I think we can all agree that this year’s holidays ended with us having lesser messes to clean up, fewer leftovers to finish and no more unwanted gifts to deal with.
What we did have ample of, was Time. Time to bond with our closest, most dear ones, time to sit back and analyze how this year caught us off guard and time to plan for a more structured 2021, now that we know what we are dealing with isn’t going away anytime soon.
A very humbling challenge that we faced was Working From Home. A seemingly comfortable idea of working in your pj’s without even having to leave your bed was actually quite far from the truth for most of us working parents. Added to our fun mix were our children. Who were also working from home? Hah!
Managing a work day with one or multiple super charged little ones, finishing that assignment before it’s deadline and still having fresh, nutritious meals in time for lunch, so we don’t have another ‘hangry’ meltdown was a challenge set at difficulty level, ‘Superhuman’.
But we did it all. We are still standing. Kudos to us!
With the dawn of 2021 at the horizon, there is that window to prepare better. To go into the new year feeling more in control.
Why Organizing the Kitchen is Important?
Having an organized kitchen saves me an immense amount of time and energy during the day. Keeping your pantry, fridge and kitchen stocked, stored, and organized will help you to:
- Budget your finances for food
- Curb spur of the moment impulsive food shopping
- Prepare healthy nutritious and fresh meals for your family at all times
- Minimize food wastage
Before we get into how to best organize your kitchen, let me tell you that we have all been there. Even with excellent organizing skills, there have been times when I have discovered the bag of spinach that I thought I had already cooked, laying in the fridge, completely unrecognizable. So just be consistent, and over time, you will develop a scheme for all things kitchen.
Eat the leftovers!
First things first, you gotta eat the holiday leftovers. Mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables, stuffing and Turkey. With so much food being prepared during the Holidays, there’s bound to be leftovers. And to get to the next stage of organizing the kitchen, you need to get over this one first. There are many interesting and delicious ways of using extra food that has already been cooked. Here are some ideas.
Get to know your fridge! (and pantry!)
Once you eat all the food, you will finally be able to see the walls of your fridge! Say hello to your trusty old companion and give it the cleaning it deserves. This year, instead of using harmful cleaning chemicals, try this simple homemade cleaning combo that will do the job and not give you a chemical burn in the process!
Once your refrigerator is sparkling, you will be able to see a whole new space that if utilized properly, can hold a lot more than it used to.
While you are at it, look around your pantry and get all of the stuff out. Segregate tinned food, spices and seasonings, fats, and just like you did before, toss out the dated products.
Throw the processed stuff away!
To clean up your eating act, the most important thing you do is get rid of foods that don’t fit into your strategy. Don’t keep unhealthy foods anywhere at all in the fridge! These include:
- Sodas, foods loaded with artificial ingredients (all that stuff with unpronounceable names), sugary yogurts and super-caloric foods
- Juice, commercially made salad dressings and condiments
At least most of what you see in your kitchen space should be supportive of your goals and reflective of how you want to live.
Make a list!
Have a plan in order when you set out to organize your kitchen. A well arranged kitchen starts with knowing what you’re going to get when you go food shopping. Make a list of all the wet and dry products that are your daily cooking requirements.
One mistake most people make while organizing their fridge is to buy food without having a plan in place. For example, purchasing four different types of vegetables without really knowing how or when you will cook them is likely to cause waste of space and waste of money.
Buy Local and Organic
At TexasRealFood, we passionately believe in supporting our local community. There are just too many benefits to buying from local food producers. There are some tremendous farmer markets in Texas that offer organic, fresh, seasonal produce for all your dietary requirements.
If you are in Dallas, be sure to check out these Farmers markets for some organic honey, pickles and preserves, and cheeses.
Farmers Markets in Elgin are known for their locally grown fresh onions, corn, broccoli and radishes.
Prep Prep Prep
As soon as you’re back from your grocery run, never stuff your veggies into the fridge without prepping them. I understand this can be really tough for mothers with toddlers or younger kids, because there’s a whole list of other chores to be done as soon as you walk through that door. When I have no time to prep immediately, I usually leave my groceries on the counter till I can get around to doing it. This helps the task stay on my mind as opposed to placing them directly in the fridge and only kidding myself that I will get to it one day!
Buy more vegetables that you can eat with minimal or no cooking
Having kids at home means snacking for most part of the day, and if you have a good variety of fresh fruits or vegetables they can munch on, you can easily have them stay off sugary cookies and processed chips.
Our favorites are cucumbers, carrots, apples, grapes, berries, broccoli, celery sticks and clementines. Buy organic as much as you can. Here are 5 orchards in Texas you can pick these from!
Stick to Healthier Alternatives
I recommend stocking up your fridge with staples like leafy greens, healthy veggies, organic fruits, organic free-range local eggs, avocados, almonds, and chia seeds.
What are nuts and seeds doing in my fridge you ask?
Well, its always better for the shelf life of seeds, nuts and nut butters to stay in the fridge rather than outside. I like to keep a mix of them in a mason jar on the counter, for daily use, that I regularly refill.
The amount of food you buy depends on your household and daily needs, but it’s important to control over buying and stuffing your pantry and fridge. This will lead to over-crowding and there is a high chance, you won’t even see what’s in there until its gone bad.
To eat healthy, you should eat foods, while they are still as fresh as they can be.
Chart out your Weekly Meals
Have a general idea of what meals you want to eat through the week and prep them accordingly. Wash, chop, portion, and pack. Label your containers by the days of the week. This way, you won’t spend 20 minutes standing in front of your fridge deciding what to cook that day.
I love to cook fresh meals daily, and since I am working from home most days, it is fairly possible for me. But for those who don’t have that convenience, it is best to cook main courses weekly, preferably on weekends. You can add an on-the-spot-fresh dish like simple savory braised carrots, stir-fried veggies or a fresh green salad to go with your frozen meal of the day. That will give your dinners a good variety.
Eating healthier doesn’t have to involve a major lifestyle change. Making small adjustments in your routine can make a big impact and promote healthy living for your kids for years to come. Adjustments like swapping butter with ghee or putting the salt in the cupboard take only minutes but will make an impact on your family’s health long-term.