Best mom tricks

Missy of It’s Almost Naptime is hosting a link-up this week where moms share their best tips.  Here, in utterly random order, are some of mine.

1. Quick thickener? Ever tried to save a batch of watery oatmeal, or wished you could make chili or stew just a little thicker?  I’ve discovered that couscous works great in both of those situations.  Pour a few tablespoons into already bubbling cereal or stew, and within 2 or 3 minutes the couscous will have soaked up the extra liquid and be soft and ready to eat.  And it is neutral enough in flavor that it won’t really change the flavor of your food, whether it be sweet or savory.

2. Durable mattress protection? If you have preschoolers, chances are you’ve dealt with bed wetters.   Over the years I’ve been woefully disappointed with the plastic zippered mattress protectors you can buy in the store.  The plastic isn’t nearly strong enough and tends to rip in the center of the mattress right where you need the protection most.   Once I happened to need a new mattress protector right at the time I was also replacing a shower curtain.  My old curtain had ripped-out holes at the top edge, but was otherwise intact and was a nice heavy-duty plastic.  I discovered it made an exceedingly durable mattress protector.  Tucked in under the mattress it stays in place nearly as well as a fitted cover, and has lasted literally years with no sign of wearing out.

3. Save a buck here or there?

  • Cheap hair conditioner makes good shaving cream for 1/4 the price
  • An electric toothbrush only needs to be plugged in one day a week to function all week long.
  • Olive oil can be mixed half and half with less expensive oil to be more affordable.

4. Bake a potato twice as fast? We love having baked potato ‘bar’ at our house, but sometimes I don’t remember to put potatoes into the oven a whole hour before people are hungry and I hate the texture of microwaved potatoes. Here’s what I do:

  • Turn on the oven to 400
  • Scrub/pierce potatoes
  • Microwave potatoes just enough to warm them (3-4 minutes is about right for 6 potatoes cooked together)
  • Transfer potatoes to regular oven and bake 30 minutes (or a little longer for larger potatoes).

When you pull the potatoes out of the microwave, they’ll already be hot, which allows you to reduce the baking time  by half, allowing you to feed those hungry kids 25 minutes sooner!  (Our favorite toppings:  cheese, sour cream, butter, sauteed mushrooms, green onions, diced pepperoni.  Yum!)

What mom tips do you have?  Share them here or over at Missy’s blog later this week!


  1. I have started using tapioca for a thickener in different things. I first saw it in a stew recipe & thought it was strange. I didn’t really want little pearls in there. But it thickened it up to a nice gravy texture. I have also used it with spaghetti sauce.

  2. We love to sautee broccoli in a little garlic and olive oil to put on our baked potatoes.

    My hubby actually poured some of my homemade cheddar broccoli soup over his baked potato and it was surprisingly delicious.

  3. I love this. I will have to tell my husband about the electric toothbrush. I have a hard time believing little things like that save much money when unplugged, but hey I’ll take a few cents here and there! (hey, it means more little games to bribe my kids with at the mall! haha)

  4. To cook those potatoes even faster – after you’re done with them in the microwave, run a metal skewer thru them lenghtwise (unless you have football sized potatoes, you can usually get 2 on a skewer) and then bake them in a 400 degree oven. That hot metal in the center of the potato helps to speed up the cooking that much faster – mine are usually ready in 20 minutes!

  5. I have never heard (or thought of!) the couscous trick! And now I that I’ve heard it, I’ll have to try it! Thanks.

    BTW, the grocery spending list on your blog, is that your TOTAL grocery expenditure for the month?!?!?! That is AMAZING! Way to go! I will have to read more so that I can figure out how to cut down our grocery bill too. Does that include things like toilet paper and laundry detergent or just the edibles? Wow!

    • Yes, that $700 includes TP, cat litter, dog food, shampoo, bandaids, etc…. pretty much everything….
      Some months I go over though. I think I have about $8 to last the rest of this month, for example! We don’t need much tho…

      • Read somewhere that the Duggar family spends a little more than $3,000 a month on food! Obviously no money saving going on here.

  6. These are awesome tips!! Thank you so much!

  7. I like the idea of a potato bar one night for supper. I’ve never tried that before 🙂 And thanks for the tips on saving a buck! What other oil have you mixed with olive oil?

  8. Usually I mix it with corn oil or soybean oil.

  9. Jennie Cunningham says:


    I’m not sure where I came across the idea, but I often add instant mashed potatoes to soup or things like that for my toddler/preschooler. It saves him the frustration of having the soup run down his face and all over and saves on some clean up too! : )I don’t typically use the instant potatoes to make potatoes, just to thicken things. I’ve even used it in various recipes that were runnier than I wanted.

    Thanks for all you do!


  10. Another huge money saver: use apple vinegar for a hair rinse or for dandruff control. Much cheaper than the hair products out there and you always have vinegar on hand for recipes.
    In addition to tapioca try using rice in soups and stews to give them a little more ‘sticking’ quality.

  11. I like the shower curtain idea! I have quite a few bed wetters around here 😉
    Thanks for the tips!
    (visiting from Missy’s blog)

  12. Stephanie Blanchard says:

    I’m stealing the potato trick and the shower curtain trick. I have a certain little one that stuck her finger in a “little hole” and made a “huge hole.” *sigh!*

  13. The mattress protector makes so much sense- and when I had my homebirth that’s what my midwife had me put on my bed just in case!


  14. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    I LOVE ranch dressing on my baked potatos!

    And I almost never have sour cream in my fridge, my ranch dressing stays good for FOREVER so I always have it.