Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kitchen Clean Out- Part 1- Refrigerator/ Freezer

(Warning: Long and wordy post about how I had an epiphany about wasting food and how I am attempting to fix it.)

Have you seen those commercials where they have people throwing food away while telling how much money Americans lose every year by wasting food?

Well last week I realized I was probably contributing to that average.

We eat at home 90% of the time.  I cook almost every night.  Drew takes his lunch to work.  I try to plan meals for the week, but it just doesn't always pan out.  I buy a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables, but then I get lazy and don't always make the meals they were intended for.

As most of you know eating healthy, mostly whole food meals, isn't always cheap or super fast and convenient.  It takes time and preparation.

On a typical week day I clean up breakfast and then start thinking of what I can make for dinner.. and then I think of it again at lunch... and then at about 3:30/ 4:00 I start to panic internally because I have to make it now or I am going to fulfill the stereotypical housewife when my husband gets home,  in her pajamas with a messy house and nothing to show for the day.

I really hate feeling like that.  I like to eat dinner with my family and I don't like resenting them for asking me what were eating for dinner.  I don't like to feel like I can never have time for myself to workout or play with Alaire or blow dry my hair at the end of the day because THESE PEOPLE WANT DINNER.

During this pregnancy I have had bouts of insomnia.  Sometimes I am up from 2am-4am or I wake up at 5am for the day.  I usually just get out of bed and sit in the living room on the iPad, so I don't wake anyone else up.  I usually end up on Pinterest at some point and recently I have been "researching" other peoples' plans to prepare dinners for entire months in a day.  I get super motivated reading how these people save so much money and in the end, time by doing their freezer meal plans.

Like I said before I realized I was wasting a lot of money on food. The month of February I kept every  receipt for every single purchase I made. I filled out a Dave Ramsey budget, just to see how we compare to his suggestions for the average American.  We spent almost as much money on food as we do on our mortgage.  WTH??  I was fine with it until I cleaned out my refrigerator/freezer and our deep freezer.  I threw an entire garbage bag out of our drawer freezer alone.  There was a lot of wasted meat and frozen fruit and vegetables that weren't stored properly after opening.  

I was getting ready to make a shopping list after I got done cleaning. I ended up finding the ingredients for 10 dinners, WITHOUT buying a single thing.  That is so pathetic.  I then decided that I will not be going  to the grocery store multiple times a week.  I was buying and wasting so much. I was also buying things that weren't on my list and just pretending that they were part of the grocery bill.  If you are anything like me, you run to target for a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread and you come home with a few outfits for your kids, a swimsuit, and some new plastic storage containers for their seasonal end cap.  An under $5 trip turned into a $70 trip. (BTW Target puts those cute seasonal items on an end cap for a reason... suckers like me: )

If you saw this picture on my Facebook and Instagram last night, then you know that I made a whole table full of meals last night.  I am going to tell you how I did it, how I planned for it, how much I spent, and what I actually ended  up with.  Of course I will give you all of the recipes too.  Just bear with me while I get it all organized enough to share it with you.

You are really going to think I am batsh!t when I say that i still  have a handful of meals to make that require a little bit of cooking before freezing.  I will get to that later though.

If you think you might want to try to prepare some make ahead meals for your family, then this is my advice for getting started.

  • Clean out your refrigerator, including condiments, jars, etc.  
  • Clean out your freezer
  • Clean out your deep freeze (If you have one, and you DO NOT have to have one!!!!)
  • Clean out your spice cupboard 
  • Clean out your pantry or food storage(pair like items together, especially the canned goods)
I know that little list alone can be super overwhelming.  Do one at a time, and trust me when you start realizing how much food you have in your cupboards and how much is expired or empty it will be a snowball of motivation to move on to the next item on the list.

If you don't clean out all of your food and ingredients, you may think you have items that have actually gone bad.

So, to give you some motivation I will show you what I did with my refrigerator/ freezer.  To clean both of them out it took me maybe an hour max (and that is with stopping to take pictures and attend to Alaire)

Tools I used:

  • Clorox wipes
  • screw driver (Yes, a screw driver)
  • Vacuum with hose

Okay so lets get started.  If you are going to clean your fridge out, just do it right the first time.  It will make the next time you do it much easier and quicker.

My one piece of advice for any type of organization is to not make it too complicated.  Put things in the most practical spots for your family's use.  If you make it to hard to keep clean, you will earn your staring role in the next Lifetime movie by going ballistic the first time someone puts something back out of place.

