Kitchen Purging–2 Stories

Story 1:  One reader got right on the ball after reading the last post on “Getting, Giving and Purging,”  She wrote,

Simple Math: In came the NutriBullet, out went the old blender

“I recently took over the NutriBullet I’d given my son.  Compared to my current blender, the NutriBullet is far more effective, less hassle to use, easy to clean, and takes up little space.  Know anyone who wants a blender?”

Talk about action!  And she gets to benefit by having a lot better tool for blending, without having to stumble over the old blender.

But what if you’re not ready to give up the old blender completely?  Here’s a handy organizer’s tip:  store it off site (basement, closet, garage).  Attach a note with the date.  If you’re living fine without it after a year, you can put it in the Goodwill box without regrets.

Story 2, or “How to Make Equipment Decisions without Undue Angst or Buyer’s Remorse”

Interestingly, another reader was wondering about blenders, too.  But she was weighing whether to replace her regular blender with a Vitamix.  This is a question I get a lot and no wonder:  We’ve all been wowed by the Vitamix ads and all the cool things a Vitamix can do.  (I admit to buying one, although I later returned it.)  Here’s how I advised her:

Vitamix There are so many neat kitchen tools and gadgets.  But unless you have money to spare and don’t mind getting submerged in clutter, keep your plastic in your purse until forcing yourself to answer two key questions.

1) “What’s your objective?” and
2) “What’s the best tool for the job?”

In this reader’s case, she was attracted to the Vitamix so she could start vegetable juicing, and for this objective, a Vitamix would be perfect.  But then there’s the second question:  Is it the best tool? What’s “best” isn’t just a matter of function (where the Vitamix clearly excels), but also one of

  • cost ($400 to $600 for a Vitamix),
  • what you already have on hand (a regular blender that can achieve her objective just fine),
  • storage and counter space (a Vitamix takes up more room; her kitchen is on the small side), and
  • ease of use and ease of cleaning (probably a toss up.)

Based on these factors, it doesn’t seem worthwhile to shell out the price of a Vitamix.  But I asked one more question that sealed the deal:  “Does she juice regularly now?”  No, she is just getting started, it turns out.  All the more reason to wait on the big, expensive juicer.  Commit first to the juicing and see if you can make it a regular habit and if it produces the desired health benefits.  Then assess whether something more than a regular blender is needed–and when you weigh all the factors, especially price, the much less expensive NutriBullet might be the best choice if juicing is the objective.

Faced with a really cool product ad, you may not want to make this kind of hard-nosed assessment.  You just want the cool tool and want to find a way to justify it.  Which is a good way to get a case of buyer’s remorse.  That’s why I said, “force” yourself to answer the two key questions above.  That way you won’t end up with stuff that ends up being cupboard clutter instead of the valuable tool you hoped for.

What Are Your Holidays Missing?

Getting, Giving–and Purging

Gifts are so much fun. As kids we loved getting them. As adults we learn the joys of giving them. But few people know about the final piece in the triad: Purging. Probably because it’s a fairly new piece of the puzzle. Purging wasn’t so vital before the Age of Stuff.

The slow cooker has become my new best friend as I’ve discovered more and more ways to take advantage of its convenience, from stewing chickens to roasting vegetables and making meatloaf. Because I use it so much, I gifted myself with a second one. The wide, round shape offers different cooking options than my first cooker which is taller and narrower. But, I don’t want to initiate clutter creep by leaving it on the counter.

But with houses stuffed with stuff, receiving a gift can trigger dismay as easily as delight. “Where am I going to put it?” you wonder before the wrapping paper even hits the floor.

Happily, the Christmas season of giving is followed by ringing in the New Year, and its motto offers just the advice we need: “In with the New, Out with the Old.” Professional organizers and clothes closet gurus have been saying the same thing for years: For each new item, eliminate one old thing.

A bottom cupboard houses my old slow cooker on the top shelf; below it would be a logical and handy place to store my new cooker.

Following this rule is especially valuable in the kitchen, where clutter builds slowly and imperceptibly. Bit by bit the counters become overrun, cupboards bulge and everyday meal making becomes unbearably time consuming and annoying.

So resolve this year, at the very least, to eliminate one old gadget for each new one added.This advice isn’t just theoretical as you can see from you CrockPot story to the right.

