Monday, October 17, 2011

Solving First World Problems & Other Things I Have Been Working On

The cluttered state of my fridge and tiny cupboard were driving me crazy I decided to do a redo on each of them. This kind of brings me back to my Food Budget Series. I had so much stuff cluttered up in both places, that I was having to throw away stuff that went bad (because it was hidden in the back and went bad) or compile doubles and sometimes triples of some products. What a waste of money! A fridge reset doesn't have to take forever and waste a lot of electricity. It can be knocked out in 20 minutes with the right attitude and plan.

Getting Started on a Fridge Reset
  • Before you even start pulling things out, think about how you utilize your fridge, and determine if anything is not working for you.
    • For example, my cakes usually take up a lot of space on a shelf, but I'm always having to juggle the cake while moving the milk, and scooting over last night's leftovers. Not to mention that sometimes it was too close for comfort to the shelf above it and I risked nicking the top layer of taller cakes. That meant when I started my fridge redo, I kept in mind that I need to change my shelf spacing so that my jug of milk and pitchers of juice could easily fit a shelf, but so could my tall cakes, while my left overs were now to be delegated to the "short" middles shelf that shares the dairy drawer.
  • Mise en place
    • What? I thought that was only for cooking? Think again. Having everything ready to go and by your side when you start your clean will make the reset faster, wasting less energy. Here is what you will most likely need:
      • Trash can with a thick bag, or several smaller bags to throw out bad food.
      • Clorox wipes or some other cleaner that you like with plenty of rags or paper towels.
      • Cooler for temporarily housing your goods while you clean.
      • A variety of plastic storage containers and spoons for transfer of foods. (More on this later.)
      • A towel for quick clean up of spills, and to kneel on while you are doing bottom layers of the fridge.
      • Permanent marker.
      • Empty your sink, because you will be filling it with dirty containers, most likely.
  • Ready, set, go!
    • Start with the freezer, dump your ice tray and gel ice packs into the cooler. Shut the lid on the cooler, and go quickly wash and dry ice tray. Set aside.
    • Go back the freezer, open the lid on the cooler. Open your freezer and throw anything salvageable in the cooler. Anything freezer burned, bad, or fits into the category of "we will never eat this", toss in the trash. Don't stew over decisions. Be decisive. If it takes you more than 30 seconds to decide whether or not your family will ever eat a product, toss it. Once the freezer is completely empty, wipe down the racks and door with your wipes. If the rack/ drawer needs lots of attention (i.e. a popscile melted, pooled and refroze in the bottom, pull the whole thing out and shut the freezer and cooler doors until you get it cleaned out. Once the freezer is cleaned, shut the door until further notice.
    • Next open your fridge door and start again with the sorting of foods into the cooler or into the trash. Once the fridge is empty, close the lid on the cooler.
    • Pull out all the fridge shelves and wipe the back of the fridge with a disinfecting cleaning cloth. Same with the door shelves, drawers, shelves.
    • Next, think back to your plan? Were the racks at the right level for your needs? Put the shelves back in to accommodate your needs. Shut the fridge door as it should now be squeaky clean! Good work, half way done.
  • Repack foods into more appropriately sized containers.
    • A major problem in our house is that we grab the first Tupperware we can find and package or food in it, regardless of size. We lost a lot of shelf space and viewing capabilities because of this. Check it out.
    • Three containers removed! Once 2 giant container for peanut butter cup filling reduced to a flat plastic bag.
      What once was a giant container of blue icing that got used little by little, now it fits in the tiny take out container.
  • Use your maker to mark items as "USE FIRST!"
    • Have two open containers of mayo, BBQ sauce, milk, etc? Compile them into one jar if possible. If you can't compile them into one jar, say because they are two different flavors of BBQ sauce, take your marker and mark one in big letters that say USE ME FIRST! This should be the one that is closer to being empty, or will expire first. Make use your family understands and follows your directive. Plan meals that will utilize those last squeezes of that ketchup, or will help you use up that cup of BBQ sauce for this week. If the marker won't write on the container, you can use a patch of duct tape.
  • Replace the remaining food from your fridge with purpose, mentally noting what needs to be used right away, and putting items in more appropriately places to fit your needs.
    • Lunch meat getting a bit old? Subs for lunch. Milk about to go bad? Cereal for breakfast. Lettuce starting to wilt? Salad as a side with dinner. Ten packages of ground beef? Put two or three in the fridge to thaw for a large pot of chili that can made and frozen for later meals.
    • Kids always standing in front of the fridge for 5 minutes trying to find a snack or juice box? Put all the snacks in a drawer or a plastic bin so they can pull it out, grab it, and go.
  • Empty cooler and wipe down the other part of the fridge with a disinfecting cloth.
  • Your done!

Solving First World Problems Part II: Pantry Redo

So yesterday we tackled the fridge, today let's tackle the pantry. This time I was smart enough to do a before and after. So let's take a closer look.

