Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom
Pantries, refrigerators, and freezers can be chocked full of clutter. I know, I know, it’s food, so how can it be clutter? Well, if we define clutter as things we don’t need, don’t want, don’t value, and won’t use, then I bet your food storage areas are harboring at least a few bits of clutter.
Let’s Start with the Refrigerator
My top shelf holds condiment, sauces, and jellies. Talk about a potential treasure trove of clutter! The next three shelves are food we’re eating, left overs, and ingredients for use this week. Next is the cheese drawer, then produce, and the bottom of the refrigerator is used for storing large items – trays, my big stock pot, etc. (I removed my bottom drawer, so common in refrigerators, and put it in the garage. I find this area is much more useful not being a drawer.)
Where’s the clutter? Let’s start at the top by taking all the condiments out. Three BBQ sauces that are all still good? Combine them. Some oddball ingredient that you know deep in your heart you’ll never use again? Either toss it or pass it to a friend with different culinary tastes. Maybe you have a little dab of something that would be with another condiment, but you don’t want to combine them (say hoisin sauce and bottled ginger). I sometimes rubber band them together, so I can’t forget to use up when next time I use the other.
Remember to wipe the shelf before you reload. A hot washcloth makes cleaning sticky refrigerator spills easier.
Move down to the next shelf. Are your leftovers and unused ingredients still good? If not, eliminate them. They won’t get yummier sitting in your fridge! If your refrigerator is full of tidbits that you haven’t eaten but feel you should save, think about another system for them. Perhaps you should pack your lunch, or once a week you should have a leftover meal: nothing really goes together, but it all gets eaten. In my house, if there’s enough leftover to feed all four of us, I usually put it away still in the container in which I cooked it. If there’s less than that, I put it away directly into single-serving containers, so Dan or I can grab one when we’re packing up our lunches; if there are leftover sides, too, I’ll package everything and put it directly into a lunch sack before putting it into the refrigerator. The next person who needs a lunch can just grab the prepared sack and head out the door.
Move to the crisper section and the cheese and meat. Get rid of what’s of dubious quality and make a plan – written if necessary – to use what remains before it spoils.
Do you see any trends in your refrigerator? Maybe four or five cheeses you “had to” try that are now moldy, or yogurt that’s been neglected for way too long. Maybe you should admit that you think you like fancy cheese more than you do, or that yogurt may be good for you, but you really don’t like it. Adjust your shopping accordingly. I had to learn the hard way that even though we eat a lot of vegetables, the size that they sell at Costco is way too much for us. Some people think it’s OK to waste food that wasn’t very expensive, but that doesn’t sit right with me; I don’t want the guilt of throwing away what was once perfectly good. I’d rather buy the right size, rather than the cheapest-but-will-be-wasted size. After all, it would be easier to throw your money straight into the trash can than it is to go to the store, select, buy, and store food that you’re not going to eat.
Now onto the freezer
I’ve discussed freezer organization before. (You can read the specific organization technique I use here.) The most important thing is to make sure you know what’s in there and how to find it. My parents keep a list on the outside of their freezer, defining everything that’s inside. I’m not that organized, but by keeping like with like, I can always see and find what I need.
While you’re doing a clean up, now is the time to unearth those UFOs (unidentified frozen objects). What are they? If you really can’t figure it out, defrost them one at a time with a commitment to use or get rid of each items as it defrosts.
Sometimes in the freezer you’ll find something that you felt you should keep, but in truth, you really don’t like. Now’s the time to be honest with yourself. If you get it out and defrost it, will you eat it this week? If not, shouldn’t you let it go?
Get into the habit of labeling everything you put into the freezer with the name and date. In order for this to be more convenient for you, perhaps you need to put tape and a marker near or on top of the freezer, so you can find it easily when you need it. And don’t bother freezing food that you made but didn’t like. It won’t be better tasting in three months.
Again, evaluate any trends you see: Are you overpurchasing frozen vegetables or single-serving lunches? If you have a free-standing freezer, it is really being utilized? Perhaps you could store everything in the house freezer compartment instead. Afraid to try? Well, you can shift everything over to the house unit and unplug the extra freezer. Live with it for a month and reevaluate whether the extra freezer is worth it. And if you have an extra refrigerator in your garage, what’s it keeping cold? Just drinks? Is this really the best use of electricity? I strongly encourage anyone who doesn’t have at least five family members to eliminate their second refrigerator.
Next week: Tackling the Pantry
Today’s Declutter Item
This was another of those not-so-successful eBay auctions. I decided I would experiment with selling a few handmade craft items on eBay using their fee free 99c starting price option. I figured I had nothing to loose as these cards are one of those aspiration items that I am sick of having cluttering up my craft area. I keep telling myself I am going to open an etsy shop but it never happens. Needless to say each set only sold for the 99c that they started at. The materials probably didn’t actually cost me that much so I suppose I broke even. This result hasn’t deterred me as I am going to put some earrings on there next week and see what happens. In for a penny in for a pound as they say.
Something I Am Grateful For Today
For making the most of my time when hubby is away. I had a friend over for a pizza dinner, a bottle of wine and chocolate. I am not so sure my waist is grateful but I had a good time.