Monday, December 10, 2012

Minimizing the Cooking

I have to admit, I'm tired of cooking.  My goal here is to make a larger variety of food, spend less time in the kitchen, and eat healthy. I'm not expecting to spend much less money overall, as any savings will probably be spent on eating more fresh fruit and better breads.

~Cook's Day Off
~Bi-Weekly Cooking
~Better Recipe Access
~Wider variety of foods

Starting about a month ago, I declared Sunday to be Cook's Day Off.  I also started planning menus on a two-week schedule, and buying nearly all of the groceries in one run. Week one is 90% of two week's groceries, week two is milk/bread/emergencies run - generally I get all the shopping done in 15 minutes. Having done this for about six weeks, I can say I'm spending the same or less money, and definitely less time at the store. By shifting the shopping to Friday evenings, I can do food prep on Saturday and have my Sundays free. And granted, it's minimal prep- make slow-cooker baggies, repackage the meat into sizes I can use and freeze it. That's it.

For 'better access to recipes,' I have a recipe program I use - Living Cookbook. Before purchase, I looked around and it got by far the best reviews. I am quite happy with it; any time I can't think of what to make I can look in my custom cookbook at recipe titles and select based on what looks good, and what I have. (It also will create menus & grocery lists for me, but I'm not currently using those options.) I plan recipes for dinner only for five or six days per week. Usually five days, and at least one day is slow-cooker based. The other two days allow for us to eat up leftovers or enjoy personal favorites - I'm the only one that eats sushi or my calamari, my roommate is the only one that eats canned greens, for example.

Wider Variety
This may not sound like 'simplifying' what we eat, but I still feel it's worth mentioning. Some of it is simple changes - having two cheeses and two mustards for cold cut sandwiches. Buying different breads - rye and pumpernickel, picked up for $1 for a half loaf. Some of it is trying new recipes - we had chicken adobo last week, and we're having beef & broccoli tonight. Yesterday I had simple but yummy leftover rice, reheated with soy sauce and bonito flakes. Small things, but they help take the boredom out of eating the same basic things all the time. And yes, I can get bored of eating. This counteracts it nicely =)

So far, so good.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Minimilazing the Kitchen, Part III

I'm looking to minimize my kitchen since August. The current one is 11.5x7ft (80 sf). I have additional 'pantry' shelving over the washer and dryer. I was using all of that available space, and just fit. There are only three people in the apartment!

An internet search of various sources turned up this list of items to have:
  • cutting board 
  • veggie peeler
  • Knives: Chef's knife, bread knife (serrated), paring knife
  • Pots: One large, one small
  • 10" skillet
  • casserole dish w/lid
  • box grater
  • Pans: loaf, muffins, 8x8 'brownie' pan
  • cookie sheet OR baking stone
  • 1 set each measuring cups/spoons
  • spatula
  • whisk
  • wooden spoon/s
  • ladle spoon for soups
  • slotted spoon
  • tongs - one pair
  • mixing bowls w/lids
  • liquid measuring cup
I have far more than this, but I have to admit it all gets used.

Since I've started looking into this, I've managed to change most of the over-laundry area to storage for bulky items we don't use often. There's about 1/2 of shelf (of 4) that is still food. I do have some extra space in drawers but that's challenging to fit food in it. This weekend I'll look at re-organizing just the drawers in the kitchen, and see what I can do to improve the storage I have.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Minimizing the Kitchen, Part II

An update on what I've done so far.

I'm doing as much as I can to eat down the food that we have - one week, the grocery bill was a record low of $50 (usual is $150). I have consolidated roommate's food and glasses into on cabinet, and the same with my baking and Japanese food ingredients. I still have lots of extra kitchen stuff, but I now have the majority of the food actually in the kitchen. The pantry has 'doubles', hot chocolate, and the sweets that they want and I don't. It is also now holding a boxed set of china that had been in my clothes closet.I also went through my supplies of canning jars and reduced it to what I actually have room to store. This has been a big help.

