Shopping Like a Food Safety Expert – UPDATE

About a year and half ago, I wrote a blog on keeping food safe while shopping at the grocery store and getting it home safely.  In the blog, washing reusable grocery bags was included with advice from the USDA stating that reusable bags should be laundered at least one a month or immediately if soiled.

Since that blog, laundering of reusable bags has come into the lime light following a non-scientific study done by a tv station in Albuquerque, NM that is now circulating on social media.  This group contended that the bags they tested were heavily infested with bacteria that might be considered fecal contaminants.  The fact that reusable bags can be dirty is not a new story.   At study by scientists at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in 2011 confirmed such when they found that half of the bags tested in their study carried coliform bacteria with a small percentage exhibiting E. coli, an indicator of fecal contamination.

While there are pros and cons to using reusable bags, cleanliness is of upmost importance.  Here are some tips from Good Housekeeping on how to launder the various types of reusable bags:

Canvas Bags – toss into the washing machine with hot water and detergent, dry in the drier.

Recycled Plastic or Polyproplylene Bags – wash by hand in warm soapy water and line or air dry; pay attention to inner- and outer-seams.

Insulated Bags – since insulated bags are usually used for raw meats, dairy products, and some produce, these bags need to be cleaned after each use with a disinfecting wipe and allowed to air dry completely before storing. If there was leakage of any kind, the bag should be turned inside out exposing the liner, washed with hot, soapy water and air dry.

Nylon Bags – flip them inside out; wash them by hand or on the gentle washing cycle in warm soapy water, and air dry.

In addition to these tips, I also like to dry my bags in the sunshine if possible. When was the last time you cleaned your reusable grocery bags?

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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New 2020 Form W-4

On December 5, 2019, the IRS issued a redesigned Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Certificate).  Form W-4 is used by employers to correctly withhold federal income tax from employee paychecks as determined by the employee.  Prior to the 2020 form, the amount withheld was based on allowances. The biggest change to the long-used 1987 form is that the new form no longer uses allowances to determine withholding. 

While all employees must fill out Form W-4 at the time of their employment for federal income tax withholding, the IRS is not requiring all employees to fill out a new 2020 Form W-4.  The new form was designed to work with prior year versions of the form.  Therefore, current employees need not fill out a new form unless they need to revise or update their federal withholding due to changes in their personal or tax situation.   However, all new hires will use 2020 Form W-4.

The 2020 form was designed to make it easier than previously to fill out.  The 2020 form no longer asks about allowances so gone are the days of wondering whether one should claim ‘0’, ‘1’, or something else.  Elimination of allowances aligns with the changes of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The 2020 W-4 Form, available from the IRS, is four pages long and can be downloaded and printed for filling out or filled out online and printed.  Page 1 is the form itself and is the only page due to the employer.  Page 2-4 are informational and include worksheets and tables.

Here are some tips to help with filling out the form (Page 1):

Step 1.  Enter Personal Information.  Be sure to check the correct filing status.

Step 2.  Multiple Jobs or Spouse Works.  Skip this section if nothing applies.  If one or more jobs are held by the employee OR if the employee has a spouse working and files ‘married and filing jointly’ consideration needs to be made based upon a, b, or c.
(a) Use the IRS’s tax withholding estimator.  See Page 2 for when to use the estimator.  To use the estimator, you will need to gather some documents (given on the website) in order to provide the most accurate information.  (The estimator is only as good as the information provided.)
(b) Use the Multiple Jobs Worksheet on Page 3. Enter results in Step 4(c).
(c) If there are only two jobs with similar pay, check the box. Do the same for other job Form W-4.

Step 3.  Claim Dependents.  Include qualifying dependent children (under age 17) and other dependents (qualifying older children or elderly parents/relatives).  Be sure to read Step 3 instructions on Page 2 to meet qualification requirements.

Step 4.  Other Adjustments.  This section only applies if one desires
(a) withholding tax for non-job income:
(b) do not expect to claim the standard income tax deduction (vast majority of people claim the standard deduction);
(c) withholding additional tax for each pay period for amounts from Multiple Jobs Worksheet, line 4, or for any other reason. Entering an amount here will reduce paycheck amounts and will either increase tax refunds or reduce income tax due (Form 1040).

