When it comes to your family’s bottom line, I usually head for the kitchen. When you can see your food inventory at a glance, you’ll save money at the market. Creating a few simple systems around the food in your kitchen will help save time and money and help create practical spaces for storage and food prep. Like everything else, I recommend the Intentional Interiors’ three-step method: 1) purge, 2) organize and 3) refresh. With only a few hours of focused intention, your kitchen will become a staging ground for maximizing your household budget.
Most clients are always terrified to start in their refrigerator, which is why I usually insist we begin there. Clear the counters and the kitchen table to create a little room to work. Next, completely empty the contents of your fridge. Everything comes out. As you handle each item, sort onto the counters. Anything that is trash or recyclable goes right into the appropriate bin. Everything else, I recommend Intentional Interiors’ four rules of organization: (1) like things together, so they are (2) easy to find, (3) easy to reach, but (4) out of the way. For now, we’ll put condiments with condiments, meats with meats, produce with produce, etc. Once the fridge is entirely empty, we’ll wipe it down with antibacterial cleaner. Getting in there at least two or three times a year helps to keep your fridge from really getting funky. (Believe me, I’ve seen it all!) After everything is wiped down and really shiny, start putting things back into the fridge.
By now, you should have already purged the old stuff and the mysteries. If you’re not sure, it’s not worth the risk, so toss it. Check to make sure you don’t want to adjust the shelves to accommodate taller items (beverages) or shorter items (eggs). I suggest putting things back using Intentional Interiors’ formula, proximity = urgency. In other words, the more frequently you need to get something, the easier it is to reach. In our fridge, the top shelf is for stacked, see-through leftover containers, so we can easily see what needs to be eaten first. The shelf below is split for meats and cheeses. We recycled a large spinach container and labeled it “cheese”; eggs and meats are stacked on the side in order of expiration date. The next lower shelf is medium height for bowls of fresh fruit and vegetables, which need to be easily seen and readily eaten. The bottom shelf is for tall beverages, stacked yogurt containers, and other big stuff that needs some height. The top drawer is produce for the week. The bottom drawer is just for baking, everything labeled in Ziplock storage bags. The door shelves includes a rack for vitamins, peanut butter and jellies, condiments, homemade salad dressings, marinades, chocolate, and the yummy stuff my wife uses to make Indian and Thai food. Repeat this process with your freezer and food pantry.
Label your shelves to help the family keep everything organized. You will be amazed how far you can stretch your grocery budget, just by seeing your food inventory at a glance. Keep a Ziplock bag of coupons in your car. Pre-plan your meals in advance to know what you’ll need for the week. Shop with a well-planned list. Never shop hungry. Prepare meals with flexible leftover options. Shop the outer aisles of the market. Eat a variety of colors, textures, and shapes. Keep your grains whole and your fruits, vegetables and proteins organic. For everything else, only buy things you can pronounce. A sustainable budget is about leveraging available resources, so rip out your grass and grow a vegetable garden. Localization is the future of a sustainable economy, but that’s for another article.
Need a few suggestions for an even cleaner kitchen -- without the harsh chemicals found in most supermarket cleaners? NEW from my friends at TipsBulletin.com, check out 27 Tips & Recipes for Cleaning with Vinegar.