My Minimalism

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I often read or hear people asking quantitative questions with regard to minimalism.  These generally revolve around how many of something you need.  Examples include, “How many pairs of shoes do you have?” or “How many sets of clothes do I need for a 2 year old?”

Additionally, there are numerous blogs and articles out there which exhort you to get rid of appliances or say that one set of crockery per person is all you need.

Conversely, I maintain that minimalism should not be prescriptive and that each person has different circumstances and will make their own choices.

The thing that defines minimalism to me is that whatever you own is mindfully curated and limits are set.

In particular, I have been reminded recently of variations in kitchen requirements.  We grow some of our own food and naturally we end up with a glut of certain produce from time to time.  I do my best not to waste it.  Processing a large quantity of produce is generally when appliances come into their own.

I can happily squeeze 2 or 3 oranges using this vintage glass juicer.

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But when it comes to juicing the 160 grapefruit that we have picked in the last 2 weeks I have neither the time or energy to do them by hand.  My trusty food processor with the citrus juicer attachment comes into its own.

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This was one batch of about 60 grapefruit that I juiced last weekend.  In the space of 30 minutes I had several bottles of juice for GMan plus containers of juice to freeze for future use.

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Citrus are not the only produce that I deal with in bulk amounts.

Some time ago I bought a 20kg bag of onions.  Once again, I routinely dice one or two onions using a sharp knife but the food processor with the cutting blade is invaluable for processing larger quantities of onions.

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I chopped 3kg of onions and then used another appliance – my dehydrator – to dry them.

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24 hours later  – back to the food processor, but this time with the spice grinder attachment.

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The end result was dried onion flakes and onion powder which cost me $3 and a little time as compared to nearly $13 to buy the same quantity from the supermarket.  As an added bonus there is no packaging either.

I have used the deydrator to make garlic powder, tomato powder and vegetable stock powder using the same general method.

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Then there is the Kitchen Aid mixer which I regularly use to make spreadable butter, pizza bases, combine various flours for my gluten-free flour mix, the occasional cake and GMan uses it when making sourdough bread.  It also has a pasta attachment which I use occasionally.

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The high-speed blender is also used regularly to make smoothies, mango sorbet and peanut paste to name but a few.

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So, my minimalist kitchen is probably a joke in some people’s eyes but it works for me.

However, I do not have single-purpose appliances such as a waffle maker, ice-cream maker, hot dog maker and so on.

You see, minimalism really is what is right for the individual and their circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

Glass is Good

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I have tried, as much as possible, to reduce our use of single-use plastic.  I know that there is always more that I can do so it is a work in progress, or as some would like to say, a journey.

As with any journey, it is also easier if you are connected with like-minded travellers so I am a member of a couple of different Facebook groups whose members have similar goals.  Some people are keen to remove all plastic, however, I am not about to throw away all of the plastic containers I have (to landfill) so that I can replace them with glass.  On the other hand, I am happy to look for glass when I need some more.

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After much research, I recently purchased 2 dozen Ball preserving jars.  You can read all about them in this post.  I have used some when I made jam recently but am also looking at other ways of using them.

I am aware that some people regularly freeze food in glass but that is not something that I have really done much so I decided that some research was in order as I know several people have had problems with glass jars breaking in the freezer.  This is not a saving of resources or money so I want to avoid that happening.  It turns out that for a glass jar to be suitable for freezer use it must have straight sides – that is no shoulder where it slopes in to the neck of the jar.  The preserving jars which I chose meet this criteria and are also deemed as suitable for freezer use on the panel on the box.

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Naturally, you also need to use commonsense and not put hot jars into the freezer and leave suitable headspace for the food to expand when frozen.  I also choose to chill them first in the refrigerator before transferring to the freezer as well as keeping the lids loose until they were completely frozen.  This strategy seems to have been successful.

Here are some jars of frozen mango puree and refried beans which I was about to transfer to the small freezer downstairs.  I tend to keep this freezer for storage and items which I use on a day-to-day basis in the freezer section of the refrigerator in the kitchen.

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The other purpose for which glass can be used is when taking your own containers to be filled at the shop.  This afternoon I took one of the smaller jars to the deli counter at the supermarket and bought olives.  There was no problem with the staff weighing the container prior to filling to to assess the tare weight and the price sticker was attached to the bottom of the jar.

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Plastic containers certainly have their place and I will continue to use them rather than discard simply for the sake of discarding them, however, it is an interesting exercise to test the boundaries as to how and where glass jars can be used.

 

And the Cleaning

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When I cook I invariably make a mess.  In fact, we have a standing joke that I cook and GMan cleans up.  I must admit he is very good at doing the dishes and I think he spent the majority this weekend washing dishes.

