The Daily Beet

17 Jun Adventures with Ami: Plant-Strong Remodel

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I spent the weekend analyzing drawer space in refrigerators for all the produce we go through and rack space in ovens for the trays of tortillas chips I make sometimes or the 15 baked potatoes I might make for the week.  We just bought a new home in St. Louis that was in need of a kitchen and bath update.  So we are designing a kitchen based around the way we live.  This turned out to be an interesting adventure! we spent hours in the home improvement stores this weekend having interesting conversations with sales people, measuring things and picking out appliances, cabinets and the like.

We live a little differently than we did a few years ago.  Things have changed for us a bit in the kitchen for sure.  We are opting out of a microwave again.  We don’t have one in our house in Minnesota either.  There was one already installed in our RV so we use it from time to time.  But ultimately, we find that we eat better when we don’t have the option of a microwave.  It requires a little more planning, and a bit more prep time; however, better balanced meals tend to be the outcome when cooking the ‘old-fashioned’ way.  This completely baffled the salesperson who was trying to sell us a package deal that included a microwave.  “How do you survive without one?”

One of the questions I answer often is: “How do you fit it all in your fridge?”  Well, there are lots of options for storing produce in your fridge.  My favorite way is to do most of the prep work immediately upon returning home with the groceries.  Chopping up produce makes it a little easier to store in the fridge when you have it in florets, spears, chips, cubes or diced.  Glass containers with lids make great storage options for having an in-refrigerator salad bar.  Items like celery and broccoli, melon and peppers fit much better when prepped ahead instead of in their whole state.  I buy vegetables that I plan to cook in the frozen food aisle if I can.  I fill my freezer, especially when they are on sale.  I usually have one shelf that is frozen fruit and one that is frozen vegetables.

Choosing cabinetry for our kitchen proved interesting as well.  I find I cook more often then ever and I like to have my cooking tools handy rather than locked away in cabinets.  So we opted for less cabinets and more open shelves.  We also only use a few small appliances, like the food processor and toaster oven, so we don’t need a lot of space for specialty appliances.  Our kitchen tools have really been streamlined over the past couple of years.  A good set of sharp knives, a few cutting boards, a colander, can opener and great pans are the essentials we use all the time.  Other less useful items just gathered dust in our former kitchen.  So we designed with that in mind.  I wanted more work space in a more practical way than I had before.

Storing food in the pantry has also changed.  When discussing what I need in a pantry with our contractor, he seemed baffled by my need to store so little.  Keeping food to a plant-strong basics list – means a lot less specialty items taking up space and more uniform shelves for storage jars and canned goods.  I know the tallest thing I store in the pantry is brown rice spaghetti or the container where I keep my rolled oats.  Old habits do die hard though.  When looking at refrigerators, one had  a deep skinny shelf that my husband exclaimed would be great for frozen pizzas!  We haven’t had a frozen pizza in 2 years I said.  Oh yeah. 🙂

Designing a plant-strong kitchen is proving to be a lot of fun, I can’t wait to see it all put together!  How has plant-strong living changed the way your kitchen looks?  Have you found any neat ways to make your kitchen more friendly to plant-strong living? Found an innovative way to store your veggies or canned goods? Let me know!

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Ami Mackey for Engine 2
Ami Mackey

Ami Mackey is the Curator of Creative Content at Engine 2. She is also a food coach at Engine 2 and has been plant-strong since 2011. When she isn't attending to all things Engine 2, she is the Program Director at St Louis All City Boxing a nonprofit youth program. She has earned certificates from eCornell in Plant-Based Nutrition & Fitness Nutrition from NASM.

  • amy
    Posted at 13:47h, 17 June

    I still think there has to be a better way to store greens and veggies. I do prep a lot but find I still have trouble fitting things in the fridge. I want a fridge that is mostly drawers.

    • Paula Porter
      Posted at 14:20h, 17 June

      We bought two bins at the dollar store which basically take up the bottom shelf of the fridge. Great for storing veggies, and very handy to just pull out a bin when prepping a meal. It works well too so that you are always aware of what is in the fridge and can minimize waste. Things like kale or chard may be an extra trip to the shop as buying more than a bunch of each can really use up space in the fridge.

  • Mark
    Posted at 13:47h, 17 June

    Your microwave comment baffles me. I think there’s a story there that needs telling. We’re looking at remodeling our kitchen as well. A microwave is high on the list. Not only does it steam our kids’ veggies faster (like baby-cut carrots, for example), as well as easily steam broccoli and asparagus, but it’s great for our leftovers. If we didn’t cook more than we ate at dinner, then we’d be more likely to eat poorer when we’re running out the door for activities, whether they are for the kids or the adults.

    Back in the pre-Vegan days, I always wanted a huge Viking range. Now, I see no need for it. A smaller stove top seems to make sense. Maybe two, smaller ovens, but even that is most likely going to be over-the-top for special occasions only.

    I remain, however, very interested in your ideas, and look forward to reading more about your progress!


  • Stacy
    Posted at 14:23h, 17 June

    Sort of a timely post for me. I am headed to the store after work to stock up on clear containers for all my produce. My refrigerator is bursting (it’s CSA season) and food goes to waste because I can’t see it shoved in the back. Not good.

  • Kat
    Posted at 15:01h, 17 June

    The skinny drawer in the fridge is great for storing cucumbers, zucchini, hot peppers, ginger root, etc. We haven’t had a microwave in well over 5 years and never miss it. I think allowing space for storage jars in the pantry is one of the best things to plan around. As for the fridge, we find room to store all the veggies by trying not to have too many leftovers pile up and by keeping out most of the processed condiments and dressings and such. I find that most veggies will keep well even if they are not stored in a crisper drawer. With no meat or cheese to compete for space, we find the space for all the veggies. Don’t forget that not all fruit/veggies need to be refrigerated. Plan for counter space or pantry space to hold bowls of fruit, tomatoes, and bins for potatoes or onions.

  • Leah
    Posted at 07:43h, 19 June

    We’ve been living in Europe for the last year and a half with a tiny kitchenette and a dorm-sized fridge. Despite this, there is plenty of room for all of our food, which is mostly produce (and we cook EVERYTHING ourselves). We find that by shopping every 3 or 4 days and buying just what we need for those days, and using everything up before we shop again, that we not only don’t waste any food anymore, but everything is always fresh, and there is plenty of space even in a dorm-sized tiny 2 foot fridge.

    The other factor, is that in Europe you are much more likely to be walking to get your groceries (we are). When you’re buying groceries without a car and have to carry them a mile home, you are more likely to buy only exactly what you need and to stick to your list.

  • Roz
    Posted at 07:10h, 23 June

    Hi Ami,

    I would highly recommend, if you have the space, a walk-in pantry with electrical outlets. We buy in bulk (20kg) oat groats, whole wheat berries, rye berries, golden flax, steel-cut oats and other items. We use clean, metal containers to store the bulk grains. Plus the pantry can store the microwave…out of sight! I find buying in bulk (especially since we started a buying club or co-op) to be a way of making a community strong. Good luck with the reno!

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