When you're trying to get dinner on the table fast, you might assume that you really need to hone your cooking skills. Although it doesn't hurt to be a good cook and know which flavors go well together, there's more to a well-functioning kitchen than technical cooking prowess. In fact, organization may just be one of the biggest determinants in ensuring you can get a meal on the table without much fuss. After all, how are you going to make food taste as good as possible when you can't even find your whisk, a spatula, or that container of white pepper?
That's why you should figure out the best way to organize your kitchen. By making sure you can always find and get to what you need in the kitchen, you can guarantee easier, more stress-free meal times. And since food is all about slowing time and spending time with family, friends, or even just ourselves, isn't that what it's all about?
We've compiled some of the best kitchen organization hacks you can use to keep your kitchen working smoothly, even on the busiest days of the week, from our own experience of trial and error. Try these ideas for yourself, and you may just find that throwing a meal together is easier than ever.
Don't Overstuff Your Pantry Or Cabinets
When it comes to cooking, sometimes you have to trust the pros, which is exactly why we feel good about taking advice from Geoffrey Zakarian. One of his main kitchen organization tips? Don't overstuff your pantry or cabinets. Of course, we all want to make sure our kitchens are well-stocked with everything we need to make meals for the people we love, but that doesn't mean you have to fill every empty stop in your kitchen to the brim with food, appliances, and other stuff.
Rather, by throwing out, selling, or donating what you don't need and keeping your pantry and cabinets neat and tidy, you'll be better able to keep track of what you already have on hand. You'll never have to run out at the last minute to grab some baking soda only to realize you already had a box hanging out in the back of the pantry behind an old box of pasta.
Streamline Your Kitchen Collection
One way to ensure you're not overstuffing your cabinets and pantry is to "streamline your collection," according to Zakarian. What does this mean, practically? Well, it means you don't necessarily need three different types of olive oil. Buy one decent, all-purpose product, then use it until it runs out and you have to get a new one. Let's face it: Unless you're making multiple Michelin-starred meals in your house on a weekly basis, you probably don't need all those super-specific ingredients to make a delicious dish. Try to narrow down your kitchen collection to the things you actually use.
This applies to food itself, of course, but it also applies to appliances. Do you really need three different types of blenders when you only make a smoothie once every few months? Probably not. Save yourself some room, and let the extras go.
Use A Moveable Cart
Kitchen organizing can be tricky for anyone, but when you're working with a small kitchen, getting yourself organized can be way, way harder. That's why you have to make sure the organizational pieces you use really come in handy. In smaller kitchens, moveable carts tend to be especially useful. You can move a moveable cart wherever it's not in the way, even if that location changes regularly. And, if you're lucky, you might even be able to tuck it under a larger piece of furniture.
We like a moveable cart that has several levels to maximize storage. It's a great place for putting non-perishable goods you might otherwise stock in the pantry or for storing all of the bartending basics you need to make a delicious cocktail.
Get A Chalkboard To Keep Track Of What You Need
Whether you have several kids and you're always trying to keep up with your grocery list or you live alone and eat out more than you cook, one tool that can really help you keep your kitchen organized is a chalkboard or whiteboard that you put in your pantry. Whenever you run out of something you know you'll need, you can write it on the chalkboard to ensure you don't forget about it the next time you run to the store.
This is especially useful in a big family, as every member of the crew can contribute to making the list when they notice that stocks are dwindling. In addition to keeping track of what you need to get at the store, you can also use this space to plan out your meals for the week.
Keep Perishable Food At Eye Level
Sure, you probably want to use up all the space you have in your kitchen, but you'll want to pay close attention to where you're putting everything. For example, your bottom cabinets may be a good place to store pots, pans, and baking sheets, but when it comes to food, it's not the ideal storage location. Why? Since the food isn't at eye level, you're liable to forget that it's even there, especially if it happens to be pushed to the back of the cabinet out of your immediate reach.
