Weekly Food Prep Fridge Tour

I have a special weekly food prep fridge tour for you today. But first things first, how did you spend your weekend? We spent Saturday out and about visiting a local market (and perhaps eating too many mini donuts), and then playing for a long while at the park. Our little one hasn’t stopped talking about the ‘markets’ since. Clearly the visit was a hit.

I did however, need to do my weekly food prep. This is a non-negotiable in our house. I make a big concerted effort to do this every week – most often on Sundays.

This weekend was especially important, because we are all suffering from a cold. The weekend was also a little constrained, because my partner was heading out about 2.30pm for a football game. So I had a couple of hours at the absolute most to get it done.

So – how did I do it? What did I make?

First, I had prepared by organising to have some online shopping delivered late Saturday – after we had come home from the markets. That way, all we had to do was unpack it and put it away. While doing it, I made a mental note of what vegies I had, so that I could prep those the following day.

On Sunday – I needed to get into action and start chopping. I chopped leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots – all of which we will use this week as steamed vegetables. Grabbing a handful of these each night is just easy. And far less hassle than having to cut and prep a small amount each night. Much better use of my time to spend 30 minutes chopping ALL of them at once.

I also wanted to roast a bunch of vegies too. These are absolutely perfect to take for work lunches. I had bought some leafy greens in my shopping order, and so I also knew I wanted to make quinoa to go with these.

But before I got started on those, I decided to tackle the biggest thing first. We were having a roast chook for dinner – and because I would be solo-parenting for the pre-dinner routine, it made sense to cook this ahead of time. That way, my partner was still around to keep an eye on our little one.

So I started with roasting the chicken, and while that was cooking, I prepped my roasted vegetables and made my quinoa.

By the time the chicken was done, I had vegetables for the week cut and in the fridge, a container of quinoa ready too, and a tray of roasted veg ready for the oven.

While that last tray of veg was cooking, I also whipped up some chocolate bliss balls (similar to these).

And that was it. Done. Just shy of 2 hours in total time.

To show you the end result – I also did a weekly food prep fridge tour video, so you can see what it looks like following my weekly food prep.

I should forewarn you that this is a ‘real life’ weekly food prep fridge tour video – because my toddler thought it would be hilarious to take a ‘starring role’. So here you go – hope you get a giggle.

Do you food prep? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Organise your Kitchen to Help Get Dinner on the Table

Getting dinner on the table every night is a challenge. Cooking something wholesome and homemade – that the family will eat – is just hard sometimes. The Empowered Cook is all about sharing simple strategies that will help this process. Whether that be recipes, or freezer cooking tips, or meal planning inspiration – I am ultimately here to help you get dinner on the table. How to organise your kitchen is a good place to start.

The Empowered Cook shares how to organise your kitchen to help get dinner on the table. An organised kitchen will make your cooking easier and faster.

Today I’m sharing my top tips to organise your kitchen. Having an organised space to cook your meals will help you get dinner on the table. It makes everything you do more efficient – and therefore easier, and faster. It is also much more appealing to cook in a clean, clear space. Trust me.

How to organise your kitchen – here we go.

#1 – Locate Utensils Near the Stove

Keep things where you use them. Simple. I have a big pot next to my stove. In there – I keep everything that I use for the stove: wooden spoons, egg flip, spatulas, tongs. They are right there, so that when I need them – I can easily grab one. It is much easier to grab from a pot, than to rummage in a drawer to find what I need.

#2 – Use Compartments in “THAT” Drawer

Everyone has one. A mess of a drawer. Where things fall out when you open it. Where all the lost items in your house go to die.

I have found that I can deal with “THAT” drawer by popping in some small containers – to create compartments. This has meant that I can divide the mess. And by dividing the mess, it is actually easier to make less of a mess. Give it a go.

#3 – Declutter, Declutter, Declutter

Do you really need an egg slicer? How often do you really slice eggs? I mean, really?

Go through you drawers and remove everything you haven’t used in the last few months. Donate it, throw it out – whatever works. But just remove it from your kitchen – and your life.

You will be surprised by how much you can actually toss. And you will be surprised how your ingenuity will come into play. Like when you next need to slice eggs (maybe just use a knife!).

#4 – Embrace and Be Ready for Leftovers

Store your leftover containers close to where you clean up after dinner. Always have a good supply, ready to go. A couple of years ago, I invested in some glass containers for single serve meals for the freezer. Best thing I’ve bought in a long time. I bought 12 – they are 3 cup in size and Pyrex brand – this is not a sponsored post. I just really love them. They are the perfect size for single serve leftovers. And for my family of 2 adults and a toddler – they also hold the perfect amount of a casserole or similar. I bought mine here – but google and see if you can find a good deal.

