Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pantry Editing

It's a new year and my pantry is in desperate need of cleaning out. I've been buying so many groceries since Thanksgiving for events and special recipes that I am overflowing with random items of food. I have so many expensive flours, crackers and things from when I went gluten free for a few months. There is also the inherent new years resolution in eating more healthy, but I already told you what I think about those. So I am taking action and it's out with the old and in with the new, plus a little creativity thrown in for inspiration.

The pantry is always a work in progress and hopefully never truly "cleaned out" because no food is no good. I think the proper explanation would be pantry editing. My pantry isn't that big, basically just a small closet with a few shelves in the kitchen. So even though I thought I did this on a regular basis, when I went through my bulk good items I saw a moth hanging from the inside of some cornmeal. Mmmmmm. I don't think I had any expired items this time but aren't they fun to find? Have you ever tried to just eat it anyway...yes, I have (Cambpells cream of chicken soup) and I don't recommend it.

Part of my edit is noticing my "inventory" of several items that I like to stockpile because I hate running out of things at the last minute. It's one of my hugest pet peeves, but don't get me wrong, my idea of stockpile is three or four cans. No storage units were rented in this endeavor. My stockpile items are chicken broth, a few kinds of beans, rice, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and organic boxed soup for G's lunches. I created my list based on my favorite recipes. I go through these like crazy so I know that they won't be wasted.

So why edit your pantry? I think the answer is the same for why organize anything in your life, to make your life easier. Knowing what you have in your pantry just like knowing what you have in your closet is going to keep you from buying it again at the store. I know most people here have these amazing room-like pantries and I marvel at the quantity of food that can be stored. It is even more important for you to periodically go through and toss or use. Things can hide in there for years.

After you have found your food orphans, employ one of my favorite things to do in cooking which is to find new recipes based on what I have. I'm so easily entertained! Just google your ingredients and see what interesting things you can find. Back in the summer when we started buying organic fruit and vegis from the co-op, it was essential to use creative cooking methods because some of the things I had never bought, even seen before. One week I was perplexed by some curly kale and I found a recipe called Hearty Kale and Sausage soup that has become a favorite and staple recipe in our house.

You can find the recipe here. Apparently it's a Portuguese soup and it's divine! Let me know if you try it.

So, as part of my new year cleaning up, I'll be cleaning out the pantry and finishing up eating all these cookies I have. Just kidding as I sent my last bag of favorite cookies with hubby to work today. That was hard.

Maybe you haven't done this in awhile so here's my three step approach to tackling the job.

Out with the Old:
1. Throw out old or expired items. Obviously!!
2. Maybe it would help you to drag everything out and only put back what you want to keep.
3. Be serious about what you will never eat. Maybe you read that article about sardines being so good for you, but yuk! Just give them away to a food bank or put them out at work with a FREE sign at the coffee area. That's what my co-workers used to do and things always get taken.

In with the New:
1. If you are really ambitious, what a great time to re-line your shelves and clean them of any spills or dirt.
2. Organize as you put items back in. I like to put all like items together. If you have some random baskets, you can use those to corral unruly packages or spices. I bought two spice racks from Home Depot something like this to hang on my door which is where I like to store canned food and spices.
3. Get rid of excess packaging as you you organize.

A Dash of Creativity:
1. Take note of any food orphans that you need to use up. Google a recipe or use those cookbooks to find something fun.
2. Think about stockpiling certain items that you use often to avoid last minute trips to the store. You can always check on those before you are doing your shopping anyway. Over the holidays I made sure I had plenty of sugar, flour, butter and eggs for baking. It's so frustrating to be missing something important.
3. Cook homemade meals! I love cooking but I know that not everyone has time to take their time and piddle around in the kitchen. Find a quick recipe book at the library and see if something inspires you. Freezing meals for later can be a great "fast food" meal for another day.

What about you? Does the new year inspire you to start cleaning out the pantry and everything else in your house? I think any change of season or holiday, not just spring, makes me want to renew and refresh. What recipe gems have you found by googling?

Pssst...I'm not the only one cleaning out the pantry. See The Rich Life on a Budget for her post on how she cleaned out first and took names later. And if that isn't enough to inspire you, check out Just a Girl. Anyone who has to make a complete mess first before organizing is ok in my book.

Pictures from here and here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Headstart on Resolutions

I am not a New Year's Resolution type person. I used to be but I have an inner rebel that as soon as I tell her that we're going to change something, well, she rebels. I have to be more slow and steady with my changes. Sudden moves make me nervous, so it's with confidence that I can write about some changes that I've already made. These are Houston area related but that doesn't mean you can't find a version in your neck of the woods.

Eat More Vegetables and Fruit
There is an amazing program that I heard about back in the summer. (Thanks Natalie!) It's a box full of all organic vegis for a comparable, if not less price than the grocery store. You may have farmer's markets or Whole Foods where you are, if not a farm share program. If you are in Houston, check this one out because it's a lovely community of people who are also part of the Raw food movement. They even have raw food coaching. Read about it for yourself at Rawfully Organic's website. We are not doing raw food but it has helped me be more adventurous in the types of food I eat. I tried things that I would have cruised on by in the store.

