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.

 

 

Zero Waste Shopping And Why

07.11.2016

0800

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There are a few reasons as to why I chose to live a zero waste life and why I continue my efforts in doing so. Here are a few reasons of why I continue to live this way and have found happiness in it:

  •  Facing the reality of the packaging convenience
    • Everything I’ve ever known since I was young was that groceries came pre- packaged. I never lived in an area where packaged free foods were readily available and promoted as so. Once I started using cloth bags that I sewed and bulk bins became more prevalent in my neighborhood grocery stores and surrounding cities, I started changing my lifestyle and really understanding how conditioned I was to accepting that producing trash was normal. Yes, pre-packaged items are convenient. Yes it would be so much easier to simply accept it, but the damage I know I’m creating for the environment is not something I can accept so easily. If I can make a change and give up a few items, I will.
  • Life becomes simpler (cleaning, routines, eating)
    • I have to admit, becoming zero waste has changed the way I clean and approach cleaning completely. It takes me less than five minutes to wipe down my bathroom counter and clean the bathroom sink. It also takes me less than  three minutes to clean the toilet too. Granted, scrubbing the bathtub takes slightly longer, but really it’s still a very simple process.  I just apply some Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Peppermint soap or my vinegar and water cleaning combination, then scrub, then rinse off.
    • Cleaning the kitchen is just as simple too. Wiping down counters that are clutter free and rinsing the sink out, are basically all I do. I don’t think cleaning could take fewer steps than what I currently do now. For cleaning the floor, I just run around with my microfiber broom and pick up all the dust and just dump it outside. When I wash dishes, because I don’t really use oil and I’m a vegetarian, cleaning up is pretty quick. All of my food is pretty much water based so it doesn’t really create a sticky mess.
  • Spend less money
    • I do spend less money now that I’ve simplified my life. It was a bit odd in the beginning, because I was used to spending a certain amount of time in certain stores, and I had a route when I was in each. Like when you go to specific stores and pick up certain weekly or monthly items, you have that path you take from the beginning of your trip around the store, to the very last stop at the check out stand. Sometimes I’d spend hours inside a store, not realizing how much time had passed or would window shop (for no reason at all) and time simply slipped away. Not having that route and creating shorter routes with less time spent “shopping”, actually freed up time in my schedule. I never wander the grocery isles anymore.Now I go straight to the bulk bins and then stop off at the vegetables and fruit, and then I’m done. Sometimes I’ll stop off at the hot foods area, grab a coffee or some lunch (maybe some cookies) too- but then I’ll leave, because shopping while hungry is never good. Still, my time spent in a grocery store is significantly short, even with my stops.
    • When I go buy clothes, because I have a capsule wardrobe with a specific color scheme, I am looking for specific pieces to complete my collection. I don’t get distracted by new trends or “the color of the year”, I simply look for what I need and if I can’t find it, then I’ll leave. For someone who doesn’t enjoy shopping too much, having a capsule wardrobe solved a lot of my issues with shopping. I used to like shopping because I would receive new items, but I always felt exhausted afterwards. The exhaustion was spent combing the racks, which half of the time- never fit my style anyhow. Yet, I did constantly look for bargains and deals. The “what if” factor always kept me looking at more clothes. “What if there’s something good on the next rack?” “What if I missed a good bargain?” With my capsule wardrobe, I know exactly what I need and nothing more is necessary.
  • Support local businesses
    • I really do enjoy supporting local businesses. My city has a high turn over for restaurants and stores in my city’s downtown area, and it’s disappointing to see restaurants leave. For many reasons, they may leave, but a lot of what I hear is that there simply wasn’t enough traffic for them to stay in business. I do feel bad for these businesses because I can’t imagine how hard and costly it must be to start a business and try to sustain it.
  • Eat healthier
    • With only stopping off at the bulk foods sections and the vegetables and fruits, my eating habits definitely improved. I don’t buy cheese and I rarely buy eggs now so I’ve noticed a change in how I feel when I sleep and workout. I still love burritos, sandwiches and french fries but for the most part, my grocery haul is much healthier.
  • Preserving the planet for the future
    • I know that by giving up meat, I’m helping the plant (even if it’s just a little bit) and I hope that this planet can withstand the damage that’s been done to it. I try to be conscious of what I use and how I spend my money and time. I pay attention to convenience over effort in every aspect of my life. I may not be on this earth for long, but I hope that I’m doing my part in trying to preserve it for future generations.
  • Keep local nature beautiful
    • I like my city, in fact, I really love my city.  I’m very blessed to be able to live where I do and have all the luxury of eating a variety of foods and meeting people from all kinds of different cultures and backgrounds. I want my city to stay beautiful and maintain its character and natue, so I’ll do my part to try to keep it that way.
  • Reduce exposure to toxic chemicals
    • With the advancement of technology and new discoveries drummed up in labs. I’m slightly weary of what toxic chemicals are around me. I know that I can’t control everything, but I can pay attention to what I consume and use in beauty products or cleaning products.
  • Become more self-sufficient
    • This point follows along with the point I made earlier that I enjoy simplifying my life and routines. With my newly discovered routines, there’s a pride that goes along with the outcome I’ve designed for my life. It does take effort and the first try of a routine or product may not work, but if you sit down and step back, and analyze the outcome you want- you’d be surprised that you’ll be able to find that comfortable and happy place in your zero waste life.
  • Cherish what you own and your time spent on taking care of them
    • My capsule wardrobe has created a valuable lesson for me in that I cherish each piece of clothing I own; all 30 pieces to be exact. I never looked at my clothes that way before, but now that’s all I see. Each piece has a place and purpose in my wardrobe. Even with my digital books and photos, I really do enjoy not owning a lot of physical items. I still value the digital photos because they still capture a moment in time, but if they were to disappear, I’m not sure how much I’d miss them.  The moments captured still happened, there’s just no physical recorded of it happening. I love that I own a surfboard and snowboard and the memories I create with those are far more valuable than any of my sports gear. I love that my bathroom and kitchen cleaning routines are so simple and fast, that I can be rushing to get out of the house to get to work and still be able to clean my bathroom in less than five minutes. I think I like the fluidity of not owning items in my life. I really enjoy streaming Netflix or movies from different internet forums. Owning an item is a commitment and by streaming movies, television shows or even music,  it connects me with the world more.  With streaming, I can watch and listen to a piece of entertainment, enjoy it, and then let it go. I’m okay with that. I really like that experience each time I go through it.

