Minimalist Cooking Hacks

09.26.2017

0600

As someone who likes to make my routines as simple as possible, I also try to create simple cooking habit routines as well. This approach simplifies the ingredients I buy and my grocery shopping haul trips. Here are seven simple tips and tricks for cooking hacks.

 

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1. Focus on Whole, Single-Ingredient Foods

  • Whole, single-ingredient foods are the key to good health.
  • Foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish, poultry and eggs are great examples. These foods are incredibly nutritious and satisfying.
  • When you focus on whole foods and high-quality ingredients, you will automatically start to eat less processed junk foods.
  • Processed foods often come with misleading health claims and long lists of ingredients, many of which you can’t even pronounce. However, truly healthy foods don’t even need an ingredients list. They are the ingredient.

Bottom Line: Eating healthy can be quite simple. Stick to whole foods and avoid processed foods made with refined ingredients and artificial chemicals.

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2. Use Simple Flavorings

  • If you buy high-quality ingredients, you don’t need to add a lot of flavoring. Olive oil, salt and pepper may be enough.
  • Fresh herbs can also do wonders for a meal.
  • Try to avoid buying new flavorings unless they are something you think you will use often.
  • If a new recipe requires hard-to-find spices and condiments, you can most likely replace them with something you already have.
  • A rare ingredient that you will end up using only once is a waste of money and space in your kitchen. Most of the time, you can stick to common ingredients that you already own and know how to use.

Bottom Line: You don’t need to own a lot of rare ingredients in order to add flavor to your food. Simple ingredients like high-quality olive oil, salt and pepper can be used in almost anything you make.

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3. Clean Out Your Spice Cabinet

  • Most people keep a lot of herbs and spices on hand. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you use them regularly and don’t have duplicates.
  • If your spice cabinet is disorganized and overflowing with spices you never use, you might want to tidy it up a bit.
  • Try to combine duplicates into one container and donate spices you never use. Throw away/compost spices that are old or bland.
  • Having a tidy spice drawer will help you cook faster because it will be easier to find the spices you’re looking for.
  • A good rule of thumb is to go through your spices at least once per year.

Bottom Line: Having a tidy spice cabinet will make you more efficient in the kitchen. Keep spices you use regularly within reach and combine duplicates. Throw out old spices and donate the ones you never use.

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4. Keep an Organized, Minimalist Pantry

  • Keep a clutter-free pantry stocked with quality foods you use regularly. Preparing healthy meals will become much easier.
  • A clutter-free pantry also makes your food less likely to spoil, since you’ll be able to see all your food items neatly organized.
  • You’ll find it easier to navigate your pantry and locate the items you’re looking for when cooking. Here are a few tips to help you organize your pantry:
    • Optimize storage: Store items you often use on the bottom shelves or near the front. Items you use less often can be stored in the back or a little higher.
    • Sort and group: Designate shelves for similar items, such as keeping your canned foods on one shelf and your breakfast foods on another.
    • Label everything: Label all of your pantry items and store them in clear, well-sealed containers so that your foods don’t spoil.
    • Increase accessibility: Try to place items so they are either directly accessible or you can reach them after moving just one item.

Bottom Line: Taking the time to plan and organize your pantry will make both shopping and cooking easier and more enjoyable.

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5. Simplify Your Kitchen Tools

  • There are tons of clever gadgets you can purchase for your kitchen.
  • Yet many are nonessential, single-purpose appliances.
  • You don’t need fancy kitchenware to cook a great, healthy meal. Simple meals require just a few basics.
  • If your kitchen is cluttered with items you rarely use, consider selling or donating them. Focus on keeping the functional items you use on a regular basis — it’s a plus if they serve multiple purposes.
  • However, figuring out what’s essential is entirely up to you. This varies, and something you regularly use may seem unnecessary to someone else. What you use depends on your lifestyle, how you cook and what kinds of foods you like to eat.
  • Try storing the items you rarely use in a box. If you haven’t opened it in six months, then it’s probably safe to sell or donate those things.

Bottom Line: You don’t need highly specialized, fancy tools for most tasks in the kitchen. Consider selling or donating kitchenware you don’t use often and keeping only the most useful kitchen items.

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6. Think Before You Shop

  • You should think carefully before you purchase a new kitchen gadget.
  • Start by asking yourself if you really need it. If you’re not sure, think it over for one week before you decide to buy it.
  • Setting yourself a rule of “one in, one out” may also help. So for any new item you bring into the kitchen, another needs to go.
  • Think creatively and you might even be able to use something you already own in a different way than you’re used to.

