Each month, we publish a series of articles of interest to homeowners -- money-saving tips, household safety checklists, home improvement advice, real estate insider secrets, etc. Whether you currently are in the market for a new home, or not, we hope that this information is of value to you. Please feel free to pass these articles on to your family and friends.
Is Your Kitchen Ready For the Food Safety Challenge?
We all love a good meal that's not only delicious, but also safe to eat. That's why kitchen food safety is crucial to prevent harmful bacteria and contaminants from ruining our meals and putting our health at risk. By following these simple food safety practices, you can whip up mouth-watering meals with confidence and peace of mind. Here are some key points to keep in mind when it comes to kitchen food safety.
Cleanliness: Maintaining a clean kitchen is essential for food safety. Keep your hands and surfaces clean by washing your hands before and after handling food, and wiping down surfaces, utensils, and dishes with hot, soapy water.
Separation: Keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood separate from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. Use separate cutting boards, utensils, and containers, and store these foods in the fridge or freezer to avoid the spread of bacteria.
Cooking temperatures: Cooking food to the proper temperature is crucial for killing harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of meat, poultry, and seafood, and follow recommended cooking times and temperatures.
Storage: Proper storage is essential for preventing the growth of bacteria and other contaminants. Keep perishable foods refrigerated or frozen, and use ice packs or a cooler to keep food chilled when enjoying a picnic or BBQ.
Expiration dates: Check expiration dates on food products before using them, and throw out anything that is past its expiration date or looks or smells off. If in doubt, throw it out!
By keeping these tips in mind, you can ensure that the food you prepare in your kitchen is safe, healthy, and delicious. Don't let food safety be a daunting task and embrace it as an integral part of your cooking routine for the benefit of your taste buds and your health.
Choose the answer that best describes the practice in your household, whether or not you are the primary food handler.
1. The temperature of the refrigerator in my home is:
2. The last time we had leftover cooked stew or other food with meat,
chicken or fish, the food was:
3. The last time the kitchen sink drain, disposal and connecting pipe
in my home were sanitized was:
4. If a cutting board is used in my home to cut raw meat, poultry or
fish and it is going to be used to chop another food, the board is:
5. The last time we had hamburgers in my home, I ate mine:
6. The last time there was cookie dough in my home, the dough was:
7. I clean my kitchen counters and other surfaces that come in contact
with food with:
8. When dishes are washed in my home, they are:
9. The last time I handled raw meat, poultry or fish, I cleaned my
hands afterwards by:
10. Meat, poultry and fish products are defrosted in my home by:
11. When I buy fresh seafood, I:
12. I realize people, including myself, should be especially careful
about not eating raw seafood, if they have:
1. Answer B. The recommended temperature for a refrigerator is between 35-38°F (1.7-3.3°C). It's the perfect sweet spot to prevent spoilage and harmful bacteria growth. And don't forget to keep an eye on those temperature settings and door seals, or you'll be letting in more than just a draft!
2. Answer B. Don't let those delicious leftovers go to waste! As a general rule, it's best to pop cooked food into the fridge as soon as it's cooled down to room temp - and definitely within 2 hours of cooking. Why the rush? Well, leaving your food out for too long can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria that can lead to a nasty case of foodborne illness. So be proactive, and give those germs the cold shoulder by chilling your food ASAP!
It is important to note that the temperature danger zone for food is between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C). Food should be kept out of this temperature range as much as possible to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. When storing cooked food in the refrigerator, it should be stored in airtight containers to prevent contamination from other foods, and should be eaten within a few days.
3. If answer A best describes your household's practice, give yourself two points. Give yourself one point if you chose B.
Don't let your kitchen sink be a breeding ground for bacteria, odors, and other gross substances - keep it squeaky clean with these helpful tips! First up, make sure to sanitize your sink drain on the reg - once a week is a good rule of thumb. Bust out the baking soda and vinegar, or a trusty commercial cleaner, to give that drain a good scrub and remove any food bits, grease, or debris that may have snuck in.
Next up, show some love to your garbage disposal by cleaning it once a week. Give it the ol' ice cube and vinegar/lemon juice treatment to dislodge any pesky food particles and debris that may have piled up in there. For an extra boost of sanitization, try using a commercial cleaner specifically designed for your disposal unit.
