The first step to organizing your kitchen is to develop work zones. Having your kitchen organized in this way results in making your kitchen work for you, not against you. When you can take the fewest steps to get to what you need, all the cooking and cleaning becomes much easier… and even can be enjoyable! Let’s take a look at arranging your kitchen zones for the most convenient way to work.
Food Prep Zone
Setting up your food prep zone next to the sink is most convenient for clean up. In this area you will want to keep your knives, cutting boards, and colanders for rinsing. What else do you need at a food prep zone? Paper towels are handy, as well as bowls to put the prepped food in as you go. You may want to put a ‘scrap bowl’ to hold the peelings, rinds, fruit pits in to take out to the compost bin or other wet garbage.
And, remember, you’ll need a good selection of cutting boards. Choose a variety that you can keep track of for use with poultry, meat, produce, and bread and nuts. You need at least four cutting boards to cover these different foods without cross-contamination.
This is where you will want to keep your pots, pans, spatulas, big spoons, and hot-pads close for easy access while cooking. If your oven has a storage drawer underneath, use that along with the nearest cupboards. If your choices for storage are very limited, look into buying clever organizers specifically designed for cooking equipment. You’ll find storage that hangs or mounts to the wall or inside the cabinets or on the countertop. Also consider a small rolling cart to house your cooking equipment; one that can be rolled out of the way when you no longer need it.
And don’t forget your favorite seasonings and spices need to be handy while cooking. If you have room in a cupboard near the stove, install a ‘Lazy Susan’ organizer. You’ll find inexpensive plastic styles that fit most cabinets. A small rack can easily be installed on a wall near the stove. Also look at shelves that are meant to hold pictures. You can find narrow shelves, sometimes packaged in sets, that would be perfect to store a selection of seasonings. A neatly organized spice rack or cupboard can save you time and aggravation when cooking.
If you like to bake, a baking zone is going to be your best friend. Keep your electric mixer, bowls, rolling pin, parchment paper, measuring cups, and spoons all together in a cupboard near your work zone. You’ll want to have your mixing spoons, rubber spatulas, and other baking utensils in a canister on the countertop so you can grab them quick when you need to scrape down the mixing bowl.
Go ahead and move the baking powder, baking soda, flour, and sugar from the pantry to your baking zone. If you bake a lot, that’s where you’re going to want them. Of course, you’ll want your pie pans, cake pans, cookie sheets, and cooling racks handy, too. Timers are another necessity when it comes to baking. Set up your baking zone by filling it with all the things you keep reaching for when rolling out your homemade apple pie or buttermilk biscuits.
You’ll need a place where you can wrap it all up. After a meal, you will want to grab storage containers to put away all the leftovers. Whether you use plastic containers, plastic bags, or just put the food on plates and cover with plastic wrap or foil, you will want all those items conveniently located somewhere between the dinner table and the sink.
There are many storage bins you can install inside a cupboard or pantry door to stock boxes of storage bags, plastic wrap, and tin foil so it’s easy to access. If you use plastic containers, you’ll want a shelf or bin nearby. You want to grab a container and spoon in the leftovers right from the table before you set the casserole in the sink to soak. Remember, if you can easily move your leftovers from the table to the refrigerator or freezer, the chances of getting the chore done quickly increases.
Wash Up Zone
Use the cabinet above your dishwasher to store items such as dishes and glasses, and use the nearest drawer for silverware. If you find you have extra head-space in your cabinets, use kitchen organizer shelves to utilize this extra space for small juice glasses, coffee mugs, or even tiny dessert bowls and such. By keeping the items you use most often close to the sink or dishwasher, you’ll be more likely to get the dishes washed and put away simply because it’s easier. If you have to cross the kitchen with piles of dishes and glasses to put away, chances are you’ll put that chore off until later.
Of course, you’ll need a variety of cleaners, soaps, scrubs, and sponges and dishcloths. If you store those under the sink, you will need to install locks on the doors. Otherwise, put those cleaning items in a bin and put it up above the sink in a cupboard or in a utility closet nearby. To keep cleanup convenient, put all the items in one plastic bin with a handle, or a bucket, so you can grab it when you’re ready to do cleanup.
Less Used Items Zone
There are items that you may not use every day. Those are the things that you can store in a buffet, china cabinet, or other out of the way place. You may have a collection of nice tablecloths, napkins, and other tableware. You may have some dishes that don’t come out often. Perhaps you have appliances and utensils that are used only a few times a year. Keep those stored somewhere other than the kitchen. If you aren’t cooking and serving with it often, move it.
The Odds and Ends Zone
Some zones aren’t part of the cooking, exactly, but many families find their life centers around the kitchen in other ways, and a zone needs to be set up. You may want a coffee or tea zone if that is your ritual in the morning. Many people also use their kitchen to sort mail and keep the family calendar, or a grocery list, or a to do list, or just to keep messages so they know where everyone is going.
Besides the kitchen sink and dish cleaning area, many kitchens house the other cleaning supplies, such as the mop, broom, buckets, scrub brushes, dusting rags, and all the polishes and other sprays we use. Designate one place to hold everything so you’re not running from room to room just to polish a few mirrors or wipe up a floor. Get a few buckets or carry-all type containers to keep items for specific tasks all together and you’ll be able to grab and go clean without going back and forth.
Depending on the size of your kitchen, you may or may not be able to implement all of these ideas. But, take a look at the basic thoughts. By organizing your kitchen into zones, even if they are small zones, you can make your kitchen work for you.
What zones do you have in your kitchen?