Spring-Cleaning Your Kitchen

How to re-organize and optimize your cooking space
Published April 4, 2016

Spring cleaning is all about organization. Out with the old, in with the new and everything in it's right place. Make sure you adopt this same attitude when you tackle your kitchen. While your first instinct will be to dust off the cupboards and clean behind the stove, you should also take some time to redesign and organize your cooking space. An organized kitchen is ultimately a more enjoyable space to spend time in and cooking will become more pleasurable by extension. After all, no one wants to hunt through a dozen half empty bags of dried pasta or suspicious leftovers to find nutritious snacks and recipe ingredients. By including the following tips in your spring cleaning routine, you can turn your kitchen into the perfect place for creating SmartPoints-friendly meals and it'll be easier to navigate for both you and your family.

Clean out your fridge and freezer
Put on your favourite music or podcast and clean out the fridge! There's nothing like miscellaneous half-empty condiment bottles, half-eaten take out containers, old bottles of salad dressing and withered produce to make a fridge uninviting. Begin by throwing out old produce and anything that's expired, empty out old condiment jars to clean and be recycled (or kept for dry good containers!) and get rid of any lingering leftovers. When going through leftovers keep in mind that Health Canada suggests keeping leftover food refrigerated for only 2-3 days before discarding or freezing. The same goes for the freezer, anything that looks questionable should be tossed. Use warm water and gentle dish soap to wash down the walls and drawers of the fridge. Remove the racks and wipe them down before putting them back, repositioning them to fully maximize space and air flow. Organize your fridge contents in a way that makes practical sense for optimal ease when cooking making sure to keep dairy, eggs and other highly perishable food items in the actual fridge and not on the fridge door shelf.

Make everything visible with glass jars
Having all of your dry goods visible will help you make healthier decisions on those nights when your kitchen feels empty and will prevent you from overbuying at the grocery store. Glass canisters are perfect for showcasing dry goods, making it easy to both locate and take stock of pantry staples. You can either buy glass containers that are made specifically for the kitchen or you can collect jars in varying sizes for a fun DIY project. Mason jars, baby food jars and large pickling jars are ideal; try looking in flea markets and thrift stores for unique and hard to find sizes. The jar lids can then all be painted the same colour or covered with fabric to neaten their appearance and give everything a cohesive look. Jars can either be left as is, or labelled to properly identify their contents.

Be prepared
It's easy to have a fridge full of accessible 0 or low value SmartPoints foods if they're prepped at the beginning of the week, eliminating any fuss when you're on the hunt for healthy snacks and meals. Lettuce and other greens can be washed and dried and then stored directly in the salad spinner, making salad prep almost instantaneous (keep a bottle of your favourite dressing handy, too). Carrot and celery sticks, cucumber spears and other firm vegetables can easily be prepped and put into containers (try wrapping them in some damp paper towels to preserve freshness). Cut-up fruit such as melon, orange slices and pineapple can be stored individually or as a fruit salad for those times when you want a sweet snack that’s still nutritious. Pre-portioned dairy products such as yogurt and cheese are great to have on hand to round out fruits and vegetables for a more filling fix.

Keep an ongoing list
Keeping an ongoing list of what’s running low is a helpful tool used by many big restaurant kitchens to maintain their grocery inventory. A whiteboard is ideal because it can easily be erased as you move through your grocery list. Keep a dry erase marker on hand so that all members of your household can contribute to the list, adding both fresh and dry ingredients as they run out. Not only will an ongoing shopping list help keep your kitchen organized, it's also a great interactive tool to get the whole family involved with meal planning and preparation.