Resolutions Rescue: Clean Out The Refrigerator

Lean back against the kitchen counter. Take a hard look at what that whale has been hiding in its dark little innards. The implications will hit you in the face!

For example, when I tossed out four, count 'em, four jars of dried-out jelly and a jar of peanut butter manufactured years ago, it was clear that my children had turned a culinary corner, and the days of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were no more.

And I thought my family liked ranch dressing--but I couldn't maintain that belief in the face of a nearly-full bottle of same dating from the Bush administration.  

You'll wring a few unpleasant admissions from yourself, too. Look carefully at what foods are wasted, especially from the vegetable crisper.

Are you doing what I've been doing? I'm Miss Nutritional Virtue herself at the grocery store, but those baby carrots and low-fat margarines languish uneaten in Moby's dark corners. Did you toss out as much bruised fruit as I did? Are you buying too much--or not eating what you buy?

Use pen and notepad to jot down your discoveries and track your new resolves. Match them to your New Year's resolutions. Is lower-fat eating on your resolution list? Then you'll want to toss the remnants of the Christmas dinner butter and margarine and replace them with low-fat spreads, apple butter and all-fruit jellies.

Do you want to tighten the budget? Focus on the waste you've discovered. Do you buy grapefruit (because your mother did and it's such a Donna Reed/Beaver's Mom breakfast item) only to toss the shriveled husks, months later? Are you overbuying milk, or cheese, or meat? If you've tossed it out today, make a note to yourself to buy less--if any--on your next shopping trip. 

Have family members come to expect weekly cases of soda as a staple, not a treat? Cut back, and substitute fruit juices and iced tea for those high-priced soft drinks.

Is more efficient meal planning and home organization on your list of resolutions? Well, you've taken a giant step forward today.

Follow up on your success by printing a free menu planner, saving money at the supermarket using the pantry principle, or learning more about menu and meal planning.

When the dust has settled and you've taken a good, hard, productive look at the evidence unearthed from your refrigerator, it's time to replace the few food items that survived your scrutiny.

Done correctly, the New Year's Spearing of the Great White Whale should all but empty the refrigerator. Don't be afraid of that stark look! A refrigerator (unlike a freezer) is most energy-efficient when it has adequate air flow.

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Gather or purchase a few little presents for your new, gleaming food storage space.

Consider small-to-medium plastic baskets (with flat bottoms) to corral loose margarine sticks, and support and organize floppy packs of lunch meat and sliced cheese.

Larger baskets subdivide your vegetable crisper and frustrate self-destructive, neurotic vegetables whose only motive in life is to burrow deep beneath the plastic bags and rot in peace.

Finally, arrange your storage space to promote good eating habits. Pile apples and oranges in an open basket on an open shelf--if they're seen, they're more likely to be eaten! Stick the big, bad, greasy cooking margarine in the far reaches of the meat drawer, so you won't be tempted to bypass your low-fat spread. Use zipper bags bags to hold washed vegetable snacks, and put them in a special basket in the crisper, easy to see and to reach.

When the I speared my own, my very own Moby Dick The Great White Refrigerator, I was so energized by the sight of the gleaming, empty, healthy and frugal contents that I moved on to her pantry!

Such a step is only for the valiant, but when the iron strikes, toss! Dare to dump the sack of stale gumdrops, the sticky candy canes, the six boxes of opened cereal with year-old code dates, and the dusty boxes of bulgur and lentils and barley (remnants of an impractical but impassioned health kick). You'll feel good. You'll make room. You'll promote health.

And if you're like me, you'll spend the next two days sneaking admiring looks at your gleaming, well-organized refrigerator. It may not be glamour, but it's life!

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