Last but not least, don't forget about the connecting pipe! While it doesn't need to be cleaned as often as the sink drain or disposal, it's still a good idea to give it a deep clean every few months. Whip up that trusty baking soda and vinegar combo (or break out the commercial cleaner) to help remove any buildup of grease or debris lurking in the pipes. Your nose (and your kitchen) will thank you!
It's important to note that the frequency of cleaning may vary depending on how often you use your sink and disposal, as well as how much food waste you generate. If you notice any unusual odors or buildup in your drain or disposal, you may need to clean them more frequently.
4. Answer D. Don't let a dirty cutting board leave you in a pickle - keep those pesky bacteria at bay with these simple steps! If you've used your board to chop up some raw meat, poultry, or fish, it's crucial to properly clean and sanitize it before using it again to avoid cross-contamination and potential illness.
First, grab a spatula or scraper and scrape off any leftover bits of food. Next up, lather that board up with hot, soapy water and scrub away any lingering germs with a brush or sponge. Rinse it with hot water and dry it off with a clean towel.
Now for the sanitizing part - you've got options! Either whip up a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water and let the board soak in it for a few minutes before rinsing and drying it, or simply toss it in the dishwasher (if it's dishwasher safe, of course).
Remember to use separate cutting boards for different types of food to avoid cross-contamination - one for meat, poultry, and fish, and another for your fruits and veggies. Trust us, your tummy will thank you!
5. Answer C. The choice of how to cook a hamburger is a matter of personal preference, as long as the meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature to prevent foodborne illness. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), ground beef should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) to ensure that harmful bacteria are destroyed.
That being said, some people prefer their burgers cooked to varying degrees of doneness. Rare burgers, cooked to an internal temperature of 120-130°F (49-54°C), have a reddish center and are very juicy. Medium burgers, cooked to an internal temperature of 135-145°F (57-63°C), have a slightly pink center and are still fairly juicy. Well-done burgers, cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or higher, are brown all the way through and tend to be less juicy.
Ultimately, the decision of how to cook a hamburger should be based on personal preference while also ensuring that it is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
6. Answer C. Who can resist the temptation of a spoonful of raw cookie dough? But before you dive in, beware of the potential health risks! Raw cookie dough can contain raw eggs and uncooked flour, both of which can carry harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli.
To minimize your risk of getting sick, it's recommended that you steer clear of consuming raw cookie dough altogether. But fear not, cookie lovers - there are other options! You can try making cookie dough without raw eggs, or use pasteurized eggs and heat-treated flour. If all else fails, you can always opt for pre-made cookie dough that's safe to eat raw.
If you simply can't resist the allure of raw cookie dough, remember to enjoy it in moderation and to take proper food handling precautions. Always wash your hands before and after handling the dough, and be sure to refrigerate or freeze any leftovers. Now go ahead and indulge - just be sure to play it safe!
7. Answer C or D. Keep those kitchen surfaces clean and germ-free with these essential steps! First up, grab a clean, dry cloth or paper towel and wipe away any food debris or crumbs. Next, bust out a damp cloth or sponge and give that surface a good scrub-down with hot, soapy water.
Rinse away any soap residue with a clean cloth or sponge and dry off with a fresh towel. But wait, we're not done yet! Use a disinfectant spray or wipes that are safe for food surfaces and follow the manufacturer's instructions to make sure you're using them properly. Don't forget to let the surface air dry before using it again.
And let's not forget about those trusty utensils and cutting boards! Scrub them down with hot, soapy water and a sturdy brush, rinse them thoroughly, and give them time to air dry.
Make sure to clean your kitchen surfaces regularly, especially after handling raw meat, poultry, or seafood, and after any spills or messes. Stay clean, stay safe, and enjoy your delicious meals with peace of mind!
8. Answers A and C are worth two points each. There are potential problems with B and D. According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), letting dishes sit in water for a prolonged period creates a breeding ground for bacteria. The food particles left on the dish provide nutrients for bacteria to multiply, leading to potential health hazards.
To avoid this, it's best to wash dishes by hand within two hours of use. This practice helps prevent the buildup of bacteria and ensures a safe and healthy home environment. Additionally, air-drying dishes instead of handling them while wet helps minimize the risk of contamination.
9. The only correct practice is answer C. Give yourself two points if you picked it. When it comes to handling food, especially raw meat, poultry, and fish, you gotta take some extra precautions to keep those nasty germs at bay. That's why it's important to wash your hands with some warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before AND after handling your grub. Got an infection or cut on your hands? No problemo! Just throw on some rubber or plastic gloves to protect yourself. And don't forget to wash your gloved hands just as often as your bare hands, 'cause those gloves can pick up bacteria too.
10. Give yourself two points if you picked B or C. When it comes to thawing food, it's important to do it safely to prevent any unwanted bacteria from growing. The experts suggest three safe ways to thaw food: the refrigerator, microwave, or cold water. If you go with the water method, be sure to submerge your food in a water-tight plastic bag and change the water every 30 minutes. And remember, the best way to maintain quality is by thawing gradually overnight.
If you're using a microwave, follow the instructions on the package and leave enough space for heat to circulate. Smaller items tend to thaw more evenly than larger pieces.
Whatever you do, don't thaw your meat, poultry, and fish on the counter or in the sink without cold water, as bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature.
11. A and B are correct. Give yourself two points for either. To buy safe seafood, go to reputable dealers who refrigerate or ice their products. Once purchased, put it on ice or in the fridge/freezer. Avoid buying cooked seafood displayed with raw fish, and don't buy torn, open, or frosted frozen seafood. Store seafood in the coldest part of the fridge or wrap tightly in moisture-proof freezer paper/foil. Finally, if you're dealing with shellfish like lobsters, crabs, oysters, clams, or mussels, make sure to discard them if they die during storage or if their shells crack or break. Live shellfish should close up when their shell is tapped.
12. If you are under treatment for any of these diseases, as well as several others, you should avoid raw seafood. Give yourself two points for knowing one or more of the risky conditions.
If you have certain diseases or conditions, you need to be extra careful when it comes to eating seafood, as you may be at risk of serious illness or death from contaminated seafood. These include liver disease, diabetes, stomach problems, cancer, immune disorders, long-term steroid use, and hemochromatosis.
Older adults are also at increased risk as they're more likely to have these conditions. To stay safe, it's important that you avoid eating raw seafood and stick to seafood that's been thoroughly cooked.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rating Your Home's Food Practices
24 points: Feel confident about the safety of foods served in your home.
12 to 23 points: Reexamine food safety practices in your home. Some key rules are being violated.
11 points or below: Take steps immediately to correct food handling, storage and cooking techniques used in your home. Current practices are putting you and other members of your household in danger of food-borne illness.
Homebuyers: How To Save Thousands of Dollars When You Buy
"When you analyze those successful homebuyers who have the experience to purchase the home they want for thousands of dollars below a seller's asking price, some common denominators emerge."
If you're like most homebuyers, you have two primary considerations in mind when you start looking for a home. First, you want to find a home that perfectly meets your needs and desires, and secondly, you want to purchase this home for the lowest possible price.
When you analyze those successful homebuyers who have been able to purchase the home they want for thousands of dollars below a seller's asking price, some common denominators emerge. Although your agents negotiating skills are important, there are three additional key factors that must come into play long before you ever submit an offer.
These Steps Will Help You Save Thousands When You Buy a Home
Make sure you know what you want . . . As simple as this sounds, many home buyers don't have a firm idea in their heads before they go out searching for a home. In fact, when you go shopping for a place to live, there are actually two homes competing for your attention: the one that meets your needs, and the one that fulfills your desires. Obviously, your goal is to find one home that does both. But in the real world, this situation doesn't always occur.
When you're looking at homes, you'll find that you fall in love with one or another home for entirely different reasons. Is it better to buy the 4 bedroom home with room for your family to grow, or the one with the big eat in kitchen that romances you with thoughts of big weekend family brunches? What's more important: a big backyard, or proximity to your child's school? Far too often people buy a home for the wrong reasons, and then regret their decision when the home doesn't meet their needs.
Don't shop with stars in your eyes: satisfy your needs first. If you're lucky, you'll find a home that does this and also fulfills your desires. The important thing is to understand the difference before you get caught up in the excitement of looking.
