Clean Eaters Dilemma: Simplify & Save $$$ + Time
Most of my articles are written with the intention to educate current/future clients and general audiences seeking to understand how their body functions with nutrition and fitness. However, some of the articles will venture through some of my own personal experiences with nutrition evolution. They will include things I've learned along the way as I continue to grow in my knowledge and experience with nutrition therapy. To keep these personal memoirs in a separate series I am going to start them all off with the title, "Clean Eaters Dilemma: ", taking on a sort comedic approach because anyone that eats clean has already climbed the proverbial mountain of the countless unhealthy foods that make-up the Standard American Diet (SAD). However, these experiences can also serve to help anyone who is looking to make the transition to a healthier lifestyle easier too. With whatever may come from this new series, my hope is to help others get closer to a healthier more satisfying life.
How simplifying your fridge can help you save money and time...
Years before I started getting serious about being healthy, I would open my fridge and in seeing the many packaged processed foods think: "how does anyone have a fridge full of produce? What do people do with all those vegetables? How could they possibly cook enough meals to use all of the vegetables before they go bad? What a waste of money... wouldn't it just be easier and cheaper to have frozen veggies instead?"
Now, many years later I look in my fridge and think, "How could I have NOT had so many vegetables? I mean, what on earth did I eat???"
I only regret not having photos and journal entries documenting my entire transformation of what I thought was healthy then to what I know is healthy now. Fortunately, I don't need a time machine to reflect on these changes. I only need to travel to my local super market and walk past the produce section to the aisles of shelves containing more than 40,000 unique food items all claiming to be edible to understand what my dilemma was like. Grocery stores these days are confusing. So many products that claim to be healthy cause more problems then they solve and all the healthy food is sectioned off in it's own quarantined area. Organic produce HERE, Nutrition & Wellness foods HERE, and the bulk of the store is the filler...the (toxic) fat.
However, I'm not here (today) to discuss what's wrong with the majority of grocery stores or the SAD diet. I'm here to talk about how simplifying your healthy produce-filled fridge can save you time, money, and even your sanity.
For a while I have been looking for a good way to organize my fridge so that I could use up all that produce I now pack my fridge with. I've already gotten to the point where I shift my near-death produce to a spot in the fridge for immediate use, but I was still finding vegetables way past their expiration date each week. I love a clean fridge, but each week, after a trip to the farm or market, my fridge is back to being messy again. Broccoli pieces everywhere, herbs browning too quick, leafy greens wilting before their time, mushrooms shriveling up, and the list goes on...
I decided to go on a search for how to guides to organizing the fridge and no matter what video I saw they all looked pretty much the same. Processed meats and cheeses in a drawer, beef and poultry in the freezer, milks in the side, fruits and vegetables in the drawers, drinks lined in the shelves, condiments filling the doors, eggs removed from the carton, frozen meals in the freezer, prepared meals on the shelves, etc.
However, my main problem is organizing the overflow in vegetables as I don't eat prepared meals, condiments, or processed meats and cheeses. My other problem is that I'm spending way too much time in the kitchen doing prep work for meals. So, last weekend my husband and I decided to clean the fridge completely and while I was putting the food back it dawned on me that I needed to organize the food in such a way that accommodates this new lifestyle.
Here is a list of priorities for my clean eaters dilemma:
- Juicing vegetables get their own drawer. (I make vegetable juice every day, so having those bulk veggies in one bin would make finding them a lot easier.)
- Produce that goes bad quickly should have a priority spot in the other drawer. (This will keep all of those leafy greens like kale and collard greens together and any fast-aging veggies in the same place.)
- Supplements and Vitamins get their own shelf in the door.
- Fermented veggies get their own shelf in the door (since we stock and use a lot).
- Fermented drinks and milk gets a shelf on the door.
- Cheeses and spreads go in the cubby in the door.
- Herbs go in mugs with water to keep them fresher longer (this will keep them from spoiling so fast AND I'll be reminded of them every time I open the door, plus it's like adding a garden to my fridge.)
- Fresh meats, poultry and eggs (in a carton) get the bottom shelf so I can line it with a towel in case they leak.
- Salad fixings get their own shelf. (We make/eat salads every day)
- Leftovers, snacks, or premade meals go on the top shelves
- Specialty items go on the bottom shelf
- Cooking vinegars, stocks, condiments and various go on their own shelf and any overflow goes in an available spot.
And last but not least...
- Pre-chopped produce goes on a shelf of it's own.
The last priority mentioned is one I actually want to focus on because every other one is pretty straight forward. Before, pre-chopped produce was usually a result of something left-over from a previous days' meal but other than that it was never really a priority...until I started making stocks and soups. Now with the preparation of stocks for meals and large serving soups, I'm finding that most of my time in the kitchen is spent preparing for another meal for another day. Pre-making meals on the weekend is awesome and does save time during the week but I'm still spending that time in the kitchen at some point making those pre-made meals. Which means, I'm still always in the kitchen. You following?
So, I made new rules to live by this weekend and raised my standards on healthy living:
- Rule 1: Pre-cut vegetables that are the most time consuming vegetables to cut right after going grocery shopping. (Where's that wonderful sues-chef of mine?)
- Rule 2: DO NOT skip or delay rule 1, just get it done (make it a priority)
- Rule 3: Keep the organization going (stick to the fridge layout, trust it will work)
- Rule 4: Downtime = fun snack making time, a family building fridge filling event!
Every time I open my fridge door now, I'm super excited because I know I'm one step closer to having even more time spent in other parts of the house besides the kitchen and I can get ahead of cooking instead of always feeling behind. A serious weight has been lifted off these shoulders which also means I can use that headspace for something else, like being present.