Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Veggie Might: Kitchn Cure - Pantry and Fridge

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a regular Thursday feature about all things Vegetarian. It's coming a day early this week, and Wednesday's regularly scheduled article will appear on Thursday.

My kitchen is a mess. Not so much dirty messy as cluttered, unorganized, and poorly lit. I'm a renter, so my options for renovation are limited to temporary shelving and pot racks. (Viva la pot rack!) Said shelves and the few cabinets that came with the place are filled to overflowing.

You, dear readers, are already aware of the bad lighting via my questionable photography. (See picture at the right.) Not only does my solitary kitchen window give me a view into the neighbor's kitchen and bathroom (blarg), my overhead light is only semi-functional. (I’ve had a call in to the super for a few months now.)

Hello? Is anyone out there? I need some inspiration/motivation/HELP to get things under control.

[Enter stage left] The Kitchn 2009 Kitchen Cure: a six-week challenge to "get your kitchen to be clean, healthy and organized, and your cooking more nourishing and delicious than ever.” You can still sign up and participate at your own pace. Do it with me; it’ll be fun!

The Kitchn is the kinda fancy yet often practical food blog in the Apartment Therapy universe. Sometimes I have to take breaks from reading AT because the beautifully styled homes and food remind me just how much of a mess my pad (and my food photography) really is.

It had been nearly a month when I checked in, only to find pictures of the editors’ messy cabinets and refrigerators. There, alongside The Kitchen Cure details, was the promise we were in this cleanse together. The step-by-step suggestions are a huge help too. My mess of a kitchen immediately seemed more manageable.

Week 1 focuses on cleaning out the pantry and fridge. In a burst of spring cleanliness, I had just cleaned out my fridge and old school defrost-it-yourself freezer the week before. Since I was a half-week late taking on the challenge, I was happy for the head start.

Well, are you ready? Here is my game plan.

Step one: Take everything out of cabinets
You may be able to just take down one shelf’s contents at a time. I knew I wanted to move things from cabinet to cabinet. It was necessary to take everything out so I could see what kind of space I had to work with.

Step two: Clean cabinets
The cabinet above the stove, where I’d been keeping my spices and baking supplies (I know! All that heat! Hence my plan to move things), has a perpetual oily coating from cooking. I use a mixture of eco-friendly dish soap, water, and splash of vinegar to cut right through that grease. No scrubbing necessary—and it was past time for a pass at this chore. I gave the other two cabinets and the top of the fridge a good wipe too.

Step three: Consolidate and pitch
This was fun—and hard. I have more spices, beans, and grains than I realized. The awesome thing is that I really do use them. In a pinch, I could feed a small theater troupe for a week without going to the store.

I store most of my dry goods in reused glass jars, and have started doing the same with spices I buy in bulk. I incorporated into the pantry a bunch of Mason jars my friend JB gave me when she moved.

I also tossed out some oldies but goodies taking up space: the tiny jars of marjoram and white pepper that I’ve had since I moved in (1996), the soy flour I bought at least 5 years ago to make this one cookie recipe that even I didn’t like, the ground nutmeg I just bought that had solidified from keeping it over the stove. Lesson learned.

Step four: Wipe down everything going back in
A fresh bucket of soap and vinegar washes away all the gunk.

Step five: Put everything back
Now this was tricky. It took a few tries to get everything back in neatly, efficiently, and with room to spare. I promised the roommate he’d have space on the shelf in the wardrobe.

I have a freestanding closet in the kitchen for linens, and one shelf is devoted to pantry items. Originally, TR and I shared this shelf, unequally, but he had some room. Little by little, I encroached on his space until I had taken it over completely. He never said anything; he just stopped trying to put stuff there. Now he has a full half of the shelf. Its still sitting there empty, but it’s his.

The Pantry/Fridge Cleanse was a success. I know what I have; I know where it is; and it’s clean. I can also access it easily, which is a nice bonus. Even though I’ll be traveling some, I hope to stay on track with the Cure. Week 2 focuses on decluttering the rest of the cabinets and purging the kitchen gear you don’t use.

Are you up for the challenge? Do you have any clutter removal/prevention tips? Join me! It’s amazing how much easier this stuff is with a “buddy,” bite-sized steps, and a little accountability.

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