You know spring is in the air when I have an urge to start cleaning. On my day off no less. Since I spend tons of time cooking and baking in the kitchen, it seemed like the perfect place to start! When I get an urge to clean I go with it (because who knows when it will happen again ;) ) and thus Tuesday became an adventure in natural cleaning and efficient, healthful organization of my favourite room in the house.
If you had opened my fridge on Monday you would have been amazed at the amount of food in there! It was crammed to the brim full of sauces, spreads, fruits, veggies and leftover meals and ingredients. It was getting a little ridiculous and frankly so many the jars were going unused, so I decided to investigate. I pulled out a particularly suspicious sauce and I was amazed. It had been expired for 2 years! A further inspection of the fridge led to me finding forgotten leftovers and even more expired products. I decided a complete cleaning and overhaul of the fridge and pantry was in order!
Having a clean and well organized fridge and pantry is crucial for both healthful and economic eating. It ensures:
- nothing goes bad (which would promote bacteria growth)
- nothing gets wasted and forgotten about
- you don’t buy something you already have because everything is easily visible
- fresh healthy eating is as easy as possible!
After I had pulled out all the food, tossed things I wasn’t keeping and put the rest in a cooler for safe storage, I got to work. Because the kitchen is a place where you are storing and preparing things for consumption, it is probably one of the LAST places you want to use harsh chemicals. All natural is the way to go, and what could be better than something we eat anyway?
All-Natural Kitchen Scrubber
This is a great all purpose-cleaner that you can feel good about using. No fake smells or harmful chemicals and no worrying about it accidentally coming into contact with food.
- 1 bucket warm water
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- optional: some lemon juice for a fresh scent
So easy, just mix it up and you’re ready to scrub. This easily lifts off any stuck on food and helps remove odour! What I found to be the easiest is having a separate small bucket of water to use for rinsing. If you don’t wipe any baking soda residue off the shelves, it hardens into unattractive white spots and we don’t want that ;)
And since you’ve pulled everything out at this stage, why not organize it? There’s loads of pretty handy tips out there when it comes to fridge organization and some of the ones I found to be particularly good:
- Group like things together: put all your sandwich condiments together, all your nut butters together, etc. This way they are easy to find!
- Keep sauces in the doors and group those as well: salad dressings together, marinades and stir-fry sauces together, etc.
- Don’t put dairy products or things that go bad easily in the doors- put them on the shelves inside the fridge. The center of the fridge is the coldest part and will keep those items fresher.
- Store leftovers in clear containers and put them on the top shelf. That way they are readily visible and won’t be forgotten!
- If you eat meat: try not to store meat above other foods- store on the bottom shelf. If you don’t have that option, try to designate a specific drawer for meat products or ensure they are very tightly wrapped. You don’t want raw meat dripping on other foods, contaminating them.
- For healthier eating: make sure all your fruits and vegetable are readily visible! That way when you open the fridge they’re the first things you see and you’ll be more likely to eat them!
- For families with mixed diets: totally optional but I got a great idea to organize the different shelves according to vegan and non-vegan foods. This way when I open the fridge I know exactly what is me-friendly and what isn’t! So on the fridge door shelf designated for “cooking ingredients” I split up the fish and worchestershire sauces from the hoisin and curry paste. Works lovely!
The finished fridge. So nice and organized! And lemony fresh!
The pantry is another area where, although things might not go bad quite as fast, food gets lost, which can lead to waste or buying things you didn’t need. Organization rules aren’t quite as picky but generally the same rules apply!
- Store things that are similar together: all your grains, all your flours, condiments, oils, vinegars- store them together so they are easy to find.
- Could also be helpful to do more general groupings: I organized the pantry to include a whole section for baking so next time I make muffins, I won’t have to dig things out or search. This is really helpful especially for things your make all the time! Do you make your own salad dressings? Store the vinegars and oils together. Rice and lentils a dinner staple? Make sure you put them together as well. This is all about making it easy to prepare health meals. If things are easier to find, you save time and are more likely to do it in the first place!
- And again, healthy things in front people!
I am 100% guilty of buying a new sauce or snack that I don’t need right away, then forgetting about it for months at a time. With a more stream-lined, organized pantry, hopefully I won’t do this anymore!
Completed pantry. Efficiently organized- soups are with the crackers, all the noodles are together, all the flours are together as are my oatmeal ingredients. Even have an “ethnic food” section now where I have all my sea vegetables, rice noodles, poppadum’s, etc.!
What I love about this overhaul is the (hopefully) long term benefits. Being more aware of what I have in the fridge will decrease wasted food, thus decreasing my consumption (or purchasing) of food products all together! Anytime something is wasted, I get this nagging voice in my head saying, “Because I didn’t eat that banana and wasted it, I ate something else, like an apple. This means that someone else, someone who maybe really needed it, couldn’t eat that apple. Because I had to buy more food overall, more trees and resources were used to provide me food”. Since environmental degradation and food distribution politics were the original reasons I became vegetarian, this is an issue really near and dear to my heart. I’m really glad I now have the tools to go about this better! No more forgetting about that 1/2 can of tomatoes or coconut milk- now they will be staring me in the face, just waiting for me to get creative! Which is something I love anyway :)