This is my door before.  Full of condiments that are half empty, expired and have product running down the sides.

 This is the main refrigerator.  It not horrible, but it is a mess.

 Meats and Cheese Drawer

Start by taking out all of the items in one drawer or one shelf.  Do it this way for two reasons: if you don't have time for the whole fridge at once, and you won't be overwhelmed with all of the crap.
I then vacuum out all of the crumbs.  Don't start by wiping the drawers out with something wet if there are crumbs.  Get them out with the vacuum.  I promise it makes this job 100x faster.
Wipe out the drawer with a clorox wipe or soapy wash cloth.

BOOM DONE!  Toss anything old, moldy, expired, or almost empty that you know won't get used.  Put everything back and shut the drawer. 

Fruit Drawer Before

If you have time, literally take the smaller drawers out.  Vacuum where the drawer goes and wipe it out.  This is where the spills end up.  Quick rinse these small drawers out in the sink or dump out the crumbs, and put back in place.  If you have a lot of loose fruit like cuties, put them in a tupperware without a lid or a produce container to wrangle them together.

Fruit Drawer After

Vegetable Drawer Before
Vegetable Drawer After

 I cut up most of the bulk vegetables and put them in freezer bags for soups and crock pot meals.  I put the rest in a tupperware to use for snacks.
 Combine almost empty tubs and containers to take up less space.

 This container was taking up so much space and it only had a tiny bit of food in it.
 Here is the container it fit in.
Wipe down all of the glass.  If your shelves come out or slide forward I would take them out and really scrub them once in a while, especially if you have had any spills.
 So here is all of the stuff that I got rid of out of my refrigerator.  It's not a TON of stuff but it was taking up valuable space.  I probably used 10 Clorox wipes because of the vacuum.  Like I said it didn't take long, but it made the space so much cleaner.  And, because I cleaned everything out, I have a better idea of what I actually do have in there.

Here is my door cleaned out.  It is still full, but everything in it is useful and up to date.  AND almost of all my bottles and jars fit in the door instead of shuffling around on the main shelves.

Here are all of my shelves.  

 We go through a lot of eggs, so I put one set sideways in the back, so I can fit more.

And it's done.  I can see what is in it and it is CLEAN!!!

Next is the freezer, then I swear this post will be over.
 These are some of the items I had to throw out of my freezer : ( 

(I have a drawer freezer with the french door fridge on top.)
Again Take out everything out of each compartment.  This is where the vacuum comes in most handy.  Drawer freezers end up with a lot of stuff in the bottom of them.  Don't be surprised you are going to find hair in there too.
 Vacuum it, and then wipe it down.

 This is the rubber suction piece on the drawer that seals the door shut.  Clean that out too while your at it.  Our fridge is only a few years old and it was NASTY!!

The screwdriver works great for any little groves that may have dried liquids stuck in them.  I wrap a Clorox wipe around the tip and get all of the junk out.

 Put everything back in the freezer.  
 On the left I put all of the unopened vegetables and meat and on the left the odds and ends stuff.
 In the top drawer I put any leftovers that I froze and any packages that have been opened.  
Most of the stuff I had thrown out were things like this that had been spilled because they had bounced around the freezer and weren't shut tight.  Now I know to look her for something first before opening something new.
And here is the final bag that I took out of that freezer.  It was HEAVY too.

I hoped this helped someone get motivation to clean out their refrigerator or freezer.  I did the deep freeze too but it was pretty simple.  I mostly just went through it paired like items together and made a list of what I had and how much of it.

Next I will share how I prepared for the giant meal prep that I did yesterday.  I will tell you where I got recipes and how I compiled a streamline shopping list.  

You can use the same method to make meals for a week too, it doesn't have to be a month. 

 Don't be overwhelmed or think that I am one of those people who can  do it all, because I am not.  I am just really determined to spend more money on family vacations and less on garbage bags full of rotten and freezer burnt food.

If you have any questions you can email me at

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post, Anna. I find myself doing well one week with planning meals ahead and then horrible the next week when we have a lot going on and I start going to the grocery store or Target 2-3X a week and getting a bunch we don't need or use.

    You have inspired me to clean out my fridge and freezer too :) Looking forward to seeing what freezer meals you did. We have a few we like, but I am always looking for more to add to the recipe file.