But what about the mixer, sifter and pitcher? They were used a lot when my kids were young and baking was a big part of our lives. Now they are rarely used and are an easy target. But no need to toss completely; instead I’ll just relocate to the basement storage shelves where I can retrieve them for occasional baking. Meanwhile, a perfect spot is opened for my new cooker.

In with the New . . .  Out with the Old

Simple mathematics.  But what if it’s not so simple to actually do?

This is where professional organizers come in. An outside eye can make clutter easier to spot, can help decide what to keep and what to toss, and can make lighter work with more hands. Plus, as a master organizer, I can work with you to create kitchen spaces that flow efficiently and smoothly, supporting rather than hindering. This year, I’d be happy to help get your kitchen under control–all or even just a part. Call or email to arrange a time–or order a copy of my book, Take Control of Your Kitchen, for a DIY solution.

Spinning Leftovers for a Week of Dinners—plus a Lunch

Leftovers are a common problem for solo cooks. Not just extra servings of a dish, but also all the vegetables, seasonings, meat, rice, and other ingredients left over from making the dish.  Making the Sauteed Beet and Snap Pea Salad in the next post, for instance, leaves behind nearly a dozen foods:

The Leftovers List

  • Sauteed Beets

    Sometimes beets are only sold in bunches.  If you don’t need that many for a dish, saute the leftovers for a fabulous salad topper–or mid-afternoon snack.

    One serving of the finished salad

  • Steak strips
  • Couple handfuls of sugar snap peas
  • 2-3 beets from a bunch
  • Beet greens
  • Beet green stems
  • Garlic
  • Cumin dressing
  • Cilantro
  • Limes
  • Rice or quinoa

Problem or Possibility?  All those leftover items in the frig could lead to some anxiety.  “What am I going to do with all of them?  They’re taking over my frig!”  Or those leftovers might become sparks of inspiration for a whole week’s worth of meals–plus at least one lunch:

Lunch the Next Day

  • Leftover Sautéed Beet and Snap Pea Salad with Goat Chevre and Toasted Walnuts
  • Whole Wheat Pita Wedges

Make creative use of leftover salad by serving with a different side and new toppings (substitute another cheese or nut to suit your tastes)

Night 2

  • Sweet Potatoes with Cumin Dressing
  • Salmon with Lime and Cilantro
  • Garlic Sautéed Beet Greens

If it’s too hot for sweet potato fries, microwave then grill wedges and toss with dressing. Grill the salmon, too, and top with lime juice and cilantro. Try sprinkling apple cider vinegar over the sautéed beet greens.

Night 3

  • Early Summer Meal Salad:  Lettuce, Sautéed Beets and Summer Turnips, Spicy Pumpkin Seeds, Garbanzo or White Beans, Cherries or Apricots—plus anything else you have on hand!
  • Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette (or store-bought dressing of choice, e.g., Drew’s Sesame Orange or Braggs Vinaigrette)
  • Whole Wheat Pita Wedges

For an interesting addition to a salad, cut and saute the rest of the beets, along with some summer turnips, as directed in the Beet and Snap Pea Salad recipe .

Night 4

  • Snap Pea Stir-Fry

    Leftover snap peas make a great snack, or make a quick stir-fry with them. Learn the 10 Steps to Super Stir Fries in one of our classes

    Stir Fry with Snap Peas, Onions, Summer Turnips, Steak Strips and Carrots

  • Leftover rice or quinoa

Use up leftover summer turnips from Night 3’s salad.  Cut them and the carrots into 1/4″ matchsticks. Flash fry steak strips in a separate pan for best results. Combine everything and top simply with soy sauce and San-J Szechuan sauce for a little heat. Serve with rice or quinoa warmed in the microwave.

Night 5—Super Easy Meal

  • Readymade Lentil Soup with Beet Stems
  • Whole Grain Toasts with Chevre and Roasted Peppers
  • Optional Chicken—grilled, rotisserie, deli or sautéed

Relax at the end of the week. Simply slice leftover beet stems very thinly and stir into Amy’s or another favorite lentil soup.  Simmer 5 to10 minutes until tender to taste. Meanwhile, cut whole grain bread into quarters and toast or grill; top with chevre and diced roasted peppers. Serve chicken on the side if desired.

