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Today’s challenge: five steps to an efficient and organized kitchen. Does your kitchen have you making figure eights as you prep your meals? Is your storage container drawer out of control? An organized kitchen will make cooking a more joyful experience. Read on to reap the benefits of my recent kitchen renovation, where I overanalyzed so you don’t have to!
Step #1: Rethink Your Layout
The first step in making sure you’re cooking and prepping efficiently is to put things where and when you need them. During my renovation I came across this little gem: ice, water, stone, fire. Ice=refrigerator/pantry; water=sink; stone=countertop; fire=range/oven. The rationale is that as you cook, you first retrieve your ingredients, wash them at the sink, prep them on the countertop, then place them in the oven or on your cooktop. This ensures a smooth flow so you are not zig-zagging while you make your meal. If a complete renovation isn’t in your budget right now, you can still apply this rationale with where you place your items. For example, make sure your most used pantry items are near your countertop and that your pots and pans are stored near the range. The less you have to reach, the more of an organized kitchen you’ll have!
Step #2: Declutter!
Since I’ve always had teeny tiny kitchens, I’ve never had the luxury to store clutter. However, I understand the urge to buy the tortilla warmer – I love tacos too! There is no way to organize clutter. Things you don’t need or only use once in a blue moon should be donated. This will make so much more room for your daily cooking essentials and you would be suprised at how much space is gained. If there is a specialty item I use from time to time, I store that outside of the kitchen. Kitchen storage is very precious. I warm my tortillas in the microwave in a regular old dinner plate just fine! Be conscious about keeping non-kitchen items out as well. Unless there is a designated space, mail does not belong there. I’ll say it again: you can’t organize clutter – it will take over your otherwise organized kitchen!
Step #3: Organize the Essentials
The two biggest problem areas in my kitchen are always the storage containers and the oversized utensils. Those areas get out of control and FAST and can obstruct your organized kitchen. In our renovation we incorporated drawers wherever possible (another tip if you’re doing a total renovation) which helped tremendously. Tall bins were designed to attach to the inside walls of our drawers, which hold utensils upright. This makes it easy to select what I need without having to rummage. This could be replicated in a regular drawer with any tall bin or basket. Just think vertical! Storage container lids are also organized in hanging bins. Here again, a simple bin or basket would do the trick.
Step #4: Clear Your Countertops
Not only will clearing your countertops reduce visual clutter, it will phsically free space so you can prep your meals more easily. When my countertops become too crowded, I find it very difficult to roll out dough or place down a hot cookie sheet. There are few different solutions to this issue. Try using the space between your wall cabinets and countertop. Here, you can get creative and hang bins, a floating shelf, or even a magnetic sheet. If you successfully declutter, you can probably find some unused space in a drawer or shelf to keep things like canisters and spices. One of my new kitchen favorites: ditching a countertop knife block for a drawer version. Lastly, ensure you are putting away those seldom used small appliances. If you never make toast, say goodbye to the toaster! Kitchen space is precious, countertop space is priceless!
Step #5: Food Freshness
Another great way to make sure you are not using up potential space is through food control. I like to go through my refrigerator every weekend or the night before the trash goes out. Once in a while, I check my condiment shelves to check expiration dates. I’m always amazed (and a little sad) on how long it’s been since we used the relish! The same should be done with the pantry. One area I often forget about is my spices. Generally, dried herbs are good (as in good tasting) for about a year after purchase whereas spices will last a few years. After that they are not as flavorful and should be replaced.
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Hopefully my learning experience benefits your efforts to be a more organized cook! Whether your kitchen is tiny or a chef’s dream, these steps will help get your meals on the table more quickly, giving you more time to savor each bite. If you try any of these suggestions, tag #feelgoodfoodie on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter!