Posted in Organizing Your Kids, Your Home and Yourself, The Care and Feeding of Your Pre-Schoolers

Organizing the Refrigerator to Encourage Healthy Choices for your Family

 I saw an article in Body and Soul Magazine earlier this year  about how to make healthier choices when we grab food from the fridge.  The idea is to put the healthiest choices right in your eye sight and make them as easy to ‘grab and go’ as possible.  After the reading the article, I made some simple changes in our refrigerator.  I have found myself eating healthier than I have in years and losing less fruit to rotting or being forgotten.

So here is my fridge:

Healthy Food Choices are Easy to Grab and Go!

The article suggested dividing the fridge into categories.  Here is my interpretation and use of the categories:

  • Dinner – This is my top right shelf.  I use it for our dinner entrée type items and leftovers.
  • Grab and Go Fuel – This is my top left shelf.  I leave high protein (fuel) snacks like cheese sticks, yogurt and nuts.
  • Fresh Food Snacks – This is the middle left shelf and is usually where we look first when we open the door.  I have filled this with fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, salsa, and sauces (more on this later.)
  • Beyond Deli – This is the middle drawer.  It has additional cheese, deli and chocolate.
  • Liquid Assets – We keep this full of cold beverages.  As you can see there is a wide variety of beer which is not necessary for a healthy fridge! 🙂
  • Green Market – These are the drawers at the bottom.  They are full of additional fruits, vegetables and leafy greens.

So a little more on fresh food snacks:

The article suggested keeping fruit cut up so they are easy to grab and eat.  I found I was buying fruit, which I love, putting it in the drawer and then tossing it later because it had rotted.  I bought these great storage containers at Macy’s.  They have a divider.  It takes me 5 minutes to wash and cut fruit and put it into the container.  My concerns was that washed cut fruit goes bad faster.  I have found we eat the fruit before that is an issue.  There is something so fun and pretty about ‘ready-made’ cut fruit.  Cut your produce, fruits and veges, into bite size pieces and store them right at eye level.  For kids, put the cut fruit, in an easy to see, easy to reach spot in the fridge.

There is nothing wrong with taking a little help from the store and splurging when it comes to fruit!  Trader Joe’s has pre-cut apples (green and red.)  They have found a way to keep them from turning brown.  It costs more than purchasing the apples yourself and cutting them however I find it a simple, healthy treat that really saves time!  Consider skipping a $2-5.00 coffee and use the money for a few healthy treats instead.

© 2010  All rights reserved.

Posted in The Care and Feeding of Your Pre-Schoolers

Care and Feeding of Your Child – Cleaning House After Illness

Readers may have noticed a lull in blog entries over the last week.  I am just recovering from a doozy of a cold and pink eye (in both eyes!)  Being sick reminded me of when I was young.  When I got pink eye so did my friends, when they had a cold, so did I.  I have heard so many of my friends with children discuss the phenomenon of a cold or stomach flu making its way thru each member of the household.

I am the product of two germ-o-phobic parents and it seems I have also married one.  I decided to de-germ the house to rid it of my cold and conjunctivitis.  The question that came to my mind is how long do bacteria live on hard surfaces like coffee tables and door knobs and how long do they live of soft surfaces like couches?  The next question of course is how do we get rid of the bacteria?  I went to some of trusted resources to begin the research including the Center for Disease Control, the Center for Science and Public Interest and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Here is some of what I read:

  • Some viruses and bacteria can live from 20 minutes to up to 2 hours on tables, doorknobs and desks. (Ansari 1988, Scott and Bloomfield 1989)
  • The NHS Website from the UK said the flu virus can live on a hard surface up to 24 hours and a soft surface for 20 minutes
  • Mayo Clinic internist James M. Steckelberg, M.D, believes the time flu viruses can survive outside a host depends on factors such as  the strain and the surface. Times can range from seconds up to 48 hours
  • Steckelberg also theorized that germs generally live longer on hard surfaces (doorknobs, keyboards, cell phones, toothbrushes) than porous ones like fabric or paper.
  • University of Michigan epidemiologist Allison Aiello says viruses live on skin for up to five minutes.

So after all that reading, I am very clear that it is unclear how long germs are brewing in our homes.  So the next logical question is: how do we get rid of them immediately!?

The answer from the Center for Disease Control and the American Pediatric Association was surprisingly simple.  I was expecting some complex concoction of bleach and hours of elbow grease to change my germ filled home into a clean, happy, germ-o-phobic welcoming enviroment.  The answers I found are listed below:

  • Clean!
  • Focus on surfaces that may have germs on them: doorknobs, counters, toilets, phone, remote, toys, bedside tables, bathroom sinks.  Clean these hard surfaces by using water and dish soap. Or use common household cleaners that kill germs
  • For soft surfaces like bed sheets, towels and pillow covers wash with normal laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot dryer setting.  Hold the laundry away from your face and wash your hands.

An additional suggestion I found was to set up a ‘sick room.’  Give the sick person their own room.  Fill the room with items needed such as tissues, a humidifier, thermometer, hand sanitizer and face masks.  Should the sick person leave the room, they should wear the face mask.  OK, so let’s be realistic, a sick toddler is not staying in one room AND a sick parent probably does not have the luxury of staying in one place either.  So while this is a great idea and may be followed for portions of the day the clean tips listed above may be more helpful!!

© 2010  All rights reserved.

