Organizing the Kitchen

Whenever I’ve moved, organizing my kitchen has been my most anticipated and most dreaded task. It always takes some tweaking to make sure it works, but here are some tried and true rules for organizing and setting up your kitchen, along with some notes that work for me.

  1. Keep like items together.
    No need to have different kinds of plates in different cabinets. Keep it simple and keep your sanity.
  2. Store stuff where it makes sense.
    Basics: dishes near the dining area, glasses near wherever you usually get most of your drinks (sink, fridge, wherever), mugs and coffee stuff near each other, cooking tools near the stove.

 

Things that work for me

  1. I love having all my stuff within arm’s reach when I’m cooking. This means using all the available space, mostly because my kitchen is small and I don’t have a lot of other options: magnetic knife rack on the side of the cabinet, crock with cooking utensils, towel rack on the side of the cabinet, and well-curated tools in a highly organised drawer (seriously…stuff only fits in there one way…). There are perks to having a small kitchen! I never have to move to get what I need.
  2. Use the outside of cabinets. Listen, I’m all about a clean, streamlined look, but that gets a little rough when the insides of your cabinets are running out of space!
  3. COMMAND HOOKS. I have like eighty of these around our house, and about two-thirds of them are in the kitchen. I use them mostly for hanging stuff on the backs of cabinet doors: pot lids in the pantry, potholders and strainers in the workhorse cabinet, a paper file in the pantry that holds the plates for our griddler, strips to hang magazine files that hold parchment/aluminum foil/wax paper. Lots. Of. Storage.
  4. Shelf stackers have gotten us a lot more storage in our cabinets!
  5. Hanging wire baskets are another great storage multiplier, although I find them a little more difficult to work with than the shelf stackers. That’s partly because there’s a definite weight limit to these guys. We use ours for plastic baggies and (currently) ice trays.
  6. Over-the-door baskets are great under our sink and keep things in arm’s reach but out of sight. Which I kinda love.
  7. I keep less frequently used items in clearly marked, see-through boxes in the top of my pantry. That makes it easy to get out what I need a couple times a week (canning stuff, or cookie cutters, or my stick blender), but don’t need readily accessibility to at all times.

10 Pinterest Ideas That Worked In My Kitchen

We’ve all seen the pins.

“65 Genius Hacks To Organise Your Kitchen”

“27 Kitchen Ideas To Try RIGHT NOW”

“Here Are 172 Professionally Designed, Perfectly Organized Kitchens That People Don’t Actually Live In, But We’ll Show You Photos For The Purpose Of Making You Feel Inadequate”

Oh, I know you know. I KNOW you know.

The ideas I’ve listed here are things I’ve actually tried in my own kitchen, and they actually work for me. The ideas themselves may or may not have initially come from Pinterest into my life (I do have a brain of my own, believe it or not), but I’ve seen them all on there.

1. Hang pot lids
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This idea definitely came from Pinterest. I currently have 25 command hooks hanging in my kitchen. Twenty five. Partly because I’m an addict, sure. Partly because I find them in the clearance bin at Home Depot for 70% off. And partly because they just work. Using them to hang my pot lids on the back of our pantry door was a real win for me, since our lids don’t stack nicely in our pots or make for easy storage otherwise.
I will say, hanging stuff on the backs of cabinet doors really only works if 1) the stuff is basically flat and/or fits in between the heights of your shelves, or 2) you have cabinet shelves that don’t fill the depth of your cabinet.

2. Paper file on the back of a cabinet door
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I’ve seen this used to hold cutting boards or baking pans or any number of other things, but we use this one to hold the pancake and waffle plates for our griddler. They’re large and odd to store, and we use them each at least once a week, so access needs to be easy. I just hung the file with command hooks, so I’d be careful of how much we put in them unless we were to secure it otherwise.

 

 

3. Magazine files on the back of a cabinet door
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It took me a while to use these efficiently after putting them up, but now I have one for food storage and one for baking needs, so it holds my silicone baking mats as well (rolled up, secured with twist ties), and I love them.

 

 

 

4. Shelf stackers
Guys, look at this…
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I’m not joking when I say that this has literally doubled the storage in this cabinet. Please ignore the unfinished trim work…it’s uh…a work in progress. I also find that we don’t have enough shelf space in our upper cabinets and we really could use another shelf in each of them, save maybe one. So I’ve popped this shelf in one of them to double our food storage space.
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5. Vertical organiser for baking pans
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I was a little skeptical of this one, but tired of my pans falling over themselves on the shelf. Because of the extra space between the pans, I’m not convinced that this gives me more cabinet real estate to work with, but to me it’s worth it for the ease of getting out exactly the pan I need so easily.

 

 

 

6. Turntables in cabinets
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These are helpful particularly in the corner cabinet I have. We use them to simply make things easier to access, and they’re great for condiments and vinegars.

