Home is Where it Starts

By Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN

For many, the kitchen represents a gentle (or perhaps not so gentle) thorn in the side. From food shopping to putting groceries away to cooking and cleaning, the whole process around meal creation can often seem more daunting than welcoming.

But hear me out: Connecting to food can be a spiritual, sacred, and soulful experience. And it’s this connection, just like experiencing personal connection, that is a lifeforce. If this concept is foreign to you, allow this to be your starting point. If you are already on your way, perhaps there are some valuable insights below.

There are plenty of resources on how to create sacred spaces in your home. There are books on feng shui, articles on setting up a meditation area area, and websites devoted to hygging your entire home, a Danish term for making your dwelling warm and cozy. However, not much exists on how to make the heart of your home, the kitchen, a cherished space. From how your cabinets, drawers, pantry and fridge/freezer are organized to how you invite tasks and rituals into your space, your home kitchen can actually be an ecosystem to improve your health. Whether you are working from scratch or just need an enhancement, the concepts below can not only transform your space, but also your connection to nourishment.

Connecting to food can be a spiritual, sacred, and soulful experience.

Get Organized A well organized kitchen serves as the foundation for effective time management. If you know where your kitchen essentials are located then accessing what you need to prepare food is a cinch. As for your ingredients, get your pantry (if you have one), cabinets, fridge, and freezer in tip-top shape:

  1. Anything edible should have a home away from your stove and oven; heat rises.

  2. Designate shelves in your pantry or cabinets for specific categories of items. For example: Grains and pastas go together; legumes and other canned goods pair up; tomato and other sauces side by side; oils, vinegars, and other condiments combine; cereals and snack foods near each other; and baking, sweeteners, and sweets together.

  3. Designate shelves and drawers in your fridge and freezer for specific categories of items, as well. For example: You should have separate areas for produce, dairy and meats, beverages, condiments and other bottled or jarred items, nuts, seeds and flours, and leftovers.

For a deeper dive into kitchen organization, check out this step by step guide.

Rehab Food To begin cleaning up your eats, check out 5 Ways to Choose Food. In addition, consider tossing:

  1. Dried herbs and spices more than two to three years old (check dates, usually found on bottom of bottles)

  2. Oils that have been opened, unused, and smell like paint thinner (for freshness, place all vegetable oils, once opened, in the fridge; olive oil is the only exception)

  3. Anything that is opened that you haven’t touched in six months or more (some things like mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, and chili sauces can stay)

  4. Anything that you won’t eat or drink that is unopened (donate to your local food pantry)

  5. Ultra-processed foods that you are willing to forgo (remember, there are better-for-you-alternatives)

Share Responsibilities Involve your family members or roommates. . From meal planning to grocery shopping to putting food away to prepping, cooking, and clean-up, there is literally something to do for anyone who is 3 years and older. Yes, a toddler can help put groceries away and can help clear the table. You will just need to offer guidance and supervision, but teaching them early and making them a part of the cooking process is one of the keys to raising healthy eaters.

Keep it Simple You just need 15 minutes to plan your food for the week and help to keep it simple.

  1. Pick a day to shop.

  2. Pick a couple of days you can cook. You can also opt to pick one day a week to prepare some basics like soup, chili, meatballs, and chicken cutlets that can be pulled out and paired when needed.

  3. Leave the other days for quickie meals such as: pasta with sauce and a salad; grabbing a roasted chicken at your local mart and adding a vegetable and starch like rice, quinoa, or potato for a balanced plated; or order in. If you are so inclined, you can pick a day a week and prepare some basic dishes like soup, chili, meatballs, and chicken cutlets.

Celebrate Gratitude Celebrating gratitude daily is important and there really is no better place to do this than around the kitchen table or wherever you are sharing sustenance with those you appreciate. Kick off a Mindful Eating Mantra when you sit down for dinner. Take turns sharing the worst part of your day, the best part of your day, and something you are grateful for on that day. Add your favorite music and some burning cozy candles to create some mealtime zen.

Your home kitchen, from tools to food to that feeling in your soul when aromas abound, is where nourishment—by definition food necessary for life, growth, and good health—happens. So if you and your kitchen are like oil and water, perhaps reframing is necessary. After all, home is where it starts.

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