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Where can I get advice on aspects of housekeeping/cooking if I've never had a mum?

(24 Posts)
pipkin35 Fri 22-Jul-11 09:00:29

Not sure if this is the right place to post this...? But, will give it a try (might post in food section too).

Sounds silly but I was never brought up in any kind of situation where I was 'taught' how to do things - how to cook, iron, housekeep - anything like that. Spent most of my life in care.
Myself and OH have no family nearby us. And he was so molly coddled by his mum that he doesn't really know how to do anything domestic. Now I have 2 DCs of my own - toddlers.

A friend came round yesterday and was horrified that after the kids tea, I threw the remaining cold pasta away. She said I could easily keep it for a few days by rinsing it and putting a spoonful of oil in it. Which I did - delighted to not waste it - and put it back in the fridge.
I explained that I had no idea about things like this since I'd never been 'taught' IYSWIM. She was appalled at how much I waste, (which I suppose I must do) - but I've no idea about 'rules' to do with food etc...I was glad I could save the pasta but I was actually too embarassed to ask her for how long I could keep it!

Anyone have simple advice? I suppose its mainly about food - I've no ideas about reusing stuff, how to freeze, defrost, what you can and can't put in the freezer/ much attention I should pay to sell by dates and use by dates etc...but I also feel a bit inadequate now about my housekeeping etc...I mean, I've never ironed anyhting in my life for example mainly because I'd have no idea how to go about it.

How can I learn this stuff now? Is there any good books or anything that I can turn too?

addictediam Fri 22-Jul-11 09:56:58

Well I just wanted to say, I didn't know that about pasta! I throw all food away, I have no idea what to do with it. And I've never ironed my mum doesn't either. It's no easier if you have had someone to learn off of.

I don't know where you can get help, I hope someone comes along with better advice soon.

UsingMainlySpoons Fri 22-Jul-11 10:01:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

UsingMainlySpoons Fri 22-Jul-11 10:02:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MyDingaling Fri 22-Jul-11 10:11:41

I freeze most things and waste very little.
I have lots of different sized Tupperware type containers and I always save the plastic containers that Chinese come in so that I can freeze things.
Sometimes I plate things up cling film them and freeze eg any bits of shepherds pie that is left over. I also plate up left overs of a roast dinner for my DDs and freeze them. I then defrost and heat them (till piping) and just add gravy.
Hope this helps

FreeButtonBee Fri 22-Jul-11 10:27:04

Hi Pipkin

Congratulations on trying to make a change, It must be really daunting when you've never been taught or seen these things when growing up. Most if it I've learnt by osmosis!

With food, a useful rule of thumb is to think what the supermarket use by label would look like if it were a ready meal. So with pasta, if you bought a ready made macaroni cheese from the fridge section, it would probably say that you could keep it in the fridge for say, 3 days. With dry pasta, you need to make sure it doesn't dry out and stick together so covering with a little oil and then cling film is very sensible. Left over sauce would be equally as good. Equally, that ready made macaroni could probably be put in the freezer and so could the cold coooked pasta. Then you could take it out when you need it.

Personally, I tend to be a bit more robust than that and keep for longer but you might want to start small and then learn to trust your instincts when they are a bit better developed.

The freezer really is your friend as Dingaling says. Frankly, almost anything can be frozen without massive mishap. The worst that will happen is that the texture goes a bit funny. Only rule is don't refreeze something that has been defrosted unless it has been recooked and don't do a double refreeze.

So raw-freezer-cook-freeze-cook is fine

raw-freezer-cook-freeze-cook-freeze-cook isn't! This is because the defrost allows time for bugs to grow, which are then mostly killed when you cook it. But the extra cool down, freeze, defrost and cook time on the second attempt allows too many bugs to grow.

I find having a dedicated black permanent marker and small sticky labels in the kitchen drawer are also very useful. Otherwise, dinner from the freezer will look like brown mush, no matter what it is and the spag bol will turn out to be stewed apples or something.

Also, sounds like your friend is really knowledgeable. Why don't you ask her for some 'lessons'? People love to be useful, if she is a true friend and knows a bit about your background, then I'm sure she would be kind and not judgey.

WhatsWrongWithYou Fri 22-Jul-11 10:36:18

I personally wouldn't worry about 20p's-worth of pasta - I'd rather chuck it away than turn my fridge into a graveyard for soggy leftovers I'll never get around to using.

I do keep leftover rice, as if that's covered and cooled quickly it does for my next day's lunch - but nine times out of ten ends up in the dog's bowl.

I think everyone has his own personal standards and habits with food, and no doubt your friend has some which would horrify you. Don't let anyone make you feel inadequate for having different standards from theirs.

