Thursday, September 22, 2016

Deluxe Salad Bar

Let's face it, some days, you just don't have the energy to cook. Now, I'm not opposed to the occasional fast food meal, but what if we just had fast food yesterday, and I feel like maybe we should eat a teeny bit healthier today?

This post will be the first in a series of "Ugh, I don't feel like cooking dinner tonight, but I don't feel like take-out either" meals. Cheap, quick, and easy.

One trip to Aldi's. Less than $12 for a family of 5 (plus leftovers!)

I don't even take things out of their bags. We pass the bags around and take our salad straight from the bags. Serving dishes are for suckers. Why dirty a whole extra dish just to hold the food that is currently being held quite effectively by its store packaging?

I also let everyone build their own salad. That way, if one kid doesn't like craisins, they can just skip over them. Less work for me, less complaining from them. And, believe it or not, this is one of my kids' top five favorite meals.

Cost breakdown:

Caesar Salad Kit (includes dressing, parmesan cheese, and croutons)..........$1.99
Garden Salad..........$0.99
Grilled Chicken Strips..........$2.49
Queso Fresco (great for crumbling on salads - I call it the "poor man's feta")..........$2.49
Roasted Sunflower Kernels..........$1.99
Dried Cranberries..........$1.29
Salad Dressing (optional, since there is some in the Caesar kit) from my fridge (maybe about 10c per use, prorated over the life of a bottle of dressing?)

Total: $11.24

You can't even get two value meals for that at most fast food places. Take that, fast food industry!

You can also do this meal with a rotisserie chicken instead of the grilled strips, but, alas, that is one thing that my beloved Aldi's does not carry. Add wraps if you want to make your salad more portable. Feel free to add your own variations, and always check your fridge for random things to add, as well! (After taking the pictures tonight, I added cottage cheese and leftover cut veggies from last night's dinner.)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

You don't need measuring cups to measure rice. You just need something, anything, that is capable of holding both rice and water. Today, I used a coffee mug. I have also used mason jars, or tupperware. Fill it once with rice, then twice with water. Done!

It's all about the ratio, baby!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pinterest Things Even Lazy People Can Do: Mason Jar Cappuccino

I couldn't decide which blog this should go on, since it was a bit of a crossover post, but I finally settled on my regular blog. But this is totally a Crappy Housewife trick. Make a cappuccino in a mason jar with powdered milk!

Who is Jule Ann?: Sometimes I Run Out of Milk

Monday, May 19, 2014

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

Do you have this problem: You make coffee, and it's too hot to drink. Then [insert anything] happens, and when you go back to drink your coffee later, it's too cold? This happens to me almost every morning. And, yeah, there are some awesome products on the market that will cool your coffee down and/or keep your coffee warm, but, in the meantime, here's a morning-saving tip:

Make your coffee stronger.

Then, leave lots of room in the mug, and add lots of cold milk. The stronger the coffee, the more milk you can add without watering down the taste. (Lattes are 90% milk, and they still taste great. Why? Because espresso is really strong coffee!) Like magic, your coffee is drinking temperature right away! Now, quick, chug it down before [insert anything] happens again!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

If you've ever made homemade dinner rolls, then you probably know that shaping the rolls is the most time-consuming part of the process. (Except for waiting for the dough to rise, but that doesn't really count, because you don't have to *do* anything. And I use a bread machine for almost all of my dough-making, so I don't have to do any of that pesky mixing or kneading, either.)

A few months ago, I was letting the kids help me shape some rolls, and I stumbled onto an accidental, awesome shortcut. I had used my dough cutter to chop the dough up into approximately the right size blobs, and was letting the kids shape them. They ran out of steam after a while, and starting just sticking the rough-cut blobs on the cookie sheet without doing anything more to them. I baked them, and the unshaped rolls were the best ones out of the whole batch!

So, this is my new roll-making technique: Cut dough in half. Then cut the halves in half. Then cut the halved halves in half again. Then, kinda lose track, but have the general idea in the back of your head that each remaining blob should become 3 or 4 smaller blobs, and just grab biggish-looking blobs and cut them in half until the blobs are all relatively the same size. "Relatively" being a very relative term. By which I mean, "There can be as much variety in size as there is among your relatives."

Does that make as little sense as I think it does? I should probably go to bed. But first, pictures!

I think the different shapes/sizes add to the character of the rolls. If you feel the need to justify their appearance, just call them "artisan" rolls. That's even fancier than boring uniform rolls!

Addendum: Before anyone complains that baking homemade rolls isn't a very Crappy Housewife-like thing to do, I have two things to say.

