What random ingredients does your refrigerator have in store for you? Leftover almond butter could be turned into a delicious dessert. (Jennifer Bardsley)

What random ingredients does your refrigerator have in store for you? Leftover almond butter could be turned into a delicious dessert. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Back to basics: Some home economics tips for difficult times

She’s spent a lot of time thinking about cleaning this month, so you can benefit from her ah-ha moments.

I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning — and thinking about cleaning — this month. Consider it my personal response to stress. The pandemic is dragging on, but at least my kitchen counters can be clean. Little things like that can make a person feel better.

But the more I clean, the more I realize areas where I could improve. Here’s a confession: I don’t know when the last time I washed my comforter or mattress pad was. That’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it is pretty gross if I think about it too hard. I have dust and dust mite allergies. I should be washing all of my bedding, not just my sheets, frequently, and in hot water to kill the mites.

I could strip the comforter off my bed, cram it in the washing machine, and pray it doesn’t overflow. Three cycles through the dryer later and the dust-mite massacre would be complete. Victory could be mine!

So today, I took out my planner and wrote a note to myself for every week from now to the end of the year. One week I’ll wash my mattress pad. The next week it’ll be my comforter. Then it will be my kids’ turns. Every mattress pad and comforter in the house will be washed every six weeks. That sounds doable, right?

After I put away my planner, I decided to tackle my refrigerator. There’s only so many times a mom can feed expired salad dressing to her children before she starts to feel guilty about it. Today I dealt with the six — yes six! — half empty jars of almond butter. Since nobody in the family likes almond butter but me, this was clearly my fault.

I looked up a recipe for almond butter on the internet, and found one for maple-syrup sweetened almond bars. I didn’t even need to bake them. Ten minutes of work and two hours of chilling later, everyone in my family suddenly fell in love with almond butter — plus my refrigerator was cleaner.

Another trick I practiced today is tweaking my morning routine. I’ve had a long-time habit of brushing my teeth and making my bed at the same time. My husband complains that this splatters toothpaste everywhere, but since we have old carpet I don’t care. Now I’ve added the additional step of wiping down the bathroom counters after I brush my teeth. It takes less than a minute and makes it 10 times easier to clean the bathroom later that week.

Good old-fashioned home economics can save time and money. But it’s easy to forget that, especially when I’m doom-scrolling through social media to check on the latest disaster. When I put down my phone, set the timer for 10 minutes and speed-clean, my world improves.

Get ready, dust mites. Your days are numbered.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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