Food & Fitness

Sneaky Cupboard Strategies for Weight Loss

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While it’s typical for us to place our veggies and fruits in compartments on the lower shelves of the fridge, I’m going to tell you right now that if you want to increase your intake of plants- whether you want to lose weight or not!– you’re going to have to rearrange that mentality of plants in containers.

Fridge Arrangements

Instead of hiding my leafy greens, celery, and carrots at the bottom of my fridge, I wash and cut them and put them into clear Tupperware containers or big bowls as soon as I get home from the grocery store. Then, they go front-and-centre on the top shelf in my fridge. Using clear containers is very important: when you can see the vegetables staring at you every time you open the fridge door, you’ll be much more likely to choose veggies over anything else. I also like to keep ground flax seed and wheat germ on my top shelf to remind me that they are good sources of protein and healthy fats so that I will add them to my morning green shake.

The second shelf is where I keep my eggs, carton of egg whites, and probiotics capsules, plus whatever leftovers I have in the fridge (lately, because of the cold weather, it’s been soup).

On the third bottom shelf, I have a clear drawer that contains some more vegetables (usually tomatoes, snap peas, and cucumbers), plus some virtually calorie-free yam noodles from an ethnic food store. On the shelf part, I also keep my condiments: all-natural nut butter, applesauce, homemade jam, homemade ketchup, whole grain mustard, Earth Balance, and hummus.

The two compartments directly beneath this shelf contain my apples and lemons in one and sweet potatoes in the other. There are fairly wide shelves in the door of the fridge, so I keep a couple packages of firm tofu and my bananas there. And there is usually a bottle of wine on the inside of my fridge door, too, plus maple syrup and Bragg’s soy sauce.

This arrangement leads me to be far more likely to munch on veggies, make green breakfast shakes, and choose vegetables over fruits when I get hungry. Fruit is of course very healthy, but because we tend to gravitate towards the sweetness of fruits over vegetables, I like to try to make extra sure that I eat plenty of vegetables… I love fruit a huge amount so it’s no problem to eat plenty of those every day! Having my condiments hidden on the bottom shelf also prevents me from reaching for them as much. I’m liable to slather nut butter or hummus on just about anything, so if it’s hidden, I’m not as tempted. I also adore Earth Balance on bread, as I’ve mentioned before, so having the Earth Balance tucked away also removes some level of temptation!

Freezer Arrangements

Even freezers, believe it or not, can be strategically organized. My little freezer above my fridge has two shelves. I keep a package of shrimp, a bag of frozen mixed veggies, and a bag of edamame on the top shelf. The bottom shelf has bread hidden at the back, with a bag of blueberries and a container of banana chunks in front of the bread. I also keep a bowl of homemade roasted pumpkin in there (which I don’t ever use; it’s been around for quite a while now!), and usually a container of homemade vegetable broth.

Keeping the bread hidden is important for me: moving stuff out of the way to reach for the bread makes it a much more deliberate choice to eat the bread, rather than reaching for some mindlessly. Seeing the veggies and edamame there are also good motivators to keep eating those foods regularly.

Cupboard Arrangements

Cupboards are much different depending on your kitchen, so you’ll have to adapt this general idea to however your kitchen is set up. In my kitchen, however, I do not have a pantry. Instead, I keep my food in the two cupboards above my counter/sink area. I’m not very tall, so if I want anything in the top shelf, I need to grab a stool and step up on it to reach up there. Because of that, I keep other “temptations” up there. For me, that means grains (popcorn kernels, Fruit Not Fat Galaxy Granola, puffed kamut and puffed wheat, and a huge variety of different kinds of flakes/oats), honey, agave nectar, raisins, and other dried fruits and nuts (if I have them in the house at all). The little bit of extra effort it takes to reach up there means that I have to also think twice about eating those foods, and can thus prevent myself from doing so.

I also keep baking supplies and extra ingredients (such as my lifetime supply of applesauce that I’ve received from companies for product reviews) up on the top shelves.

The second shelf is devoted to the “dinner-esque” grains (countless different kinds of pasta, rice, and quinoa), chocolate and vanilla protein powder, some of my favourite kinds of flour (spelt, whole wheat, whole wheat pastry, and kamut), and a container of sea salt in one cupboard, and glasses on the second shelf in the other cupboard.

The third shelf is where you’ll find the daily necessities: a huge variety of canned and dried beans, a big bag of nutritional yeast flakes, calcium/magnesium powder, a couple cans of salmon/tuna, a can of coconut milk, some cans of tomato paste and a can of diced tomatoes, as well as my collection of different kinds of tea. The beans, tea, and calcium/magnesium powder are really what I use every day; the other canned items just seemed to fit nicely in that area. The lower cupboard opposite to it contains plates and bowls, and a very skinny cupboard on the other side of my stove contains an impressive collection of oils and vinegars on the lower shelf (I say “impressive” because there are over a dozen bottles in there, yet I really only ever use my Misto spray canister which contains olive oil).