Step 5.  Sign Here.  Sign, date, and submit to employer.  Employees may want to keep a copy for themselves.  This is a legal tax document.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Open Enrollment Help

Since early this fall, the promotional materials for health insurance options have been flooding my mail box and likely everyone else’s, too, in preparation for open enrollment or the period when people can change or enroll in a health insurance plan.  Open enrollment for 2020 runs from November 1 to December 15, 2019 but some job plans may have different open enrollment times.  Outside of the open enrollment time, one can only enroll in a health insurance plan if certain qualifications are met for a special enrollment period.

Each year it is a good idea to review options provided by one’s current plan to see if it will continue to best meet one’s health needs for the next year.  Prior to open enrollment, most plans publish changes to annual costs and policy changes.  It is also a good time to take a look at different plans should the current one become excessively expensive or discontinue coverage that is needed.

The process of sorting through plans and comparing options can be intimidating and confusing.  There are resources available to help one navigate the various options. has a wealth of information online designed to help one make the best decision.  Another resource might be to enlist the help of a trusted insurance agent.  A third option is to enroll in Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Basics and/or Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Actions.  The Smart Choice classes are online classes offered by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.  Both of these classes are free and designed to make comparing policies and understanding coverage easier. 

Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Basics will meet online, November 6, 7-8 pm.  One must register for the class by November 4 at  This class will provide an overview of health insurance and cover strategies for selecting a health insurance plan that will meet your health care needs and fit your spending plan.

Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Actions will meet online, November 13, 7-8 pm.  Registration must be completed by November 11 at   This class will provide information on maximizing benefits, understanding billing statements, resolving errors, securing medical information, and keeping necessary health documents.

Most importantly, know when your open enrollment period is and take the time to review your options before the deadline so that the best policy will be in place to meet your health care needs for the coming 12 months.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Is Calling 911 with An Old Cell Phone or No Wireless Plan Wise?

Many Americans have a cell phone of some sort for emergency purposes only and if so, largely for the ability to call 911. For some this might be an older hand-me-down or refurbished cell phone which may or may not have GPS or a service plan. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) laws require wireless service providers to connect ALL 911 calls to Public Safety Answering Points regardless of cell phone age or plan.

However, there are some big drawbacks to those who may be relying on older phones without GPS and/or no wireless service plan to get help in an emergency. Depending on how old the phone is, the 911 answering center may not be able to map where that phone is located if the caller is unable to talk. The call may even go to the wrong answering center. And if the phone is without a service plan and should get disconnected, there is no way for anyone to call back to that phone as the device does not have an assigned number.

This exact scenario played out in Boone and Dallas Counties in Iowa in this spring. Fortunately for the caller in this scenario, emergency responders were eventually (3.5 hrs later) able to reach the victim and get the medical help that was needed. As a result of this incidence, emergency responders have issued warnings of this peril.

In that light, perhaps it is time to consider other options if you, a loved one, or an elderly family member is replying on an older phone or a phone without a service plan as a means to contact 911 in a medical emergency. Options to consider may be a minimal cell phone service on an updated device or contracting with a Personal Emergency Response Service (PERS) for a medical monitoring device. There is some assistance for these services and devices for those that qualify.

Phone service assistance. Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia and Puerto offer programs that offer free phones and free service to Americans on government assistance or those who are below certain income thresholds. (Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota are included.) The programs and eligibility vary by state. To find out more about these programs, check out Free Government Cell Phones. The FCC offers the Lifeline program to help low-income individuals and families get discounted landline or cell phone service.  A Place for Mom offers some excellent suggestions on plans and phones for Seniors.

PERS assistance. Medicare, Medicare supplemental insurance (Medigap), and most private health insurance plans for the elderly do not cover assistance for PERS, medical alert devices or any other form of personal safety monitoring for seniors. However, some options that may be available include Medicaid, state assistance programs for the elderly or fixed income residents that do not qualify for Medicaid, and veteran assistance programs.

