We all want to make the most of our time. Cooking may be your passion or something that just has to be done. You’ll still be spending a good percentage of your free time in the kitchen. Browse our tips and hacks to help you keep your kitchen organized.
Both time and money are limited resources. Maybe you are working, with little available time for cooking, or have more free time to spend in the kitchen. Either way time saved is time that can be spent doing something else you like. If you always seem to be walking to and fro to get things you need, you’ll save time and frustration by re-organizing your kitchen. All those minutes saved will build into months – maybe years – over a lifetime.
The tips are split into two parts. The first 5 topics cover the basic organizational principles and acts as a strategic overview. This covers decluttering the kitchen, contemplating your preparation processes and kitchen zoning. In the remaining topics we look at more specific tips which we hope you will find useful. These tips compliment and help bring the basic principles to life.
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1. Declutter Kitchen Cupboards
If we going to tackle our kitchen organisation project most efficiently we are going to need to de-clutter the kitchen cupboards.
We will also need to de-clutter the kitchen worktops and whilst we’re at it give the whole kitchen a good spring clean.
The aim here is to lighten the load and cut down the amount of rarely used and defunct equipment that has no business cluttering up the cupboards. The well-known 80/20 rule tells us that 20% of the stuff in the kitchen cupboards is used 80% of the time. Which means the other 80% is only use 20% of the time and spends the other 80% of its time getting in the way and hampering finding the stuff we actually need.
Declutter coach Juliet Landau-Pope, talking about the things in our kitchens, advises, “If you only use them rarely, put them away inside cabinets or in a utility room. If you don’t use them at all, donate or recycle them,”
So the first thing on our plate is to take everything out of the cupboard and organise it into boxes sorted by “how often I use it”.
There are several methods that you can use but perhaps the simplest is to mark boxes A, B, C, D. Put the items you use every day in the box A, the items use frequently, but not every day, in box B, the items you use rarely but would be shedding tears to throw away in box C and everything else in box D.
Do yourself and society a favour by taking box D down to the charity store and lighten your load in the process of helping others!
You will now have all the essential things you need daily, all the things you sometimes need and all the things you think you need in neat little piles – well boxes to be specific.
2. Splitting Your Kitchen into Zones
To get down and dirty in the kitchen, we need to do a little military planning. If you are not quite ready for a campaign style effort, then simply take the ideas and implement little by little. You can reorganise one corner of your kitchen and a few weeks later reorganize your fridge and freezer and so on.
Zoning the kitchen has to do with planning for areas according to use and frequency.
Planning Kitchen Zones According to Use
When we’re cooking, we would typically two sets of similar tasks in the same place each time. So for instance, if we’ve bought a round of beef then we would typically trim and cut it for freezing in the same place each time.
Likewise, chopping up onions, slicing tomatoes and grating cheese are tasks that will probably be done in the same place most often. Efficient cooks and chefs will prepare ingredients in advance of starting to cook. This ensures everything is ready when it’s needed and also enables all the preparation to be done in one place. If you’re lucky you can entice someone else to help with that task to ease your burden.
In case you’re not already prepping things in advance and perhaps it’s time to consider the idea.
Planning Kitchen Zones According to Frequency
Secondly we need to plan according to how often we visit certain areas of the kitchen. For instance, you will be going to the everyday glass and crockery cupboards for every meal. You’ll also be grabbing your cutlery from its draw morning, noon and night.
You will also be using the sink or dishwasher to do the dishes every day so it needs to figure centrally.
It may be you’re not using the oven or range every day, on the other hand maybe you do. In any event you will be using cooking oil, stuff from the fridge and seasonings pretty much every time you use the cooker.
Depending whether you are into cake making, heavily seasoned dishes, quick fry ups, have rice with most meals or eat more meat and vegetable type meals, will govern how often you need to get to the pantry, rice box and spice store.
So you need to give little thought on our daily habits and how you go about preparing your meals as every person is different. With this information we can start the process of restacking our cupboards in the most time efficient and useful way.
