- Grocery sales in the United States grew 83 percent in March.
- More cooking at home might call for a more organized kitchen.
- Planning meals and clearing out your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer can make your time in the kitchen easier.
With less dining out and more at-home meals taking place, your kitchen may be working overtime and busting at the seams with groceries.
According to BMO Equity Research, grocery sales in the United States grew 83 percent for the 2 weeks ending March 22.
“An organized kitchen makes it easier to cook solo and bring your family to cook together. When all family members know where the tools are, the preparation is easy to accomplish and share responsibilities. An organized kitchen helps you feel more comfortable preparing your meals for you and your family,” Ellen Delap, certified professional organizer, told Healthline.
Here are 6 simple tips to help you get your kitchen optimally organized:
A lot goes into preparing three meals a day, so come up with a plan and be as consistent as possible, Delap said.
“Write up your menu to be sure you have all the ingredients and plan for each meal. Get organized for your online grocery shopping to cut down on trips. You can order 7 days at a time for most fresh produce. Plan a ‘cafeteria style’ leftovers meal once a week. It cuts down on preparation and uses up leftovers,” she said.
Devin Alexander, celebrity chef and NY Times bestselling author, agreed. She suggested buying ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes.
Each week, Alexander said she buys a couple of her favorite lean proteins, such as chicken breast, lean ground turkey, frozen wild salmon or cod, and plenty of vegetables, including fresh kale, cabbage, and broccoli.
“[These] are going to last a lot longer than most leafy greens like spinach and arugula,” Alexander told Healthline.
Once you add some healthy grains to your list like quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and corn tortillas, she said it’s easy to morph them into meals using pantry staples, such as beans, olives, olive oil, vinegar, salsas, and spice blends.
“For instance, I’d make Lean and Loaded nachos one night. Then a brown rice bowl with the chicken the next,” she said.
When you bring your groceries home from the store and before you start cooking, wash your hands and place your groceries on a clean surface near the sink.
Delap suggested dividing your cleaning products into categories: daily or weekly use and backup storage.
“Daily or weekly use are easily accessed under a sink in the kitchen. Back up storage locations include the laundry room, an auxiliary closet, or a tall shelf just inside the garage door to the house,” she said.
After the countertop is clean, Delap said to wipe down the exterior of product cartons, and wash fruits and vegetables. Then wipe down your countertops after putting away your groceries.
When Alexander gets home from the store, she said she first removes all the twist-ties from herbs and washes and dries them thoroughly to prolong their life.
“I cut up a few days’ worth of fruit and veggies so I can quickly grab them to snack on or put in salads,” she said.
During meal prep, Delap said to make sure you have some fun throughout the process, especially if you’re involving kids.
“There are meals focusing on a country, i.e., Italian or Mexican, which include not only the food of the country, [but] learning about the country itself, dressing up for the meal in that country’s attire, and learning the language of that country. I have seen a family luau, a fancy restaurant dinner where the parents are the wait staff, and family picnics for dinner,” she said.
Even the best cooks and those who cook often have expired canned goods and other foods in their pantry, Delap said.
Set aside some time to take everything out of the pantry and toss expired goods. Then sort the non-expired foods into categories that make sense to you.
“Think personal grocery store. Group items together that are snacks, canned goods (fruits, soups, meats, vegetables), condiments, beverages, baking, and breakfast,” she said.
Next, arrange your pantry by use with more frequently used items stored at eye level, such as the center of the pantry, which offers easy access.
“Work up for more adult-related foods and down for kid access items,” Delap said.
Each time you add something to the pantry, Alexander said to make it a habit to put it behind other items, not at the front of the cabinet or pantry.
“Especially when you don’t use something extremely frequently. As you empty your grocery bags, rotate those beans or that sauce so that the one that has been there longer (likely expiring more quickly) is brought to the front,” she said.
Placing items in baskets and clear bins and grouping them for uniformity can help keep them from going to the wayside. And labeling your finished pantry can help keep it from getting messy again.
“It makes it easy to know where to put the groceries and keep your pantry maintained,” Delap said.
With lots of groceries going in and out of the refrigerator, the following tips can keep things efficient:
- Keep fruits and veggies at eye level, not hidden in the drawers where you don’t see them. “Not only will this keep you healthier, it leads to less waste because you don’t forget about them,” Alexander said.
- Store condiments on the door shelves since they remain the warmest from opening and closing. “Start by setting the shelf height to accommodate the tallest bottles, then move on from there,” Delap said.
- Use bins to keeps dinner preparations together. “Having prepped your chopped foods and storing the protein together, called a ‘meal kit,’ makes it easy for you to make dinner,” Delap said.
- Take everything out of the freezer, and throw away expired items.
- Use plastic bins inside the freezer to store categories together. “Current freezers are like a big open container [where things can get lost],” Delap said.
- Place healthier items at the front of the freezer. “Store ice cream and other treats where you don’t see it every time you open the freezer,” Alexander said.
- Display a list of your freezer items, and update as you eat foods and add new ones. “A dry-erase board magnetically attached to the side of your freezer is a great place to list what you have,” Delap said.
Start by going through all of your cabinets and getting rid of duplicates of tools and appliances and those that are broken.
Then, Delap said to move on to the following:
- Think about how many glasses you need and keep just a few extra.
- If your shelves aren’t adjustable, get shelf helpers to add storage.
- Create the appearance of organization by lining up glasses in rows and including matching plates and cups.
It can also help to create kitchen zones. For example:
- a cabinet near the coffee maker can be designated a coffee zone and include mugs
- another area near the sink can be identified as the preparation zone and include storage for chopping boards and cutting tools
- an area near the refrigerator and sink could include a food wrap zone for plastic ware and wrap
- the baking zone may be near the oven and include storage for bowls, rolling pins, cookie cutters, and related bakeware
While cleanup is never the best part of a meal, Delap said creating a kitchen cleanup music playlist can inspire motivation.
“Ask your Alexa to play high-energy music and make it more fun,” she said.
And as you load the dishwasher more often, the following tips can help keep it running smoothly, according to Samsung:
- Remove food debris, such as bones or seeds and any other kind of waste, such as toothpicks or paper. These can damage the dishes, create noise, or cause a product malfunction.
- Place smaller items such as glasses, cups, saucers, mugs, and dishwasher-safe plastic items on the upper rack.
- Place larger items including pots and pans on the bottom rack.
- Use all of your dishwasher’s features and configure it to what will work best for each load. Remember to use your dishwasher’s features, such as foldable, adjustable, or removable parts, if it has them.
- Face the dirtiest side of each dish toward the center of the dishwasher. Anything that’s open, like a pot or a cup, face down so water can spray up into it. And make sure there’s enough space between the dishes.
- Spin the spray nozzles by hand after loading is complete. If any of your dishes are sticking out (like pot handles) and blocking the nozzles from spinning freely, rearrange them.
- Perform routine cleaning by gently wiping down the outside of the dishwasher and control panel with a soft, damp cloth. Once the outside is clean, clean the filter. For the final step, place an 8-ounce cup of distilled white vinegar in the lower basket, and then run a sanitize cycle.
- For a deep clean, remove the nozzles and filter and soak them overnight in distilled white vinegar. This will remove any mineral deposits and grime that have clogged up or are causing an odor.