Creating a Smoothie Station

Smoothies have become so popular in the last couple of years.  It makes sense because we are all becoming more conscious of the ingredients that we consume and we want to avoid sugar-laden carbonated drinks.  We are also very busy and smoothies are portable, quick to make, and pack a lot of nutrition.

I think the healthiest smoothie that you can drink, is the one that you make yourself.  Why?  How many of you (like me) have gone into a smoothie chain, assuming you were getting a healthy drink, only to realize that they were using strawberries dunked in sugar syrup, or adding sugar and ice so that they could use less fruit.  Nope, I won’t pay 5.00 for that!  I prefer to spend the money buying quality ingredients and making my smoothies at home.

SMOOTHIE Organization

After buying all these awesome ingredients, I needed an equally awesome way to store them.

The cabinet where I kept all my smoothie supplies, was usually my “messy” cabinet.  It was not an absolute disaster, but it wasn’t practical either.  All the little packages of cocoa, flax-seed, chia seed, needed a new home.

Here is what the space used to look like.

Smoothie Organization

Packages everywhere.  Some of them were not even resealable.  I needed containers.

Smoothie Organization

I found these OXO containers at Target and I purchased them in two different sizes to accommodate the different products.  If you want to purchase them online, you can find them HERE, in my amazon store.

You may remember that they are the same containers that I used to create my Coffee Station.  You can read about that HERE.

Smoothie Organization

I also decided that I wanted to move the shelves around, to better fit the new containers.  I removed the cabinet door so that the shelves would slide out.

I also went ahead and gave the cabinet a good cleaning.

Smoothie Organization

I placed the shelves back after measuring the height that I needed.

Smoothie Station

I then emptied all the packages into the new containers and added labels.

Everything went back in the cabinet.

SMOOTHIE organization

Notice how narrow I made the shelf holding the mugs.   The coffee cabinet is right next to this one and I keep my mugs in here.  I like everything to match, except coffee mugs.  I like collecting different ones.

SMOOTHIE Station

In the very top, I placed the larger cans and containers.  Since I lowered that shelf, I can now reach up and grab whatever I need.  Before I did this, I could never reach the top shelf.

Smoothie Organization

I finished the project by hanging a clipboard to the cabinet.  I found this clipboard in the dollar section at Target.  I plan to keep smoothie recipes here.

SMOOTHIE Organization

Here is the finished product!

Smoothie Organization

It really is a pleasure to open up this cabinet now, considering how it looked before.

Please share with me if you make smoothies at home and what are your favorite types.  This week, I will share on Facebook a couple of my favorite smoothie recipes so stay tuned!

Shaking it up! (my corniness has no limits)

Maria

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Pantry Makeover

 
Earlier this week, I posted on my cabinet pantry.  You can read about it HERE.

This week, let’s concentrate on making over our pantries, regardless of whether they are in a closet or within cabinets.

If you do have a closet pantry, you can also read HERE about how I organized my friends pantry last year.  It is pictured below.

Kitchen Organization

1. The first step to organizing the pantry is to get everything out of the pantry.  Yes, everything.  This will allow you to think fresh about new ways of storing your items.

2.  Secondly, create 4 piles.  One pile for expired (trash) items, another pile for unopened items that can be donated (like the 4 cans of cranberry sauce that you buy as a backup just in case your recipe for the fresh one fails), a pile of daily used items, and lastly, a pile of rarely used items.

3.  Clean your shelves and allow them to dry before placing items back inside.

4.  Look for baskets or containers around the house that you can use to unite like-items.  Below, I have a picture of one of my bins that holds asian condiments.

5.  Finally, re-stock your pantry.

PANTRY Organization

A pretty label never hurts.  If you decide to containerize items by type, add a label.

PANTRY Organization

Turntables are great because everything is viewable with a simple turn.  There are different sizes, so be sure to take measurements before purchasing.

In the picture below, I have a large one towards the back and a smaller one right in front.  This way I still have space to place the boys’ cereal beside the turntable.

Pantry Organization

Stackable bins are great to put towards the back of deep cabinet with large items such as canning jars.  I purchased these at Target.

Canning can take up a lot of room and you don’t do it everyday so it doesn’t need to be center stage.

PANTRY CANNING

Once you place them in the back of the cabinet, you can label the front of the cabinet so that you don’t forget that you have 20 cute mason jars waiting for fresh salsa!

PANTRY Organization

You can now place items that are used more frequently towards the front.

