Some people are naturally messy cooks, while others are tidy. For the messy cook, the idea of putting things away after you use them, setting all of your ingredients out before beginning the cooking process and even reading through the recipe from beginning to end may be too much. If you are a naturally messy cook, the cooking process is probably frustrating. How many meals have you started to prepare only to discover that you do not have a particular ingredient? Or conversely, how many times have you purchased something at the grocery store only to realize that you have three more of the same item at home?
If this sounds like you, it is time to gain control of your kitchen. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to invest in organizational tools. The wide variety of organizational tools available means that you should have no problem finding tools that work in your kitchen. But these tools only work if they are used; creating space for your most used ingredients makes it much easier to find them. By investing in tools that you like, find appealing and that are easy to use, you are more likely to develop the habit of putting everything in its proper place. Once these habits are ingrained, it will become second nature to return each ingredient or tool to its home when you are finished with it.
One of the biggest timewasters in the kitchen has to be the hunt for particular spices. For the tidy cook, this may only be a problem when looking for anise, which they know they have, but have not used in a few months. For the messier cook, the search for salt and pepper can be an everyday struggle. Gaining control of your kitchen through organization saves time and money. Time, because you will not waste it looking for ingredients that you know you have, and money, because you will not buy multiple items at the grocery store due to the fact you cannot find what you are looking for.
To put a stop to these time wasting searches, consider investing in one of the variety of spice organizers that are readily available. Some spice organizers, such as step shelves, are designed so that you can use the containers that your spices came in, while others, such as automatic measuring spice racks, will require you to fill up the containers from the spices that you purchase at the grocery store. When choosing the type of spice rack you want consider how your kitchen is organized. Is there plenty of counter space? Then a countertop spice rack makes a good choice. Do you have extra room in a cabinet? Consider step shelves or other racks that allow you to store your spices behind closed doors. There are a variety of choices in spice storage that make it possible to store your spices in the way that fits best with your current kitchen layout.
If space is at a premium, you may need to pare down your selection of spices to those that you use most frequently. Because spices gradually lose potency over time, invest in the smallest container possible of spices that you do not use frequently, and consider storing them in a separate spice rack that is less accessible. For the spices that you use most often, give them a prime location that you can access quickly and easily while cooking.
Another storage and organization solution is a freestanding baker’s rack or kitchen island. The baker’s rack – as its name implies – is created just for all the things a baker (or you) need such as pots, pans, sugar, flour, spices and useful utensils like mixing and measuring spoons. The open design of the baker’s rack keeps everything out in the open at your fingertips. If you prefer to keep these items more hidden, a small counter-height island or taller, narrow pantry would be a good option. Put away those spices, ingredients and tools you do not use that often watch the clutter disappear.
For any organizational process to work, it is important to be consistent. Always return an item to its home when you are finished with it. If you really want to put an end to the missing salt, consider adding a condiment caddy to your kitchen arsenal. This allows you to have a spot for your table salt, pepper, sugar and any other items you use on a regular basis. Do not use the condiment caddy salt for cooking or the spice rack salt at the table. While it may seem silly to have two separate containers, salt, unlike many spices, has a long shelf life, and it is inexpensive. After the initial investment in your organizational products, you will have to refill your salt containers half as often, and you will always know where to find the salt.
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Lisa Parker is a freelance writer who writes and blogs about family issues and home management. Ms. Parker also discusses topics involving organization such as kitchen storage.
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