Sunday, March 28, 2010

Obvious Tips for Not-Very-Good Homemakers

I'm starting this new feature on my blog. It's where I give tips that are obvious to good homemakers but useful to homemakers (such as myself) who are not very good. I am not a very good homemaker. Sure I love my husband and am a good mother to my kids, but I'm not naturally tidy, I don't enjoy cooking, I ruin all crafts, and I have no garden. I love the idea of all this stuff and I do try. I even go through phases of being more and less "into" various homemaking arts. But I have no affinity for it and that is the truth.

And if you'll allow me one digression before I get on with the tips I'd just like to say that I find nothing more depressing--nothing more truly disheartening--than a discussion of a woman's divine role that includes cooking and cleaning.

And now, some tips. These are serious tips and I hope they help. If they strike you as obvious that's good news for you--you are probably better than not very good. You should write more advanced tips for the rest of us.
  • An expert housewife will know the prices of everything so she can tell if something at the grocery store is on sale. I wish I had this information, but it eludes me. Here's something that is easy to remember: Stock up on pasta and jars of spaghetti sauce when they are 99 cents. That's not a bad price and you can remember it. Maybe you like to make sauce from scratch--good. So do I. Even not-very-good homemakers can make sauce from scratch. But you still need the jars and here's why: With pasta and a jar of sauce you can make a meal with one hand. It won't be the best spaghetti you've ever had but it is often surprisingly delicious and when you are carrying a screaming baby and can't mince garlic or even manage the can opener, you will thank me.
  • The following recipe is very, very good and even famous among foodies for it's simple deliciousness. It is basically a one-hand meal--but you do have to use the can opener (which I can't do while holding a baby) and cut an onion in half (which is much more feasible than chopping it). Simmer a 28 oz can of whole tomatoes (Muir Glenn are some of the best you'll find. They never go on sale, but you should buy cans of them anyway) with 5 tablespoons of butter and an onion that is peeled and cut in half. Then cook it on low for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and crush the tomatoes against the side of the pan. Throw away the onion and salt the sauce. Serve it with cooked pasta. You'll be surprised at how good it is. Let me know if you want an even more awesome and gourmet pasta recipe that includes bacon. (Ouch! Bacon grease burns baby's legs.)
  • Another thing to buy on sale is those cans of crescent rolls. I can't remember what a good price is but if there is a sign by them that says "sale," get some. And get hot dogs to keep in the freezer. Maybe these items disgust you. That's OK. They're not for you. They're for your kids in two specific situations: 1) You've had an awful day so your husband is bringing home dinner for you but not the kids because you are too poor to buy them all salads from Cafe Rio. You make "pigs in a blanket" which are more festive than hot dogs and seem like a treat. 2) Your 12 year old has friends over around dinner time and you want to be a fun mom and feed them but you sort of begrudge ordering pizza for the whole gang so you make "pigs in a blanket" for them or even let them make their own--it's hard to mess up. You wrap the hot dog in the roll and put it in the oven at 350 for 12 minutes. I actually think pigs in a blanket taste good. But the main reason to have this on hand is that those crescent rolls are made almost entirely out of preservatives whereas the hot dog buns you might think about keeping in the freezer for these two specific occasions will get stale eventually. There will be times when you don't begrudge ordering your kids pizza. In this case, just go ahead and do it. But still: keep the pigs at the ready. And if you never begrudge it? I guess you're better than not-very-good. Congratulations!
  • If you have a gallon of milk that is going to go bad in a day or two and you know there is no chance of it being consumed, it's a good idea to make a bunch of pudding with it. You can make instant pudding but what I like to do is make rice pudding. Everyone in my family hates it except for me, so it's almost not worth the trouble, but my mom made it for us and for my grandpa when we were growing up and I think it is a real treat. It is at least a good way to use up milk before it goes bad and there may come a day when you have to take a meal to an old person and this will be just the thing. Take 3/4 cup rice and 1/2 cup sugar and stir it up with a handful of raisins and some milk until the sugar dissolves. Then pour in more milk (1/2 gallon) to fill up a a big glass bowl. Give it a dash of nutmeg and cook it at 350 degrees for about an hour, stirring occasionally. It's done when it is browned on top. If this recipe sounds gross to you it probably will be gross to you. I love it--especially for breakfast. And milk on the verge of going sour is transformed into a treat that will last for a week in the fridge (especially at my house because no on eats it but me). You can use normal fresh milk, of course. (But, I mean, that's REALLY obvious.)
  • And one final tip, remember: Toast is a meal. Anyone who disagrees with this doesn't deserve dinner. Don't believe me? Ask a Brit.
I hope you find these tips helpful! Like I said, it is going to be a new feature on my blog and I will keep these obvious tips for not-very-good homemakers coming. Please share your best obvious tips in the comments.

