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We’ve talked a lot around here about ways to stay ahead in this difficult economy, such as cooking your own meals, using coupons, comparing prices, and making your home a comfortable and inviting place to spend your time.

Here are five ways to help minimize cleaning time – and keep your family healthier – by stopping dirt and messes before they even show up in your home:

1.) Make everyone leave their shoes in the front hallway upon entering your home. Just think of all the dirty, germy places you walk in each day, from public restrooms to subway stations. We recently purchased several of these stackable shoe racks from Ikea for only $10, and now we can store 15 or more pairs of shoes neatly in our laundry room, where we usually enter the house.

2.) Minimize kitchen spills and stains. You can prevent those periodic lengthy cleanup jobs by placing shelf liners in the fridge, lining the microwave bottom with paper towels, and treating a stainless steel sink with mineral oil to prevent lime buildup and spotting.

3.) Stop mildew from forming in the shower. Squeegee the shower walls regularly to save the time of having to clean up accumulated mildew deposits. Another tip I’ve read about is to treat the shower stall so it will have a Teflon-like resistance to soap scum. To do this, use a gentle abrasive such as Bon-Ami. Follow that by applying rubbing alcohol, which strips the tile of any residue. Then spray the walls with furniture polish or baby oil. Then buff.

4.) Restrict areas where pets are allowed. This will reduce the amount of space where you will have to clean up pet hair, and also reduce sniffling and sneezing for anyone who is even mildly allergic to the pet. The bedroom is a great place to keep pet free, and it’s easy to simply keep the door closed so pets can’t enter.

5.) Reduce dust and dirt by de-cluttering. This is a great rule to live by especially in places like the kitchen. If there are appliances that are not used often and can be put away, store them in cabinets. Little kitchen decorations, such as decorative salt shakers and ceramic stovetop items, are often fun and cute, but remember, they are also more items from which to remove spills and dust.

If you’re looking to save money on cleaning products, the CoolSavings’ Printable Coupons section has savings on items such as Clorox Fabric Spray, Greased Lightning cleaner (great for cleaning diaper pails and high chairs) and Sani-Hands for Kids gel hand wipes.

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