The Food Pantry Items You Need to Stock Up On Now

No one knows how long these difficult times brought on by a wicked virus will last. It could drag on for a while, it may be over relatively quickly. Life is uncertain. Regardless, every home needs a stockpile of non-perishable shelf-stable food. It’s part of any sensible emergency preparedness plan. You need to stock up now. Today.

Good news! It’s not too late. Even if you are self-quarantined at home, you can have all of these items delivered to your front door by Amazon or by a local grocery store in your area that offers online ordering with pick up or delivery.

MORE: 8 Ways Online Grocery Shopping Can Actually Help You Save Money

Here’s a list of the essential pantry items that need to be stocked in your cupboards and pantry. You may have some already. It’s time to check and take stock.

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Womans hand cleaning smartphone screen with alcohol. Concept of Cleaning dirty screen phone for disease prevention from virus Covid-19.

How to Disinfect Your Phone, Device, Laptop, Keyboard

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in recent days, it’s that our health is closely tied to things we touch throughout the day. And what’s the one thing we touch more than a few times a day? Our phones! Or as the Journal of Hospital Infection refers to them, our portable Petri dishes.

It’s not certain how long viruses survive on surfaces, but the World Health Organization reports it may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions such as the type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment but just think now how often you touch your phone.

If there’s the slightest possibility that a surface has been infected, err on the side of caution and clean it with simple disinfectant to kill viruses and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. And for goodness’ sake, clean your phone!

What not to do

When it comes to disinfecting your phone and other electronic gear, you want to kill viruses and bacteria without doing harm or voiding your phone or device warranty. That means no dripping antibacterial wipes. Do not use a prohibited cleaner or do not spray anything directly on the device.

Basics

Follow these basic instructions for how to clean your phone, screens, keyboards and other electronic gadgets

  • Always unplug the phone or device before attempting to clean it.
  • Prepare a dry, soft cloth or open a packaged alcohol wipe designed for eyeglasses cleaning. Never use paper materials like tissues, napkins or paper towels. Paper contains wood pulp that can leave scratches and permanent marks.
  • Cleaning instructions vary from one manufacturer to another. If in doubt, consult the manufacturer’s website.
  • Allow the disinfectant to air dry on the surface for at least 10 minutes before you wipe down it with a soft, clean towel.
  • Clean frequently used phones, devices, and keyboards twice a day.

iPhone

Apple has just updated its support page to say that you can clean your iPhone with 70% isopropyl alcohol poured or sprayed onto a clean, soft cloth, alcohol wipes or Clorox disinfectant wipes. Use only a soft, lint-free cloth. Avoid abrasive cloths, towels, paper towels, or similar items.

  • Avoid excessive wiping, which might cause damage.
  • Unplug all external power sources, devices, and cables.
  • Keep liquids away from the product, unless otherwise noted for specific products.
  • Don’t get moisture into any openings.
  • Don’t use aerosol sprays, bleaches, or abrasives.
  • Don’t spray cleaners directly onto the item.

Android, Pixel

For the Pixel 3a and other Android phones, Google recommends screen disinfecting wipes or eyeglasses cleaner on the screen and ordinary household soap or cleaning wipes, as needed. There are no restrictions on alcohol-based wipes.

Computers, tablets, keyboards, remote controls, mouses

  • Unplug and remove batteries, if any.
  • Spray 70% isopropyl alcohol on a cloth, never on the screen, keyboard or device.
  • If using an alcohol wipe, make sure it is not dripping wet. Wring it out a bit first as necessary, then proceed. You do not want to drip liquid into any openings, especially a keyboard.
  • Consider a wipeable cover for your laptop keyboard so you can disinfect it without suffering potential harm to the keyboard itself.

Resources

These EPA-approved disinfectants are good options for cleaning phones, devices, screens, remote controls, and keyboards. Check back often if out of stock, as we’re updating quickly as possible.

Note

Due to the high demand, some of the products mentioned above are temporarily out of stock. I’ve just learned the SNiPER will be available within a couple of days, so keep checking. The alcohol wipes shown above are available at this writing. Also, look for rubbing alcohol, alcohol wipes, Clorox Wipes and Lysol Disinfectant Spray in Costco, Sam’s Club, local drugstores, supermarkets; department stores and dollar stores.


