In honor of the new year, and all things related to simply living life a teensy bit better, I wanted to share with you the 5 things I do to help me with kitchen organization.
Let me start with a point of reference…. two points actually: the details of my life, and the reason why I organize my kitchen the way I do.
The biggest time factor in my life is my job; it’s not 40 hours a week. Once in a while it’s less, but many times it’s more. But the bigger time suck is my commute. On a good day, it’s an hour round trip. On a TYPCIAL day, it’s 90 minutes or more. This combination of hours on the road and hours at my desk does not allow me to waltz in the door at 7:00 pm and pull out an onion to chop and a pan to start dinner in. 9:00 dinner hour, anyone? I share this because I know I can’t be the only one who has this kind of a schedule.
On top of this work/commute schedule, I strive for 10 – 12 hours of actual blog work per week. That happens mostly on the week-ends, but I try and carve out 30 minutes or so in the morning before work. So, with those two things taking up as much time as they do, it leaves little time for cooking, food preparation, and organized shopping.
I organize my kitchen because I believe in eating healthfully, and I like to eat well. Translated, that means I make dinners that are a healthy and tasty combination of protein, vegetables, a starch and sauces, broths, and seasonings that taste good. I am not a fan of processed food; homemade meals taste better to me. I like to walk in the door at the after work and know exactly what is for dinner. I don’t want to think about it; I don’t want to make it. I just want to pull it out, put it on the stove to warm and eat. In order for that to happen, I have developed, over the years, these 5 ways to keep my kitchen organized.
Have a menu plan
Use a shopping list
We all know these are not brand new ideas. No doubt you have heard or read of them all, maybe even dozens of times. But sometimes a different conversation can give you a different perspective, or inspire you to take action in the way that works best for you!
#1: Pre-chopped onions.
I wrote a post about this here. I rely so heavily on this step that when the freezer inventory of little baggies of chopped onions runs low, I start to panic ! This is a crucial timesaver for me.
#2: Pre-cooked chicken.
Again, I wrote a post about this here. This is a timesaver in the very best way. Armed with pre chopped onions and pre chopped chicken, I can put together a soup or a dish in less than half the time it would normally take.
#3: Menu Plan
Over the years, I have read blogs that offer menu plans of a different dish every night of the week. It’s a lovely thought, but entirely out of the question in my life. But it’s still important to me that we eat home cooked food that is both nutritious and tastes good. And in order to for that to happen, I created a menu plan.
I wish I had a pretty printable of my menu plan that was show-worthy. In all honesty, my menu plan is scratched out on a scrap of paper. I keep it manageable; it’s 5 week’s worth of recipes, 2 recipes per week. That’s it. And I do not by any means follow it to the letter. If I get yearning for a dish not on the schedule, or stumble across a recipe that I can’t resist trying, the plan goes right out the window.
What inspired my ‘menu plan’ was the time I was wasting on grocery store day, trying to decide what to cook for the next week. Putting together my shopping list was a snap; the process of deciding what to cook was a chore. So I removed that time-wasting activity by simply giving myself a list of recipes and a schedule.
And yes, I said two dishes per week. So let’s address the elephant in the room. We eat leftovers. Every day. There – I said it. For some people, this doesn’t work but for me, in this season of my life, the benefit is that dinner is made every day, home cooked with healthy ingredients, and pretty darn tasty, if I say so myself. (I often make a pot of soup on the weekend, in addition to the 2 dishes I cook, and I will mix that into that week’s dinner schedule!)
#4: Shopping List
I think this whole “kitchen organization” started a few years after Sailor and I were married. Newly married, crazy commute and work hours (see above) and taking care of my Mother in her final years really made the case for tightening up the organization. My personal preprinted shopping list is incredibly helpful. It lists all the things I normally buy, with space to add things I may NOT normally buy. It’s flexible; easy to just fill in what I need to buy. (The first draft of it mirrored the path I took in the grocery store. But then they did a whole store re-set, and it became useless in that respect.) So on Wednesday or Thursday morning (the days I shop), I carry it around the kitchen and the garage to check inventory. I also review the menus for the upcoming week, and make sure I have all the ingredients I need. I stick it in my coupon binder and am good to go!
