Beginners guide to Zero waste Pantry

Ok so first up let’s be realistic here peeps…….A Zero waste Pantry is probably a bit of a misleading statement, the ability for most of us modern families to have a totally zero waste pantry is very hard, however it’s quite possible to make great steps towards one. Pete and I have been slowly making changes to achieve that. Yes, we got to the point where I was looking at everything that I throw away and thinking how could I reduce that. Let me share our journey with you.

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THree R’s

If you have been looking at those beautiful Pinterest pantries with all the lovely jars lined up and no “plastic” in sight , these are not in themselves Zero waste, they may look pretty but the ingredients could have come from a plastic packaging or single use containers, which is now sitting the rubbish bin. Achieving a Zero waste pantry is soooo much more than pretty glass jars.

The best approach to starting on this journey is to start with the Three R’s , hopefully you have heard of them. These are the waste hierarchy, so in terms of your pantry you should;

  • 1 st Reduce, what you buy and what you waste

  • 2nd Reuse - what you purchase and how much you waste

  • 3rd Recycle - what you use that can be processed into future goods

They are in that order because the priority is to firstly try and reduce what you purchase then reuse what you have and last option is to recycle.

So Pete and I have been applying the three R’s to our journey to Zero Waste in the pantry. Oh yeah when I say pantry , it also includes Fridge as well. I’ll take you through what we have done and how we have done that.

Reduce

Surprisingly, I believe that this is probably the hardest to achieve for a lot of people as it simply means buy less food and packaged products. When it comes to cooking and stocking up pantries, most people have far too much in their pantries and purchase too much food. There is no better illustration of this than food waste.

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Did you know that here in Aotearoa we throw out 157,389 tonnes of food waste each year. In 2018, the food waste per household was the equivalent of 86kilos. Thinking of this in terms of money how would you feel if you went into your bank account and there was $644 less in your account…think you would notice that? Sure you would and that is, on average, how much the food waste costs per year.

There is great support for those, like us, that are wanting to reduce food waste. There is a great website called Love Food Hate Waste which has been developed off the highly successful Love Food Hate Waste campaign in the UK. WasteMINZ has partnered with over 60 councils and the Ministry of the Environment to promote and support the reduction of food waste across Aotearoa. The website is full of great ways to reduce food waste, including links to the individual council programmes and initiatives. Totally worth checking it out.

For those from the US reading, I’d refer to you the USDA site which has some really scary food waste information but also resources.

Coming back to “Think global , act local “ approach, Pete and I have found that the easiest way to reduce food waste is to meal plan. In fact we have been a meal planning family “for like ages ago!!” (it’s a saying here in Aotearoa). The reason meal planning reduces food waste, it’s that you only buy what you need for the meals you have planned to cook. The added bonus is that it is also a very economical way to shop as it saves you heaps on your grocery bill. Now my friends if you are interested in learning about meal planning and how easy it is, just jump over and read my Meal Planning for beginners post. I have easy to follow steps and even a hand meal planning FREEBIE for you.

Now because we meal plan and only buy what we need our pantry is minimal. For us this was one of the starting points of getting to zero waste. It is really helpful to use a shopping list and only buy what is on the list. This helps to avoid buying extras like those “specials” that you will never actual use.

 
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Another area that you can reduce your waste is to think out your food scraps. What do you currently do with these? If you have a garden maybe you can set up a Worm farm. Those little worms are fantastic at chomping through the kitchen scraps and turning it into worm juice and compost for the garden. They are actually easy to make and you should be able to get instructions from your local garden centre or Hardware store.

Reuse

Now this is where you can get all pretty in the pantry with jars and storage. Ideally using storage options that you can refill. With jars you don’t even need to go out and buy them, just recycle your food jars. Give them a good clean and remove the food label (if you can). Now you can use the jar to store some of your pantry staples, like your dried goods. Now, the challenge with this is that you have to refill without adding to waste. This essentially means that you need to take your jar/storage container to the shop for refilling. This means that you will need access to refillery stores. These stores are becoming more popular, thanks to people wanting to move away from single use containers. I shop at out local GoodFor store, and they have nationwide, plastic-free, 24 hour, delivery. If you are not sure what options you have locally, see if you can locate any wholefoods or bulk foods store as generally they would have refillable options. Huckleberry , Commonsense stores in Wellington and Auckland have sustainable nation wide delivery.