Find out if your agent offers a "Buyer Profile System" or "Househunting Service", which takes the guesswork out of finding just the right home that matches your needs. This type of program will cross-match your criteria with ALL available homes on the market and supply you with printed information on an ongoing basis. A program like this helps homeowners take off their rose colored glasses and, affordably, move into the home of their dreams.
To help you develop your homebuying strategy, use this form:
What do I absolutely NEED in my next home:
What would I absolutely LOVE in my next home:
How Sellers Set Their Asking Price
For you to understand how much to offer for a home you're interested in, it's important for you to know how sellers price their homes. Here are 4 common strategies you'll start to recognize when you begin to view homes:
1. Clearly Overpriced:
Every seller wants to realize the most amount of money they can for their home, and real estate agents know this. If more than one agent is competing for your listing, an easy way to win the battle is to over inflate the value of your home. This is done far too often, with many homes that are priced 10- 20% over their true market value.
This is not in your best interest, because in most cases the market won't be fooled. As a result, your home could languish on the market for months, leaving you with a couple of important drawbacks:
2. Somewhat Overpriced:
About 3/4 of the homes on the market are 5-10% overpriced. These homes will also sit on the market longer than they should. There is usually one of two factors at play here: either you believe in your heart that your home is really worth this much despite what the market has indicated (after all, there's a lot of emotion caught up in this issue), OR you've left some room for negotiating. Either way, this strategy will cost you both in terms of time on the market and ultimate price received
3. Priced Correctly at Market Value
Some sellers understand that real estate is part of the capitalistic system of supply and demand and will carefully and realistically price their homes based on a thorough analysis of other homes on the market. These competitively priced homes usually sell within a reasonable time frame and very close to the asking price.
4. Priced Below the Fair Market Value
Some sellers are motivated by a quick sale. These homes
attract multiple offers and sell fast - usually in a few days - at, or
above, the asking price. Be cautious that the agent suggesting this method
is doing so with your best interest in mind.
Safeguard Your Home from Fire and Deadly Carbon Monoxide
Picture this: a thunderstorm is raging outside, with lightning illuminating the sky and thunder rumbling in the distance. You're cozied up inside your home, enjoying your favorite movie on the TV and maybe even having a snack from the microwave. But suddenly, you hear a loud crack and the power goes out. You try to turn on your appliances, but they won't budge. What just happened?
Chances are, your appliances fell victim to a power surge. Power surges are quick, intense bursts of electrical energy that can wreak havoc on your appliances, causing damage or even fires. These surges can happen for a variety of reasons, from lightning strikes to short-circuits, and they can last only a few millionths of a second. But even that short amount of time can be enough to damage your appliances.
So how can you protect your appliances from surges? Let's start by understanding what appliances are at risk. Appliances that are only connected to power, like microwaves or table-top radios, are typically not too difficult to protect. Many manufacturers build surge protection into these appliances, or you can invest in plug-in surge protectors to keep them safe. But for appliances that are connected to external communication systems like telephones, cable TV, or satellite receivers, additional protection may be necessary. Appliances that are part of your household control system, like garage door openers or intrusion alarms, also need attention.
So how do you protect your appliances from surges? Surge protectors are the answer. These devices divert surges to the ground, where they can't cause any harm. Surge protectors come in many shapes and forms, from plug-in protectors to protectors installed at the service panel of your house or meter socket. The type you choose will depend on the sensitivity of your appliances, the severity of your surge problem, and your location. Before purchasing a surge protector, consider how the protector will power your appliance if the protective element should fail. Some protectors are provided with an internal fuse that will disconnect in case of failure, but you need to know whether it will completely cut off output power or just disconnect the failed element. And don't forget to read the instructions carefully ï¿½ indications on surge protectors can vary and may be confusing.
Protecting your appliances from surges may require some investment, but it's a small price to pay for peace of mind and effective protection. By understanding the risks, investing in surge protectors, and properly grounding your home's electrical system, you can mitigate the risk of damage from surges and other electrical disturbances. So next time you're enjoying your favorite movie during a thunderstorm, you can rest easy knowing your appliances are safe and sound.