Katy Beskow suggests ways to streamline your store cupboard, reduce waste and create a minimalist, mindful kitchen…
Store dried items in clear jars to keep your cupboard fresh and clutter free, without half-used packets spilling and creating mess. You’ll be less likely to waste food, as you can see exactly what you have available to cook with at a quick glance and cooking will become a lot quicker without rummaging for that all important ingredient. Buying empty jars can be expensive, so recycle empty jam, chutney and antipasti jars by sterilising them in a dishwasher before filling them with pasta, flour, nuts, seeds and grains. If your cupboards are lower than the work surface, label the top of the lid with the contents of the jar to make it easy to select.
2 Gadget check
Kitchen cupboards and worktops are often filled with unused gadgets and electronics, which seemed like a revolutionary idea, yet serve little functional purpose. Before purchasing any more items, monitor the gadgets you don’t use, then consider selling them on Ebay.com or donating on Freecycle.org. To optimise space, choose multi-purpose gadgets such as 4-in-1 multi-cookers that steam, roast, fry and boil; and blenders which have a self-heating soup making function. Never forget that a few good quality knives will be some of your best kitchen equipment, making chopping fast and effortless (and they’re easier to store away than bulky food processors).
3 Oil rationing
Are your cupboards stocked with every type of oil under the sun? Bottles of oil can be tricky and messy to store, with many being forgotten about and eventually wasted. Realistically, you only need a couple of oils in the cupboard, one for cooking with and one for dressing salads and finishing dishes. Sunflower oil has a neutral taste and is great for all types of cooking (and baking), while extra-virgin olive oil has a fruity flavour, perfect for adding to dressings. You can add flavours such as lemon, chilli or soy separately to dishes, rather than buy expensive and space-cluttering flavoured oils for every occasion.
4 No-spend week
If your shelves are full of cans, it’s time to have a no-spend week where you use up all of the ingredients before buying any more. Think outside of the box and create family favourites including lentil Bolognese made with canned chopped tomatoes, green lentils and a few fresh ingredients; or batch cook a three-bean chilli and freeze it into separate containers for a quick and convenient meal at a later date. And for that dusty can of sliced peaches at the back of the cupboard? Throw them into a curry in place of fresh mango or roast them with amaretto and top with crumbled caramel biscuits.
5 Cleaner sweep
There’s a kitchen cleaning product for every job, but most kitchens don’t have the space to store them all. Having a separate cleaning product for the microwave, hob, floors and worktops can also be expensive to maintain. A cruelty-free multi-surface cleaner works well for most kitchen cleaning tasks, including worktops and floors, and with some elbow grease, it will clean the hob too. Recycle an old trigger spray bottle and fill with your favourite multi-surface cleaner for on the spot, effortless kitchen hygiene. Look to your cupboards for natural cleaning products too. Lemon is astringent cleanser, perfect to clean stained chopping boards, while white vinegar cuts through grease on hobs and gets windows shiny every time.
6 Everybody freeze
If you’re running out of cupboard space, but like to keep a few essentials available, switch to frozen alternatives. Peas, sweetcorn, spinach and peppers all freeze well and are a cost-effective way to add vegetables to dishes. Frozen fruit is a handy addition to throw into smoothies or make a crumble. Look out for new additions to the frozen ingredients sections in supermarkets, recently these have included frozen pomegranate and avocado! Cook up a few batches of dried chickpeas, aduki beans and butterbeans and freeze them in small tubs, ready to add to dishes when you need them – a zero-waste alternative to using tins and saves lots of time in the long run.
7 Plan ahead
Use a weekly meal planner to think ahead on shopping, to avoid waste, save money and save space by finishing up what’s already in the cupboard and fridge. There’s hundreds of free meal planning templates available to download online, you can even plan who will be cooking each meal! Not only can a meal planner reduce costs and food waste, it can motivate you and your family to create healthier meals as you become more aware of the types and frequency of foods eaten across the week. Let your meal planner guide your weekly shop, buying only what you need to create the chosen meals. Also, never go to the supermarket on an empty stomach, because that hunger will have you picking up snacks and multi-packs that you and your cupboard just don’t need!