Medicine Cabinet Clean Out

Has it been a while since you cleaned out your medicine cabinet or anywhere medicines are stored? Most experts recommend that your medicine cabinet or medicine storage spot be cleaned out annually to discard medications that have expired or could be medically unsafe.

Hanging onto or accumulating outdated or unused medications beyond their expiration date, with the idea that they might come in handy one day, can be risky business.  Expired medications can lose their potency, change in composition and even becoming toxic.  Further, by keeping them, chances are increased of abuse, misuse, or taking the wrong one. Failing to safely dispose of old medications, especially opioids, all too often leads to dangerous drugs ending up in the wrong hands. The CDC reports that 50,000 young children end up in emergency rooms each year because they got into medicines while an adult wasn’t looking.1

Avoid these risks with timely cleaning and disposal of unused or outdated medicines, prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC), and medical supplies using these tips from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

Check the expiration dates.

Since 1979, all prescription drugs and OTC medications and products have an expiration date somewhere on the label or stamped onto the bottle, tube, or carton  This is the final date that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of the drug or product based upon testing.   For best efficacy, the medication should be stored properly–usually, in a cool, dry location–or as indicated on the package or label.

Examine everything in the medicine cabinet, including ointments, supplements and vitamins. Discard any item that is beyond the expiration date and any prescription medications that are more than a year old. It is important to note that the expiration date refers to an unopened product.  Once a medication has been opened and used, the clock starts ticking on its shelf life as contamination has been introduced.  Writing the date of opening on the container is helpful;  opened or partially used products should be discarded after one year of opening regardless of the expiration date.   Also look for items that have changed color, smell funny, without a label or in an unmarked container, or cannot be identified.  Medications should always be kept in their original containers so that they are easily recognized. This includes ointments, since these can easily be mistaken for creams. All of these items should be discarded without question.

Inspect adhesive bandages, too. Bandages and tapes have a limited lifespan and should be replaced before their adhesive breaks down.

Dispose safely.

The best way to dispose of most types of unused or expired medicines (both prescription and OTC) is to drop the medicine at a drug take back location. These drop off locations may be a police station, authorized pharmacy, or hospital.  There you may find a kiosk.  The kiosks provide a safe and convenient way to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions, including controlled substances, and over-the-counter medications, ointments and creams, liquids, lotions, pet medications, prescription patches, and vitamins and supplements free and anonymously.  To find a drop-off location near by, use the find an authorized drug collection site or call the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Call Center at 1-800-882-9539.  Certain medications or items are not accepted at the kiosks including needles, inhalers, aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide, thermometers, and illicit drugs.

If you cannot get to a drug take back location or there is none near you, the medication maybe flushed or disposed in the trash using important guidelines.  Check the FDA flush list to see if the medicine is on the list.  Medicines on the list are those that are sought after for their misuse and/or abuse potential and  can result in death from one dose if taken inappropriately.  If the medication is on the flush list, it is safe to flush down the toilet.  Do not flush a medicine if it is not on the flush list. 

If the medicine is not on the flush list  and there are no specific disposal instructions with the medication or package insert, follow these steps to dispose of medicine in the household trash:

Disposal in household trash
  1. Mix medicines (liquid or pills; do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds;
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag;
  3. Throw the container in the trash at home; and
  4. Delete all personal information on the prescription label, including the RX number, of empty medicine bottles or medicine packaging, then trash or recycle the empty bottle or packaging.2 Containers should be clean if recycled.

For more information on safe disposal, check out the FDA YouTube video.

Most collection sites will not accept asthma inhalers, needles, insulin syringes or any other syringes, marijuana, mercury thermometers, and medications containing iodine. For disposal information and drop-off locations for syringes, needles, and other injectables go to Safe Needle Disposal or call 800-643-1643.  When in doubt about how to safely dispose of a medical device, check with your pharmacist.

Relocate the medicine cabinet or storage, if necessary. 

The bathroom is not the best place to store medication. The temperature and humidity changes that come with the shower running can lower the potency of some medicines. Medications should be kept in a cool dry place, away from children, pets, and scavengers. Consider a locked drawer or a locked box on a shelf.

