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!

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