Living Simply ~ The Efficient Kitchen

Whether you are a professional chef or someone who simply heats up a can of soup now and then, the kitchen is the heart of the house and should be treated as such. The kitchen can also be that dreaded place where dishes stack up in the sink and food begins to stink up the fridge. Having a clean and organized kitchen is a must. Regardless of the size or condition, you owe it to yourself and your kitchen to optimize the space and use what you have efficiently.

When you know where everything you need to whip up that batch of chocolate chip cookies is, and where everything belongs before, during, and after, the task can become a breeze. Perhaps you find yourself tossing out food because it was lost in the fridge for weeks, or buying things you already have, or storing random items in your kitchen drawers that don’t really belong. Well here are some tips to getting and staying organized in your kitchen.

Start by emptying all the cabinets and drawers and evaluating the contents. For dry goods, toss anything expired or that you know you won’t ever eat (for example, random canned goods, crackers you didn’t like, etc.). In the fridge do the same. Don’t forget to go through the condiments.

Sort all kitchen items into categories such as pots and pans, utensils, baking dishes, small appliances, etc. Now honestly evaluate these items and see what you truly NEED. Avoid keeping duplicates. Do you really need three garlic presses?

Scrub the cabinets and drawers thoroughly. Next decide where items should live that would be most practical. For instance, if storing baking dishes in an upper cabinet, be sure to put the less commonly used ones on the highest shelf and everyday ones on the lower. Make sure to keep like things together. This way everyone knows where to look for what they need and where to put things away when unloading the dishwasher.

Also keep like items together in the pantry or food cabinets. You may have categories like baking, breakfast, snacks, canned goods, and oils/bottled items. Use bins, baskets, and trays to corral loose items like bags of nuts or food that comes in small containers. Use labels if needed. Canning jars and canisters are a great way to keep foods that come in bags, such as rice and flour, tidy and easy to use. Keep your pantry stocked with items essential to the way you eat. If you eat a lot of rice or bake a lot, then have these ingredients on hand.

Also keep foods in categories in the fridge. All beverages together, cheeses, meats, leftovers can be on a shelf together so you know to use them, veggies and fruits in their bins. On the door keep dressing together and coordinate items like peanut butter and jelly. You can use trays in the fridge to keep items like tortilla wraps and bread contained and together on shelves.

Keep counters as clear as possible and avoid piling items on top of the refrigerator like bags of chips and boxes of cereal. If you need to store items on top of upper cabinets, keep it as tidy as possible and within reason. Collections of decorative bowls, baskets, pitchers, and vases are items that may look nice and not too cluttered or random.

Get in the habit of cleaning out the fridge every time you take the trash out. This will keep spoiled foods from piling up. Cleaning as you go is the easiest way to avoid a huge mess after making a meal. Always start with any empty dishwasher and/or sink. Load as you go. Put things away as you use them and wipe counters along the way.

Keep an ongoing list either on your phone or with a notepad in the kitchen so that you always know what you need when you’re heading to the grocery store.  These tips work in the smallest and the largest kitchens. If you have a large kitchen, keep in mind that just because there’s lots of space, that doesn’t mean you should pack every inch. Disorder is disorder at any size. And if you have a small kitchen, make sure that the items you store are truly worth taking up valuable and limited space.

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