Get Organized

I don’t know what it is about spring that makes us want to clean and organize. Ever since the first Neanderthal (or his wife, more likely) decided to tidy up the cave and straighten up the spears, we’ve used spring as a good time to get things organized. With that in mind, let’s look at some ways to organize our favorite room, the kitchen.

One of the biggest wastes of time in cooking is rummaging through the spices, looking at all the labels trying to find the one you’re looking for. You could put all the spices in alphabetical order, but that only works of you put them back in the exact same place time after time. If you’re organized enough to do that, you’re probably too busy sorting the kid’s socks by thread count and alphabetizing the dog to be reading this. What I do is to use those little plastic or metal drawer organizers to divide the spices on the shelf by what I use them for. All my Cajun spices and hot sauces are in one, I have another where I keep baking spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, and so forth. That way, if I’m making gumbo, I can just pull out the little tray with the Cajun spices, and everything is right there where I need it. The same thing works with pantry items such as beans, flour and pasta.

One kitchen I saw on TV even had a walk-in pantry with the shelves organized by cuisine — one for Italian, one for Oriental, and so on. Talk about luxury!

One of the best ways to organize your kitchen is to get all the non-cooking members of the household and send them to the movies (or the Merchant Marine recruiting office). Lock the door, take the phone off the hook, and pull a comfortable chair in the kitchen and plop down. Think about what you do and where you do it.

Take a tip from restaurant kitchens and set up some “work stations.” For instance, select an area where you usually do prep work — peeling and chopping vegetables, slicing meats — and make sure that your knives and cutting boards are stored close by, so you don’t waste energy and time walking across the kitchen to get a knife. Another great idea for this area is a pull out garbage can under the counter. You can get kits for these at home supply stores for about $30.

Another thing to consider is if you do a particular task more than once a week — baking, for example — set aside an area just for that purpose and store all your supplies for it nearby. The last house I owned had a separate baking area, and I loved it. My house now doesn’t have an area I can set aside just for baking, but I found a good solution for keeping things organized. I got a three-shelf, rolling cart to put all my baking stuff on, which stores in a closet until I’m ready to bake. Then I just roll it out and everything is right where I need it.

Around the stove, put the items you need for stove-top cooking: spatulas, whisks, tongs and the like. A large canister near the stove can hold all these, or you can use a magnetic knife bar to hang them on the wall where you can reach them easily.

Spending a little time organizing your kitchen can really pay off in saving wasted steps and helping you feel more confident. Spend a little time to get organized — you’ll be glad you did.

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