Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Spring Cleaning: The Fridge
This weekend, my kitchen and I came to blows, and I am proud to say that I emerged victorious.
When your life is busy and full, it's easy to let clutter and mess creep up on you. It happens gradually. You run by the grocery store after work to pick up a few things for dinner, and you don't put everything away. You accidentally buy something you had forgotten you already had. Leftovers get piled high and pushed to the back of the fridge. Then one day you realize you can't find anything, and although the cupboards and fridge seem stuffed to bursting, you feel certain there is no food in the house.
It makes you feel crazy, doesn't it?
Having a clean, well-organized kitchen makes it much easier to cook, reduces stress, and shrinks your grocery bill by eliminating redundancies and making it easier to see what you have to use up. I tend to look at recipes and shop for what I want to eat, rather than starting with what I have on hand and building meals that way. First step to change: getting everything clean, organized, and clearly labeled. Let's get started!
Working systematically through the different areas of your fridge and freezer, repeat the following steps:
Step 1: Take everything out and sort through it. Is anything obviously spoiled or freezer-burned? Can you identify it? Do you even remember putting it in there? Toss toss toss!
Step 2: Fill the sink with hot soapy water, and scrub out the inside with a clean soapy rag. Rinse out the rag and wipe down with clean water, then dry with a towel.
Step 3: Look critically at the setup. Is this particular arrangement working for you? Is there anything you can do to change it? I decided that the dinky wire shelf in my freezer was not cutting it, so I replaced it with a wider and slightly taller shelf. Same thing in the fridge: a tiny shelf in the middle that got absolutely no light made it virtually useless. Rearrange shelves until you come up with something that works.
Step 4: Try to organize each area by category. Don't obsess. Not everything fits into a category, but if you establish general areas (i.e. one drawer for fruits and veggies, and one for meats and cheeses), you'll have an easier time putting things away and finding them in the future.
Step 5: Establish a system for labeling leftovers. This is crucial! It can be as simple as a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie. Write what's inside, and when you put it in there. The dates will help to remind you which things to use up first, and the labels will help your family members to be able to find something to eat without asking you!
The Freezer: Before
The Freezer: After
There are a few things that I try to buy in bulk and keep in the freezer. Butter, salted and unsalted. Bacon. Organic free-range chicken (whole chickens and some boneless breasts for quick meals), and ground beef. Pecans, walnuts, and almonds, which can go rancid quickly if not kept cold. Whole grain flours (not in bulk), for the same reason.
Freezer Door: Before
Freezer Door: After
If you like to bake and there aren't always enough people around to eat up the things you make, pop them in the freezer. Homemade waffles are sealed two-by-two in sandwich bags, and put Eggo waffles to shame. Freeze leftover muffins and cookies, too. You keep yourself from overeating (who in the world can resist fresh baked goods?) and you provide delicious treats for your future self. Frozen bananas become smoothies and muffins!
Fridge Door: Before
Fridge Door: After
Guess what I found in my butter shelf? ...Anchovy paste. Don't be like me! Don't accidentally bake with anchovy butter! Give your butter a private room. Think about all that butter does for you! Doesn't it deserve some privacy? Also, why does Asian cuisine contain such a bewildering number of specific sauces? Sweet chili sauce, sriracha, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil and toasted sesame oil, chili oil, ponzu sauce... Make it stop!
The Fridge: Before
The Fridge: After
Once I got through this ordeal of cleaning and tossing and rearranging, I felt better. My heart swells with pride every time I open the fridge, and I feel the sense of accomplishment radiating through other areas of my life, motivating me to change and improve! I'm gaining momentum and taking control, and little by little I'm allowing peace to replace the chaos in my home.
Want to see some more inspiring refrigerators? Go visit Tracy and Jen!