It may be hard to tell the improvements, but I gained an entire shelf, plus you can
see the floor on the bottom. I'll give you a break down.
Getting Started on a Pantry Redo
  • Things you will need:
    • Trash can for tossing expired or bad food.
    • A box for food that you are going to take to a food pantry or shelter
    • Pen and paper
    • A basket or infrequently used container.
    • Cleaning cloths to wipe up any spills.
    • Marker
  • Pull out everything from the shelves, sorting into trash, donate, and keep. Be decisive, longer than thirty seconds to decide on an item means it needs to be tossed or donated.
  • Once all the food is out, do a quick wipe down of the shelves with your cleaning cloth.
  • Inventory
    • With your pen and paper, make a quick inventory of what you are going to put back in the pantry, this will come in handy when you are planning meals. Plan on using anything that is close to expiration right away, same move if you way too much of something. (I found 4 cans of corn and 4 jars of pasta sauce. Spaghetti for dinner tonight!) Tape the inventory to the inside of the pantry door and mark things off as you use them. That way you won't overbuy again.
  • Put snack foods into a basket or infrequently used container.
    • I found a Corningware container that I never used and I emptied all those boxes of granola bars, popcorn, beef jerky, etc., into that container. No more digging, all the snack food is in an easy to identify location. Bulky boxes are in the trash and not cluttering up my shelf. I also took a 3/4 eaten jar of peanuts that was hidden in back and emptied it into a zipper bag.  They will be eaten quickly like this! This is also a great idea for chips. We buy the large bag that had 4 or 5 varieties. I emptied it into a basket of its own.
All snacks live here.
  • Compile anything that you can.
    • Have two open peanut butters, boxes of pasta, or oil? Try to compile them. If you can't because they are different varieties (crunchy and smooth PB?) mark the one that is closest to being finished or expiration with the marker: EAT THIS FIRST! Make sure the family understands and follows your directives.
  • Compiled, now what?
    • Look around about what you have left. Put infrequently used or seasonal items in the upper shelves that are harder to reach. It's getting close to Thanksgiving, so you might want to leave down the pumpkin pie filling left over from last year, as well as that hot cocoa. Put anything summery away at the top if you are going to keep it. (Maybe blueberry or strawberry fillings, or sun teas).
    • Bulk items fit nicely here, too. Jon got a steal on a carton of paper towels. I got a bargain on a large container of vegetable oil. I took my smaller (easier to handle container of oil, poured the bulk oil in it to the top, the banished the giant container to the back, top of the pantry.  (top left shelf of after picture)
    • Put gravy packets, chili/ taco seasoning packets, drink mixes, etc in a basket for easy identifying. I also put spices that I had double or triple of here with a note on the front of the container to check here before buying more spices. (top left in after picture)
  • Replace the food at levels according to your needs.
    • Snacks and grab-and-go foods should be at a kid's eye level if you have children.
    • Frequently used goods should be at eye level with labels turned out for quick identification.
    • Infrequently used items go close to ceiling or floor.
    • Finally, if you have a bunch of shopping bags, put them all into 1 bag. If that bag gets too full, toss out what's left over because that is just too many bags. Check out the bottom of my before after to see what a difference that made.
  • Good work! Take out the trash & drive the food to the food bank and you're done!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Juicing Day One Follow up

Well, I feel a little foggy. As you can probably tell from the video, I'm a little out of it. I seriously had no food cravings up until about 4:30 p.m. That was something that really surprised me. I thought for sure I would not feel full, and I guess full isn't what I should have been expecting to feel. Satisfied; satiated are more the words that describe my hunger level after my breakfast and lunch juice. I even tested my resolve by meeting a friend for lunch. He was able to eat his lunch without me eyeing like a starving dog. I was feeling pretty confident.

I made two batches of juice today. The morning's batch had more fruit (sweeter) and the evening's less fruit (more bland). The sweeter juice of this morning was easier to drink quickly, and I also made popsicles out of it for a different texture. This evening's juice was another story. I was cloudy-headed around dinner, so Jon actually made my juice for tonight. I had to sip it, because if I tried to chug it, I gagged. That really surprised me, because I have had juice all week of varying degrees of sweetness without once gagging. It could have been the combination of the tiredness and dizziness with the flavor. I hesitate to use bitter as a flavor descriptor, because that is not the right. I will have to work on trying to describe it better.

What else? The texture of the juice is thicker than water, but a little thinner than whole milk. It has very fine particulate in it, which means I had to rinse the glass right away after using it or else the particles cake on. Oh! Tomatoes and cucumbers have a very over-powering flavor in relation to other fruits and vegetables. Think V8 flavor overpowering your apple juice. Since I'm not big on either of these two veggies, I am either halving them, or adding more fruit to cover their flavor.

Sweetness is another aspect that I am working with. You are not supposed to be using a lot of fruit in your juices. Mostly green veggies. I am trying to stair step down from the sweet. It is very hard for me because I was never a big veg or fruit eater to begin with. So going from Coca Cola every day to vegetable juice is a real shocker on the palate. I think we are so used to sugary drinks in this country, that anything natural tastes bland by comparison...and it doesn't satisfy that sweet craving. The funny thing, though, is that with my more savory evening juice, I had a small apple. That apple tasted like one of the sweetest apples I have ever had. Now, I know if I had just eaten an apple any ole time, it probably wouldn't have been so sweet. It's funny how my palate is already changing to tone down the sugar.

Well, that's all for tonight. Let me know if you have any questions, I'll be more than happy to answer them.

Juicing Day One

Today, I am starting my 10 day juice fast. Over the past few days I have been reducing my meals and substituting in juice instead. Today, I think I am ready to go for it. I am drinking my morning juice now, and will report more later. I'm going to need lots of support from you guys so let me hear ya!

Blood pressure: High normal range
Weight: 171
Complexion: As bad as ever.
Mood: Anxious

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Breif Introduction to Juicing

Hey Gang. I know I have been M.I.A., but truth be told, I have been out of work with a hurt back. It hurts to sit at a computer, so communicating with you guys is a real struggle for me.

I had started recording juice videos before I got hurt, and I have been working to get a short one complied for you to watch. I have been working on it awhile, it's not perfect, but it will have to do until I get better with these video editing tools. Please be gentle, I know it's not Oscar worthy material.

I think the video does a pretty good job of introducing you to the juicer. Of course, please leave me questions in the comments, and I will address them in my next video or post. I love questions, it gives me fodder to write about so please don't be shy!