#5 – Have Blank Labels and a Pen in the Kitchen

Following on from embracing those leftovers, you need to be able to accurately record what is in those containers. Or else, you’ll likely stumble across a frozen block of something brown in a few months time and have no recollection.

I use the small white labels that you can buy pretty much anywhere. They are cheap and easy to use – and will easily wash off.

But you can just as easily use a roll of masking tape.

Just make sure you use a permanent marker – so it doesn’t wash off.

#6 – 3 Step Rule

This is probably one for those of us who have the option to reorganise our kitchen layout. If you don’t, feel free to skip to the next tip!

When organising the layout of your kitchen – follow the 3 step rule. One step from fridge to sink to stove. This is the best way to use the space. It makes cooking and cleaning far more efficient. You’ll find the best kitchens follow this principal in some way – pay attention next time you see a kitchen you love.

#7  Herbs, Spices, Oils – store near the stove.

I keep these all close to the stove. This is where I use them – so it makes sense that they are close by. Just like tip #1 – keep them where you use them.

#8 – Make Cleaning Easy

Store all your cleaning supplies in easy reach. Paper towels, dish cloths, tea towels, hand towels – there should be a good supply of these. I keep all of mine under our kitchen sink. I have them in baskets mainly – so that they are kept neat and tidy. Pinterest has some great inspiration for this sort of thing.

Your main goal should be to have enough clean tea towels and dish cloths that you can use a clean one every day. At the end of the night, as part of our night time routine, I will completely wipe down the sink and the kitchen bench. I’ll then lay out some clean linens – and pop the others in the wash. This is a really nice way to wake up the morning.

#9 – Pot Holders Ready!

Where do you keep your pot holder?

Mine is on the handle of the stove. And I have a couple of other ones in the cupboard with the saucepans. They are close by – and easy to grab quickly. Safety first!

#10 – Put a Pinnie On!

Always have an apron ready. I own a number of aprons – and I always wear one. On the rare occasion that I don’t – I will bet my bottom dollar that I will somehow splatter something on my clothes. My little one even has his own apron – and he will put it on before helping me with dinner. Teaching the next generation, I am.

What tip are you going to try first? Tell me below!

 

Get Organised: A Shopping Routine

A good shopping routine will save you money, time and energy. If you can plan what you will eat each week with meal planning, and then have a simple ‘set and forget’ process for grocery shopping – think of the time this will save. No more last minute runs to the shop, changing the evening meal at the last minute because you’ve run out of some key ingredient – no more fuss and fluster. Just calm, relaxed serving up of a wholesome, homemade dinner, every night of the week.

How do we do this?

By establishing systems and processes in our house to make these things happen.

The Empowered Cook shares the importance of a good shopping routing - including how to set up a grocery shopping routine in your household.

I spoke about having an organised pantry here – this really must be your first step. So if you haven’t yet done that – go read that post and check it out.

I also posted about the importance of a shopping list. That is the next step – have an organised pantry and then keep it that way by having a really great shopping list process.

This post is all about the next step: establishing a regular shopping routine.

I’ll start by taking you through our routine. This isn’t to direct you to follow our routine – because while this works really well for us, it won’t necessarily work well for you. I share this in the hope of inspiring and motivating you – but also so that you can see what I mean by a shopping routine.

In our house, we have a couple of different routines around grocery shopping. They are:

Weekly Routines

This is such a great service – and I highly recommend it. If they don’t deliver in your area – then google and find another service! It makes life so much easier. The produce is always super fresh – and we pretty much have a standing order each week. We also buy all of our meat from here. Again, it is super fresh – and will often have Use By dates of a week or more. This is a bonus for us – as it means I can store the meat in the fridge until we use it that week. We also make use of this service for a loaf of bread and milk each week.

  • Once a week we shop at Aldi

This is where we pick up the bulk of our groceries that aren’t fresh produce. Aldi is cheap. That is the main reason we shop there. They also have a surprisingly great range of organic products – something that I was not expecting. They even stock raw cacao and cacao nibs people! I struggle to find those in the big supermarkets usually.

Fortnightly Routine

  • Once a fortnight we shop at the big supermarket chains

This is mainly to buy set products that we prefer over the Aldi brand. There are just some things that we don’t compromise on! Mind you, that list is much shorter than when we first starting shopping at Aldi. Seriously the price difference is too substantial to stick with products from the two big chains. 

Monthly Routine

Once a month or so – I also buy some health food items online. This can vary and will depend on what I’m cooking or what I think we need to introduce into our diet. So it could be hemp seeds, flaxseed oil or apple cider vinegar for example. 

What about toiletries and cleaning products, I hear you ask?