Bottom Line: When it comes to kitchen appliances, less is more. Think carefully before you decide to add another item to your kitchen, especially if it’s an item that’s designed to perform just one specific task.

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7. Clear Your Kitchen Counter

  • It’s time to de-clutter your kitchen counter.
  • Store kitchenware you use less frequently in your cabinets and drawers instead of on the countertop.
  • This is especially important if you live in a small apartment with limited counter space.
  • You’ll have more room to prepare meals and you’ll probably enjoy cooking more if there is less clutter around you.
  • This will also allow you to be more organized and focused while cooking.
  • If you need to keep items on the kitchen counters because of limited cabinet space then make sure they’re frequently used and essential for food preparation.
  • If you like to store items like keys, mail and wallets on your kitchen counter, make sure everything has a place where it belongs.

Bottom Line: Kitchen counters tend to attract clutter. Keeping them clear will give you more space to prepare meals and enjoy your time in the kitchen.

 

 

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Time Marches On

07.24.2017

0600

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Time, it moves fast yet it’s all we have as we live day to day.

The past month has been a difficult one. A lot of that has to do with deaths and a series of unfortunate events around me. Although deaths happen a lot, from a variety of situations and circumstances, these deaths were directly linked to me somehow.

Whenever I receive news about the demise of other people, I always reflect on my own memories, knowing I won’t ever see or talk to those individuals anymore. I reflect back on the happy times and what they brought into my life. For a moment, time seems to stand still, as if my brain can’t comprehend the news. It’s a weird feeling and the moment feels like it’s never going to end. When I think back on the last time I spoke with the person or saw them in person, I always wonder if I said everything I needed to say and meant to say; wondering if I missed any moments.

It’s amazing how fragile life is and how fragile people are. At the same time, people are strong enough, and powerful enough to hurt each other too. There’s always so much going on in this world from health issues, the future of this country, environmental issues, selfishness, greed; it’s a lot to take in. I’ve talked to a few of my friends about television and watching the news. I know a few of my friends don’t watch the news because they say it’s too depressing. I watch it because I want to be informed about events happening,  not necessarily the views of each television network. In a weird way, I want to know about all the bad that’s going on. I simply need to know.

Those more weighted news stories tend to take over social media and the evening news.  Then there are the other struggles that live between the lines, between those stories. The silent struggles that no one may notice because it lives in between the noise. Sometimes those silent struggles, only come to light when another person leaves this world. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Even after our loved ones or other people in our lives pass, time still marches on. It’s an uneven struggle between the event that just happened and life simply continuing. Technically, that’s the only way the world exists. The sun will still rise and set, people will still wake up and go to work, go out to eat, go workout, go do whatever. And yet your reality has just changed indefinitely.

I do believe time heals wounds, maybe not all wounds, but most. The earth will still rotate, the sun will still rise and set, but after losing a loved one, you’re life changes. There’s a collateral effect when death occurs. Hopefully, you can take away something powerful and positive.

My hope is that everyone finds happiness among the noise; that the good outweighs the bad in your lives. Fight for your happiness, because you deserve to be happy. We’re all on our own journeys here on earth. The people who cross your path may not stay for long, but I believe that they were meant to cross your path for a reason. Talk to one another, reach out to one another, even if it’s only through a text or a message on a social media site. Love conquers hate on any given day. And if you can’t do that, just smile. Those are infectious.

Personal Note:

Thank you Chester Bennington, thank you for sharing your pain and reality by singing words that so many of us appreciated. You gave a voice to so many who were at a loss for words. You are truly loved and the loss of your musical talent and brilliance, will forever be remembered as you helped shape and change the music industry. You will be missed, rest in peace. Heaven gained another angel.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

(800) 273 – 8255

 

The Concept of Collecting

03.14.2017

0800

 

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Collecting is for some people a childhood hobby, but for others a lifelong pursuit or one that begins in adulthood. Collectors who begin early in life often modify their aims when they get older. Some novice collectors start purchasing items that appeal to them then slowly work at learning how to build a collection, while others prefer to develop some background in the field before starting to buy items. The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. The scope of collecting is unlimited, which is expressed in the hyperbolic expression: “If something exists, somebody somewhere collects them.”