Another January Giveaway: Control of Your Kitchen!

Cover of Take Control of YOur Kitchen

Tips, Tricks and Strategies to Make Everyday Meals Healthy, Easy and Enjoyable

While on the subject of organizing, I’m giving away a copy of my kitchen organizing book, Take Control of Your Kitchen.

How many times have you wished your kitchen life could be more in control?  This is the year when it can happen!  Divided into very beginner, intermediate and advanced sections, this book will walk you, step by step, to the land of a sane, supportive kitchen.  Besides discovering how to tame your kitchen spaces, learn to manage your shopping and cooking time for smooth, stress free meal making.

My New Year’s gift to you:  Experience the magic and see how tasty, healthy meals really are achievable for ordinary home cooks.  Just complete the form below

Kitchen Tip: Miracles with Baking Soda

I may be the last one to the baking soda party, but I’m solidly there now.  After buying a new box the other day, I happened to notice all the uses listed on the package.  

Baking Soda Miracles

Just for fun, I tried it on the microwave, on some tea-stained pans and even on my beautiful brushed steel dishwasher.

The stuff worked beautifully–easy, pretty shine and nothing that will harm our health or the planet’s health.  And lest I forget–cheap, cheap, cheap (e.g., around $2.00 for a big, 2 lb. box).  Notice how I made a convenient shaker by punching holes in a lid.  

So don’t worry if things get messy in the kitchen from cooking.  That’s just part of making good, health-giving meals.  Cleaning up is easy enough. 

Use Tip:  Shake soda onto a barely damp sponge and just moisten surface to be washed.  Too much water dissolves the soda and it loses its light abrasive abilities.

And Don’t Forget the Bathroom:  Great way to clean glass shower doors as well as sinks and other surfaces. 

Kitchen Essentials: The Humble Storage Container

Storage Containers

The humble storage container is a kitchen essential–even if it’s not as glamorous as some kitchen hardware.

Food storage containers don’t rank in the A-list of kitchen gadgets like sleek Kitchen Aid stand mixers and shiny All-Clad cookware.  In fact, a lot of us muddle by with a random assortment of  yogurt cups and take out tubs–with dozens of even more random lids that never seem to fit anything.  Hence this article.

If you are interested in meals with any of these attributes–healthy, efficient, affordable, stress-free and/or tasty–then you need decent storage containers.  The yogurt cups and take out tubs can (mostly) be recycled. So recycle them now and get a set of sturdy containers that will last for years.  The rewards are many:

  • Enjoy Efficiency:  Absolutely begin doubling the amount of pasta, sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, chicken, etc., etc., that you cook.  Extras stored in good containers will last perfectly for days, giving a good head start on later meals.
  • Get Healthy:  The previous trick is especially helpful when it comes to vegetables.  As long as you’re set up for washing and chopping, cut and store extras (vegetables hold up quite nicely in tight-seal containers.)  Then see if you don’t find more vegetables weaving their way into your meals.
  • Save on Stress:  Square containers are the best because they stack conveniently and maximize space in the frig.  They leave the refrigerator organized, with everything easy to view and remove.
  • Save Money:  Americans pitch enormous amounts of food.  Instead of pitching, start capturing leftovers in convenient storage containers and see what affordable (and healthy) snacks and lunches they make.  Plus, when I finally started transporting our foods in actual containers, I no longer lost food that exploded and leaked from unreliable yogurt cups.
  • Please Your Kids:  Homemade lunches ensure that your kids’ mid-day meals are healthful.  Good storage containers ensure that lunch won’t be splattered all over their lunch boxes–and it minimizes waste.

No question about it, good storage containers are an essential.  But maybe you’re having a couple nagging questions:

  1. What about plastic containers–are they safe?  Valid concern, with all the press lately about the dangers of plastic.  This is my solution to date:  I use glass for storing hot leftovers and reheating in a microwave; tight-seal plastics for transporting foods and storing vegetables.
  2. How many containers do I need?  If you’re just starting out, 15-20 pieces is not too much, since some will always be in use in the frig and some will be in the wash cycle.  Should it prove too much, pass some along to a friend or child setting up house.  Alternatively, they can be used to store and organize an array of other household items, from batteries and crafting supplies to nails and sprinkler parts.

