Housecleaning Time Savers

In my first three articles, I talked about de-junking, cleaning bathrooms, and general cleaning. Now, I'll move on to the kitchen. The principle that frequent cleaning saves work is doubly true in the kitchen, especially if you're living frugally and cooking almost everything from scratch, as I do. Here's the schedule I use to keep the kitchen clean:

Daily, after dinner: wash dishes and wipe down all counters and the table. Don't forget to wipe the stove!

Weekly: deep-clean the stove, wipe out the refrigerator, clean the microwave (on different days)

Monthly: wipe out and re-organize the freezer, clean the oven, wipe down the cabinets

I bet everybody's probably going to say "How on earth can you stand to clean your oven once a month?" Well, in the summer, I don't, because we don't have air conditioning so I never use it. But in the winter, I do this faithfully. Believe it or not, it's not such a bad job. We have a self-cleaning oven, but it takes a ton of electricity to run it, and I always feel like it's going to burn the house down, so I use "Now" cleaner and spray it full- strength inside the oven. I let it sit for half an hour or so, then I wipe it down, using a Scotch-Brite pad on any stubborn spots. The best way to minimize the job, of course, is to prevent spills in the first place; make sure casserole dishes aren't overfilled, or put them on a cookie sheet. Put pies inside a large cake pan or on a cookie sheet, and make a foil tent over roasting meat. Cheap cuts of beef roast beautifully inside my covered iron skillet with a little moisture.

To clean the rest of the stove, I just take all the removable bits off and soak them in either ammonia water or Now. The Now's more expensive, but it sure smells better! While the removable parts are soaking, I wet a cloth in the soaking solution and wipe down the stove. Baking soda is great for loosening anything stubborn, as is a Scotch-Brite pad. The shiny parts clean up nicely with some vinegar and water. While I have the vinegar water out, I spritz down the outside of the dishwasher, too.

To clean the microwave, I first clean the coffee pot! I put a solution of 50% vinegar in water through to remove any mineral deposits. Then I take that hot vinegar water, pour it into a large Pyrex measuring cup, and put it in the microwave. Nuke it on high for 5 - 10 minutes, and any baked-on crud comes right off. Pouring the hot vinegar water down the drain is a good way to keep the drain clear, too.

I wipe out the refrigerator with vinegar water or a light solution of Now. When I do that, I also look for any leftovers that are about to reach critical mass. I use the same technique with the freezer, and the frequent cleaning helps me remember what's in there. (Note that this is the freezer over the refrigerator, not the deep freeze in the basement. I'm lucky to get that one cleaned once a year!) After wiping out the inside of the refrigerator, I finish by wiping down the outside.

Our cabinets are a lovely 1970's dark Mediterranean color, so I can afford not to be very picky. Still, I like to at least keep them sanitary, so I wipe them down with a medium solution of Now.

One last tip: I've found that Barkeeper's Friend cleanser is a Wondrous Thing. It cleans brass and copper much faster and better than Brasso, Twinkle, or home-made concoctions of salt and vinegar. It's also great on aluminum - my husband burned beans onto our pressure cooker, and it appeared to be permanently stained, but the Barkeeper's friend shined it right up. I don't use it as a general-purpose cleanser, but it sure does well on those odd polishing jobs. (I have no affiliation with the company - I just like their product).

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