I am not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants cook. I so admire people who can just grab bits of this and that from the fridge and pantry and throw a meal together. That is definitely NOT me. I cook from recipes and like to know in advance what I’m making for dinner each night. And because my day can be very fragmented, I need to take advantage of a few free minutes here and there to get some measuring and prep work done.
So here are my “top three” tips for staying organized in the kitchen:
1. Organize your recipes: I put all of my recipes onto my computer years ago. What a game changer. Each recipe goes into a folder (appetizers, salads, entrees, etc.), and when it’s time to cook I simply print it out. Once or twice a year I go through and delete any “fails”.
2. Plan meals in advance: Yes, I’m one of “those” people who plans a week’s worth of meals every week. I should be completely honest and share with you that Mike does all the food shopping in our house. He loves it and is really good at it, so am I going to mess with that? Nope.
I sit down with my calendar, look at the week ahead and plan meals according to what’s going on each day. Is Mike working late that night? Something easy, with minimal prep/clean-up. Will I be out till it’s close to dinnertime? Take-out. Are we entertaining? Plan for appetizers and dessert. I cut and paste the ingredients from the recipes (see tip #1) onto a shopping list, check to see what I already have in stock, and then reorganize the list by category (produce, dairy, etc.), to make the shopping a little easier for Mike.
I can’t tell you how much time I save with an hour or two spent one evening each week. I typically have to pick up a few items during the week, and when my local farmers’ market is in season I’m likely to be a little more spontaneous. But to have most of my ingredients on deck and ready to go is a HUGE stress reliever in my busy life. And I never have to think about what I’m going to make for dinner.
3. Reduce the piles (and stacks): I get several magazines every month, with recipes that I want to try. They would invariably pile up on my nightstand, and I’d forget which ones contained which recipe. So now, once a month, I go onto the magazine’s web site, find the recipes and copy them into documents on my computer. No more piles.
As a serial cookbook collector I have also found myself with stacks of books – many that I rarely (or never) use. Maybe it was an impulse buy. Or I was holding on for that one recipe I still referred to. I pulled those books and scanned into my computer the recipes that I actually used. The books then went to my local library. No more stacks.
In addition to streamlining my kitchen counter (and nightstand), having the documents on my computer also makes it easy to edit recipes. As I’m cooking or baking I make notes, to add to the saved document later. This way I know for next time if I need to double an ingredient, what side dishes work well with the dish or to adjust the cooking time. I’ll also bold and highlight instructions to take out ingredients in advance, or if something needs to marinate overnight. You get the picture.
Why don’t we get a conversation going here? Send me your best kitchen organizing tips – I know you all have a few up your sleeves. I’ll collect them and put them all together for a follow-up post!