Ants got in the honey on the kitchen counter

When we lived in Grandma’s old building in Brooklyn, it was a constant struggle to keep insects away — especially ants. When the problem got really bad, Mom and Grandma used insecticide from the store like Raid. Oh, how I hated that acrid, nauseating scent!

But the bug spray (or the exterminator) was the last line of defense. To make our home less appealing to insects and bugs, we kept the tables and countertops clean and free of crumbs. We regularly swept and mopped the floors. Grandma even wiped down her countertops and vinyl tablecloths with a bleach solution to keep the bugs away!

The rules about where we could eat were clear — we could not just take food wherever we wanted to eat it. We would never think of bringing snacks into the bedroom or any other room. And when we were allowed to eat in front of the TV, we used snack tables. After the meal, we wiped down the little tables and swept up any crumbs to avoid attracting bugs or insects.

These days, we have more knowledge about just how bad exposure to insecticides is for us. And fortunately, we have some safer choices. There are nontoxic products on the market that use plant oils like peppermint to deter bugs. There are lots of DIY recipes to discourage household bugs and insects, too.

When I had ants in the kitchen, I found the best way to get rid of them was Aunt Elena’s solution: Disinfect the sink and the countertops with a vinegar and water solution. Spraying surfaces with vinegar helps remove the scent trails the insects leave behind for their buddies to follow. After cleaning, essential oils like peppermint and cinnamon can further help discourage them from returning.

The old habits of cleaning up crumbs and food odors that attract insects and bugs — and disinfecting with natural ingredients like vinegar — go a long way to keeping the house pest-free. And these simple habits are nontoxic, cheap, and don’t harm the planet!

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By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.