A well-organised kitchen will help you cook as efficiently as possible and waste less food. Here are our top 10 tips for organising the heart of your home.
10. Declutter Your Kitchen
Decluttering is the first step to organising any room, and kitchens tend to have more unique kinds of clutter than other rooms: ice cream makers and other wedding-registry items, gadgets you were suckered into buying from TV infomercials, useless knife sets and so on.
Use the box method to weed out the kitchen tools you never use, re-evaluate whether you really need more than the essential kitchen items in your kitchen, get rid of the bulk spices that have already expired, reboot a junk food-filled pantry and use up food in your freezer at least twice a year. This checklist can help you decide which kitchen tools to purge or not.
9. Opt for Space-Saving, Uniform, See-Through Containers
One of the main contributors to kitchen chaos: Mountains of mismatched food storage containers. You only need a few types of food storage containers to maximise the amount of space you have in your cupboards. We prefer square or rectangular containers that stack up well, such as the Snapware Glasslock containers that can go from fridge to microwave to dinner table to dishwasher.
We also recommend organising your spices with cleanly labelled, identical containers, perhaps on a magnetic spice rack or arranged in jars in a geeky periodic table of spices system.
8. Make Use of the Back of Your Cabinet Doors
The inside of your cabinet door is wasted space. Instead of leaving that surface blank, organise your measuring cups and spoons there, store saucepan covers on the back with inexpensive hooks, build a knife block into the back of the door, hold cutting boards in a magazine rack on the door and pretty much mount anything to the back for easy access.
You can also just paint the inside of the doors with blackboard or whiteboard paint to keep a running shopping list and weekly meal plan.
7. Create Sections with Tension Rods
Tension rods are a surprisingly awesome organisation tool throughout the kitchen. You can use it for hidden paper towel storage, organising cleaning bottles under the sink, creating an extra shelf for spices, and creating pantry dividers or lid organisers in drawers.
6. Get Rid of Wasted Dead Space
Got a kitchen with awkward, unusable spaces? Yeah, me too. If you have trouble seeing or reaching items at the back of a space, such as the cabinet under the sink, the inner depths of your fridge, or the corner of your pantry, a Lazy Susan could help. For that weird space between your fridge and the wall next to it, build a roll-out pantry or a sliding spice rack (you might be able to use an IKEA shelf to create your own).
If you're desperate for more space in your kitchen, turn those false drawers in your kitchen into usable storage space. You can also create a secret toekick drawer at the bottom of a kitchen cabinet on the cheap.
5. Know Which Foods Go in the Fridge, Freezer, or Pantry
Part of having an organised kitchen is having your ingredients stored properly. It wastes less food and it makes it easier to inventory what you have before you go shopping. Here are our general guidelines for storing foods so they last longer in the fridge or freezer and which foods you don't need to refrigerate.
Don't want to memorise them? Print out these charts and hang on your fridge to keep track of your food inventory and also know when foods are about to expire. Likewise, this graphic illustrates how long essential pantry foods will last.
4. Store Food in the Fridge Properly
It's not just a matter of keeping foods in or out of the fridge, however. Within the refrigerator there are ideal spots for different types of foods. Dairy, for example, is best kept on the upper shelf where the temperature is most constant, while meat should be in the bottom of the fridge, where it's coldest and any leaks wouldn't contaminate other foods. Check out more fridge storage guidelines here or this infographic.
You might also want to organise your fridge with a first-in-first-out (FIFO) method, like supermarkets do or use an "eat me first box" in your fridge to make sure you don't waste food. And of course there's this stack beverages in your fridge with binder clips strategy for clever beer storage.
3. Maximise Pantry Space So You Can See and Reach Everything
Out of sight really is out of mind when it comes to food storage. In the cupboard and pantry, make sure you can see and reach everything with things like stacking shelves, Lazy Susans and clear storage containers. You can also group items in your pantry by meal (eg, pastas next to tomato sauces) so you remember what to cook.
For hard-to-stack cans of food, create a can holder using a magazine rack or organise canned goods in your cabinet with a closet rack. The back of your pantry door is a perfect spot to hang an over-the-door shoe holder to gather snacks, seasoning mixes and more.
2. Create Kitchen Work Zones
You've probably heard about the kitchen work triangle, the triangular layout between fridge, oven and sink that makes it easy for a cook to move about the kitchen. Whether or not your kitchen conforms to this ideal, it's helpful to think of your kitchen in terms of work zones: food storage, dishware storage, cleanup (sink and dishwasher), prep and cooking zone. Store items according to their related zone. If you tend to have more than one person cooking the meal with you, you might create a second prep zone. Alternatively, you might want to add a baking zone or other specialty zones so everything is organised and kept in the proper places.
1. Store Items Logically
That leads us to the last and most important point: Have a place for everything and everything in its place. Julia Child's kitchen had a place for everything, with saucepans and frying pans hung on pegboards with their outlines drawn around them so she could put everything back in its place.
Items you use most often should be easiest to reach, while you can put items you hardly use higher up in the cabinets. Group your items next to the tools you use most with them (eg., can opener by the cupboard you store cans in, baking ingredients with the baking pans). These and a couple of other simple suggestions will help you organise your kitchen like a programmer. And here's our geek's guide to rebooting your kitchen.