TheEveryGirl suggests to organize into seven broad zones as follows:
- Zone 1: Every day use with easy access to (sink) and dishwasher
- Zone 2: Cooking zone close to oven
- Zone 3: Pantry for dry goods spices and gadgets
- Zone 4: Accessories and storage near the fridge
- Zone 5: Coffee and bar area
- Zone 6: Under the sink
- Zone 7: Special items (maybe for special occasions)
3. How to Organise Kitchen Cabinets
Before you start to organise your kitchen cabinets it might be a good idea to scan over the rest of the article for tips that you might like to use which may affect we put things. But onwards with the kitchen organising….
Having given some thought on the areas we need to visit frequently and the areas in which we’ll be doing certain tasks, we can now start to organise our kitchen cabinets. The aim is to try and put the things we going to use in the places where near to where we would use them first most often.
There are multiple ways of going about this, either by planning it all by pen and paper which will probably mean no dinner tonight, or simply starting to put things where you’re planning tells you they should go.
Whichever route you decide to go, it’s a good idea to think about where you are going to store some of the bigger items that you use quite frequently such as your multi-use cook-pot (by all accounts coming back into fashion), your saucepans, frying pans and of course your stockpot (because we all make fresh stock like they asking every recipe – don’t we?). There are some tips on where to store these things later in this article.
4. Keep Kitchen Utensils Close at Hand
If you do your meat and vegetable preparation at the kitchen table, then your chopping knives, chopping boards, weighing scales and so on should be near the kitchen table. If you also do chopping near the cooker because Mise En Place is foreign to you and anyway you can’t be bothered with prepping everything in advance, then your knives and chopping boards should be halfway between your kitchen table and your cooking area. You may not need to have your weighing scales in the same place as if you can’t be bothered to prep everything in advance then you probably can’t be bothered to weigh things out either. This is the principle of ‘winging it’ on the basis that who wants to eat the exact same recipe each time anyway!
This is on the assumption that some of the time you won’t be doing any preparation in advance and will therefore need to grab the knife for use near the cooker.
If you begin to procrastinate, don’t. Either stuff the thing somewhere in between the two places you think would be best or store half in each place. Since we are not yet robots, sometimes a little human touch is the way to go. Hopefully you get the general idea.
5. Prioritize Everyday & Frequent Use Kitchen Items in Sets Together
Starting with box A, begin to re-stack everything in the place where you first use it keeping like items together as far as possible. When you are finished with box A, continue with box B. Remember to put items such as drinking glasses and everyday crockery at eye level, and cutlery and kitchen hand tools at waist level as these items are very frequently needed and you don’t want to be bending down to get them.
At the end of this process you will probably have restocked 80% of your kitchen cabinets with 80% of what is in your boxes A and B and hopefully not too much of box C as it doesn’t deserve to be thought about yet!
Hopefully you have your herbs and spices all together, near the oven if you frequently cook spicy food, or a little further away if you don’t. You will have your saucepans frying pans near the oven and ready to hand just when you need them along with your bottles of oil and sauces that you use most often (not necessarily with the frying pans and saucepans). Unless you’re baking every day, your baking and cookie trays will be somewhere to one side (as you don’t need them so often), and so on.
Whilst you’re busy going between box and kitchen unit, also be mindful of putting together items that are used together as compliments to each other in cooking. So if you cook lots of spaghetti Bolognese, then your tomato paste should be near spices and your pasta close at hand too. You will quickly organise your kitchen so that everything you need to do a given task will be close at hand to where that task is done. You will also organise your kitchen so that the ingredients you need for the dishes you cook most often will all be together.
The only other thing you need to think about is where to place the waste bin, commonly stuck under the sink. Perhaps this is not the best place for it.
Given that we’re not talking about remodelling your kitchen, hopefully your sink/dishwasher, oven and fridge (if drawn in position on a piece of paper), would mark points of a triangle. Why is this you may ask – but probably won’t and we’ll answer anyway – because these are the most frequently visited spots in the kitchen and we want to minimise walking between them. ( This may seem counterintuitive considering the focus given to fitness these days, but then if you want exercise the kitchen probably is not the best place for it).
