by Janel Ralat
Did you make a New Year’s resolution to eat better? Perhaps to eat at home more for better health or to save money? Here are a few tips on getting your kitchen organized and some time-saving tips to help you achieve your goals. Utilizing our four-step organizing system will get your kitchen in tiptop shape in no time.
Declutter and Sort. Cabinets, pantry, fridge, and freezer. Grab a trash bag, damp cloth, and your phone for its timer (or some great music), and go through your kitchen tossing old and expired items. Start small with one cabinet at a time or 20 minutes on your timer. Begin at one end and work your way around. Don’t forget to go through your spice cabinet as well. Wipe down shelves as you go and neatly place items back as we like to call, “Grocery Store Style” facing forward with the oldest item in front and the newest one in back. This step will allow you to easily inventory your kitchen’s contents and make it instantly feel better. Create space on shelves to place new ingredients after your next trip to the store.
Create a Zone. This is the second step in our process, and the kitchen is one of the most important spaces to zone. Make your kitchen work for you by creating zones, so that like items are grouped together. Make frequently-used items more accessible, and store items you occasionally use in higher cabinets or toward the back. The purpose of zoning your kitchen is to save time with meal planning and clean up.
Meal Prep Zone — Knives, cutting boards, garlic press, prep bowls, cooking utensils, pots, and pans.
Meal Time Zone — Everyday plates, bowls, eating utensils, drinking glasses, and napkins.
Other Kitchen Zones to consider: Baking Zone, Coffee/Tea Zone, Kid Zone, even an Entertaining Zone.
Label and Contain. Our third step is pretty self-explanatory, but let’s keep things in perspective here. Containers can be pricey, and it’s not necessary to have everything in them. Flours, sugars, and rices are a few of the examples of items that are good to keep in airtight containers with a label on the front. Be mindful before removing certain items from their original containers into neat little containers. Baking soda vs. baking powder for instance. Let’s not get crazy and overcomplicate the situation.
Teach and Maintain. The final step in our process can apply to meal planning simply by avoiding over-buying foods. Use a general rule of one being used, one in reserve. As soon as you open your reserve item, add it to your shopping list so that you never run out and avoid over purchasing items.
Here are a few other tips and tidbits for meal planning:
Plan Your Menu — Take 30 minutes once a week with a pen and notepad to jot down favorite or new recipes to try. Google recipe ideas or use Pinterest to find recipes for free. There are a variety of websites that provide a meal planning service, although they do come with a fee. Plate Joy, Relish, and Emeals are a few examples.
Prep Once, Eat Twice — Chopping veggies for a salad? Chop a few extra to place in the fridge as a healthy snack or add-in for tomorrow’s dinner. Go the extra step and add these fresh veggies to single serve containers, which are fabulous for portion control meals or to sneak into lunchboxes. Cook extra ground beef or turkey and freeze the extra for a future meal.
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly) — It’s great to try new recipes and ingredients, but avoid getting too exotic with your recipe choices. Although that dish calling for pomegranate molasses or Za’atar sounds divine, you’ll likely not find the ingredients at your neighborhood grocery store. Keep the ingredient list simple. This is where a neatly organized pantry and spice cabinet become essential.
Meal Delivery Kits — Here is where you can get adventurous with your recipe choices. Plus, all the ingredients are provided for you! These are great for foodies who love to cook. Each week you can choose two to four meals for up to four people. This is a great way to try exotic new dishes. All you need are cooking oils, salt, and pepper. The kits provide neatly prepped ingredients, just enough to prepare your meal. There’s very little food waste and anything you have extra can be used for a future meal. Plated, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh are the most well known.
Your tried and true friend, the Crock Pot — It’s the friend you can always rely on to provide you with minimal effort and delicious results. All you need is a protein, some sturdy veggies (usually potatoes and carrots), great flavoring, and liquid to create a delish and hearty meal.
Need a night to Netflix and chill? Put together a quick salad with your pre-cut veggies while pizza delivery is on its way.