Planning ahead for spring, 5 tips for a better foodie future

by April Lisante
Posted 2/26/21

Have you ever seen the calendar in the beginning of “Living” magazine that shows Martha Stewart’s personal “to-do” list for each month? I often look at it in awe – and have a good laugh.

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Planning ahead for spring, 5 tips for a better foodie future

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Have you ever seen the calendar in the beginning of “Living” magazine that shows Martha Stewart’s personal “to-do” list for each month? I often look at it in awe – and have a good laugh.

Take this month, for instance. While most of us are lucky if we remember to buy milk or use the green beans before they emulsify in the veggie drawer, she is already sharpening her gardening tools, organizing seed packets, making homemade dog food and picking full-grown veggies from her greenhouse to juice this month in preparation for spring.

What did I do so far this frigid February? I called out for Mexican and pizza, threw away two cauliflower heads I forgot were in the back of the fridge, knocked a couple of icicles off the garden shed with a snow shovel and finally covered the grill after three snowstorms.

How about we all take a deep breath and think spring. Yes, already. Though it’s still a few weeks away, foodies must prepare. There are ways we can and should start to get ready for spring right now, and our kitchens are prime places to begin. Here are a few ways you can shed some old eating habits, spruce up your space and welcome the weather.

Become a meal prep pro. “The kiss of death is going to the food store, coming home and jamming everything into the fridge where you forget about it,” said Patty Morris, RDN, a registered dietician from Flourtown. “You have to put aside time to come home, spend an hour making a soup or making a salad or cutting up vegetables and putting them in clear glass bowls with lids if you can so you can see them.” Morris likes precutting items, or making sure meats are defrosted and meals planned the night before, to take the pressure off home cooks, especially those who are working from home and might get caught up on Zoom calls during the day. You can also use glass jars and shelf liners, as well as eliminate giant plastic jugs of tea and juice with a glass beverage dispenser. Prices range from $8 to $40 at kitchenkapers.com.

Learn how to “fridge forage.” Learn to look in your fridge and use up items before they go bad. “Fridge foraging” is a whole cooking craze now, making meals based upon creativity and less waste. I used to be good at doing this when I was first married, until I got lazy and started jamming all my food into the fridge after going to the grocery store (see above tip) and losing sight of what I had. Fridge foraging involves looking at what veggies, proteins and starches you have and combining them into meals that use everything up – and create unique recipes you wouldn’t have considered. Gathering up leftover items is also a great way to use your Crock Pot, another cook’s friend these days while we work at home.

Order some real live chicks. If you like to bake and you’d love to have fresh eggs straight from the backyard by August, now is the time to order your chicks. Invest in a little coop for the yard and voila. As of press time, Primex Garden Center in Glenside was still taking orders for the Easter Egg breed of hens for $5.99 each (minimum three) which will be ready for pick-up on April 12. That means they’ll be laying eggs by summer – and you’ll become the neighborhood quiche factory.

Get your veggie seeds started indoors. It doesn’t take much to get all your seedlings started but you have to start now indoors with a lighted fluorescent table. Most tables are available for anywhere between $50 and $80 at Home Depot. All you really need once you have a table are your seeds and your seedling pots. Stanley’s of Oreland True Value Hardware already has veggie seeds by the packet, as well as a variety of pots. Nearly all veggies can be started indoors and then transplanted outside once the weather breaks, It is recommended that melons, squashes and cucumbers not be started indoors because they do not transplant easily.

Consider an outdoor kitchen. One of the biggest design predictions for this spring is the “staycation” where your yard becomes your relaxing getaway in lieu of vacation. An outdoor kitchen can include just a grill, or it can be over the top with a Viking, fridge and sink, but to have one in time for spring, planning should start now. At Gerhard’s Appliances in Glenside, designers already have an “absolute ton” of customer interest in the subject, as well as a ton of projects already underway. Owner Gerry Gerhard suggests that now is the time to get going - and get a good contractor lined up. “What is happening is everyone is staying home,” Gerhard said. He suggests designing your kitchen while keeping a few things in mind. Do you have electricity outside? Will you need natural gas? Do you need accessories like side burners? Do you need a fridge or is there one in your garage nearby? And when planning food for a crowd perhaps the most important question: “Do you have a pool? You’re going to have a lot more people over because the pools are going to be closed,” Gerhard said.

Organize your kitchen cabinets. So what if you don’t have a walk-in pantry. That’s still no excuse not to organize your food, throw away what’s outdated (like the Christmas cookies still sitting in the dollar store tins), and spiff up your spice drawer for spring (think BBQ rubs).  “It’s a good idea to go through and get rid of everything that’s expired or that no one is eating, like the opened bag of chips where there’s one chip left,” said professional organizer Jennifer Martin, of Spruce Organizing Co., which has clients in Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy and Center City. “If you want to up your game, get clear long plastic containers and label them by category.” Some categories include separating out grains, baking items, snacks, canned goods and breakfast items into their own containers or shelves. Need a label? Use chalkboard stickers. Need more room? You may even consider turning an armoire into a pastel, spring-inspired French country pantry for the kitchen. 

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