To really eat clean, it can help to
tidy up your meal-prep environment
DON’T THINK OF SPRING CLEANING as a chore—consider it a chance to freshen up some of your eating habits along with your home. A clean, organised kitchen can help you get out of an eating rut so you can create healthier, more nutritious foods to fuel your workouts and recovery. Here’s how to shake off winter doldrums and transform one of the busiest rooms in the house.
Get new paper towels, dish soap, and baking soda (which makes an excellent, inexpensive natural cleanser). Throw out old sponges, and disinfect new ones frequently by microwaving them for one minute or running them through the dishwasher to eliminate germs and reduce odor. Store in a dry place.
When in doubt, throw it out. Examine your cabinets and empty your refrigerator. Toss foods, including questionable items stored in the door, and the ice-covered freezer foods that are well past their “Use By” dates. Food kept too long or at improper temperatures can harbor bacteria that are capable of making you sick. If you aren’t sure how long you’ve had it, it’s time to get rid of it.
Don’t cut your losses. You actually don’t need to replace plastic or wooden cutting boards that have excessive grooves and scratches. They just need a good cleaning. Make a paste from one tablespoon each of baking soda, salt, and water, and scrub both sides of your cutting boards to clean and disinfect them.
Check your cookware. Deeply pitted and scratched pans, including stainless steel and Teflon-coated ones, can allow metals and chemicals to migrate into foods during cooking. Exchange plastic utensils, such as spatulas, for silicone versions, which won’t scratch cookware and can be used to handle cold and hot foods.
Review your rack. The shelf life of herbs and spices stored away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight is about four years for whole spices, two to three years for ground spices, and one to three years for leafy herbs, such as parsley. Taste and smell your herbs and spices. If they don’t seem fresh, buy new ones—they’ll make a big difference in terms of taste and flavor with almost no added calories.
Make a clean sweep. After you empty the cabinets, vacuum up stray bits of food. Give cabinet shelves a good going over with slightly soapy water, rinse well, and dry completely. Empty the refrigerator to better identify spills and to get rid of lingering odors. Steer clear of chemically scented cleaners because foods can absorb their smell. Use a combination of one-quart water and two tablespoons baking soda to scrub refrigerator shelves and walls.
Rearrange and restock. Check the use-by dates on canned and boxed foods, bringing older foods to the front so that you use them first and avoid waste. Once you’ve purged expired and tasteless foods, you’ll have more room in the kitchen. Restock with simple, nutritious ingredients for easier meal and snack preparation.
Turn over a new leaf. Spring is a good time to establish new habits that minimize food waste and make cleaning easier. Throw out perishable foods that you don’t eat weekly. Label leftovers, as well as new dried herbs and spices, with dates of purchase. Invest in reliable thermometers for your refrigerator and freezer. Make sure your refrigerator is at 40˚F or less and your freezer is at 0˚F or colder.