A kitchen-inventory list helps you to plan and organize your meals. You waste less, too. It can be as easy as using a dry-erase board, notebook or printable sheets; you can use a simple slash system to keep track of what you have on hand. One example can be found on my forums. The first tip below is a quick way to keep track at a glance and add variety, too.
FOOD CODE: If I bought Burbank/Idaho potatoes last time, I'll try to buy red potatoes this time. The same for eggs -- I try and buy white and then brown and then white. Also works for apples, pears and such. I do this to help me use the oldest food first. If the old potatoes are nearly gone and they're red, then I get Burbank. It's really obvious to me when I go to grab a potato what's the oldest. Same with eggs and onions. The eggs, onions and potatoes are where I use this the most. -- Judi, New Hampshire
REUSE PLASTIC BAGS: I love to do jigsaw puzzles (1,000 pieces and up), and I keep a lot of them to work again later. I hate losing the pieces, so I use the gallon-size plastic baggies for storing the pieces. They work great because I sometimes send a puzzle to my mom out of state, and this way I know she will have all the pieces. -- Cat, Ohio
STRETCH DISH SOAP: Everything today is "concentrated." But I noticed that my kids overuse the dish detergent. When they do dishes, we can go through a bottle in a week. When I do it, the bottle lasts for a couple months. I learned a trick. I save an empty bottle. I fill it one-quarter with the detergent and then top with water. Ah, but it's watery, no one likes watery soap. So add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt to it, and shake it up. It will gel again. I use dish detergent for hand soap and do the same thing. My husband has to use two pumps, what a waste. But once reduced like this, he's using really a half squirt, if that. One bottle now lasts two to three months. -- Noella, Canada
HOMEMADE BABY FOOD: I finalized my adoption. I am the new mother of a 9-month-old. I remember trying to save money when my others were little, and I made my own baby food. Well, I did it again. This time, I pureed a bag of peas, green beans, potatoes and chicken. All of these were separate. I took my muffin tins and covered them with piece of plastic wrap twice as large, and filled each spot with the food. Then I covered them with another piece of wrap. I did four separate muffin tins and stacked them up, making sure there was plastic wrap between everything. I left them in the freezer for a day. This morning. I pull all the frozen separate foods and put them in a freezer bag and labeled them. I tested them, and it takes 45 seconds to thaw in a microwave. I can also put them in a carrier, and they will thaw before lunch. So now I have enough for at least two weeks. -- Louise, Georgia
NOTE FROM SARA: Ice-cube trays work well, too. You can also simply drop spoonfuls of the food onto a wax-paper-lined baking sheet and put it into the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to freezer bags.