Dietitian Brooke Delfino shares 10 clever ways to optimise your kitchen and pantry to make it easier to cook and make healthy choices.
A big part of being healthy is being organised, since it’s much easier to eat well when there are only good choices in front of you. Your kitchen and pantry staples should encourage a healthy diet, especially when you’re too busy to shop for fresh food. Decluttering the fridge, freezer and pantry might take a few hours, but the long-term health benefits are well worth it.
1. Take stock
Have a good look in all your cupboards, fridge and freezer. You may find food packets well past their best-before dates or items that need to be stored properly in containers. Find a way to incorporate forgotten ingredients into future meals.
2. Get equipped
Having a food processor or a good set of knives can make a huge difference to your enjoyment of cooking. Slow cookers and air fryers mean you can make healthy, tasty meals with less effort.
3. Overhaul the freezer
Freezing is a great way to prolong the life of food, but the quality and taste does decline after a certain time. Label and date everything you freeze so you know what needs using up and when. Don’t overstock the freezer either, as this can reduce its effectiveness.
4. Declutter drawers
There’s no end to kitchen gadgets and utensils, so be ruthless! If you haven’t used something for years (if at all), then do so – or ditch it! The essentials should include:
- Small, medium and large saucepans
- Non-stick frying pan and/or wok
- Steamer or steam basket
- Casserole dish with lid
- Ovenproof lasagne dish
- Colander or large, heatproof sieve
- Set of scales
- Measuring jug
- Set of measuring spoons
- Wooden spoon
- Potato masher
- Veggie peeler.
5. Smart storage
Use airtight, transparent containers to store food, so you can see what you’ve got. Square or rectangular containers stack well and take up less space. Cut out the cooking directions and best-before dates from food packaging and include them in the container, facing outward so you can easily see them.
6. Out of sight
Store foods you want to be ‘out of mind’ in hard-to-reach places. Tempting treat foods or snacks you bought for entertaining are safest at the back of the pantry where you won’t see them daily.
7. Meal plan
Deciding what to eat for dinner throughout the week can take just 10 minutes. Factor in ingredients that need using up and include at least one meal where leftovers can form the basis of another meal.
8. Visibly healthy
Try to keep healthy foods in clear view, for example, a well-stocked fruit bowl on the bench or glass jars filled with mixed nuts and dried fruits. Cut up raw vegies and store them in clear containers at eye-level in the fridge as this will encourage healthy snacking.
9. Clean and clear
A tidy benchtop creates a more inspiring cooking environment. Move decorative items to other rooms and train the family not to dump keys, wallets and bags on the kitchen bench.
10. Shop once a week
A shopping trip is time and money, so try to buy your groceries in one hit. This leaves you with more time to cook. Write up a shopping list beforehand, taking stock of what you need, to prevent impulse buys.