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You do need to be slightly organised to manage your pantry stocks like this, as you need to be able to take your jars with you to the shop to refill, You can’t just rush off to the supermarket and get another packaged replacement. However if you can just refill, it is very satisfying and you do really cut down your waste and even recycling.

The other aspect to using jars and refilling is the aesthetic options you get with this in your pantry. If you love to have an organized and beautiful looking pantry ….jars are a winner! just check all the Pantry inspiration in my Pinterest Kitchen & Pantry Organization board.

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If you can’t reuse jars and want to buy new ones, your local home store should have plenty, and most refilleries sell storage jars as well. Goodfor have a great range, we use their tinted glass bottles for our oils which are refillable. I recently had to get some more spice jars and picked up these little cuties from The Warehouse. The main thing to check for with storage jars is to ensure that they have really good seals otherwise your supplies will go stale. And if you want to go all out and get labelling , you can use vivid marker or chalk pen (just wipes off). I am of course a label queen and have a label maker which I use on nearly everything in the house that can be labelled!!! There are also many online stores on Instagram and Etsy that sell pantry labels. One of my favourites if Pretty Little Designs, they not only have fabulous labels in a variety of fonts but they have beautiful bamboo glass jars and spice sets and they ship internationally (from Australia).

I have found a great article from Treading my Own Path which is all about jars in a zero waste pantry, totally worth a look.

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Recycle

Finally lets talk about recycling which is the last thing to focus on to reduce your waste. This means trying to ensure that if you have to purchase things try and make a conscious decision in buying an item that can be recycled. Always check the recycling number on the product and ensure that this is able to be recycled.

As an example here in Aotearoa (NZ) we can only recycle #1 and #2 plastics, as China no longer takes our plastic waste. This means a lot of plastic containers, and soft plastics are just dumped into land fill. So it’s extra important to know this so you make sure you buy wisely.

Changes we have made

Pete and I still a long way to go to get to what I would call a zero waste pantry, however we are really pleased about the progress that we have made in significantly reducing our waste. I have listed below the changes we have made and maintained;

  • Reduced purchasing of package dried produce such as flours, rice, nuts, beans, cereals etc.

  • Refill our storage jars at the local refillery, Goodfor

  • Stopped purchasing milk in plastic containers. Purchase milk in glass milk bottles from our local produce store, Simply Fresh

  • Stopped buying single use oils. Refill oil jars at the refillery, Goodfor

  • Reuse our coffee beans bag when purchasing our coffee beans from Meebz (best roasted beans ever)

  • Reuse the egg carton when buying our free range eggs.

  • Use reusable cloth bags for fruit and veges

  • Use a Keep Cup for my free coffee at our local produce store, Simply Fresh

So my challenge to you is to see what changes you can make in your regular grocery shopping to reduce your waste!.

To help get you started I have developed a great little FREEBIE which guides you through options to a Zero waste pantry, grab a copy below.

 

FREE Guide

Helpful guide to get you started on your journey to a zero waste pantry

     

    Powered By ConvertKit
     
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    Remember your Three R’s

    So lets wrap up, Pete and I have found sticking to the Three R’s, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle really helpful in making the changes we have done to date and we are certainly still on the journey to getting to total zero waste pantry. Making small changes regularly is probably the best approach and allow yourself to get use to the change before going onto your next one. You could just pick one area of the Three R’s

    • Reduce - meal plan or compost

    • Reuse - fruit and vege cloth bags

    • Recycle - use kerbside recycling and check what plastics do get recycled

    I’d love to hear how you get on with your journey and what changes you have made so leave your comments below

    Happy waste reducing my Tidies!!