I finished off yesterday’s efforts this morning by portioning up the refried beans for the freezer as well as cutting and pureeing lots of mangoes to go in the freezer.  Mango preparation is a messy, sticky business.

In between all of this GMan is experimenting with making sourdough bread and he cooked the first two loaves this evening.  I think that is a work in progress which will not be discussed any further until we have some more successful attempts.

After we had dinner it was time to tackle the last of the dishes and eliminate any mango residue from the benches and splashbacks.

The kitchen is now sparkling and my final step was to mop the floor.  Everything is ready to go for a new week.

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Lots of clean and clear surfaces.

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I remember reading about minimalism that clear surfaces simply afford possibilities.  I love the truth of this statement.  From an uncluttered sofa which invites you to sit and relax to a clear kitchen which is just brimming with the opportunity to prepare meals this logic can be applied to virtually every surface in your home.  It can be a powerful tool in creating a mindset that embraces a simple, uncluttered home and life.

 

Onion Tears

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Do the tears flow when you start cutting up onions?  Here is a way to minimise the suffering in the long-term.2015-07-27 01I bought this 10kg bag of onions last weekend for $7.99.  I shared a couple of kilos with a friend and had used a few myself but today it was time to prepare them.  I peel and quarter the onions before chopping them in lots using the food processor.

First I filled the four trays of the dehydrator.

2012-02-02 01When the onion is thoroughly dried I will grind it to make flakes/powder.  It takes up very little space and stores well.

I bagged the remainder of the chopped onions in as many ziplock bags as I could muster.  I do not buy ziplock bags.  I collect mine through “dumpster diving”.  There are people in my office who bring 2 Weetbix to work for their breakfast in a brand new ziplock bag, tip them into a bowl and toss the bag in the bin.  If I open the bin and the discarded bag is on the top I simply bring it home and wash it for reuse.

Anyway, I digress – the chopped onion is in ziplock bags.  I pack 150g which is equivalent to a medium onion in the small bags and 300g in the larger bags.  I ended up with 10 small packs and 7 large packs of diced onion.  Because I packed the diced onion fairly flat, it is easy to break off a section if you only want a small amount of onion.

2015-07-27 03I sliced the remaining onions by hand and they are packed in the red lidded container.

This means that that I will not need to chop or slice an onion for several months.

Cooking Up a Storm

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I didn’t sew today (or this week) but today I cooked.  More specifically I cooked this afternoon and evening as I went shopping this morning.

Last night I cooked pumpkin with vegetable stock in the slowcooker.  This afternoon I cooked potatoes, fried some onion and added the pumpkin mixture.  This made 7 large serves of soup.  I had one for dinner and here are the others ready to go in the freezer.

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With the remainder of the pumpkin I sliced it up, brushed with a mixture of oil and balsamic vinegar and roasted it.  I will use the roasted pumpkin slices on pizzas for dinner on Tuesday night.  Two trays ready to go in the oven.

2015-05-17 02Once the pumpkin mixture was finished in the slow cooker I cooked the chickpeas which had been soaking over night to make hummus.

2015-05-17 03The next thing into the slow cooker was honey soy chicken.  8 chicken thigh fillets, 3 tablespoons honey and 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce.  Once the chicken was cooked I removed the pieces with a slotted spoon and poured the juice into a small saucepan and thickened it with arrowroot.  4 serves ready to freeze.

2015-05-17 03After the chicken was done I washed the slow cooker then added kidney beans to make refried beans which you can find in this blog post.

I make my own gluten-free pizza bases and normally make enough for 6 bases and freeze them.  There were none in the freezer so it was time to make another batch.  Here is the dough divided into pieces.  The first 2 bases were already in the oven by the time I took the photo.

2015-05-17 04Here are 6 pre-cooked bases ready to be bagged and frozen.  I use opened out cereal packets to separate things that I am freezing.  The dividers can be washed and re-used many times.

2015-05-17 05I picked lemons and made lemon cordial.  You can read more about it here.

2015-05-17 06I also  made more butter mixture and 8 serves of chilli con carne (no photo) as well as dividing up the meat which I bought and packing it into the freezer.

Cooking and preparing meals is a never-ending task but it is good to have a few meals and ingredients prepared to make the job a bit easier each evening.

Kitchen Appliances – Part 2

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Thank you all for your thoughtful responses yesterday.  I have read them quickly and will go back and respond once I have written this post.  As for the list from last night, here is my response.

1  Blender – I have one as part of a combination with my food processor.

2  Electric Grill – we had one which we did use but when it died I did not consider replacing it.  A bit of a fad, I guess.