OXO Containers are my favorite for dry storage.  The containers holding the green snacks are from a brand called Sistema.

 

Pantry Organization

As you are re-stocking your pantry, create zones whenever possible.  Maybe you can have a baking zone, a breakfast zone, and a snack zone.

I have my baking station right on top of my refrigerator.  You can read about it HERE.

Baking Organization

I hope these ideas are helpful and can help you custom-organize your pantry to fit your space and lifestyle.

And don’t worry about keeping extra cans of cranberry sauce.  Fresh cranberry sauce always turns out and sometimes people don’t even touch it!  😉

Happy organizing!

Maria

 

Organizing Grains

I shared this blog entry last year but decided to share it once more since it pertains to our kitchen series and it is a good tip for storing grains:

The rice that I purchase comes in these cute little plastic containers. I love the look. The problem is that I buy different kinds of rice, so I stack the containers and they end up falling out of the pantry. I keep the rice in the highest cabinet in my kitchen and I need the items up there to be sturdy so that I can grab them with no problem. I am 5’3″ on a really perfect and sunny day.

As a solution to my problem, I decided to move the rice into these “Lock-and-Lock” containers that I had purchased years ago and was no longer using. I purchased these on QVC but I couldn’t find the set to link here. Instead, I found similar containers (that even had a pour spout ) on Amazon and you can find them HERE.  Also, HERE is a link for the smaller ones.  I use smaller ones for the items that I don’t buy in bulk.

Of course, any set that is stackable will work.

Rice Storage

I can make white rice without a recipe but brown rice for example has a different recipe to follow. Have you noticed that based on the brand of brown rice they will give you different cooking times? I usually use the same brand and I printed these small labels (that I made on Microsoft Word) and typed the suggested recipe. I placed it on the outside of the container using double stick tape. If you have the patience you can laminate the label before sticking it on the container and that will make it water-resistant. I love and admire patient people. I really do.

Rice Organization

I did the same for quinoa. I could do a whole post on how much I love quinoa.

Rice Organization

I used the rest of the matching containers to put arborio rice, cracker meal and polenta. As you can see on the very side of the cabinet there is a label that says “oatmeal”. I did that to remind myself that there is a large container of oatmeal behind the rice. Only do this for items that don’t get used weekly. They can be stored in the very back of these deep cabinets and the label will remind you that it’s there. Otherwise, you will buy an item that you already have and you end up with enough granola to feed the church!

Rice Organization

That’s it! Another quick, easy project to make your life easier!

In a couple of days we will finish tacking the rest of the kitchen!

Happy Organizing!

Maria

Organizing Plates and Platters

Organizing Plates and Platters

I have shared with all of you how much I (we) enjoy cooking and entertaining family and friends.  I also love plating and food presentation, so over the years I have accumulated quite a few dishes.

It is always a challenge figuring out how to store so many dishes in a relatively small kitchen.  I don’t have many cabinets and I use most of them for pantry use (we do not have a stand alone pantry closet). I keep some dishes in the dining room hutch, but the majority reside in the kitchen cabinets.

Here is how I store and organize my dishes.

Organizing Plates

I have also collected quite a few glasses over the years.  I keep most of them in the dining room hutch.

Below are the ones we use daily.  The goblets are inexpensive and sturdy; they are Libbey brand and you can find them HERE.  I have also seen them at Marshalls and Homegoods.  The smaller tumblers are not as sturdy but they are inexpensive and I love the size.  They are from CB2 and you can find them HERE.

All the other white plates are from different stores that I have collected over years.

Organizing Plates

 

A pet peeve of mine is stacked plates. It’s not a big deal if they are plates that you seldom use, but your everyday plates should be easily accessible. You shouldn’t have to lift salad plates to get the dinner plates on a daily basis.

I have cabinet dividers and risers in almost every cabinet to maximize the space and to make my dishes easily accessible.

Organizing Plates

The metal divider/shelf below is from Target.  You can find some white ones “here”.  Walmart and Homegoods also have a good selection of cabinet organizers.

Organizing Plates

I do have some colorful dishes but 90% of them are white. I think that food looks better on white plates. I also love that I don’t have to worry about them matching. Plates that I bought last week match the ones that I purchased 15 years ago.

I love cool plates like these concave ones.  By sliding the shelf against the cabinet, I made space for these narrow plates.

Organizing Plates

Most of my drawers hold serving platters.  These are too big to fit in my cabinet.  They are perfect in the drawer.

