For someone who cooks as much as I do, having kitchen systems is super important. The idea of a pile of dishes, floating food scraps, and a mad search for particular tools can deter even the most enthusiastic of cooks (trust me…I’m one of them, and that sounds in no way appealing). However, with a very busy toddler, the rest of the house to take care of, and, I don’t know, SANITY, sometimes things can get out of hand and suddenly, having take-out for dinner sounds infinitely appealing.
These are the things I do to make cooking easy and consistently a blast.
- Take a look at the plan for the day.
I really try to make our meal plan work with whatever we have planned out for the week, but sometimes on busy days (or just lazy days…) I forget to look at the meal plan and get dinner started on time. Taking a minute early in the day to remind myself of the dinner plan is really helpful!
- Start clean.
This seriously makes a huge difference for me. When I have a counter full of clean dishes on one side and/or dirty dishes on the other side, or the sink is piled full of stuff waiting for my attention, or the dishwasher isn’t empty, or our compost bin is already overflowing, the entire process of cooking a meal is much more difficult. I try to make sure to start with cleared counters, an empty sink, and a not-clean dishwasher.
- Wash as you go.
Another huge one, totally affected by #2. If you don’t have anywhere to wash dishes or to put clean dishes once you’ve washed them, you won’t be able to do this, so get things in order, then wash as you go. It’ll save you loads of time washing them all later, and it’s discouraging to see a whole sink or counter full of dirty dishes! I recently started taking a cue from my grandmother and just making dishwater before I start cooking, so that it’s ready to go when I need it. It requires me to start with a cleared out sink (because where else am I going to make dishwater…?), getting dishes washed up has never been quicker or easier, and I think it probably saves water in the long run too! If this washing-as-you-go business is a totally foreign concept to you, just start small. Commit to washing your chef’s knife as soon as you’re done with it every time. Then it’ll be ready for you to use again as soon as you need it, and you’ll find it easier to carry the practice on with other dishes.
- Get your kitchen orgainzed.
Honestly, if I couldn’t find my stuff, I’d never cook. Little, inexpensive drawer dividers make life a lot easier. Here’s what my “workhorse drawer” looks like…
It’s not fully stocked in the photo, since I’d been cooking all day when I took it. With three drawers total in my kitchen, and only one in my actual workspace, this puppy has got to pull its weight. While I’m standing at my cutting board, most of my tools are in reach.
- Have a plan for trash.
This sounds weird, I get that. We live in a part of the country where we have like fourteen different “right” ways to dispose of waste. Also, I kinda have a thing for not making waste. So I make a plan. Usable veg scraps go in a baggie in the freezer to make chicken broth later. Unusables go in the compost bin, which I like to park next to the counter. Recycling and trash go in their respective bins under the sink. Boom boom boom boom and done!
- Prep ahead.
Especially with a toddler, prepping ahead makes a ton of difference for me. As simple as it may be, if I don’t have to wash and cut the lettuce for a salad, we’ll probably actually end up having a salad with dinner.