 

 

7. Turntables in the fridge
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This is one thing that actually takes away from storage for us, so we’ve recently done away with it but we had a turntable in our fridge for a good long time. It made accessing condiments and other frequently used items really quick and easy.

 

 

 

8. Fridge and freezer organizer bins
IMG_5750I love having these, especially on our cavernous lowest shelf. When one is empty or we need more shelf space, I just stack them together. And we can change the labels as frequently as we need to. We pretty consistently have ones for meat, dairy, and things to use this week. This method also extends to the freezer, where I think they could work better if they were a different size, but it’s what we’ve got right now. In the freezer we keep bins for veggies, fruit, meat, and lunches, along with our ice bin.

9. Towel rod on the end of a cabinet
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To be honest, when I came up with this idea (all on my own, thank you very much) I didn’t factor in that I’d soon have a walker/destroyer-of-all-things-tidy. So we do find it annoying that the towels are so accessible to Nolan and that he takes full advantage of that at times, but if I could go back I don’t think I’d change this because we find it so valuable to have somewhere predictable for our towels. They’d be all over the counters if we didn’t!

 


10. Magnetic knife rack
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We oriented ours differently than is traditional, but having this rack freed up space in my one truly usable kitchen drawer, keeps my knives in better shape than being all jumbled together in their drawer organizer, and ensures they’re just a quick grab away when I need them. It’s also keeping the knives out of Nolan’s reach as he gets taller and has begun to reach into our kitchen drawers…PERK.

 

 

 

Any Pinterest ideas that have worked in your kitchen? Let me know below!

6 Things That Make All the Difference In the Whole Wide World While I’m Cooking

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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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…
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    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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.

Kitchen Art | Mama Trudy’s Recipes

Due to some weird (read: super annoying) communication things that happened with a contractor who was installing our kitchen, we landed this odd space between the top of the range and the bottom of the microwave.

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The perk is that it’s now a great place to hang some art! It took me a bit to figure out what I wanted there, but one day it struck me that I want our home to be a place where we carry on the legacies that have been left for us and where we establish our own legacy to pass on to our kids. One of the legacies we’ve inherited is from my mom’s grandma, Mama Trudy. She was a wonderful, peaceful, loving, joyful woman, and just a blessing to be around. I needed some MT in my kitchen.

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When Mama Trudy passed away in 2012, my mom took a bunch of her recipes home. I asked Mom if I could look through them and pick out a couple. We photocopied them so as to not mess up the originals, and I picked up some frames to spray paint at Goodwill. The mats were leftover from another project for which I’d bought new frames, so it was nice to have a chance to use a couple of them.

I used double stick tape squares to get the recipes to stick to the fabric, which was a remnant square I had laying around from the local fabric store.

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Then, being Goodwill frames, came the trick of hanging them. They didn’t have picture claws in the back, and weren’t terribly receptive to them when I tried to give them some. Not only that, but the teensy tiny little strip of wall I had to hang them on, above the tile and below the microwave, wouldn’t hold them well.

Bingo! Command strips! Right? Wrong. Let’s remember that this is above my stove. Where there is heat. And grease. And stuff. Frequently. Command strips lasted about an hour, then Kyle had to dig out the frames from behind the stove…

This is where I landed:

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And even this wasn’t working out great for the longest time because one of the frames took to it really nicely and the other was like, “Oh honey, noooooooo.” For months. During which time I had one frame hanging above my stove. One. Just the one. The other floated about on the counter the whole time. *eyeroll*

Now that it’s done, doesn’t it look lovely? I’m so glad to have a bit of Mama Trudy in my kitchen  🙂

Kitchen Tools Tour

As I jump into sharing my Homemade experiment on here, I imagine it might be helpful to see what I’m working with. Because, you know, context. I can’t pretend to have the most efficient kitchen or the most snazzy appliances, but I get by just fine. I try to tamp the clutter down and only keep what I really need and use. Also, before we diverightin, I’m sorry. I’ll try to get the blog formatting thing down at some point. Until then, it’ll just look like a second grade book report.

DAILY USE

  • blenderBlender: We use this for smoothies nearly daily, and for almond milk weekly. It does a great job for those, but I’ve had trouble using it for anything more heavy duty. The same base is used for both the blender and the food processor, which saves on cabinet space.

Wishlist BlenderThis beauty will live in my kitchen someday. Yes it’ll require a separate food processor, but for the awesome job the blender does at being a blender, that’s fine by me.