Organizing Plates and Platters

In this drawer I keep the bowls that we use most often.

Organizing Plates and Platters

Organizing is an art!  This is a standard size drawer and I was able to fit quite a few serving dishes by playing around with placement.

I love opening a drawer where everything has it’s place and is not shifting all over the place.  Because all these plates fit in here so tight, there is no room to budge.  As Martha would say – “That’s a good thing.”

Organizing Plates and Platters

The bottom drawer is the deepest.  In here I keep all the clear baking dishes.

Organizing Plates and Platters

As you can see, I rarely buy dish “sets”. I prefer to buy them separately so that I get exactly what I want. I may love a plate but dislike the coffee cups that come with them in the set.

I want to leave you with some good tips for building your plate and platter collection:

  • Get rid of plates and cups that you no longer like or use.  We sometimes keep things in our cabinets that we don’t even like, instead of making space for something we truly enjoy.
  • If you only want or have one set of plates, make them accessible by placing them on a removable shelf riser.  This will double your space!
  • If you buy plates separately like me, it is best to buy 9 if you need 8. That way if one breaks, you still have a full set.  If two break…well…try not to break two!
  • Take your time buying dishes.  It is fun to collect things that you love over time, instead of buying things that are on sale to fill up a cabinet.

I hope you enjoyed these ideas because I really enjoyed sharing them with you!

Tell me –  do you collect plates too or is one set more than enough?

Always Organizing,

Maria

 

 

Gadget Drawer Organization

The gadget drawer can either be a pleasure to open or a pleasure to close.  Mine used to be the latter.

I was never really happy with my gadget drawer(s) before.  I would put the items into baskets within the drawer but the organization never lasted.  The items would shift around in the drawer and I was back to square one.

I found these organizers about a year ago and they are called DrawerDecor.  I only bought one at a time because they were not inexpensive and I wanted to make sure they were worth the investment.

They are so worth it, I loved them instantly!

It is basically a repositionable basemat which you can cut-to-size, so that it perfectly fits your drawer.   The mat includes dividers that are also repositionable; you can adjust both the mat and the dividers to fit your gadgets or utensils.  If you ever need to change the positioning, you simply lift the matt or the dividers and use them over and over.  Genius.

They have them in an assortment of colors and since I am such a crazy gal…I chose…drumroll…NATURAL.

I totally meant to choose red or something more fun but let’s face it, my idea of fun involves rocking chairs.    Natural was the color for me.

Organizing Gadgets

I had more gadgets than I had dividers, but the cool thing is that since the mats are non-skid, I was able to place large items (like my kitchen timer) and they didn’t shift.

After I fell in love with this organizer, I ordered another set for my other gadget drawer.  However, I used the repositionable dividers that came with it, for the drawer pictured above and simply used the mat to hold larger items.

I placed all my timers and miscellaneous bowls and brushes in this drawer and they don’t shift at all.  I have had these organizers in place for over a year and they work great for me.

Organizing Gadgets

Of course, there are other ways to organize your drawer that don’t involve buying these mats.  This is just what worked for me.  I wonder if any other silicone mat will have a similar effect.  You wouldn’t have the dividers but it may hold the larger items.  Also, acrylic dividers that come in different shapes are a good option.

So lets get to work.

1.  The first step in organizing your gadget drawer is to take out all the utensils and gadgets.  This is very important because once the items are out of the drawer, you will be pickier with what you allow back in.

2.  Get rid of doubles.  Unless we are talking about timers.  In that case you need 14.  I am kidding, but I do collect them and around the holidays I actually use quite a few of them, at once.

3.  Lastly, get rid of gadgets that you don’t ever use.  Sometimes we have the best of intentions when we buy something and it just ends up taking up space.  I usually give items away so that I don’t feel guilty about not keeping them.

You will be left with your favorite tools — the ones that make cooking more fun.  Your drawer will now be a pleasure to open!

You can find the organizers that I mentioned in my amazon store HERE
.  I only recommend products that I love and have made my life easier or prettier.  This one checks off both boxes.

How do you organize your gadgets?  A crock, in the drawers like me?

Organizing Pots and Pans

Pots and pans…how many do you have?  How many do you need?

Organizing all your pots and pans

Well, I need a lot of them.  I cook almost everyday and I enjoy it.  I enjoy it even more when I have the right tools.