Well, we don’t buy cleaning products. We make these ourselves – so we only need the pure ingredients: lux soap flakes, borax, washing soda, vinegar, castile soap. I combine these with essential oils – and voila! – cleaning products done. The recipes I use are available here:

Laundry Powder or Laundry Liquid – Down to Earth

Hand Soap – Live Simply

Floor Cleaner – Live Simply

Multi-Purpose Spray – Live Simply

Bathroom Cleaner – Live Simply

In terms of toiletries – like deodorant, toothpaste, etc – I will either get these from the supermarket – or I buy online from Shop Naturally or another site. I mostly use natural products – and I choose these for our little one too, but there are some things we’re yet to give up on – so we still need to visit the major supermarkets for those.

As I mentioned in this post, I have a really well stocked pantry – and this includes toiletries. So I don’t need to buy these very often. And because I make cleaning products – this is also true for those.

Grocery Budget

The bulk of our grocery budget each week goes on food. And when I say food – I mean food. We don’t buy packaged goods – we buy ingredients primarily. I have found this to be such a money saver! Fruit and vegetables are actually incredibly cheap – and if you combine this with some good quality grains, legumes and a small amount of meat – you really can buy good health for your family.

Shopping this way does of course mean that we need to invest time each week for things like ingredient prep, and meal planning, and of course, cooking. BUT – it means that I know what we are eating. I can pronounce all the ingredients. And I know that I am nourishing my family with good health. And not spending a fortune doing it.

How do you create a shopping routine in your household?

Firstly – think about what you do now.

What works? And what doesn’t? If you are shopping weekly now and yet you get to mid-week and you have run out of fresh fruit – there might be some tweaks needed.

Secondly – think about your income frequency.

Do you get paid weekly, fortnightly, monthly? I find this to be pretty important. We both get paid fortnightly – but on opposite weeks – so in effect, we have income weekly. This means that we can budget groceries into both weeks. Yes – it all adds up in the end – but sometimes it is easier to match your shopping routine to the payment cycle.

Thirdly – think about meal planning and writing a shopping list.

Being able to have a good solid shopping routine is dependent on you instilling these two practices in your household. Meal Planning doesn’t have to be complicated – it can simply be a scrap of paper with dinners written down. Even a mental plan is better than no plan!

And a shopping list is similar – keep a list somewhere visible. When you notice you need something – write it on the list! This will make shopping for what you need, rather than what you think you need, so much easier.

Lastly – trial and error.

It will take time to work out your best routine. You’ll need to be flexible and adaptable. Try one thing, and then change it to another if it doesn’t work. This is what we have done over the years. We’ve had to change as our lives have changed – and we’ve had to adapt. But we’ve always had some sort of routine or system that brings food into the house, and that gets dinner on the table.

 

What do you think? Do you have a routine already? Or will you need a refresh? I’d love to hear about it! Please share your routines (and what you’d like to change) in the comments below.

 

Get Organised: Writing a Shopping List

I grew up with lists. I love them to this day and would be lost without them.

My Mum instilled the habit in me – and I am just the kind of person who keeps lists.

A pen and a notepad went everywhere with Mum, and there were numerous ones amongst the house. In the kitchen, on the bench and on the fridge; by the phone; on the coffee table in the lounge; next to the computer; by her bed.

Lists were daily, weekly, seasonally, yearly. They covered cleaning, meals, shopping, To-Do, To-Buy, To-Make.

The first list I remember Mum teaching me – however inadvertently, like all her best lessons – was the Shopping List.

The Empowered Cook shares how to writing a shopping list (including a memory of her Mum) and why it is an important tool to help you get dinner on the table.

How My Mum Wrote a Shopping List

I remember her leaning on the kitchen bench, checking the cupboard and writing. Checking the fridge and writing. Checking the pantry and writing. She would send us kids to check the bathroom. And she would ask us what we wanted that week – this would sometimes and sometimes not get added to the list. If we asked for a new pen, we might have some success – but if we asked for some special kind of cereal – we nearly always missed out.

The Shopping List was written in three columns. The first was pantry and cupboard items – and would always start with bread and cereal, followed by any other items we needed. The middle column was fresh items – and it always started with milk and butter, and continued to fruit and vegetables. The last column was toiletries and cleaning products. At the bottom right would be the list of meat – this was separate because generally this came from the butcher, not the supermarket.

The Shopping List Lesson

Whomever went shopping with Mum – it didn’t matter which one of us kids, and nor how old we were – had the job of crossing off the list. I think I learnt to read by this method. Mum would push the trolley and as she loaded another item, she would say – ‘Did you cross off tinned tomatoes?’ or ‘Don’t forget to cross off carrots’. As we got older and could read a little more fluently, we would reciprocate: ‘Did you get gravy?’ or ‘Don’t forget the toothpaste’.

When times were tight, Mum also carried a calculator and added up as she went. This was always her job. But when we reached the checkout – it was our turn to add it up. We would each have to guess how much the groceries were this week. There was no prize here – just the personal satisfaction that you had beaten the others by getting closest to the actual amount.