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There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more here

How to Break the Restaurant Habit

Whether this wicked virus that continues to spread represents a temporary disruption or it changes life as we know it, one thing is clear: We won’t be going out for a lovely restaurant dinner in the foreseeable future. The world of food has been turned upside down.

sorry we are closed sign hanging outside a restaurant, store, office or other

Suddenly, eating out needs to be replaced with cooking in, and that scares a lot of people who’ve become accustomed to eating out.

But how can you go from eating out most of the time to knowing how to cook at home all of the time? Is there a simple way to make that pivot? There is. And while what follows may not become a permanent solution, relying on meal kits for a month or two to teach you the basics of home cooking is really smart. This could get you over the hump with great ease.

Dinner in a box, seriously?!

For months, I’d been hearing a lot about a new way to get dinner on the table. Every few weeks, another one of these meal kit delivery services would contact me with an offer to give it a try.

Seriously? Who in their right mind would trust seafood, meat, and produce from some unknown assembly plant, piled onto a loading dock then moved into the back of an unrefrigerated FedEx truck for who knows how long and until some delivery guy drops it on the porch?

Home Chef delivery box filled with meal kit sitting on

The whole idea sounded ridiculously expensive, if not just plain gross. I didn’t need to test the obvious so I did what comes all too naturally for me: I jumped to conclusions. Turns out I was way off base and so wrong. Today I’m here to come clean and set the record straight. Here’s what happened:

Test and testers

I decided to test one of the meal kit delivery services. I determined Home Chef to be the least expensive and invited two other families to help me test. I set out to get a true, unbiased picture of how this works and what it’s all about. I needed honest, unbiased, real-life feedback.

One of my testers was a young bachelor in California—a very picky eater with limited cooking skills; the other, a local family of four with two children, at the time ages 7 and 2.

We began preparing and eating Home Chef dinners for six weeks—each of us receiving the minimum order of two dinners (2-servings each) delivered once weekly. None of us came into this with any meal kit experience. We had no idea what to expect.

(By the way, Home Chef was not aware that we were testing. I set up our accounts and covered the cost of all the meals and delivery during the testing period.)

It’s been more than three years since we became Home Chef customers and I could write chapters about every detail of our experiences. But in the interest of time and space, I’ll cut to the chase:

Results

Home Chef has greatly improved our lives and continues to do so—as varied as our lifestyles and situations are. It is an amazing service. Nothing about it is gross (I’m so sorry I even thought of that as a possibility). In fact, the food arrives fresher than meat, fish, seafood and produce at my local supermarket. It is high quality and did I say fresh?

Home Chef uses some kind of space-age gel packs that are still frozen hard upon arrival. Even if that box sits on the porch all day, those packs remain frozen, but the food is never frozen arriving at exactly the right temperature to maintain flavor and safety. All of Home Chef packaging is designed to be environmentally friendly—nothing toxic or in any way harmful, easily recycled.

MORE: How to Use Meal Kits to Cut Your Food Costs

Home Chef does a terrific job of delivering amazingly fresh ingredients and offering a variety of dishes. All of us have loved the meals—even the picky bachelor and equally picky children.

Each meal requires about 30 minutes of preparation. We can change our delivery day, adjust our meals, skip a week or pause our accounts whenever we need to. And there are no contracts involved, which means we can cancel anytime. The food is amazingly delicious, too. In six weeks, not one regret was reported.

Home Chef box with all of its contents on the counter demonstrating how complete it is

How it works

You join (cancel anytime if you want). You sign up for the number of meals you want in the week and the number of servings. Then you choose your meals from 15 different options (they change weekly) featuring steak, chicken, pork, fish, vegetarian and beyond. You’ll discover a variety that meets your needs with recipes changing weekly. You can tailor meals to your dietary needs including low-calorie and low-carb and more.

The cost for Home Chef meals vary but the ones we choose are $9.95 per serving. Shipping is free for orders over $45; $10 for orders less than $45.

