My Pantry: A Black Hole of a Mess

There comes a season for all things and Spring has somehow been named the season to clean. Too bad for Spring. Instead of fun, its claim to fame is work.Overloaded pantry

Well, in keeping with the spirit of Spring, I decided it was long past time to tackle the chaos in my pantry. As you can see from this photo, I’ve managed to ignore this chore for too many Springs. No longer. This year is it.

First thing was to take a trip to the dollar store. There is always an interesting array of baskets and bins that are ideal for organizing untamed stuff. I picked up a dozen assorted items in a lovely lime green and brought them home with pride in accomplishing this much. Secretly, I hoped the elves would come at night and finish the job. They didn’t.

Armed with my new bins and baskets, I faced the pantry and froze. Where do I start? I just didn’t know. There was just too much stuff. I needed an answer for the miscellaneous small items that jammed the shelves, most of which were spices and seasonings. My spice and seasoning organizer was already full and the overflow had no where to go.

The next thing I did was hit the Internet for an over-the-door shelf unit to store those small items. Once that came, I could revisit the pantry. I took out all the loose, small items that were cluttering the shelves and put them on the door unit. Eureka! I Created space. From there, I could move forward.

The next items I addressed were the canned goods. They were sorted into usable categories and stacked into bins. More space freed. Baking supplies were the next to succumb. A basket corralled powders and extracts nicely. Dry beans found a home. Pasta had a place. Things were really coming together.

As things were sorted, I found things that had been pushed to the back and lost for some time. Four packages of dried chilies surfaced from the depths. Only one was opened. Apparently, I couldn’t find them so I bought more. Not a very frugal thing to do.Dried Chili Peppers

I took some of those chilies and made some great enchilada sauce with them. I adapted a recipe from A Dish of Daily Life.

Enchilada Sauce


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons flour
4 dried Ancho chilies
2 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste

Chop the dried chilies into small pieces. (The food processor works well for this.) Set aside
Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add carrots, onions, and garlic. Saute until soft. Stir in flour.
Add water slowly, stirring until well mixed. Add the chilies, oregano and cumin. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Allow to cool. Puree the sauce in the food processor, a blender, or with an immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt.
May be frozen.

Pantry

My pantry isn’t completely finished but it is so much more workable now. I can find things and I’m working on using things I have on hand to further reduce the clutter. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. I faced this challenge with only a little fear.

Fall’s First Chore

We started on the first of our fall chores this weekend by tackling the windows. (See Cleaning up for Fall) It’s truly a chore because you just can’t wash the windows. You have to move any furniture, plants, and all other things that are placed in front of the windows on the inside. The screens need to be removed, cleaned and repaired if necessary. After all that, you can wash the windows. Of course, they are two-sided so the work is doubled.

I saw this formula several months ago and vowed to try it whenever we got around to the windows. It’s promise was to lessen the work, which I’m all for, and it did. The water sheeted off the windows and didn’t require wiping or the use of a squeegee. It’s important to hose off the windows prior to cleaning to remove as much dust and dirt as possible. Once the solution gets dirty, it doesn’t rinse off as well and leaves the windows smeared.

 

window

 

Here is One Good Thing by Jillee’s original recipe. I made mine loosely based on this, but simplified it by adding 1/4 cup of everything to the 2 gallons of water. It worked. I’m sold.

Homemade Streak-Free Window Cleaner

1/2 bottle of Dishwasher Rinse Aid (the bottle I bought was just under 7 ounces so I measured out 3.5 ounces)
4 Tablespoons isopropyl alcohol (I used 70%)
1/4 cup ammonia
1 handful of powdered dishwasher detergent (which depending on the size of your hand could probably vary quite a bit! I used a “handful” which looked to me to be about 1/4 cup. Give or take.)
2 Gallons of hot water

Cleaning Up for Fall

I hope I’m not alone in this, but I don’t like housework. The only good chore is one that is done.

Getting things done isn’t that simple for me. It’s entirely too easy to be distracted from household tasks. I can start something and stop before I’m finished because something else is more interesting. Watching the grass grow or the paint dry is particularly alluring.

We associate Spring with cleaning. Why? My house needs cleaning more than once a year so I like to do a fall cleaning, too. It’s too warm in the house over the summer to do any heavy work, even with the AC on. I don’t turn the temp down enough to allow for deep cleaning because I don’t want a power bill the size of the mortgage. In the fall, it’s naturally a good temperature in the house for heavy work.

fall

So, let’s get started on a good Fall cleaning.

This site has a list of chores and blank check-lists to download

Orange Cleaner Revisited Again

orangecleaner

I reported some results from the one of the orange cleaners I made about four weeks ago in this post. The recipes for each cleaner are here. This time, I want to report on the fermented cleaner.

This cleaner I diluted 1:8 (1/4 cup solution in 2 cups water). This was the recommendation from one of the websites I looked at for information.

