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Monday Q&A-Dishwashing, Pets, Grocery Budget, and Picky Eating

Every Monday I answer a few questions from you, my readers! If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post (or a question that you’d like me to pose to my husband), leave me a comment, or email me (the frugal girl {at} gmail {dot} com) and put “Q&A” in the subject line.


Is it better to wash dishes by hand or use the dishwasher every day?

I researched this a bit when our electric company raised our rates by 70%, and most of the evidence I found suggested that a dishwasher is more energy efficient than hand-washing. Amy Dacyzyn tested this out back when she was publishing her Tightwad Gazette, and she found that even the most water efficient hand washer (the type that uses a bin of water to rinse dishes) could only tie with (not beat) the energy efficiency of a dishwasher.

She concluded that if you didn’t already own a dishwasher, you could save money by not buying one, but that if you already owned one, using it to wash your dishes would cost you no more than washing by hand.

That was back when dishwashers were less energy efficient than they are now, so if anything, the odds are more in favor of the dishwasher these days.

My kitchen is not set up well for hand-washing, so I was relieved to learn that hand washing was not going to save me any money! I use my dishwasher for most of my dishes, but I hand-wash large items (like mixing bowls and baking sheets) and items that are not dishwasher safe (like cast-iron pots and wire strainers).

Do you have any pets, and if so, do you include pet food in your weekly grocery budget?

The only pets we have are two fish and a solitary hermit crab. The food for these kinds of pets only needs to be purchased about twice a year, and it’s only a couple of dollars, so I don’t bother including it in the grocery budget!

I am SO not an animal person, and so the idea of having a creature in my house that I have to feed, clean up after, and take to the doctor is not remotely appealing to me. I already have plenty of people that need feeding, cleaning, and taking to the doctor! Fish and hermit crabs are very low maintenance, so I am fine with those. Anything larger would make me kind of cranky, though. 😉

Does your $100/week grocery budget include things like toilet paper, makeup, soap, shampoo, razor blades, dishwasher detergent, shaving cream, OTC medicines, laundry detergent, trash bags, etc? I was just wondering how you account for all that.

(This is one of the most common questions I get, and when I finally get around to making a “Frequently Asked Questions” page, this one will so be on it!)

Yep. My grocery budget includes food, beverages, cleaning supplies, toiletries, and paper/plastic products. Part of the reason this is possible is that I don’t use a lot of paper/plastic products, and I also don’t use a ton of cleaning supplies either.

You’ll often see toilet paper in my grocery pictures, and shampoo and dishwasher detergent are in there semi-regularly as well.

i was just wondering this about your food waste so i thought i’d ask: do you throw away food from your families plates if they don’t finish? or do you have an “eat everything on your plate” policy?


Good question! I know I’ve mentioned something about this in passing, but it’s been a while.

We don’t have an “eat everything on your plate” rule at our house, but neither are we especially soft on picky eating.

Here’s how we run things. At dinner, I put an appropriately sized serving of food on our kids’ plates. They each get a portion of all the things we’re eating, so even Zoe gets a salad with her meal if that’s what we’re having as our veggie.

If our kids eat what is on their plates, then they can have more of the main dish, side dish, or fruit/vegetable. Not being huge main dish fans, they usually opt for seconds of the side dishes. Also, if they eat what is on their plates, they can pick a small treat from our treat box after dinner (this would be something like a Starburst candy, a small Tootsie Roll or something similar).

If they don’t eat what is on their plates, that is no problem. They’re free to do that if they choose, and they do sometimes. However, if they don’t eat the food that’s on their plates, we don’t offer them other food choices (for instance, if Zoe eats her roll but not her chicken or her salad, we don’t offer her more rolls until she eats her chicken and salad). And of course, we don’t offer them a piece of candy if they haven’t eaten their dinner, because I don’t want to encourage our kids to eat Starburst instead of broccoli.

I know Amy Dacyzyn had harder-nosed rules about plate-cleaning than we do (and people threatened to call CPS on her over it!), but this works pretty well for us. Though all of our kids have gone through fairly picky phases between the ages of 2 and 5 (Zoe’s currently in that phase!), the older three are now at the point where they cheerfully eat almost anything I serve to them.

Anyhow! All of that is to say that the older three rarely have food left on their plates (this is a result of me giving them appropriately sized portions and also them being used to eating their dinner). Zoe does often have food left on her plate at dinner and what I do with it depends on what condition it’s in. For instance, if she has salad left, I’ll just eat it (her salads are pretty small to begin with!). Or if she has some of her main dish left and it’s hardly been touched, I refrigerate it for later use. Sometimes she has leftovers that I don’t want to eat and that I don’t want to save, though, and those usually go into the compost bin.

The amount of waste that is produced this way is very minimal, though. Plate waste was never really the big problem in our house…produce and leftovers comprised most of my food waste, and so that’s been my main focus.

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Monday Q&A | Cooking, Dishwashing, and Piano Teaching

Monday 25th of January 2010

[...] actually answered that question in an older Q&A post, so go check that out!  I personally run the dishwasher once a day, and I hand wash large items [...]


Tuesday 8th of December 2009

@hiptobeme: I think I'll just put a few in my salad. Cooking vegetables is a crime in my book.


Tuesday 8th of December 2009

I prefer washing dishes by hand. I often have to clean dishes from our dishwasher after a load. This is after they have sat for several days before we get a full load. I feel like my hand washed dishes are cleaner and look brighter and shinier after being hand dried as well. It will take the machine about 90 minutes with drying cycle. I can do the whole thing in less than 30 minutes.

When I have seen comparisons, they only show water usage and do not take power usage into consideration.

Having said all that, if we can fill a load after having friends and family to dinner, I am happy to run a load in the dishwasher.


Monday 7th of December 2009

If you don't have a steamer, try cooking broccoli this way: Boil just enough water to cover your florets in the pot. Put lid on (off of the heat). Wait 5 minutes. Eat your deliciously tender crisp green broccoli. No fatty substance required!


Monday 7th of December 2009

Here's a tip that I've heard to avoid food waste, and it works super for me. Have two containers in your freezer, one labelled "soup-to-be" and the other one "bread-pudding-to-be". All leftovers (unless gross) go into the soup if savory and into the bread pudding if sweet, unless there is enough of them to make a leftover meal for someone. Whenever the container is full, use it to make surprise soup or surprise bread pudding (mix half and half with "new" material.)

This is great for PBJ crusts, for example, or that vegetable that they won't eat. I used to just eat those leftovers (and had the weight gain to show for it); turning them into soup/bread pudding is much better.

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