of a Disney character with you. Then, every time you open your purse to buy something you’ll be reminded of your goal.

5 Kid Friendly Meals You Can Make Today

mini pizzasI like to try different recipes just to mix things up at meal time. Eating the same old foods gets boring after a while. I’ve listed 5 recipes that my kids enjoy:

1. Pizza – Sloppy Joe Style
1 can refrigerated biscuits
1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 can sloppy joe type sauce
1 can whole kernel sweet corn, drained
8 slices American cheese
1 small green bell pepper chopped *optional

Separate dough into biscuits. Press or roll each one to be between 4 and 5 inches around. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees F for about 12 minutes. This will become your pizza shells. Brown ground meat in skillet, drain as usual and return to pan. Add sloppy joe sauce and corn and pepper, stirring until well mixed. Simmer until heated through. Spoon meat mixture into your biscuit pizza shells. Top with slices of american cheese. Return to hot oven for a few minutes to melt cheese if needed before serving. If you’d like a large pizza or need to save time try buying pre-made pizza shells (like Boboli) at you local grocery store and spread the ingredients on one of those and bake according to package directions.

2. Shells with Grilled Chicken and Mozzarella
1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets
8 ounces medium pasta shells
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons butter
salt and ground pepper

Season chicken with salt and pepper to your liking and grill until juices run clear and chicken is done. Cut grilled chicken into chunks. Boil water and cook noodles according to package directions. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add in the chicken, tomatoes, cheeses, parsley and butter. Toss to coat and distribute ingredients evenly.

3. Better than Out of a Box Chili Macaroni
1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (14-1/4 ounces) tomatoes, cut up
2 cups water
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni

Brown ground beef, onion and garlic and drain as usual and return to pan. Add tomatoes, water, tomato sauce and seasonings to pan and bring it all to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Add uncooked noodles and return to boiling. Cook approximately 8 or 9 minutes (or until noodles are tender) stirring frequently. Better than those dinners out of a cardboard box on the grocery shelf any day!

4. Mom’s Homemade Creamy Tuna Casserole
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 soup can milk
1 can (6 ounces) tuna
1/2 package (1 pound) egg noodles, cooked and drained
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste
1/2 cup crushed butter flavor crackers, optional

In a casserole dish blend together milk and condensed soup. Stir in tuna, noodles and cheeses, stir to coat well with the soup mix. Pepper to your liking and top with crushed cracker crumbs for a crunchy top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
*TIP: You can replace tuna with a can of cooked chicken or shredded left over chicken breasts.

5. Pita-rific Turkey and Veggies
Something about a round sandwich makes kids happy!

4 ounces cooked turkey breast (sliced, cubes, ground … etc… whatever is on hand)
Lettuce shreds
1 tomato, sliced
1 green pepper, chopped up
1 cup shredded or cubed cheddar cheese
Low fat ranch dressing
4 pita rounds

Divide turkey into 4 portions and fill bottom of pita shells. Mix tomato, peppers and cheese in a bowl and toss with the ranch dressing until well coated. Use this mixture to finish filling each pita.