Cooking at home more often than you eat out or order in, can be rewarding for both your wallet and your waistline. But it can also feel like a time suck that requires a lot of effort. It's hard to perfectly plan all of your meals to avoid food waste and get the most of out your produce while it's still fresh. Don't throw that stale loaf of bread out just yet though! Or let hardened brown sugar come between you and a batch of brownies again.
Here are 10 kitchen hacks to save you a little time, a little money, and a lot of frustration.
1. ) Keep Tomatoes Fresh Longer
Tomatoes stored stem side downFood52
You probably already know that tomatoes are better stored at room temperature than in the fridge. While ripe tomatoes do ok in colder temperatures, storing under ripe tomato in the refrigerator affects the development of the flavor, texture, and coloring. Want juicer tomatoes bursting with flavor? Store them stem side down at room temperature.
Storing tomatoes upside can actually keep them fresh for longer. How? It stops excess air and moisture from leaving what's knowns as the scar. The scar is where the tomato was once attached to the vine. This easy kitchen hack stops tomatoes from taking on that unwanted mealy texture and helps them stay fresher longer.
2.) Stop Brown Sugar From Hardening
Hard, clumpy brown sugar is a real bummer. Especially when you're in the middle of baking something delicious. Instead of tossing it out or breaking out a hammer to try to salvage some of it, try these easy hacks first. The key to keeping brown sugar from clumping is restoring as much moisture as possible.
Make sure your brown sugar is stored in an air-tight container and then add a slice of apple, or an orange peel to the mix before sealing. The orange peel and/or apple slice restores moisture and softens brown sugar up. Within a few hours it's as good as new! Here's a guide to everything you'll ever need to know about sugar.
3.) Easy Check to See if Eggs are Still Good to Eat
Spoiled egg testShutterstock
Not sure how long those eggs have been sitting in your fridge? Instead of cracking them open, gently place them in a bowl or glass of cold water instead. If the egg sinks, it's still good to eat. If it floats, it's time to toss it.
The liquid inside eggs slowly evaporates over time, creating a gas bubble inside. The lighter the egg, the older and more spoiled it is. The FDA's generally guideline is that a carton of eggs is ok to eat for up to 4-5 weeks after it's been packaged.
4.) Soften Butter Fast
Soften cold butter quicklyEver Tricks
Baking with soft butter is almost always better, but it isn't always convenient. If you're in a rush and forgot to let your butter soften at room temperature, don't just use it cold. Try these quick tricks to soften cold butter fast instead!
Grate it, slice it, or place it in a ziplock bag and roll it flat with a rolling pin. It'll soften up pretty quickly. Another cool trick? Try Buzzfeed's warm glass hack. Fill a glass with warm water, pour it out, and then place the glass over the butter to soften it.
5.) Quickly Peel Potatoes and Tomatoes
Thin skinned vegetables like potatoes and tomatoes can be annoying to peel. Here's a way to quickly and easily peel them without even using a vegetable peeler. First boil them and then give them an ice bath. The skin will separate from the center making it easy to peel right off with your hands.
6.) Cut the Fat
If you want to remove excess fat from gravy, stews, soups, sauces, and broths there's a faster way than waiting for it to cool. Pop a few ice cubes into the saucepan or pot and the fat will rise around them, making it easier to scoop out. You can also skim a few ice cubes along the surface of the liquid to help it solidify. Remove the fat with a spoon or try soaking it up with a piece of toast.
7.) Save Wilting Herbs for Later
Herb and olive oil cubesRecipe Hubs
If notice any herbs looking less than fresh you can easily give them a second life with this kitchen hack. Finely chop or pulse them in a food processor with olive oil. Enough oil to completely cover the herbs. Pour the herb and olive oil mixture into an ice tray and freeze. When you're ready to use the herbs just add one or two cubes to whatever you're cooking up! You can also try this hack with citrus zest. Here's a fruit freezing guide.
8.) Put Lemons to Work
Don't toss those old lemons out just yet! Instead put them to work as an all natural, and powerful way to clean your countertops, utensils, your oven, and even the fridge. Lemon juice is one of the best natural cleaners, because of it's low ph and antibacterial properties. It's even capable of restoring rusty brass and copper.
Try using half a lemon in place of a dish sponge. Scrub away and then let the lemon juice sit for a few minute before washing clean. Lemons are actually a safer and more environmentally friendly way of cleaning than other store bought products.
9.) Restore Crusty Bread
Revive old breadGetty Images
Don't throw out that stale loaf of bread either. Reviving a crusty baguette is possible with this amazing water trick. Run the stale loaf under water until the crust is completely wet. Don't be afraid to drench it.
Set your oven to 325 F degrees or on it's warm setting and put the wet loaf directly on the metal rack. Let it bake for 6-7 minutes and when you pull it out, it'll practically be as good as new. Warm, soft center and crunchy crusty exterior ready to be used again.
10) Microplane Garlic and Ginger
Finely chopping or mincing garlic and ginger can be a real time suck. Luckily there's an easier way. Microplane it! Anytime a recipe calls for minced garlic or ginger reach for a microplane zester instead of a knife.
It's faster and easier on your fingers. You can also try using a spoon to peel ginger, it actually works better than a vegetable peeler. And for the garlic? Give it a good whack with the back of a knife and the skin will fall right off.
As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.