Saturday, January 28, 2012

Organizational Tips

Life D.C. traffic is crazy. It will literally suck the life out of you, causing you, upon your arrival at your destination, to forget why you came here in the first place. Everyone here is always in a rush, including us. Things can get hectic, and with the start of the school semester here, time is a precious commodity that there simply isn't enough of. So, in an attempt to make life a bit easier, I like to SUPER organize our meals, pantry, fridge, freezer, closets...pretty much everything. Things can get messy, but at least they have a place to go when we clean up! Here are a few things that I do in order to stay organized:

1) Breakfast: I love make-ahead breakfasts that I can just grab and go. It's easy as mixing together some eggs, veggies and bacon, pouring it into a muffin tin, and baking on 350 F for about 20 minutes. I also just made up a batch of make-ahead smoothie packs (1/2 banana, 1 diced apple, 10 strawberries, and 1/4 cup of greens). Just toss those in the blender with some almond milk and almond butter and you're set.

2) Lunch: I'm not very picky about what I had for lunch, which is why I normally have leftovers. I try to make enough of whatever we're having the night before for us to both have the leftovers for lunch. Having ample Tupperware containers is essential.

3) Dinner: I've been pretty good this year about making a weekly menu. This way, there's little to no panic come 5 o'clock, resulting in delivery pizza and shame. This week's menu is:
  • Saturday: Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken with Cauliflower Rice (recipe below) and salad
  • Sunday: Shrimp Scampi with Cauliflower Rice
  • Monday: Beef and Broccoli
  • Tuesday: BBLT burgers (Bison, Bacon, Lettuce Tomato) with Sweet Potato fries
  • Wednesday: Dinner on your own (we both have class this night)
  • Thursday: Jicama Tacos (make enough meat for tomorrow's dinner)
  • Friday: Taco Salads
4) Leftovers: As I mentioned, we tend to eat leftovers for lunch. But what if you make too much sauce? I can't stand to dump an entire serving of sauce, so I put it in a quart-size freezer bag, lay it flat on the bottom of my freezer, and let it sit over night. The next day, once it's frozen solid, I slide it in with the other sauces that I've frozen (like library books). Just last night I grabbed one of these bags for Cauliflower Crust pizza (the crust was a disaster, the rest was delicious). I also tend to freeze large quantities of things for later (leftover potato gratin, rutabaga puree).

5) Shopping: It's just the two of us, but buying the smallest packages of meat kills me when I know I could be saving by buying in bulk. We eat a lot of ground beef and chicken, so I buy those in the large club packs (saving about $1.00 per pound). When I get home, I'll divide those up into meal-sized portions (2-3 chicken breasts, 1 lb. ground beef, or 2-3 Italian sausage links for pizza). Then I'll wrap them in plastic wrap, then heavy duty foil, and freeze. This way you only have to thaw what you need (food safety 101, people!).

There is this amazing brand of thick-cut bacon that is sold in bulk at Wegman's that we love. Whenever I buy this, I take each piece and roll it up, then store all pieces in a large freezer bag and freeze flat. This way, the bacon breaks apart easily from the whole, allowing us to just take as much as we need. 

6) Labeling: I label EVERYTHING that goes into our freezer with a Sharpie, either directly onto the foil or on the label section of the freezer bags. I made the mistake once of thinking that I would remember what a sauce was. A month later, I had no idea and thew it out. Labeling only takes 5 seconds, and it is your friend.

So, those are the things that I do on a regular basis. About every month I clean out the fridge, freezer and pantry, re-organizing things. I'm sure I'll figure out a system sooner or later, but for now (and for this space-no pantry, AH!), I think things are working pretty well!

Cauliflower Rice

1 head cauliflower

Grate the cauliflower on a box grater until it resembles rice. Melt butter in pan and saute "rice" for about 5 minutes, until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

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