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    How I organise my Kitchen drawers

    We all know that the Pantry and the fridge are the king of the kitchen when it comes to storage and organisation and always get the most attention especially when it comes to social media!!! Have you seen some of those Instagram pantry pics….wow!. However we can not over look the other areas of the kitchen that are need to be functional and well organised. So this post shares how I organised those “other” spaces. I love the look of cupboards in the kitchen however do not like using them….they are just not efficient and I much prefer drawers. So in my kitchen I have the best of both - drawers behind the cupboards !!! eh what????

    kitchen drawers with glasses and cups

    Cutlery and Utensils

    Between using teaspoons for my cups of tea and knives for Pete’s after work toast , the cutlery drawer probably gets the most use of any space in the kitchen. We are lucky to have nice wide (actually it was part of the kitchen renovation design) drawers side by side. One is for cutlery and the other for utensils.  These drawers work really well and I have organised them with the help of Blum Orga - Line cutlery and utensil trays. They are adjustable and the each section can be placed in the dishwasher. I did use non slip drawer liners, underneath which works really well to keep the utensils from moving around.

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    In the cutlery drawer I have two sets, one for the dinning table for meals and the other for everyday use, not sure about your home, but here we always ran out of cutlery for the table at tea time ..sooo annoying. In the utensil drawers I have got all the other usual items, knives, tongs, openers , etc. The only utensils that I don’t have in this drawer are those that we use while cooking, and these are housed in a jug by the gas hob.

    Herbs, Spices and Oils

    Using the same organisers range from Blum Orga-line, our herbs and spices are well sorted, and I have the oils below in the pull out drawers. On the bench top by the gas hob I have our oils that we use regularly in cooking at easy reach. The only limitation with this system is that I have run out of space for the herds and spices so have had to use a drawer above which was originally used as a junk drawer. Yes horror of all horrors I have a junk drawer….but it’s a well organised one. To help organise them and enable them to fit in I have used the spice drawer organiser from Madesmart . This is a great organiser and works really well and is excellent value.

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    Rubbish and Recycling

    Pete and I have been recyclers since like ages ago!! so we have made sure that our kitchen waste system has a recycling, organic and landfill system. The recycling and landfill bins are side by side, and in the drawer below we have our compost bin. I picked up this tin container from a hospice shop about 5 years ago and it has made the perfect compost bin. We also store our reusable bags in the same drawer . Tip: to reduce any odours use a small jute bag with cotton balls and place a few drops of peppermint oil (lemon/Wild orange is also good) on the cotton balls. Just pop the cotton balls into the Jute bag and place it by the bin. Now every time you open the drawer you can spell your favourite essential oils, now that’s better than the usual rubbish odour.

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    dinner sets and Serving dishes

    Under the cutlery and utensil drawers we have the dinner sets and serving dishes cupboards and drawers. Nothing very exciting here with their organisation, just the usual. Use of non-slip drawer liner is a must in these drawers as it stops everything from moving when you open and close the drawers. Our dishwasher opens in front of these cupboards and it makes it so easy to put everything into the drawers….great design really.

    Coffee Station

    So to be truthful ,this space is more than a just coffee station , it’s a also a cups and glasses space.

    The cupboards under the Coffee machine house all things for the coffee station plus cups and glasses. There are three drawers in this cupboard, the top one has the tea and coffee containers which are opened several times a time. I love my tea and Pete loves his coffee. I have a collection of tea tins which I just love and use these to contain the loose leave tea and the teabags.

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    The next drawer down we have the cups and mugs, followed by glasses. My son recently commented how he thought that the glasses should be the top drawer since he uses these a lot. My point to him was that he is only here on the odd weekend and we have the kitchen set up to Pete and my needs not his!!!. So it’s an important point to ensure that you set things up in your kitchen to work best for you and how you use it….and maybe not everyone else who pop in occasionally!

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    Hutch

    This area is both for “decor” and function. The top shelves are “display shelves” and in the cupboards I have our cookbook collection, table ware and wine glasses. A bit of an odd and sods cupboard, but it’s perfect for things that I don’t reach for daily.