I've found the Flylady quite useful just for general housekeeping tips, but again, I pick and choose what I think will work for me. Also Organised Mom have a printable schedule of jobs for each day (far too long for me!), but you might find some of it useful.

FreeButtonBee Fri 22-Jul-11 10:38:21

Oh, you could also try the "Economy Gastronomy" cookbook - there was a BBC series last year which was aimed at families that didn't have traditional kitchen skills, lots of waste etc

queenoffairies Fri 22-Jul-11 11:10:40

Hi Pipkin, I am in the same situation. I spent my whole childhood in care - with my formative teenage years in residential homes. Homes where food was bulk bought in from one supplier, then locked away in the kitchen, where we were not allowed in. As such, I still struggle with meal planning, cooking, shopping etc. And as for budgeting........

The homes all had a cleaner, so we weren't allowed to hoover, iron etc. Sounds lovely, but as you say, if you are never shown how to do it - it comes back to bite you!

I rely a lot on mn, especially a small group of friends I have formed on here. I do get embarrassed about my lack of knowledge about household skills thoughblush

I also second the moneysavingexpert site, especially the 'old style' section, really useful tips about even the most basic of

Good luck with it all smile

pipkin35 Fri 22-Jul-11 11:28:40

Thanks everyone - some great info here, a great place for me to 'start'...

Freebuttonbee - you should write your own book, I'd buy it! My friend is a real 'natural' at all that kind of stuff. However, she's not a great friend - a bit boasty/competitive mum syndrome and I find myself feeling awful about me and my parenting everything skills after she's been round! (Tells me I'm being 'too indulgent' because I let my 3 yr old eat Special K for breakfast...) - and both my 2 DCs are a little fussy with grub.

Am off after work to buy tupperware, labels etc... and then hopefully, can get my current (horrendous) food budget of £120 a week (for 4) freezing, more bulk cooking, knowing how to wrap and store stuff (cheese, ham etc...) so that it doesn't go off.

On the food section, they mentioned lovefoodhatewaste website and that's brilliant with lots of info so far.

Queenoffairies - Yes, it leads to a weird lack of knowledge about many things that people think are commonplace or take forgranted, doesn't it? And I hear you regarding budgeting...and the rest of it. I love food shopping but meal planning, the prep etc...yes, I struggle a bit with it all. I think I'll use mn more.

Happygomummy Fri 22-Jul-11 11:31:08

I second the economy gastronomy cookbook

there is also a fab women's institute book (I'm not a member but it is quite inspired at times)

i think youtube may help with ironing - found this video - it's a bit cheesy but probably useful? (I didn't watch until end so apolgies if it's actually shit!)

i realise how lucky i was to have learnt from my mum.

good luck.

linspins Fri 22-Jul-11 13:18:03

Pipkin, I have learnt a lot just from browsing various mumsnet threads, even ones I don't need to read!! My Mum taught me a lot, although I probably just picked it up rather than being taught, but there's still a lot to know once you're out in the big wide world on your own. I love reading all the stuff here on good housekeeping, in the DIY/property bit, and the gardening section.
Everyone has given loads of other good places to start. good luck with it all! xx

homeaway Fri 22-Jul-11 15:38:46

Just a few things that my mum taught me before i left home you probably know all of this but just in case you dont smile :
If you open a tin of anything and have any leftovers in the tin,tip them into a sealed container in the fridge.
Uncooked meat should be kept covered in the fridge and should not be allowed to drip on anything else. Ideally you should have a cheese box for cheese and veg should go in the bottom of the fridge. Keep raw meet away from ham etc
If are cutting raw meat on a chopping board make sure that the chopping board is really clean afterwards , ideally have a board for raw meat , one for bread and one for veg.
Change the dishcloth regularly as it a haven for bacteria, same for the tea towel.
Clean the dishwasher filter regularly.
If you are reheating things make sure they are really hot, we never rinse pasta we just reheat with a tomato sauce.
Buy things that are in season that will cut your shopping bill, you can freeze leftovers. We freeze potatoes leftover from Sunday roast even if there are just two of them, we just add the following weeks to them in the freezer and use them up when we need to. Some people do this with all the veg and make soup.
Bread makes good breadcrumbs which can be frozen and added to various toppings.
Ripe bananas can be frozen whole in their skins and used to make cakes or milkshakes when needed.
Dont need to buy self raising flour just buy normal flour and add baking powder( the little pots all tell you how much to add).
Descale the kettle with vinegar, cheap and easy.
Put the washing machine on empty every couple of weeks at a high temp to keep it clean.
Iron shirts when damp as they are easier to do then.
Kitchen cupboards should be cleaned out every so often sad

I love the Mary Berry cookbook as it has recipes for cakes that you can just throw in a bowl and kids can help without a disaster.

