Dear Heloise: After I finish a glass or container of milk, I pour a bit of water in the glass or container, swish the water around and pour the liquid on my houseplants. It's a good source of calcium for them.

Also, I stock my pantry like they stock grocery shelves. If I have multiples of an item, I put the oldest item in the front of the shelf and the newer items behind it in order of age.

M.C.H., via email

Dear Heloise: Here I am wondering if marinades can be frozen and reused. I use marinade one time and throw it away. It seems such a waste.

Curt in California

Curt in California: The word from Foodsafety.gov is no, don’t reuse a marinade. Discard it or boil it to kill harmful bacteria. Every time you use a marinade on meat, fish or poultry, the bacteria levels increase. There is also the possibility of cross contamination between reused marinades. So the short answer is no, don’t reuse marinades.

Dear Heloise: I have cast-iron skillets and pots. How do I clean them?

Jean B.: The following is how a cast-iron skillet should be cleaned:

1. Clean the skillet or pot immediately after you’ve used it, preferably while it’s still warm.

2. Use lots of hot water, and wash by hand with either a sponge or stiff nylon brush (not metal scouring pads) and a mild dishwashing liquid. Never soak iron skillets in soapy water or use harsh chemicals.

3. Rinse the pan well and be sure to thoroughly dry it over a low heat on the stove for a few seconds.

4. Rub the pan with a light coating of vegetable oil.

5. Store in a dry place.

Dear Heloise: I've never seen an expiration date on those little single-serve condiment packets in fast-food restaurants. How do we know they're safe to eat?

Harold M.: Good question. The box that the packets come in is stamped with an expiration date, but restaurants usually go through the packets so quickly that it is not an issue.

A restaurant we spoke to goes through one case of ketchup packets every three days and has a similar turnaround for dipping sauces. Ask the manager if you are concerned.

Dear Heloise: When I'm cooking something white or beige, like rice or orzo, that needs to be sauteed "to a light brown," I always keep out a few grains so I have a raw color to check it against for doneness.

Ceecy N., Odenton, Md.

Readers, FYI: Orzo is a variety of pasta; it looks a little bit like rice.

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at washingtonpost.com/advice. Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or email it to Heloise@Heloise.com.

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