When there is an emergency, it is important that responders are able to reach the caller expediently; to make sure that can happen, everyone needs to understand the equipment and service they have and how it works.


Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Weighted Blankets

I have been intrigued with weighted blankets for quite a while. I am certainly  interested in anything that would help me get a better night’s sleep without using medication in any form, over-the-counter or prescription. As I began to research weighted blankets I found scientific research was very limited. I did find one study done in 2015 in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders that concluded the participants had a calmer night’s sleep with a decrease in movements. The participants also believed the weighted blanket used in the study provided them with a more comfortable, better quality, and more secure sleep. That was enough positive feedback for me to delve into it a little more!

So what are weighted blankets? They are heavy blankets, 15 plus pounds (although some weigh less), filled with poly-pellets that have the texture of plastic pebbles, glass beads that have the texture of sand, or chains. The theory behind them is they provide deep pressure that gives you a feeling of calm or that you are being hugged or swaddled. The weight in the blanket makes it harder for you to move which in turn makes it harder to disturb yourself while sleeping.

Weighted blankets have been popular to treat children with disorders like autism or ADHD and have now become popular to help with sleep issues for many ages. They are not recommended for the very young or the elderly however. They are also not recommended for people who snore or have sleep apnea, fragile skin, circulatory problems, or temperature regulation issues.

If you do decide to invest in a weighted blanket, what weight should you purchase? Most recommendations are to choose one that is 10% of your body weight or 10% of your body weight plus 1 to 3 pounds depending on your age. For young children, 1 pound, for older children and teens, 2 pounds, and for adults up to the 3 pounds above your body weight.

Many weighted blankets come with an outer cover that is machine washable. Those fabrics can range from extra warm to extra soft to cool to the touch. Most weighted blankets themselves are not machine washable so choosing one with a washable cover is an important consideration. Weighted blankets can be pricey so it pays to do your homework and compare those that come with an outer cover included and those that charge an additional fee for the cover.

There are non-profit groups that not only make weighted blankets to give to children with special needs they also include directions to make your own. Two I am familiar with are Sharing the Weight, which one of my co-workers is a part of, and Weighted Comfort for Kids. If you are interested in making a weighted blanket for yourself or a friend, the directions on these sites are easy to follow.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Keeping Your Clothes Dryer Safe

Most people don’t think about their clothes dryer as being a potentially dangerous appliance in their home.  Unfortunately, dryers are the source of thousands of house fires each year as well as some household mold issues.   With just a little regular cleaning and maintenance, you can protect your family and home from these dangers.

It doesn’t matter if you have an electric or gas clothes dryer.  The problem is lint.  Lint builds up in the lint trap, inside the vent hose and duct work, and inside the vent.  Whenever this happens, there is a reduction in air flow resulting in reduced drying efficiency.  Lint is also responsible for causing humidity levels to increase around vents and duct work which in turn can cause mildew and mold to develop in walls and insulation.   And most importantly, lint is combustible and causes fires.  Failure to clean the dryer is the leading cause of home dryer fires.

Here’s some tips for keeping your dryer, duct work, and vent as lint free as possible.