It is smart to undertake an annual medicine cabinet cleaning.  An annual review of prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and medical products can help keep us safe and healthy. Using an old product won’t necessarily land you in the ER, but it could or it may not work effectively thereby wasting you money, affecting your health, or possibly delaying your recovery. Further, if the medicine isn’t on the shelf, it can’t be accidently used, incorrectly used, or abused.  And, always consider the disposal options and dispose appropriately and responsibly.


1 Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines.  Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
2 Drug Disposal:  Dispose “Non-Flush List” Medicine in Trash.  Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Images:, Marlene Geiger, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Updated 12-2023, mg.

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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Help! Our car smells like a locker room!

While I enjoyed many holiday conversations with family and friends, the one that sticks out the most in my mind was a conversation about car odors.  Oh, the stories and oh, the laughs!  I’m not sure how we got to the conversation, but it certainly flickered an idea for a blog when someone asked, “So how do you get rid of those smells?”

Anyone who has lived with children—newborn to teenagers—and animals, and have carted them around from one event to the next in the mom-mobile, knows those  smells—spit up/vomit, diapers/urine, milk, French fries, mustard, ketchup, apple juice, dirty or wet clothes and shoes, coffee, peanut butter, dog breath, wet dog, cigarette smoke, etc.

The smell of a new car is intoxicating but quickly disappears with human use.  If you’d like to regain a bit of that new-car smell, here’s some tips.  I make no promise that these tips will return you vehicle to a showroom quality smell but do promise a clean, fresh, and better smelling car to enjoy.

  • Pick a sunny day to clean, if possible. Throw away all the trash, dirt, and refuse.  Remove the floor mats, child seats, and child seat mats.
  • Thoroughly vacuum the carpet and seats. The headliner may also be vacuumed.  If the odors are particular strong, sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and cloth seats and let sit for several hours before vacuuming.
  • Use vehicle cleaning wipes or a wet cloth to wipe down the dash board, the inside of the doors, door rests, steering wheel, seat belts, seats, seat backs, and other surfaces. Be sure to get between the seats and seat backs where spills can reside and go unnoticed.  If there are food spills on seats or carpet, use a wet cloth to gently rub and wash the spill away as much as possible.  A 50/50 white vinegar and water solution in a clean spray bottle is good for cleaning as well as eliminating odors.  Use a lint-free or microfiber cloth for wiping.  There will be no residual vinegar smell once it has dried.  Vinegar water is quite effective even on cigarette smoke.
  • Clean the floor mats. Use warm water and a few drops of dish soap water.  Place the mats on a flat surface (maybe the driveway) and scrub the mats with a soft scrubbing brush and the solution.  Rinse the mats and hang them to dry before placing back in your car.
  • Use a leather cleaner to clean leather seats following the manufactures directions.
  • Shine the inside window glass, mirrors, screens, and light covers using the vinegar/water solution or your favorite window cleaner and a lint-free cloth to wipe.
  • Launder the infant/child seat covers and thoroughly clean the plastic liner, base, and lock- down belts with the vinegar/water solution.
  • If you are a fan of commercial odor neutralizers, hanging car fresheners, or essential oils, use them sparingly in your freshly cleaned car. Some of them can undo the cleaning, scrubbing and elbow grease you just put into your vehicle. Most of these products simply mask the odor rather than solve them; further, they may give off irritating odors for those who are sensitive to them.

Once you have a clean smelling car, try to keep it that way.  Place a container or containers of some sort in the vehicle for collecting refuse or containing equipment.  Take a couple of minutes after every event or trip to make sure all equipment, dirty clothes, food wrappers, etc., are removed from the vehicle.  Clean up spills right away or as soon as possible.  Seal sweaty clothes/shoes or dirty diapers in garbage or zip bags.  Do a weekly cleaning as often as possible and a thorough cleaning three or four times annually.

