In Part 1 I started to discuss how to organize your kitchen to make it conducive to efficient and relaxed meal preparation.
Once you’ve pared down your utensils and cookware, you can tackle your pantry and fridge.
What food are you storing, and how are you storing it? Expired or wrongly-stored foods take up space and can make your dish tasteless or even dangerous.
Old jars of herbs and spices usually aren’t dangerous, just bland-tasting, so what’s the point in using them? If you crush them and smell nothing, they probably won’t do much for your dish. If a vibrantly colored spice has lost its brightness, that’s another indication of flavor loss. If you’ve let your spice become moist, it might clump together and be harder to use. To prevent this, don’t store your herbs and spices near moisture or shake them over a steaming pot; instead spoon them from the jar or, better yet, use a mortar and pestle. And don’t forget to screw the lid on tightly when you’re finished.
You might be willing to take a chance on old oregano, but what about that not-quite-fresh chicken in your fridge? Safety should always trump frugality here; while most of us hate to waste food, hospital bills are costlier!
When you’re arranging your refrigerator, convenience is important, but so is temperature. The back of the bottom shelf is usually the coldest spot – good for dairy and meat – while the door is the warmest – best for condiments, jams, and nut butters.
Too often we fight with our kitchens, banging pots and pans to find their lids, navigating a cluttered fridge to locate that elusive jar of olives, grabbing a jar of cinnamon only to find it empty or ten years old.
Here are some tips to turn a frustrating kitchen into a zone of efficiency and creativity…
Cooking Utensils –
Do you really need three vegetable peelers, an egg-slicer you’ve never used, and a broken corkscrew? Be merciless on paring down these items. Imagine the loveliness of a sparsely populated drawer or countertop canister. Put that only-used-on-Thanksgiving turkey baster and other once-in-a-while items in a bag on a lower or upper cabinet shelf, so they won’t be intermingling with your everyday items. (This goes for items you really use, not for “maybe I’ll use them someday” things – those get gifted or donated.)
What pots and pans do you use daily? Unless you’re a gourmet chef, these usually consist of a couple of sauce pans, a frying pan, and a soup or pasta pot. Instead of nesting them, store these front and center with their lids on. Further back, lower down, or higher up go less-frequently used or specialty items. Most people have needless duplicates of the basics – which do you really use and which are backups? Do you really need those backups?
Beware of specialty items you never use. Do a reality check with your yogurt maker or bread mixer. Is there someone in your life – or who shops at a thrift store – who actually makes yogurt or bakes bread who would be thrilled to own these?