  • Clean the lint trap after every load or at the very least, at the end of a laundry cycle.  If you use fabric softener sheets, check the screen for clogging as some sheets will emit enough residue that the screen becomes clouded and tacky.  Should the screen be clogged, submerge the lint screen in hot water, soapy water and clean the screen with a bristle brush to get rid of the residue.
  • Invest in a dryer lint brush.  These long-handled flexible brushes are available at most hardware stores and allow one to clean areas that cannot be reached by hand down inside of the dryer, hoses, and ducts.  You may be surprised by the chunks of lint that the brush pulls out.  After removing the lint filter and cleaning with the brush, run the dryer on “air only” after using the dryer brush.  This will bring up any lint that might have been dislodged but didn’t cling to the brush.
  • Unplug and pull the dryer out at least once a year and vacuum any dust and lint that might have accumulated around the dryer, back of the dryer, floor, cabinets, etc.  While the dryer is out, remove the duct hose or duct.  You may need a screwdriver or pliers to remove the connecting clip or steel clamp.  Use the dryer brush inside the dryer opening to remove the lint accumulation.  Do the same with the hose or duct.  If you have a long duct to the outside as I do, you will have to rig a longer handle onto the brush.
  • Replace the duct hose if you have a white or silver vinyl duct hose.  All building codes now require metal or aluminum ducting for clothes dryers.  The ducting may be rigid or flexible.  If flexible aluminum ducting is used, it should be cleaned more often as it tends to collect more lint along the ridges.
  • Lastly, clean the exterior vent.  This is usually done from the outside of the home by lifting the flaps.  Using your hands or a brush, removed as much lint as possible.  Most of the flaps on the exterior vent can be removed to make cleaning easier.  Replace the flaps if they have been removed and make sure that they open properly.

A little dryer cleaning in a timely manner will greatly reduce the risk of fire.  Further, avoid starting the dryer before going to bed and running it while no one is at home.

For more information see the safety alert from the Consumer Products Commission,

Additional flyers like the one at the beginning of the blog are public domain publications and available for download from FEMA at



Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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REAL ID for Travel

Does your driver’s license fly?  Beginning October 1, 2020 (just 18 months from now) air travelers will need a driver’s license or ID card known as a Real ID to board commercial domestic flights and enter certain federal facilities such as military bases.  A passport or certain other federal documents (those issued by the federal government’s Trusted Traveler Program) may be used as an alternative to a Real ID for travel or entrance to federal facilities.

Since the inception of the Real ID in 2005, states have been gradually implementing the security-enhanced features required by federal law.  So what is the Real ID and how do you know if you have one?

Used with permission, © Iowa DOT

A Real ID looks the same as any other driver’s license, contains the same information, is made of the same materials, and has the same security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication.

To determine if you have a Real ID,  begin by checking your driver’s license.  Most compliant states have issued the Real ID in conjunction with the state issued driver’s license; those licenses that are compliant will have a gold or black star in the top right corner. If you see that, you are likely good to go!

While that sounds simple enough, there is a lot of confusion.  Most states are now compliant with federal regulations, but 12 states remain as non-compliant or have been granted an extension to a given date.  Four states (Hawaii, Ohio, Tennessee, and Utah) issued compliant IDs without a star.   Arizona and Kentucky have given citizens the option of a Real ID also known as a Voluntary Traveler ID or an old style driver’s license (non-compliant).   If for any reason your license does not have a star in the upper right corner, check with your state DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) or local driver’s license bureau for more information.

As of this writing, driver’s licenses issued by Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota are compliant.  To learn more about Real ID and state compliance, check out REAL ID/Homeland Security.  Bottom line, if you plan to travel by air or enter a federal facility requiring ID, you will need a Real ID unless you have other proper identification; for travel, that would be a passport.  If you do not anticipate either scenario, a Real ID is not needed.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Where to Get Income Tax Assistance

Tax season is upon us.  The last day to file for most taxpayers is April 15 unless an extension is filed.  Most people find the tax rules complex and confusing.  If you need assistance with tax preparation, free preparation and advice is available from AARP (American Association of Retired People), the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), volunteer organizations, and some commercial tax advisors.

Here’s a list of tax preparation assistance resources as identified by AARP:

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free tax preparation assistance February 1 through April 15 to low- to moderate-income taxpayers—especially those 50 and older—at 5000 locations nationwide.  This service is open to all (no AARP membership required) with service provided by IRS-certified volunteers. Check the Tax-Aide Site Locator  or call 888-227-7669 toll free to find a nearby site.  Federal and state tax assistance is available at most locations. One should contact the site to confirm availability and check hours before going.  And also check this AARP site for what documents to bring with you.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). A federal grant program provides tax preparation assistance to those 60 and older from IRS-certified volunteers. Many of the TCE sites are operated by AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. For more information, call 888-227-7669 toll-free or check here for a nearby site.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Under another federal grant program, IRS-certified VITA volunteers provide tax-preparation services to older Americans, low- and moderate-income filers, people with disabilities and those with limited English language skills. Generally, taxpayers must have an annual income below $55,000 to qualify. Call 800-906-9887 or check here to find a nearby VITA site.

