Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Organizing your Food

Okay, so we're talking about organizing the most important necessities in life; food, clothes, shelter (we'll get to that later). This time we're talking food which means getting it organized not only saves you time and money but also helps you make better choices to be healthier. Win, win, win!

First, you need to know this is not my pantry - although I REALLY wish it was. Are you drooling over this? No? Just me. Anyway, the first step in getting your food organized is to make it visible. I like to use clear storage containers so I can see what's in the jar without having to label everything. Obviously you would want to label things that look similar like flours, sugar, salt, spices, so you would know what they are. I use glass jars for cereal, pasta, rice, dried fruit, nuts, well just about anything dry items. Not only does it look really pretty, it makes the food look yummy and keeps it fresh longer. So when I'm hungry and want a quick snack and am about to reach for the easy to grab candy out of the kids stash, I open up the pantry or fridge and see a jar of beautiful almonds and grab and handful of heart healthy raw almonds instead (keep in fridge for longer shelf life - remember nuts have oil and oil will spoil). The exception is "sometimes" treats which you should store in opaque containers so they will be out of sight out of mind. Or if you're committed to eating clean, get rid of the junk altogether.  You can't cheat on your eating if the junk isn't in the house to begin with.

Notice the baskets on the bottom shelf of this ideal pantry? What if you had one container in your pantry dedicated to breakfast, quick lunches, or snacks? Sorting by meal makes getting meals on the table (or on the go) faster and smarter. If your kids are old enough to help with their own breakfast you could have a breakfast basket with healthy pre-portioned options they could choose from. Put cereal servings in a ziplock bag so all they have to do is pour it in a bowl, or eat it dry like my kids. My husband, formerly a non-breakfast eater, likes Belvita breakfast cookies. It's a relatively healthy option for a packaged food with low sugar, lots of fiber and whole grains. Making them convenient to grab and go cuts down on the excuses for not eating the most important meal of the day. You could do the same thing with a snack basket, making packing school lunches quicker also. Dividing things in portions when you put away your groceries may seem like a lot of time or waste with extra baggies and such but it really does save time and also helps with portion control. For example, kids can grab a bag with half a cup of goldfish in it instead of eating half the box if they were helping themselves.

Freezer CookingLately, I've gotten hooked on crock pot freezer meals. Just look at this freezer (which is also not mine, I just found this photo on Pinterest). My husband works late a lot during Upward basketball season and with the kids having homework and spring tests, and sports, warm quick meals are a blessing. I found some recipes we all really like, yes, even my picky eaters! We've tried and liked the applesauce bbq chicken, cilantro lime chicken, honey garlic chicken, teriyaki chicken, and sweet and tangy meatballs. The first time I tried this I bought lots of chicken when it was buy one get one free at the local grocery and made mostly chicken dishes. I got over 10 meals out of these recipes which amounts to huge savings on groceries and just about one hour of prep work to put the five recipes together. We don't use these everyday but a couple times a week it's nice to be able to just dump it all in the crockpot, let it cook all day and enjoy a warm yummy dinner with little prep time and easy clean-up (I love crock pot liners).
Invest in re-usable containers  for lunches. I like Ziplock's divided containers. They're not expensive, divided into three separate containers, and the lid seals good so not leakage between compartments. This is what I pack my children's lunches and hubby's dinners (during Upward practice) in. It saves my son, which only has 20 minutes for lunch, so much time from opening up individual containers or bags. And doesn't it just look like a happier lunch? I think so. Oh, and while you're at it buy a re-usable water bottle with filter for school lunches. Brita makes a small kid-size one and the filters last up to four months. By sending you child to lunch with water instead of juice drinks you are saving about 50,000 empty calories a year from your child's diet! Whether your child has weight or health issues or not, you want your child to use their calories on growing food, not sugar! Drink clean water not sugar water with artificial flavor, color, sweetener  and who knows what else that the body doesn't need. I just made this change in our lunches this month and I estimate it will amount to a savings of $150 a school year (not counting summer break when I was also buying juice pouches for the convenience factor). Now everyone has water at lunch and milk or 100% juice for breakfast and dinner. Organized and healthier. Win, win!

I hope some of these tips inspired you to re-arrange your food and eating habits. Got a food organization idea? Share it in the comments below.

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