Organizing your kitchen

Yield: 1 info

Measure Ingredient
\N \N None
\N \N Shopping and Storage
\N \N Meal Planning and Preparation
\N \N Ready-to-Cook Kitchens
\N \N Cupboards Without Chaos
\N \N De-Clutter Countertops

~ Keep your pantry, fridge, and freezer well-stocked with the basic ingredients for quick and easy food preparation.

~ Keep an ongoing grocery list, and jot down items as soon as you begin to run low. If you wait until you are completely out of the item, it could cost you an unplanned trip to the store.

~ After shopping, repackage meat and other foods in serving sizes before you freeze them. For example, wrap chicken breasts individually so you can take out just the amount you need. Also, individually wrapped frozen foods will thaw quicker.

~ Once you've done your shopping, plan to use the most perishable foods first; fresh seafood, leafy vegetables, and some fruits. Saving the hardiest foods for last will help reduce waste and eliminate unnecessary trips to the store. ~ Since half the battle is just deciding what to prepare, plan one or two days in advance - even if it's just enough to remember to thaw the meat in the refrigerator and find that recipe you've been meaning to try. - A recipe generally takes longer the first time you prepare, so when you plan to make a new dish, serve it with foods you already know how to cook. - Put your time and effort into only one part of the meal. If the entree requires more time and effort than usual, plan to serve simpler side dishes. Likewise, if a side dish or dessert is complicated, plan an easy entree.

~ Make sure that when you use your microwave it really is a shortcut.

For instance, using a temperature probe to heat a casserole to 160 F in the microwave is generally faster than heating it in a conventional oven. But preparing pasta, rice, a large piece of meat, or some mixed dishes in the microwave may take longer because you have to watch them closely or stir the food every few minutes. The microwave is especially handy for baking potatoes, cooking most vegetables, and conveniences such as boiling water, scalding milk, toasting nuts and coconut, warming tortillas, and melting margarine and chocolate. - Most people who love to cook also have a passion for collecting recipes. But if you're storing those "will try someday" recipes with the ones you frequently make, you decrease the likelihood of trying anew recipe, and all the clutter makes it difficult to find old standbys. Keep your regular recipes in an easy-to-see cookbook in a convenient place - that way your favorites will always be easy to find. File new recipes in a different place.

~ Keep some frozen dinner in the freezer and canned tuna on the pantry shelf.

~ Pick a spot on a countertop close to your sink to do most of your food preparation. Use the drawer and cabinet closest to that area to store knives, vegetables brushes and peelers, stirring spoons, measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, colanders, cutting boards, scales, and graters. Use part of the countertop in this area for your food processor so it's always handy for chopping and mincing.

~ Pick another spot on your countertop to be your baking center. Use the drawer and cabinet closest to this area to store pie plates, rolling pins, sifters, another set of measuring cups and spoons, rubber spatulas, a ruler, cookie and biscuit cutters, and a pastry cloth. Use nearby countertop space to store staples such as flour and sugar. - Set up a "breakfast station" in your kitchen. Place the coffee maker and toaster on the countertop close to where you store the coffee, milk, bread, and fruit.

~ If countertop space is at a premium, think vertical. Hang ready-made pot rack or plastic-coated wire grids for extra space.

~ Keep in mind the old saying "a place for everything and everything in its place." This is essential in the kitchen. Organize your pantry so that staples, baking supplies, oils, and vinegars occupy the same shelf. Use another shelf for canned good; another for grains, cereal, and pasta; and still another for foil, plastic wraps, and napkins.

This saves you time when preparing your grocery list and makes it easier to see what's available for creating spur-of-the-moment dishes.

~ Make use of portable organizers. Wicker or plastic baskets can hold potatoes and onions, cutlery trays keep flatware organized, knife trays protect blades and help prevent accidental cuts, spice-drawer inserts let you organize herbs and spices so that you can see them at a glance and foil and wrap dispensers will save space. Check your local home-improvement store for these and other helpful storage items.

~ Place a utensil jar next to the stove to keep wooden spoons, spatulas, and other cooking utensils within easy reach.

~ Store your seldom-used countertop appliances in less accessible cabinets.

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Quick & Easy Weeknights

Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 11-13-95

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