The concept of collecting items became an odd concept to me as I moved closer to a minimalistic lifestyle in my adulthood. As a child I had started collecting items made by the Japanese company Sanrio. I specifically collected items with the character Hello Kitty printed or embedded on them. These items include pencils, pens, notebooks, plush toys, erasers, stickers, sticker books, etc. I started collecting these items because a close friend of mine had her own collection, and she frequently traveled to Japan, so she had access to rare items with Sanrio characters printed on them. I remember as I child, Sanrio had many characters, which in turn, produced many product items for each character. There always seemed to be an endless supply of designs, items, and apparently, extended family members of those characters that would pop up. There was no end to the Sanrio empire. For this reason, I stopped collecting these items. There was never a cap on anything. I could never own a set collection of anything with my love of the Hello Kitty character. I realized that had collected and created my Hello Kitty collection to look at. It was there to be admired of its perfection, but was never to be used. The perfection of the product was so valuable to me, that the items had to stay in mint condition; just sitting on my desk or in my drawer, but never used and taking up space.

When I finally made the decision to actually use what I had bought over the years, it literally took me two years to finish using all of the erasers I had collected, and it took me another three years to use up all of the pencils I had collected. I honestly couldn’t believe that I had a large enough pencil supply to last that long. I realized how much money I had wasted in my love for this character. I tried to use up all of my stickers and even that task took years to finish. I had to decorate a lot of handwritten letters, birthday cards and Christmas cards with those stickers.

Fast forward to my college years, and you’d find me collecting pressed pennies. Now I thought the idea of pressed pennies was such a cute concept. I only paid $0.51 for each souvenir, which was two quarters and a penny. Each time I went to any vacation around the United States, I would seek out these Penny Souvenir machines and pick my design, and there it was. A quick freshly pressed penny with a design I had chosen from the three options that the machine allowed.  It was cheap, quick and easy to find, or so I thought.

Then, I took a vacation to Vietnam during my college years, and there were no penny souvenir machines over there. What was I to do? Start a new type of collection- so that this vacation was still documented by some arbitrary object? Does this penny souvenir collection count if it doesn’t include this international vacation? Should it be a “Vacations in the United States where I technically could find a Penny Souvenir machine collection?” It was absurd. Was there even a reason for me to not include this vacation, because technically I was forced to exclude it. My penny souvenir collection seemed pointless at that point. I knew my tiny little collection of pressed pennies had no value, it was an interesting concept, and it was cute, but beyond that, it held no value in my life. None of my collections that I’ve ever had in my life held any value. At one point during high school, I collected pins, and also badges, and again- no value. With all of these collections, I did have photos attached to those memories, and those photos I did keep. Over the years, I got rid of my pins, badges, and gave away my Hello Kitty collection to a young girl who, like myself, was fascinated with the cute character.

Jump four years and digital photos became more common. I wanted to photograph everything. I wanted to buy a terabyte external hard drive just so I could collect and keep all of these photos. The more I became concerned about documenting everything, the more I realized I was always pulling myself away from the valuable moments in my life. I would digitally archive everything I could find, that included articles and photos. As a college student, I think you’re trained to document almost all of your work, whether it’s for a portfolio, referencing papers, memories or ‘just in case I spill soda all over my laptop, because I stayed up all night writing this essay and yet- I’m still not finished’ scenarios. I have been guilty of that too.

After college though, I started to slowly pull away from the habit of documenting everything. It just wasn’t necessary for me anymore. As long as I had the correct information for my resume and my portfolio was intact, I was set.

Some people collect items that can gain monetary value as years pass. From antiques to creating a collection of rare items. Some of those may pay out in the long run. Some people make a living collecting rare paintings and antiques, but even then, each item is a rare and unique piece. To put the time and effort into a valuable collection is a art form in itself. Mine were not any of those qualities.

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Fast forward seven years out of college, and you’ll see me rarely take a picture anymore. I’ll take pictures for my blog, and instagram images, but you’ll rarely see me take a picture otherwise. I don’t take selfies. I don’t care much to document my face, for me or anyone else. I do like to document events with my family or gatherings with my friends, but you’ll see me take maybe three pictures for each event. If anything, the title sequence to The Wonder Years, really left a lasting impression. I prefer to take a video now more than ever, but just one for each event. It won’t be too long, just long enough to capture the sounds and the voices, in that space and at that time. They’re videos that are just enough of that memory.

