If there is one thing I have learned over the past seven years of working towards sustainable wellness it's this: Acknowledge, Accept, and Love the choices you make for YOU.
When I started to transition my diet and lifestyle back in 2013 I was living the typical Standard America Diet and lifestyle. I lived on fast food, energy drinks, caffeine, alcohol, and was surrounded by chemicals in my home care and body care. I might as well have just poured some Round Up down my throat and called it a day.
I still have to remind myself where I started because this new sustainable plant-based way of living has become so very natural to me that sometimes I forget how toxic my life was. But, I will never forget how sick I was for so many years due to being exposed to so much fake food, fake body care, and really just fake everything.
When I transitioned from eating processed everything to a Vegan lifestyle, the one thing I truly enjoyed was organizing my new colorful foods. I just couldn't get enough of the bulk sections in the health stores and the meal prepping of my pretty fruits. While I had judgement coming in left and right for the new lifestyle choices I was making, I chose to focus my emotions on learning something new every day and experimenting with new recipes. I found that setting myself up for success meant that my pantry and refrigerator should also be set up for success.
*** Before going any further with this blog, I would like to mention that in 2013 I was making minimum wage ($7.40 an hour) and I still managed to consume organic, vegan, gluten free, soy free, and only Whole Foods. This process was a matter of learning for me and I was willing to do what it took. I do understand that taking care of children is a whole different ballgame than caring for yourself, but I do believe there is a way to manage budgeting and healthy food for all. It just takes giving yourself a whole lot of patience and grace. ***
Now, back to my set up :)
During the first year that I was transitioning from one thing to the next, I was also in the process of reversing 20 years worth of: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Migraines, Chronic gastrointestinal complications, chronic cystic acne, Endometriosis, and so much more.
So, staying organized and prepared was a no brainer for me. I was feeling so much better from these changes that I was looking forward to my shopping, prepping, and waking up early. Even the times where it took me 3 hours to grocery shop while crying alone in the aisle because I didn't know what to do. It took not giving up and knowing that I was healing my body that kept me going.
I would like to share some simple tips on keeping your fridge and pantry ALIVE during this time so that you too can set yourself up for success. And, REMEMBER, take your time with these tips and implement them in a way that works for you. :)
I often get asked how to keep produce fresh when purchasing so much. This is a valid question for someone learning how to not rely on preservative packaged /animal product foods.
Depending on our budget we will shop for a few days, a week, or two weeks at a time. Even seven years later we still manage on a budget, it has just become much much easier to understand what we need.
* Understand what setting your temperature should be on. This varies with brand, but I find that on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the coldest) our produce survives the best on a 6-7. Sometimes you just have to test it out a bit to find what temperature is cold enough but doesn't freeze your food at the same time.
* Try to plan your shopping on a day where you know you will have one hour once you get home to properly store your food. If this doesn't work with your schedule, do one or a few things at a time over the next 24 hours to ensure your food stores optimally.
1. Always store fruit on the top shelf. Wash each item and store in a glass container or bowl.
2. Since fruit is on the top shelf, use your bottom drawers for fresh veggies. We like to use one whole drawer for carrots and cucumbers. The other drawer is for whatever comes home with us: zucchini, radishes, eggplant, etc. When you come home from shopping, wash all produce before putting away (take out of plastic bags if you did not purchase bag free produce)
3. Store all greens, asparagus, broccoli, and herbs in glass jars with a little bit of water, on the bottom shelf. This will keep your veggies fresh longer. You can trim down stems if need be and it is good to switch out the water every few days if you don't consume the food.
4. I like to use the middle drawer in my fridge for items like ginger, turmeric, and ripe fruits like avocado and citrus.
Now, for storage outside of your fridge it is good to use baskets or bowls of any sort. Before I got this basket set pictured in the photo, I was using large bowls and setting them on my table or counter. I just found a way to make it work. At one point I even used a small three shelf shelving unit I purchased from Target and set my produce directly on it.
1. A good rule of thumb is if you purchase produce at the store and it is not stored in refrigeration, then don't store in your refrigerator at home.
2. When storing produce in baskets or bowls, try to store like items together. For example; citrus in one bowl, potatoes/squash in one basket, avocados and tomatoes store well together.
3. Storing produce in a brown bag can help ripen faster, but not always naturally.
4. Storing apples, avocados, and bananas together means they will all ripen faster.
5. When purchasing tropical fruits like papaya and pineapple, the more yellow the color, the more ripe. It is good to rotate fruit that sits on its side every other day so that one side doesn't get a moldy spot.
6. Fruits like avocado, papaya, mango can all be tested for ripeness in a similar way. If you can make a thumbprint in the skin, its ripe or on its way to being ripe. If the produce is very hard, it has a few days.
7. As your produce ripens you can rotate it into your refrigerator so that it doesn't go bad. I like to do this with my avocados and mango. I will buy a lot of each but in different stages of ripeness so that the produce will last me through my next shopping trip.
8. We like to buy a LOT of bananas at once in different shades of yellow. We never buy green bananas. These are picked way too early and typically won't ripen properly. We like to store bananas in the freezer for smoothies or ice cream making as they ripen. (peel , break in half, store in glass container)
I hope this was helpful for your next shopping trip and beyond!
Remember to take your time and enjoy the process.
In Peace, Love, and Health,