Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

6 Tips for Creating an Edited Kitchen

When we think about clearing out excess stuff, we tend to think about durable goods like clothes, electronics, furniture and so on. A cassette tape player we haven’t used in 15 years is an easy target for excision and reducing clutter. But there is another, more edible source of residential overcrowding: food. We might be far less likely to get rid of those 15 year old canned peaches crowding our pantries than we are the cassette player. We say to ourselves, “I might eat that someday.” But do we?

Many modern fridges, cupboards and pantries buckle under the strain of excess food stocks–food that takes up valuable household space; food that uses resources and money to produce and purchase; food that often gets tossed after a long, uneventful stay in our kitchens. Consider these food facts:

  • It’s estimated that 40% of America’s food supply ends up in the trash.
  • 10% of greenhouse emissions from developed countries is generated by the production of food that is never eaten.
  • According to the USDA, “In 2008, the amount of uneaten food in homes and restaurants was valued at roughly $390 per U.S. consumer–more than an average month’s worth of food expenditures.”
  • According to ABC news, between the years 1974 and 2004 the average American home’s kitchen doubled in size from 150 to 300 sq ft.

Cutting down on food waste can make it easier to live in a smaller space, reduce clutter in any kitchen, save money and reduce our carbon footprints. It may even improve our health. If you’re interested in editing your food stock, here are a few tips.

  1. Buy only what you need. This is a pretty obvious one, but try to buy the food and the quantities you know you’ll consume from one shopping trip to another. It’s okay to have an empty fridge before you go shopping. If feasible in your area, make more frequent, smaller shopping trips.
  2. Avoid “precious” food. How many times have you bought special cheese, meat, heirloom tomatoes–whatever–and waited to use it for a special occasion, only for that food to end up rotting? Have a plan for your food–either eat it at an appointed time or immediately. Food spoils. Make every day a special occasion.
  3. As a rule, try to purchase most food from the perimeter of the grocery store. Grocers put all of their perishables–fruits, veggies, fresh meat, dairy–on the outside of the store. Aside from their greater nutritional value, perishables have a finite amount of time you need to consume them, creating an urgency for consumption. On the other hand, food from the store’s interior can sit on their (and our) shelves for millennia–food that is often bereft of nutritional value or filled with preservatives. Real food goes bad. Eat more real food.
  4. If you’re trying to get rid of food you already have, create recipes using existing food and schedule meals. If you need to buy extra ingredients, go ahead, as long as it doesn’t add another wave of new, unused food. Not sure what to make? Try the Su Chef app. If there is food you’re sure you’ll never eat, drop it off at a local shelter.
  5. Compost wherever possible. Many local green markets and community gardens have drop off compost bins. Put food scraps in your freezer between drop offs to avoid bugs. Consider your own composter such as the NatureMill automatic composter used in the LifeEdited apartment.
  6. Don’t be afraid to toss. If something is not fit for eating, giving away or even composting, don’t be afraid to toss it. This is especially true of junk food. Some food is healthier in the trash bin. Just resolve to not buy the same stuff again.

image credit My Cooking Magazine

  • Marrena

    I’m pretty gung-ho about this website, but you are going too far now. #1 should come with two layers of exception–there should be a store of non-perishable staples in the case of illness or inclement weather, and an additional store of canned goods in case of disaster.

    • David Friedlander

      thanks marrena for keeping me in check. i did say empty “fridge”. i agree, cupboards, pantries and to some extent freezer should have prudent reserve.

    • LH

      I’m with you on stocking up. What I took away from #1 was, only buying what I need… for me, I need a stock of 2 lbs. of oatmeal, 6 tins of black beans, at least 5 or 6 tins of tomatoes and mushroom soup, and a lrg bag of rice or pasta. I consider these “needs”. But when it comes to perishables (things like fresh veggies) I’m careful to meal plan so I don’t end up throwing away spoiled food every 2 weeks.

  • Christina

    i just went shopping whilst hungry – BIG mistake . ……
    and me too, I love this website – and am editing, editing editing……… it feels great!
    i have been travelling for 7 weeks with only on-board size luggage – this is a great insüiration to keep everything to a minimalistic edited life! Thank you, David

  • Cynthia Savitt

    I am thinking of buying one of those Nature Mill com posters but am wondering – what do you do with the compost if you don’t have a garden?

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  • Maggie

    With a small kitchen, we don’t have storage for much and anyway tend to buy fresh foods, which are bought once a week (according to a list) so we have a nearly bare fridge by the end of week. We don’t live in a world of food shortages so don’t see the point of purchasing food just for the sake of having it in house. We don’t even do the usual stocking up of food (rice, cooking oil) that some people do before a typhoon, which is the main ‘disaster’ here.

    But to have a country throwing away 40% of its food indicates that the food is too cheap – and not respected – and that the lords of overconsumption are winning (Reference: Stuffocation).

  • Tor

    We down-sized the fridge – we still have the same amount of usable food in it – But now nothing gets “lost” at the back. I would guess that the rear one quarter of the old fridge was filled with useless, unwanted or forgotten stuff that never got used. It also helps that the refrigerator portion is above the freezer, and therefore at eye-level.

    • Rod

      Agreed. Refrigerators that are standard height and width but counter depth are very helpful with this, and they take up less room in the kitchen than standard depth fridges.

  • Joseph

    I love the website too, lots of ideas and encouragement to continue living in a 325 s

  • jackerose

    There is plenty of information out there about using worm bins to compost, they even will eat some cardboard! A great way to deal with fruit and vegetable scraps and peels, and great fertilizer for plants. The one my friend had did not smell and was kept on a cart in the kitchen.

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  • Kit Sundling

    I find a great way for food scraps to get used is to have chickens! I know not everyone can do this, but if you can they are easy to raise, give you good eggs and eat up the scraps and the unwanted bugs in your garden! Buy fresh, local and organic for the health of your home and yourself!

  • adorita

    These are sensible tips, but I must point out some data errors.

    The trash estimate is rather unfair. Those studies are often done by weighing grocery bags and trash bags. So chicken bones, oystershells and apple cores are considered as part of the 40% food waste.

    Of course, we can always learn to be more efficient at home. The most important thing is self knowledge and be realistic.