How to Prevent Germs from Spreading in Your Apartment

Flu season is upon us once again. And kids – whose hand-washing skills are notably dubious – can be harbingers of doom to households that need to stay healthy.

How do you go about preventing sick kids from infecting the whole family? Read on for some tips on freezing your child’s cold dead in its disease-spreading tracks.


girl getting flu shotgirl getting flu shot

If your child is in public school, then they’re already up-to-date on most vaccinations. But since flu shots aren’t mandatory, be smart and opt in. They’re “free” through many existing health insurance plans when you get them at your pediatrician’s office and often low-cost at supermarkets, pharmacies and other walk-in venues – where you won’t need an appointment and waits are short-to-nonexistent.

What’s more, some healthcare facilities offer the vaccine in a nasal spray form, which means needle-phobes can avoid anxiety while keeping illness at bay. While you’re at it, ensure everyone gets vaccinated. The best insurance against illness spreading germs in your home is an ounce of prevention.

Clean hands

child washing handschild washing hands

Sure, you’ve been telling them since they were old enough to understand, but hammer that message home. Even if your child is meticulous, the rest of the world, sadly, is not.

Germs spread like wildfire at schools and day care centers where kids share toys, crayons and restroom doorknobs. Get them in the habit of washing their hands and using the teacher’s economy-sized hand sanitizer regularly. Perhaps even get them a cute portable one they can loop onto their backpack zipper so it’s always at the ready.

Changing stations

baby changing tablebaby changing table

Do you have more than one child in diapers? If one is sick and the other isn’t, avoid germ spreading at the changing station by finding another place for one of them when it comes time to clean

Avoid sick kids and keep yours home

sick childsick child

It’s the bane of a working parent’s existence – the parent who still sends their runny-nosed child to Pre-K. It’s not just the height of inconsideration, it can be downright dangerous.

Per the CDC, kids who are vomiting, have sore throats, phlegmy coughs and fevers above 100 degrees should not be sent to school or daycare (or gymnastics, art class, karate or anywhere else)!

Disinfect and quarantine

disinfecting toysdisinfecting toys

Once your kid has a cold, try to prevent those germs from spreading by isolating as many of the germs as possible. Does the sick child have his or her own room? Try to contain the germs by keeping them there as much as possible, reducing the chances of toy, book, or – EW! – sippy cup sharing.

Wash their forks, dishes and tableware immediately and don’t forget doorknobs, handrails and table and counter surfaces. And if the kids have their own bathroom – let the healthy ones use yours until the worst of it has run its course.

If bathroom sharing is a must, keep that germ-killer handy and use it often. You’ll also want to do the laundry more often, washing clothes, sheets and blankets, and be sure to keep beloved stuffed toys quarantined, as well.




What Does Home Insurance Cover? The Facts on Fire, Flooding, and More

Few things give new home buyers peace of mind about their real estate purchase as much as a solid homeowners insurance policy. This ensures that if disaster strikes—in the form of a tornado, house fire, or otherwise—homeowners won’t be on the hook to foot the bill for expensive repairs on their own.

Exactly what does home insurance cover, though? Are there any key things homeowners might assume are covered that actually aren’t?

In this latest installment of our handy Home Buyer’s Guide to Home Insurance, we’ll explain what’s covered under most insurance plans—plus some key exceptions—so you know just how soundly you can sleep at night in your new home.

What does homeowners insurance cover?

A standard home insurance policy generally covers most (but not all!) natural disasters, theft, and accidents.

For instance, when a hailstorm does a number on your roof, you’ll file a claim and your home insurance company will help you pay to get it repaired. If the damage to your home has made it uninhabitable, your insurer may even pay for a hotel room until you can move back in.

“Generally, home insurance pays to repair or rebuild your property if it is damaged by fire, wind, lightning or other natural disasters,” says Josh Herz, president of Associated Insurance and Risk Management Advisors.

“It also covers your personal belongings, additional living expenses, and liability for you and others—if, say, when someone is injured on your property and litigates for damages.”

That said, all policies are different, so you’ll want to read through your home insurance documents carefully. Plus you might be surprised by what’s not typically covered in the fine print. Here’s what you need to know.

Does home insurance cover fire?

Whether you’re grappling with damage caused by a wildfire, lightning, electrical problems, a grease fire on your stove, or even a candle you left lit by accident, take heart that most house fires will be covered by home insurance.

And good thing too, since house fires are surprisingly common, with roughly one in every 350 insurance homeowners filing a claim due to fire or lightning each year. On average, insurance companies pay out $11,971 per claim to help repair fire damage.

Does home insurance cover water damage?

Water damage is typically covered by a standard homeowner insurance policy, as long as it was sudden and accidental—i.e., a pipe freezes, bursts, and floods your basement, or your hot water heater explodes.

