Cleaning Out My Pantry

Simple Mom’s Project Simplify challenge this week came at just the right time for us. The challenge was to clean out and organize the pantry and refrigerator, but Tsh didn’t stop there. She encouraged us to think about what we were putting into our bodies, and take this as an opportunity to evaluate our eating choices.

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been reading “Made to Crave” by Lysa Terkeurst. I knew it was different from any other diet or exercise book when I read the chapter on finding your “want to” motivation for you to eat healthier and exercise. That’s what I’ve always struggled with, “being healthy” was never enough to motivate me for long.

 Lysa’s motivation to get back in shape was overcoming her craving for food, and learning to depend on God instead. I’m just a few chapters in, but I’m realizing that a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about self-discipline and good physical health, but about spiritual health: overcoming temptation, relying on God for strength and comfort, growing closer to God, and being fully satisfied in God alone.

I will write a review that does it justice after I’m finished reading it!

So right about this same time, Brian starts talking to me about making some lifestyle changes. He’s decided to get in shape, he tells me. It’s not the first time. But this time he said he wanted to eat healthier, including less processed foods and more natural and whole food. So instead of just nodding “Whatever you say, Dear,” and watching him work out for a couple days before giving up, this time I said, “Hey, I’ll join you!”

This was one of my new years resolutions, based on Proverbs 31:

1. Healthier Living
~Eat/fix healthier meals, using more whole, fresh, and nutritious foods. Verse 14, she seeks food from afar, gives me the idea that this isn’t just any old food, it’s the best for her family that she can find.
~Exercise three times a week. Verse 17, her arms are strong and she works vigorously.

I haven’t done so hot. I stuck with the exercise for awhile, but the pilates DVD was too hard. I could only do half of it, because my body just couldn’t bend in those ways. It was discouraging and overwhelming, so I decided to walk. But walking around without anyone to talk to or a mp3 player to listen to got boring, so I stopped doing anything besides walking to the mail box.

I never really made the change to fixing healthier meals. I found good recipes, but never seemed to remember to pick up the ingredients when grocery shopping. It was easier to grab the cheap boxed processed stuff, especially since that’s what I had coupons for.

As a result, this is what our pantry looked like.

This is the food side. How much of this stuff is processed, non-natural, non whole foods, with minimal nutritional value? 
If you guessed all of it, you’re close: notice the water jug on the bottom shelf, next to the Propel. And I’m not really sure whether or not Propel Zero is actually good for you or not, but as Brian said, “It’s better than pop!”
Here’s the other side. We have a lot of dishes and appliances that we aren’t using yet, but will need should we have our own house or a family.
I tend to keep glass containers, they make cheap vases and pretty displays. We keep our extra toiletries in here too.
Here’s the lower shelves. Mostly stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else.Our church collects food and toiletry items and gives them to a family in need each month, so after every shopping trip, I set a few things aside in that box. But I always seem to forget to take them to the church! You can see the remnants of cleaning out my closet down there too, along with some old sheets don’t fit our bed. 
It took me a couple days, but here’s my…
Here’s my top shelf. These are all empty boxes, which we are keeping because we will likely move sometime.
This is my new and improved snack shelf! I rearranged it so all the kinda healthy snacks are further into the corner, so they’re not the first thing you see. Instead, you see several kinds of nuts, dried fruit, yogurt covered raisins, and peanut butter, which can go on the crackers or on the fruit. 
I moved all the canned stuff lower, and added oatmeal with the cereals. I also took some baking stuff from the cupboard and moved it down there, because the cupboard needed to be organized too. 

I just need some clear empty jars for the fruit and nuts now. Notice that I labeled everything, and also notice that the labels aren’t sticking. Bummer. 

Instead of all those boxed hamburger helpers, cake mixes, and other processed stuff, now there’s this:

Fruits and veggies! These are right next to the healthy snacks. We used to keep fresh fruit on the counter next to the stove, but our refrigerator is way too full to accommodate these and I read online that the best way to store fruit is in a cool dark place away from sunlight and heat. So I think this will work out much better. 
Also, every day it’s a habit to wander over to the pantry when bored, or just getting home from work. It’s easy to mindlessly grab some chips, or when cooking dinner, reach for the pre-packaged stuff. Now, it will be just as easy to grab fresh fruit or vegetables. I also put iced tea with the Propel, and moved the Mt. Dew to the far side, so that the beverages are together and in order by healthiness.
The processed food isn’t completely gone, however. I kept some, but notice the label: 
Emergency Only
Because sometimes, I’m not going to have time to fix dinner. My plan is that these will no longer be a staple of our diet. After all, I can fix the exact same dish without much trouble, and I’ll know what I’m putting in it. 
Now on to the other side: 
 Most of this stuff just had to be rearranged and categorized.  I went through the donation box and put together bags with a good balance of food, paper products, and toiletries. I didn’t want to show up at church with a gigantic box. Now for the next four Sundays, I need to bring one bag with me! 