IRS Free File.  Taxpayers with incomes below $66,000 are eligible to file federal tax returns online through IRS Free File using software from select partners like TaxAct and TurboTax. To browse options and confirm eligibility, visit Free File Software Offers.

IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs). Help is also available at local IRS offices that host a Taxpayer Assistance Center. An appointment is necessary and services vary by office. Check the IRS site to find a nearby location.

MilTax Filing Service.  Mil Tax from Military OneSource and the Department of Defense provides easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software to active duty military personnel and select others, including spouses, dependent children and survivors. Consultants are available to provide 24/7 phone assistance at 800-342-9647. Check the Military OneSouce site for more information.

Do-it-yourself online options. Several for-profit tax providers (H&R Block, TurboTaxCredit Karma TaxTaxActDIY Tax and TaxSlayer Simply Free) offer online filing tools.  Check their individual websites to see if their offerings fit your needs.

A local tax professional. The National Society of Accountants says nearly 90 percent of accountants and tax prep professionals offer free client consultation. To make sure that the consultant is qualified, check the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications for a listing of preparers in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS or who hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Glass Kitchenware Cautions

In recent days I’ve spent a lot of time browsing social media to pass the long hours at the hospital with a family member.  In doing so, I came across a ‘pyrex bashing’ which in turn brought back an old memory.  Some years ago, I had prepared a casserole dish ahead using a glass baking dish.  When it was time to bake it for serving, I brought it out of the refrigerator and popped it into a cold oven.  As the oven came to temperature, I heard a loud pop and cracking sound.  Sure enough, the baking dish had cracked and split.   This was a baking dish I had used for several years and probably had done the same with it many times.  So what happened to my trusted “Pyrex” and why bash Pyrex?

I have no intention of bashing Pyrex or any other brand of glass kitchenware.  Rather, I would advocate to be a conscious consumer, know what one has, and use it properly.  Pyrex has been a trusted household name for decades and is often used as the word to refer to glass kitchenware and bakeware used for cooking and baking whether it is the Pyrex, Anchor Hocking, Bake King, or any other brand.  Pyrex was valued for years for its sturdiness and ability to withstand rapid, dramatic temperature changes that typically shatter normal glassware.  With changes in manufacturing, that old-fashioned reliability has changed.

Pyrex (trademarked as PYREX) is a brand introduced by Corning Inc in 1915 for a line of clear, low-thermal-expansion borosilicate glass used for laboratory glassware and kitchenware.  It was later expanded to include clear and opal ware products made of soda-lime glass. In 1998, Corning sold the Pyrex brand name to World Kitchen LLC. World Kitchen stopped the manufacture of borosilicate glass and changed to less expensive, tempered soda-lime glass for kitchenware sold in the United States.  Tempered soda-lime glass does not handle heat as well as borosilicate glass but does withstand breakage when dropped better.  With some caution, tempered soda-lime glass withstands thermal shocks reasonably well.  (To be fair, Anchor Hocking and Bake King products are also made from tempered soda-lime glass.)

I have a mix of Pyrex glass kitchenware that has accumulated over the years and the one that cracked was newer.  How can you tell whether you have a newer or older form of Pyrex? Here’s what to look for:


PYREX® (all UPPER CASE LETTERS plus, in the USA, a trademark notice comprising a capital R in a circle = low-thermal-expansion borosilicate glass either clear or opaque originally made by Corning Inc.





pyrex® (all lower case letters plus a trademark notice comprising a capital R in a circle) = clear tempered high-thermal-expansion soda-lime glass kitchenware made by World Kitchen.





PYREX (all UPPER CASE LETTERS in an encircled oval with no trademark notice with European country noted) = European license for use on borosilicate glass products manufactured by International Cookware.



