One of my favourite movies from the 90's was Blast from the Past. I'm not a prepper like Calvin was, but if I had the time, space, and capital I can see myself leaning towards those tendencies- I am, after all, a planner. Having that amazing stocked storeroom would be high on my list of priorities. In everyday life, knowing the meals I'm making and knowing I have the ingredients I need frees up my brain to relax and gives me the mental space necessary to be able to take some downtime if I can, or if I'm busy it gives me the mental space required to be that much more organized.
I have friends who feel the opposite, however. Meal planning feels like a prison to escape from. The idea of being constrained is enough to keep them free-flowing at dinner time, throwing meals together if they have the ingredients they need, or fitting in a shopping trip if they don't. The very idea of that makes me anxious! But that's because we're obviously very different in personality.
There are many stops along the way between these 2 extremes- do you fit somewhere in between? What kind of meal planner are you?
We all have that sort of day where cooking is hard, and that day for me was yesterday.
As a meal planning coach I preach the art of cooking and planning ahead, and so it happened to work out in our favour last night, and I wanted to share a couple of tips to help make sure it works out most of the time for you too. Because it's unrealistic to assume that we will always feel like cooking. Am I right?
Convenience will always win over intention. We can have the best intentions ever but still find it hard to make them happen when we're *that* exhausted. Here are a couple of food rules I live by:
Consider what you can do to make life easier for yourself tomorrow, and start doing it. One baby step at a time will completely change your life.
Have a great day, friends!
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Freezer Meals- Getting Started
Having a stocked fridge is more complicated, because it has a lot more to do with knowing what you have and using it before it rots then the pantry or freezer.
Our fridge has a lot of condiments- different types of hot sauce, bottled salad dressings for when I'm running low on ingredients or time to make my own, and flavourful sauces for stir fry's and meals such as soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup (the real stuff!), and dijon mustard. I think condiments could take over the world if we let them, and they are one of the groupings in a fridge that can definitely get out of control. If you haven't looked at your condiments lately, spend a few minutes getting rid of expired, old, or moldy items. I've seen jarred garlic, ginger, and jam go moldy, so never assume it's ok if it's been a while since you've opened it.
We have grapefruit accessible as my husband eats that every day for breakfast and they are too big to fit in my fruit crisper. I have the baby carrots my son loves ready to go and easy to see in a container on the lower shelf. I've grouped all my dairy together in 3 places- cheese strings in the pull out drawer on the bottom for the kids to grab for their lunches, coffee cream and milk in the middle, and cheeses, yogurt, and sour cream on the lower shelf next to the carrots.
All our leftovers are hanging out together by date- yesterday's leftovers on the top, and previous ones in the middle. Today I'm assembling the leftover moussaka ingredients to make one for the freezer, and that will clear out the middle space to leave room for any other leftovers we make.
My crispers are full of vegetables and fruit. We generally plan our meals around what's living in these drawers, because if something is going to go rotten and get thrown out, it's vegetables and fruit. We have lettuce, beets, carrots, parsley, and celery in the one...apples, oranges, clementines, and kiwi in the other. Before I buy more vegetables and fruit these need to be substantially emptied. I have a butternut squash living up on the top of my fridge with leftovers, and that is going to be roasted tonight for dinner, and we'll eat steamed beets as well.
I'll share a couple of ideas to make the most out of your fridge space. Please don't hesitate to connect with me if you need some more personalized help :)
A stocked fridge is more personal, depending on what you like to eat. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables, dairy, and condiments are my main go-to's when planning meals and snacks. The point of shopping for fresh food each week is to eat what you buy, so plan your meals and stick to your list. It's so easy to go overboard with good intentions when shopping, especially when you've got people with you or you're hungry to begin with, but that's how food waste happens.
Your fridge and freezer are the perfect places to put together flavourful, healthy meals that make your tastebuds sing. You can make your food budget go so much further when you cook for yourself, and I encourage you to find a way to incorporate more of this in your own life. Not only will your wallet thank you, but your body will as well. I offer a meal-planning service that can be personalized to you, your time, your tastes, and your fridge/freezer/pantry. I'd love to chat to see how I can help you use what you have!
