Thursday, 21 February 2013

Goal 34. Make a high efficiency, bright kitchen

Ok I'm back this week and ready to show you my kitchen!

Since I love cooking and kitchens and general kitchen-y "stuff" my kitchen is a constant work in progress. But one of the things that that is absolutely required is that it works much harder than me, and is relatively easy to clean up once I have finished destroying it with my latest culinary adventure. I cook like a tornado, and generally cook multiple things at one time. I also cook a lot. So here are my top 5 favourite things about my current kitchen.

1. DISHWASHER! - Absolutely no joke, I think this thing saved our marriage. And because its portable it has lived with us in several dingy apartments, allowing us to pay less on rent. Now Prince Charming doesn't spend 2-3 hours every night doing dishes, and can focus on more important things like hanging out with me, or you know, his homework. I actually also think it saved his academic career. And I love that our dish-drainer can be folded up and tucked away, to give me even more counter space when needed!

2. Act like a TV chef - have you ever really looked at a TV chef's kitchen? I guarantee you will see that they have a large (generally wooden) cutting board, and a selection of oil, salt and pepper, right in front of them, in the center of the set. Some have a ton of other stuff too. But they always have these basics. So I just stole this idea and made my own little chef station. Makes dinner prep go a lot faster and makes me look legit. Since my "set" hits a wall instead of a camera I took advantage of that space too and hung up my knives and my most used spices so that they're ready for action too.

3. Today's special - I love this little menu board I made for Prince Charming so he knows what he is supposed to be eating for breakfast and lunch. It's just a piece of scrapbook paper hung in a cheap frame, that I write one with a Dry-erase pen. We have weird schedules that often don't work well together, so he is on his own in the morning, and this lets him know what I have planned for him to put in his lunch and have for breakfast. Now he doesn't worry about accidentally eating something I was saving for a certain recipe, and I know that we have all the food he needs for lunch. These just get updated weekly and we eat the same thing for these meals each day.

4. Labels and bins - Ok, maybe I am slow but for a long time I didn't really embrace using smaller bins in the kitchen to corral little things. I mean yeah, I had a cutlery rack, but that was about it. Well once I got my first bin, I was absolutely sold. I use these bins all over the place, even in the fridge. And then I started to use mason jars as dry storage and quickly realized that lots of white powders look the same. So I just added a label using a sharpie on a bit of paper, which I cut down to size and tape on with scotch tape. Looks good enough to me, and really doesn't fall off.

5. Organized sink - This under the sink organizer might be the entire reason I love pinterest. For years I hated having a bunch of scubbing pads, dish brush and various cleaning utensils sitting in the bottom of the sink, but I couldn't think of a solution. I tried some organizers from discount stores, but they generally didn't fit well or didn't hold the things well, so eventually got tossed. But this idea is super genius. It is actually a piece of a shoe organizer that I just cut off and then hung on the door with command hooks (love these!). I cut a little "button-hole" in the top, and if you are fancy you could probably use your sewing machine to make it super strong, but for me I haven't had any issues yet. Currently I am using a vinegar & oil set from Ikea to store my hand soap and dishwashing soap, so I don't have ugly bottles everywhere. I am still working on a better solution for this, so if you have any good ideas send them my way!

What is your favourite thing about your kitchen?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Goal 69. Complete Healthy Homemaker E-book

Ok... so this goal is basically about finishing another list of goals. And these aren't fun goals that you might have pictures of... but they are useful goals.

Healthy Homemaking is an e-book written by Stephanie Langford and has 26 steps to greening up your life. None of them are outrageous and she has lots of tips and clues on how to incorporate them. So here is my run-down of ways that I have found to implement these greener ideas in my life, on my miniscule budget.