Posted in The Care and Feeding of Your Pre-Schoolers

The Care and Feeding of your Child – Washing Fruit

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention ( 76 million people get sick every year due to food borne illness.  Some of the causes are E. Coli, norovirus and Hepatitis A.  Certain groups have a higher chance for severe infection including infants and young children. 

So how do we prevent infection?  How do we get the fruit clean?

At first glance, the marketplace seems to offer many solutions.  With a quick search for fruit wash on Amazon ( I came across these products:  Fit Fruit and Vegetable Wash ($22.11), Citrus Magic Fruit and Vege Wash ($9.67) Environe Fruit and Vege Wash (18.80)  I looked at the ingredients for some of these washes and came across  Ethyl Alcohol, Potassium Hydrate,Baking Soda and Citric Acid .  Is there a way to clean without using additional chemicals?   There has to be a simple, more budget friendly way.

In Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, I found a solution (literally.)  In the ‘Keeping a Cleaner, Safer Kitchen’ article from the January & February 2010 issue they discuss washing produce (  A recipe of 3 parts water and 1 part white vinegar removed 98% of surface bacteria.  This is the SAME amount the expensive fruit washes report is removed following use of their product  This water/vinegar solution can be used on fruit like apples but also fruits with peels or rinds.  The items with surfaces you typically remove (like an orange or watermelon)  may also be harboring bacteria on the surface.  This can get on your fingers and then on the fruit inside or if you cut the fruit it can be transferred to the knife and then subsequently onto the fruit.  By taking a few extra steps, you can significantly cut down on harmful bacteria.  Just spray the solution and then rinse with clean water.

© 2010  All rights reserved.

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Posted in The Care and Feeding of Your Pre-Schoolers

Care and Feeding of Your Child – Saving for College (action step included)

From my time spent in the financial industry, I understand that one of the financial concerns that tops the list of parents of young children is saving for college.  According to,  if your child is currently 4 years old and you have hopes of he/she attending a 4 year college programs, the cost in 14 years could be over $200,000!  This accounts for inflation, average annual tuition increases of 6% and time.

So what steps should you be taking as a parent?  What options or financial aid will be available to your children? What should you be doing NOW while your child is young to prepare for the future?

There are many options available to parents to begin the process of saving for college, here are a few popular options:

  • 529 plans – a 529 is a special kind of account that allows families to put money aside for college.  The government gives these accounts special tax treatment to encourage saving.  Companies like Oppenheimer Funds, American Funds or Fidelity offer plans. 
  • 529 plan – State Sponsored – Every state also has a 529 plan.  You can research the state to see what company runs the plan, what investment options are available and what restrictions if any are named for the spending of the funds.
  • Coverdell ESA – this account similar to some IRAs allows you to make non-deductible contributions and grow tax-free.  The main difference is that funds can also be used to pay for other qualified education expenses such as elementary and secondary school expenses.
  • Detailed Estate or Insurance Planning – In working with a financial advisor, there may be ways to make your dollars do ‘double duty’ Experts can help you to utilize all difference types of accounts or vehicles to maximize the money you have.

So now that you know the options, what do you do with them?  My suggestion is not to take on all the research yourself.  Between tax changes, investment options and the ever-changing price of college there is so much to learn.  Just as you would do if you have a health problem, I suggest you do for your financial concerns…educate yourself AND find an EXPERT!

to educate yourself – there is a great website to start to learn about options relevant to your and your child’s situation.

to find an expert – for a financial concern of such importance, you want to work with a trusted advisor.  Out of the many options available from the Schwab’s to the Merrill Lynch’s how do you know who to call?  A great place to get started is to check the credentials of local advisors. 

You can check their employment record and any complaints by going to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) website:

You can also check to see that they are keeping themselves current of topics such as estate and tax planning, college savings or retirement by asking for their qualifications.  Some qualifications to look for that are board regulated and require continuing education include:

Many companies have coupons or gift certificates that grandparents can use to make investments as a gift for birthdays and holidays.  This should be the top item on your wish lists.  The kids will grow and interests may wain on some of the toys however and education is forever!!

While college may seem years away, taking a few small steps now could make all the difference in the years to come.

© 2010  All rights reserved.

Posted in The Care and Feeding of Your Pre-Schoolers

Care and Feeding of Your Child – Cutting through the Nutrition Hype (action step included)

Each day we are bombarded with news snippets, emails and periodicals touting the benefit of chocolate or the dangers of fast food.  Newscasters quote the most recent studies and scientific facts.  The real studies quoted are never revealed to the listener: was it a legitimate study over the course of years or 10 people in a room for a weekend. 

Were do we go to sort our the truth and what is best for the kids?  What are the right vitamins?  What should you buy organic and what is ok non-organic?  What’s really in this tub of popcorn or the Starbucks Carmel Machiatto?  Do I need to worry about my child’s weight or my own?

There is an organization called the Center for Science and Public Interest.  They are a lobbying group that has been the voice behind many of the healthy changes in our lives: healthier options in schools, the removal of soda machines, new nutrition labels, the listing of nutrition ingredients at restaurants.  They look behind the studies to reveal what has actually taken place.  They dispel myths and work to provide information that helps with healthy decisions for you and your family.  They study food products like cereal or crackers and provide ‘best bites’ or healthiest options.  They offer healthy recipes.

So where do you get this information?  CSPI puts out a monthly newsletter.  It is short, printed in an easy to read format and best of all it is about $10.00 for the entire year.  Here is the link to their website:

© 2010  All rights reserved.