Dear Heloise: I like fruit and vegetables, but I have a hard time telling WHEN THEY'RE RIPE. And after they're ripe, I try to eat them, but I end up tossing out overripe fruit when I can't get around to eating them. How do I tell if an avocado is ripe, or berries or bananas? -- Logan M., Paterson, N.J.
Great question, Logan! Here are some hints:
Avocados: Press the stem end, and if it's soft to the touch, it's ripe. Store ripe avocados in the refrigerator, but never unripe ones.
Berries: They are best if eaten right after they're picked, and they should be refrigerated unless eaten. Wash berries in a colander, but never let them soak.
Bananas: They will show the very beginning of tiny brown spots when ripe. Store in the refrigerator after that. The skin will turn black, but the fruit is still good.
Dear Heloise: I'm setting up my own place right now, and to tell hard-boiled eggs from the uncooked ones, I take a felt-tipped pen and mark the hard-boiled eggs with a ''B.'' My mother taught me this trick! -- Phil W., Casper, Wyo.
Dear Heloise: We're a family of nine and always have leftovers. On Friday nights, I serve leftovers, smorgasbord-style, to save time and clean out the refrigerator. -- Lois D., Sandy City, Utah
Dear Heloise: My four sons often bring their friends over after school or practice, and as you might have guessed, they're always hungry. English muffins have become my best friend because of the versatility they offer. I can top them with cream cheese, chutney and peanuts, or almond slices. A slice of tomato and cheese, and a few seconds under the broiler, also is a tasty treat. -- Claire W., Southfield, Mich.
Claire, these are terrific suggestions. Do any of my other readers have ''emergency food ideas''? -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: Sometimes people will burn a glass coffeepot with just a little leftover coffee. It's stuck at the bottom and is hard to clean -- unless you do this: Take about six to eight ice cubes and about 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt and put them in the coffeepot. Hold the pot by the handle and start swirling the salt/ice cubes in a circular motion, so that they spin around the inside. The burned-on coffee will be gone in a couple of minutes. Just rinse out the pot, and you're done. -- Joseph E., Dayton, Ohio
EGG PLATE FATE
Dear Heloise: I have turned my pretty glass deviled-egg plate into a fruit plate. First, I put a large strawberry where the eggs normally go. Next, I arrange a circle of either melon or mango slices, and then in the center I put either plums or grapes.
I also can sprinkle blueberries on it. I take this to potlucks and get lots of compliments. -- Mary C., Godfrey, Ill.