Find us on Google+ cooking lounge * FOOD * LIFESTYLE * MUSIC *: June 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Unstuff Your Fridge: Eat Better, Faster

photo: cooking lounge
Andrew Mellen is a professional organizer, speaker and the best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!, with numerous appearances on national TV. 

Cooking Lounge invited Andrew to write a post centered on the kitchen, after seeing pictures on his website of a super organized kitchen. 

Sure if you cook a lot this sort of order may be hard to maintain but it's a definite benchmark that can be adapted to suit your lifestyle. The refrigerator is the heart of the kitchen. An organized fridge will help you cook faster and quite possibly eat better.

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If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, maybe the path to organization for a man is through his refrigerator?

Either way, it’s clear that a cluttered fridge is a reflection of a cluttered life.

You may argue that, like Vegas, what happens in your fridge stays in your fridge, but to keep piling on the metaphors, that dog won’t hunt.

As a professional organizer for over 16 years, I can assure you that your fridge is a microcosm of your life. Chances are, it contains many fresh, healthy ingredients that are easily accessible. But like life, without regular investigation, you’re also likely to be holding onto moldy, unprocessed and hidden—but not quite forgotten—things that never tasted good in the first place.

Just like taking a personal inventory helps keep you at the top of your game, so does rooting around in the fridge to eliminate anything that stinks—figuratively and literally.

And fortunately, the best way to maintain order in your fridge is the same way to maintain order in your life: use my Organizational Triangle®.

The beauty of the triangle is the simplicity of its three legs: One Home For Everything; Like With Like; and Something In, Something Out. There’s nothing else to remember.

One Home For Everything
means just that—everything has one home and only one home.

That means, the condiments have a home. So do the veggies, the meat, the soft drinks, the alcohol, even the leftovers.

In this worldview, indeed, the cheese does stand alone. Almost.

The second leg of the triangle, Like With Like, means that ALL of the cheese stands alone, not just the blue cheese.

By grouping all the condiments together, all the dairy, all the veggies, etc. you’ll be able to find one of your fourteen different mustards just by looking in one place.

Create a dedicated area just for the leftovers and when it’s time for a snack, there’s no wasting time moving the pudding or the pickles out of the way.

Something In, Something Out is all about reaching stuff equilibrium. Once you have enough of everything that serves you, and in this case, that is nutritious and that you like to eat, you’re not in the market shopping for more just because it’s on sale. You want to use up what’s already there before you pick up more. It doesn’t matter how cheap it is, it’s not a bargain if you don’t need it.

Note that all food that is good for you has an expiration date. The best food typically doesn’t have one printed on it—in those cases, the date is determined by Mother Nature and the efficiency of your refrigerator.  

And if you want to impress your friends, lovers, partners and spouses?

Clean the fridge and wait for their expression the next time you send them into it to retrieve something. You’ll experience a new level of respect and admiration that you didn’t think possible.

So here’s my simple technique for cleaning and organizing your fridge in less time than it takes to do a load of laundry.

First remove everything from the fridge. If you have a cooler, store the food it in temporarily. If you don’t have a cooler, work fast.

Wipe down all the shelves and inside any bins or drawers. Wipe around the seal, removing any stains, mold, mildew or spilled food.

Now, just like in real estate, think location, location, location. What do you typically eat? What do you reach for most often? Those should be the easiest things to get to.

If you love cheese, corral it all together in the cheese drawer or find a container that is large enough to hold it all and place that in a prominent place.

Ditto, if you’re a big sandwich person, you could create a fixins station front and center.

The fridge is an appliance that is all about convenience. Use it to get the most out of it instead of letting randomness overtake you.

Gather all your mustards, ketchup, mayo, pickles, relish and the like and find one area large enough for all of these things to be near each other. Then within that area, group all mustards together, all mayos, all other sauces—anytime you’re looking to dress up a dish, any condiment will be easily found.

Use your vegetable drawer to keep all your fresh veggies together; likewise the fruit drawer.

Once you have created ‘homes’ within the fridge for each type of food you eat, it’s time to load the fridge back up.

If you find that you’ve under- or overestimated how much room some kinds of food take to store, try swapping the drawer to one large enough to accommodate all the versions of whatever the type of food you’re making room for.

And while the above will set up the process for you, the real secret is in maintaining the process.

Fortunately, this isn’t rocket science. Take something out, put it back where it came from. It doesn’t take any more time to put the tomatoes back in the veggie drawer than it does to just plop them on the first open space you see when you open the door.

Here are a couple of pictures of organized fridges to hopefully motivate you rather than shame you!
Flickr_Deanna Piercy_The Well-Groomed Hippie
Good luck and happy Father’s Day!
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