Organisation in the kitchen
can help you cook better meals
When you’re in the middle of preparing dinner you want to have ingredients and equipment close by. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a frantic mess so with a little bit of organization in the kitchen you can be calm and focus on the food instead. And you’ll feel saner overall too – bonus! 🙂
How you organise your kitchen will depend on what you use on a daily basis. However if you’re new to cooking then my examples will give you a good place to start. If you already do a bit of cooking then you can adjust as needed based on my examples.
The best place to start is by organising the space around where you cook and chop. You’ll be able to focus on cooking great meals because your attention will be on the recipe instead of worrying about where to put the hot frypan or how to balance the chopping board on top of the coffee machine – both of which I used to do.
Take time to arrange your kitchen now so you’ll be familiar with all the new storage places. That makes it easier to get all your ingredients and equipment out at the start of cooking too.
Organization makes a huge difference. It’s one simple thing you can do now to help you improve your skills now. So let’s start with the storage of your ingredients before we move onto the equipment.
Organisation in the Pantry
For all types and sizes of pantries it’s best to keep the most frequently used products at eye level. So at eye level you need the things you use all the time like salt, pepper and oil. Maybe you’ll add the spics here or the jalapenos you love so much. It makes the most sense to put things where you can just grab them. It’s especially important in the middle of cooking when you need to grab the salt while the chicken is already frying.
Ingredients to place at eye level are:
- Tinned food like diced tomatoes, tomato paste and tuna.
- Bottles of oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper or anything else you use to season your food.
- Jars of sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, pesto or other foods that flavour your food.
- Other condiments like tomato sauce, bottles of dressing, balsamic vinegar or unopened jars of minced garlic can be kept here too.
You could also add your jars of spice at eye level too, but once you start collecting a lot of spices you’ll need to find somewhere else to store them like a spice rack or drawer.
On the shelf below that I put tinned foods I use all the time such as:
- Canned fruitlike peaches and pineapple.
- Canned vegetables like beetroot.
- Tinned beans and lentils.
Ingredients on this shelf are still within easy reach but are not as important to every meal.
Top shelves are good for extra packets of light foods like rice, pasta, bread crumbs, other types of oil or vinegar in small quantities (like avocado oil, vegetable oil, white vinegar or cider vinegar). The bottom shelf is better for heavier items and larger canisters. I store flour, sugar, potatoes and larger packets of anything else I don’t have space for higher up.
Be mindful: Always put the lightest things on the top shelves and the heaviest on the bottom. You don’t want to pull a 5L container of heavy oil off the top shelf because you’ll injure your back or damage the kitchen.
Organisation in the fridge & freezer
I use the same strategy for my fridge and freezer too, although fridges and freezers have their own quirks:
- For the fridge you can utilize the door space for things like milk and other drinks or tall containers.
- Often fridges have a tray or section for eggs so utilize this space, but don’t think that only eggs need to go here.
- Some fridges have a small pull out section near the top. I tend to use it for cheeses and dips so they are all in the one location as they’re all of a similar size.
- Use shelves at eye level for frequently used items or items you need to use up quickly like leftovers and dairy products (such as yoghurt).
- Vegetables can go in the crisper but be careful how you store them as one bad veggie can cause the others to go bad.
- Always store raw meat at the bottom of the fridge (see my post on Kitchen Hygiene).
- Freeze foods flat in plastic clip lock bags for more space and label them for easy retrieval.
- Often bread can fit in the door of the freezer, and it’s also a handy eye level place to keep it.
Organisation around the bench tops & stove
You need plenty of clear space on your bench tops when you cook. Make sure you keep the space empty by doing dishes regularly and having places to store your small appliances. I keep the toaster on a shelf in the cupboard rather than on the bench because we don’t eat a lot of toast during the week, but I keep the kettle out as I use it many times every day.
Despite needing to keep bench tops clear, there are a few things you’ll want on display for easy reach at all times:
- Keep paper towel near the stove so any spills can be cleaned up straight away.
- Store a small bottle of oil to the side of the stove as well (you can refill the smaller bottle with a larger container stored in the pantry).
- Keep a vase or other container of spatulas, egg flips, wooden spoons and soup spoons near the stove as well. It’s decorative as well as being functional – you can grab a spatula with ease when you need it or switch to a serving spoon in seconds.
- Keeping a trivet close (a mat you can put your hot dishes onto to protect the bench) as well so you don’t have to struggle with a heavy, hot pot of food while trying to find somewhere to put it down. These are a money saver, especially if you rent because you don’t want to have to pay to replace a whole bench top.
- Keep a couple of pot holders close as well so you don’t burn your fingers when taking food from the oven.
- Tea towels are a must. Hang them over the rail on the oven door or get a removable hook and hang them somewhere convenient.
If you have the space you might like to consider making a space on the bench that is specifically for your tea and coffee supplies.
When storing your appliances and cooking utensils consider how often something might be used before you find a home for it. Things like waffle irons and cake mixers probably won’t be used everyday so you can store them at the back of the cupboard or in those higher, harder to reach places.
The equipment you want to keep close might be:
- Storage containers for leftover food.
- Preparation knives.
- Chopping boards.
- Preparation utensils like peelers, mashers, tongs, whisks or graters.
- Frypans and saucepans. You might like to keep them on display or put them in a cupboard where they are easy to retrieve when needed.
- Toasters, kettles, stick blenders, sandwich presses or other small appliances. Leave out the ones you use often if you have the space. Or keep them in cupboards right next to power points for ease of use.
Organisation before starting to cook
Before you start cooking it’s a good idea to gather all the ingredients you need so everything is within reach. It can be tricky in a smaller kitchen or a place without much bench space, but you can utilize the places you do have to put things:
- Pull out the entire vegetable crisper if you need a lot of vegetables for one meal. That way you can chop them in turn and return them to the crisper for less mess.
- When chopping vegetables, put each chopped veggie onto the same dinner plate and remove the scraps to the bin straight away. Or add them to the holes in a muffin tin so you use less space overall.
- Use the space you have in shifts. Chop the vegetables and meat first and clear away all the scraps and packets before you pull out the equipment.
- Utilize your kitchen table, the top of the microwave or the top of the fridge and put prepared vegetables out of the way. Remember where you put them or else you’ll forget to add them to the dish! I’ve done that before.
- Prepare sauces, sliced breads or sides to a meal first. Put them in dishes on the dining table so you can then use the bench space for the main meal.
So now you have everything perfectly organised dinner will be stress free. Do you feel saner already? I know I do when everything is right where it needs to be.