1. I like baking bread. It's so much better than store-bought, and my family loves it. I never said I was a crappy cook. Just someone who is always in search of a shortcut.

2. When you are home alone with two kids and realize that you are out of bread, and you look at the clock, and try to figure out if you can squeeze in a run to the store before the third kid's school bus gets here, sometimes, baking your own bread is the easy way out. Ten minutes to get everyone's shoes on, then get everyone buckled in, ten minutes to deal with some sort of last minute emergency (potty? nursing? injury? it could be anything!), unbuckle everyone at the store, strap a baby onto your back and a kid into a cart, find the bread you want to buy, remember a few other things you want to buy, stop to deal with some other emergency (diaper? potty? injury? tantrum?), check out, buckle everyone back into their seats, drive home, attempt to transfer car napper(s) to bed(s), fail, deal with ensuing meltdown(s), remember the perishables that you forgot in the car, rush to finish unloading the car before the kids get into something they shouldn't, clean up the mess they created when you didn't get there soon enough... Seriously. Three minutes of dumping ingredients in the bread machine bowl, plus two minutes of hacking dough into roll-ish shapes is so much easier.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pinterest Things That Even Lazy People Can Do: Water Table

We bought a membership to Longwood Gardens this year, and we've been at least four times already. It's a beautiful place to visit. And it's awesome for kids. Lots of water fountains and kid level water features that they are not only allowed, but ENCOURAGED to touch! There's even a sign by the water play area letting parents know that they will loan you a towel if you came unprepared for this level of awesomeness. (That might not be the exact wording.)

Somehow, I have survived 5 and a half years of parenthood without acquiring a water table. We have tried many lazy versions - dish tub on the floor, shallow basin on the craft table, kiddie pool in the middle of the kitchen - but none of them worked overly well. Watching John Wallace's utter joy as he splashed in the many toddler-level water tables at Longwood Gardens made me think that maybe it was time to find a slightly more permanent solution.

First, I went to Craigslist. But everything I found was selling for way more than I wanted to spend. Then I went to Pinterest, and, while I loved many of the ideas there, and may ultimately attempt some version of a basic PVC frame for a plastic tub, I wanted something quicker, cheaper, easier, and, let's face it, lazier.

So, I went to the hardware store. I bought two Rubbermaid tubs, one shallow, one deep. I stacked them in the store aisle to make sure that they would fit inside of each other.

Then I put some heavy stuff in the bottom of the big one. This is an optional step, but I didn't want my water table to be too top-heavy, or too easy to push off the edge of my porch into the garden. I used about 39 pounds of softener salt (which I only need a small amount of for my dishwasher, but only seems to come in 40 pound bags). I transferred the salt into gallon ziploc bags, so that we wouldn't end up with salt pellets everywhere, in case it did tip over after all.

Now, on to the hard part: Assembly. I'll break it down, step by step, so no one gets lost:

  1. Put some water in the shallower tub. (You only need to fill it about 1/3 of the way.)
  2. Put the shallower tub on top of the deeper tub.
  3. Put some toys or dishes or empty bottles in the water.
  4. Wait 59 more minutes for the child to wake up from their nap.
  5. Take adorable pictures!

This would also make an excellent sensory bin, but I don't recommend putting anything in your sensory bin that you are not prepared to be sweeping up from every corner of the house for the next few weeks. (Our sensory bin experiments ended with rainbow rice.)

And the best part of this water table? When you're done using it as a water table, it goes back to being two, sturdy storage bins. And what Crappy Housewife doesn't need more of those?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pinterest Things That Even Lazy People Can Do: Phosphorescence!

Are all of your kids' friends are having cool parties with fancy decorations and carefully hand-crafted cupcakes and a pin the smile on the Mona Lisa? Hey, don't let the Pinterest Moms gets all the credit! You can throw a cool party, too!

Step One: Buy a black light. Or, if you're cheap as well as lazy, just buy some good quality black light bulbs (they have come a long way since my college days - now they actually work!). We got 3 of these ones and stuck them in one of those spider lamp things that points in a bunch of directions so we could adjust their glow.

Step Two: Black out all the windows of the room you want to party in. I used giant black contractor bags for this purpose. It worked beautifully.

Step Three: Tide! Did you know that plain old Tide (yes, the laundry detergent) glows under black light? I watered some down just a bit and put it in a water bottle with a sports top. Then I used it to splash hearts on a big curtain. Go for the Jackson Pollock effect - this is not for detailed drawings.