So, in short, if glass kitchenware made from borosilicate glass is important to you, look for the trademark in ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS.  You will need to scour estate auctions, thrift stores, antique stores, or purchase in Europe to acquire it.  I’m glad that I still have some of the PYREX® pieces.

If you are resigned to using the modern-day tempered soda-lime kitchenware, some precautions are necessary.  In 2010, Consumer Reports tested some Pyrex and found that taking the newer glass out of a hot oven and placing it on a wet granite countertop yielded poor results with the glass shattering almost instantly.  As a result of its investigation, Consumer Reports called on the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to look into the problem of shattering bakeware.

Further, Consumer Reports issued ten precautions to consumers to minimize the chances of the glassware shattering:

  • Always place hot glassware on a dry, cloth potholder or towel.
  • Never use glassware for stovetop cooking or under a broiler.
  • Always allow the oven to fully preheat before placing the glassware in the oven.
  • Always cover the bottom of the dish with liquid before cooking meat or vegetables.
  • Don’t add liquid to hot glassware.
  • If you’re using the dish in a microwave, do not use browning elements, and avoid overheating oil and butter.
  • Do not take dishes directly from the freezer to the oven or vice versa.
  • Never place hot glassware directly on a countertop (or smooth top), metal surface, on a damp towel, in the sink, or on a cold or wet surface.
  • Inspect your dishes for chips, cracks, and scratches. Discard dishes with such damage.
  • To avoid risks associated with glass dishes, consider using metal bakeware for conventional and convection ovens.

As always, it is the consumer’s responsibility to read and save the manufacturer’s instructions for handling the product safely and then follow through.  If it’s too late for those instructions, check the label on the glassware for the designations given above to determine the glass content; and if it is an Anchor Hocking or Bake King product, know that it is a tempered soda-lime product.  If in doubt, the precautions issued by Consumer Reports will suffice for all.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Resources for Instant Pot®/EPPC Users

A frequent question since the holidays has been, “Do you have any good recipes for an Instant Pot®?” If you got an electric programmable pressure cooker (EPPC) as a holiday gift, perhaps you, too, are in a quandary of what to do with it, too.

Instant Pot® is just one brand of EPPCs on the market but has become the ‘staple’ term when one is referring to an EPPC. However, in most cases when the question is posed, the person is actually referring to the popular brand, Instant Pot®. No matter how hard we fight it, ‘Instant Pot’ is a term that will almost certainly come up in conversation at some point. The New York Times’ article, The Kitchen Gadget that Spanned a Religion noted that this kitchen appliance has upended the home-cooking industry. As such, the resources for using an Instant Pot® or any other EPPC are everywhere. I will share a few sources that I have found useful as I learned to use my EPPC.

Instant Pot® recently released a list of recommended and authorized cookbooks for their EPPC. The cookbooks on the list cover a wide variety of food preparations, preferences, and dietary needs so it appears that there is something for everyone. That list may be accessed here. Needless to say, the recipes in these books would also likely work with any other brand of EPPC.

Besides the books, there are numerous websites that are good resources. Below are a few that I have found helpful and reliable.

Instant Pot –

Amy and Jacky –

365 Days of Slow & Pressure Cooking –

Instant Pot Eats –

Hip Cooking –

A Bountiful Kitchen –

Ministry of Curry –

Two Sleeves (covers vegan, Keto, and Paleo interests) –

Last but not least, enlist the help of friends who may be “potheads” as devoted EPPC users are known. If you are a Facebook user, there are some community groups that you can join that offer a never-ending feed of advice, recipes, and inspirations.

I hope you will enjoy learning to use your new gadget regardless of the brand; who knows, with enough experience you might even become a devotee or pothead (those who use their EPPCs for virtually every kitchen task imaginable: sautéing, pressure-cooking, steaming, and even making yogurt and cheesecakes). While I enjoy my EPPC for some food preparations, I am not a total devotee as I find it is great for many things, but others, not so much—kind of like the microwave revolution of the 1980s or bread machine craze of the 1990s. I have enjoyed the adventure and have learned a lot along the way using books, internet sites, friends, and a Facebook group as my guides.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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