What happens after you come home from grocery shopping? Do you place plastic bags in the fridge to avoid dealing with the groceries? You might find the lightbulbs and toilet paper you bought inside the fridge tomorrow morning.
I confess I don’t particularly appreciate going to the grocery store. And it is not necessarily the process of buying the stuff. Instead, what follows gets me – when all that stuff comes home.
It takes me a lot longer to organize what I bring from the store than the errand. Yet, I manage the groceries every single time. An hour devoted to the process pays off in many ways during the week. It helps me save time while cooking, allows me to plan varied, healthy meals, looks delicious and inviting (so family members get interested in healthy cooking), and makes it joyful to cook when everything is organized, fresh, clean,, and accessible.
Don’t you go insane when you hear the dreaded daily question: “What’s for dinner?” (at least admit you roll your eyes).
What if I told you that the horrendous hour after grocery shopping might be essential to spare you the feeling you get when you hear that question?
Here are eight steps to help you stay on top of your game.
1. Plan your menus for each day of the week
Schedule an hour to plan your menus for the entire week. Make this a commitment and calendar this hour on the same day, at the same time every week. Make the list of ingredients for each dish with specific quantities, according to the amount you plan to prepare. Having the particular amounts you need helps you save money by not overbuying and not wasting products.
Planning your weekly menus can be a breeze if you follow the process described in my blog Systems Take Organizing To The Next Level to organize the kitchen cabinet.
Pull out those index cards and mix and match your dishes to get complete meals. All the information you need to prepare your grocery list will be there. Leave those index cards out, group them by meal and date of the week, and you’ll be ready to go when you start cooking.
2. Calendar your shopping trip
Plan your grocery shopping for the same day each week. If this is part of your routine, it will become a habit. As part of your grocery shopping process, block in your calendar the time needed to deal with the stuff when you bring the groceries home.
3. Invest in the proper containers for your freezer and your refrigerator
Select containers that are similar in size and shape, so they stack nicely in the fridge and freezer. Avoid round containers because they don’t use the space efficiently. Stay with a line that serves both the refrigerator and freezer, so you only buy one type of container. Select a microwave-safe system, dishwasher safe, and BPA-free line of containers. I love the TellFresh line from The Container Store.
4. Wash and prepare your produce
Remove all packaging. Remove stems and other non-edible parts and cut up the fruits and vegetables. By washing and repacking in sealed containers, your produce will stay fresh for longer. Also, your fridge and pantry will look spectacular. Everything washed, cut, and ready to go will make meal prep straightforward and more pleasant. You’ll have your Mise en Place in a flash!
Another great advantage of following this routine is having healthy snacks very accessible. When we are hungry, we eat what’s available. And if we have ready-made fruit packs or cut-up veggies available, we will probably make healthier snack choices.
5. Remove most of the packing from your frozen products
You save a lot of space in the freezer and fridge when you remove your frozen items from the packaging and re-group them in designated freezer containers or use your freezer door compartments. Frozen fruits and vegetables in bags, for example, don’t stack well, and once we open the bags, the product doesn’t preserve their freshness the same way.
6. Maximize the space and organization of your fridge by including bins
Typically, the fridge comes equipped with a couple of drawers to keep some items at slightly different temperatures. But you can add some bins to the refrigerator to create compartments and separate products by categories. Your fridge will look fantastic, and items will be easier to find. In addition, it will be easier to monitor what’s there, what we need to buy, and what has expired. Some fridges’ design allows the drawers to be substituted with some bins to create even more space.
Don’t skip the labeling part. To maintain the freshness of your fridge and freezer products, you need to know their expiration date. I know labels can be problematic, and the process could be tedious. Labels in the freezer and fridge need to change quite often. Pick a flexible label system such as Label Once labels! Write on them with any sharpie or marker and erase with any eraser. These labels stay on the containers, even if you put them in the microwave or the dishwasher. It is simple to label and relabel with this product.
8. Treat your pantry with the same respect and care
Use transparent or translucent air-tight containers for dry goods such as flour, sugar, rice, pasta, dry beans, chips, cookies, crackers, and cereal. This way, products stay fresh longer, and you’ll know how much product is left. These containers stack well and give your pantry that polished look we all want. Bags and opened boxes do not look appealing and do not stack well, they can spill, and the product inside can easily get contaminated.
For all other products that don’t need decanting to containers, use baskets or bins to create product categories and separate food groups.
Have a condiment system, whether a section inside the pantry or a designated cabinet next to the stove. Another alternative for condiments is to use the Elfa Spice Rack. This tool makes excellent use of the much-neglected vertical space of the pantry door.
An organized kitchen reduces food waste and promotes cleanliness, joyful cooking, and a healthier lifestyle. Get in the habit of managing your groceries after going to the store and see your productivity, efficiency, and joy in the kitchen exponentially grow.
What’s for dinner?