Does your kitchen look like a bomb went off even before you've started cooking? Do you spend more time looking for ingredients than actually using them? Here are five simple steps you can take towards the functional cooking space you've always wanted.
Get Back to Basics
You're in the middle of a complex recipe, timers are buzzing, and pots are boiling over—now is not the time to be digging through drawers upon drawers of kitchen tools in search of a spatula. Instead condense the tools you use the most—kitchen shears, tongs, whisks, whatever—in a single spot on your counter within reach of your cutting board or stove. Anything from old coffee cans to wine jugs, so long as it has a wide mouth and wider base, you can't really go wrong. This way, you'll always have the tool you're thinking of at hand.
Maximize Your Storage Space
No matter how small it is, your kitchen contains a surprising amount of storage space—if you know where to look. Walls and the airspace beneath upper cabinets are ideal storage spaces that free up valuable space on the counter while eliminating the need to squat or stretch for cookware.
Image via EcoGreenLove
If you're tired of digging through drawers for tools, hang them on your wall. As this easy DIY storage from EcoGreenLove illustrates, all you need are some cleaned pie-filling cans, a bit of particle board or an upcycled cutting board, and some metal screws to create a slick looking—and extremely functional—storage area for your most used kitchen utensils. Magnetic knife racks are also an ideal wall-mounted storage solution, not only displaying your cutlery but also freeing valuable counter and drawer space.
For the rest of your pull-out storage—especially the bottomless pit of crap that is your miscellaneous junk drawer—you'll need to divide and conquer. Get a handle on small items like rubber bands, toothpicks, thumbtacks and the like by nesting an array of (cleaned, obviously) tuna cans in the drawer and filling each with small, loose items.
For a more professional look, or for larger items like baking utensils, pick up some hobby board from your local home improvement center and create a DIY drawer organizer. Restoration Beauty has a helpful step-by-step guide here the describes the process in detail.
Image: Lincoln Barbour / HGTV.com
To turn the free space beneath your upper cabinets into a floating pantry, hang mason jars filled with dry goods from their caps under them. Home and Garden TV offers a helpful guide to doing so. The mason jars offer a secure storage medium while letting you see exactly what you're reaching for without having to open a jar.
If you'd prefer not to hang items from the underside of your cabinets but still want to maximize your vertical storage capabilities, look no further than the Lazy Susan. This multi-level spinning storage rack eliminates the need to reach all the way into the back of the cabinet to reach an ingredient, it also offers enhanced storage capacity within the same footprint. Or, if you want to get fancy with it, pick up an étagère—which is like a Lazy Susan but bigger and less spinny.
Segregate Items and Ingredients by Use
Just as you want to keep your most used kitchen tools within easy reach, you'll want to similarly arrange the lesser used items in your kitchen, based on the frequency of their use.
For dishes and crockery, put the bowls and plates you use daily at eye level or lower so you aren't constantly stretching for them, place special use items (like your Aunt Edna's chafing dish) higher up where their out of the way but still accessible. Pots and pans should be nested within one another—or placed on pull-out racks—and clustered within easy reach of the range. Plastic storage bins can similarly be stacked and stored, just be sure to keep the lids in the same drawer so you don't spend time matching lids when you should be cooking.
Consumable goods—both foodstuffs and non-perishables like tin foil, saran wrap, and wax paper—should similarly be clustered in their respective cabinet spaces by theme such as pastas, canned veggies, cereals, snacks, and canned soups.
Compartmentalize Your Kitchen
Clustering your kitchen goods is a lot easier if your have actual buckets with which to store them. And while the mason jar project is easy enough to complete in an afternoon, building an entire pantry organizer can be a major undertaking.
If you don't feel up to playing carpenter this weekend, home improvement stores carry a huge variety of prefab organizers—everything from spice racks and gravity fed tin can racks up to comprehensive pantry systems like the Rev-a-shelf swing out pantry. The Container Store is another valuable resource for your various storage needs. A Lazy Susan you can jam into any sufficiently tall cabinet, though they are especially useful in low spaces as they minimize the amount that you'll need to bend over and reach for items. An étagère is best left out on a counter as it can double as a display case for your more impressive China and curios.
Everything else—the can holders, spice racks, and other utilitarian constructs should be tucked away in the pantry or at least behind closed doors—they exist to make your search for ingredients easier, not to impress the neighbors.
Just because you're storing your dry goods in clear glass jars doesn't mean you won't accidentally grab the salt instead of the sugar. Don't ruin that pie, label your jars instead.
Whether you're simple taping post-it notes onto the jars or investing in printed sticker labels like these from The Creativity Exchange, this simple act can keep your next baking adventure on track. If you find yourself regularly repurposing your jars for various items, pick up a set of these dissolvable labels from Ball. Designed originally for home canners, these labels can easily be removed and reapplied simply be soaking the jars in warm water.
Image via VintageBlooming
And if you find yourself in need of labels with more visual pop, for say, a set of jars displayed out in the open, take a look at these chalkboard labels from Etsy designer VintageBlooming. They're equally effective differentiating between ingredients and guests glasses at your next garden party.