By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
The time we spend reading and organizing our past collection of tips for travelers takes our minds through and around our many years of travel. We began with a Volkswagen camper, moved up to a mini-motorhome, and then spent an entire year converting a highway bus into a motor coach. Ah, the memories. Isn’t it great how much we can learn from each other, and how willing we are to share ideas?
1. Get down and dirty? No!
Here’s a way to keep under-the-sink cleaning supplies from sliding around or spilling over while you drive. First, visit a liquor store and ask for their empty wine boxes (the ones with cardboard separators.) It’s easy to customize each of the boxes to fit inside a cabinet and/or around the drain pipes. Once you have the boxes arranged in the cabinet, simply group your cleaning supplies in the wine-bottle-shaped spaces. Just imagine — no more crawling around on the floor and reaching way into the back of the cabinet to get what you need. Now you actually can find things where you left them.
2. Screening for your stove
We don’t fry food often, but when we do, we use a spatter screen made of fine mesh cut into a 12-inch circle to keep the grease from splashing on galley walls, countertops, etc. We’ve occasionally seen spatter screens advertised in a household catalog (the ones that seem to multiply around the year-end holidays), and once we actually saw one in the housewares section of a department store. Spatter screens are usually way too large for the pan you’re using, but since they lay flat, they take up little space.
3. Chilly plastic wrap
We stopped using plastic wrap, because we were thoroughly tired of the hassle of unwrapping the sticky stuff and already had enough stress in our lives. But then we recently read of a way to prevent the wrap from being so grabby — by keeping it in the refrigerator. We were a little skeptical, but decided to try it. Twenty minutes in the refrigerator was all it took for the plastic wrap to peel easily, yet still hold where needed.
4. Turn off the oven early
No law requires you to leave the oven on until the timer rings. Turn it off a few minutes early — you’ve got at least 5 to 10 minutes’ worth of heat in there before the oven starts to cool. This will help you save energy and money.
5. Keep the cold inside
The best way to minimize the amount of time the refrigerator door stands open is if you know exactly what’s inside. Label everything you put into the refrigerator, unless it’s already in a clear container. Masking tape and a felt-tip marker will do the job, but don’t forget that the marker should have permanent ink. Otherwise, the contents label will be wiped clear of ink before your next meal.
6. Cover those leftovers
Always cover your containers before placing them in the refrigerator. Capping protects the flavor of foods and beverages. Also, the moisture in uncovered foods increases the humidity in the appliance, making the compressor work harder.
7. Flea infestation?
If you want to rid your motorhome of these pests, try this: Vacuum frequently wherever your pet has been in the coach — carpeted floors, furniture, etc. — to remove as many immature fleas as possible. In addition to washing your pet with a flea shampoo, launder your pet’s bedding, blankets, and other washable items frequently in the hottest water possible. Finally, if you have a cat, don’t use flea control products without checking first with your veterinarian. Many of the most popular sprays contain permethrin, which can’t harm dogs but can be fatal to cats.
8. Think small
For range-top cooking, use the smallest size pan that fits the burner. You’ll save storage space in your cabinets, and it takes less time — and costs less money — to heat a smaller pan.
9. Recycle the chill
You’ll save cooling energy if you defrost your frozen food inside the refrigerator rather than on the kitchen counter. Let the chill of the frozen food work for you.
10. Don’t delay the defrost
After we’ve been traveling for a couple of weeks or more, we need to defrost our motorhome refrigerator. How do we know when it needs to be defrosted? Here’s an easy-to-remember rule: Any time you see a 1/4-inch frost layer in the freezer, it’s time to defrost. Not only will frequent defrosting make the refrigerator chill easier, but it will also require less power to operate.
11. Ornery bottle top
Kaye doesn’t have the firm grip needed to unscrew the lid of a tightly sealed bottle or jar, so in the past she would have to rely on Lowell to open a jam or pickle jar. Strength wasn’t her problem; rather, it was that lack of a strong grip. So, we were both delighted to learn this trick for opening tight containers: use a pair of good rubber gloves. Kaye has used the gloves often, and they haven’t failed yet. It occurred to us, too, that we should keep one rubber glove in the kitchen of our house and the other in the motorhome galley. After all, you never know where you’ll be when you run into a tight jar lid.
12. Streaking windows
Windshield-wiper blades often streak the windows they’re supposed to clean. To stop the streaking, try this: wash the blades themselves in a baking soda-water solution, then clean the streaked windows in a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and water.
13. Longer/shorter handles on brooms and mops
When we first heard this tip, it got us to thinking: Wouldn’t it be convenient to use just one handle for several different cleaning devices at home? And wouldn’t this be even handier in the coach? Our tipster suggested that we buy a three-piece extension handle (designed for a paint roller) and use this on a range of tools. Since it’s a 30-minute drive from our home to the nearest paint store, we decided to test several tool handles we already had in the house. Working only with the appliances we could easily detach from their handles, we found that the handles on the broom, window washer, and Webster duster are interchangeable. The handles have the same threading, and the best part is that the retractable handle on the duster makes it easy to stow in the coach. Such a bright idea — we wish we’d heard about it years ago.