5 Ways To Prevent Overwhelm In The Kitchen
Going through a health challenge has had me focus on paying attention to what matters. My energy level is pretty good, but I do need to be mindful of how I spend my efforts so I don’t burn out before I get to doing important things like cooking healthy for me and my guy. Here are some helpful tips that save me time and keep me sane:
Cold storage organization I came up with a system from my refrigerator and freezer because they are split into several areas. In our kitchen, we don’t have a conventional refrigerator, instead they consist of four drawers: three refrigerator and one freezer. Outside, we have a regular upright refrigerator-freezer with a door for each. Having to search for something through 6 places became confusing, so using a few simple rules, I re-organized our storage drawers, but this idea works for any cold storage system.
…By space: Left to right & front to back: Each time I open the refrigerator, I move what should be eaten first, to the front left. Do that for each section of your refrigerator; meaning, each section should group different food categories. Try not to create too many different categories, otherwise it will get confusing where things should go. It’s best to do this each time the fridge is open, once the habit is in place, it’s easy to keep things in order.
…By color: Obviously, the crisper drawers are for vegetables. In the right drawer, I put all green fruits and vegetables including herbs, celery, zucchini, avocados, scallions, spinach, and using the FIFO method (first in, first out), placing older items at the front. In the left drawer, I store all the red, orange, yellow, essentially non-green fruits and vegetables like bell peppers, diced butternut squash, carrots, onions, papayas and apples.
Because we have a large salad most nights of the week, this dividing by color works great for us. I also organize the condiments, cheese, pickles by color; red, yellow green. Red goes on the left, including hot sauce, ketchup, sesame oil, kim chi. Yellow goes in the middle; mustard, cheese, marinated artichokes; Green goes on the right; pickles, olives, salad dressing, which is usually green from the herb.
Take inventory, THEN meal plan Write a list of things you have that should be used first. Follow the FIFO method–– first in, first out. Plan your meal based around those foods to minimize waste. Doing this, I hardly ever throw any food out.
Groceries. Take a sheet of paper and fold it to create 4 grids: 2 sections on the top and 2 sections on the bottom.
Non-green fruits and vegetables on the top left and
Green foods fruits and vegetables on the top right.
In the bottom right of the list, I list frozen/heavy items like almond butter, veggie broth, olive oil, honey, beans, frozen berries, (frozen dumplings, ice cream—which are rare treats). These are items I pick up last since they are cold or cumbersome to schlep around, in case I’m carrying a basket.
In the bottom left grid, I list dried fruits, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, Lara bars, popcorn, sprouted bread & smoked salmon. This list is for anything not in the first 3 grids.
Making my list this way helps me visually As I load my items on the checkout conveyor belt, I pull out the heaviest items first, to the lightest since it will be bagged that way. When I bag them myself, I’ll divide them between things that need to stay cold and things that don’t. That way, if I’m feeling low on energy, I’ll just put the grocery that needs to stay cold directly in the refrigerator without removing it from the bag. The bag(s) to be stored at room temperature can sit on the counter until I’m ready to put each item in its proper place.
Clear, clean, THEN cook. Put away clean dishes from the dishwasher and from the counter dish rack. Then, wash dirty dishes in the sink and allow them to dry. You’ll avoid having to stop and wash something you need and you’ll have space for the new dirty dishes.
Soak dirty utensils I find myself using lots of utensils while cooking. To save time, use a heavy mug and fill it with hot, soapy water. As you use utensils and are done with them, place them in the mug, to keep your workspace neat. If you end up needing them again, you can rinse them quickly under the faucet.