It’s amazing — some people manage to get a complete aerobic workout just while preparing dinner! Back and forth, back and forth — I get tired just watching! Today, pay attention to the way you move while you cook. How many times do you cross the length of your kitchen in one evening? Do you find yourself doing squats to get at your pans? Stretches to reach your dishes? Are you becoming a world-class hurdler, jumping over the dog’s dish every time you go from refrigerator to stove? All it takes is a few minutes to re-arrange your kitchen storage, saving you a lot of time and energy in the long run.
HONEY, IS THIS GOOD?
We all know how disgusting it is to pull an item out of the fridge, only to discover that it has mutated. However, we often mistakenly confuse NON-PERISHABLE with INDESTRUCTIBLE. Even Twinkies have an expiration date! Do yourself a favor today — go through your cabinets and toss out anything that is old, rancid, stale, or hairy. And as you purge, be sure to keep a shopping list of items you need to replace. It’s also not a bad idea to make cleaning out the kitchen a part of your regular “home maintenance” routine. You may use these food “life expectancies” as a guide — but when in doubt, trust your gut (or your nose!):
– Canned foods (2-5 years)
– Flours (3-6 months)
– Cereal (6 months)
– Grains / Legumes (1 year)
– Pasta (1 year)
– Dried Herbs (6 months)
– Spices (6-12 months)
– Condiments (1 year)
Every implement or supply that you use tends to fall into one of five categories — cleaning, food storage, cooking, food preparation, and serving. The goal is to keep your equipment nearest the appropriate center, making it easier for you to perform your kitchen duties.
– Your CLEANING station consists of the sink, dishwasher, and trashcan. Of course, soap, disinfectants, sponges, and rags should be stored in a cabinet nearby.
– The stove is central to any COOKING activities, so keep utensils, baking sheets, pots, and pans within easy reach. If you can, also move the microwave and toaster into this area.
– Your FOOD PREPARATION center should be located near a large workspace (countertop or island). You will probably want to store knives, a cutting board, mixing bowls, blender, food processor, measuring cups, and other related implements close by.
– FOOD STORAGE, on the other hand, will center on the refrigerator — and should include room for Tupperware containers, canned foods, dry goods, and fresh fruits or vegetables.
– Your SERVING center may be split between the kitchen and dining area. It is often easier to store serving dishes, linens, and candles near the table – while flatware, glasses, and plates usually work well closer to the sink (it’s easier to put them away after washing).
TRANSFORM YOUR EXISTING STORAGE SPACE
Now, let’s tackle your cabinets and drawers. Limit yourself to one category of paraphernalia per area. That may mean putting canned goods on one shelf and boxes on another — or keeping dishes separate from glasses. Organize your kitchen in a way that makes sense to you, but try to avoid storing food and cookware together in the same cabinet.
Storage paraphernalia can also do wonders with your current storage spaces. Stepped shelving makes it easier to see items hidden in the back of a deep cabinet — and drawer dividers will help keep your utensils under control. Remember that rectangular storage containers take up less space than round ones — and pot lids / flat cookware are more accessible when lined up in a vertical rack. Finally, don’t forget the many ways to turn “dead” spaces into useful storage — including pullout racks, wall pegs, lazy susans, cup hooks, stacking bins, hanging storage, and space-saving appliances.
THE TRIANGLE THEORY
One final concern in your kitchen is movement from one “center” to the next. Some people claim that you should be able to reach every major appliance in one step. That seems highly impractical, especially if you have a very large kitchen. However, you can make your life a bit easier if you keep motion in mind. Try viewing your kitchen as a triangle — SINK to STOVE to REFRIGERATOR. Your goal is to keep those paths clear! If you have to dodge garbage cans, recycling bins, or any other obstacles to get back and forth, you are doing too much work.