1. Reduce waste. A whole post on this one topic here.

2. Use vinegar. If in doubt I try vinegar. I make my own window cleaner with vinegar, clean jewellery and appliances with vinegar, use it in laundry, make a paste with baking soda to remove tough stains.
        Oh yeah, and I wash my hair with apple cider vinegar (I mix half vinegar & half warm water in an old shampoo bottle, then I use it as a rinse/conditioner by spraying it on, letting sit a bit and rinsing out. Makes my hair less frizzy and restores a nice colour tone, I find).
         Plus we use it in cooking all the time. It really is a good first step when dealing with a household crisis.

3. Use brown rice. A while ago I just stopped buying white rice. Now we have minute brown rice and regular brown basmati rice. The minute rice takes... minutes, in the microwave. The regular rice takes 45 min in the rice cooker at a mix of 2 parts rice to 5 parts water. This helps get a nice soft, but nutty rice. I find the best way to improve my diet is just to stop buying whatever the offending food is and make do. Eventually you get used to it.

4 & 5. Lighten up your pantry (get rid of junk foods, high salt and fat foods, processed foods). So.... we do ok in this area. But just barely ok. Right now we have a case of Kraft dinner (which Prince Charming has been LOVING), but this is probably the first time we have had this, other than while camping, since moving to Edmonton. We do keep really fast, easy foods around for lunches or rushed dinners, and vary up the items between canned soup, baked beans, perogies, ramen noodles and pasta.
        On the other hand I also hand-baked 4 loaves of bread for us this month and we haven't had store-bought cookies or other "kids snacks" in years. So, we approach this one with a varying attitude, mostly depending on my current commitments.

6. Use reuseable grocery bags. This one is really easy to do if you shop at a grocery store that charges you for bags, and requires you to bag your own groceries anyways. Since we aren't shopping for a huge family we generally don't use all our bags, so we just leave most in the car all the time. We also got some bags that have flat cardboard in the bottom so they fold out into a box. These we love. And once you start saying "we don't need a bag" in most stores, you just get used to carrying stuff. We have a lot less plastic bags around our house now.

7. Buy higher quality eggs. This one is something I am currently ignoring, in favour of; use lots of eggs.   Organic eggs from a grocery store are about double regular eggs, and when you go through as many eggs as we do, its just not an option. So instead we get the cheap eggs and eat them a lot.
        I believe that my body can actually handle a lot, and we don't have issues with our gut, skin or generally anything that isn't something I haven't brought home from work. So for now this is reality.    
       My dream of course would be to have chickens. Prince Charming does not share this dream.

8. Meal plan. Yeah. I don't understand that this is a goal for people. I honestly can not make food without a planner. I can't grocery shop without a full list. I tried once and literally had to just go home because I had no idea what I was doing. Don't see this as "oh wow, she's so organized" but rather, wow, look at the poor girl who has to geek out at the grocery store with a computer printed, organized my aisle list. Oh yeah, and I regularly forget stuff even though its on the list! Honestly.
          I use this site called Plan to Eat, and I really like it. It saves me a lot of time, simply by organizing my shopping list for me. And I love that I can easily switch things around on their planner tab. Now that I have gotten the hang of it, entering my recipes into their system takes about 30 seconds, so that part doesn't bother me, even though I am someone who uses a lot of physical recipe books. If you use mostly recipes from the internet, then you will love this site!

9. What goes on, goes in. (Use safe personal hygiene products). Ok, I am sorry, but after about a year of trying many "natural recipes" with very unsatisfactory results, not to mention expensive ingredients that can only be acquired in large amounts, I am over this one. My sister (who is a chemical engineer) and I joke that there is a reason chemical engineering is a thing, and most toiletry companies use them. So yeah, I totally don't follow this. I just use what works, and only buy what I will actually use. And then I use very little of it. Like I spend most of my time not wearing makeup, and only wash my hair every 2 days. And almost never use styling products. One area I do spend money on is sunscreen (for my pale-skinned husband) and I use Ombrelle, since I have heard from several friends who've experienced skin cancer, that this is what their oncologists recommend.

10. Cleaning au naturel. A whole post about this one here.

I do believe that this is enough reading for this week!

 What steps do you take to go greener/healthier at home?