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DEAR HELOISE: There's one aspect of the coronavirus pandemic that I don't see a lot of info on. When I go to the store, I follow the proper guidelines: I stay 6 feet away from others, wear a face mask, wipe down the shopping buggy, wash hands, use hand sanitizer, etc. I also go alone.

What I don't understand is why in the middle of this public health crisis, do people go shopping with friends and relatives? Isn't that unnecessary exposure?

When I go shopping, I make a list, I get in, I get what I need, I pay for my items and get out. And, of course, I wash my hands thoroughly when I get home.

Eventually, we can go back to shopping, browsing, trying things on and making a day of it with friends for lunch and fun, but right now, safety is first.

-- Jackie in Texas

DEAR HELOISE: This might sound a little obsessive, but I organize and alphabetize my spices and condiments. This way, I know exactly what I have, and I can frequently and easily check the dates on each, too.

I'd be curious to know: Do your readers mostly use fresh parsley, oregano, chives, etc., or do they prefer dried?

-- Dawn in Indiana

DEAR READER: There's nothing wrong with being organized. Readers, what do you say: fresh or dried spices and herbs?

DEAR HELOISE: I learned my rice cooker is also good for making a batch of oatmeal. The recipe is the same as cooking on a stove, but lots easier because I don't have to stir and watch it.

For a small batch, I put into the rice cooker 1 cup of oatmeal (any kind) to 2 cups of water (I add just a bit extra) and a pat of butter or teaspoon of oil to keep it from foaming over. After it turns off, I add raisins or dried cherries.

For larger batches, I double the recipe. I make extra and store it in the refrigerator.

-- Jo King, Houston

DEAR HELOISE: My daughter taught me this cute idea for entertaining my 2-year-old granddaughter while she's in her highchair. I take a bit of yellow, blue and red paint and squirt them into a zip-top freezer bag. I remove as much air as possible, close the bag and tape it down with heavy masking tape to the tray on her chair.

She loves to "finger paint" by squishing the paint around in the bag, and she's learning that yellow and blue make green, and where purple comes from. We can also trace our numbers and letters.

Of course, I never take my eyes off her, but those freezer bags are hard to tear and the bag is taped down. Cleanup is a breeze.

-- Myrtle in Ohio

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email

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