Roughly one in every 50 insurance homeowners files a claim for water or ice damage every year. On average, insurance companies pay out $10,849 per claim. However, not all water issues are covered (more on that next).

Does home insurance cover water leaks?

While sudden water damage is typically covered, insurance companies generally won’t cover water leaks that appear gradually due to wear and tear, or are the result of poor maintenance.

In other words, if your roof is old and springs a slow leak, or if a pipe freezes and bursts because you didn’t shut off your water supply when you were away over winter break, good luck—you could be on your own.

It’s also important to know that your insurer will help cover the damage caused by water, but it probably won’t help pay to repair or replace the source of the damage. In other words, it won’t be buying you a new dishwasher if your own appliance flooded your kitchen.

Does home insurance cover plumbing?

Since plumbing problems can result in water damage, a standard home insurance policy should cover the problem if it appears out of the blue (i.e., a burst pipe). But if your pipes are just generally leaky, old, or poorly maintained, you might be on your own.

Does home insurance cover the roof?

This depends on what caused the damage. If your roof (as well as other parts of your house) gets pummeled by wind, hail, or a healthy tree falling, this is typically covered by home insurance.

It’s a good thing, too, since approximately one in every 40 insured homeowners suffers wind and hail damage each year, with claims paying out $11,200 to fix the problem.

Yet once again, your policy won’t help you out with normal roof aging and wear and tear. You’re responsible for maintaining your roof, which will need to be replaced around every 30 years (give or take, depending on what it’s made of).

If a tree falls on your roof because it was dead or rotted out, this could constitute neglect, and you could be on your own.

Does home insurance cover hurricanes?

This also depends, since hurricanes inflict damage in one of two ways—wind and water.

Damage from wind is typically covered, although your insurer may put in place a separate, higher deductible for wind damage caused by hurricanes.

Meanwhile, flooding caused by hurricanes is typically not covered by a standard homeowner insurance policy.

Does home insurance cover theft?

If someone breaks into your home and steals some of your belongings, your insurer will typically help you pay to replace those stolen items. Similarly, if a thief damages your home during the break-in, your home insurance company will help you pay for repairs, too.

Theft is surprisingly common, with approximately one in every 400 insured homeowners suffering property damage or loss caused by theft. On average, these claims pay out $4,391 annually.

Does home insurance cover pet bites and other injuries?

If your dog (or cat!) bites someone in your home, or if a visitor trips and falls down the stairs, your guests may want you to pay for their ensuing medical bills. You might also need to pay for lost wages if the injury prevents them from working.

Most standard insurance policies include what’s known as liability coverage, which means that your insurer will help pay for these expenses if someone gets hurt on your property.

This is good for you, since the average claim for bodily injury is roughly $45,000. Approximately one in 900 insured homeowners file claims of this type every year.

While home insurance covers many calamities that might hit your home, most policies don’t cover everything. Curious to know what these notable exceptions are? More on that in a future installment of this guide. Stay tuned!


How to Stay Safe When Returning After a Wildfire

Wildfires are unpredictable, evoke fear and chaos, and can cause severe damage to people, animals, property and land. Most people think of wildfires only occurring in California, but they are common in a handful of states in the western and southern U.S.

After a wildfire has been contained and the authorities have announced that residents are safe to head home, people can feel anxious about the unknown damage that was caused and their continued safety.

When returning home, you’ll want to consider these wildfire safety tips to ensure the continued safety and security of your family and apartment.

1. Wait until local authorities have officially cleared the area

police at wildfirepolice at wildfire

If the wildfire has been contained or entirely put out, it can be tempting to immediately rush home and start assessing the damage. However, wildfire damage lingers and can cause additional problems like flooding or secondary fires.

So, to ensure wildfire safety, do not return home until safety officials have given the “all clear.”

2. Use caution when entering your home after a fire

Obvious signs of wildfires, like flames, may be gone when you return home, but that doesn’t mean the danger is gone, too. When you enter your home, use extreme caution. Watch for charred or burned doorways and entryways and make sure that the building’s infrastructure is still secure.

3. Wear appropriate clothing

When you return after a wildfire, you’ll want to dress appropriately to avoid burns and bodily damage. Wear long pants, boots with thick rubber soles, gloves and dust masks.

4. Look for loose power lines or broken gas lines

downed power linesdowned power lines

Wildfires can cause damage to gas and power lines, and if you see a loose power line, gas line or meter, and circuit breaker, do not try and fix it on your own and do not go near it.

If they’re broken or damaged, call the utility company. They’re the best resource to safely fix damaged utilities.

5. Smell for gas

After you’ve looked for loose gas lines, you’ll also want to smell for gas when you return home. If you smell gas, turn off the supply tank and valve and immediately contact your local utility provider. Do not enter your place if you smell gas.