In a side-by-side test, I think the first cleaner won. It’s not that this one didn’t clean things. It did. Both cleaned, but the vinegar seemed to cut through the gunk a micro-second faster. Maybe the solution was too dilute. Perhaps I should use the 1:1 that I did for the first cleaner to get a more accurate result.

I still stand by my story: there isn’t much difference in the results between the 2 solutions.

Orange Cleaners Revisited

A little over three weeks ago, I started making orange cleaners. I did two types and you can find the recipes here. They are done, and now it’s time to test them. OK, I admit to procrastinating on this. These things were actually done after two weeks. I guess I’m just not in a hurry to clean.

orangecleaner

I used the vinegar-based cleaner first. I diluted it 1:1 with water and put it into a spray bottle. Next I tried it out on a few surfaces, which included the inside of the microwave, the glass door on the toaster over, a section of granite counter-top, and the glass-top range. It worked well but it wasn’t miraculous. I didn’t expect it to be really, but it did do what cleaners are supposed to do: it cleaned. The spatters inside the microwave wiped off easily, the counter-top shines, and even the glass looks good without streaks. The things I cleaned with it are clean! Isn’t that the goal?

It does smell better than plain vinegar, so that’s a bonus in itself. I know what’s in it. That’s a huge benefit. It works pretty well. That’s the goal.

Overall, this orange cleaner can find a place in my cleaning routine.

Little Steps, Big Changes

Starting something new is overwhelming. Have you ever tried to read something that is a new subject and it seemed like it was written in Klingon? Only through systematic chipping, taking small bites, can you finally unravel the mystery.

Developing a new lifestyle is the same process. Take small steps and soon you’re changes are habit and not torture.

It’s fun to read how people live frugally. Some of their ideas are workable and will fit into my life easily. Some are a bit out there, to be kind. I draw the line at eliminating toilet paper from our home. The work involved in washing and drying doesn’t outweigh the convenience of TP. There’s also the yuck factor. Just not gonna do it.

toilet-paper-150912_1280
I’ve been in a financially tough time when paper towels were a luxury and not a part of my kitchen supplies. I could go back to that again, but I haven’t. I guess times just aren’t tough enough right now.

There are things that I do now which make me wonder why I didn’t do them all along. I spent some time yesterday making jam. My husband spent part of his day making jerky. (He makes it because he eats it. I don’t) Am I saving a bunch making my own jam? Not really, because I buy the fruit. If I could go out a pick fruit to use, then the savings would be obvious. The jerky, on the other hand, is a fraction of the price of anything we can buy.

Jars of Jam
The benefit of making things at home is that I know what’s in it. I don’t use anything I can’t pronounce. To me, that’s a big benefit. The other, especially with jam, is the reduction in waste. I reuse the jars. An empty jar from the store isn’t reusable, usually.

These are just two small steps in my overall frugal-living plan. I’ve already posted some of the recipes I use to make staples and cleaning supplies.

DIY Laundry Detergent
The Dreaded Dusting Chore
The Baking Mix Scoop
No, Really? No Poo
DIY Liquid Hand Soap
DIY Yogurt
DIY Disinfecting Wipes
5 Favorite From Scratch Recipes
Orange is the New Clean

There are dozens more that I haven’t yet tried. I’ve also abandoned some things that I tried and found they didn’t work well for me. One was my own dishwasher soap. I’ve tried a couple of formulas and I felt they didn’t do the job that a commercial product does, so I no longer make my own soap. Frugal living is not only a step-by-step process, it’s a trial and error one, too.

It’s all about the little efforts and you don’t have to learn Klingon.

Orange is the New Clean

oranges

I ran across these recipes months ago and I started saving citrus peels. They languished in the freezer until I had the containers to make the mixes. Now, it’s a go. Confession time: I didn’t have any brown sugar, so I used regular, white sugar instead. I’m pretty sure that it will make no difference in the fermentation process.

Here are the two formulas that I’m trying. Since they take 2 weeks or more to complete, I’ll let you know my results later.

orangepeels

All_Purpose Citrus Cleaner

1-2 quart jar
White vinegar
Citrus peels, chopped (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit or a combination)

Place citrus peels into jar until it is, at least, half full.
Fill jar with vinegar.
Cover jar tightly and shake.
Steep for 2 weeks, shaking occasionally. Label the jar so that you can keep track.
Strain liquid through a fine sieve. Discard the peels.
Pour into a spray bottle and dilute 1:1, if desired.
Use on sinks, counter tops, bathtubs, floors, and toilets.

citrus-2791_1280

DIY Citrus Cleaner

2 liter bottle
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp yeast
Citrus peels (at lest 2 cups, chopped)
32 ounce spray bottle

Drop citrus peels into the bottle.
Add yeast and sugar.
Fill about half full with water. Shake bottle to dissolve sugar. (About 30 seconds)
Cap loosely to allow gases to escape.
Label bottle with date and allow to “brew” for about 2 weeks, shaking at least daily.
When the cleaner is ready, strain through a fine sieve. Discard peels.
Add 1/2 cup to spray bottle and fill with water for regular cleaning.

orangecleaner