Streamline your kitchen the easy way, simply reverse engineer it. Kitchens are one of the most cluttered spaces in any home, due to its gathering nature.
Over time, stuff can sneak into any space, get shoved around and eventually the space becomes inefficient. When your kitchen isn’t efficient, you waste lots of time and money. Even worse, it leads to daily frustration.
I don’t want you to be frustrated.
To actually get and stay organized, you need to define the activities and the locations for those activities and the items that make those activities possible with in the space.
What’s a kitchen for? Most would say cooking. The reality is usually gathering stuff and people. What’s in your kitchen? Most would say food and dishes. The reality is a little bit of everything. At least that has been my experience.
When a client says, of course the kitchen is for cooking, duh. I know they are not quite getting it. So my next question is, is it easy for you to cook in your kitchen?
The difference between putting stuff away so you don’t see it and being truly organized is the plan. Every good plan starts with defining the space, the stuff and the time.
Kitchens are for the cooking of food. The storage, preparation, serving and clean up of said activities requires designated spaces for each. So, start by removing all the items in your kitchen that are not for those activities.
We have defined the overall space. Next you divide it into sub zones for the activities, and place the associated stuff in that area. Stop storing your kitchen items based on shape and store them by purpose.
Some ideas for subzones to get you started:
Baking – measuring, mixing, cooking in the oven pans, cooling and frosting.
Prepping – chopping, marinating, stirring, seasoning, combining.
Cooking – pots, pans and utensils for heating on the stove or an appliance.
Drinking – vessels for sipping out of, cool things, hot things, soft things, hard things.
Serving / eating – plates, bowls, flatware, linens.
Storing – food storage containers, wraps, bags.
Keep in mind that too many categories make things complicated to return to the right spot after use so subdivide further only if you have to.
As for the storage of ingredients…
A streamlined kitchen prevents waste.
Every time I work with a client in their kitchen I’m a little appalled by all the food we have to toss. (I’ll admit, it’s happened in my kitchen too, before I tried out this system). Most of it just expired, but sometimes open and stale. A good system for rotating your food and shopping smarter can easily prevent this from happening to you.
Setting up a more efficient kitchen can also save you quite a bit of money in the process. Eat what you buy and you don’t waste as much money on food and you will always know which coupons are worth clipping.
Having a system and a plan saves time with the meal planning, the grocery shopping, the time to store the food and the time to prepare the meals. Practice with the same ingredients and maximize your time and energy.
Start with what your family likes to eat, I mean, what’s good for them to eat. If chips are not an option they will eat crackers and the crackers won’t expire for want of a special occasion.
Set up your pantry and fridge like the grocery store, with like items together. “Aisles’ in your pantry might include: drinks, breakfast items, condiments, soup, pasta, cheese, vegetables and meat. While you are at it go ahead and toss the mysterious stuff and expired food.
Keep a list and shop with it. The easiest way is to have a pad that you write down the item when you use the second to last one on hand. Before you head to the store, take a glance at the shelves and note items that didn’t make the list. Your new set up will make it obvious that you are out of whole grain crackers and carrots.
Put your food away promptly and properly. Rotate it by placing the new items behind the old ones when necessary.
Implementing a system like this can save you lots of time as well. In addition to not wasting time looking for and clipping coupons for things you won’t eat, knowing your ingredients allows you to get familiar with cooking with them.
Streamline your kitchen tips:
Create a reverse cookbook. That is where you pick the 20-30 family favorite recipes and keep those ingredients on hand, in their designated space. When you are tired it makes cooking a breeze because everyone is familiar with the process.
If you try something new that the family doesn’t like, toss it or donate it now and don’t try it again.
Don’t open a new package until the old one is empty. The open package stays in front. Use a chip or binder clip to keep things fresh longer.
Have one good set of square food storage containers handy. Clear ones that can go from freezer to microwave to dishwasher will help you see the food and can be used in the pantry too.
It might seem simplistic to start with the definition of the activities of a room, but once you get in there and find things that are not for those activities you realize how much is in the way. These not for preparing, eating or storing food items need to go elsewhere.
This is not to say that you can’t do other activities in the kitchen, the counter can be just the right height for certain craft activities, but that those occasional activities need to be transient. Brought in, worked on and removed back to their place of residence.
If there is space left over once the kitchen activities are set up, then other activities can take up residence within a designated spot of their own. However, I recommend keeping other things to a minimum.