Enjoy your day friends! If you enjoyed this post, please share it. I'd love to see you hop over to my Facebook page, where I post almost daily tips, tricks, recipes, meal plans, and interesting news from the world of food and nutrition. Come "like" me so you don't miss anything!
For many years, my fridge freezer was all I had. It was a typical top freezer and it was a struggle for me to know what was in there because I was too short to get into the back of it.
This fridge was a huge improvement for us- I wanted the pull out drawers and I love them still. We bought a small upright deep freezer for the basement just a couple of years ago, and the majority of my uncooked meats, ready-to-eat meals that I've cooked ahead (chili, meat sauce, shepherds pie, etc), extra vegetables, dinner rolls, containers of soup, and bones that I'm keeping for stock live in it. I routinely bring up food from that one as I meal plan each week so that I don't have to run down to the basement to grab the food I need each day.
Right now my freezer isn't as organized as usual because I'm in the middle of using up what we have so we can restock for the fall, but in this small snapshot you can see leftover rice, leftover navy beans, a bag of perogies, bagged vegetables and fruit, whole tomatoes, sliced ham, cooked chicken and meatloaf, a ginger nub, vegetable scraps, a couple of baggies of soup stock, and several freezer packs of various sizes. The kids lunches also live in here- in the top right compartment (where my vegetable scraps are right now) is everything I have made for lunches- meatballs, burgers, cheese strings, and muffins. When I get organized I also like to roll and freeze wraps so they can just grab and go.
I consider my freezers reasonably well stocked. But why? What makes it stocked? Why does it matter?
Here is the best article I've ever read with tips and suggestions on correctly stocking and organizing your freezer. I've done most of these things, myself, and if you want to start getting the most out of your freezer space I recommend you start with this resource.
You can always call for a companion to help you out if you're ready to do a fridge, freezer, or pantry audit. The big jobs are easier with a helping hand, and I'm just a message away.
Did you enjoy this article? Please share!
Have a great day, friends!
Over the years I've observed that I have a well-stocked pantry compared to many people, and I'm often surprised by what's NOT in people's pantry's. Let's chat about a well-stocked kitchen over the next few blog posts and see what all the fuss is about!
Keeping a well-stocked pantry can be the difference between whipping something up for a meal and ordering in (or going out). It's not a big deal if you don't think it is, but if you feel guilt, shame, or regret every time you go out when you would rather not, this is one of those things you can do to take control and find some satisfaction and happiness in your kitchen.
Keeping your pantry stocked enables you to run a more efficient and organized kitchen. It makes your meal planning and grocery shopping easier and quicker, and by keeping everything organized and knowing what you have means less time and money is wasted. It's so important, in fact, that I offer pantry audits as one of my services, because it's one of those places in our homes that seems to encourage chaos. I encourage you to do your own pantry audit before you run out to shop for your staples- you may find things in there you forgot you had!
We'll go over fridge and freezer stocking another time, and at the end of it all we'll put together a list of a few ideas of meals you can throw together with what you have.
Some standard pantry staples:
My stocked pantry includes items most people would probably not consider as basics, but we don't let ourselves run out. These items include all of these above plus:
There are overlaps, of course, between fridge and pantry. If we open the salsa, for example, it lives in the fridge. And we keep our ketchup in the fridge too, though I hear it's shelf-stable and refrigeration isn't required.
Here's a recipe using basic pantry ingredients to create baked beans in the slow cooker- a perfect recipe for the weather we are enjoying today in Fort Saskatchewan!
Have a comment? Want to tell me what I missed (or added) that makes my stocked pantry different than yours? Feel free to leave a note for us here or hop over to my Facebook page and start the conversation there.
Have a great week, friends!
Have you checked out my Facebook page yet? Come on over to see what interesting conversations and posts we get into each week, and give me your virtual "thumbs up"! I'd love to reach 500 likes this year!