For a more comprehensive approach to preserving the cleanliness and appeal of your car, consider the expertise of car care specialists at Their professional touch goes beyond routine maintenance, providing a range of services that elevate your car’s aesthetics and hygiene. Whether it’s tackling stubborn spills or ensuring a thorough removal of odors, these specialists bring a level of precision and finesse that complements your efforts in maintaining a clean and inviting car interior.

And if these DIY tips don’t bring the relief that you seek, replace the cabin air filter in your vehicle.  You may also want to consider a professional cleaning job.  Additional sources of help are air filtration products that can be purchased.  Two favorites are an air purifier (Frieg, $20) that can be plugged into the power outlet and a compact filtration system (Philips Go-Pure, $144) that attaches to the back of a seat.  Both of these products are designed to improve air quality by eliminating smoke, pollen, dust, and other irritants.

If you’ve tried all the DIY tips and are still not satisfied with the air quality in your car, it may be time to consider professional cleaning services. Companies like EZ Car Detail specialize in deep-cleaning vehicles, including the air conditioning system. Their expert technicians use high-quality cleaning products and state-of-the-art equipment to remove even the toughest dirt and allergens, leaving your car’s air feeling fresh and clean.

Don’t let poor air quality in your car affect your health and well-being. Visit today to learn more about their professional car cleaning services and schedule an appointment to give your car the deep cleaning it deserves. With their help, you can enjoy a comfortable and healthy ride every time you get behind the wheel.

Here’s to a healthier, happier, smell-free ride!

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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Supermarket Safety

As I write this there are many concerns about the flu epidemic plus we have received several calls about the Consumer Reports article concerning tainted romaine lettuce. The grocery store can be a place where you can be exposed to both of these things. In order to try and prevent both of these there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself.  A good place to start is to remember to always use the disinfecting wipes provided at the store to wipe down your cart before use.

Probably the two biggest areas of concern are the produce and meat departments. In the produce department you may see consumers lick their fingers in order to try and open the produce bags that are available and then use those same fingers to touch and select the produce they want. If you are someone that opens the produce bags using that method, use your other hand to touch the produce. And always wash produce at home before consuming. If you see nicks and bruises on the produce you are looking at, the protective skins could definitely be damaged which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the flesh. If possible, hand select your own produce rather than choosing a prepackaged bulk bag where you may not notice the nicks and bruises until you get home.

In the meat department look for thermometers in the refrigerated and frozen cases. Refrigerated cases should be at 40 degrees or below and freezer cases should be at 0 degrees or below. Raw and ready-to-eat foods should be separated. Raw meat and sushi should not be together in the same case unless there is a divider between them. Many meat departments now offer plastic bags for sanitation. To use them, pick up the meat with the bag then pull the bag through. That helps protect your hands and helps prevent cross contamination. Fish should be refrigerated or displayed not only on ice but in ice. Seafood is highly perishable allowing bacteria to grow rapidly on it.

Grocery stores in general go out of their way to make the shopping experience as safe for you as possible. It is always a good idea to take a few precautionary measures for yourself however. None of us are interested in getting the flu or food poisoning.


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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Tips for Conscientious Eating When Dining Out



If you are watching calories, have dietary restrictions or food intolerances/allergies, dining out can be a challenge.  The pros of dining out are that restaurants, casual dining (fast food) venues, and delis are convenient for fast meals and/or socialization.   The cons (calorie overload, mega portions, sky-high salt, food triggers) may make it hard to maintain a healthy, balanced, or safe diet.

Here are some ideas to help you make appropriate choices when you dine out without compromising calories or health:

  • Check the online menu before going to decide what will work. If necessary, call in advance to ask about dietary or health concerns you may have such as gluten-free options and cross contamination.
  • Don’t make assumptions if you have concerns. Politely ask the server or chef a few simple questions:  How are the vegetables prepared/seasoned? Is the fish/chicken/pork chop grilled, broiled, breaded, or fried?  What is in the sauce or dressing?  Is the soup base broth or cream?  Has the food been marinated in any sauce?  Has any food been coated or dusted with flour?  Are mashed potatoes made with real potatoes?
  • Pay attention to the nutritional information if it is provided. If it is not available but of concern, ask.  The healthiest sounding dish on the menu may not be.
  • Order water, low-fat or fat-free milk, or unsweetened tea to avoid high-calorie beverages.
  • Ask for salad dressings, sauces, sour cream, butter, etc on the side so you can control the amount.
  • Substitute fruit, vegetables, or a salad for a heavy or off-diet side dish.
  • If gluten is allowed, ask for whole-wheat bread for sandwiches.
  • Start with a veggie-packed side salad to help control hunger and feel satisfied sooner. Request no crackers, croutons, wontons, or cheese if any are of concern to your diet or health.
  • Avoid appetizers either from the menu or those presented at the table (chips, breads, etc).
  • Choose main dishes with lots of veggies, especially steamed veggies when possible.
  • Order steamed, grilled or broiled dishes. Avoid fried or sautéed foods as much as possible.
  • At a buffet, order an item from the menu instead going for the all-you-can-eat option.
  • Opt out of dessert or request fresh fruit.
  • Refrain from cleaning your plate if the portion is too much. Splitting with a companion or requesting a take-home box are always options.  Take a minute to look at the plate that is brought to you and decide before taking a bite what you intend to eat.   Another option is to ask the waiter to box half of your plate before bringing it to the table.

Dining out doesn’t mean your healthy eating plan has to stay at home.  Nor does it mean that you have to stay home if you have dietary restrictions or food issues.  Ask a few questions, make some smart choices, and your meal-out can be as healthy and safe as if you made it yourself.

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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Got “Coconut” Milk?

When a recipe calls for coconut milk, who knew that getting the right “coconut milk” could be so confusing?  It should not be but with grocers offering so many different incarnations of this tropical nut that go by the same or very similar names, confusion abounds.  And to make selecting even more daunting, the different products really aren’t interchangeable.  Touted as the ultimate non-dairy beverage, bursting with health benefits that run the gamut from aiding with weight loss to preventing heart disease to balancing cholesterol levels, one needs to know which to use for what.  So what is coconut milk and all of its incarnations?  Which should we use for what?

Coconut milk is the real deal and the one you want for cooking.  True coconut milk comes in a can and is  found in the international aisle usually near the Asian food items.  It is a thick, fatty liquid made from steeping shredded coconut in hot water at a 1:1 ratio resulting in a thick, pourable product.  Good brands will have a thick cream that separates and rises to the top.  The more separation and thicker the cream, the better the product.  It has a coconut-y flavor making it a key ingredient in many Asian and Indian dishes.

Light coconut milk is merely a watered down version (1:2 ratio) of full-fat coconut milk.  Light coconut milk does not separate to give coconut cream.  It may be substituted for half-and-half in recipes with approximately half the fat of half-and-half.

Coconut water is a hip new drink made from the liquid that is naturally inside the wild, immature coconut nut.  Drink it, but do not cook with it.  Being high in potassium, it is a popular post-workout beverage due to its nutritional value.  It is also an excellent substitute for liquids used in sorbets.  Coconut water is blended with coconut cream to create coconut milk.

Carton of coconut milk is a beverage usually found in the dairy section of the store next to the other non-dairy milks.  It may be unsweetened or sweetened (with sugar) and is used as you would dairy milk for sipping, splashing on to cereal, with coffee, or in recipes.  Coconut milk beverage can be used as a substitute for low fat or whole milk in a 1:1 ratio for general cooking and baking.  However, it should not be substituted for canned coconut milk when a recipe calls for such; they are simply different products.  The difference is mainly lots of water. To make the refrigerated version more drinkable, palatable, and comparable as a beverage alternative, manufacturers add water. So much so that it dilutes the calories from about 450 calories per cup to about 45. Some varieties also have added sugars, gums, and thickeners.

Coconut cream is the most concentrated version of coconut milk.  With a high fat content and low water density, it is incredibly rich and will make any recipe creamier.  It can be used to thicken soups or to make vegan whipped cream.  Sold in cans, it is also found in the international aisle near the Asian food items.

Sweetened cream of coconut is coconut cream that has been sweetened.  It is incredibly sweet and intended for cocktails like a Pina Colada or to be used in a frozen dessert.