6. Check for pockets of heat inside and outside

Assess the grounds around your apartment building and inside your apartment for pockets of heat. The ground may still be hot, even after the flames have dissipated. These hot pockets can burn the paws of animals, harm people and even spark new fires.

As you walk around your property and assess the damage, also look for loose embers or active sparks. Check outside the building and inside in closets, roofs, and attics.

7. Eat and drink safely when returning home

Wildfires can knock out power for several days, so when you return home, get rid of any perishable food from the freezer and fridge so you don’t get sick. You’ll also want to watch for notices of when it’s safe to drink the water because water can be contaminated during a wildfire.

8. Document property damage and conduct a thorough inventory for insurance

looking at property damagelooking at property damage

Once you’ve safely checked the perimeter and apartment building, you’ll want to take photos of everything that was damaged during the fire. Keep a record and list of all items that were destroyed or damaged.

Don’t throw anything away until you’ve talked to your insurance company. Different companies will have different policies and you’ll want to make sure you follow their guidelines to ensure maximum return. It’s smart to have images, videos and lists before a fire, too, so you can prove to insurance companies what was damaged before and after a fire.

9. Clean your apartment

Lastly, you’ll want to start washing all items and cleaning the apartment after you’ve worked with your insurance company. After a wildfire, there will be mounds of debris and ash.

Wet the debris to cool it and get rid of any remaining sparks, and follow the designated procedure as outlined by your community to get rid of the ash. Rinse ash and debris off toys and household items, vacuum the floors with an approved filter and wipe down your floors, baseboards and counters.

Be prepared

wildfire in the distancewildfire in the distance

In 2019 alone, there have been more than 16,000 wildfires, and each year, more than 100,000 wildfires burn through U.S. lands. To stay safe and be prepared for future disasters, here are five wildfire safety tips.

  • Listen for warnings and leave when told: Because wildfires spread rapidly, it’s important to stay on constant alert if a wildfire has started in your neighborhood. When fire authorities or local officials tell residents to evacuate, it’s crucial to heed their warnings, leave immediately and head to a safe zone.
  • Stay tuned for emergency alerts and updates: Depending on the wildfire, some can be contained quickly while others are out of control for days at a time. If your area is under threat, tune in to the NOAA radio and local news for live updates.
  • Create an emergency action plan: It’s not the time to make an emergency plan when disaster strikes. Instead, sit down with your family ahead of time and discuss a communication action plan for future wildfires or other natural disasters. Because phone lines will likely be busy, consider using text or social media to communicate with your family. Discuss where you’ll meet, how you’ll get there and how you’ll notify others that you’re safe.
  • Conduct an apartment safety check: While wildfires are unpredictable, renters can check their apartment and work with their property manager to ensure the apartment complex and buildings are safe and up-to-date. Make sure you’re routinely checking fire alarms and extinguishers as a safeguard.
  • Have an emergency kit: If a wildfire occurs in your community, you’ll want to have an emergency kit on hand. These kits should include water, food, dust masks and first-aid essentials. Apartment dwellers should also consider purchasing a fire escape ladder in case of an evacuation.

When returning home after a wildfire, follow these safety procedures to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and mitigate damages as easily as possible.




15 States With the Most Extreme Weather

Tornadoes are an example of extreme weather
Todd Shoemake /

This story originally appeared on Filterbuy.

The year 2020 brought a series of historically severe weather-related disasters all over the United States.

In November, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season set a new record for the number of tropical and subtropical storms in a single year. The 2020 wildfire season in the western United States burned millions of acres. In the Midwest, an August derecho brought torrential rain, hail, tornadoes, and sustained wind speeds over 100 miles per hour in Iowa and Illinois.

The severe weather events of 2020 are part of a larger trend — the frequency of extreme weather conditions in the U.S. is on the rise as global climate change accelerates. According to the CDC, the effects of climate change are likely to include more variable weather, heat waves, heavy precipitation events, flooding, droughts, more intense storms such as hurricanes, sea-level rise, and air pollution.

Since the 1970s, the frequency of extreme weather conditions in the U.S. has risen

Hurricane flooding
Stratos Brilakis /

The frequency of extreme weather conditions in the United States has risen steadily since the 1970s, as demonstrated by the U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI). The CEI was developed to quantify observed changes in climate within the contiguous United States. The index includes temperature, precipitation, drought severity, and hurricane/tropical storm intensity. Based on these measures, extreme weather conditions have trended upward for nearly half a century, and four of the five highest years for this measure occurred within the last decade.

Extreme weather is not just more common — it’s also bringing even greater financial impacts to the areas affected through property damage, business interruptions, and other economic losses. Through the first nine months of 2020, 16 weather and climate disasters produced losses exceeding $1 billion, according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). This year is the sixth consecutive year with 10 or more billion-dollar disasters, an unprecedented milestone.