Things that I have planned on going to DD when she moves out are being kept. She'll get some nicely seasoned cast iron skillets, probably some Corningware, some glasses, not sure what else. I don't mind keeping in a few extra years, and she'll get set up well from the get-go. Unlike me, using crap skillets because I couldn't afford anything else. There was a good reason I asked for Revere Ware pots for college graduation! I'm still using one that is going on 40 years old and good as new, from my mom's wedding gifts.

When the coffee pot died, I didn't replace it - I am actually fine drinking instant coffee, and no one locally has the kind of coffee machine I want. The additional space in the kitchen helped my organize the front closet, as stuff that was in there but belonged in the kitchen was able to put away correctly. Now that closet isn't overstuffed.

It's been nice to see the minimizing of the kitchen cascade into other areas of the house as well!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Minimizing the Kitchen, Part I

Note: I meant to post this when I wrote it, sometime in September. Sorry about the delay!
The kitchen is overflowing.

I thought I was doing good in the kitchen. Then I realized that the food always overflows - granted, it overflows to a designated pantry, but sometimes (ok, frequently) this means that 90% of the food is in the pantry, and the cabinets have dishes and cookware. That sounds a bit overflowing to me. And it's true even in the current kitchen, which is larger than I've had for years.

I want to start by looking at what I have vs. what I need, and what the 'immunities' are. Immunities, for me, are things you will pry from my cold dead hands because it would reduce me to tears for them to leave. Not worth the fight with myself, and they do get used.


  • Need: Settings for 3, plates/bowls
  • Have: Settings for 6, plates (10" & 3") and bowls. 3 small glass bowls, 12-ish extra-small glass bowls. 3 black rice bowls. Plus immunities.
  • Have: 4 1/2-cup & 2 1-cup baking ramekins. Gravy dish, butter keeper,
  • Have: Plasticware: 1 black flat dish with lid, 1 glass flat dish with lid, 1 plastic sandwich holder, 1 stack of red-lid Glad tupperware (TW), 1 stack 4oz TW, 1 set cream-lid sturdy TW, sm red Pyrex w/lid,
  • Immunity: Settings for 3, fish and seashell dishes. 10 total. In use but not the primary set. Plus 3 shallow, rimmed oval dishes that are really useful.
  • Need: 2 coffee mugs, 2 general mugs
  • Have: 3 dedicated coffee mugs, 1 dedicated tea mug with lid,  at least 4 general-use mugs
  • Immunity: the 3 dedicated coffee mugs 
  • Have: 2 serving plates: 1 blue, 1 white. 2 blue serving bowls. Woven bowl for breads.
  • Need: stockpot, soup pot, steamer...TBD
  • Have: cast-iron skillets: 12", 6", 3". Stockpot, soup pot, 3pc saucepan set, steamer, double-boiler.
  • Have: 2 slow-cookers - 5qt & 1.5 qt. Will keep both till they die and assess replacement at that point.
  • Have: Large and small strainers
  • Have: Blender. Needs replacing - I don't use it often but there is no substitute. And it just helped me simplify putting up tomatoes, so it can stay =)
  • Have: Food grinder thingy. Gets used to store the garden harvest.
  • Have: 3 different sizes of mortar & pestle. I should be able to go back to just one.
Ideas: I can replace the separate double boiler & steamer with inserts for the Revere Ware that I have. Provided I can find them; the steamer insert I found but apparently they quit making the double boiler one a decade or two ago. Then again, I could go back to using a canning jar in pot of water - I normally use this for homemade HABA items, so that should be fine. Actually - I don't think I've used this more than twice in 5 years. Off to the donate bin it goes.... with 2 mortar & pestle. I'll keep the white marble one I use the most.

  • Need:  1 metal 4x9" pan, 1 pizza baking sheet, muffin pans, TBD
  • Have: 2 metal, 1 silicone muffin pans. The silicone is for freezing food in; muffin recipes always seem to bake by the dozen so I have enough for that.
  • Have: 2 loaf pans, 2 8" cake pans, 3 cookie sheets in different sizes, 1 glass 13x9" pan, 1 glass and 1 metal 4x9" pan, 1 pizza baking sheet, 8" square glass pan, 2 qt & 1.5qt Corningware dishes with glass lids, blue 60s Pyrex, large black snowflake 50s Pyrex.

