As the new year began and having time to sit down and examine simple changes I could make to improve the quality of my life, my attention went to my kitchen, how I prepared food, how I stored it, traveled with it and shopped for it.
Over the past few years there have been ideas and suggestions made regarding better ways to tend to each of these aspects of how we enjoy food in our lives, but it wasn’t until I had a moment, more than a few (I revel in the last and first week of the year), to consider what changes I wished to make.
Today I’d like to share with you nine ways you can not only organize your kitchen, but also and more importantly, improve your health and those you share your home and food with, as well as reduce your carbon footprint ever-so slightly with your daily shopping and storing habits.
I have enjoyed the shift, and I think, if you haven’t already, you will too as you will see each of the ideas as inventments in living consciously and thus living well.
1. Return to the traditional non-stick skillet: Cast Iron
For about four years, maybe more than that, I would cook my eggs each morning in a teflon or non-stick skillet. With time, the coating on the pan began to scrape away and flake off. And while I wasn’t aware, someone close to me pointed out that those flakes of the non-stick coating aren’t exactly something you want to ingest. Why? Here is what I found out:
Those flakes that sometimes scratch off cookware aren’t known to be toxic, I learned that the PTFE (polytetrafluoroetheylene) coating on non-stick surfaces can release toxic fumes at high temperatures. According to the Environmental Working Group, these fumes may lead to certain types of health dangers in humans and environmental hazards —The Huffington Post
With my health in mind as well as those I enjoy sharing eggs with in the morning, I finally switched to a cast iron skillet and I am now asking myself why it took me so long.
The original non-stick skillet, cast iron is well-made, ensuring it will last for decades if properly cared for and seasoned regularly, and looks as good as it cooks.
2. Glass packaging for leftovers and lunches
Again, the plastic containers I used for leftovers to store in the refrigerator or hold my lunch for work are now in the recyling bin. While I have yet to find a leftover container without a plastic top (I’ve been told Etsy has them), I have picked up a handful of Pyrex glass containers in a variety of sizes. From storing my cheese, my chopped vegetables for the week, and my lunch with salad greens and a slice of a chicken breast, the Pyrex containers come with snap-on tops and are safe for the oven or microwave.
3. Glass storage jars for bulk items
As a way to not only organize and add a touch of synchronity to my cupboards but to reduce the packaging that items are sold in, I have purchased a variety of sizes of Weck canning jars. Reasonably priced and simple in design offering a solid tight seal, I have decanted all of my cooking and baking items into their own individual container and now purchase items in bulk. There are oodles of sizes for you to choose from, so be sure to have fun perusing. I especially enjoyed the look of the tulip jars (the one’s you see with my almonds and cocoa powder in).
I have organized my two cupboards you see here into a “baking shelf” and below it a “cooking shelf”. As well, you can see in the top picture that began the post, I have also stored items I use each day, such as for my steel oats (slices of roasted almonds, raisins and chia seeds), close to my stove for ease of use.
~Weck glass jars in a variety of sizes~
4. Use the art supply store for organizational ideas: Spices for example!
As I mentioned in Monday’s episode of the podcast (the Petit Plaisir), I was inspired with ideas of where to shop for items as I organized my kitchen from Remodelista’s new book, The Organized Home. And one recommendation that I gravitated toward immediately was the idea of using small paint jars for organizing my spices.
I purchased these 2 ounce glass jars with metal caps from Dick Blick art supply, and for fewer than $60 I bought 30 jars plus their lids. Now with washi tape (available in a variety of different colors) which is washable and easy to write on, I will be placing the label on the top, so when I open my drawer, I can quickly find the spice I am looking for.
~2 ounce paint mixing jars from an art supply store to organize spices~
~Bodem glass jars with cork lids tall enough for pasta (6 different sizes) and my spices found their new home in the paint jars!~
5. Cotton produce bags
I am late to the party on so many of these ideas I am sharing with you today, but at least I am finally attending the party, no? One nagging detail about shopping for fresh produce is you often end up with many flimsy plastic bags for each item, and in the back of my mind, I knew I had to change how I shopped. Finally, I am.
I purchased the 100% cotton mesh bags you see below which come in three different sizes (there are many more available), and for fewer than $30, I have six bags, two of each size. There are simple to toss into my canvas grocery tote or market basket, and they are washable as well.
~100% cotton mesh produce bags, 6 total (2 of each: small, medium, large)~
6. Make a large jar of homemade vinaigrette
When I pack my lunch for school, I usually have some sort of greens and a vinaigrette. And for many years I would mix just enough of my vinaigrette each morning. Needless to say, it was a time waster, and I decided to instead make enough in a large jar each week or two, give it a good shake and store it in my kitchen. Not only am I able to monitor and create the flavor I want, I also now save a few minutes each morning and never have to purchase dressing from the store.
7. Add a French Butter Keeper to your counter
Two weeks ago I shared in detail why this new addition has been added to my kitchen. Read the post here.
8. Keep a grocery list handy
In my own kitchen I have a large corkboard in which I pin up recipes I want to try, recipes I have tried and loved and inspiration of any kind (quotes, menus saved from beloved past events, etc.). I also pin my “To Market, To Market” notepad pages on this corkboard and add whatever item I run out of immediately to the list upon recognizing that it is lacking. Not only is the notepad off the counter as well as off the refrigerator (I keep mine completely bare), it serves as my memory, especially when it comes to items I don’t use every day but want to have on hand as I keep my épicerie stocked.
After listening to Julie Carlson, the founder of Remodelista, on a recent foodcast of Bon Appétit mention Bees Wrapas a replacement to plastic wrap, I went looking for and brought home a few sheets of my own. They are the natural alternative to plastic wrap and last up to one year. Reuse to wrap your leftover onion, bread, cheese, vegetables, everything except meat. Available in a handful of different sizes, even colors and there are also sandwich wrap versions (all linked here). The warmth of your hand creates the seal, and I have found them to work very well whether to cover a bowl (as seen below) or simply wrap food on its own such as half of apple, etc.
The kitchen has become for me a sanctuary within a sanctuary. Yes, my whole home is my sanctuary, but when I step into the kitchen, when I know what I have to enable me to cook and care for myself, all the while knowing it is organized allowing me to find what I need easily but also knowing how I shop and what I bring into my home is thoughtful and in small, but significant ways letting the world breath a bit easier, I cannot help but feel confident these simple changes are indeed improvements. Improvements toward cultivating a life of quality as we all live more consciously.
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~34 Must-Haves for Your Home Épicerie, episode #109