I used to snack to relieve stress. Now I organize things. One of those things has been my kitchen–especially since maintaining a well-organized kitchen helps me maintain a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet and fitness. Here are some tips that help me save money and stay on top of my diet.
1. Replace pastas and white rice with whole grains, brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Typically I purchase them at the Whole Foods bulk foods bin since it’s very inexpensive. I put them in food storage containers and label them so they’re easy to identify and fit neatly in the cabinet. I like Lock And Lock containers for grain storage and these OXO Pop containers for flours and sugars. We can all thank my brother for feeding my labeling obsession with a Dymo Labelmaker that he gave me for Christmas. Why? Because my other one WORE out. That’s why.
2. Buy a few pieces of longer lasting fruit that can go on a nice bowl on your table. It lasts longer than flowers and is a great snack on the go.
3. Have a good assortment of spices and herbs on hand. These provide flavor without the fat, calories and sodium of other add-ins. I keep mine in a drawer with all the tops labeled and in alphabetical order. My mother has gotten me addicted to Penzey’s spices–I especially love that they sell several different sized containers of most spices, so you can buy what you need and not end up with, say, Italian Herbs that are 5 years old. You think I’m bad? You should see mom’s cinnamon collection. I think she has 6 or 7 different types now.
4. Have a snack jar. One of these days, it will be a cookie jar, but for now it’s just a plain old glass bowl with envelopes of oatmeal, food storage bags of high fiber whole grain crackers (I have 1 ounce cubes of reduced fat cheddar in the fridge!) or single serve sizes of high fiber cereal that I can put on top of my yogurt for a little extra crunch.
5. Put everything in an easy to find place and keep like items together. One cabinet is for coffee and tea. Another cabinet houses stacked food storage containers. A drawer keeps their covers in order.
6. Hide your significant other’s (or kid’s) junk food. This is my boyfriend’s sugary cereal stash on a low shelf in a bookcase in the hall that leads from my kitchen to the living room. Out of sight, out of mind. Unless he has Cheez-Its. I seem to have radar for those.
7. Make your own salad dressing. It’s easy and fun and typically relies on items you already have in the house (my favorite is extra virgin olive oil, dijon, honey and balsamic vinegar).
8. Keep measuring cups and spoons out and easy to reach. By using a tack to hang my measuring supplies up, it keeps clutter off the counter but important tools close at hand. I use these daily. For most things (e.g. cereal), I don’t even need to really wash them, but just give them a quick rinse and rehang. I also have two sets of spoons and cups just in case one set is in the dishwasher.
9. Keep a list of what’s in your freezer. Since I package many of my meats and leftovers in single or double serving sizes, I can easily collect a lot of “stuff” in my freezer. It helps to have this list ready when I develop my meal plan and grocery list for the week, so I don’t have to dig around sub-freezing temperatures and risk frostbite to see if I have a pork chop somewhere. It also makes it less likely that I’ll end up purchasing an extra bag of shrimp. As I take things out or add, I update the list.
And, no. I don’t list whether there’s ice cream in the freezer on this checklist (there usually is).
10. Post your food plan on the fridge. Having a visual reminder keeps me on track and helps me plan more quickly. It also means I figure out my meals for the week once and don’t have to spend much time doing this during the week when I’m more busy. I love this What To Eat pad and the Take Out Menu Organizer (hey! we all need a little kitchen relief now and then) from Knock Knock, but I actually created my own take-out organizer (pictured below) and sometimes use my own meal planner (Word doc linked below).
So… what are your handy kitchen tips?