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!


  1. Sandra on May 29, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Great idea on the cookbooks but I don’t know if I could do it! I still love looking through them even if I don’t use all of the recipes. Old school, I know. But this is motivation to pare down again as I have many that I never use – they just look good on the counter.

    My kitchen organizing tip is something that I did a few years ago. I love love love to cook and had lots of kitchen gadgets and appliances. I went through my cupboards and drawers ruthlessly and pared down to my essentials. Any duplicates, I donated. Any items needing to be replaced, I replaced with something we call “skookum” here on the West Coast (that’s First Nations for well made/useful/does the job).

    I also donated all kitchen appliances but for my KitchenAid mixer, slow cooker and a food processor. No bread machine (bakers do it better), no juicer (too many parts to clean), popcorn maker (better on the stove in a pot), coffee maker (French press instead), can opener (manual OXO one).

    Gave away my fancy shcmancy china (never used it). Replaced my glasses with quality ones that I use – juice, wine, beer. Donated all those mismatched mugs.

    You get the idea – I AM however, collecting odds and ends for tabletop photography.

    But it’s all lean with a focus on quality and what I really use.

    • sheri silver on May 29, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      Great ideas Sandra (and this was BEFORE coffee? Jeez!)! I feel like I’m slowly in the process of doing that. It was easier before Noah, as I’ve now re-introduced items I had long since stopped needing. We’ll get there…………xo

  2. jenny - sugar loco on May 29, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Our household organization sounds very similar! We plan our meals out weekly and my hubby shops too. I have a giant (ugly) notebook which houses a lot of recipes – which admittedly I really need to clean out. With the introduction of pinterest, I try not to print out as much, but I pin and then look up the recipes on my phone while I’m cooking. This is a little bit of a pain since my phone goes into sleep mode if I don’t touch it for a minute, but ultimately (maybe) it’s helping me use my memory a little more – which I could totally use help with! I figure I’m saving a tree this way 🙂

    • sheri silver on May 29, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      I thought I would totally jump on the “recipe app” bandwagon with my phone but it’s just not happening. I need to hold that paper in my hand! And I wish I could use Pinterest more effectively with recipes but I often forget they’re there!! 🙂

  3. Emily on May 29, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I’m a menu planner too! Otherwise I never know what to cook, what to get at the store, and we waste a lot of food. I love your way of organizing your recipes on the computer. Thanks for participating in the carnival!

    • sheri silver on May 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      My pleasure! Thanks for including me – heading over to yours now! 🙂

  4. Anne on May 29, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Great post! Aren’t meal plans the greatest! We plan ours out for the month and it saves me the headache of deciding what is going to be for dinner each night. Another way to organize your kitchen is to go through the gadgets and get rid of the ones that are multiples. It is so easy to accumulate extras of just about anything little. I found I had multiples of things like whisks, spoons, etc. Once I got rid of the extras my drawers stay neater and I can actually find the gadget I am looking for!

    • sheri silver on May 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      Yes! I had, at one point – SIX spatulas! What?? Great post on your blog too – just commented! 🙂

  5. Sara on May 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    A tip I give to clients, especially when it comes to the kitchen, no 1 trick ponies .. just say no to gadgets, and thingsmabobs that don’t multi-task ~ except the coffee pot! Keeps the drawers, counters and cabinets clutter free.

  6. jodi on May 29, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    I have all of my recipes computerized, too. But I also keep a 3-ring binder on the shelf in my kitchen. I like the archival/historical aspect of the recipes, in their original print with the original photo. 10 times out of 10 I go to the computer, but I can’t get rid of my binder!

    I keep my drawers very organized, thanks to BB&B stainless steel dividers. Everything has it’s place: cutting tools (peelers, scissors, graters etc.), beverage tools (wine openers, church keys, wine stoppers), wooden tools (juicers, odd-shaped spoons and condiment spoons). Now if I could just get my husband to stop throwing a measuring tape next to a pizza cutter I’d be all set!

  7. Justine @ The Lone Home Ranger on May 29, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I am in awe! We have a scanner, so I have no excuse not to take up this great tip immediately. Often when I make a dish we love, I either forget where I got it (I agree about Pinterest…I forget it’s there!) or that we liked it. Sometimes I get frustrated when I follow a recipe a second time and realize I had encountered the same error previously but never made a note to myself. I absolutely love your organized method of making notes and categorizing recipes.
    When I am purging extra gadgets, I put them in a box in the basement and wait a month; this method keeps me from worrying I will throw out a tool I want later. If I don’t go looking for any items after the month is up, the box goes to GoodWill sight unseen.

  8. Becky on June 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Great tips for recipes! I just started trying to get the pantry organized and being better about using up what we have before it expires. I have started to be better about menu planning too. It helped us out a bunch in the last few weeks that we have done it. Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend!

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