As both the intensity and number of severe weather events increase, so do the total costs of these disasters for the U.S. The same data from NCEI shows a dramatic increase in five-year average costs associated with severe weather events over the past decade, from around $30 billion in 2010 to over $100 billion in 2020.

Not all states experience severe weather in quite the same way, and some are much more susceptible to highly variable weather conditions. To identify which states have the most extreme weather, researchers at Filterbuy created a composite score for each state. Using data from the National Centers for Environmental Information, researchers created an extreme weather score based on each state’s all-time maximum and minimum temperatures, maximum 24-hour precipitation, maximum 24-hour snowfall, and number of annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles.

Here are the states with the most extreme weather.

15. Maryland

Baltimore, Maryland
Hethers /

Extreme weather score: 55.5

All-time maximum temperature: 109°F

All-time minimum temperature: -40°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 14.8 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 31.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 9.9 per 10,000 square miles

14. Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa
f11photo /

Extreme weather score: 56.3

All-time maximum temperature: 118°F

All-time minimum temperature: -47°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 13.2 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 24.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 9.1 per 10,000 square miles

13. Texas

Fort Worth Texas
Barbara Smyers /

Extreme weather score: 56.7

All-time maximum temperature: 120°F

All-time minimum temperature: -23°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 42.0 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 26.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 5.9 per 10,000 square miles

12. Nebraska

Omaha Nebraska
Aspects and Angles /

Extreme weather score: 56.7

All-time maximum temperature: 118°F

All-time minimum temperature: -47°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 13.2 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 27.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 7.4 per 10,000 square miles

11. Montana

Montana town
Nick Fox /

Extreme weather score: 58.0

All-time maximum temperature: 117°F

All-time minimum temperature: -70°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 11.5 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 48.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 0.7 per 10,000 square miles

10. Missouri

St. Charles Missouri
Rob Neville Photos /

Extreme weather score: 58.8

All-time maximum temperature: 118°F

All-time minimum temperature: -40°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 18.2 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 24.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 6.5 per 10,000 square miles

9. New Mexico

New Mexico
turtix /

Extreme weather score: 58.8

All-time maximum temperature: 122°F

All-time minimum temperature: -50°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 11.3 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 41.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 0.9 per 10,000 square miles

8. Oklahoma

Oklahoma City skyline
Natalia Bratslavsky /

Extreme weather score: 59.2

All-time maximum temperature: 120°F

All-time minimum temperature: -31°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 15.7 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 27.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 9.0 per 10,000 square miles

7. Washington

Tacoma, Washington
Druid007 /

Extreme weather score: 59.2

All-time maximum temperature: 118°F

All-time minimum temperature: -48°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 14.3 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 65.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 0.4 per 10,000 square miles

6. Kansas

Wichita, Kansas
Sean Pavone /

Extreme weather score: 63.7

All-time maximum temperature: 121°F

All-time minimum temperature: -40°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 12.6 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 30.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 11.7 per 10,000 square miles

5. South Dakota

Rapid City, South Dakota
Sopotnicki /

Extreme weather score: 64.5

All-time maximum temperature: 120°F

All-time minimum temperature: -58°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 8.7 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 52.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 4.7 per 10,000 square miles

4. Colorado

Denver, Colorado
f11photo /

Extreme weather score: 67.0

All-time maximum temperature: 115°F

All-time minimum temperature: -61°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 11.9 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 75.8 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 5.1 per 10,000 square miles

3. Illinois

Chicago, Illinois
f11photo /

Extreme weather score: 67.8

All-time maximum temperature: 117°F

All-time minimum temperature: -38°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 16.9 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 36.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 9.7 per 10,000 square miles

2. Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Pinkcandy /

Extreme weather score: 68.6

All-time maximum temperature: 115°F

All-time minimum temperature: -60°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 15.1 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 36.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 5.7 per 10,000 square miles

1. California

San Francisco, California
IM_photo /

Extreme weather score: 73.1

All-time maximum temperature: 134°F

All-time minimum temperature: -45°F

All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation: 25.8 inches

All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall: 67.0 inches

Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles: 0.7 per 10,000 square miles


A man studies financial data at his computer
NicoElNino /

To identify the states with the most extreme weather, researchers at Filterbuy created a composite score based on the following factors weighted equally:

  • All-time maximum temperature
  • All-time minimum temperature
  • All-time greatest 24-hour precipitation
  • All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall
  • Annual tornadoes per 10,000 square miles

All of the data used in this analysis is from the National Centers for Environmental Information State Climate Extremes Committee Records.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Home Decor Proves She’ll Always Be a California Girl at Heart – E! Online

You can take the girl out of California, but you can’t take California out of the girl. 

Meghan Markle is reminding us all that before becoming a British royal, she was a tried and true Californian. 