  • Toaster Oven: We got this as a wedding gift from toasterovenKyle’s parents and we use it every single day. Kyle heats his breakfast sandwiches in it, I toast Nolan’s waffles in it and my toast in it, and our family is such a size at this point that I can frequently use it for roasting our vegetables for dinner. We use it for heating leftover pizza and other bread-y goodness, and it’s a lifesaver in the summer when I can bake up some chicken or fish in there instead of turning on the range.
  • kettleKettle: Another thing we use several times a day. Mostly because I’m a tea addict (no shame). This kettle is great because you can select what temperature you want the water to heat to. Making tea or coffee? There’s a temperature for that. Yeast bread, and need it at 120? There’s a temperature for that. How about a bottle for your ten-month-old? Yes. There’s a temperature for that, too. Makes life super simple.
  • Cookware: I do all my cooking in an eclectic collection of cast iron skillets and a set of stainless pots my parents got us when we got married. Cast iron is a great thing to buy used because they’re so much better seasoned than new ones, don’t require a lot of maintenance, and they just don’t make them like they used to. Our stainless pots are fantastic and I’d never get rid of them. Read here and here about why teflon will probably kill you.canningfunnel
  • Canning funnel: Because I’m not a crazy person, I definitely don’t can anything on a daily basis. But I do use my canning funnel for everything from chicken broth to almond milk to pancake mix, and a few things in between. The wide bowl is a mess-saver! Srsly.

  • kitchenaid
    KitchenAid: This is certainly not the color of KitchenAid I have, but I love it! KitchenAids are indispensable. I could not do without mine. It makes everything easy, from mixing up bread or pizza dough to whipping meringue. If mine ever burns out (which is unlikely…my grandmother has used her machine for twice as long as I’ve been alive…) I’ll get this pistachio green  🙂
  • Mason jars: We use them for everything. Storing chicken broth and almond milk, dry goods in the pantry, snacks in the diaper bag, salt scrub in the shower, laundry detergent by the washer, flowers everywhere, you get the idea. I read somewhere recently, a design site or something, that mason jars are “on the way out.” *all of the annoyed emojis* (Don’t worry, I have a diatribe waiting.)
    (Here you go.)
    Mason jars were about as “in” as Red Sox hats were in 2005. Everybody jumped on board with something that MILLIONS OF US already know to be amazing and worthwhile. We millions know this from having used them for OUR ENTIRE LIVES. Friends, I’ve long spoken out against bandwagon fans of anyone (particularly my beloved Sox), but just like being a Sox fan isn’t just a hobby, MASON JARS ARE A LIFESTYLE. If you’re not on board for life, don’t pretend to be while it’s popular.

WEEKLY USE

  • griddlerGriddle/waffle iron: This was a very sweet gift from our wedding that I had no idea what to do with. I used it to make waffles a few times when Kyle and I were first married, but other than that it’s been pretty lifeless and I’ve considered getting rid of it several times. However, because the plates are removable and dishwasher safe which makes clean-up super fast, last year I started using it to make our Saturday morning pancakes. Now it gets a weekly workout and I’m interested into trying it for other stuff too!
  • Crockpot: I use this a couple times a week for crockpotdinners and usually once a week to make broth. Broth cooks for a long time whether you make it on the stove or in a crock pot, and I like that when I make it in the crock pot I can just set it and leave it without worrying about either adding water to it as it evaporates, or burning down our house. I consider that a perk. I love that ours has the lid that seals really well and snaps on, so I can make something and pack it over to a friend’s house without spilling a drop.Wishlist crockpot: Programmable, with a 7 quart stove-to-slow cooker pot, and a sealing lid like my current one has. I don’t know if it exists, but if it does, I wouldn’t complain about owning it someday. (Do we need 7 quarts of…anything…right now? No. But I’M A LONG TERM THINKER, OKAY?)
  • thermometerThermometer: My sweet husband hooked me up with this thing after the hand-me-down from my mom stopped working. Not too pricy, has a great cord that I’m pretty sure is indestructible, and reads pretty darn accurately. Also comes with a handy clip thingy that you can snap onto the side of a pot or bowl.
  • Yogurt makeryogurtmaker: This was a big deal when it popped out of the box at Christmas. I told Kyle for months that it would make a big difference in our grocery budget if we got a yogurt maker, and I think he’s starting to believe me. This makes homemade yogurt so easy, and it’s really foolproof. As our family gets bigger over the years I think we’ll need a bigger one, or one where you can stack the jars, but for now this comfortably gets us through nearly a week.
  • saladspinnerSalad spinner: I actually just got this for Christmas, too. Actually before Christmas because my sweet husband saw me struggling yet again to roll up lettuce leaves in tea towels in an attempt to dry them off. Love my new spinner! The Amazon link you’re taken to touts it as being “space saving.” Still haven’t mastered that feature. This thing is huge.

OCCASIONAL USEapplecorer

  • Apple corer/peeler/slicer: In all honesty I probably use this little gadget maybe two or three times a year. But when I need it, man do I need it! Not only does this makes pushing through forty pounds of apples a snap, it makes it fun. When you’re twenty-three pounds into forty pounds of apples, trust me…you’re searching every which way for fun.

 

  • icecreammakerIce cream maker: This thing is so fun! I love that it attaches to my KitchenAid so simply and just does its thing. I do wish it didn’t have to be frozen for quite so long (read: FOR-EV-ER, Sandlot style) before being able to use it, but it turns out some beautiful ice cream.