I recently asked this question on The Meals Maven Facebook Page:
"If you could improve just 1 thing about cooking at home and eating in, what would it be?"
There were quite a few different answers, some of them expected, a couple of them not. I picked these ones to talk about today, and the rest will be addressed over the next few blog posts.
"Having all of the ingredients on hand when I decide to make something and not having to run to the store for 1 or 2 things every time I cook." - Laurie H
"Staying organized and planning more." - Robin M
I think these questions go hand in hand with each other. And I have to be honest with you, no matter how much practice I have had meal planning and eating in, sometimes things still fall through the cracks. For example, not too long ago, I was making chili for dinner. I was far enough along in cooking that the spices, onions, garlic, and meat were on the stove, in the pot, and starting to brown. And then I noticed I was out of beans. Yes, it's true. I had to run to the store to buy beans in the middle of making dinner.
Here are a few suggestions to help improve your cooking at home experience! Make your habits work for you!
Are you inspired? I hope this helps ignite a few more ideas on making eating in a lot less stressful and easier to manage.
As always, if you want someone to plan for you, I'm your girl. Shoot me a note and I'll pass you a no-obligations survey. The best parts about my plans? They're based on flavours and foods you like, and you get your grocery list included. Yay!
Have a great weekend, friends!
As you may recall, our beloved (not old) fridge died suddenly. While we were able to get a fridge to use while it was waiting for repair, and are exceedingly grateful to have it, it is not the most user-friendly fridge. Because ours is still waiting for repair- the part is backordered until the end of February- I decided to give the fridge a makeover.
If you have a basic fridge without a lot of good storage options, maybe my search for betterment will help you too!
Some quick suggestions on a fridge and freezer makeover:
If you want to walk through my fridge and freezer with me, I'll give you a quick rundown of why I corralled things as I did. The door is the biggest improvement, I think.
Two of the shelves had lost their stoppers, so things couldn't really be kept in the door without them falling out. Dollarama baskets + rubber feet + packing tape kept those baskets in place. I use it for things we don't use too often, like the many bottles of hot sauce we keep collecting, and our salad dressings.
I found the vegetable and fruit compartments in this fridge significantly lacking in space, so I added a basket to help keep the apples in place with the berries, and grapefruit happily sits under the butter compartment. (Yes, I know that's a lot of butter. I had planned on baking at Christmas, but didn't.)
In the main fridge itself, adding a shelf and a basket to help store some items and use the vertical space available made a massive difference for us. We don't often eat condiments but we seem to have a lot, and they need a home. The upper basket holds jam, ketchup, mustard, and salad dressing. The lower holds what we use more often- cream, yogurt, and pickles. Allowing milk and juice to hang out on one side helps everyone know where the beverages are.
Underneath my fruit compartment is my leftovers, meal starters to get into the freezer, and a grease can. More condiments on the back of that shelf, and the already-prepped beginnings of tonight's dinner are on the right.
The lower shelf isn't very tall, but it's deep. Things can get lost in the back so everything on that shelf is out in the front. Earlier in the week that's the shelf I used to defrost my food, behind everything fresh. In one basket are salad greens and snap peas, and in the other the yogurt my kids love as well as my jar of yeast- I don't use it often, so it's ok behind everything else.
The freezer is much better now too. It's hard to know what you're looking at, right? The top basket on the left holds my already cooked meal starters and lunch items. The middle and right one holds purees for baking. I guess I should do some of that baking, eh?
Under the main shelf are vegetables, prepared meals (shepherds pie, chili, and meat sauce), Grana Padano chunks, and berries.
Hopefully I've inspired you to organize your fridge and freezer. If you're tired of not knowing where anything is, this may be the key to sorting out your frustration!
All the best today, friends!
There are scheduled and unscheduled meal plans, and then there are the ones that are somewhere in between. Over the past month I've fallen into the latter category. I'm not exactly unscheduled, but I'm not precisely on a schedule either. I know what we've got going on and how much time I have to cook on any given night. I know what's in our fridge, freezer, and pantry. But cooking has largely been left to deciding the day of, rather than a week or two before. It's depending largely on how well I slept the night before, how my family is feeling, what kind of leftovers we have in the fridge, what my mood is, and what sorts of meal starters are in our freezer.