I moved all the camping and picnic stuff together.
I moved my cookbooks to the awkward corner. I was keeping them in a cupboard, but they didn’t fit very well. I like them here much better, and they’re about the only thing that fits well. 
After- Spice Cupboard
And then I moved on to my baking and spice cupboard. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a before picture. It’s really too bad, because you can’t get an idea of how cluttered and sticky it was. 
I really needed something to put my spices in so that they were easier to see. I didn’t have any little baskets or trays, but I happened to glance up and see these silverware holders that we weren’t using. They were perfect! 

This might be my favorite part of the whole project. Now I can find what I’m looking for with no problem!
The white baggy in the Italian holder is full of garlic cloves. I kept them wrapped up so the smell doesn’t get overpowering. 
Again, I don’t have a before picture. I can just tell you, it wasn’t this full before! I added two containers of strawberries, broccoli, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, grapes, and bagels. Bagels are kinda healthy, right? 
I followed Tsh’s advice and put an open container of baking soda inside to neutralize odors. 
I don’t know why Blogger insists on posting this picture sideways, but here’s our salad drawer. It is packed to the max! The before picture would have shown just a bag of potatoes, but now there’s chilies, celery, carrots, cauliflower, red and green onions. 
So, our first week of a healthier lifestyle is coming to an end. We: 
  • Ate more protein than before
  • Ate less carbs, such as bread and pasta
  • Ate more whole fruits and vegetables
  • Exercised more. We went for a run/walk. I didn’t last more than a block running, and my legs are still aching several days later! 
  • Ate frozen pizza once. And a cupcake.
But it’s progress!

Follow along and be inspired by the other pantry makeovers at SimpleMom!

Is it important to you to eat fresh and whole foods, or organic foods, or range-free? Do you have food standards? Why or why not?

  • I can't say that we are totally organic, I am not able to with my grocery budget. However, I try to make things from scratch, it's cheaper, and healthier. Then I freeze the leftovers, and I have my very own convenience food.

  • This is awesome, Emily! I think it's great how you organized things to help you pick healthier options! I enjoy organizing things, so this type of project is always fun for me! Also, I think it's great that you are getting more exercise as well! I just wrote a post about leg exercises, so you might want to check them out. Keep up the great work!!!

  • it is always nice to have a clean and organized fridge/pantry 🙂 I'm jealous of all the lovely space you have to store food. We have 2 cupboards 🙁
    I would suggest not keeping your garlic in a closed plastic bag though unless you go through your garlic very quickly. With out air circulation it will spoil quicker, and trust me, spoiled garlic is naaaaasty 🙂

  • Congratulations on your afters!

    I've read both Tsh's and Lysa's books and they are fantastic!

    Thanks so much for your comment today at the (in)courage Inspired Deals page! It was fun to have you join the conversation!

  • I like your new cookbook storage place…great use of space!! 😀

    I can't wait until we get our greenhouse up and running. Produce is by FAR the biggest expense in our home–even though we only get the sale items each week, we always get as much as we can. Once our greenhouse is up and running and next year when our goats start producing milk, we will have a never-ending supply of fruit, berries, veggies, eggs, milk, and maybe fish (if I can talk Paul into it!)–our biggest expenditures.

    As for running…I want to do it, but I can't–first because someone has to stay home with the kids and Paul won't let me jog alone, and second, bad knees. I'll just have to settle for chasing chickens around… 😀

  • Thanks Emily for visiting my blog. Other thing I forgot to mention is my husband grows vegetables and herbs. He starts them from seed inside. Right now, he has over 40 little seedling waiting to be planted. He is waiting for this cold snap we are having right now to pass. The Bayou Gardener is a wonderful resource for small gardeners.

  • I couldn't find the post about the Blog Hop from Friday, so I am leaving my note here….

    BLOG HOPping around – I am now a follower of your blog, wont you also follow me?? ~KM
    Krafty Max Originals

  • Wow! That must have been a lot of work! Our entire house is almost empty. We had a garage sale last Saturday and disposed a lot =p

  • I'm following you from B.M.B.F!
    Hope you visit me and return the

  • Good job, Emily! I definitely need to spend some time cleaning out my fridge and pantry!

    I have certain "food standards" as I can't eat most processed foods due to my allergies. I love to have lots of fresh produce around for meals and snacks. I'm currently trying to keep most sugary things away or else I have a tendency to eat large quantities of them and my body protests afterwards. I would love to have organic and free range everything, but unfortunately it's not in the budget. (Or not if I want to eat them in the quantity that we do of their normal versions!) I do my best to only get organic prewashed veggies (like spinach) and raw nuts as they are so much tastier!

  • eating healthier and exercise is on my list this year as well! I have a girlfriend I am partnering with on this endeavor but she lives far away so I can't actually do it with her (physically). However, we're both doing couch to 5k (it's satisfying to cross each day off, and it's three times a week, AND you move on when you feel ready.)

    As far as eating healthy good for you with lots of fruits and veggies! It's the way to go! I just ordered Made to Crave and am very much looking forward to reading it. 🙂

  • I am impressed with your storage space. Way to clean up. You just may have motivated me to do the same…maybe 🙂