Coconut milk has erroneously gotten a bad rap because it is high in saturated fats.  Research reveals that coconut milk has unique fatty acids which provide a healthy source of fat, thereby contributing to the fore mentioned health benefits.  Further, new research finds that people who include healthy fats in their diet, like those found in coconut milk (medium-chain triglycerides), eat less than those who do not.

In a ‘coconut’ shell—with a little coconut milk knowledge, choosing the right milk for the job does not have to be confusing nor do you need to be overly concerned about the saturated fat found in coconut milk.

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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Preventing Unwanted House Mouse Guests

Cool, fall weather has arrived and along with leaves and nippy mornings, bugs and rodents are scurrying to find warmer quarters.  Often times, those warmer quarters are in the home.  Of these invaders, the common or European house mouse is one of the most troublesome and definitely an unwanted house guest.

Droppings, fresh gnawing, and tracks are usually the first signs of mouse activity.  Other signs might include nests made from shredded paper or other fibrous material and their characteristic musky odor.  They are most active at night but it is not uncommon for them to be seen during the day, too.  Common locations for these critters are under the sink, in cabinets or drawers, on the counter, and under furniture with their trails usually running along the baseboards.

These little critters require minimal space to invade a home.  Mice can squeeze through openings slightly larger than ¼ inch, just enough space to get their whiskers and head through.  They are excellent climbers and can run up any rough vertical surface.  They are also “tight rope artists” in that can run horizontally along very thin wires, cables, or ropes.  According to Dennis Ferraro, Nebraska Extension Wildlife Specialist, mice can jump straight up two and half feet and across three feet or drop vertically eight feet and keep running at a speed of six miles per hour.

Further, mice have a tremendous reproductive capacity.  In a year’s time, a female may have five to ten litters of usually five to six young born 19-21 days after mating.  Mice reach reproductive maturity in six to ten weeks.  The life span of a mouse is usually nine months to one year.

So with these facts in mind, prevention is key and involves three components—mouse-proof construction, good sanitation or removal of sources of food and water, and population reduction.

Mouse-proof construction.  The most successful and permanent form of house mouse control is to prevent them from entering in the first place by eliminating all openings through which they can enter.  Conduct a thorough inspection of your home—inside and out.  Look for gaps in siding where the siding meets the foundation or where pipes and other utilities enter.  Cracks in foundations and loose-fitting doors without proper weather stripping are other obvious places where mice can get in.  Since mice are good climbers, don’t forget to check openings around the roof, including attic vents.  Use rodent-proof materials to close all openings such as steel wool, hardware cloth, galvanized sheet metal or metal flashing, cement mortar, caulking, and spray foam insulation or combinations of these materials.  For how-to-do details, see Rodent-Proof Construction and Exclusion Methods prepared by Cornell, Clemson, UNL, and Utah State Universities.

Sanitation.  Eliminating their food and water source is critical to controlling them.  Mice are opportunistic feeders that will eat any food discarded by humans.  Therefore, clean up spilled food or remove open food in cupboards, drawers, counter tops, and floors under stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers.  Place all accessible food in mouse-proof containers such as glass or store in the refrigerator or freezer.  Store pet and bird food in sealed containers.  Keep cabbage can lids tightly sealed.  Remove pet food and water dishes when not in use and do not leave a glass of water or dirty dishes sitting in the sink.

Outdoors, remove clutter and debris from the perimeter of the house.  Keep grass, shrubs, and other vegetation trimmed around the house.  Remove any container that could hold water.

Population reduction. Population reduction can be done through a combination of rodenticides, trapping, or by professional extermination.  Spring traps are the preferred method; baiting with peanut butter usually works well as long as you put the bait far enough in that the mouse has to work for it.  Baits or poisons used indoors should be avoided if possible.  Often pets and children are unintended victims of baits and poisons.  And mice usually die in the walls or some other hard-to-get-at location where they discompose for a month emitting a foul smell, shedding bacteria, and attracting maggots. Should you need to clean up after a mouse infestation, follow these tips.

A few steps now can prevent those troublesome and unwanted house mice from becoming your guests!



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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