I have done my best to compare Home Chef costs against the cost to buy the exact same ingredients at my local supermarket. While it’s not easy to quantify the cost of say, one tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar (at least with Home Chef I don’t have to buy the entire bottle to get the bit I need), I’m surprised that Home Chef does not cost more than what I would spend for the same exact ingredients locally—often less.

Based on what our test group experienced collectively, here is what you can expect from Home Chef:

  • You will most certainly improve your culinary skills and repertoire. The food is amazing.
  • It is SO much fun and never gets old opening the box to see what’s for dinner.
  • You will surprise yourself as you prepare recipes you might otherwise skip over in a magazine or cookbook.
  • Your kids and other family members will surprise you when they are willing to try new things and then end up enjoying food items they’ve never tried before or been certain they hated! Home Chef is super family-friendly.
  • The ingredients are fresher, higher-quality and generally better than you might find at your average chain grocery store. The meals are amazingly delicious.
  • You will notice your refrigerator has more room because it’s not a repository for leftovers (that sit there until they turn green).
  • Home Chef serving sizes are surprisingly generous (2-servings were adequate for the testing family with two young children who are light eaters).
  • Your children will get engaged in the process. Because every ingredient is perfectly portioned, labeled and ready to go, older kids and teens can get involved in making dinner.

All of us are impressed with Home Chef. Home Chef has changed our lives in different ways, and all without increasing our food costs!

In fact, Harold and I have spent considerably less on food since joining Home Chef, mostly because we eat out far less frequently.

You can check it out HERE. And when you get to that page, you’ll see that I’ve arranged for you to get a $35 off coupon (plus $20 cashback if you have a Rakuten account) to use on your first order should you wish to give Home Chef a test run.

I can’t wait to hear about your experiences!


There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more here

Sniper homemade disinfecting handwipes

How to Make Disinfecting Wipes

As you know, the fear of coming in contact with the new strain of virus, has necessitated the use of stepped-up type of daily hygiene—frequent handwashing and the use of disinfectants or antimicrobial solutions and disinfecting hand wipes in everyday life.

Sniper homemade disinfecting handwipes

There’s never been a time where proper hand hygiene has been as critical as it is right now. Here’s the reason: The greatest number of infections are caused by hands.

You touch a surface that has the virus then, inadvertently touch your face by rubbing your nose, eye, or put your finger in your mouth. Just that easily you may have infected yourself.

To prevent the transmission of the virus, pandemic experts are saying that we must ensure that our hands are free from germs by simple handwashing with soap and water.

And not only hand washing. We should be making sure that all touchpoints in our homes, offices, and vehicles—things like credit cards, phones, remote controls, doorknobs—are being kept virus-free.

Apart from handwashing with soap and water, are there other effective options for good hand and surface hygiene when soap and water are not available? Yes! Antiseptic wipes for hands, disinfecting wipes for surfaces. (Disinfecting wipes, while not harmful, can be harsh on sensitive skin and or when used frequently.) But good luck trying to find them in any drugstore, market or even online. Sold out everywhere!

Here’s the solution: Make your own. It’s easy,  making sure that you’re using a disinfectant sanitizer that is effective against all kinds of viruses.

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Social Distancing: This is What it Means Plus FREE Printable

This week, in response to the rapid spread of this new global virus, we are being directed to practice “social distancing” immediately, as the only way to slow and reverse the rapid spread of the pandemic. But what is social distancing? What does it mean?

confused young woman

Social distancing means reducing close contact between people. The way to accomplish social distancing starts with limiting large groups of people coming together by closing events, buildings, services, stores—any place that people routinely gather.

And that begs a lot of questions! Can we go to the store? Pick up fast food at a drive-thru? Travel?


FREE Printable: Social Distancing Guidelines


I’ve been wondering the same things and have spent hours researching, listening, and asking my own questions of professionals and experts to come up with the following general Social Distancing Guideline for healthy people who have not been exposed and are not showing signs or symptoms (high fever, body aches, shortness of breath, and cough).

