An individual recently requested through facebook for information on how to organize a kitchen for wholesome cooking. Though my current kitchen is quite adequate, I have worked in kitchens of varying sizes over the years- one particularly small one when developing recipes for one of my cookbooks. So, all to say, you don’t need a magazine quality kitchen to produce incredibly good quality foods!
Some basic principles I would start with (and I’m writing this off the top of my mind) would include:
1. determine that in your kitchen that you will live by the principle “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place”- a wonderful Shaker principle. Much time will be saved in not looking for items when you know each item has a regular home.
2. get rid of (or if you have the extra space- designate to a lesser-used space) any items that you don’t use with regular frequency. These can clutter your space and get in the way of easily getting to the items you use regularly. This includes pots, pans and baking dishes that are not frequently put to use.
3. consider what you do where in your kitchen- create work areas if you have that option. For instance, an island may be where you do most of your cutting and mixing- so keep utensils for that purpose there, another area might be for an electric tea kettle- so keep the tea and mugs close by, if you juice regularly, you may want to have a juicing area, I love my vitamix and keep it as well as a little cutting board (my fruit board) plus serrated knives handy on a less-used piece of counter top.
In other words, keep kitchen equipment handy where you use it (for instance, cooking utensils in an upright container near stovetop and knives similarly in an upright container or cutting block along with cutting boards on the counter you use most)
4. clean as you go. Particularly when you work with plant-based foods, clean up can be very easy- often containers and utensils only need to be rinsed. I have a “drop in” dish drainer in one side of my sink and as I cut fruit or veggies, I simple rinse the cutting board and knife and immediately deposit them in the drainer. They’re clean, out of the way and ready for re-use in a matter of seconds.
Other organizational tips:
Designate a cutting board (or side of a cutting board) for cutting fruit vs. cutting onions/garlic. I have an onion/garlic board, a fruit board and a separate veggie/bread/other board. If you have to use each side for a different purpose, label it with marker (word or symbol).
If you have the space, install a tall shelving unit in your kitchen or dining room on which you will be able to store your bulk items (beans, seeds, nuts, flours, etc.). I call this shelving my “pantry” and I have large glass jars that I store my current-use supply of grains, beans and nuts. In large wooden bins (you could use plastic tubs- I just like how these antique boxes look) I store my “stockpile” of beans and some grains (oats and brown rice). I also have separate bins and baskets on this unit for baking supplies, dried fruit and snack mixes, a snack bin for the kiddos, sea vegetables, etc.
I use drawers in my most-used counter area to store my herbs and spices. I store frequently used herbs/spices in jelly jars/canning jars and less frequently used ones in the standard size spice jars. The tops are all labeled with the contents. It is very handy to be able to pull open a drawer and immediately be able to see and select from the seasonings I need.
I also keep my measuring cups and spoons in little divider bins in a handy drawer at that frequently used counter. You want to minimize the amount of time you spend crossing the room to find the tool you need. So think about what you do where in your kitchen and move the tools you need to take permanent residence in that vicinity.
A friend, years ago, shared a wonderful kitchen storage tip with me. She suggested keeping all lids (in my case, the plastic lids used on pyrex glass containers) in a drawer. This is much tidier and easier to use than a cupboard cluttered with containers and lids.
Since we don’t have frozen meats and prepared foods crowding our freezer, I have room to “stockpile” frozen veggies and berries (I take advantage of the sales and restock at that time). There is still plenty of room for other items (particularly handy for those with small kitchens)- like whole grains, flours, nuts, seeds, etc. I often store these frequently used items in canning jars (quarts and pints) along the freezer door.
For those with limited space, take advantage of unused storage areas in your kitchen. For instance, some people don’t use their dishwasher. It can be used as regular storage for mixing bowls, drinking glasses, bowls, or storage containers. Also, be sure to take advantage of the drawer under your oven as well as the interior of your oven. The oven shelves can hold skillets, pots and pans or baking containers. You can easily get in the habit of removing these when you’re ready to bake and return them when done.