Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Product review: Food Labels

I was recently at a friend's house helping her organize her kitchen. I looked through her freezer and oh. my. goodness. Mayhem. Most items were out of their original package and put into tupperware. As I pulled them out and asked her what they were, the answer was almost always, "Well, I'm not really sure."

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ended up throwing away food from the freezer because you aren't sure what it is? Have you thrown away leftovers from the fridge because you don't know when you put them in there? If you answered yes to either of those questions (or if you just really love organization), I have the perfect product for you.

This is one of my favorite kitchen products. I love them. They have simplified my life in a big way for being such a small thing.

Here's what they are and how they work. You put one of the stickers on your tupperware (or your glass dish lid, etc). You write on it what it is, when you made it, or whatever other information is important. Then you put the dish in the freezer or fridge. Once you pull it back out and eat the delicious contents, you then use the eraser that comes with the stickers and erase what's on the label. The pen used is a Sharpie, so it doesn't smudge or rub off the label. But, it comes off perfectly with the eraser. And I actually lost the original pen and used another Sharpie and it still works perfectly. GENIUS.

You could also put these on your dishes when you take meals to friends. They will know exactly who the dish belongs to so you get it back. Or if you store cereal in a plastic or glass container, you can label it with these.

This company also makes file labels. Such a small and inexpensive way to keep things labeled without having to continue to buy more and more labels.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Spice of Life

There are so many good ways to organize one's spices. The point is that you should be able to find what you need quickly. Here are some great ways to organize these kitchen staples:
1. The Drawer Method:

This is from the kitchen of a friend of mine. What I love about this is that it's close to her food prep area and it's very easy to see what container holds what spice. And it's free. I love great organization ideas that don't cost any money.

2. The Door Method:

This is my pantry door. A rack on the back side of the door makes it easy to see the spices I need. Although you could organize them alphabetically, I prefer by type. That way, when I add a spice, I don't have to redo the whole system. So, I have my big Costco spices together. I have all my extracts together. I have all my seeds together. I have all my herbs together. And I have all my sweet spices together. And so on and so forth.

Mine is not pretty. Here's how to do this method so that even your spices add some beauty to your life:

This is Cindy Cage's pantry door and I'm in love with it.

3. The Other Method(s):

Okay, so there are ton of other places to store your spices. The point is, you want to be able to find what you're looking for quickly and you want them to be close to your food prep area so you don't have to walk the length of a football field to get them. Some people use these to put their spices on in a cabinet or the pantry.

Here's what does NOT get an honorable mention: the spinning spice racks that go on counters. Unless you have a ton of counter space, get the spices off the counter! And in general, don't put anything round on the counters if you don't have to - eats up a ton of space. If you really want your spices on your counter, putting them in pretty boxes or jars in a rectangular holder is the way to go.

The only spices I have on my counter are my salt and pepper because I use those on a daily basis.

I added a cutting board underneath them to give the area definition so that it didn't look like I just haven't put them back in the pantry yet. I also found these great boxes at World Market.

So, for those of you who are ready to tackle your spices, here are the steps:

1. Figure out which system works best for you and your kitchen.
2. Take all of the spices out of their current home.
3. Toss the ones that are either clumped together or no longer smell the way they are supposed to.
4. Put them back neatly and enjoy your life being a little bit more simple.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Top Three Tips for Organizing Success


Just like this Seurat, if you get caught up in details when thinking about the big picture, you'll miss the point. So, think bigger vision here:

1. Think about storage as active or inactive: active storage includes things like the medicine cabinet, the drawers in your kitchen, the pantry. Inactive storage includes the garage, the linen closet, the laundry room shelves, etc. Keep active storage simple and clutter free. If you have a lot of things, keep them in the inactive areas.

2. Everything needs to have a home. Do a good job of putting things away right away so there’s not a pile of things to be put away. If you happen to come across an item that doesn’t have a home, do not ask yourself “where should this go?” But, ask yourself “where will I look for this the next time I need it?”

3. Stuff and time: the less stuff, the more time! Keep your life full of the meaningful things: relationships. Not things.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Trouble with Tupperware

This is my collection. Yes, it's slim. But, me and my family of 5 never run out.
Here are the lids.

Even the most organized people have opened their cabinet to plastic stuff falling out on them. Yes, I'm pretty sure that even Martha Stewart has had this happen to her. So, what's the best way to tame your tupperware? 

Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution. It depends on how much you have, where you keep it, what kind you have, and probably some other factors. Here are some tips to 1. keep you sane, 2. help you not get hit in the head anymore when opening your cabinet, and 3. help you actually find the size you need.

  • PURGE!!!! Take all your plastic food storage containers out of your space. Make sure the bottoms have a lid that matches. If not - throw it away! Don't keep a lid or a bottom in the hopes that you'll find it again. It's not worth the stress and space. And while you're at it, be honest with how much you really need. Chances are you don't need that much at one time. If you notice that there are some pieces that you never use...toss it (recycle it, give it away, you get the picture). Toss any that are melted, stained, broken, or smell bad. Come on, you can do it.
  • Make your space work for you. If you have a deep cabinet or drawer that's hard to reach, install a pull out drawer so it's easier to get to. If you are getting frustrating every time you get out food storage containers, your space is not working for you.
  • As for the lids. For the containers that are obvious which lids go with them, I nest the containers and store all the lids separately. I have some containers that look similar, but the lids don't match both. So, for those, I store the lids on the container they go with. See pictures above.
  • Nest, nest, nest!  I think most of us probably have that one container that doesn't fit well with the others. (Insert the tune: "One of These Things is Not Like the Others"). If there is one piece that doesn't nest with the others...don't keep it!
  • DO NOT ADD TO IT!!! If someone is sweet enough to make you a meal, do not keep the containers. If you ordered take out, do not keep the plastic container it came in. Keeping your food storage space in check is as simple as putting things back where they belong (yes, our mothers taught us that when we were 5) and not adding to it. Recycle them or return the favor and cook someone else a meal. You gotta know when enough is enough. And be sure to not keep every yogurt container or peanut butter jar. You can feel just as good about recycling them as keeping them and cluttering up your space.
  • Do it right the first time. I know it's so easy to throw the containers in the cabinet or drawer when you are pulling it out of the dishwasher. Fight the urge, people! Put the lids on the appropriate container right away. Nest the ones that nest right away. It really will increase your time and energy when pulling them back out. 
  • Keep your give-away containers in a different location. I keep containers to give away to others in my laundry room. NOT with my every day containers. That way, my tupperware cabinet stays simple and tidy and I am able to get the right container to give away just by walking into the laundry room.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff. We all have those small containers...which are really handy. Instead of letting them either clutter up your cabinet or get lost, put the lid on the corresponding container and put them in the big container that holds all the other lids.   
  • Just because it's plastic, doesn't mean it goes there. Yes, the cake carrier is tupperware. But, don't store it with the everyday food storage. Keep it somewhere else; otherwise, your food storage cabinet will get overrun with things you don't use often.
  • Don't be so square. OK, actually with food storage, you can. Think square, not circular. Square stuff takes up less space than circle.
  • Learn portion control. Avoid leftovers. If you are cooking just enough for your family, you won't need a lot of food storage containers. This one you'll have to learn HOW to do elsewhere. I just tell you that it will help.