Therefore, you should always try to keep your food (especially the stuff that will perish in the near future) at eye level. When you open your pantry or cabinet, you want everything that's going to go off soon to be in your line of vision. This will help reduce food waste and hopefully help you save money on your grocery bill in the process.
Try Using Turntables In Your Pantry
Are you working with a tight space in your pantry? If you wish you had more room for food storage or you find it difficult to get to the products you placed at the back of the cabinet, it may be time to invest in a turntable or two. We love using turntables in our pantries because it makes it easier to reach the stuff that might otherwise get lost behind other bags and boxes.
By being able to move food around more easily, it should be simpler for you to keep track of everything you need in your cabinets. Ideally, you'll want to choose a turntable that's either grippy or has some kind of ledge that prevents items from falling off of it when you turn it.
Choose Square Containers
Chances are, many, if not most, of the containers you're currently storing in your pantry are round. If you have a lot of room, this may not be a problem, but if you feel like you're constantly fighting for more space, you may want to rethink how you're storing the products you use on a daily basis. Using square containers in your pantry instead of round ones could save you a lot of space — and make cooking a lot easier and more organized.
Square containers fit better into tight spaces and corners, which helps you utilize more space in your pantry. Rounded bottles and packaging, on the other hand, create a ton of negative space you can't really use. If you want to take advantage of all that wasted space, move the products you use into square containers instead.
Store Food In Clear Containers
If you're the kind of person who always picks food up at the grocery store only to realize you actually had what you needed in your pantry the whole time, then this hack is for you: Store your food in clear containers in your fridge, pantry, and cabinets. Is it extra work to move all that stuff into new containers? Sure. But since you'll be able to see into every container, you'll know exactly what you have on hand and what you need to buy more of the next time you go grocery shopping.
We like using this hack for non-perishable foods we use regularly. It's great for storing pasta, oats, grits, and other grains. Plus, it can keep foods like cereal fresh for longer periods of time.
Try Ina Garten's Double Crock Method
You may be used to putting all of your kitchen tools in one place. But most people have both wooden and metal tools in the same crock, which may not be the ideal storage method, at least according to Ina Garten. Instead, she thinks that you should use two separate crocks for storing these kinds of tools: one for wooden utensils and one for metal.
Wondering how this helps you maintain a more organized kitchen? Well, separating your tools ensures they're not overcrowded in one container, and that can make it easier to find what you're looking for. It can also help keep your tools in good condition for longer so you don't have to keep going out to buy new ones. It may take up slightly more counter space, but the ease of organization makes it worth it for us.
Set Up Stations In Your Kitchen
In a professional kitchen, chefs work in different "stations" to improve the flow of the kitchen and to ensure everything is exactly where it needs to be. At home, you may not run quite as tight a ship, but you may want to consider using stations just like they do at restaurants. For example, it's a good idea to keep all your baking stuff together so you can pull out everything you need at one time.
On the other hand, if you tend to make a lot of creamy soups, you may want to store your big soup pot and your immersion blender in roughly the same place. It does take some time and effort to organize your kitchen this way, but it'll pay off on those meal prep days when you want to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.
Consider Using A Shoe Organizer In Your Pantry
When you're really working with a limited amount of space in your pantry, it can pay to consider some less-than-conventional storage solutions. One of our favorites? Putting a shoe organizer on the back of your pantry door. No, we're not suggesting that you store your shoes mere centimeters away from the black pepper. Rather, the shoe organizer can provide you with a convenient place to store snacks, bottles, or even spices.
We love this solution because it creates a ton of extra storage room from space you otherwise wouldn't be able to use at all. Plus, you don't have to buy a bunch of specialized organizational equipment specifically for your kitchen. Instead, it's an opportunity to utilize a common household item in a whole new way.
