The kitchen is the heart of the home, but it’s also one of those places that can spiral into disorder with alarming speed! I know that as soon as I get the kitchen all neat and tidy after one meal, it’s nearly time to start cooking again… and I don’t make terribly elaborate meals. Along with kitchen disorganization is food shopping organization: It’s annoying to realize you’re out of an essential ingredient when you’re in the process of cooking. If this sounds like your life, here are some tips on kitchen organization for busy moms:
- Think about where you use each item, and revamp your cabinet system if necessary. Are the pots and pans kept near the stove? If you have little children, do you have the glass bowls up high? If you don’t have a dedicated pantry, are the canned goods kept near the can opener? (You could also move the can opener if the answer to this question is “no.”) If you consistently find yourself trekking all over your kitchen in order to gather what you need, then you might find this step very helpful.
- Make your pantry and refrigerator child-friendly. Once your kids know not to dump out a box of cereal or splash milk all over the floor, they can help themselves to snacks as long as your house rules permit it. Keep the snacks that your children can have on a low pantry shelf. If you want them to be able to pour their own drinks, consider transferring juice and milk into smaller containers that are easier for them to handle. Keep these on a low shelf in the refrigerator. Plastic bowls and cups could be in a low drawer, and voila, your kids can now help themselves! Supervise the first few times to make sure that they know to put the food back where it belongs. Also, show them where to put their dirty dishes and how to clean up a small spill (they’ll have to call you over for the biggies). Independence in your kids can make your job easier, and teaching them to pick up after themselves lends well to overall organization!
- Make a menu plan. I do this every weekend before we go shopping. First, I go through what we already have in the freezer, fridge and pantry, in an effort to use up items before they go bad. Then I write down exactly what we need on the grocery list, if it’s not something that we’d buy anyway. Then, and this is the most important part, we try very hard to stick to the plan. Part of successful menu-planning is to look at the calendar to see what’s going on each day. If you have a very busy afternoon coming up, for example, that’s the day to plan to use the crockpot, not to try a new recipe with several time-consuming steps.
- Get family members in the habit of writing down items that they use up on the grocery list. I keep mine on a magnetic notepad on the refrigerator. Particularly once the kids are old enough to start cooking, this is so important. They can also write down any special requests, though you should retain veto power; if we bought everything that my kids wrote down, there would be some weeks where most of our grocery bill would be spent on Oreos, Doritos and squeezable yogurts!
Do you have a well-organized kitchen? What are some of your secrets?