44 comments:

  1. I really like you, Kacy.

    I, too, am disheartened about discussion (from people with authority that I respect) about cooking/cleaning/canning in context with women's divine role. I believe there was a thing in the Feb. VT message with such context, but I got wind of it, and avoided reading it. Also disheartening to me is the notion that the scouting program goes hand-in-hand with the Priesthood and you can't have the other without the one. I don't like that notion very much because one is camping in the snow and the other is faithrepentancebaptismHolyGhost and is so obviously not in the same league. So, off topic, but thanks for the tips. I'm looking forward to the ones on keeping my house clean when I don't want to do it and only one of the other six people in the house makes any kind of effort whatsoever. Which reminds me, I want to reconnect with that phone number for your cleaning lady.

    Have a great night! I like you.

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  2. I do not have a testimony of Scouting. I love cooking, but not cleaning, and I don't think they're part of my divine mission--the things I can learn from them are, but not cooking and cleaning themselves.

    My cleaning tip is this: if people are coming over (like for choir practice, say), just take all the stuff that's cluttering up your house and put it into a room with a door that shuts. We use the office. We call it shame hiding. It works like a charm.

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  3. My husband's favorite trick is to just throw clutter in the garbage. It's easier than putting it all away in the right places. It drives me crazy!

    My best advice for a pleasant homemaking experience is to live in a place like California where your kids can spend most of their time playing outside, and you can cook lots of meals on the grill instead of in the kitchen, year round.
    That really helps lighten the homemaking load.
    Too bad I can't follow my own advice.

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  4. Almost forgot! Here's a real gem:
    Buy those antibacterial cleaning wipes, whether or not they're on sale. They make it easy to spiff up a messy surface, and it's one job kids can do where it's virtually impossible for them to make a bigger mess than what was already there (unlike sweeping, mopping, dishes, or giving them a spray bottle of Windex).

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  5. I'd love to leave a tip but I'm a rockin' awesome homemaker. Not necessarily a toting a lime pound cake with raspberry sauce to the movies type, but still. I have 7 different recipes for chocolate chip cookies that all have their specific roles for different occasions so I'm counting that.

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  6. I am an awful homemaker... I struggle the most with the whole CLEANLINESS factor (as in other people have clean homes and I do not.)
    And I'm always looking for the screaming-baby-hungry-preschooler dinner recipe. So thanks. I'm TOTALLY making pigs in a blanket. YUM!

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  7. Here are my tips:

    Frozen bean and cheese burritos for the preteens (they're always on sale). I never want to order them pizza. Does that make me cheap or practical?

    Put 1. antibacterial wipes, 2. widex and rag, and 3. spray Lysol in cupboards in each bathroom and kitchen so you don't have to go looking for it when you need it and you can wipe it all down (OR MAKE THE KIDS DO IT) in less than 3 minutes.

    This is an excellent feature, Kacy!

    Vern, you need to post all 7 recipes.

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  8. Another not-very-good homemaker meal is biscuit pizzas. Use the cheap biscuits that come 10 to a tube. Squish the biscuits, spoon some tomato or pizza sauce on, sprinkle with cheese and pepperoni. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes. Give kids baby carrots to eat while the pizzas are cooking.

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  9. About that rice pudding... cooked or uncooked rice?

    Thanks for the tips. Please continue this series.

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  10. Uncooked rice for the pudding.

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  11. I've never met a pudding I didn't like. (And, I TOTALLY use almost-bad milk to make pudding. I usually make the cooked kind, though. But, still, we're on the same page).

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  12. I'm the only one in family that likes rice pudding too (and my mom used to make it for breakfast too). I realized you can make it with a box of vanilla cook and serve pudding, cooked rice and the nutmeg. I go without the raisins and add cinnamon.

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  13. I don't know. . . the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that a "not-very-good homemaker" wouldn't make rice pudding from scratch. Cooking pudding? Next you'll tell me that make your own popcicles out of pureed fruit and honey!

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  14. My favorite fast meal is canned chili over chips with shredded cheese and lettuce...taco salad.