Merch Your Fridge
If you don't want items to get lost at the back of your fridge on the regular, you may want to start paying attention to how you organize the space. Ina Garten was so used to "merching" items at her store that she decided to organize her personal fridge in a similar manner. Therefore, she lines everything up perfectly and doesn't stack a bunch of items on top of each other. By refusing to do this, it makes it easier for her to see everything she has in the fridge.
Even if you can't always make your fridge look like it just walked out of an Erehwon, you can at least ensure that it's easy to see everything you have stocked in there so you know exactly where to get what you need.
Use A Shower Mat In Drawers
Most of us have at least a few delicate pieces in our kitchen, whether it's a nice set of china or just some breakable jars of pasta sauce. When you're trying to organize this kind of stuff, you'll want to make sure that you prevent it from potentially breaking. One easy way to do that is to give these objects some traction, especially if you're storing them in a drawer. You don't want them to break while they roll around, after all.
This is where the shower mat comes in. Placing a shower mat at the bottom of a drawer creates enough traction to ensure that everything will stay in one place when you open and close the drawer. That being said, you may want to use a shower mat that hasn't previously graced your shower, though.
Use The Tension Rod Trick
When it comes to pans and baking sheets, it's all too easy to topple all of them just because you're trying to pull one out of a cabinet. This is why you may want to employ the tension rod trick, which can help keep these items more organized in your kitchen. You'll want to use sets of two tension rods. The first one goes in front of the stuff you want to store, and the second goes in the back, so it's easy to slide pans and baking sheets into the spaces in between.
This will make sure they stay in their place without all falling out at once when you try to remove one. Since tension rods tend to be relatively inexpensive, this is a great organizational hack for when you're on a budget.
Attach Your Spices To The Pantry Door
You won't want to store your spices in a place that gives them access to a lot of light and heat, as that can make them go bad faster. That's why storing them in the pantry is usually your best bet for keeping them fresh for longer.
But if you don't have a lot of pantry space, you may be wondering where to put them. Alton Brown has a hack that's perfect for small kitchens. He attaches strips of velcro to the back of his pantry door and places some corresponding velcro on his spice containers. That way, he can easily attach the containers to the back of the door when he's not using them. It's a great way to protect your spices and keep your pantry clutter-free at the same time.
Don't Store Food Above The Stove
You know those cabinets that you have right above your stove area? Unless you're especially tall, they're not that convenient, considering the fact that you probably have to stand on your toes just to see what's in them. However, even if you could reach this area easily, you wouldn't want to store food there. That's because there's a lot of heat and moisture that'll come from your stove, which could make the food in those cabinets go off sooner than expected.
Sure, you probably want to use every square inch of storage space you have in your kitchen, especially if you're not working with that much room to begin with. However, it's best if you find a different place in the kitchen for storing your food.
Use Plastic File Folders In The Freezer
Does your freezer always look like a mess? You're not alone. Organizing a freezer can be a difficult task, especially if you have a small one. One unconventional way to organize this space is by using plastic files or magazine folders in your freezer. Sure, it may seem strange to put office supplies in your freezer, but these folders are slanted so it's easy to see what's inside. Since they'll line up against the back of the freezer nicely, it's a great way to really utilize all that space you wouldn't otherwise get to use.
This organization hack works best when different folders are used for different types of food. Put frozen fruits, frozen veggies, and frozen meals in their own respective folders to make things as simple as possible.
Use The Hanger Hack For Storing Chips
There's no feeling worse than realizing that you left a bag of perfectly good chips in the pantry only to let them get crushed under the weight of other products. If you want to avoid this fate with yet another back of Doritos, you may want to try the "hanger hack" for storing chips. This works best for pantries that contain wire racks. Instead of just placing the chips directly on the rack, hang a skirt hanger in the pantry instead. Then, use the clip closure to secure the hanging bag of chips.
Does this pantry hack end up looking a little bit silly? Sure. But it may just be the best way to ensure your chips, pretzels, and other snacks don't even get crushed again.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.