3  Baby Food Maker – it is a long time since I was making food for babies but I have no idea what this would be.

4  Microwave oven – yes, I have a microwave but I use it less and less.  If it died, I would not automatically rush out and buy another one.

5  Panini Press – I expect this is like my sandwich press which I use quite a bit.

2015-03-11 01This is my food processor and all of the associated gadgets in the cupboard.  The blender is with some of the other bits in the box at the back.  Like most things, I do not use it to its full potential although the blender, citrus juicer, grater and slicer attachments are well-used.

I also have a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer and the pasta attachment for it.

Kitchen Aid mixerHere are the rest of my appliances in the convenient appliance cupboard.

2015-03-11 02Top shelf:

Kettle – used on the gas stove if we lose power.  Also on the slow-combustion heater during winter.
Slow-cooker – very well-used for soup, baked potatoes, casseroles, refried beans.

Middle shelf:

Sandwich press – toasted sandwiches and I also use it for cooking pancakes
Bread slicing guide – very useful for home-made bread
Toaster

Bottom shelf:

Juicer – rarely used – very difficult to clean
Breadmaker
Jug

I also have a stick blender in another cupboard.

I have never been seduced by the single-purpose appliances such as a pie-maker, ice-cream maker, popcorn maker or hot dog thingummy but I still have plenty of gadgets.  If I were to get rid of any it would be the juicer, I think.  It is interesting to consider how our needs change, particularly as families grow and children leave home.  Our diet and the types of food we eat has changed over the years, also.  This is how clutter can become a problem – something that was essential 10 years ago is not longer required but we are loathe to move it along.

How do my appliances compare to what you have?  Everyone has different essentials and priorities.

More To Go

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A couple of days ago I read a comment online by someone unknown to me that they had decluttered so much that they had nothing left to declutter.  I have no idea what their circumstances are or what they consider essential but I know that I have not reached that point.  In fact, I am not sure that I ever will or even want to.  We do not have a huge amount of stuff but for me it is more about carefully streamlining what we own to a selection of good-quality items that match our lifestyle.  Our needs change and therefore, our possessions will change accordingly.

On the weekend I was cleaning in the kitchen and one thing led to another and I ended up re-looking at the cooking utensils that I use.  I have supposedly decluttered these on at least 2 previous occasions but it never hurts to look at them with fresh eyes and a more detached point of view.

This is what I am taking to the op shop today.

2015-02-04 01There are a couple of sharp knives that have seen better days and I simply do not use them.  A scraper for cleaning a George Foreman grill which we no longer own.  A cleaning brush for something – I don’t know what and as far as I can see it has never been used.  Spoon and spaghetti strainer which are not used.  Meat mallet – I haven’t beaten meat for over 20 years – our diet does not include recipes that require it.  Spaghetti measure – was part of a corporate Christmas hamper a few years ago and has never been used.  Small aluminium skewer – I have a set of stainless steel skewers and this is no longer required.  Chip cutter – this came from my mother’s place when she was decluttering some years ago and I have never used it.  A good idea but I cannot remember the last time I made chips at home and I am quite capable of cutting potatoes into chips if the fancy happens to take me.  Anyway, aren’t “hand-cut chips” the latest craze on menus??

So what stays?

2015-02-04 02Electric knife
Carving fork
Scone cutter
Rolling pin
Fine grater
Metal tongs
BBQ tool
Pineapple peeler/corer
Apple corer
Cheese slicer
Cherry/oliver pit remover
Garlic press
Ice-cream scoop
Citrus zester
Grapefruit knife
Skewers
Vegetable peeler (not shown)
Jar opener
Tea strainer
Tea infuser
Wine vacuum sealer
Cork remover
Bottle/can opener
Measuring spoons
Corn cob holders
Egg rings
Knife sharpener

The electric knife/carving fork and cherry pit remover are the only items that would be rarely used.  Everything else is used regularly, mostly on a weekly basis.  Some, like the grapefruit knife and corn cob holders are seasonal but still essential.

2015-02-04 03I also have 2 jars of cooking utensils that I use almost daily.  There location on the bench means that they are easy to grab as I am cooking and preparing food.

Wooden spoons x 4
Metal whisk
Potato masher
Metal spatula
Non-stick spatula
Non-stick spoon
Slotted spoon
Small sieve
Can opener
Pizza cutter
Rubber scrapers x 3
Brush
Citrus juicer
Pie slice

I also have a knife block with 6 assorted sharp knives.

To a hard-core minimalist this probably looks like a huge number of utensils, however, I prepare and cook most of our meals and use these items very frequently.  It is important to keep and use what works for you.

There are lots of areas of my life where I could reduce my possessions but I think I have completely decluttered the kitchen utensils to my satisfaction.

What utensils do you use every day?  Are they much different to what I have shown here?