Tide Dyed Curtain

Step Four: Tonic Water! Okay, probably everyone knows that tonic water glows under black lights. But it's still cool! Here's a basic recipe for glowing lemonade:
Lemonade concentrate: 1 part lemon juice, 1 part sugar, 2 parts hot water (mix until sugar dissolves)
Mix 1 part concentrate with about 8 parts tonic water in a clear glass.
You could also just buy lemonade concentrate, but I didn't feel like going back out, so I used what I had on hand.

Step Five: Make the kids do the rest of the work! Just shine the black lights at your craft drawers and have them pick out everything that glows. Ditto for the Tupperware cupboard, the toy box, the recycle bin, etc. Then let them make random glowing decorations from what they found. Then give them a bowl of Tide and a paint brush and let them paint on the walls. It's just Tide, it will wash off! (Note: This is apparently not true for ceilings. Oops.)

Step Six: Switch your camera to manual mode so that you can actually take pictures. Hmm... This should probably have been Step One. Oh well, I got two sorta-almost-not-totally blurry shots...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pinterest Things That Even Lazy People Can Do: Banana Dolphin

So, I haven't had any new tips in a while, so I thought about adding a new feature to this blog. It should come as no surprise that I'm not much of a "Pinterest Mom". But every once in a while, something crosses my desktop that is simple, cool, and really, not much more effort than just cutting a banana in half that I was going to feed my daughter anyhow. Score! The most time-consuming part of this project was washing a knife, because I didn't have any clean ones.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

Need to soak a pot that has a long handle, so won't fit in the sink? Stick a bowl underneath it!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

Don't soak plastic dishes in the sink.

I know, I know. I soak EVERYTHING. I even soak counters and floors! But plastic is a different story. I hate washing plastic. Despise it. No matter how much soap I use, or how much I scrub, once I rinse it, there always seems to be a greasy film, and I end up having to wash it again. This is a pain, and the more greasy surface area there is to scrub, the more of a pain it is. Soaking plastic in a sink full of dirty dishes ensures that every square millimeter of plastic is covered in dirty dish slime. It's a lot easier to just focus your scrubbing, rinsing, and rewashing efforts on the comparatively small section on the inside of the container that is actually dirty.

If the inside of the container is crusty or gross, you can still soak the inside by filling the container with water in the sink, but not putting the plug in, so the outside doesn't get tainted.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

You know that circular piece of cardboard that comes with a frozen pizza? (Or the take and bake pizzas from Aldi's - our favorite!) Use it to transfer the pizza to and from the oven, and then as a disposable cutting board for slicing the pizza. If you eat on paper plates, you can have an almost-dish-free dinner!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

Have blankets and sheets to fold, but no capable adult to recruit into taking the other end? I have a super-simple, highly effective folding partner, who is always willing and available, and never lets go of their end and drops it on the dirty ground: gravity. If you have stairs in your house, you probably have this partner, too. Just stand somewhere high, and let the sheet hang low. In my old house, the best place was the hallway beside the banister on the second floor, dangling over the stairs. In my new house, it's halfway up the first floor stairs, hanging over the downstairs hallway. All you need is enough height to let the whole length or width of the sheet hang loosely without touching the ground. Fold the top, and the bottom will follow. It's so easy and effective, I actually use this method even when there is a recruitable adult nearby!

Even the dreaded fitted sheets aren't too hard with this method. I just turn one corner inside-out inside the opposite corner, then do the same thing with the doubled-up corners. But, in general, I use the "wash it and put it right back on the bed without folding it" method whenever possible.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

I try not to start a load of laundry if there are clothes in the dryer waiting to be folded and put away, because dry clothes can sit indefinitely, but wet clothes need to go in the dryer within a very limited time-frame, or they will start to stink. But, occasionally, there are exigent circumstances (like a diaper blowout, or I just forgot), and I end up breaking this rule. Then, once the washer cycle finishes, I am faced with a dilemma: Fold and put away all the dry clothes so I can use the dryer, or let the clean, wet clothes sit and get mildewy. One option requires too much effort, and the other option is kinda gross.*

So, here's my stopgap solution: Open the dryer, and take out a few of the biggest, bulkiest items. Towels, sweatshirts, and the like. Fold them, and put them away (or just drape them over the banister, for now), then add the new, wet clothes to the remaining already-dry clothes, and dry the whole lot together. I think the new stuff actually dries faster with some dry stuff mixed in, and the previously dried stuff (which had been sitting for who knows how long) get dampened and de-wrinkled. Everybody wins!

