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One of the secrets to truly efficient, pleasurable cooking is a well-organized kitchen. A kitchen that is set up for success will help you not only to get meals prepared faster and with less stress, but it will also make cleaning up afterwards easier—and who doesn’t want that?!
Kitchen Organization for Efficient Cooking
Here are some simple ways to make your kitchen work better for you:
- Start out tidy. Each and every time you set out to cook a meal, start by ensuring your prep area is tidy. That means cleaning up dirty dishes and wiping down the counters. While this may seem like a waste of time, it will actually make your cooking go much faster because you won’t have to work around mess.
- Keep lots of dishcloths on hand. These workhorses are great for cleaning up messes, using as pot holders, and stabilizing slippery cutting boards (dampen a dishcloth, fold it in half, and put it underneath your cutting board to stabilize your cutting surface).
- If you haven’t used it in a year, do you need it? Just like your clothes closet, try to go through your kitchen once a year or so and evaluate what you do and don’t need. If you’ve got appliances, cooking tools, pots and pans, or ingredients that are gathering dust, ask yourself if you really need to keep them.
- Evaluate the contents of your pantry. To create space, dispose of foods that no longer make it to your table, consolidate open snack and cereal boxes, and refrain from buying more items until you reduce your current inventory.
Think About Easy Access
- If you are the primary cook, products and equipment should be stored at your eye level and reach.
- Keep a foldable step stool nearby. It can make higher cabinets more accessible, opening up more storage space!
- Review the contents of your cupboards and move them around if necessary to maximize access to essential tools. Are large, rarely used items and appliances hogging counter space? Do baking items occupy prime cupboard space when you only use them a few times a month, if that?
- Think outside the box! There are often ways to make even better use of the space you have. For instance, most kitchen shelves are adjustable and products such as shelf risers (I like this version (affiliate) for cans and dinnerware and this version (affiliate) for spices) and turntables (affiliate) work wonders. In addition, hanging your pots and pans from the ceiling can save you a ton of kitchen space!
- If you have children, help them to become self-sufficient by making things accessible. Designate one or more accessible pantry, refrigerator, and storage drawer or shelf for them. They will appreciate the ability to make their own meals and snacks, and it will make it easier for kids to help with chores (e.g., unloading the dishwasher, setting the table) if they can reach the shelves. If you have younger ones, devote lower drawers or cupboards to kid-friendly pots or storage containers.
- Identify shelves and cupboards that are both at capacity (e.g., pantry) and underutilized (e.g., cupboard above refrigerator). Relocate items that are not used much (such as pitchers, serving plates, holiday items) to upper shelves or off-site pantry or basement storage. Purge items that are no longer used or have multiplied (sports cups and coffee mugs are common offenders in this category).
Most of us have a favorite area for prepping (chopping, mixing, etc.) the food we are about to cook. Here are some ways to make that area work for you.
- When possible, having your prep area and your cooking area side-by-side can be very helpful. This is because you will often be going back and forth between the two spots as you prepare a meal and many of the tools will overlap.
- A big cutting board or prep bowls help to streamline prep. Get the biggest cutting board your prep area will allow so that you can chop a number of different items on the board and save them in piles as you go. If space won’t allow for this, then use small prep bowls to store your prepped items before you cook them. Bonus tip: if more than one ingredient will go into a recipe at the same time, they can go into the same bowl or pile to save you time, space, and cleaning.
- When possible, store your kitchen tools as close to your prep area as possible. These include knives, mixing bowls, peelers, graters, zesters, spices, and possibly small appliances such as food processors.
- Keep your onion and garlic nearby. You will use these ingredients for almost every savory meal you cook and they should be stored at room temperature, so having them close at hand in your prep area can help to save you time and effort.
- Have a plan for your scraps. Collect things like cores, pits, and peels, in a garbage can at the end of the counter or, if that isn’t doable, in a bowl on the counter. This will allow for easier cleanup. Similarly, if you like to make your own vegetable or meat stock, keep a stock bag on the counter into which you can add vegetable peels. When you’ve finished your prep, seal up the bag and store it in the freezer until it is full, then you can make stock.
This area is where a lot of magic happens, so you want it to be as easy to use as possible.
- If space allows, keep cooking utensils in crocks near the stove. This will help when you quickly need to stir or flip food.
- Store your cooking oils in a cool, dark location as close to the stove as possible. This will allow for easy access.
- Keep salt, pepper, and other seasonings nearby. Seasoning as you cook will lead to more flavorful meals. A Lazy Susan can be great for space saving and easy access to many spices.
- Make favorite pots and pans accessible. Many of us have certain pots and pans that we use more than others. Make sure those are stored at the front of your cupboards (or are hung nearby) so that you have easy access. Bonus tip: some people even store their #1 favorite right on the stove top!
- Keep your food storage containers, bags, wraps, a permanent marker, and labels or masking tape in a common location. This will allow for quick labeling and storage of leftovers.
- Store grains, beans, and other shelf-stable bulk ingredients you frequently use in accessible, labeled, transparent jars. This will allow for quick access when cooking and easy inventory when making your shopping list.
- Prioritize your pantry so that the ingredients you use a lot are more easily accessible and visible.
- Organize your freezer by food type. Frozen vegetables in one area, baked goods in another, meat in another, prepped meals in another, etc. This will allow for easy access, quicker assessment of what you have, and fewer lost or forgotten items.
- Label food in the freezer with item and date (month and year is enough). This will help you more easily keep track of what you have and also what you need to use up.
Do you have additional tips for how to keep a kitchen organized? I’d love to hear them in the comments below! Do you have a well-organized kitchen, but struggle when deciding what to prepare for dinner for your family? The Scramble can help — our family-friendly weekly meal plans can eliminate all the guess-work and stress.