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Lea Schneider is the author of
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one-on-one organizing advice via phone and email through Organize Online
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Her advice is featured
here at What's Cooking America in a monthly column. You may have read her
expert organizing ideas in Woman’s Day, Natural Health, College News, and
Better Homes and Gardens Kids’ Rooms magazines and newspapers. She is a member of the National Association of Professional
Organizers and the Association of Food Journalists.
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Organizing Kitchens, Pantries, Menus and Meals.
Paper or Plastic for Holiday Organization?
Would you like paper or
That supermarket question forms the
basis of kitchen organization for the holidays. Follow along and you
will find it is the key to less kitchen stress.
By mid-November, your kitchen is bound
to be as stuffed as you are following a big holiday meal.
During the holiday season, also known
as the season of perpetual cooking and dishwashing, part of the time
crunch and frustration is being able to put your hands on the
ingredients you need. Every time you turn around, you are preparing
a special dish to take to relatives, having a crowd into your home,
making a potluck for the office, making an appetizer to take to book
club and cookies for the neighbors.
Even if your kitchen is very organized
and running smoothly, by the time you haul in extra staples, from
bags of flour and sugar to a case of canned chicken broth, you will
suddenly feel the kitchen is too small. Since you are doing a lot
more food preparation than normal, that is to be expected.
Getting organized in the kitchen for
the season means a couple of things. It means having on hand what
you need, having a home for those items and being able to find them
in a hurry. Here are some tips that can really make things run
to make room by doing a quick “clean sweep” of your pantry.
Restore order by sorting like items together – fruits,
vegetables, staples and so on. Discard anything stale or out of
date. List any item that comes to mind that you need to buy.
a few minutes sorting your freezer and refrigerator. You will
need more room in those areas over the next weeks. Think about
what items in the freezer and refrigerator that you could use up
soon. Add those meal ideas to your meal planner. This way, you
will not just add more food to a crowded freezer but actually
make some room for make-ahead dishes and ingredients.
a few moments to go over your staples. There is nothing more
frustrating than having half of the ingredients in a bowl and
realizing something is missing. Running to the store usually
means running late. Check now for all your staples: flour,
sugars (of various types), cornstarch, cooking spray, cooking
oils, vanilla extract, salt, pepper, spices, vinegars, rice,
pastas, chicken broth or bouillon cubes, corn syrup, lemon
juice, Worcestershire, soy sauce and cooking wine. If you are
not a year-round baker, be sure to purchase new baking powder,
baking soda and yeast. These items get old and fail to perform
and can ruin your efforts.
But what about the paper and
plastic part of this?
By the time you have made a menu to
cover Thanksgiving or holiday parties or baking, you will find you
have a lengthy shopping list. Coming home from the store, even if
you have cleared out pantry space, storing away all those items
Our usual method is to open the
grocery bags and sort the items into the pantry using or usual
method of storage. That works for the staples. But, when it comes
time to make those special dishes or appetizers, you are later in
the pantry hunting for each item. There is a way to make the
preparation time easier.
returning from the store, while your shopping list/menu is fresh
in your mind, sort your non-refrigerated items by use. Here are
some examples: Put the items for cake baking in one grocery bag
and cookie baking in another. Have several different appetizers
to prepare and take different places? Put the crackers and
ingredients for each dish in their own bag. Put the ingredients
for Thanksgiving pies in a bag and the ingredients for homemade
Christmas gift goodies in another. Close the bags and label each
with a bright marker.
Now, when you rush in from work and
need to make an appetizer, you can just grab that bag and go to
refrigerator for the cold ingredients. This is also great if you
have other family members who will be helping during the holidays.
It is so much easier to have them select the bag with the correct
ingredients, rather than take the time to tell them where each item
you have pulled out recipes or clipped recipes for the holidays,
these can be attached to the bags to make cooking even easier.
Sorting the ingredients into bags and labeling them only takes a
few minutes but saves a ton of time later. Once sorted, you
might need to get creative on storage. Our pantries will not
often hold all of the holiday extras. At my house, I clear a
shelf in the laundry room to hold the bags. A clean, large
plastic tote will also work. Stack in the bags in the tote and
snap on the lid. Another trick is to find a shelf or cabinet
that holds items not used during the holiday. Store those items
in some boxes and use that shelf for extra pantry space. Placed
the stored items with your holiday decoration boxes so that you
will be reminded to return them to their proper home.
house, cold foods have often presented a problem. Before you can
blink, a family member will have eaten those mini-sausages or
broke into the cheese spread. If that can happen in your home,
bag the cold food that is especially for your holiday recipes or
entertaining. Place it in the far back of the fridge and label
the bag so that there is not a misunderstanding.