6 Reasons to Love Tupperware Cupboard Organizers

Why Make the Plunge and Invest Now

Reason 1 : If you’re interested in healthy eating, Tupperware makes it a lot easier.  That statement may sound pretty far-fetched.  I certainly wouldn’t have bought into it–until I got Tupper-ized 20 years ago!

Whole Grain Brown Rice

Whole grains, like this brown rice, are one of the healthful foods experts recommend

Think about it:  What do all the experts tell us to eat for good health?  Fruits and vegetables  get top billing, but close behind are whole grains, legumes and nuts and seeds.  And how are we advised to flavor our foods?  With healthful, no-calorie herbs and spices instead of overly sugary, salty and fatty flavorings.

I took this advice seriously and used all these ingredients while feeding my two pre-toddler children many years ago.  But what a pain in the neck!  Little paper bags of herbs and spices stuffed in a drawer.  Ten unmarked  jars of grains stuffed into a top cupboard shelf alongside seven types of flour.  Flimsy bags of nuts and seeds, stuffed into a bottom cupboard.  Beans in more jars in another cupboard.  Each meal, I could spend five to ten precious minutes searching for things, with hungry kids nipping at my heels!

Then I met “Tupperware lady” Donna Davis, and discovered why Modular Mates are perfect for storing healthy foods, explained below.

Reason 2: Modular Mates’ design makes everything readily and quickly available while maximizing cupboard space. Unlike other containers, Modular Mates provide “front-to-back” rather than  “top to bottom” storage.  That means everything can be accessed from the front of the cupboard, so there’s no digging for containers, bags and boxes that get stashed and shoved

Tupperware's Front to Back Design

Note how Modular Mates utilize the entire cupboard depth, from front to back.

to the back of a cupboard.  It also means every square inch of air space gets used, from the bottom clear to the top.  And with units available in 2″, 4″, 6″ and 8″ heights, there is a space-maximizing container for whatever quantity you buy.

Reason 3: Modular Mates keep freshness in and unwanted visitors out. Things like nuts, seeds and whole  grains and flours are attractive targets for bugs and small critters.  Modular Mates are virtually air tight, however, so they can’t be invaded by outside pests, and the contents inside stay fresh.  (And if bugs should come home with you from the grocery store, at least they will be trapped in one container rather than spreading throughout the kitchen. )

Reason 4: Modular Mates are convenient time savers. Label containers if you can’t readily identify the contents and get top seals with flip up lids for anything that can be poured, like grains and beans.  Then, it’s a snap to find just the ingredient you need and measure them out.

Labeled Tupperware

Take a couple minutes to label containers for easy recognition.

Reason 5: Modular Mates are a life long investment. In my work as a professional kitchen organizer, I’ve found most kitchens could benefit from a Modular Mate investment.  I use the word “investment” deliberately because Tupperware, which lasts for life, should be viewed as a lifelong purchase rather than a consumable or passing fad.

I remember feeling completely ridiculous spending $500 to outfit my kitchen.  But that was 20 years ago and honestly speaking, that purchase has repaid me every time I cook. That means I really bought time savings plus a tremendous amount of convenience for 7,300 days, at a cost of 7 cents per day.  That is the kind of long-term investment thinking we need to get good meals on the table despite our busy and hectic lives.

Flimsy Bags of Beans

Is this what you're facing to make a healthful meal? Time for organization!

Reason 6: Modular Mates are on sale! This could be the best motivator of all.  From January 15 to February 11, 2011, Modular Mates are 40% off.  So take a look around your kitchen.  Could you make better and more frequent use of healthful ingredients if they could be found and pulled out quickly and without a hassle?  Then take some action!

Need some help deciding what to do about your kitchen, where Modular Mates could be of benefit, which containers would be best,  and so on?  Give a call for a kitchen coaching session with Mary Collette Rogers.  Or check out Mary’s book, Take Control of Your Kitchen, the guide to organized, manageable and stress-free meal making.

Ready to order?  Donna Davis has retired after many years as a top salesperson.  But her supervisor, Joannie Flynn, continues in the business after 49 years!  Just email her:  joannie818  @  yahoo.com (without spaces), and she will take care of your order and answer any questions you might have.

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