The former Suits actress, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, proved the Golden State is still close to her heart when she and her husband Prince Harry gave an inside look at their home over the weekend.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex surprised youth poets participating in a Get Lit poetry class on Zoom, and revealed they keep a little piece of California on full display in their Santa Barbara home.

Their Zoom video showed the couple in front of a stone mantel, while on the wall behind them was the instantly recognizable artwork of a bear hugging the state of California. The symbolism reminds of the official state song, “I Love You, California,” written in 1913 by Francis Beatty Silverwood. Local artists have even used bear image to fundraise for wildfire relief in the state in recent years.


21 Tricks to Make Groceries Last Longer

Monkey Business Images /

Grocery shopping can be frustrating, especially if you love fresh produce and other perishables. Certain foods, for instance, bananas and bread, have a brief shelf life. So, you’re forced to buy in smaller portions.

But with food that’s more perishable, you can use simple tricks to extend the useful life. Instead of wasting time, money and gas on shopping, here are some ways to make your groceries last longer so you can shop less.

1. Toss spoiled produce

Spoiled produce
Alexander Uhrin /

Before storing, examine the contents of each bag and promptly remove food that’s bruised, overripe or on the brink of spoiling. Fruit and vegetables in this condition release ethylene gas that can spoil good produce.

You can also purchase an ethylene gas absorber to delay the ripening process.

2. Use glass Mason jars

Mason jar
Zigzag Mountain Art /

With glass Mason jars, you won’t have to worry about being exposed to BPA that may be in plastic containers. Also, Mason jars do not stain, and many people believe that produce lasts a few days longer. Find Mason jars at Amazon.

3. Butter and wrap the cut edge of cheese

Cheese slices
HandmadePictures /

Tired of cheese quickly drying out? Here’s a trick: Apply a thin layer of butter to the exposed side, wrap the block in waxed paper and place it in a plastic bag.

4. Puncture plastic produce bags

Carrots in plastic bag
Janis Smits /

Poke a few holes in those produce bags you get at the grocery store. Otherwise, they’ll trap moisture that causes most produce to break down faster. (Sometimes a tight seal is needed on a plastic storage bag: See tip No. 21.)

5. Use the freezer

Frozen foods
Yuliia Mazurkevych /

Frozen banana pops are my favorite for two reasons: They preserve unused bananas, and they taste great.

Freezing works well for most fruits and vegetables, as long as they are consumed within eight to 12 months.

Just remember to label them so you don’t find yourself eating something that’s been hiding in the back of the freezer for a decade.

6. Shrink-wrap the crown of bananas

Nataly Studio /

It only takes a few seconds to secure some plastic wrap around the crown of a bunch of bananas. This curbs the release of ethylene gas.

7. Bundle up herbs

Oliver Hoffmann /

Herbs can be displayed like a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a vase of water. Doing this keeps the herbs alive a lot longer without taking up refrigerator space. Just be sure to trim the end of the stems first.

8. Store counter items away from windows

Pears on a window sill
iwka /

It may be convenient to store melons or pears on an area of the kitchen counter closest to the window, and they do look nice in the light, but don’t do it unless you want them to ripen faster. Sunlight speeds up the ripening process.

9. Keep onions in pantyhose

Jiraporn Fakchaiyaphum /

Drop an onion in each foot, tie a knot above it and continue this pattern until you fill the legs. Hang the pantyhose in a cool, dry, dark place, such as a pantry or closet. When you need an onion, just snip one free.

According to Lifehacker:

“Apparently keeping the onions dry, able to breathe, separated, and suspended in the air maximizes their shelf life.”

10. Don’t immediately slice and dice

Hand slicing fruit
Ievgen Tytarenko /

Planning for the week ahead is a good idea. But be careful of slicing and dicing too far in advance; it reduces the life of produce.

Of course, if you must get chopping, a little lemon juice helps produce last longer before it starts to brown.

11. Wrap greens in foil

Mikhaylovskiy /

When wrapped in foil, broccoli, lettuce and celery will last in the fridge for a month or more.

12. Stabilize the refrigerator’s temperature

Hand adjusting thermostate in fridge.
Nils Petersen /

Aim for 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the growth of toxic food bacteria. You don’t want the temperature so cold that your food freezes. On the other hand, a refrigerator that is too warm encourages spoilage, and that’s throwing money away.

13. Use paper bags for mushrooms

Mushrooms spilling out of paper bag.
Yellow Cat /

Plastic bags are a haven for moisture. They cause mushrooms to mildew. When a grocer offers paper bags next to the mushroom display, be sure to use one.

14. Place tomatoes upside down on the counter

Tomatoes on a wood table
Lotus_studio /

If the stem was removed before purchase, place the tomatoes upside down so air won’t seep into the small opening, which expedites ripening.

