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Ask Me Anything: How to Store Potatoes, Adult Children Money Matters, Shrinking Tuna, and More

It’s Mailbag day and time to reach in my a file named ECMailbag. That’s where I save all of the questions and letters that you, my dear readers, send to me. I don’t have the time to respond personally so I love it when I get to respond to your questions here.

Questions Mark ( ? ) word in paper note on blue background

Here is a quick summary of the questions I’ll answer in today’s post. You can click on one to go straight to it, or just scroll through to read all. Enjoy!


1. Why not store potatoes in the fridge?

2. Lights: Turn off or leave on when leaving a room?

3. Should I rescue my adult child from her deep debt?

4. Let’s talk about that missing ounce of tuna

5. How to get out the Wite-Out?

6. How to deal with ugly baked-on crud on baking sheets?


Dear Mary: I just read your past column on keeping produce fresh longer. You said to not refrigerate potatoes. Why not? I have been doing this for several years. Dee

Dear Dee: When potatoes are stored below 40℉, the starch in them turns to sugar. This gives them an unnatural taste and you will also notice that refrigerated potatoes turn an ugly brownish color when cooked.

The ideal storage conditions for potatoes are places that are dark, cool, and well-ventilated—like the lowest shelf in a pantry. Too much light makes potatoes turn green. If that happens or if they spout, you can still use them. Just cut off the green spots and the sprouts before you cook them.

Next time you cruise the produce section at the supermarket notice how and where the potatoes are handled: They’re never refrigerated and kept perfectly dry.

Dear Mary: Is it better to turn off fluorescent lights when you leave the room? I was always told that it took more electricity to turn them on than to let them burn all day. Shirley

Dear Shirley: When it comes to residential use, the Department of Energy suggests generally that if you leave a room for more than 15 minutes, it is most cost-effective to turn all lights off whether fluorescent, incandescent, LED, or halogen, although you would be wise to turn off the incandescents the minute you leave. You can install smart timers that will do this for you. Check with your local home improvement center.

Dear Mary: I have two daughters in their twenties, both are married. One has a terrible credit score, and is diving deeper and deeper into debt. The other daughter and her husband have recently graduated from college and are very good money managers. They are budgeting, saving a down payment for a house, and paying off their college loans very quickly. I am afraid that my one daughter will become very jealous of her sister’s financial successes. Do I just stand back and do nothing? I see this as a disaster just waiting to happen. Cheryl

Dear Cheryl: You’ve got a sympathetic ear in me. We have two sons adult sons and I know how my mother’s heart wants to fix everything little thing in their lives. But we both know that’s about the worse thing we can do for our adult children. Our “brilliant help” is not always appreciated the way we think it should be. So I’m going tell you what I would tell myself if I were in your situation: Back off. If you are not a co-signer on your wild child’s debt, it really is none of your business.

Your children are adults with lives of their own. Both of your daughters are learning to live with the consequences of the choices they make, whether good and bad.

As tempting as it might be for you to give or lend money to your spendthrift daughter in an effort to level the playing field (I’m assuming that’s what you have in mind here), that would be a terrible mistake. It will only put a Band-Aid on the real problem and it could alienate the other girl.

I suggest that you focus your energy on coming up with a list of resources she’ll need, like credit counseling, books, and other resources so that if and when she does comes to you for help, you’ll be ready to give her what she really needs—and wants—to make a U-turn on her road to financial devastation.

Dear Mary: In response to your column in my local newspaper, “A Can of Tuna in the Real World,” where do you find 6-ounce cans of tuna? l have not seen a 6-ounce can of tuna in years. They’re all 5-ounces now! Ted

Dear Ted: You are mostly right, and my apologies for mistakenly referring to the out-of-date 6-oz. size. Many brands of canned fish and meat have joined a list of dozens of products that have downsized over the last decade with no price reduction, including cereals, coffee, toilet paper, and even mayonnaise.

I say “mostly right” because the only brand of tuna I buy is Kirkland Signature Solid White Albacore Tuna, 7-oz. cans in an 8-pack, for $16.99, available at Costco warehouse clubs and also online for members. It is the best canned tuna I know of as measured in both quality and value. Costco also offers an 8-pack Chicken of the Sea Solid White Albacore in 7 oz. cans, $16.49.

Dear Mary: I so messed up. I spilled a bottle of Wite-Out on my wood dining table. It’s not the finest table in the world, but still, I’m heartsick because low-quality or not I love the style. Ann-Marie

Dear Ann-Marie: There are two products that will remove the Wite-Out from finished wood or other surfaces. You may even have one or both in your garage. WD-40 or Goo Gone will work well. Both are available online or at your local home improvement store, in the paint aisle, or online.

Just spray either product on the Wite-Out spill and allow it sit for a few minutes until it begins to soften. Then gently scrape it off with a blunt object like a plastic knife edge. That should do it!

Dear Mary: Is there a way to remove baked-on grease on my favorite baking sheet pan? Love your column for all its great inexpensive ideas. Maggie

Dear Maggie: Yes, there are several. My favorite is with Dawn Dish Power Dissolver, a remarkable cleaner, albeit somewhat hard to find, that melts baked-on crud with no fumes, requiring little effort. It even leaves a pleasant fragrance.

A good oven cleaner like Easy-Off Fume-Free Oven Cleaner can be an effective oven crud cleaner, requiring more effort and elbow grease.

Here’s a DIY option, some readers have reported as being effective: Make a paste of baking soda and fresh hydrogen peroxide. Spread this over the problem area on that sheet pan. Let it sit for a while, then using a good amount of elbow grease and a scrubbing pad, go to work on it. This will work in most situations, leaving that pan looking nice and clean. I can’t guarantee it will look like new, but much better than it looks now!


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3 replies
  1. Halena says:

    I know Javex is a bit dangerous. But I’ve been removing baked-on stuff from pots & pans for years & still do. Yeeah – Equal parts of Javex & Water & 1 Tbsp of New Dawn. Let it sit till
    you see it loosening – then give it a little scrape and VOILA – Success. Halena

    • Mary Hunt says:

      You must live in Canada! Javex, which is a product of the Clorox company, and a highly concentrated whitening bleach (as opposed to a chlorine bleach) is not available in the US, nor can it be shipped here. Sounds like you’ve discovered a nifty method to combat greasy baked-on crud.

  2. SueMN says:

    I’ve found that using steel wool pads (I use SOS brand steel wool pads with soap) removes baked on grease from my aluminum sheet pans and yes, peroxide and baking soda works too!


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