I’m learning to be completely 100% present, whether it’s in the conversations I interact with, the people I listen to, watching the next generation play on the playground, or simply knowing that I’m being present with the minutes passing by. This is my approach to collecting now. I collect memories and moments. I try to pay attention to everything my brain handle remembering. Being present is so important in my life, caring about people in my life and spending time with them. I’ve lost people over the years, as many of us have, and I know that all I can hang onto are my memories. Time passes us by so quickly, and life catches up with us easily. We all grow up, time marches on and just knowing that simple realization, makes me want to be more present with those around me. Maybe a picture or two will suffice, but honestly, I’ll take my memories with me wherever I go.

If I leave you with anything from this post, be present. Be present in the moment, with the people you’re with and engage your mind with everything around you. Let yourself remember the colors, smells, voices and sounds. You’d be surprised how easily we will forget those details as time marches on.

 

 

Seeking Simplicity

02.07.2017

0800

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I think people in general will seek a level of simplicity in their lives. I know I  strive for my own simplicity. This may boil down to simplifying a routine or a room in my home, or simply clearing my mind of clutter. It makes living and creating memories much easier to accomplish and it frees up my time for activities that I want to participate in, rather than feel obligated to do.  I honestly work at this each day. Due to the ever changing winds that we deal with in life, I constantly reevaluate my routines and make sure that I’m not taking on activities that I either don’t want to do or know that it will complicate my life in ways that are unnecessary.

Sometimes the clutter in our lives will come in, even for a short period of time. But let it only stay for a short period of time. I found this article from Apartment Therapy, who outlines steps to Seeking Simplicity very clearly. I hope you enjoy it.

Seeking Simplicity: How to Start Living a More Minimal Lifestyle (from Apartment Therapy)

  1. Give yourself a clear, personal goal (and a timeline)
    1. What is your personal definition of a more minimal home and life? Is it to have only the bare minimum of objects? Is it to declutter a whole room of stuff you haven’t looked at in months? Is it to learn to live with less or stop buying things you don’t need? There’s no “right” way to be a minimalist; we can all have our own definitions of simple and stress-free. Just take the time to define it for yourself. Not sure where to start defining what you don’t want in your life? Focus on what you do want — what makes you feel alive, what you’re passionate about — and then begin to strip away the things (physical and otherwise) that are getting in the way of you doing more of what you really want to be doing.
    2. Give yourself a clear goal, with broken-down steps to attain (and remember to write down the things you need to complete those steps). And then give yourself a time frame to achieve each step (not just the final goal). Consider making alerts on your calendar so you are held accountable. And don’t just write down what the goal is — write down why you want to live more minimally (less stress, more money, less stuff to haul on your next move — it can be anything that means something to you).
  2. Decide how your home can help you live a more minimalist lifestyle
    1. Your quest for a more minimal lifestyle might point you in the direction of a smaller or simplified home. This is a big step for folks who own or rent homes, but not impossible. Again, start with a goal of what you want — be specific. Not sure what you want? Do some traveling — and look to stay in homes in the size range you’re thinking about. You’ll be able to visualize your future life easier if it’s a size you can downsize to. Or perhaps the size and type of your home is okay but it’s what’s in it…
  3. Declutter
    1. This seems pretty obvious, but it can be the most painful step for folks who have a real attachment to many of their items. Start slow and intentionally. Throw out or donate everything you obviously don’t need first. Then take and hide everything you think you could do without for a few months, to give yourself distance to be able to give them away. Then use that motivation to gather the courage to take decluttering as extreme as works for your dream, minimal lifestyle. Keep reminding yourself that stripping away as much stuff from your life will make it easier to achieve a more simple life and allow you to have more freedom. You don’t have to only live with a bed and a laptop; again, you get to decide what living more minimally means to you.
  4. Train yourself to live with less
    1. If you’ve been used to creature comforts for a long time, you might not be ready to take a minimal plunge all at once. Consider having comfort-free weekends or months, slowly eliminating comforts and luxuries (even as simple as pricey haircuts or weekly movie dates) and seeing what feels okay to lose, and what things are too valuable to your happiness to give up.
  5. Ask yourself “do I really need this?” all the time
    1. Before you swipe your credit card, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” And ask yourself all the time. At first you may easily justify purchases out of habit, but as the question sinks in, you might find yourself realizing you don’t need many of the items you impulsively buy.
  6. Be a re-user
    1. Another great habit to explore on the path to a more minimal way of living is learning to be a great re-user. Save packaging to reuse for other things. Learn to repair and fix things rather than replace. Use old clothing for scrap fabric for DIY projects. Be open to being creative to find ways you can reuse something you already have rather than buy something new.
  7. Invest in high-quality
    1. When you do have (or want) to buy something new, splurge on high-quality items that are meaningful for you. Remember that it might be nicer to have a sparse home filled with dreamy designs you adore versus full of things you just sort of like. But also remember that, again, you define what minimal means.
  8. Be clear about why you want to be more minimal (and remind yourself often)
    1. Go back to the first step above regularly, especially when things get tough, so you can remember why you’re trying to live more minimally in the first place.
  9. Forgive yourself and keep trying
    1. As someone who has given away everything they owned one and a half times now, I can assure you, we manage to acquire stuff at impressive speeds. And also sign up for a lot of work obligations, too. This is just human nature. But don’t give up on your quest to simplicity if you wake up one day and notice you’ve let a lot of unneeded stuff clutter up your home or schedule. Just start over at the top, breathe in, and keep trying.

