[Image Credit: 123RF.com #82516319]
It’s a scene that plays out in kitchens across the country (heck, probably across the world) every day. Someone opens up the fridge, pantry, or cupboard with the intention of pulling together a healthy meal for their family, but chaos stares back at them. They either don’t have the time or the heart to wade through the disorganized stacks of bottles, boxes, bags, cans, and jars, so they grab a box of mac & cheese and call it a day.
What if there were a better way?
What if there were a way to clear the clutter and the chaos in the kitchen and create a mealtime haven that made pulling together healthy dishes for your family a no-brainer?
Well, the great news is that with some simple tweaks and the will to do it, an organized kitchen can be yours!
Having just gone through this particular exercise in my own home, I present to you my Top 10 Hacks for Creating a Healthier Kitchen!
Hack #1: Pull It All Out and PURGE!
Look, I get it! When I first attempted to organize my kitchen I was sure I could just move things around and I’d be all good. It didn’t work! The only way to clear the chaos is to remove EVERYTHING and touch each and every item, deciding what stays and what goes. Check expiration dates. Toss whatever has expired. Be ruthless about each item. Are you really ever going to eat that jar of artichoke hearts you bought 3 years ago for some recipe you never ended up making? Do you have 3 open bags of chia seeds like I did? Consolidate them into one container and toss the empties. Don’t get overwhelmed! You can do this a cupboard/pantry/fridge/freezer at a time. Heck, you can even do it a shelf at a time if you want. Just start. I found that just breaking the inertia made me want to keep going. Then, once you have made the big purge and either trashed or donated all the stuff you’re never going to use, it’s time to get busy!
Hack #2: Alphabetize Your Spices
I know it sounds incredibly OCD, but I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to just reach for the spices I need instead of taking out every single jar until I find the cumin! Try it! I promise you’ll like it!
Hack #3: Use Mason Jars
Hey, I grew up in the South and honestly, I thought the only use for mason jars was to can green beans and tomatoes from my Gramma’s garden and make jellies and jams. Boy, have I been missing out. I’ll tell you a secret… I have actually successfully completed TWO projects that I saw on Pinterest. The first was Minion cupcakes for my son’s 11th birthday. The other was to use mason jars to store my grains and bulk items. Talk about a tidy pantry! Chia seeds, rice, dried beans, bulk spices, coconut flakes, goji berries, cacao nibs, etc. They look so pretty in their jars! Plus they are airtight so things stay fresh and bug-free! 😮
Hack #4: Use a Fruit Bowl
Pull out one of the large, pretty bowls that lives in the recesses of your dining room buffet or go buy a nice bowl (mine is aqua and has sea turtles on it) and fill it with fruit and display it on your counter. Not only is fruit beautiful but if you can see it you are more likely to actually EAT it!
Hack #5: Hide the Free Day Food
Ideally, I like to buy just enough free day food so that I run out at the end of the day, but sometimes that doesn’t happen and there are leftovers. So, I hide them. We have a basket in our pantry that we hide all the junk food in, but you could also put it up in a high cabinet (preferably one that you need a step stool to reach). Out of sight, out of mind!
Hack #6: Consolidate Like A Boss
Go through your plasticware and your pots and pans and get rid of the stuff that is all scratched up, stained, lidless, etc. Keep the items that you use often, but get rid of the extra stuff you either never use or that is past its prime.
Hack #7: Get (and Use) An Instant Pot – STAT!
For the love of all that is good and holy, I resisted the Instant Pot craze forever. I’m not a fan of uni-taskers in my kitchen and I thought the Instant Pot was just that. However, I inherited a brand new one from my mom when she passed away earlier this year. Honestly, I was scared of it. I remembered all too well the pressure cooker explosions in my Gramma’s kitchen when I was a kid and feared that maybe I had a little PTSD from the experiences. But let me tell you, this ain’t your Gramma’s pressure cooker! It took me a few weeks to actually try the slow cooker setting and a few more weeks before I worked up the courage and used the pressure cooker setting. But dang y’all, shredded chicken from freezer to table in less than 30 minutes? I was sold! If you’re a busy mom who is running in 10 different directions at any given time, go get one! You won’t regret it!
Hack #8: Use a Garbage Bowl
I learned this trick from Rachael Ray. When you’re preparing your meals have a large bowl on hand to collect the trash – the bags, the ends of the carrots, the twigs that are leftover after you pull the rosemary off, the potato peels, etc. Then, you only have to make one trip to the trash can and the counter stays so much cleaner and more organized!
Hack #9: Keep a Go To Meal On Hand
Keep all the ingredients on hand for an emergency meal – you know, the times when you come home from work and everyone is screaming that they are STARVING and you need to whip something up in a jiffy. For us it’s a box of pasta, a jar of Rao’s Marinara Sauce, ground beef, and chopped veggies. I can have dinner on the table in 20 minutes.
Hack #10: Plan Your Menu and Prep in Advance
I plan my menu on Thursday, shop on Friday, and do meal prep on Sunday. This has become even more important while Deb is on a consulting assignment across the state. I fix her meals in advance so that all she has to do is heat and eat. It works really well for Josh and me too. It’s so great to know exactly what we’re eating in advance. Cooking everything in advance has given me a ton of time back in my days. I really love it!
What are your favorite kitchen hacks to save time, eat healthier, and stay organized? I’m always learning and evolving so I’d love to hear what works for you!