    Dining table centrepiece

    Lastly, yet not a drawer, is our dining table. I do like to have a nice table centrepiece , normally a plant of some sort and try and change it up with the seasons. So for spring I have got some herbs, coriander and I am also growing some baby house plants. One item that is always there is our condiments basket. In here we have oils and seasoning with napkins and toothpicks, all the things that you need on hand when at the table for dinner. This has always been on the table and when the kids were at home we had the dining cutlery, so there was no need to take things from the kitchen to the table and no fights over who was going to lay the table.

    For the herbs and plants, I planted them into terracotta pots with good quality potting mix. I purchased a couple of small coriander plants from the garden centre. You should be able to pick these up at any garden centre for a good price and they should provide you with coriander all through spring and summer. Just ensure that they get lots of light and water and regularly take some leaves, this will help to encourage growth.

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    Before I sign off I thought I just provide the links of the posts that I have already done for our pantry and fridge organisation;

    For more inspiration check out my Kitchen and Pantry Organisation board in Pinterest

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    Kitchen Undersink cabinet organisation

    To be sure this is not the first time that  I have done a blog about organising things under the kitchen sink cabinet. My previous post Taming the mess under the sink takes you through how I had things organised in our old kitchen and the process I went through to get things sorted.  Now that I have a new kitchen it's time to review this cabinet space again and get it working even better.

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    Use of space

    When we moved back into the kitchen I just put things back into the kitchen sink cabinet in the pretty much the same way that we had it in the old kitchen, and I didn't really think that I would need to make any changes. However I have found that we started using things differently and some things I just didn't use anymore.

    One of the biggest changes is that I now have two shelves and where as in the old kitchen I had just the bottom shelf in the cabinet. I also had to use the sides of the doors to place things, like washing up gloves, brushes, plugs etc. In the new kitchen under sink cabinet the second shelf has turned out to be a great place to store those items I had on the side doors.

    The one thing that I found was not working as well was how I organised my kitchen cleaning products. I use a mix of my own home cleaners plus new products that I have received with my new kitchen, such as stainless steel cleaner and stonebenchtop cleaner. I had these stored in different places in the cabinet and it was a bit of a pain not to have them in one place.

    I also managed to collect a lot of nice new tea towels and could no longer keep all of them in the original container, plus I have a some drying mats that I now use on the side of the sink.

    There were a few containers that I had kitchen cleaning items in, that I found I just was not using any longer. Lastly I was getting frustrated with my storage of my essential oils, it was not ideal and I really wanted to get them into one storage container.

    So I set about planning how I wanted to reorganise this space. I also thought that it would be a great opportunity to try and pare down what I really need under the sink and reduce the amount of stuff that I had and so created my wish list;

    • Replace disposable dishcloths with washable cotton dishcloths

    • Store all the kitchen cleaning products together

    • Better storage for all my essential oils

    • Better place for the dishcloths and tea towels

    • Reuse storage and organisation containers from my home

    • Replace the container for the dishtabs as it had a broken top

    • Container for the Steelo (pot scrubbers)

    • Somewhere to put the gloves, brushes, plugs etc.

    • Place to house plant food

    STORAGE AND CONTAINERS

    It just so happened that Pete and I checked out some hospice shops recently and I came upon some great storage finds that were perfect for the under sink kitchen cabinet; a tin caddy , glass jewellery container and small bowl.

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    The tin container is perfect for the kitchen cleaners and even has a handle on it which is perfect so I can just take the whole thing out when doing the cleaning. Best of all I was able to corral all my kitchen cleaners into the one container.

    The small bowl turned out to be just the right size to hold the sponges and plugs and it sits within the original container so I can have the gloves and bowl altogether.

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    But I've kept the best to last, the glass jewellery box for $3 turned out to be the perfect essential oils container.  The lid was broken which was fine by me as I didn't need it anyway.  I put in all my essential oils which are easy to see and I can also hold the other bits and bobs that I use with my oils. I have to say I am so happy with this find.