In this cabinet (albeit small) I have:

– 8 Skillets

– 4 Small Pots

– 2 Stock Pots

– 2 Medium Pots

– 1 Steamer Pot

That’s a total of 17 pots and pans!  Not including, 3 enamel dutch ovens (probably my favorite), that I store inside my oven.  One of the enamel pots sits on the stove at all times, since I use it often.  I also have cast iron pans which are my husband’s favorite, since they can go directly on the grill.

I am not a fan of purchasing full sets of pots and pans sold in a box, although it is a good way to figure out what you use most.  The box is usually a better value, but I end up giving away the pots that I don’t use…this negates the whole “better” value concept.  I prefer selecting quality pieces that I will use often and will last for many years.

This also means that I haven’t been able to buy all these pieces at once.  I purchase maybe one piece a year or my husband will give me one for my birthday or mother’s day.  I am one of those women that is REALLY excited to receive a stockpot as a gift.  Truly, it’s what I like.  Why should I ask for pearls when I really want something for the kitchen?

Not all of my cookware is expensive or that high of a quality.  I have yet to splurge on really good non-stick, so I have pans that do the job but won’t last for many years.  A good non-stick 12-14 inch pan is on my list though (honey, I know you don’t read all my posts, but I really hope you are reading this one!).  I get points for subtlety.

Back to how I organize the pans.  I get points for segues too.

I found a metal rack that could be used to store files or bakeware, and I placed it on its side.  It fit perfectly snug inside my cabinet, so each skillet rests safely in separate slots.

Organizing all your pots and pans

Next to the skillets, I have smaller sauce pots since the skillets take up a lot of room.  Behind the sauce pots, I have a large stockpot and a steamer pot.

Items that are rarely used are always towards the back.  The most used items get the best real estate.

Organizing all your pots and pans

In the top shelf, I place medium-sized pots.  I stack the ones that are alike.  Towards the back, I keep larger, less used deep skillets and pots.

Organizing all your pots and pans

This is the largest cabinet in my kitchen and that’s why I chose it for this purpose.  In some of the smaller corner cabinets, I keep specialty pots like pressure cookers, rice cookers and slow cookers.  I label the shelf to remind me of the item behind the front pot, since it’s not visible.

Organizing all your pots and pans

The labeled shelf…

Organizing all your pots and pans

I do suggest that before organizing all your pots, you take them out of your cabinets and make sure they deserve the space that they are taking up.  Obviously, I am not a minimalist when it comes to the kitchen, but I don’t keep things that I don’t use.

At this point, if I did get another non-stick skillet, I would have to get rid of a skillet.  Otherwise, this cabinet would turn into stainless steel mess.  It already does when I don’t put things back where they go.  And by “I”, I totally mean my husband.  Sorry Babe.

Do you enjoy cooking too?  Do you also get excited when kitchen catalogs arrive in the email?  Tell me that I’m not alone!

The Graceful Refrigerator

Let us begin our 2014 organizing series with the kitchen.  More specifically, the refrigerator.

Refrigerator Organization

I don’t know about you, but after the holidays my refrigerator is a mess.  During the holidays, I purchase food items that are either for Thanksgiving, Christmas breakfast and other holiday get togethers.  All these items, in addition to our regular shopping list, culminate in a messy refrigerator.

January is the perfect time to completely empty the refrigerator and start fresh!

The first thing you want to do is remove all sauces and dressings and place them on the counter.  This is a good opportunity to look at all the dates and toss out all the expired items.  Also, you may have opened a container of ricotta or sour cream, but you only needed half a cup…throw out what has since spoiled.

Refrigerator Organization

Once you have the bottles that you are keeping, wipe them clean and set aside.

Next, let’s remove the refrigerator shelves and bins (if they are removable) and soak them in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 quart of warm water.  You can use the same solution to wipe down the rest of the refrigerator.  Clean, dry and put all the bins back in place.

I use refrigerator coasters from “Fridge Coaster” and I had not changed them out in almost a year.  I used this opportunity to pick out a new set.  I love the pop of color that they add to the fridge!

Refrigerator Organization

This is also a good time to reposition your shelves to better suit your needs.  I adjust them fairly often to fit the products I buy.

Start placing all the items back in the refrigerator.  Designate a spot for everything.

Refrigerator Organization

And the side bins…

Refrigerator Organization

I keep clear OXO containers (without the lids) inside the pull out bins so that all the garlic and onion skins that collect at the bottom, can be easily cleaned up.  Also, any vegetable that has gone bad doesn’t seep all over my clean bin.