My spices are all in a huge unorganized drawer next to my fridge (one day I’ll get a nice organizing unit for them!). I keep some of my healthy “extras”, such as garlic cloves, onions, cornmeal, and extra flours (chickpea, buckwheat etc) in one of the lower cupboards. I don’t tend to reach for these foods very often (barring the garlic and onions), and it’s a cupboard that stays closed most of the time.

So, those are my tips: keep the beans and leafy greens within arms length, and whatever foods are your trigger foods (me: nut butter and popcorn), keep them out of reach! It can also be helpful to remove the trigger foods completely, but when they’re healthy like nut butter, I tend to like to still include them in my diet. I ran out of a jar last week, however, and have not bought a new jar since: I’m going to keep nut butter out of my condo for a while until I feel as though I’m on better terms with it.

How do you keep your cupboards arranged? Do they help or hinder your healthy weight goals?


  1. Dr. J

    Interesting! I gussi if smaller plates are helpful, these creative ideas will help also.

    You are the anti-supermarket strategy strategist! If you could get stores to follow your ideas people would make better food choices there!

  2. Cammy@TippyToeDiet

    I keep my cut fruits and veggies, yogurt, and boiled eggs at eye level too. The freezer is a nightmare mishmash I try not to think about. 🙂 I take an opposite approach to the pantry shelves. Quick grab snacky things are kept on the bottom shelf, in front of which I shove the clothes basket. 🙂

  3. Monica

    Great post! And not something that’s often discussed. But we’re ALL susceptible to caving to those special occasion foods if they’re stored in easy reach. I keep the booze way in the back of a very high shelf, along with the dark chocolate and licorice (out of sight, out of mind!). My fridge is in dire need of rearranging, though. Whenever I open it, I see the jar of pickles and I have to eat one. Luckily it’s not ice cream!

  4. Mary Anne in Kentucky

    I love vegetables as much as I love fruit, so I need not resort to such strategies. (It’s fresh asparagus season here: munchmunchmunchmunch.)

  5. Emergefit

    One rule that I try very hard to live by is this: I try to keep my refrigerator so that the door makes no noise when I open it. That is, all those high calorie sauces and dressings that sit in the fridge door, rattle every time the door is opened. A fridge door that doesn’t make noise when it is opened, is bound to be healthier.

    Oh, also: Replace the term “trigger foods” with “suicide foods” Honesty works. Great column Sagan!!!!

  6. Sagan Morrow

    Dr. J- That’s the next step!

    Roni- Thanks for your awesome tips!

    Cammy- Whatever works for you 😉

    Gina- AGREED.

    Monica- Can I come over and do a fridge rearrangement? 😀

    Mary Anne- It’s not so much that I don’t enjoy veggies, it’s more that in the cold weather, I’m not as inclined to reach for a cold carrot as I am a cold apple… make sense?

    Steve & Diane- Glad you enjoy 🙂

    Emergefit- Neat idea! And VERY interesting replacement of term.

    Miz- Absolutely! We have to set ourselves up for success EVERYWHERE.

  7. Sagan Morrow

    JavaChick- Hehe. I know, there’s a bunch of things that are supposed to be kept at room temperature and all (or should be refrigerated and generally aren’t, etc etc)… but even though I complain about the cold weather, I really do not like lukewarm fruits and veggies. I like ’em cold or cooked. Room temperature just doesn’t have the same pizazz 🙂

    Darius- I’m glad you find it useful!

  8. sophia

    Well, I seem to be doing the complete opposite…all my snacks and “junk” are just beside me, below the bed. I put them there so that they can be within reach when I’m too lazy to get away from the bed…Ah, your post put me to shame! >.<

  9. FatFighterTV

    When we lived in Washington, we had one of those refrigerators that has the freezer at the bottom and the fridge part on top – I absolutely loved it! It was super easy to see everything in there. I still am not used to a regular fridge and we’ve had one now for almost 3 years. I am a big believer in organizing the fridge, freezer, and pantry so that you can see the healthy stuff, and so that you don’t forget about the stuff that can go rotten. 🙂

  10. Sagan Morrow

    Sophia- Tsk tsk 😉

    FatFighterTV- Forgetting about things until past the expiry date is frustrating! That’s part of what I love about living on my own right now… my fridge and cupboards and decently stocked but they’re not overflowing with condiments and packages of yogurt etc that belong to someone else (cleaning out my fridge after my roommates had left the apartment was awful… they left a lot of junk in there! It’s nice to start fresh and know that what’s in my fridge is there because I’M the one who put it there).

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