These are the reasons why I chose to start a zero waste lifestyle and why I continue to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I still will produce trash once in a while, but majority of the time, I don’t. A simple life takes time to get used to (as strange as that sounds). I had to be comfortable in how simple my life was becoming but not stay stagnant. With all the free time I had created, I didn’t really know what to do in the beginning of this journey. When you’re used to cleaning your home for three hours and then it cuts down to thirty minutes, it takes some getting used to. I think that’s why I love designing, my mind is always moving textures, shapes, functions and systems around in my head. I still try to be a better participant with this lifestyle each day, and I’ll continue to try new experiences and somehow do it without producing waste. I hope this blog post helped for those who are curious about the benefits fo living a zero waste lifestyle. I really do highly recommend trying it.

Shopping At Thrift Stores

 

05.09.2016

0800

Shopping at thrift stores can be a very fun experience. Thrift stores and discount stores are big stores that sell items that are ready to be picked apart and reused. Sometimes you’ll find treasures and sometimes you’ll find standard house ware items. The way I see it, is that every thrift store sells many gems and moments from the history of design. It really is a bunch of stuff squished onto to a rack or shelf for the next owner to pick up. When I walked around the clothing area for men and women, it felt like a sea of fabric, but old fabric that didn’t smell like chemicals and more like time and dust. There were rows upon rows of clothes to chose from. I needed to find two blouses and I actually found them really fast. The clothing was not divided up by color but instead by size. I was looking for blouses with collars so they were easy to spot on the rows of squished hangers.  I honestly wanted to keep looking for more stuff, but I know I didn’t need it and it was better that I leave the rest for those who are actually in need of those clothes.

I then proceeded to move over to the bags, I was looking for a a bag to store my tools in as well as a new shoulderbag. I’m going to switch out my toolbox and purse for more efficient bags. (That topic will also be posted in the future). When I found the bag section, it was an amazing wall of colors. The photo I took was only 1/3 of the wall, but there really was a lot of variety to choose from.

