3 Steps to a Clean and Organized Kitchen
I'm the first to admit that when I say that I have nothing to eat, I could actually feed an army with the array of food that is hiding in my pantry. I'm guilty of sometimes coming back home from the supermarket and just dumping the groceries in the first free spot that I find available.
Perhaps you are guilty of this too? Please say you are.
If sometimes, you too, feel like you are losing the battle in the kitchen organization war, there is no need to be ashamed. Here's my three step process for organizing your kitchen and making it feel as if you are moving into a new home where you get to place your items on brand new shelves for the first time!
Step 1: The Kitchen
Start by deciding a week before, when you are going to clean your food storage areas. That way you can use up and empty as much of the food as possible before beginning the cleaning process. I recommend dumping all of your vegetables, frozen and fresh, into the crock pot with a can of stewed tomatoes, soup stock or water. If you have some fresh or dried herbs, or a little leftover meat or beans, they can join the party in the pot and you'll have dinner for a few nights. Use that little-end-of-a-cheese that you didn’t know what to do with as garnish and grate it on top of the soup. Yum!
Step 2: The Pantry
Read your labels! Did you know flour should be stored in the refrigerator? Most of us keep it in the pantry... oops!
Take all of the contents off all of the shelves and load everything into three piles or boxes.
1. The first pile is garbage. Toss everything that has expired or gone stale. Ditch the rock hard raisins and the questionable spices:
2. The second pile is food that is returning to the shelves. As you unload, try to keep some order so that like things are together. This will make re-loading the shelves easier to do.
3. The third pile is for "marrying." Do you have 3 open containers of quinoa, several bags of rice and a few boxes of open granola bars? Combine like things, transferring them to new containers if needed. You can cut off cooking instructions if necessary and slip it into the new container.
Use hot water and soap to first wash the shelves, then wipe them off with an antimicrobial wipe, or a paper towel with a little white vinegar and water will do. Allow the shelves to air dry.
Use the harder to reach shelves for items you don't use daily. Birthday candles, muffin liners and items used for entertaining can live up there happily in containers.
Place the more frequently used items on the shelves where you can reach them easily. Remember to check expiration dates and place the soonest to expire items in the front.
Food comes in different shaped packaging. If the unruly cereal boxes and crinkly bags bother you, transfer them into storage containers. They can be space savers and extend the lifespan of your foods.
Keep a kitchen drawer that contains storage clips, elastic bands and transparent containers to help keep you organized as time passes.
Step 3: The Refrigerator
Unplug your refrigerator. This should only take 20 – 30 minutes tops!
1. Pull out all of the food and go through the same three-pile selection process used for the pantry.
2. Unload any bins and removable refrigerator parts and toss them in the top rack of your dishwasher to clean them, or if they don't fit fill up your sink and do the dirty work yourself. I like to wipe all the parts with white vinegar (to kill germs and odors) after they've been washed and then let them air dry as much as possible before putting back in place.
3. Really scrub the inside of the refrigerator, using small brushes if you need to for the corners where the rubber seams meet.
4. Plug in the refrigerator, and put back all the parts. Then, toss in a new box of baking soda in a specially designated area.
5. Return the food to the refrigerator in the following order from top to bottom:
- Prepared foods and ready to eat items should go on the top shelves.
- Keep eggs in their original packaging near the top of the refrigerator.
- Raw meats, poultry and seafood should be stored in their original packaging on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
- Vegetables and fruits should be stored separately and in the allocated bins, which are a slightly higher temperature and moisture balanced.
- Drinks, sauces, condiments and longer shelf life items can be stored on the door of the refrigerator.
- Store your frozen foods in airtight containers and label them with the date.
6. Wash leaks and spills immediately after they occur, especially those from uncooked meats, poultry and seafood.
7. Do not over-pack your refrigerator. It will help to keep foods cold and extend their life if there is air circulating around them.
The best organization system is going to be the one you stick to and works best for you. There is no one right way, so just keep at it. Being organized takes work. I promise that you'll be very happy in your newly-organized kitchen. I would love to see "before" and "after" pictures of your pantry, refrigerator or overall kitchen. You can tweet them to @LIVESTRONG_COM and use the hashtag #cleankitchen
Keri is a contributing editor and advisory board member for Women's Health Magazine, and is the Nutrition and Health contributor for NBC's New York Live. She is regularly featured on national television programs including NBC's The Today Show, ABC's Good Morning America, Access Hollywood Live, The View, The Talk, The Chew, Dr. Oz, The Doctors, The Rachael Ray Show, The Steve Harvey Show, MSNBC, The Fox News Channel, and CNN. Keri hosts an original series called "A Little Bit Better" which is featured on Youtube's LIVESTRONG Woman channel.
Keri resides in New York City with her children, Rex and Maizy. Whether she is training for a marathon, going to the farmers' market, or drinking her nightly cup of herbal tea, Keri lives and breathes a Nutritious Life while inspiring others to do the same.