Roommate has: 

  • 1 blue tulip goblet
  • 1 dedicated tea mug with lid
  • 1 blue general purpose mug
  • 1 blue oversized bowl
  • stack of 3" blue/cream plates

Links I found useful:
How to Downsize Your Kitchen
how to setup a minimalist kitchen: part 1 – things to avoid and part 2 the essentials & the nice-to-haves

Friday, July 13, 2012

Progress Nibbles

I'm calling it 'nibbles' because I know I've gotten something done even if it doesn't look like much! My computer desk is neater, the treadle only has sewing stuff on it, and my room stays neater. I took an under-used, smaller hanging file container and used it as a desk organizer. It now has folders for Incoming Bills, Notes, Notepads, and several for scrapbooking paper for the current project. This is a huge help for my desk! There are also two tins on the desk for holding other office supplies, since I have no drawers and a very small surface area. Each tin is about 2 inches deep, one is 8x10 inches and the other about 3x4 inches, so not large at all.

As usual I have several projects in the works. I did fix a stuffed animal and put her back where she goes. I still have to revamp the two older feather pillows, hem curtains, and finish working on that scrapbook as soon as I buy the supplies I need. I have a bit of clothing repairs to do, as well. Some can be dropped off at the seamstress as long as I remember to do it!

The decluttering has slowed down but not stopped. Partly because I am busier, partly because I think I've gotten through the top layers of easy-to-sort clutter. I am still working on it but it is somewhat delayed till I declutter the garden. I need to get the weeds out so that I can plant more food, before the summer is over! We can double crop some things in this area, and that's now the only way I will get some of this food in. First crop never got planted, second crop needs to go in soon. Hopefully this weekend!

3 stacks of books
grocer bag of fabric
1 full car trunk to thrift

2 books
linen for a dress

Thursday, May 31, 2012


I went and re-assessed the storage unit (about 6x6ft) last night. Prior to the move, it was filled to an average depth of 5-6ft. Now, I have 2 visible shelving units on two walls, the floor has a treadle base, camp chair, punching dummy, and a couple garden items. The treadle needs re-homed.

One shelf is RM's stuff. It's also holding treadle parts and an extra lamp of mine.

One shelf is mine. It is about as decluttered as I can get it: one box each of Yule decor, Other Season decor, fabric, smaller clothes for me (am loosing weight now), Mathom box, and one box of decor I expect I'll use later. And the camping stuff, too.

I'm happy with where it's at.


I do still have to declutter the area around my computer desk. Currently, that involves my toolbox, a half-empty filebox, a box of some kind of books (I've forgotten what's in it since I filled it about 2 weeks ago), and a box of cookbooks I want to get recipes out of. And the small paperdrift forming on top of the desk itself.

A lack of organization is hurting me here. Incoming mail? Place on 'puter desk. Note to self? Place on 'puter desk. Keep in mind, said desk is 24" long and about 12" wide. It already holds the monitor & good speakers, which take up 75%+ of the available space.

The filebox I plan to use to hold incoming bills, scrapbooking papers, and another section or two that will depend on what's in the paperdrift. That should help with the chaos. The toolbox needs to find a permanent home and I need to do a general straightening in that area at the same time.

On the brighter side- the living room and kitchen are staying clean, and I now have a lovely view to the balcony. I straightened up out there last night and now instead of a mess there are baskets of nasturtiums and herbs, and the tomato plants that I need to get into the garden. I'll be adding cascading petunias too, and soon it will be a lovely viney wild delight of blooms.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Progress, Week 3

Progress has been made!

All the pictures are up on the walls. I've learned how to fold up my futon easily in the mornings before work - when it's flat, I barely have room to walk in my room. If it's folded, I have SPACE. So nice!

The Pantry
I've assessed more of the pantry area over the washer & dryer. The majority of the food is out of there. The top shelf is rarely-used, large items that I want to keep: the pressure canner, roasting pan, the popcorn popper I'm so tempted to get rid of. Jiffy-Pop takes less storage space, and actually gets used. Hmmm. The bottom shelf is some 'seconds' of food items (extra bottle of ketchup, for example), glass storage jars that are being filtered, and a bunch of stuff I can't remember. I guess it needs to be thinned out more!