Eat Better Quality Meat
Have you watched movies like Food, Inc. or Fast Food Nation? It's appalling and maybe you want to do something about the quality of your meat like I did. I realize not everyone has access to a local farm, but we are fortunate enough to purchase from a farm about an hour away. They have delivery groups and it's so convenient. All of their beef is grass fed, chickens are pastured and eggs are super duper healthy and good. I also order raw milk that they deliver from a local dairy. This takes some advance planning because it's only once a month delivery, but I just fill in with trips to the store until I get a handle on how much I need. Visit the Yonder Way Farm website and see for yourself. Click to see the blog of the family who run the farm too. We have talked with the owner and they view their business as a ministry which I love!

Exercise More
My plan was to start exercising before the New Year so I would already be in the habit and this boot camp was perfect! I'm not going to lie, I'm officially the heaviest I have ever been, weighing in a full 20 pounds more than when I met my husband. These last 2 1/2 years of trying to have a baby, three miscarriages and losing my Mom have taken a toll on me. I have been extremely sad and it's also part of the reason I took a break from blogging. Doing this boot camp was the beginning of me reclaiming my life. I had to move on from waiting for a baby. It felt really good to do that. I think that exercise is a great way to boost your energy and your mood. Maybe you have something in your life that you can't control and this would be a way to deal with that situation.

If you are in Houston, they have several times of morning classes and also different locations. They are called Fit Body Bootcamp and you can go see them here if you need a kick start to your workouts too. I have a couple of $100 gift cards too if you email me, I can send them to you.

Give Back to the Community
A few months ago I was introduced to a woman from our church who started a ministry working with Bhutanese refugees. I started volunteering with her and actually ended up teaching English to two Colombian families in the same apartment complex. It was really fun and challenging. Now that they are going to real English classes, I am focusing on coordinating donations for the Bhutanese. You can read about why these people are here on the loaves and fishes site.

Since last September I've also become a Life Group leader in our church. I have around 9 girls in the 9th grade in our home every Sunday night. It has been a huge learning process for me, but I am getting in the groove now. My goal is to build relationships with these girls and hopefully lead them to seek God in their daily lives. The challenge sometimes is seeking Him in my own life! Being an example sure is a motivation.

So I kind of cheated on getting a head start on my resolutions. I definitely want to come up with more to give myself clarity and focus in this year. I really love this time of year, after the busyness of the holidays, where you can renew yourself and dream about the year to come.

Pic from here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Belated Christmas Boots

Oh, Rue La La, how I love you but you are an ever-present temptation. Yesterday I succumbed to your pressure and bought these boots. Hopefully, I will wear these boots for years to come. They are very classic and I love that color! If this relationship doesn't work out, I've already checked ebay and they can be sold quite easily. I don't know why but posting this picture on here makes these boots look very manly. I guess they kind of are, but I still like them.

Because I have a husband who also can't resist some Cole Haan temptation, he got some boots too. He has been saying that he wants some boots and if this will deter him from getting cowboys boots, then I definitely approve. I made him pinky swear that he really, really wanted these boots because they are final sale. Cannot be returned is like death to these ears, but sometimes you just have to take the chance.

The last time we bought something non-returnable was a watch for his birthday. It turned out to be hideously big and we are selling it as soon as we can. It was funny to hear the stories of his co-workers making fun of it though. Boo hiss Invictus!

These boots are our belated Christmas presents. G and I decided not to exchange presents this year. We just opened something on Christmas morning that we were going to buy anyway. It was so hectic that I wanted to buy something that I really wanted in the after Christmas sales. I normally have a lot of presents for him at any occasion possible, but I really didn't miss it this year since his whole family was here visiting. There's always Valentine's Day anyway!!

What about you? Do you prefer online shopping? Is it a constant temptation for you? Do sites like Rue La La and Gilt find you wanting things you didn't know you needed? Online shopping is always my friend if it means not fighting Houston traffic. I know I have to be careful though not to buy too much. This final sale quandary is a tough one and I also don't like to pay shipping, but since I had a credit with Rue La La from a previous return, it was eating a whole in my virtual pocket. G normally likes to touch it and test something before he buys it. Me? I only get nervous if I can't return it. And besides that, I'm always considering that I can get cash back through ebates if I buy online which is a huge incentive.

Pics from Rue La La. They are still on sale now if you hurry.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2011!

From my closet to yours, I wish you a clutter-free, simplified life in the new year. It's been so long since I've written, but I hope to share more soon. I hope that this year brings a lot of inspiration and letting go of bad, unneeded things to let in more light and clarity.

Pic from here.

Our Trip to Rosemary Beach, Florida

I'm linking up again with  Erika ,  Andrea  and  Narci  for the Friday Favorites!  I love reading everyone's favorites too! ...