    Two quick crock pot ideas for days when you remember at noon to throw something in there are 1. BBQ chicken sandwiches. Throw frozen chicken breasts or tenders in the crock pot with you favorite BBQ sauce. The time for cooking and amount of chicken depend on your crock pot and size of family. When the chicken is cooked shred it and throw it in buns, hoagie rolls or bread. 2. Cream of chicken over rice. Again, frozen chicken in the crock pot with cream of chicken soup. I use 1-2 lbs of frozen chicken and a family size can of soup. To make it a little fancier, add some cream cheese, lemon juice and curry with the frozen chicken mixture. Make rice in the rice cooker 30 min before dinner time.


    As for cleaning, I noticed that having all of my kids independent made me a better house cleaner. My youngest is a very independent 3 and I can do whatever I want every morning...for the most part. I clean way more consistently now that I am not tired, nursing or pregnant. So, if you have a baby, be nice to yourself and don't expect too much. You will be free to clean well in another season of life.

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  15. I like you too! Good grief, it's about time someone did a feature for "not very good homemakers" I have been a true CHAMPION for this demographic for years! It's nice to meet others like me...even if it isn't in Relief Society ;). Love the tips, keep them coming. BTW, I am not usually a fan of rice pudding, but like you, grew up with it from time to time as a "special treat" and so every now and then I will get a hankering for it....thanks for the recipe.

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  16. My best tip-- vacuum around the mess, it give the illusion that you cleaned up a little. My kids actually thought I cleaned their rooms when all I really did was vacuum around all the crap on the floor.

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  17. amen about toast! also my favorite quote from my sunday school class...."just because women are naturally good at cleaning, doesn't mean they have to do it all the time. men can help too." i almost laughed out loud....instead i left.

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  18. I am a fan of laundry basket cleaning. Just before company comes scoop all stuff off counters and into laundry baskets. Place laundry basket in the back of the closet.

    Voila! Clean counters. (stocking up on pigs and blankets now)

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  19. I don't love rice pudding, but I'm loving the new segment.

    I sometimes like cooking. I never like cleaning. Ever.

    I think I just wish that I could have people that did all this crap for me.

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  20. Huge closets. That's my word(s) of advice. Also, scented counter spray by Williams-Sonoma (or Clorox wipes) swiped over your kitchen counters makes your house smell like you've just cleaned it.

    My mom made rice pudding for breakfast quite often (every time we had left over rice) growing up. I love it.

    I'm so glad I'm not the only one who only gets take-out food for the adults in the house. I reason that it's not good for the kids, anyway. Not like home made pigs in a blanket (which are better if you cut the crescent rolls in thirds and roll them around Little Smokies and a slice of cheese).

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  21. This is a good tip for if you think you should make your teenagers clean but are too tired/lazy/pushed over to make them do it. It is not too hard to get them to clean the bathroom if you have a whole set of disposable cleaning wipes and a disposable toilet bowel cleaner. The job won't be done all that well, but it will smell like it is.

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  22. Heidi can attest to my love of toast. I think she may have worried that I had a severe toast addiction when I lived at her house (really, it was the freezer jam). I pretty much eat it every day for breakfast. Judge away, bread haters.

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  23. I bought smokies for mini pigs-n-blankets just today, even before I read this post. 3 bucks on the ingredients for the pigs is cheaper than even $10 Costco pizza, and I'm looking forward to not cooking one night this week.

    Baby carrots are my secret. Gonna fix your child something you feel guilty about? Serve baby carrots alongside. EVERYONE WINS.

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  24. None of these were obvious to me. In fact, I've never even heard of that tomato and onion thing.

    Apparently I am in the "worse-than-not-very-good" category.

    Which is not news to anyone who lives with me.

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  25. Love this new segment! I love all the comments too.

    My tip is this: Buy the Purex laundry sheets. Then your kids can do their own laundry. You don't have to worry about them using too much detergent or not using a dryer sheet. It is all inclusive!

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  26. My kind of post. But cutting an onion sounds like too much work.

    And the pigs in a blanket idea is revelatory to me. It will save me again and again, I believe. So thank you. You've done your act of service for the day. You can go to bed happy.

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  27. My tip is to hire a cleaning lady. I've had one for many years, and it takes care of lots of things.

    Believe it or not, once you are an empty-nester, it's kind of hard to cook for 2. It also gets tiresome to eat out - really. So my tip is those already wrapped in Saran wrap baking potatoes in the produce section and couple of small steaks. With a green salad and some fruit, you even feel healthy!

