Kitchen organization is complex, at least in today’s world. There are so many people with recommendations and ideas. Some ideas are of course better than others, but it’s more than that. You have to not only have an organized kitchen but it has to be functional for the things you do in your kitchen. Ideas that work in gourmet “foodie’s” kitchen might not work well in a canner’s kitchen. Then to make things even more complicated sometimes gourmet cooks are canners. The bottom line is that the way your kitchen is organized depends on what kind of cooking you’re doing at the moment.
So kitchen organization might not be something that is a “do it and forget it” activity. After all, your kitchen is going to look different depending on what season of life you’re in and also what season of the year you’re in.
Season of Life
If you’re a young mother, your kitchen should be set up to best serve your little ones. If you’re a mom of, say, teenage boys your kitchen will probably be set up to cook large batches of their favorite foods. If you’re an empty-nester or grandmother then your kitchen will look different than both of those. I know this is not rocket science but rather a bit of common sense, but so many times when we wish for a better organization we don’t realize what season of life we’re in. We just want the mess or the clutter to go away.
There also for those of us who cook and preserve seasonally. Our kitchens look different in the summer than in the winter. And once again in the middle of prime canning season, we might not recognize the reasons for the mess and clutter, in the middle of our frustration to just want the mess gone.
Knowing why something (the mess) occurs is the first step to improving the situation (becoming organized). So here are some ideas for different parts of your kitchen. Keep in mind that space is an issue for a lot of people and though I have some ideas for creating a bit of space, the only way to make a kitchen actually bigger is knocking down walls and appropriating floor space from other rooms…….:)
Improve Cabinet Organization
If you don’t use it, get rid of it! Ummm, NO!
There are a lot of minimalist people who will tell you if you haven’t used it in six months get rid of it. Well, I haven’t used my cherry pitters in a while, but I can tell you come July they will all be used for days on end. So here’s a better way to look at the “if it’s not used” items. If it’s not used on a daily or at least weekly basis, move it out of your kitchen. Find a storage space for it.
Create seasonal bins
You don’t have your Christmas decorations out year round because it’s not Christmas year round. The same principle should be applied to your seasonal kitchen tools like cherry pitters. So consider having season bins stored outside your kitchen.
Make sure everything that you store in your kitchen does double duty. A blender might have a home in your kitchen, but it might not be a good idea to store a juicer in your kitchen unless you make juice every day.
Don’t be afraid to break up sets
This is something I’ve been guilty of. I only use one or two pots that came in a set, but I’ll keep them all in my kitchen because they came as a set and I don’t want to break it up. Give the pots or the pieces of a set to someone else, or at least remove them from your kitchen and place them in storage outside of your kitchen.
Create Kitchen Space
Stackable shelves (more room in your cabinet)
Stackable shelves won’t add any more square footage to your cabinets but it will allow you to take advantage of the vertical space in your cabinets.
Space above your cabinets
If you have space above your cabinets use it for storage. Plants and kitchen decorations are nice, but honestly, if I’m always upset about limited space in my kitchen, going in there and looking at the cute wire chickens actually makes me angry, not happy.
Mount baskets under your shelves
You can mount wire baskets under your shelves to store fruit or vegetables for drying out. This is a way to keep an eye on your food and also to get it off your counter.
Consider using the back of the door on your cabinets
You can buy over-the-door baskets (baskets that hang over the door) for this. You can also get creative and use an over the door shoe rack or for smaller doors you can use a magazine holder for storing parchment and wax paper boxes.
Improve Drawer Organization
Throw out broken utensils
Make sure you take out everything in your drawers at least once a year and discard broken on never used utensils, as they always get pushed or stuffed in the back of the drawer.
Don’t overfill your drawers
It’s tempting to just throw everything into your drawer, including things like that cherry pitter or many a coconut drill. However, if you overfill your drawers you might damage your tools. Find another place to store your seasonal tools.
Stack measuring spoons and cups
Don’t forget to take a few extra minutes and stack or nest things like measuring cups and spoons. This creates more space than you think, just like folded clothes take up less space than clothes stuffed in a drawer.
Create Utensil and Drawer Space
Hang a pegboard
If you don’t have enough drawers consider hanging up a pegboard to store heavily used items.
File organizer for cutting boards
Using a file organizer to keep cutting boards organized will give you easier access to them.