But this next step is pivotal. The next day, after grocery shopping, I pull out a new list, and keep it in the kitchen. (I hide it behind a two tier fruit basket.) As I am cooking for the next week, I might run out of basil, or use the last of the sponges, or pour the last of the orange juice. Right then and there, I pull out the list and write it down.
#5: Batch Cooking
This typically happens late Sunday afternoon. I prep not only for the upcoming week’s dinners, but also for my lunches I take to work. For our dinners, I make both of the dishes we will be eating over the next week; I also chop up a couple of bags of broccoli and a large head of cauliflower. (More on that later.) I chop up apples into bite size pieces, hard boil eggs, make salad dressing from scratch, and check the container of mixed frozen fruit to use for my oatmeal breakfast.
This is actually very basic batch cooking. Pinterest and Instagram are full of information about insta-pots, air-fryers, and crock pot menus. There is no shortage of blog posts that offer batch cooking plans to that can put dinner preparation on Warp Turbo Over-Drive! A friend at work is actually doing a crock pot batch cooking plan; I am following her progress to see how well it works for her! (I should take my own advice and look into some of these!)
I often find myself getting a little bit cranky when I am knee deep in all of this, because honestly, it’s just not very much fun. But trust me, it’s so worth it when Monday night hits, and there is nothing that NEEDS to be done when I get home from work. I literally walk in the door, toss the chopped broccoli and cauliflower with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder, and pop it in the oven. I pull out that day’s dinner in a pan, put two servings in the skillet, put the burner heat on low, and put the lid on. Then I turn around, wash the lunch dishes, prep lunch for the next day, maybe get a work out in. 30 – 40 minutes later, dinner is hot and ready.
Recipe for Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower
Here is my recipe for roasting broccoli and cauliflower. As I mentioned above, I buy a couple of bags of broccoli and a good-sized head of cauliflower. I cut them both up into bite size pieces, and put them in a vegetable box that we buy at Bed Bath & Beyond. For dinner, I pull out a bowl, put in enough of the broc & cauli combination for dinner, and I toss it in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. (garlic powder, not garlic salt!) I have an old pizza pan and layer it with a couple of sheets of aluminum foil. I empty the broc and cauli combo onto the pan and put it into a 350 degree oven, and set the timer for 30-35 minutes. (Option: put the pan into a 400 degree oven and cook for around 20 minutes.)
This is heavenly. The vegetables are browned and crisp on the outside, and nice and tender on the inside. We love this, and although I am slightly embarrassed to announce this publicly, we literally eat this every single night. Never get tired of it.
Maybe one or two of these ideas will be helpful in your kitchen. Or hopefully these ideas will trigger an inspiration that will transform how you organize your cooking and shopping. At the very least, maybe you will try the broccoli and cauliflower recipe. I never liked cauliflower until I started cooking it this way. I always liked broccoli – but now I love it ! Regardless, as always, I hope something I have written here translates to something that helps you!
From our home to yours~
I am sharing at these link parties:
Across the Boulevard // Love of Home // Finding Silver Pennies // Marilyn’s Treats // I Should be Mopping the Kitchen Floor // A Stroll Thru Life // Hearth & Soul // Not A Trophy Wife // Home Stories A-Z Tutorial & Tips // Cedar Hill Farmhouse // Yesterday on Tuesday // Sweet Parrish Place // Jodie Fitz // Eclectic Red Barn // Waste Not Wednesday // 21 Rosemary Lane // Delightsome Life // Marilyns’s Treats Thursday Favorite Things // Domestic Charm – The Creative Circle // Chic on a Shoestring // Best of the Weekend
I have never thought about chopping up onions ahead of time and freezing them. That is such a good idea to save time when cooking, especially on a busy week night.
Paula – I cannot even tell you how much pre-chopped onions have helped me. When I know I will be using them, I will take a bag out and let it defrost. But even if I don’t plan for it, I pop a baggy in the microwave to defrost and I’m off! I hope you find it helps you too!!
Thank you Nancy — they really do help keep the ‘what shall I make for dinner’ craziness at bay!