    I too believe in hiding the clutter - but the hint about throwing it away sounds even better! (I have a rule that if I buy something new, I have to get rid of something in the same category. It's a good policy - keeps the potential for more clutter at bay - a least somewhat at bay!)

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  28. Great tips from everyone! I seriously have never made rice pudding but always wanted to (sans raisins). Now I can. Power to the people. I agree whole-heartedly about the scouting issue. Don't get me started...

    Here is my quick meal that my kids love: Get boneless country pork ribs, boil them for about half an hour, put them in a pan, douse them with BBQ sauce and bake for about half an hour at 350. Easy.

    One more tip. Keep kids' toothbrushes in the kitchen and bathroom. It is easier to remember to brush before school that way.

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  29. I think I'd rather send my kids to school with dirty teeth than let them spit into my kitchen sink.

    But I have a question, Kacy. What does a sub-par homemaker do when asked to provide a meal of charity for someone?

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  30. rebecca...i read somewhere once that kitchen sinks are more germy than toilets! maybe because people spit in them? or food and junk. either way, i'm with you...i need to know kacy's methods for feeding other family's...because sometimes i'm embarrassed at what passes for dinner at our house.

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  31. families...not family's. oy.

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  32. I always take turkey chili when I have to take a meal to someone. It's just chili made with onions, tomatoes, beans, and corn but because it is made with ground turkey instead of ground beef it seems like maybe you care about health. I take grated cheese and sour cream and buy rolls.

    If you are sub par it's perfect.

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  33. I just started a household tip blog (2nd blog) at the beginning of the year- and I love these tips!
    I'd love to link this article-
    HouseHoldTipsBlog.blogspot.com

    (BananaBlueberry.com)

    Cool?

    HouseHoldTipsBlog@gmail.com

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  34. I loved this and it cheered me thoroughly. Being married to a Brit, (a Scot actually, if we're being pedantic) I whole heartedly agree about the toast. Eat it up.

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  35. please keep these coming! I LOVED it and found it very helpful. im a very average homemaker and can use all the help i can get :)

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  36. Carina, you read my mind! Chicken nuggets? Baby carrots. Mac and cheese? Baby carrots. Frozen waffles? Well, maybe it doesn't work for everything.

    Baby carrots ease so much mom guilt in my life.

    Great tips, Kacy! Keep 'em coming!

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  37. I totally made pigs in a blanket this week and even my husband was happy. Who knew? You saved dinner! Yippee.

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  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  39. I've only been a homemaker for three years so I only have one:

    It is just as easy to make two lasagnas as it is to make one. Freeze the other and eat it later or give it away. Same thing with soup, always double or triple it.

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  40. Wow, loved these tips. I will definitely have to try the sauce. Appreciate all the info for people like me who only have one arm because the other one belongs to an infant.
    Another tip - keep some flushable wipes in the bathroom and whenever someone is coming over unexpectedly you can grab a couple to wipe down the sink and toilet and flush them down! I started doing that one when our house was on the market a while back and had to be ready for showing every single day.

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  41. Compassionate Service Dinner for the sub-par: Costco Lasagna or Costco Garlic Chicken Pasta Stir Fry, bag-o-salad, and a loaf of garlic bread. No one will think less of you. in fact, they might love you a tiny bit more than the person who brought the casserole from the questionably messy kitchen.

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  42. "I find nothing more depressing--nothing more truly disheartening--than a discussion of a woman's divine role that includes cooking and cleaning".

    I LOVE YOU!!!! it's so awesome to find i'm not alone! :)

    as for my tip, i clear large surfaces in my house. so kitchen counters and dining tables are always free of clutter (even if i box the clutter and hide it some place else), and i make the beds. large, clean and clear surfaces actually fool the eye and you think the room looks tidier than it actually is. :)

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  43. Summer12:20 PM

    Thank you so much for this! Made me laugh a lot! I was googling "how to be a good homemaker" and this was the 4th site on the list. I am a HORRIBLE homemaker. My dirty dishes are stacked high and my laundry is out of control. My cooking it bad and I've never been able to stay on a schedule. But my husband and kids still say they love me, so I must be doing something right!

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  44. I love these recipes! I have tried a couple with great success! And in regards to your final tip: toast is totally a meal! I love it! http://www.lakecountryhc.com/services.html

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