Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
You can’t rush cooking time on food, but you can make time spent in the kitchen less. One of the ways to do this is to make sure that your kitchen is set up in a way that is simplified…so you can find everything you need to and get your work done.
How much time have you spent looking for a spice that got buried behind something? How much time have you lost looking for a particular pan or tool? We all know what lurks behind the closed doors and drawers in our kitchens. Stuff. Probably too much stuff.
Simplifying the kitchen is a great way to boost your productivity: after all, less time spent doing necessary chores means more time doing other (fun) stuff.
Here are the 10 Commandments of Simplifying The Kitchen:
1. Thou Shalt Not Have Duplicate Gadgets
Stuff takes up space and gets in our way. Many people have duplicates of things that they would never use at the same time. Many of these things are gifts, and that can make it hard to get rid of something. But if you only use a thing one at a time, purge the duplicates.
In my house, I have three gravy boats. I use one at a time. So out went the other two!
What duplicates are lurking in your kitchen?
2. Thou Shalt Not Scatter
One of the easiest ways to simplify things is to keep like items together. If you keep some in one place, and more in another, you will have to possibly search two places to find the spice you are looking for. Keep things together so that you minimize your search time.
In my apartment, I had spices in two places. Frustrated with not being able to find what I was looking for, I ended up buying more. When I moved I found duplicates of about 6 spices.
What do you have stored in multiple locations?
3. Thou Shalt Not Keep Broken Things
How often have you kept something that is broken? It can be big, like an appliance you mean to get fixed, or small, like the dried up pens and markers in your drawer (don’t kid me, I know you’ve got them).
We often keep broken things with the intention of getting them fixed or making them useable again, but these tasks often slip away from us, leaving us with a load of unfinished intentions. Every time we go into the kitchen we know these things are there, and it can drain us.
My broken item was a cow spoon rest. It had been broken and glued back together multiple times, so that not only was it ugly, but the last time it sat around for two months waiting for me to have time to glue it. It took some effort and a bit of sorrow (I loved that cow!), but I tossed it and bought a new cow spoon rest.
What broken things are in your kitchen?
4. Thou Shalt Get Rid Of Recipes
Recipes…whether your are a gourmet or a beginner, recipes pile up. There are things we have tried, things that people have given us, cookbooks, and recipes off the interwebs. And then there are the glossy magazines with the perfect pictures of food at the supermarket checkouts…
Most people I know have more recipes in their kitchens than they could possibly make in a lifetime. After all, how many of us are going to work our way through the Joy of Cooking like they did in Julie and Julia? Not many.
My mother loves to give me cookbooks and recipes. Over the years she has given me thousands of handwritten recipes and at least a hundred cookbooks. The truth is that I use few of these. I went on a major recipe purge a few years ago…the cards from my mother are gone through and those duplicate “family” recipes that I already have are set aside for my daughter. Most of my cookbooks were donated, leaving me with an old Betty Crocker for basic reference, two crockpot books, one bread book and my The Weeknight Survival Cookbook.
How many cookbooks and recipe cards do you have tucked away?
5. Thou Shalt Get Rid Of Unused Appliances
So many gadgets out there, all of them promising to save us time and effort. Coupled with sales, many of us have either purchased or received as gifts kitchen gadgets. But having gadgets on hand may mean lots of things to work around as we move around the kitchen.
A few years ago I went through our small appliances and got rid of the ones we didn’t use. This included a deep fryer, a donut machine and a small food chopper (I have a larger one that attaches to my blender base). I have two gadgets that I am doubting the use of right now: my Cuisinart (because I only use it to shred cheese, not knowing how to really use it) and my ice-cream maker (it SEEMED like such a good idea at the time!)
How many unused small appliances are hiding in your kitchen?
6. Thou Shalt Not Have Expired Items
Having a pantry is a great idea. It keeps a stock of food on hand so that you can always find something to eat quickly. The problem is that without organization, a pantry gets out of hand and food disappears to the back and sits there, expired until the next big cleanout (or move).
Cleaning out the food at least twice a year will prvent this from happening. Move the oldest food to the front (there is a reason grocery stores do this!) and make it a point to either use it or donate it before it expires.
My pantry often has items that I purchased for recipes but never ended up making. I go through these every three months, about the time the local groups canvas for food, and get rid of the excess.
7. Thou Shalt Group By Use
Imagine you were trying to do something simple, like make a cake from a box mix. You will need a bowl, the mix, additional ingredients, a pan, grease for the pan, a mixer and a scraper. Now imaging that every item was in a different room. How much longer it would take you to make that cake as you went around collecting your tools!
Keeping items that are used together stored together can eliminate that problem. Most professionally organized kitchens have “stations” or areas of use. Baking items are stored together. Pans are stored together. Serving utensils are stored together. You get the idea.
My kitchen at my house is huge, and there is a lot of storage space. Before I moved in, I planned out where the stations would be, and put things away accordingly. I’ve adjusted only twice since then. There is a food prep station located near the fridge and right next to the stove, where I have cutting boards, knives and the compost holding pot. The baking ingredients are stored on the other side of the stove, with pans underneath the stove and the stand mixer and bread machine on the counter. The hot drink station has the coffee pot on the counter and the coffees and filters in the cupboard below, along with the teas and the teapot.
Is your kitchen scattered?
8. Thou Shalt Not Have Unitaskers
Unitaskers are those things that have one purpose. These are often prominently displayed in stores around holiday times (making the perfect gifts for those who have everything!) The difference between these and small appliances is they don’t plug in, and are easy to lose in the jumble of drawers.
Unitaskers are OK if you use them regularly (at least once a week) or if they help you keep food safe. But if you don’t, ask yourself why you have them.
In my kitchen at one point I had three egg seperators. Since I learned to separate eggs using the shells, I couldn’t see keeping any of them; however, with all the salmonella being transmitted on egg shells, I kept one. I did pitch the slicer with the julienne attachment in favor of my knives, and the cookie dough scoop that didn’t work well went away in favor of a spoon. There are two plastic knives for cutting lettuce as well…but my hands work just find for tearing lettuce into bite-sized bits.
Do you have any unitaskers?
9. Thou Shalt Not Have Too Many
One of the big issues with kitchen crowding is too many of things. We have too many cooking spoons, too many mugs, too many forks.
Some things are the result of gifts; others just build up over time. Decide how many you actually use, and get rid of the rest. Let’s face it, if you only keep one spoon, the worst that can happen is that you have to wash it in the middle of making something. And how many coffee mugs do you have on hand? Are you planning on hosting a coffee klatch for 40 people?
In my house, there are too many cooking stirrers next to the stove, making it very difficult to find the ones I actually use. I also have a collection of mugs that needs to be thinned out.
What do you have in your cupboards that is too many?
10. Thou Shalt Know What Your Stockpile Is
This goes along with not having expired items, but takes a proactive approach. If you know what is in your stockpile of foods, you have a better chance of eating them. This is not only true of the pantry, but also the fridge and freezer.
By creating an inventory list of what you have, you will know where the food is before it needs to be thrown out.
I am horrible at remembering the produce. I put fruit in the crisper drawer, just to find it the next time I go shopping. I put a sticky note on the front of the fridge reminding myself that there is fruit in the drawers to be used. I also have a lot of weird things in my freezer. By keeping an inventory, I know what I have on hand to cook with, and what needs to be used before it becomes covered in a solid layer of frost.
What do you have in your stockpile?
I hope that this article has given you some ideas on ways to simplify your kitchen. By paring things down and reorganizing, you should find it easier to get in and get out.
Do you do (or don’t do) any of the above? Share below.
Photo by @jbtaylor