Some of the best advice I've ever heard came from one of my nutrition professors at the University of Utah. She said,
"In order to avoid the 'fast-food trap,' make your own refrigerator a fast-food restaurant."
It really made me think.
What was I doing to make my healthy food accessible, appealing, and easy to grab on-the-go?
I realized most refrigerators come with drawers for produce... and that didn't quite make sense to me. Why are we tucking in and hiding away the food we need to be eating the majority of the time? So, I made a few adjustments to my own fridge that I think might help you too.
Here are my tips in making your own fridge a fast-food restaurant.
1. Get organized
What does your fridge look like right now? Is it chaotic? Do things have specific places? Do you even know what used to be in that container that's sitting on the lowest shelf behind all the food, and now covered in mold? We'e all been there. My first advice is to get organized. Just like a closet, a refrigerator needs some TLC every once in a while too. Pull everything out and consider whether or not you truly want it to go back in. Get additional bins that you can store things in. Go for bins that you can see through or those that will allow you to visibly see what is contained in them. And then begin establishing your own system. This is going to be different for everyone, but do what works best for you.
Since our top shelf is the largest (and highest), I store most of our dairy products there... milk, cottage cheese, sour cream, Greek Yogurt, and then some additional items like pure maple syrup, flax seed, etc. Having this type of organization makes it so easy for me to see what we have available and what we need more of.
Middle shelf is produce: I'll go through this in a moment.
In the skinny middle drawer, I keep things like whole wheat tortillas/wraps, cheeses, and lunch meat. On the side door are our salad dressings, sauces, marinades, spreads, mayo, etc.
On the bottom shelf are our eggs, a snack bin with Ellie's food and things like hummus and string cheese, and then a pan full of my power balls. I love having thing like that on hand for when I need a good snack.
**Tip: Be brave today and throw out your "red-flag" items, or "trigger" items... foods that aren't healthy; foods that once you start, you can't stop. By physically going through the action of throwing them away, you are making a conscious decision to eat healthier and better your life. We have a chance to make healthier choices every day, and these small things will start to add up for you!
2. Bring your colorful, whole, real food out to the shelves
When we can actually see the whole food in our fridge, we're more likely to grab it. The more accessible and VISIBLE we can make it, the better we'll eat. I put our produce on the main shelf in our fridge in see-through bins so that I can see what's available to eat. I have a bin primarily for vegetables and one primarily for fruits. Then, to the side, I keep my greens for salads. By organizing this way, it helps me to more easily see what we need more of before going to the grocery store.
**Tip: Make your shelves as colorful as you can. Maybe it will encourage you to try some new things too. In order to find the best and most colorful food, stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. That's where all the good stuff is!
**Also I keep a container out on my counter for my bananas, fruit that needs ripening (like my Barlett Pears), whole wheat bread, and sweet potatoes.
3. Put your leftovers, extras, packaged items, and things you don't want to be eating as often, in your drawers.
I have two bottom drawers in my refrigerator. In the lower one on the right, are our leftovers. I like having a specific place for them so when we're in a hurry, we can find something there. In the bottom left drawer, I keep extras... extra sour cream, extra yogurt, etc.
**Tip: Target has some really cute containers right now for storing different things. I got my white woven containers from there. The nice thing about having your own portable containers in there, is that you can pull them out to wash them, clean them so easily, and my fridge stays a whole lot cleaner in general.
4. Grocery shop once a week
This will be different for everyone, but I make it to the grocery store once a week. This helps my "fast-food restaurant" stay stocked. Since I like shopping at Sprouts, I try to usually go on Wednesdays if my schedule permits. I do this because of their double-ad Wednesdays, which saves me a lot of money on fresh produce. Shopping once a week keeps me realistic about how much I'm actually going to eat, and we don't throw away as much produce this way. I also like it because it keeps me responsible for meal planning, and making a grocery list of the things we're going to need.
**Tip: Make sure to make the grocery store your last stop while running errands, so your food stays fresh. If you visit farmer's markets (which I highly advise), go earlier in the morning when the food has had less time to sit out in the sun.
5. Chop/dice/cut up your produce right when you get home from the grocery store
I know this is the last thing you feel like doing after you've made a trip to the grocery store (especially if you've taken kids with you), but taking 5-10 minutes to cut up your produce and store in containers will help you to eat better throughout the week. I leave some of my produce whole and untouched, like my apples and pears, but cut up other things like strawberries, watermelon, broccoli, onions, carrots, etc. You and your family (kids included) will more likely snack on food that is already cut up.
**Tip: Growing up, my wise mother would always have a bowl with fresh produce in it when we'd get home from school. When it was out and already cut up for us, we'd snack on it. Dress it up, put it in a cute bowl, and put it in a visible spot. Everything tastes better in a cute bowl, right? That's what I tell my husband when he questions my growing collection of fun dishes and bowls. ;)
Now it's time for you to get your fall cleaning/organizing on!! Turn on some music, and make it a fun experience. I want to see pictures of your refrigerators after you're done!! Good luck!