Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 12, 2014

Restaurant horror stories; garden planning tips

Melinda Hester
The Independent

ASHLAND — In my couponing classes, I always had fun with everyone by telling them gross restaurant stories. In encouraging them to eat at home more and save their money, I was also teaching them how much cleaner it is. According to a source, who is a food service inspector (not here in Ashland), there are many things you simply don’t want to know about eating out.

Soft-drink machines are often cleaned inside about once a year. In the filter can be dead mice, roaches and filth you can’t imagine.

Gas-station coffee depends on the heat of the coffee to kill germs. Ever wonder why it’s so hot you can’t drink it for 20 minutes? I always ask people who have worked in the food-service industry what happens behind the scenes with the food. My favorite question is: “Do they really spit in food if they don’t like the patron?” Well, little evil smiles abound in the room.

Things to notice: Does the waitress/waiter have fingers on the plate during serving? Does he or she handle money or debit cards? There are lots of germs on money and credit cards to get on a plate. Does your fork or knife have a fingerprint on it? How about fingers on the rim of a glass when serving? This is where your mouth will be.

Many items are reheated over and over again. Most foods are microwaved and employees simply heat and stir. Food at most “chain” restaurants is trucked in and microwaved onsite to keep the taste consistent with other restaurants. You can microwave a meal at home much cheaper.

Movie-theater popcorn usually is delivered in huge bags. You don’t really know how old it is or what it has come into contact with.

In the South, including North and South Carolina, restaurants must post their cleanliness ratings on the drive-through window. They have good incentive to keep ratings high.

If a restaurant restroom is dirty, I believe the kitchen probably is, too. Other things to look for: filth under appliances and dirty counters, tables and floors. Also look for food set out, flies, roaches, bread dough in containers on the floor white worms in the salad.

By cooking at home in large quantities, you can freeze meals to fix quickly. We know if it was handled in a safe, clean manner. Demand better from the restaurant where you dine. We all have to eat out sometimes, either on vacation or because things are hectic. Hospital cafeterias rate as some of the cleanest places.

Read the food-service inspection reports in The Independent, and then decide whether or not to eat at a particular business.

Plan a garden

Eat something healthy! Some are planting sugar snap peas and kale now. If you have a problem with deer eating your plants, think of investing in an electric fence. Lowe’s has them. This is not a cruel thing. The fence simply snaps and scares the deer away.

Blood meal also works, but it has to be put down every time it rains. If a deer smells the blood meal, it thinks it isn’t safe, believing something was killed there. This also works for rabbits. Simply line the perimeter of your yard or garden with the meal.

Garden tilling is a needed job in the area. It would be a lucrative business in the spring. Lots of people want a garden, but are unable to till soil, or they don’t have the money for a machine tiller. A backyard garden is a real money saver, and it allows your family to eat quality food.

Kohl’s

Since we are getting a Kohl’s next year, we need to research how to shop the store. Kohl’s Cash is earned on the amount of purchases after discounts.

You can “stack” at Kohls, just like you can at CVS. Imagine a clothing and housewares store that stacks! My friend, Nancy, bought a red Kitchenaid mixer for $120. It normally would be in the $350 range. By using a 30-percent-off coupon and Kohl’s cash, she got a great deal.

The Kohl’s Reward Card adds up your points. Be sure and save your coupons from the newspaper when Kohl’s starts running ads. Every month, if you have a Kohl’s charge card, you will get coupons of 15 percent to 30 percent. Birthday time will net you a $10 Kohl’s Buck. You can earn Kohl’s Bucks on limited-time promos. You can stack a percent off and Kohl’s Cash. You can earn Kohl’s Cash by shopping online, too. If you shop Ebates, you’ll earn even more.

New products

Oxi has new line, including New Oxi Clean with White Revive, and  a $1 coupon. It’s advertised to work on dirty socks, old vintage linens, quilts and lace.

Oxi Clean Detergent: $2 coupon

Tide with Oxi

Gain with Oxi Boost

Oxi Clean Baby Stain Soaker with a pink lid

Oxi Clean Dishwasher Booster: 75-cent coupon

Clorox Disinfecting Spray, which reduces allergens

Oxi is great for more than laundry. Put your oven racks in the tub and soak them in Oxi. You can clean tubs, grout and charcoal grills. It removes rust stains, stains from coffee pots, tea stains in mugs or china, kitchen sinks and mildew.