Magnet strip for knives
Instead of keeping a knife block on your counter consider using a magnetic strip, just be sure to keep it away from little ones.
Improve Countertop Organization
Everything off the counter
Move everything off your countertops, even if you have to have a shelf unit in another room. You really don’t have the proper workspace with half of a counter. Also, appliances or tools can get damaged and dirty with other activities in your kitchen. Nothing should live on your counters where you work. If you have a counter and island an only work on the island then that’s a different story.
Get rid of appliances you NEVER use
If you use something seasonally then, of course, keep it, but if you never use it then it’s just taking up valuable space in your home. Donate it or give it away.
Just say it doesn’t belong here…
Don’t allow family members to put stuff on the counter or island, like homework, mail, or crafts. Sometimes this is unavoidable but always have a time limit for when the project has to move to its proper home.
Food Storage and Pantry Organization
Know what’s in your pantry
Take an inventory at least once a year. If you have people, kids, who help you in the kitchen you might need to do this a little more often.
Keep a list of what you need and what you use
Make and keep a list of what you need and what you use so you’ll know what to buy at the right time of the year or know how much to put up when preserving.
Get rid of things you won’t eat or no longer eat
If you’ve developed a wheat intolerance but you have 5-gallon buckets of wheat, get rid of them. Only store what you’ll eat.
Examine expiration dates
This is somewhat controversial because best by dates marked on food are not necessarily expiration dates. Use common sense and discard items you think would be bad to eat. To do this consider where food has been stored, how much light it gets and the temperature it’s been stored at.
Make a pantry plan for the year
Plan out the items you want to grow and preserve for the year so you’ll know what food stores are coming. Then begin to clear space by eating the food that occupies that space.
Store food outside of the kitchen
If you want good healthy food storage you’re going to have to store food and which means you’ll have to find a place to put it in your house. Most kitchens do not have the storage space for 2 weeks worth of food let alone 3 months. To have a good sized food storage, you’ll have to store food outside of your kitchen. So in addition to spending time in the kitchen organizing, you’re going to have to spend some time in those other places organizing and creating a place to put your food storage.
Other places to store food
- Spare Bedroom–shelves or built in for your canned goods
- Under the stairs, if you have a two story house
- Garage–hang from the ceiling buckets–maybe not food but other things so you store food on shelf units.
- Hall Closet
- Root Cellar
- Attic–if it doesn’t get too hot
- Under Beds –this works best if you have crates that roll or slide out
- In Other Closets– put high shelves in those closets and help utilize unused space
- Bookcases/Shelf Units– you can hide things with doors or a curtain
- Get Furniture That Doubles As Storage –like bench seats that open up
- In Plain Sight–you can dress up bins or boxes as use them as furniture
A System For Food Rotation
Whatever kind of organization you have you’re going to need a way to rotate your food, which means eating the older food first and putting the newer food into storage.
How do you know what comes in and what goes out?
Organize The Food
Take It Out Of The Original Package
For the most part (there are a few exceptions) things need to be stored in an airtight container and most commercial packaging is not.
Store Things In Standard Sized Containers
Try to get standard sized storage container that way you don’t have wasted space and you can adjust shelves to fit your standard sizes containers. My favorite containers are Mason jars are my favorite.
For larger bulk items you might want to use 5-gallon buckets, with or without Mylar bags. Whether you use a Mylar bag depends on how long you want to store the food. A very useful accessory for a 5-gallon bucket is Gamma Seals.
Make A Staging Area For Food Prep
Designate a shelf or a shelf unit to house all of the food you need for the day or the week. That way you don’t have to be climbing over 5-gallon buckets and re-stacking stuff in order to pull out some brown sugar to put in the barbecue sauce you’re making with dinner. Of course, having and making meal plans help with this!
Map And Grid Your Food Storage Areas
It doesn’t have to be perfect but wheat berries should always be stored in the same place, and then beans need to have their proper place too. Map of all your food storage areas then, teach family members especially kids how to put things back. This is especially handy if things have to be stacked.
Always label your food, even if you think it will only be in your pantry for a short time. You don’t want to always have to take the lid off to see what you have, or always tasting the salt to see if it’s sugar or salt. If you’re a member you can grab labels for dehydrating food and for canned food.
Last but not least don’t forget your pets. Make sure you have a place to store their food and try to keep at least a month or two worth of food on hand for them. Their food will need to be transferred to a proper storage container too.