Mum paid in cash – out of the budget envelopes she carried in her purse. I remember the awkwardness of miscalculating and having to put items back. But I also remember the joy at getting a chocolate thrown into the trolley on good days too.

Shopping Lists in Today’s World

Online shopping has of course changed the way we can shop now. You can save your ‘trolley’ and add up as you go. There are now fridges with internet screens and apps to scan your barcodes when you empty a packet of peas. But nothing will ever beat the simply pen and notepad stuck on the fridge, or the very simply three column shopping list. It’s how I do it. Why? It’s how I was taught, of course.

My Shopping List Process

My system today is built on the one that Mum taught me. 

We have a notepad and a pen on the kitchen bench. Always. It doesn’t move.

This is our shopping list.

When we run out of something (or ideally, just BEFORE we run out of something), we write it on the list.

That’s it. Simple, right?

This system works really well for us. It only falls over if we fail to write something on the list. And that does happen occasionally – but actually quite rarely.

Even our little one knows our routine. Before we leave the house to “go to the shops”, he’ll stand at the kitchen bench pointing until we pass him the shopping list. I doubt this enthusiasm for grocery shopping will last too long – but for now, it’s just cute. I’m passing the lesson to the next generation.

What do you use in your house? Are you a pen and paper list maker? Or do you have a funky shopping list app that you use? Do you have memories of shopping with your Mum or Dad? Tell me in the comments below!

Get Organised: Setting up a Pantry

Welcome to a New Year. I always feel like a big overhaul at the beginning of a new year – or a new season – or sometimes a new week. Let’s use that momentum and get organised. Setting up a Pantry is the very first step in creating an Empowered kitchen – so there is no better place to start.

A pantry is very simply a place to store your food goods. It stores both opened goods (like flour, rice, etc) and unopened goods (like canned tomatoes or beans). Your pantry can be in the kitchen, or not. It can be huge, or not. Your pantry can simply be whatever you choose.

I’ve lived in many houses, and each time, I’ve made a choice as to where I’d like my pantry. I’ve considered the location and access, the size and the general ‘feeling’ of the space. A pantry needs to work for when you are both cooking and storing goods. It needs to be easily accessible, yet easy to keep tidy and closed.

Take a look around your kitchen. Do you have a pantry now? Do you use it efficiently? Does it need a tidy-out or a relocation?

The Empowered Cook shows you how to get organised by setting up a pantry.

I have always found that a pantry works best if kept a little separate from your kitchen. In our current home, I have a cupboard in the kitchen that houses a bunch of opened goods – whatever we are currently using in our cooking. But I have my pantry in a cupboard in the hallway. This is where I store anything that is unopened. The shopping all gets unpacked into the pantry, and it is only when we open a packet of something that it is transferred to the kitchen.

In my pantry I always have half a dozen tins of tomatoes, a variety of beans and lentils, and bags of dried beans, additional spices, chocolate (always chocolate) and a stockpile of things that are pricey, but that I’ve scored on special. My stockpile also has cleaning products (vinegar, soap, baking soda) and toiletries (tissues, toothpaste, etc).

Why have a pantry?

In the most basic sense – you obviously cook using the ingredients in the pantry.

But I find the pantry more than that. I open my pantry and I am inspired. I am motivated to cook and create something for my family to eat. The possibilities of what I can make are endless when I open the pantry and see canned goods and packets and jars.

You too – can feel like this.

Or if not – and you simply have a screaming toddler and a hungry partner or a teenager or both – it is possible to cook a WHOLE meal from the pantry. A healthy, wholesome dinner – straight from the pantry. No need to buy any fresh ingredients – everything you need could be in the pantry just waiting for you to bring it together.

Some examples:

  • Tomato Pasta – a packet of pasta, a can of tomatoes, garlic/onion, oregano – you can easily whip up a quick meal with just these ingredients. This was a staple for my university days – cheap and easy. There are many variations too: add chili flakes for a little heat, add broccoli for some greens, add peas for a burst of sweetness. Add any leftover vegies from the fridge. Such a fast weeknight meal.
  • Tuna Casserole – if you can whip up a white sauce (flour, butter, milk) and you have cheese, a tin of tuna and some pasta – you are set.
  • Lentils and Poached Egg – a can of lentils, and an egg. Heat up those lentils, season them and add a very simply poached egg. This is very simple, but really delicious.

So – how do I go about setting up a pantry?

I have a special bonus for you. I’ve created a free 21-page workbook: The Ultimate Guide to Setting up a Pantry.

This covers everything! From defining a pantry, to organising it, to filling it and keeping it stocked – as well as actually how to use your pantry.

Go ahead – click below and download your copy now.

Download your copy of the Free 21-page workbook: The Ultimate Guide to Setting up a Pantry.

Don’t forget to share this with all your friends – maybe we can start a New Year resolution!

Enjoy!