This week we are down to a potato, 5 mushrooms, a bunch of onions and garlic, 3 sweet peppers, 5 good sized carrots, 2 heads of romaine, and quite a few frozen vegetables of differing variety. We also have lots of canned goods- beans and fruit, and lots of meal starters in the freezer- various cooked proteins, stocks, and wraps. We are fully stocked for raw proteins as well, but I'm trying to free up space in my freezer for a good quantity of cooked turkey I expect to have after Thanksgiving.
Another post coming this week is a conversation about iron deficiency anemia. I found out late last week that my second son has very low iron, so my meals are reflecting that. This dinner pairs vitamin C (found in the potatoes and peppers) with many sources of iron- heme, from the beef, and nonheme, from the beans. We'll talk more about that later though.
For dinner this week we are using up as much fresh food as we can so it doesn't go off, and whatever meal starters I have kicking around in the freezer and pantry will make up about half our meals.
What are you eating this week? Enjoy your kitchen, and be well, friends! I'll write more soon.
Almost any home cook I've met, whatever their level of experience, has a fiercely protected collection of favourite kitchen tools that cannot be loaned out for fear of loss. I am no different. My garlic press is my garlic press...do you know what I mean?
Here's my top 10 list. What's on yours?
A well-stocked and organized kitchen makes it easier to plan meals, prepare meals, and eat meals at home. You don't have to eat out (unless you want to!) when you can use your kitchen easily and efficiently! Throw out your broken tools and replace them with ones that work properly. Cooking just doesn't work when your things are broken or wrong.
For example, when we were newlyweds and stocking our kitchen, we went to our local dollar store to buy things like measuring cups and measuring spoons. I used my cook book from Home Economics in grade 9, so I knew the recipes worked. But nothing I baked would turn out. I was at wits' end until I compared my measuring cups to my mom's and realized that all the cups were completely wrong! It was eye opening, for sure. I had started thinking the problem was me rather than my tools...who would have thought?
What kinds of items are on your list of favourite kitchen tools?
Enjoy your week!
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A few years ago I attended a direct sales "party" - Epicure. As far as parties go, that one was right up my alley. It involved food and drink tastings and cooking demonstrations and I fell in love with the idea that I could cook foods from different parts of the world.
It was such a revelation! There are so many foods common to everyone, but it's how they are prepared- what spices and herbs are used, how they are put together, how they are cooked, how they are served, and what they are served with- these are the differences that make regional cooking "regional". Of course, many foods are region specific. But several cultures make use of foods such as potatoes, rices, and pulses, for example.
I have a stocked cupboard full of Epicure spice blends but also way more individual herbs and spices then most people I know- almost a whole pantry shelf in my pantry is devoted to herbs and spices. I have been spending some time "deconstructing" the flavours I taste in those blends, and coming up with my house version of the same. At first I would make a small amount, adjusting each time until I was happy with the results. I'm at the point now where I can confidently make a big batch of whatever I need- not of everything, but I'm working through my favourites as I go along, so when the Epicure product in the jars get used up it's a simple matter to create my own and keep cooking for whatever mood I'm in.
The key to finding creativity in the kitchen is giving yourself the physical tools (such as slow cookers, milk frothers, veggies spiralizers, and other small appliances and utensils), the physical space- a clean counter is much easier to work on than one covered in clutter (believe me, this I know from years of personal experience!), and a well-stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry.
Over the next few posts I'll be sharing tips on how to stock your fridge, freezer, and pantry. I'll give you ideas, suggestions, photographs, and practical advice on upping your game in the kitchen if you're not satisfied with how it's working now. If you've got any questions or concerns you'd like me to comment on, please leave me a comment or send me a message here or on Facebook. And if you haven't already, please go ahead and "like" my Facebook page! I post there daily!
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It's been a pleasure, friends. Enjoy your week!