Monday, February 20, 2012

Organized Home Challenge #4: Refrigerator and Freezer

I'm still going strong with Challenge #1 (countertops and sinks). Well, okay, I've been great in the area of my sinks, but I have let the countertops slide a bit. I have a few things I need to put away. I went through some old magazines and clipped recipes, but I haven't put them in my recipe binders yet. And I washed out the canister and filter parts of my vacuum and they've been drying out for a few days now... I'll get all that put away today.

Last week's pantry challenge was fairly easy. I rearranged a few things and threw several things away. Then I went to the grocery store so my pantry wouldn't look so bare anymore. In the process, I came up with an idea I might like to use for my meal planning (but that challenge is 4 weeks away...). I guess I can try it out for the next few weeks and see if it's something I'd like to use more permanently. If not, no big deal. I can always switch again.

This week's challenge is getting the refrigerator and freezer cleaned out and organized. Again, I'm fairly organized in this area, but I do know of a few things I need to throw away. The biggie here is cleaning the refrigerator. I've wiped off the shelves from time to time, but I really need to take everything out and do a thorough cleaning. The pantry challenge only took me an hour; the refrigerator/freezer challenge is going to take several, likely spread out over a few days.

One of the steps is to declutter the front of the refrigerator. After this weekend, the boys' basketball schedules can be tossed, but the AWANA calendar needs to stay. And my current menu planner. I could find another place to keep our cell phone numbers for the sitter... And I really need to get rid of all those magnets on the side of the 'fridge. They're on the hidden side, but I don't use most of them.

Another of the steps is to reload the refrigerator and freezer according to zones, which I already do for the most part. Eggs, jellies, and Billy's snacks stay on the top shelf of the refrigerator. The next shelf is for condiments: mayonnaise, mustards, pickles, salad dressings, etc. (This is the main shelf that needs to be purged.) The next shelf is for opened box mixes (Bisquick, powdered milk for breads, etc.) and leftovers. The bottom shelf is where I keep most of my other bread-making ingredients (flours and yeast), as well as the rare leftover overflow.

My refrigerator drawers are also organized by type. The shallow top drawer holds apples, oranges (when we have them), carrot sticks, and mushrooms. The middle drawer is for leafy greens, peppers, onions, celery, etc. The bottom drawer is for lunch meats, cheese, and flour tortillas.

The door holds butter, milk, juice, other drinks, yogurt and/or pudding for the boys, and more condiments at the very bottom (ketchup, chocolate syrup, BBQ sauce, soy sauce, Louisiana hot sauce, etc.). I'm sure I have some things there that need to be thrown out! Out of sight, out of mind!

Then comes the freezer... I don't think that will be too hard. Most of what's in there is meat, which gets eaten pretty regularly. There are a few bags of frozen purple hull peas that are from the summer, but I want to be sure we eat them soon. (We enjoyed some not long ago. They are so good! I need to remember to buy some more salt pork for when I cook them again...) There's also lots of homemade chicken broth, but most of that's fresh as well. The only really old things I can think of are some mashed sweet potato from over a year ago and a package of crepes that came with us when we moved two and a half years ago. If we haven't eaten them by now...

The final step of the challenge is to develop a system of habits to maintain the organization. I already pay attention to what leftovers we have and make sure we eat them within a week. And I'm pretty good about throwing things out weekly. One idea I'd like to start using more regularly, maybe monthly, is to have an "eat out of the freezer and pantry" week. My pantry isn't very big, so most of what's in there gets cycled through pretty quickly, but sometimes things will stay in the freezer a while. This is something I'm turning over in my brain right now, something I'd like to work into my weekly meal-planning change. I'll noodle on it a while longer and maybe I'll have something worked out by the end of the week.

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