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    For the rest of the containers I just used what I already had and found some unused glass jars for the dish tabs and the Steelo.

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    If you don't have any existing containers and need to purchase them here are my best picks, from Amazon for my Northern hemisphere readers and Kmart for us Kiwi and Aussie readers. I have tried to find similar products to those that I have used. 

    Amazon

    Kmart

    LAYOUT

    When working through organising a space, it is really important to make it really functional, If it's not functional then it will not be long until the space gets messy again. 

    The first step in the organising process, for me, is to take everything out and map out how I think the space can work well. Thinking about the things I use and how I use them, how I will store them. This process really helps me to decide the best layout. 

    So after a bit of fiddling around I struck upon the new and perfect (may I just say) layout.

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    The top shelf was best to hold those items that you reach for often, like dishcloths, gloves, scrubbers etc.  In the middle, under the sink I put the everyday sink items, rubber glovers and sponge bowl, then the dishcloths one side and the cleaning cloths on the other.

    On the bottom shelf, at the back I have the plant food as I only need to access these once a month.  In the front I have the kitchen cleaners all corralled in the tin container. In the middle is all my essential oils and on the other side are my jars with the dish tabs, steelo and disposable gloves.

     

    I have moved all the tea towels to the linen cupboard and they have their own, bigger, storage basket. You will see this when I get to do my Linen closet reorganisation. 

    I have not changed my above sink storage , as per my previous post, however I will be making changes on this soon and will reveal that when I do a full review of my overall kitchen organisation.

    I am really happy with how I have gotten everything organised this time and did manage to tick everything off my wish list.

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    So how is your under sink cabinet? Need a good clean out? Need motivation or help? Just drop me a line as I am happy to chat about best options. or just share your great ideas.

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    Fridge Organisation - French Door

    It should come as no surprise to those who know me that I "organise" my fridge.  Now most people would actually ask what do you mean by fridge organisation? as it's not really something a normal person would do.  However there is some method to my madness and having an organised fridge can actually save you money by reducing food waste and encourage you to see and eat what's in your fridge.  I have always had an organised fridge, which essentially means that I would have "homes" in the fridge for certain items. Thanks to Instagram, people are sharing how they organise their fridges and well it's gone a bit crazy with how people do this. If you are interested in some of ideas, just check out my kitchen organisation Pinterest board where I have shared some great pins on Fridge organisation.

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    fridge Organisation

    Unlike some of those amazingly organised, and even food colour coordinated fridges, my fridge organisation is based only around functionality and if it looks nice in the process that's an added bonus. 

    I think it's pretty universal that we all actually use a fridge in a similar way in regards organisation, i.e milk always goes in the side door, along with condiments . Fruit and veges go in the food crisper, meat on the bottom shelf, leftovers and diary in the middle and drinks and ready to eats on the top. 

    Prior to our new french door fridge, we had a single left opening fridge which was smaller than what we have now. However it had to cater for more people than our big new french door. To help get everything in,  I used to corral like items together into plastic trays/containers.

    The best organisation of the fridge that worked for us as a family was the use of lunch containers. As an example for my son, he had his own lunch container which had his ham and cheese and other sandwich and lunch snack items that he could just grab and quickly make his lunch. Also having a container/tray to put in leftovers from meals was great as they were easy to find and stopped the old "container of rotting food buried at the back of the fridge" issue.

    Changing use

    As empty nesters we no longer have to cater for our hungry kids, so what we need to store in the fridge has change somewhat. And what is rather crazy is that we now have a much bigger fridge....go figure!!! Pete said we don't need a fridge that size and I said well sorry honey but it's what I want in the new kitchen and that's that really...poor Pete he knew he was not going to win that one and certainly not come between a chick and her new French door fridge....with ice making for her GnT's.

