Saturday, April 13, 2013

Is Your Fridge A Safe Place to Store Your Food?

Last year we replaced our Samsung 7 cubit feet no-frost refrigerator with a General Electric 10 cubit feet manual defrost. We knew that switching from automatic to manual would be a bit of a hassle but we still went for it for the following reasons: 

1. A manual defrost fridge costs less vs. to the no-frost fridge;
2. It is more energy efficient
3. The system is less complicated so technical problems would also be less complicated compared to the no-frost type

We chose to buy from GE since they are better known for refrigerators compared to Samsung. You see, our old Samsung no-frost fridge was on top shape until my husband accidentally left it open while we were out the entire day. Since then, we had it repaired several times and payed a hefty amount for  the replacement parts and service. Another reason why we switched brands was because we were not happy with Samsung’s after sales service. Not only were they not able to detect the real cause of the breakdown, their response time was also slow and tedious. During these times that it was under maintenance, we lived on take out food and lukewarm drinking water. To minimize spoilage, we also had to pack the contents of our fridge and bring to a neighbor friend  each time it conked out. These series of unpleasant incidents made us realize how important a refrigerator is to any household, so much so when we had a baby. We couldn’t afford spoiling precious breast milk because of another refrigerator malfunction.
Our fridge could be considered the most important appliance in our house because we use it to store our food. Food being one of human’s basic need should not only be made available for consumption, it should also be properly stored.  Improper storage of food and lack of care for our refrigerators can cause bacteria to thrive in our food. In my Microbiology class in college, we studied different microorganisms that grow in different types of food – Salmonella, E. Coli and Listeria to name a few. These food-thriving bacteria are the common causes of food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses. Needless to say, proper care and maintenance of our fridge should be a top priority to ensure the safety of our household.
The reason why I chose to write about this topic is that I made the mistake of leaving the responsibility of caring for our fridge to our household help. Now that we don’t have one, I was obliged to take on this task. Just last week, I decided to do a general cleaning of our fridge. I wanted to do it the right way so I did some research online. If you have a manual defrost fridge like ours, thorough cleaning requires you to first defrost it. While a manual defrost fridge is more energy-efficient, allowing ice to accumulate could cause more problems for you. For one, when the ice thickens on the freezer walls, it can cause the plastic lining to break and may affect the piping. Secondly, thick ice can act as an insulator, which causes the refrigerator’s compressor to work double time. Lastly, defrosting the ice will allow you to clean up dirt, deposits and other liquids that has frozen with the water (this includes blood and juice spills from meats… eeww!) Defrosting should be done at least once or twice a year or as soon as you see ice thickens on the freezer. Following are some guidelines on how you can do your general cleaning:

1.  Schedule the time when you will clean your fridge so you can empty its contents
2. Temporarily store remaining contents in a cooler
3. To defrost, remove from power source and allow ice to melt on its own. Have clean absorbent cloths or paper towels ready to minimize leaks. Do not use sharp object to remove ice as this can damage the fridge walls
4. Remove all trays and wash with dishwashing soap and water. Use a sponge and dishwashing soap to clean the walls of the entire fridge. Rinse using clean damp cloth. Allow to air dry
5. All refrigerators come with a defrosted water tray. Make sure to clean and wash this as well

I only discovered about the defrosted water tray as I was cleaning our fridge myself. And was I shocked and disgusted to find very nasty things in there! Marked in the tray is a reminder that says “This tray evaporates defrosted water effectively. Please clean once a month.” I never even thought this part existed. Because this unit is not easily accessible, it can easily be missed out and neglected. I immediately disposed the ugly residue and disinfected it with Domex Bleach. It was indeed a learning experience for me. Disgusted as I am, I'm glad I discovered it before it became a livable place for an anaconda. Lol! Make sure you check out this part every time you do your cleaning. I definitely definitely have this on my list next time!

