Early fall is the perfect time to get organized. With the end of lazy summer days and the beginning of a new school year, my family, possibly like yours, needs to get its act together. As I prepare to send one daughter off to college and another to a new grade in middle school, I like to gain control of my home before we all get very busy and life gets less manageable.
Let’s start with the kitchen. Try these 9 fast tips for prepping your refrigerator, freezer and pantry for autumn:
- Multitask shopping trips. While shopping with your kids for school supplies, grab a few extra items, like folders, organizers and office supplies, that will make shopping, menu planning and meal prep a snap this season.
- Create a recipe file folder. Buy an extra accordion folder and label the tabs with Poultry, Fish, Beef, Vegetarian, Smoothies, Breakfast, Vegetarian, Dessert and Snacks. Whenever you come across a recipe in a magazine that you want to try, print or tear out the page and slip it into the folder. Check out your options before you go grocery shopping for new ideas and shopping lists.
- Protect your favorites from wear and tear. Use a few extra sheet protectors to keep your go-to recipes safe from liquids or foods. I keep my signature salad dressing recipes in these easy-to-clean sheets in the same cabinet where I keep my spices, oils and vinegars. No more hunting for my recipes, and no more destroying the pages when I cook!
- Become a smart labeler. It starts with extra colorful masking tape (you know, the kind you never knew what to do with). My favorite trick is to use it to label mason jars stored in the freezer with extra smoothies. Include the date it was stored and the contents on the tape. If you’ve got a big family, you can even mark whose smoothie it is. The same masking tape is also useful for party guests to tag their wine glasses.
- Purge your fridge and freezer. During the summer months, when the days are longer and schedules are more flexible, I find that dinner plans often change last minute — we travel, go out for the day and never make it home until late, or get last minute invitations — and I end up throwing things in my freezer. Now is the perfect time to toss anything from pre-summer months that you never got around to using, or anything that’s been frozen and forgotten. This includes all those opened jars or packages with no clear purchase or expiration date.
- Hunt for suspicious freezer items. Examine frozen foods for freezer burn or packed ice crystals and check expiration dates. Use all the items that are about to expire the earliest and toss out expired items. Any mystery items? They get tossed, too.
- Be a pantry sleuth. Dig through the shelves (yes all the way in the back) and check expiration dates on all canned or jar foods and spices. Trash the ones too old to use and move the items about-to-expire to the front. Bonus points if you add recipes to your weekly menu plan that use these ingredients.
- Recycle your food containers. Instead of throwing out used glass food jars, wash and reuse them. These can become great containers for smoothies, nuts and seeds. They can also be used to carry a healthy snack to work or school. Trim celery or carrots into sticks that fit right within the jar. Place with almond or pumpkin seed butter on the bottom as “glue” to keep the veggie sticks in place.
- Stay inspired. Don’t let all this de-cluttering go to waste. Buy a clear picture frame with magnets. Print motivating quotes and insert in the frame. Place on your fridge or your office bulletin board. Keep changing the quote to keep yourself on track and making smart choices, especially when you’re reaching into the fridge. I can always get myself going by looking at the logo of my health coaching company which reads, “I live the Smart Life!”.