    We have been using the new fridge for about 3 months and it's perfect, although initially seemed big, now manages to get filled up. I just love the way it opens up fully so you have easy access to everything. French doors on a fridge...like who would have thought that was a going to be a great design feature.  Our fridge has so many great features which I could go on about however this post is actually about how to organise a fridge regardless of which brand it is. However If you are interested to know more about the specifics of he fridge just check it out here

    As I said we have been using the fridge for approximately 3 months which has given me plenty of time to work out how we want to best organise it and get the best functionality from the fridge.  So let me take you through the steps on how I went about organising the new fridge. I'll provide links to the containers that I have used. For my northern hemisphere readers I will link to Amazon and to my fellow Kiwis I've linked to Kmart. 

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        1. Research

    To get a good idea of the best way to organise a fridge there are some guidelines that can be helpful to get you started. I don't follow these exactly, however they are a good rule of thumb on the best way to store different food products safely in the fridge. 

    • Top shelves - ready to eat and drink items

    • Middle shelves - left overs, diary, eggs

    • Lower shelves - Meats and larger drinks

    If you want to see more information about this just check out my Pinterest page which has some good articles to check out. 

    In terms of trying to work out which is best to go where for you I would recommend tracking what you have and use in your fridge over a period of time, between shops would be best. As we shop weekly, I tracked our items and use over a  week. This was a great way to decide on how I wanted to organise things in the fridge based on our consumption.

         2. Placement

     Now that I have sussed out what we eat and use in the week, I have a better idea of where things can go in the fridge. To be honest the easiest way to do this is to open the fridge up and map out on a piece of paper where you will locate your items in the fridge. So for our needs,  I decided;

    • Top shelf - lunch items, asian cooking pastes and sauces, drinks

    • Middle shelf - eggs, space for left overs and dinner prep plus diary products

    • Bottom shelf - wine , meat and "grab" stuff such as margarine and yoghurt

    • Right side door - Soy/Almond Milk - mustards and spreads - spicy sauces - nice cheeses and butter

    • Left side door - Large and small drink bottles - condiments

    • Two crispers - One for vegetables and the other for Fruit

    • Bottom trays for beers

       3. Storage

    Now this is the fun part! shopping for the right storage containers for the fridge. So my rule of thumb with storage is always shop the home first, i.e check out what you already have at home that could be useful. As we have recently done a big purge and declutter with the new kitchen I did not have a lot of storage containers that would be suitable for the fridge. Plus I wanted to replace the old plastic containers with resuable glass ones. So shame peeps!!! I had to make a trip to Kmart to get some goodies. However before you race off you need to actually work out what you need and the size of the storage containers. I mapped out roughly in a note book the set up of each shelf and the appropriate container for that, making sure that I measured the size of the space to make sure that I purchased the right size container.

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    Below are the links for all the storage containers that I purchased. For my Kiwi readers I have given the links to the products that I brought from Kmart and for my US and Northern Hemisphere readers I have sourced the same products in Amazon and provided the links below. 

    Kmart

    Amazon

    Note - there were a lot more choices of product at Amazon, especially with the turntables. 

    Putting it all together was not too difficult as I had already worked out where everything was going. I just sorted everything into their containers and spaces and set up the fridge.

    So far it is a lot more functional and easy to see everything and best of all everything has its place...which in the organising world is really good.

    Just on a last note before I sign off,  I thought it might be of interest to share my weekly lunch prep storage. 

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    lunch Prep storage

    Pete and I both work away from home during the week, so it's really good to be able quickly make up our lunches. I prepare at the start of the week and put the food into small sealed containers and just take what we need on the day for our lunches.

    Baby Spinach - Take out of the plastic bag and clean and rinse and place into clear container with a paper towel or light absorbent cloth, this stops the spinach from getting old too quickly.

    Grapes - Rinse and take them off the stalks, drain and dry them and place into a clear container.

    Grated Carrots - I grate up carrots and just have them stored in a container that I can just take a handful when making lunch salads.

    So if you have been thinking about getting your fridge sorted, or just wanted to know what the heck Fridge organisation is, I hope I have helped.

    As always love to receive your comments and feedback and your own experiences of organisation.

    Take care my friends 

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