Eleven Survival Hacks for the Pandemic

We all have our little secrets and helpful ways to weather this pandemic at home. Mine is probably a secret stash of frozen hot poppers that I hide in my freezer and pop into my air fryer on particularly bad days when nothing but comfort food will do. That being said, there are still things that everyone should keep on hand to continue to get through this. For me there are a few things I always have on hand including:

1, Slow cooker liners. I know, it sounds so strange but slow cooker liners save my sanity at least four times a week. I use my slow cooker a lot. A LOT. And not having to clean it after a day of working from home is just the best. I let the liner cook down and just wrap it up and toss the contents, normally some liquid I cannot reuse though most times I try and make a gravy out of any meat that’s been braised and cooked for hours.

2. Cold brew coffee. This I make myself in a large plastic container that I bought for a few dollars at the discount dollar store. Takes a few days but the results are worth it. I simply take hazelnut flavored coffee grounds (also from the discount dollar store) and cover them with fresh, cold water for a few days before triple filtering the grounds out. I then take a handful of ice cubes and cover them with the coffee. Add a splash of milk and a packet of sweetener and I have a frugal cold brew coffee drink for pennies. If I am feeling bored, I’ll toss the whole thing in the blender for a foamy, frothy treat.

3. My Nespresso machine. This was a Christmas gift, the one thing I asked my partner for, and I use it several times a day. It took me a while to figure out which ‘pods’ I liked best but now I have expensive, freshly brewed hot coffee daily. It is my treat to myself every morning.

4. A complete first aid kit. Let’s face it, going to the doctor or the ER is a really risky proposition these days. We don’t. We just don’t go for anything minor. As a result, we have treated everything from pink eye and dermatitis to the second degree burns I got accidently touching the hot oven. We keep a simple but fully stocked first aid kit at home to ensure that we can deal with anything that is not a genuine medical emergency. It helps to have a partner who is a trained and licensed paramedic but even so, I can generally manage pretty much any minor medical issue that comes my way. You need to decide for yourself what you can handle and I am all about consulting a doctor when need be but for minor scrapes and burns and even skin issues? I rely on my first aid kit.

5. Silicon cooking molds. I know this is goofy but I refuse to buy a fridge with an ice cube maker ever since a repairman told me that the vast majority of repairs are due to ice cube makers and fridges last a whole lot longer without them. Sold. I was using basic ice cube trays but became bored so now my partner gets anything from unicorns to icy little bats and bones. Whatever I happen to be freezing into ice that day. It keeps things whimsical and fun. We always could use a little fun. While the molds are usually intended for everything from soap to homemade candy to muffins, using them to make fun shaped ice cubes is yet another way to repurpose these molds and get more mileage out of them. Extending the use and repurposing something is a good frugal move. I plan on making unicorn brownies one of these days. Maybe gelatin bats.

6. Baths. A lot of people are shower people but that moment that I sink into a tub of hot water every night is very sustaining, very self-nurturing and oh-so-relaxing. I may not linger very long but I take a bath every single evening, no matter what.

7. Weekly mini cleaning and organizing projects. I have blogged about this before but scheduling a mini project every week gives provides structure on the weekends as well as something to look forward to. I have done everything from attacking the junk drawer to the plastics cabinet in the kitchen, redecorated a bathroom counter to reorganizing freezers and fridge alike. And there is something very satisfying about a newly organized or cleaned space.

8. Big projects. I don’t have one going at all times but I do save up and project manage something major once or twice a year. There are some people who have renovations and home upgrade projects going all the time and good for you if you can handle that kind of chaos. I know myself, I cannot deal with that sort of upheaval all the time.

But right now, I can manage a major project and that is my long overdue backyard. I saved up and had the time and where with all to have my backyard completely re-landscaped. This was not a whim, there was a 35 year old koi pond and supporting structures languishing and taking up valuable real estate back there. The pond was something I had stopped using decades ago due to the high cost of running the pump to make the waterfall flow. I had tried filling it in with dirt and decorating it but nothing really worked back there and everything was just so high maintenance despite all my best efforts. The deck, while replaced about 7 years ago, was not particularly appealing and it was small so not very useful. It all needed to be ripped up and something new created. I settled on an expanded and paved patio. The rains finally let up and the contractor, who gave me an off season discount, went to work. The sound of jack hammers droned on and on for more than two weeks while workers toiled away demolishing the pond, the pumping station and most of the waterfall. The remains of the waterfall structure we are going to use to build as the foundation of a rock feature because so much of the debris removed included expensive decorative rock that I did not want to go to waste. I will also recycle an old planter to be nestled inside the rock feature to plant greenery or seasonal flowers. I also budgeted and saved to buy some standing planters because my vegetable beds were torn up to make way for an expanded paved patio. My daughter is looking forward to all the large pots I am donating to her container summer garden project.

I always follow the double the cost, double the time rule and this has turned out well for me when doing renovations. The aged fence on the koi pond side of the yard needs replacing now, there is rot found on the gazebo posts that needed fixing, more planks of wood were needed to flattened out the back fence area, all sorts of unpleasant extra costs that while small, add up over time. Plus there is the cost of pavers, other materials, everything adds up so I always pad my budget. I never want to cheap out on materials so I saved until I could afford upscale pavers and nicer, longer lasting materials. I cannot wait until the weather really warms up and I can work in my newly landscaped backyard. My partner will also have a really nice space to BBQ as he has missed his grilling, The revamped backyard will not only provide a more comfortable, nearly no maintenance additional living space for both of us but because I had the vegetable beds, pond and support structures removed, the dogs will benefit from fully 40 percent more yard to roam around. The new planters will take up very little space and I will still have my vegetable and herb garden come summer.

The one important thing to note about big projects is that often times, you have to be on site to project manage and trouble shoot. The contractor cannot make all the decisions, he needs me to weigh in and that means that being home during a pandemic has been helpful. I simply don my double mask, step gingerly into the demolished backyard and have a socially distanced discussion about what needs to be discussed. If I were at work it would be me returning a phone call or text hours later and trying to visualize the issue. This is real time project management which moves things along at a faster clip.

9. From big projects to the smallest tools, kitchen-use scissors. I have at least four cheap pair of scissors that sit in my kitchen drawer and I use them every single day. I cut bits of meat and protein when I am in a hurry, I snip herbs, I use them and use them and use them and they have become indispensable to cooking every single day. I have decent knife skills, do not get me wrong, but those inexpensive scissors have saved me more times than I can count.

10, Deck of cards. I have a very well worn and beloved deck of cards that I use for the random game of solitaire when I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed. This tactic is very helpful to me when I am stuck on something creative for work nd need to push through to a break through. Worth the dollar I spent a few years ago, many times over.

11.Streaming services. I have a couple now and one of the funniest things a friend said to me was that they had watched every single thing available on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, there was nothing left to watch. Hilarious given that there are thousands upon thousands of shows but the point is, when I need some entertainment, I turn to my streaming services. They run me a few dollars a month (I only get the basic services) but they are worth their weight in gold right now.

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