It is not enough to just do periodic general cleaning.  Maintaining cleanliness in your fridge at all times is a must. This will ensure that the contents of your food will be kept safe. It will also help you save time and effort in doing a thorough cleaning. Here are a few guidelines on how to keep your fridge clean all the time:

1.  Always make an inventory of your food. “FIRST IN FIRST OUT.” Use older items first before the new ones 
2. Throw away left over/ unused/ expired food items for more than 3-4 days. Molds and other microorganisms may grow in your food and may affect other items
3. Cover all food items to avoid spills and foul smells. Clean spills immediately to avoid staining
4.  Make sure your fridge is set to the right temperature. If you don’t have a fridge thermometer, now is the time to buy one
5. Keep food items organized. Do not mix raw, cooked and fresh items. When defrosting raw meat, keep them at the bottommost part to avoid its juices from mixing with other food items

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What's The Deal With Online Deals

Who likes to pay full price? I don’t.  Like many others, I am lured by the words PROMO, DISCOUNT AND SALE.  They say that to stop unnecessary spending, you should avoid going to the malls. Nowadays, this does not necessarily hold true. Shopping used to be just confined in retail shops or malls, but with the Internet generation, the web has become a limitless retail paradise. Retail therapy is just a click away. In fact, online shopping has become immensely popular that it paved the way for group buying or online deals sites.  
Online deals sites offer almost anything you can think of - from food and dining, travel and various types of services and products. The reason why deal sites have become so successful is that they offer savings/ discounts to as high as 90% off the regular price. After all, who doesn't like to get a good deal?  The catch to it though is that the products and services are limited and are only available for a short period. Customers who are enticed by the bargain are compelled to make the purchase right away. You can find some really good deals on these sites. Most of them are so hard to resist that it can make you buy without much thought.  On the business side, sellers or merchants use these sites as a venue for getting new customers, getting rid of high or slow-moving inventory or just for marketing or promotional purposes.
Impulsively buying from these online deal sites can pose danger to your budget.  It would be good for you to know that just like mall retailers, their objective is to make you buy, buy and buy! Yes, it can be addicting too! I know some people who buy vacation deals just because the price seems too hard to resist, only to end up reselling their vouchers at a much lower price. One piece of advice, unless you really intend to use up the deal you want to buy, forget about it, even if it screams 95% off.   

The upside is, buying from deals sites can save you a lot of money, especially if the products or services being offered are things you normally purchase ,like a salon treatment, a vacation or a household product. Let's say you are planning to go to a salon for a haircut and hair color treatment and then you see this deal being offered, if you find the establishment and validity period agreeable, then by all means, make that purchase!  When buying from these sites, it is always important to read the details of the deals. If you are considering of purchasing from an establishment you have not tried before, do your research first. Read reviews/ blogs about the place, call up the establishment and ask questions before hitting the BUY button.  Most importantly, ask yourself what value will this purchase give you? in everything you buy, there are many other important things you need to consider. Price is just one of them. And if you are a wise spender, buying from these online deal sites can work well for you. I have personally purchased some really good deals that gave us huge savings. Let me share them with you.
1.  Pico De Loro vacation from Deal Grocer– Paid P6,500 instead of 9,000 per night. My husband has been raving about this place when his company held a couple or conferences in this exclusive resort.  We stayed 2 nights so we saved a total of P5,000 for our beach vacation last year. When this deal was offered, we didn’t hesitate buying it because it is the only time they allowed non-resort members.  The stay was very memorable for us because not only was the place amazing, it was also our first time to take our baby on a beach trip.
2.  IPL sessions at R. Locsin clinic from Groupon– For 300/ session, this deal was a real steal considering the very professional staff and hands-on dermatologist who will personally oversee your treatment. 
3.  Album from Photobook Philippines from Groupon-  We wanted to give a personal and unique gift to my brother who go married in the States. Since I had just given birth that time, we were not able to make it to their special day.  Through this deal, I was able to personally design their wedding album and gave something which they truly appreciated.
4. Hofa Ottoman Storage from Ensogo – We’ve been looking everywhere for a functional ottoman that would match our living room couch and we found it in the most unusual place. Plus, we only paid 1,999 when all the ottoman seats we have canvassed are priced double this amount.

Go ahead and find out what's hot on these deals sites! For all you know, that much needed dream vacation might just be a click away!