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A Simple Meal to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Twenty-four years ago on March 17, I surprised my DPL* staff by bringing a homemade meal to the office to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It was such a hit, I’ve done a repeat performance every year since.

The menu is simple and remarkably inexpensive:

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes and Carrots

Irish Soda Bread

Lime Jell-O with Pears

Corned beef and cabbage is more of a method than a specific recipe. For your meal, you’ll need:

  • Corned beef brisket or round. I like Bill Bailey’s marinated ready-to-cook, however, there are other brands that come pre-marinated and ready to go
  • Potatoes, peeled and halved
  • Carrots, peeled, and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Cabbage, cut in narrow wedges

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This is the Only Way I Will Ever Make Cornbread Again

As a northerner, born and bred in the Pacific Northwest, it wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that I learned that when it comes to cornbread, there are two very opinionated camps. Those who put sugar in their recipe and those who do not. I belong to the former. To many Southerners, sugar has no place in cornbread and the addition of it is sacrilege.

Here’s my idea of to-die-for cornbread. Crispy, golden edges, soft not dry inside, slightly sweet and so moist it doesn’t even need butter (although who would skip the butter?). And possibly even more important, must be super easy to make and ready to eat start-to-delicious-finish in 30 minutes. Are you with me?

Not exactly a recipe, this is more of a recipe hack—a brilliant way take two $.55 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix then perform a little magic!

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How to Keep Calm and Carry On

Life is uncertain. We know that. What we don’t want to admit is how quickly uncertainty can morph into fear, worry, and panic.

Waking this morning to the reality of a global pandemic, while learning what that means brings new meaning to uncertainty. And in all of this, we’re supposed to keep calm? Carry on? Nice words, but how?

Young woman is in the fair about her future

Fear is the enemy

Fear leads to stress. And stress leads to the breakdown of mental and physical health.

Fear skews our common sense, clouding our decision-making. Unfounded fears lead us to do really dumb things. Fear can so easily lead to depression as we rehearse over and over in our minds every possible thing that could happen. Fear and greed are very close cousins. Together they can lead to panic, and that leads to no good!

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Einstein in the Kitchen or Let Them Eat (Carrot) Cake

I have a special treat for you today. It’s a recipe. Normally I sell this recipe for $1,000 but it’s your lucky day. OK, I’m just kidding about that, but honestly, this one is worth its weight in gold, which as I write is about $1,665 per ounce.

scrumptious-3-layer-carrot-cake-sitting-on-glass-cake-stand-creamy-frosting-and-sprinkling-of-walnuts

In this world, there is carrot cake and then there is scrumptious absolutely to-die-for carrot cake—the kind of cake you’ve only experienced with a $200-per-person meal at a fancy hotel (you do that all the time, right?).

It’s the kind of carrot cake that would surely be named the Grand Champion in a competition at a fine culinary school like Le Cordon Bleu Baking and Pastry Arts Program if I’d ever had such an opportunity to compete.

This is the cake that’s going to make your friends and family think you’re a genius! And don’t be surprised when it becomes your signature cake—the one they request for their birthdays. Imagine how beautiful this cake might look on your Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter buffet table.


MORE: Dinner-in-a-Box is Not What I Thought!


As you peruse this recipe, you may be tempted to make a few adjustments. Please do not do that. You’ll think 1 1/2 cups oil is excessive. It’s not. And the pineapple. Seriously? Yes. Do not doubt me.

This is the perfect recipe both in ingredients and proportions, so please follow it exactly. It’s the recipe you’ll be tempted to keep secret and good luck with that! 😉

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Best Inexpensive Home Security System

Several months ago, we had a serious home security wake-up call with the news of a home invasion in our sleepy town, population fewer than 20,000.

In the middle of the night, two young, hoodied thugs went from house to house in a beautiful new development until they found an unlocked window. Once inside, they held the terrified homeowners at gunpoint. Eventually, the perpetrators were caught and charged with 7 counts including kidnapping, grand larceny and attempted murder (what a story, trust me).

I cannot recall a time I was more grateful to have a robust home security system. Thankfully, our neighbors survived, but the trauma of the event together with the tremendous financial loss will be with them indefinitely.

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