If you have a U-shaped kitchen then this is straightforward with one of these three every day visit points at the bottom of the U. On the other hand, should you have an L-shaped kitchen then your triangle might be a little wonky – but hey not to worry.
Well what about Box C. That is what the high-level units you can’t reach are for or even better the darker reaches of your pantry. Remember these are the things you fell in love with years ago and have long since outgrown. Or worse the things you spent a fortune on but proved rather unsuitable. There are other corollaries in life!
So hopefully, if you’ve followed along, your kitchen should be all the more organised and you will save a bunch of time because everything will be close to hand. These things are easy in a perfect world but more difficult in reality. Sometimes you won’t have enough space, sometimes there’s too much stuff to put everything where it should really go and so on. So here’s some more tips on solving a few of those problems which may or may not be useful depending on your kitchen size, layout and so on.
6. Vertical Storage Cabinets
Vertical storage cabinets come in several varieties. There are full height units, under worktop units, worktop to ceiling units and wall unit types.
Typically they are narrower than regular units, some not much wider than a small spice jar.
If you are doing a kitchen remodelling they are a fantastic and versatile way to optimise the space available.
Even if you are not doing a full remodelling, but need extra kitchen storage space it may still be possible to add to your existing kitchen cabinets.
Spaces next to fridges are often underutilised and are an excellent place to add a tall vertical storage cabinet.
These units are often the pull-out variety which provide access to both sides making it easy to see what is in the cabinet. It’s also easy to take out items without having to shuffle around cans and bottles etc., to find what you’re looking for.
If you are short of space vertical storage cabinets might be just the thing you need.
7. Kitchen Cabinets & Shelves on Wheels
If vertical storage cabinets are not an option then perhaps you have space in or near the kitchen for a mobile kitchen cabinet.
These can take the form of full-scale cupboards or simply open top shelves which you can store pretty much anything you want.
They also have the benefit of being able to be pushed out of the way when not in use to leave the kitchen accessible when you’re not cooking.
8. Countertop to Wall Unit Cabinets
Poorly designed kitchens often lack enough tall units giving long runs of countertop.
Custom made cabinets can be introduced to provide additional kitchen storage into the space between the countertop and wall units above.
These units can provide much-needed storage particularly for kitchen accessories that are heavy and quite frequently used but seem to have no home. These kitchen accessories can quickly clutter countertops so there is not enough space for preparation.
9. Small Spaces Between Kitchen Units
Kitchen units are usually modular in design which means that often there are small spaces into which regular units cannot fit.
Although best utilised in kitchen remodelling, sometimes there are narrow spaces which can be used for the storage of trays, saucepan and frying pan lids and kitchen towels.
If you are planning on adding units, then one of these might be just what you need.
10. Making Use of the Back of Kitchen Cabinet Doors
The backs are kitchen cabinet doors usually serve no useful purpose.
These make excellent spaces to stick a corkboard or even paint with blackboard paint another sort that can be written on with white board markers.
You can use these as a place for reminders, shopping lists and the like. If you have young children then a painted door on a unit under the counter top can provide a distraction for them while you’re busy cooking.
11. Optimize Use of the Undersink Cupboard
Under sink cupboards are often left with no shelf pretty much useless for anything other than storing your floor cleaner and spray bottles.
Because the sink plumbing sometimes needs attention, these cabinets have a tendency to be white elephants in the kitchen.
There is no need for this to be the case. Can fit hooks into the sides and doors of the cupboard and which you can hang cleaning cloth’s, brushes etc.
You can also use short compressible rods, similar to the shower curtain rails you often see in bathrooms (but these are much longer of course). You can use these to the handles of spray bottles to hang them out of the way and leave space below for other stuff.
12. Spaces above the wall units up to the ceiling
Quite often there is a space all around the kitchen between the top of the wall units and the ceiling.
These spaces accumulate dust and are a total waste of space. If finances permit you might consider providing open shelving to display attractive but less frequently used items.
Alternatively purpose made kitchen cabinets can be installed to provide additional kitchen storage space in these areas.
These can be used for storing all sorts of items that are not regularly used but that you have no intention of yet parting company with.
Check back for more tips will be added soon