Tips For Staying Organized

01.31.2017

0800

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So it seems that organization can be an issue for any household. Depending on how much your daily routines take up the extra time you have, and what needs to be done within that time frame. Household size also counts as well as square footage of said household size. I thought I would list some tips of how one might go about organizing daily life and personal organization. Although my mantra is to eliminate excessive amounts of items for these tips to apply to me, but everyone is different. I live a zero waste and minimalist lifestyle so maintaining it is simple since I don’t have to do much to get by 🙂

In Your home:

  1. Develop daily routines – Get into a regular routine to simplify your to-do list and plan better.
  2. Make your bed every day – Check out this video… Fast forward to the 4-minute mark and watch through the 6-minute mark and you will see how making your bed will simplify your life The Head of the Navy SEALs Explains Why Making Your Bed Every Day Is the Most Important Life Lesson.
  3. Delegate chores to household members – Don’t try to do everything around the house if you have others that can help. Ask for help to reduce your workload. Here’s a post for how to get your household members on-board with organizing the home.
  4. Place wall hooks in your entryway – Invest in a wall rack system or a few 3M hooks to hang keys, backpacks, coats and umbrellas so they are up and out of the way as soon as you arrive home.  Be sure to check out our post for 10 Items You Need to Organize Your Home Like a RockStar with more ideas.
  5. Sort mail immediately – This ensures bills are not misplaced, other important items are not forgotten about and paperwork clutter is reduced.
  6. Write your to-do list before bed – Get things off your mind before bed so you can sleep better.
  7. Fold your clothes standing up – Try the Kon Marie method which allows you to easily see contents in drawers.
  8. Pack your lunch the night before – Reduce time spent in the morning getting ready by having lunches ready to go the night before. Better yet, prepare them all at the beginning of the week!
  9. Pack healthy snacks the night before – Here are a few healthy ideas for snacks to pack the night before.
  10. Keep a weekly meal planner – Try a meal planning journal like this and simplify grocery shopping, meal planning and your budget.
  11. Create a recycle station – include bins for recycling, trash, donate, sell. Try this one to get started.

For Personal Organization:

  1. Invest in a clear purse/briefcase organizer – Stop digging in your bag for an item. Invest in something like this and easily find what you are looking for.
  2. Use an online birthday reminder – Never forget another birthday (try punchbowl.com/reminders or Google contacts).
  3. Write down daily tasks – Electronic calendars are wonderful if you are on-the-go, but handwritten tasks are easy to cross off once completed. Try a paper day planner like this one or this pretty one.
  4. Get your finances in order – Create a budget if you don’t already have one. Try Mint.com and read this book (listen to it on Audible to save time).
  5. Create a follow up email folder – Place all unread emails there until read then delete.
  6. Flag important emails – Respond to flagged emails then archive or delete.
  7. Create folders for your emails – Try creating folders for electronic bills, electronic receipts, create a folder for each household member, etc. File important emails in each folder to reduce your primary inbox.
  8. Create a temporary folder on your computer – Place temporary items in the folder and delete files regularly.
  9. Organize multiple emails in one inbox – Forward all email addresses into one email inbox and set to auto-delete the forwarding emails copy so you never have to log into each email account individually.
  10. Organize your social media accounts – Organize your Facebook groups, Pinterest boards or create Twitter reading lists for a particular theme.