Whenever I buy a new item, I always have a smal criteria list that I go through.

Criteria List:

  1. Function- Will it logically serve the function(s) that I intend it for?
  2. Materials- Is it made of durable material that is also easy to clean? (Basically, can I toss it in the washing machine?)
  3. Future- Will it be able to grow with my lifestyle? Or will I need to replace it in one to two years

As long as those three questions can be answered, I’ll most likely purchase the item. Aesthetically, not everything that fulfills those criteria points will look high end. A lot of the times when I purchase items, I alter the design somehow to fit my lifestyle better.

You can always get what you want and with a little creativity, thread and a needle- I tend to extend my personal touch in many of the items I bring home. I still think that thrift stores are a great place to purchase items and seek out needed items. In addition to that, by purchasing second hand items, you’re saving it from the landfill and giving it another chance to be used once again.

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Below are some of the few items I purchased. The last image is of the trash I produced from my purchases.

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Bulk Bathroom Shopping Kit

03.30.2016

0830

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My bulk bathroom shopping kit consists of mason jars and cloth bags. Buying bulk bathroom products is probably one of my favorite  shopping trips that I take. This is also due to the fact that I genuinely like bathroom designs. I think the bathroom is essential in how comfortable I feel in a home or apartment. The bathroom is a place where we clean ourselves, we have privacy and it’s where we can relax. My bathroom is very simple so it doesn’t have a lot of stuff on the countertop, in the drawers or even in the medicine cabinet. However, when I step into my bathroom, the tile feels smooth and warm and the space is clean.

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I fill up my 1 Pint Mason Jars with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap and due to its concentration, I actually will dilute it in a small Pyrex bowl when I use it. I use this liquid Dr. Bronner’s soap to clean my sinks, bathtub, toilet, as pet shampoo and even wash dishes. It is an amazingly versatile soap that is mostly eco friendly. I also stock up on Alaffia’s GOOD soaps. I personally prefer the Lavender (white) and Prairie Rose (Pink) scents, but they have seven scents to choose from. I really like using Alaffia’s GOOD soap as body wash and face wash, and their ingredients are openly listed online. If you want to read about them, you can go to Alaffia: Fostering a Body of People and there will be a PDF download to the list of ingredients in their GOOD soaps for each scent.

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I stock up on face lotion and body lotion when I go bathroom bulk shopping too. I tend to carve the tare weight into the lids of my mason jars (using the point of a pair of scissors, be very careful if you decide to carve the tare weights into the lids) so that I never forget their weight. When I do fill up each bottle and write the PLU (product look up) codes, I’ll also write which lotion is for my face and which is for my body. (Notice the PLU codes are the same) Lucky for me, I tend to buy white colored bathroom products so I always have to jot down “Face vs. Body”.  Although if you do forget to write down “Face” or “Body” the consistency of each type of lotion is also a dead give away. My face lotion is more chalky and is not as viscous as my body lotion so if I ever accidentally apply one versus the other on the wrong area, I’ll notice it eventually.

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Also, if you want to ever keep track of how much you spend or use your products, I suggest you keep your receipts or create a graph to track your spending. I know this sounds a bit unorthodox, but I did this for awhile and I saw how much I saved. If you want to buy only Dr. Bronner’s Bar Soaps, or do not have access to a bulk location that sells Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap, this link might be helpful, How to Make a Gallon of Liquid Handsoap From a Bar of Soap. I did try this method and it worked. This is also why I included the Ball Gallon Jar in my store tab, under the Kitchen category as well as Dr. Bronner’s Soap Bars.

This is an overall view of what I bring to go bulk bathroom shopping and these items seem to help me in my shopping haul. I hope these items give you an idea of what containers you can use for your bathroom shopping haul. The overall savings of buying bathroom products in bulk will show over time, and I’m personally glad I switched to buying my products in this way.

*UPDATE- 06.16.2017- I no longer use Olive Oil Dispensers – Square Tall Glass Oil Bottle and Stainless Steel Pourer Spout to contain my bulk liquid soap, but instead I now use Ball Quart Jar, Wide Mouth, 32 oz. These jars are easier to clean and they’re much more sturdy in terms of glass design.

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