The Library
I've dramatically thinned out my library. I have 2 1/2 bookshelves full (half of one bookshelf holds my DVDs) and about half a storage bin. My cookbooks are kept separately because I am working my way through them. A few books are kept in the living room, but most of those are on probation. I'll revisit my books in a few weeks. I know some are waiting to be read, and then can be donated.

There is a storage unit attached to the apartment - it's the same size on the new one as it was on the old one. At the old place it was packed hip-deep right to the door. Now? I can walk to the shelf against the back wall. Granted, there are things stacked on 3 walls, but there is also a small pathway. And I've put most of the metal bi-fold doors out there as well. I really dislike those doors, and have replaced them all with white sheets hung from tension rods. I do need to hem the sheets, but they work nicely and look great. Plus I can actually reach what is in the closets!

  • 3 more 13-gal trash bags of donations
  • 2 paper grocer bags of books
  • rack for my closet (needed for organization)
  • 2 pairs shorts (needed)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Getting Started

We've managed to put away everything that has a place to go, and most of the artwork has been hung. There is a still a pile in the living room, and a smaller one next to my desk, but it looks much better.

This weekend, I was able to repack my carved chest. It had been used for general storage, so I emptied it out and I have repacked it with winter clothes and extra linens for my bedroom. The total volume of off-season clothes & extra linens that I am allowing myself to keep is what will fit in that chest. One thing that does help with this is that I keep the linens for each bedroom, inside that bedroom.

Some of the linens that didn't fit went to Roommate, who can use them. A full Outbox load came out as well. Doing this emptied one storage bin; unpacking the 'extra' coats emptied out another one. Neither bin will be refilled. I also unpacked my DVDs and CDs and put them away, allowing me to toss the empty box.

  • box of books (library)
  • Two empty storage bins (thrift donation)
  • 13-gallon trash bag of items (thrift donation)
  • broken cookie press (I kept the pattern rounds, though) (tossed)
  • two other trips to thrift store, a full car load each time
  • new cookie press (thrift store, $5, all pieces there)
  • rug for underneath cat food, and the bench where our shoes go.
  • Curtain hooks to use at laundry area & one window.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

First Impressions

The new place is 1184 sq ft (110 sq. m.) - the largest place I've ever had, and yet still cluttered right from the start! I am applying things I learned from the Cure to the layout. Using the Outbox and Landing Strip, specifically. The Outbox is near the front door, and will be emptied every weekend.

The Bedroom

My bedroom shrank by about 20 sq. ft., plus the closet is half the size it was. I'm enjoying it even more than I had expected! Not everything I want in there fits yet, but I'm still working on it . Once we get settled I can do some of my one-off crafts (photo albums for the pics I do have, knit up the kits I bought, etc.) and that will reduce the clutter.

The Library
I read voraciously. My book supply reflects that. I currently have 4 bookshelves full, plus two large plastic bins full. The goal is to have 3 bookshelves, maybe less, plus whatever is on my eReader. My cookbooks will be reduced as well: I found a cookbook program and will enter in the recipes I want to keep. Having to type all of them in is a wonderful disincentive - I'm much less likely to enter in the borderline ones!

Part of my challenge, when I can reach the boxes in question, is decor. I have enough for two apartments. Anything we don't use when setting up this place needs to go, unless I fight with myself about it leaving. Then it can stay temporarily. Some - Ok, ALL of those items need to be revisited every few months. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to the idea of letting something go, especially when I've had it a long time.

Holiday decorations might also be a challenge. I say might, because last year's Yuletide decor was minimal: one twig wreath and one "let it snow!" sign. The tree was a 2-foot tall tree with a single strand of silver beads, and a silver snowflake 'star.' It was lovely. I am going to go through the big box of decorations I have, and make piles: 'keepsakes,' 'oh pretty,' and 'why do I have this?'

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

life, rebooted

We've just moved into a new apartment. I'm doing a huge declutter - the goal is to get rid of half of what I own, possibly more.

I like things very uncluttered, yet I have clutter everywhere I look and find myself unable to just go through and say "no, not using this, bye!" While I do not live alone, the clutter is indeed mine and not theirs. So, I've started this journey and this blog. Care to join me?