Tomatoes ripen quickly and should be eaten soon after they are purchased. For the freshest taste, keep unripe tomatoes outside the refrigerator. When they are fully ripe, though, put them in the refrigerator to extend their life, says Food52.

15. Keep the refrigerator tidy and organized

George Dolgikh /

It is convenient to leave expired items in the corner of the fridge until you have time to purge. However, mold content in one area of the fridge can expand to other areas, contaminating open products.

Also, refrigerator clutter reduces the circulation of cool air and creates warm spots.

16. Store milk away from the refrigerator door

Dmytro Zinkevych /

The temperature is cooler on the middle shelf of a refrigerator. That’s the place to store things that could spoil quickly.

17. Segregate produce and meats

puhhha /

Allowing fresh produce and meats to mingle creates the risk of cross-contamination and causes rapid spoilage.

Meats should be wrapped and stored near the bottom of the refrigerator or freezer (in case they leak). To be extra safe, place meats in a bowl to catch any liquid.

18. Reseal prepackaged goods

Salad bag
vincent noel /

When you keep goods sealed, air will remain in the package and items won’t quickly harden or dry out.

19. Freeze bread

gpointstudio /

Freezing bread stops the onset of mold, which can spread like wildfire and quickly contaminate an entire loaf.

Also, try storing half of the loaf in the fridge and the other half in the freezer.

20. Store leftovers in airtight glass containers

Glass leftovers
Zoeytoja /

Airtight lids keep air out. And with glass, you don’t have to worry about chemicals from plastic leaching into your food.

21. Store lemons and limes in the fridge

Evgeny Karandaev /

Are you tempted to store lemons, limes and other bright-colored citrus fruits on the counter? They certainly do look great in a bowl.

Don’t do it. Instead, seal them in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator to keep them fresh longer. The extra humidity helps retain moisture. Alternatively, store citrus fruit in a bowl of water in the fridge, says Food52.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


The 2020 Pandemic Changed What We Look For in a Home—Possibly Forever>

Now that the first COVID-19 vaccines are being delivered across the U.S., it seems like the end of this surreal stay-6-feet-apart, shelter-in-place existence is—finally!—in sight. And yet, some of the adaptations we’ve made this year are likely to stick around. First-run movies streamed to your TV? Sure. Gourmet meals available for delivery? Heck, why not?

The same goes for house hunting, buying, and life at home in general. The pandemic has accelerated a shift to technological tools that make life easier for everyone involved in real estate transactions. For home buyers, a lot of features have gone from the “nice to have” to the “essential” column. In our coverage this year at, we’ve seen it all unfold.

Here are all the changes that came to real estate in 2020 that are likely here to stay.

Big-city living loses its cool—and suburbs will never be the same

This year completely changed the way we viewed our homes and what we wanted from them.

It turns out that sheltering in place is a great way to find out if you really, really love your home—and being able to work remotely means there are more options if you don’t. The biggest wake-up call this year was for city dwellers who’d long justified the high expense of their tiny apartments with the many perks of urban life—until those suddenly became unavailable.

It’s always been the case that, as young people get older and start families, they’re more likely to move to the suburbs. But as®’s chief economist, Danielle Hale, put it, “COVID-19 accelerated this trend. People are looking for space and affordability, and [the suburbs are] where they can find it.”

In the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, shoppers were spending more time checking out suburban listings than homes near the city center, according to research. Asking prices also shot up faster in the burbs, boosted by the surge in demand.

And as the transplants settle in to their new surroundings, they’re likely to make their mark on the suburbs, as well. After all, why can’t they have their single-family home with a yard and more options for dining and entertainment?

As our econ data team points out, if employers continue allowing eligible employees to work remotely, this suburban shift is here to stay. And judging from the number of people who’ve already made the leap and bought a home in a more remote location, we’re guessing it will.

Technology is making house hunting and buying more convenient

House hunting in the time of the coronavirus means relying on technology more than ever. Cruising for home listings on sites such as has been a basic first step for years. But this year, with orders declaring real estate work essential in some areas, and inessential for others for weeks at a time, folks were forced to move their home searches primarily online. Some folks ended up buying a home they’d never even seen in person!

And after all, why waste days driving around with a real estate agent, viewing house after house, when you can eliminate many options while sitting on your couch, at a time that works for you? The catch: There are some things that are harder to perceive in a video tour—so you need to know what signs to look for.

Other aspects of the home-buying process are now commonly facilitated by technology. There’s no need to sit in a mortgage broker’s office to discuss loan options, or sign piles of paperwork in a room at a title company. Remote mortgage pre-approvals, inspections, appraisals, and even closings are becoming the norm.

Buyers expect more from their homes

Hopefully, we’ll all soon be able to go back to our gyms, send kids to school, and even, if we want, do our work on an ergonomic desk. But the lesson of 2020 is that you need to be prepared if those things aren’t possible—and that means buyers are paying close attention to homes with plenty of space for work, school, exercise, and enjoying the fresh air.