Refrigerator Organization

Lastly, the deli drawer.  My kids favorite and the only one that my toddler can reach.

I have clear bins in here as well to keep like-items in place.  Also, I have a bin for oily items like pesto and other spreads, that would otherwise leave oily circles inside the refrigerator.  I keep a larger clear bin in the top shelf for defrosting items.

You can find some bins in my amazon shop under “Refrigerator Bin” and Fridge Bin.  You can also find them at Bed Bath and Beyond.  Sometimes, even Homegoods will have a few.  Just make sure that you purchase bins that are refrigerator safe so that they don’t crack.

Refrigerator Organization

Having a clean and organized refrigerator has more advantages than just being visually appealing.  If you always put your butter in the same spot, then you know when you are out.  Even grocery shopping gets easier.

Stay tuned next week as we move on to the rest of the kitchen, and eventually the whole house!

Happy Organizing!

Maria 

Organizing under the Kitchen Sink

Everything but the kitchen sink.  That’s my motto for organizing under the kitchen sink.  As you already know, I do not keep any cleaning products under the sinks to avoid my curious toddler from spraying his face with a cleaner.  Although I am purchasing green cleaners, they aren’t exactly supposed to be gargled so I still try to keep them away from his reach.

So this is what my cabinet looks like.  In order to photograph the items that were tucked away, I took them out of the cabinet to give you a closer look.

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I am using every inch of space.  In the very back I have a ceramic crock that holds all my sieves and giant spatulas.  They used to be in my drawers taking up premium space but they were seldom used and so cumbersome!

I use all those sieves for different purposes, some for straining stock and others for sifting flour.  The point is, I need them all.  I just don’t need them often.  The crock was a good solution.

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All my cutting boards are placed inside a tiered file holder that is meant for office use.  I love how I can see them all and they are easy to pull out since they are separated by the built-in dividers.

You probably already have one of these that you are not using lying around the house.

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I tuck the boards into the very edge of the cabinet.

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On one side of the cabinet I have a pull-out plastic drawer that is full of kitchen towels, aprons, garbage bags and small zipper bags.

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On the other side of the cabinet (right under the garbage disposal) is a wire divider that I use to place all my glass food containers.  I switched to glass years ago to avoid having to worry about all the chemicals that were possibly inside some of the plastic ones.  I still don’t mind plastic for food items that don’t get heated up.

In the very back are really large bowls which I rarely use and in the front are all the frequently used containers.  The dishwasher is right next to this cabinet so they are easy to put away.

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On one door I have extra grocery bags.  I have 4 reusable grocery bags in the car.  I sometimes remember that I have them when I am in the store with a full cart on my way to checkout.  I’m pretty good about it but I still need to work on that habit.

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On the other door I have an organizer that holds foil, parchment, plastic wrap and large zipper bags.

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That’s it!  I couldn’t fit anything else under there!  I hope I gave you some ideas.

I look forward to you sharing with me what items are under your kitchen sink…

Until next time,

Happy Organizing! 

Pantry Organization – Rice Storage

The rice that I purchase comes in these cute little plastic containers.  I love the look.  The problem is that I buy different kinds of rice so I stack the containers and they end up falling out of the pantry.  I keep the rice in the highest cabinet in my kitchen and I need the items up there to be sturdy so that I can grab them with no problem.  I am 5’3″ on a really perfect and sunny day.  As a solution to my problem, I decided to move the rice into these “Lock-and-Lock” containers that I had purchased years ago and was no longer using.

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I can make white rice without a recipe but brown rice for example has a different recipe to follow.  Have you noticed that based on the brand of brown rice they will give you different cooking times?  I usually use the same brand and I printed these small labels (that I made on Microsoft Word) and typed the suggested recipe.  I placed it on the outside of the container using double stick tape.  If you have the patience you can laminate the label before sticking it on the container and that will make it water-resistant.  I love and admire patient people.  I really do.

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I did the same for quinoa.  I could do a whole post on how much I love quinoa.

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I used the rest of the matching containers to put arborio rice, cracker meal and polenta.  As you can see on the very side of the cabinet there is a label that says “oatmeal”.  I did that to remind myself that there is a large container of oatmeal behind the rice.  Only do this for items that don’t get used weekly.  They can be stored in the very back of these deep cabinets and the label will remind you that it’s there.  Otherwise, you will buy an item that you already have and you end up with enough granola to feed the church!

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That’s it!  Another quick, easy project to make your life easier!  You like?

Happy Organizing!

Maria