One of the first things we do when we start a new diet is make a menu and grocery list and go shopping. However, we don't always prepare our kitchen for the new stock, and we leave behind a lot of trigger foods that may cause problems later. Have you ever searched your cabinet for wine vinegar, and found a box of Jello chocolate pudding mix? The next thing you know, you're licking the bowl and wondering what the heck just happened. This could have been avoided, with a little preparation first. We think it's important to start completely fresh, by cleaning out your pantry before you buy new food. This will help eliminate temptations and increase your chances of success. We frequently hear from readers or our forum members that they give in and eat something they shouldn't have had in their house in the first place. Or, their boyfriends or husbands will try to restock the shelves with unhealthy foods, and sabotage their diets. Does this sound familiar? Read on, and we'll share some of our best tips and suggestions for starting your diet with a clean slate.
We suggest you plan a day when you have several hours to devote to this project. You're going to do a thorough job, because you are worth the effort! Have a step ladder handy if you have high shelves. It might not hurt to bring along a bottle of cleaner and a sponge. What better time to clean the shelves or get rid of old jelly dribble in the fridge? Shucks, if you have the time to spare, grab a vacuum and clean the tops of the cabinets and the ceiling fan. Burn some calories! We also suggest having a box handy to fill with unopened, nonperishable foods that you can donate to a local food bank. Keep a trash can handy for everything else that you won't be needing.
Search and Destroy Take everything out of your pantry, and consider whether you really need each item. Read the labels and get rid of anything that contains unhealthy trans fats, or too much sodium or sugar. Is this something that will fit in your diet plan? If not, get rid of it. Don't kid yourself into thinking that you'll save that tub of frosting for Aunt Cleo's birthday cake next month. It's cheap, you can buy another when the time comes. You may find yourself doing a little soul searching during the process. After all, you bought this food for a reason, and sometimes it's due to emotional eating and not for Aunt Cleo's sake. If the thought of throwing away perfectly good food makes you cringe, remember this: a cringe is nothing compared to how you'll feel if you cave in and eat it later.
How long have you had it? As you clean out your pantry, be sure and check expiration dates and food condition. If you can't remember when you bought it, chances are you've had it too long. Even canned goods have a shelf life. Non-acid canned foods, such as potatoes, beans, and corn, can last up to 2 years. High acid foods, such as tomatoes, fruit juices, and foods in vinegar based sauces, can be stored 12 to 18 months. White rice can be stored indefinitely, but brown rice should not be kept longer than three months. You don't know how long it's been on the shelf before you bought it, so you may want to keep it in the refrigerator to help extend the shelf life. Keep this in mind when you shop for new foods, so you don't overstock. Label your foods with the date of purchase so you can track them later.
Do you have a lot of dried herbs and spices? Seasoning your foods with herbs and spices provide variety and interest in plain foods, without adding calories or fat. You may be surprised to know that you should replace them every six months. Most herbs and spices contain volatile oils that evaporate during storage, and reduce their flavor and strength. The herbs and spices in the supermarkets may have been there for much longer, or were likely stored in a warehouse before that. These products could easily be several years old. We suggest buying your herbs and spices from a bulk retailer, such as your local health food store. You can usually buy smaller amounts, such as a tablespoon at a time, and store them in your old spice tins. They are much cheaper per ounce when purchased this way. We find that our herbs and spices average 1/3 of the supermarket prices, and taste much better. If you don't have a local bulk herb retailer, you can order online. Our favorite online spicer is World Merchants Spice in Seattle. They offer quick service, low prices, but extremely high quality herbs and spices.
Restocking Now that your shelves, counters, and refrigerator are sparkling clean, it's time to restock. If you haven't already made your menu and shopping list, do so before you go out the door. By purchasing only what you need, you will eliminate the temptation of having too much food on hand. Speaking of temptations, don't let anyone talk you into buying junk 'for the kids'. They don't need it any more than you do. If hubby is reasonably healthy and insists he can eat a Snickers bar, let him have it, but put your foot down if he wants to buy a bag of candy and store it in the cabinet.
Go, Gadget, Go! If you've ever reached for the salad mix and found it had spoiled, so you considered the next best option - pizza delivery - then you might want to know about some of the newer products available to help you store healthy food longer and even save money in the long run.
- Are you worried that your fruits and vegetables will spoil before you eat them all? We recently tried a product called Evert Fresh Bags that promise to keep your produce fresh from 3 to 10 times longer, without any chemicals. We've used them to store lettuce, spinach, and bananas and found that they really did last much longer! Search Google for Evert Fresh Bags to find a dealer and the best prices.
- Stock up on semi-disposable containers such as Gladware so you can find leftovers in a hurry in your fridge, make homemade frozen dinners, or store whole grains in the cabinet.
- Consider buying a FoodSaver to vacuum seal fresh and frozen foods to make them last longer. It also helps save space in the freezer since you'll do away with bulky packaging.
Your body and your kitchen have a lot in common. They both need to be filled with healthy foods, to ensure that your diet is a success. Remember, you are in full control, and starting with a clean slate is the best thing you can do for yourself at any stage in your diet. Clean out your pantry, and restock with all of the fresh, healthy foods that you and your family deserve, and watch the pounds fall off!