Millennials, many with young children, are now the largest group of home buyers, and their preferences will shape home buying for years to come.

That means savvy home sellers will have to get their homes in shape for a new generation’s expectations. These days, homes with a home office sell faster, and for more money, than homes without one.

Sanitary features have come into focus lately, too. Smart, touchless options for faucets, lights, and locks are not only convenient, they also cut down on the transfer of germs. (The cold and flu aren’t going anywhere, for now.)

Also, 2020 brought us more than a global pandemic! For buyers and homeowners in the West, choking wildfire smoke highlighted how climate change is likely to affect our air quality in coming years. It’s also helpful for those with allergies or pets to get up to speed with air purifiers and filters.

Homeowners are going to be more self-reliant

DIY projects used to seem like something fun to do in your free time, but when you want to reduce exposure to additional people, making simple upgrades and performing basic home maintenance yourself is a necessity. And once you’ve developed those skills, you’re less likely to reach for the phone when you have something that needs fixing.

Plus, homeowners have always known that doing things yourself is great for the bottom line, especially when you target projects that offer a good return on investment.

“Self-reliant” doesn’t just mean keeping everything running, either. Many people discovered tending victory gardens this year as a way to enjoy fresh air and manage stress while ensuring a supply of fresh produce. As everyone knows, homegrown just tastes better—and once you’ve had it, it’s hard to go back.


How to prepare for a natural disaster

My world is on fire.

As you may have heard, much of Oregon is burning right now. Thanks to a “once in a lifetime” combination of weather and climate variables — a long, dry summer leading to high temps and low humidity, then a freak windstorm from the east — much of the state turned to tinder earlier this week. And then the tinder ignited.

At this very moment, our neighborhood is cloaked in smoke.

I am sitting in my writing shed looking out at a beige veil clinging to the trees and nearby homes. The scent of the smoke is intense. My eyes are burning. After everything else that’s happened this year, this feels like yet one more step toward apocalypse. So crazy!

Fortunately, Kim and I (and the pets) are relatively safe. We’re worried, sure, but not too worried. Our lizard brains make us want to flee. (“Fight or flight” and all that.) But our rational brains know that unless a new fire starts somewhere nearby, we should be safe.

Here’s a current map of the fire situation in our county. (Click the image to open a larger version in a new window.)

Map of the wildfires in our county

The areas in red are under mandatory evacuation orders. (And the red dots are areas that have burned, I think. They added the dots to the map this morning.) Residents of areas shaded in yellow need to be prepped to leave at a moment’s notice. And the areas in green are simply on alert.

See that town called Molalla? That’s where my mother and one of my brothers live. My mother’s assisted-living facility was evacuated to a city twenty miles away. My brother and his family voluntarily moved from their home to our family’s box factory. But even that doesn’t feel 100% safe. (The box factory is located just to the left of that cluster of red dots at the top tip of the yellow area around Molalla.)

Kim and I live near the “e” in Wilsonville. We’re more than twenty miles from the nearest active fire. We should be safe. But, as a I say, we’re worried. So, I spent much of yesterday prepping for possible evacuation.

Update! As of Sunday afternoon (September 13th), things have calmed for us. The evacuation notice has been lifted for our area. The weather is changing. Rain is only a day or two away. So, we’re standing down. Now, having said that, there are still many people in our country who remain evacuated, and there are others who have lost their homes. (My brother’s town and home will probably emerge unscathed. Probably. For now, though, they’re still evacuated and living in an RV at the box factory.)

Natural Disasters

We Oregonians don’t have a protocol for emergency evacuations. It’s not something that really crosses our minds.

While the Pacific Northwest does have volcanoes, eruptions are rare enough that we never think about them. And yes, earthquakes happen. Eventually we’ll have “the Big One” that devastates the region, but again there’s no way to predict that and it’s not something we build our lives around. (Well, many people have been adding earthquake reinforcement to their homes, but that’s about it.)

In the past fifty or sixty years, the Portland area has experienced four other natural disasters.

Now, in 2020, we’re experiencing the worst wildfires the state has ever seen. That’s roughly one disaster every ten or fifteen years, and it’s the first one during my 51 years on Earth that’s made me think about the need for evacuation preparedness.

Kim and I have been asking ourselves lots of questions.

If we were to evacuate, where would we go? What route would we take? What would we carry with us? How would we prep our home to increase the odds that it would survive potential fire?

Let me share what we’ve decided and what we’ve learned. (And please, share what you know about emergency preparedness, won’t you?)

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Evacuation Preparedness

The first thing we did was brainstorm a list of things that were important to us. Without reference to experts, what is it that we would want to do and/or take with us, if we were to evacuate.