Money saving expert is a great source of information.

Cant think of anything else at the mo, I forgot how much my mum taught me without me realising it!

NemesisoftheVole Fri 22-Jul-11 15:59:32

Definitely second having a marker pen handy, useful for pots of hummous, yoghurts where you take the film off and the date goes with it! You can write the date on the clear lid then.

Don't save leftovers unles there really is a useable amount (e.g. Enough from your dinner for a DC sized lunch) and you rwally are going to use them. The risk with a freezer is that things go there to die. Wrap things going into the freezer properly, or they will get freezer burn and the texture will not be very nice. Wrap things properly in cling film, foil or a freezer box if they're loose like chicken breasts.

queenoffairies Fri 22-Jul-11 17:09:38

homeaway - I was just thinking yesterday whether I could freeze roast potatoes! Some great tips, thanks (sorry Pipkin for stealing ideas)

Naoko Fri 22-Jul-11 17:12:25

Good tips for you posted already smile

A few more: eggs keep for much, much longer than it says on the use-by date, sometimes as much as a month extra. Test by putting the egg in a cup of water. If it floats, it's off, if it sinks, it's fine.
Freezer bags are your friend. I use them to wrap open packs of ham, cheese etc in the fridge, leftovers in the freezer, and to separate bulk bought things (for example, if I buy a pack of 8 chicken breasts because it's on offer, I will separate them out into bags in portions of two and freeze those, rather than the pack they came in).
Rice keeps well in the fridge, but must be cooled as quickly as possible and fridged very soon.
Cooked potato keeps well in the fridge and makes fantastic fried potato slices the next day. When making mash, I always make double and freeze half.
With veg, I pay no attention to use-by dates at all, if it looks ok, smells ok and isn't too squishy it's probably alright to eat.
Trust your nose in general, especially with meat or fish. If it smells foul, it's off. Really, you'll know about it.
Milk can be frozen. So can cheese, but the texture might go a bit funky depending on the kind of cheese.
Almost any kind of sauce (bolognese, curry, pasta sauce) holds up well to being frozen, although some might separate a bit upon reheating and need a good stir or some cornflour.
Prepared fruit won't go brown (as fast) if you sprinkle some lemon juice over it.
Overripe fruit is great in muffins and cakes.

As for other household stuff, I'm occasionally a bit clueless due to having spent more of my childhood with my head in the clouds than listening to my mum, but Googling "how to [clean a carpet/remove red wine stains/make an omelette/knit a scarf" will almost always throw up something helpful.

LoveBeingAbleToNamechange Fri 22-Jul-11 17:16:31

Second YouTube honestly you can learn anything on there.

sis Fri 22-Jul-11 17:45:42

You may want to consider joining the women's institute - I am not a member but I imagine that there would people with a huge amount of experience that they'd be happy to share.

brookeslay Fri 22-Jul-11 17:54:35


sugar cubes in cake tin absorb moisture.

use glass cleaner on electricals stops dust going back on as quickly, reduces static.

store pillowcases with duvets set as they get lost easily.

always double spin washing very important for towels. better two gentler spins than one mad one that creases. shake items as they come out to reduce creases.

washing powder in the roast tin gets rid of grease burnt on muck and takes no scubbing and takes no time.

food tips [[]]

sorry about caps baby cuddling me.

FernandoBanjo Fri 22-Jul-11 18:07:11

I've come over all motherly towards you!

Just post on this thread if you have any questions at all, one of us will know. Doesn't matter how daft, we all learned it at one time or another.

If you haven't ironed up till now, I wouldn't bother starting, lots of people don't and believe me I check and they don't look creased. Winds me right up... grin

Sunshinenow Fri 22-Jul-11 18:17:37

This is a fab cook book too. Jamie Oliver ministry of food.

a couple of friends have learnt to cook from scratch - and I use some of the recipes. It is good for ideas about same dish but in say four different ways, so you get think of variations.

Ironing though - meh! over-rated.

Sunshinenow Fri 22-Jul-11 18:18:15


brookeslay Fri 22-Jul-11 18:53:40

My friends who is younger says this book has been great I might even get it myself see if I`m mising a trick or two.

LoveInAColdChamberOfSecrets Sat 23-Jul-11 07:30:50

I bought my brother a book called something like How To Get Things Really Flat when he left home. From memory, it was aimed at men but was brilliantly helpful on all sorts of domestic things. And I second the suggestion of posting here when you're not sure about something - someone will always help.

Please don't let anyone make you feel bad about not knowing something. Your OP made me a bit teary (disclaimer: am pregnant and do cry at the drop of a hat).

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