*I realize that "Just take the dry stuff out of the dryer and stick it somewhere else temporarily" might seem like a good solution to this dilemma, but in my experience, it's not. When things get taken out of the dryer and aren't immediately folded and put away, they are indistinguishable from dirty clothes. I have rewashed the same clean clothes too many times to see this as a labor-saving tip.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

If you wait long enough to sort the mail, it mostly becomes obsolete, and much easier to sort.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

When it's time to vacuum under/around/behind the recliner (or any other relatively moveable chair), just flip it forward upside down. Then you can pick up all the crap that accumulated back there, (So much crap! I can't believe I just did this two days ago!), and vacuum the whole space in one go without having to dig out the crevice tool.

2013-01-23 11.33.46

Okay, so maybe moving a chair to clean under it isn't exactly revolutionary, but if you flip it carefully forward on its axis, then it's super-easy to get it back to the exact position it was in before you moved it. Before I started flipping my chair over, I sometimes spent so much time trying to get the feet back in their carpet grooves that it was hardly a time-saving technique. This way, it's a quick matter of "pivot forward, vacuum, pivot backward."

Added bonus: If anyone has been eating carelessly in the recliner, and it is full of crumbs, flipping it forward will dump out most of the crumbs, saving you even more crevice tool time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

When you get dressed in the morning, stick your socks in your back pocket, instead of on your feet. You never know what you might step in between your bedroom and your shoes, and it's easier to clean bare feet than socks.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

Every once in a while, don't clean up at all for a play date. Just call it "Social Darwinism": nature's way of weeding out the wrong kind of friends.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Housework HORSE: Official Rules

Brief Synopsis:

HORSE with housework. Poker-style bidding.

How to Play:

1. Issue a housework challenge to one or more members of the household. Announce what task you plan to tackle, and how long (or how many, depending on the task) you plan to spend doing it. For example, "I'm going to spend two minutes unloading the dishwasher," or, "I'm going to pick up four toys from the living room floor, and put them away."

2. From the time you complete your task, the challenged party (or parties) has one hour to respond. They may choose one of three responses:
a) Call. They agree to do the same (or equivalent, by agreement) task that you did. If they are successful in competing the task, play passes to the next player, until everyone has met the challenge. Then the round is over, and no one gets a letter.
b) Raise. They agree to do the same (or equivalent, by agreement) task that you did, and also add an additional task of their own choosing. If they are successful in completing both tasks, play passes to the next player, until everyone has met all of the challenges.
c) Fold. If the challenged player does not wish to complete any of the tasks, they may fold, and take a letter in the word "HORSE" (or some clever alternative that has to do with housework). Failure to respond or complete your task within an hour is treated as a de facto fold.

3. Keep a tally of everyone's letters in a prominent location. If someone spells the word HORSE, they lose, and something terrible will happen to them. You can decide what the punishment is for losing, but I'm leaning towards the dirtiest, most hated household chores.

Some Ground Rules:

1. All challenged parties need to be at home when challenged (and not about to leave for a scheduled activity).

2. You must state the parameters of your task BEFORE embarking on it. You can't raise the stakes just because something took you longer than you thought it would, or because you got some cleaning momentum and kept going past the end of your declared time limit. (Aside: You are allowed, even encouraged, to do more than the challenged task; it just doesn't count for the game.) You also can't retroactively issue challenges. I can't spend an hour doing dishes, then sit down and say, "Okay, now you spend an hour doing dishes or you'll get a letter."

3. If you choose a task that only you are capable of doing, or that can only be done once, you must be reasonable in your consideration of equivalent alternatives.

4. Game may be paused by mutual consensus (or parental fiat) for meals or other family activities.

Tips and Tricks:

1. Bid small at first. It's easier to get up off your butt to do a small task than a big one. Once you're both up cleaning and have a bit of momentum, you can raise the stakes.

2. If everyone calls, no one gets a letter. This can be a good thing, and it works especially well when playing with small children, because they like it when everyone wins.

Special Rule: The Shootout

Choose a simple, easily repeatable challenge, like picking up one toy, or washing one dish. Cycle through the players, repeating the task in quick succession until one player opts to not complete the task. That player gets a letter, and the shootout round is over. (Although remaining players may choose to continue playing, elimination-style, if desired.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Crappy Housewife Tip of the Day

Step One: Lose a (very) dirty dishcloth somewhere in the house.

Step Two: Deep clean half the house while looking for the source of the awful smell.

Step Three (optional): Find the dishcloth somewhere obvious, like the middle of the dining room table, and wonder why on earth you didn't look there first.