  • Our animals (and animal supplies).
  • Phones, computers, and charging cords.
  • Important documents from our fire safe.
  • A bag for each of us containing clothes and toiletries.
  • Sleeping bags and pillows.
  • Sentimental items. (We have no “valuable”.)
  • Create a video tour of the house for insurance purposes (be sure to highlight valuable items).
  • Move combustible items away from the house.

After creating our own list, we consulted the experts.

In this case, we looked at websites for communities in California. California copes with wildfires constantly. (And, in fact, Kim’s brother and his family recently had to help evacuate their town due to wildfires!) For no particular reason, I chose to follow the guidelines put out by Marin County, California. I figured they know what they’re talking about!

The FIRESafe MARIN website has a bunch of great resources dedicated to wildfire planning and preparedness. I particularly like their evacuation checklist. While this form is wildfire specific, it could be easily adapted for other uses, such as hurricane preparedness or earthquake preparedness.

The website is an excellent resource for disaster preparedness. It contains lots of info about prepping for problems of all sorts. You should check it out.

Creating a Go Kit

FIRESafe MARIN and other groups recommend putting together an emergency supply kit well in advance of possible problems. Each person should have her own Go Kit, and each should be stored in a backpack. (In our case, I have several cheap backpacks that I’ve purchased while traveling abroad. These are perfect for Go Kits.)

What should you keep in a Go Kit? It depends where you live, of course, and what sorts of disasters your area is susceptible to. But generally speaking, you might want your kits to contain:

  • A bandana and/or an N95 mask or respirator.
  • A change of clothing.
  • A flashlight or headlamp with spare batteries.
  • Extra car keys and some cash.
  • A map marked with evacuation routes and a designated meeting point.
  • Prescription medications.
  • A basic first aid kit.
  • Photocopies of important documents.
  • Digital backup of important files.
  • Pet supplies.
  • Water bottle and snacks.
  • Spare chargers for your electronic equipment.

That seems like a lot of stuff, but it’s not. These things should fit easily into a small pack. Each Go Kit should be stores somewhere easy to access. Kim and I don’t have Go Kits yet, but we’ll create them soon. We intend to store them in the front coat closet.

Writing this article reminds me of one of the first posts I shared after re-purchasing Get Rich Slowly. Almost three years ago, I wrote about how to get what you deserve when filing an insurance claim. This info from a former insurance employee is very helpful (and interesting).

Final Thoughts

I spent much of yesterday prepping for possible evacuation. This isn’t so much out of panic as it is out of trying to take sensible precautions. I gathered things and put them in the living room so that we can be ready to leave, if needed. If authorities were to upgrade us from level one to level two status, I’d move this stuff to my car.

Also as a precaution, I moved stuff away from the house and thoroughly watered the entire yard. (Not sure that’d make much difference, but hey, it can’t hurt.) I created a video tour of the house that highlights anything we have of value. And so on. This took most of the afternoon.

This morning, I can see that the neighbors are doing something similar. We’re all trying to exercise caution, I think.

Kim and I will almost surely be fine. Although the smoke is thick here at the moment — it’s like a brownish fog, and it’s even clouding my view of the neighbor’s house! — there aren’t any fires super close to us. And barring mistakes or stupidity, there won’t be any threat to our home.

Still, it’s good for us to take precautionary measures, both now and for the future. And it’s probably smart for you to take some small steps today in case disaster strikes tomorrow.

Here’s a terrific Reddit post about what one person wishes they’d known when evacuating for wildfire.


Homes in Wildfire, Flood-Prone Areas Appreciate Slower

Prices for homes in historically fire-prone areas have appreciated at a slower rate than those without risks, according to an analysis by released Monday.

So far in 2020, prices for homes at risk of wildfires have increased 2.9% year-over-year, compared to a 5.2% rise for homes without wildfire risks, the data from shows.

Over a five-year period, the gap averaged three percentage points. Between 2014 and 2019, the prices of homes in California within a one-mile radius of historical fire perimeters increased 32%, compared to 35% for other homes in the same county, according to the report.

For homes located in coastal areas that are at risk of flood, prices also increased slower than those without risk.

Over the past five years, sale prices per square foot for homes with severe or extreme risk of flooding in 78 coastal counties that had hurricane-related disaster declarations rose 25%, compared to 30% for homes with a minimal or low risk, according to the report.

“As the impacts of climate change and worsening natural disasters become more well-known, it’s natural for home shoppers to take these factors into account when deciding the purchase price of a home,” Danielle Hale, chief economist at, said in the report.

Additionally, the impact of flood risk on home prices is getting more pronounced over time. In 2014, 33 of the 78 counties studied saw slower price growth for high-risk homes, while in 2019, this was true of 40 counties.

The trend was most pronounced in Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts and Maryland, according to the report.

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