I'm on a quest for a more efficient kitchen! My goal is to enjoy home cooked goodness and nutrition without compromising time for family, friends, or self. I figure that if seconds or moments make up time, then the accumulation of saved moments could translate into minutes and hours of more time for self and family.
In much the same way that rolling loose change into paper rolls surprises you with an extra thirty or forty dollars, spending a few moments now to analyze and rearrange your kitchen space will reward you (sooner than you imagine) with thirty or forty minutes to spare.
Productivity experts analyze working moments for corporations and manufacturing companies with the goal of designing systems and tasks that get more done in less time. Wouldn't it be great to apply some of their ideas in our own kitchens . . . to do more in less?
Come along as I analyze my kitchen and discuss some of the efficiency principles that will make things smoother for me and hopefully you as well.
When I first decided to tackle my kitchen, I thought of three problem areas right away. These are the things that annoy me daily.
First, I couldn't reach my herbs and spices. Second, I often couldn't open the jammed utensil drawer without a fuss. Once open, I had to dig for the wooden spoon and pray the white sauce wouldn't burn while I did so. Third, my pan lids, lurking inside pots and pans, often stayed hidden because I didn't want to take the effort to hunt for them. I'd use a plate instead, or just let grease spatter over my stove . . . more mess to clean up!
My spices violated the efficiency principle of prime storage. Varying for every chef, the prime area for storage is a place within your reach and line of vision. If you must pull a chair over to access or see what's in your cupboard, you are entering the non-prime zone. The utensils, spices, dishes, and food that you use daily should get first-draft pick for prime areas.
I'm in the habit of storing similar items together in my kitchen. It's always made sense in the rest of the house . . . like keeping all my socks in one drawer. However, the kitchen is more a workshop than a storage unit.
Putting all the glasses together may look organized, but do I really need all the glasses I own on the bottom shelf of my cupboard-a prime storage space? My family only uses a third of those glasses. Putting the rest of them on a top, unreachable shelf would give me space for that daily-used casserole dish, which is currently stored way up there out of my reach.
I started looking at the turning spice rack and utensil holder I received as a wedding present. Located in a prime area on my counter and next to my stove, its jars were filled with their original, never used contents-whole coriander, mustard seed, dried mint. Some jars were empty and waiting to be put back to use.
Reviewing the seasonings I use daily, I emptied, washed, and refilled the jars with cinnamon, garlic powder, paprika, basil, thyme, curry, etc. The remaining herbs and spices moved down two feet. Keeping them next to the stove where they are most used applied another efficiency principle: Store items at point of first use as much as possible.
In the cupboard above the stove, I now store mixes and seasoning packets that I use about once a month. I can handle pulling a chair over once a month! With a little thought, I've put prime space to work in my kitchen. No more empty jars and no more jumping jacks!
TOSSING MORE THAN SALAD
After spending 5 minutes to untangle the wire whisk, open the drawer, and dig for a serving spoon, I decided this utensil drawer needed help. How many pancake turners do I need? I own 7 and only use 3. My wooden, slotted, and serving spoon collection could be its own museum. Another efficiency principle comes to the rescue: Declutter.
I've been saving utensils I never use simple because they belong to a set-they all have blue handles. Time to stop the insanity! I put all the unused gadgets in a donation box. I'll make them earn a place in my kitchen. If I pull them out of the box to use before it goes to the local thrift store, they'll get a permanent spot in my utensil drawer.
After ridding my drawer of clutter, I looked at the utensils I've been storing in that spinning spice rack . . . the original ones that came with it. This rack is in prime space. The utensils in it are easy to view and pull out as needed. So why not fill it with the ones I use constantly? In went my rubber scrapers and my cheese grater-out went that white salad fork.
I then divided my utensil drawer into three sections: spoons, spatulas, and everything else that I only have one of. I can now open my drawer without jams and pull out what I need at a glance. The only challenge I face now is getting the rest of the family familiar with the drawer's new look!
STOP THAT MOTION
When it comes to the lids for my pots and pans, I violated the rule of motion: minimize it. In order to get a lid for my pan, I (1) opened the cupboard door, (2) removed the stack of pans, (3) slid the Dutch oven forward, (4) lifted the large lid stored on top of it, and (5) reached in to recover the lid. Is it any wonder I preferred cleaning up grease spatters to the archaeological hunt for that lid?
Being motion-minded helped me search for an alternative home for my lids. I laid them flat out in a narrow drawer. Now I simply open the drawer and grab the lid in two steps. (You could also purchase over the racks to hang them behind a cupboard door.)
Remember that if it takes too much effort to get to something, you'll probably try to do without it . . . and then it's just wasting kitchen space.
So far I've made only these three changes to my kitchen, but already I've noticed how much more smoothly my kitchen work runs. I'm less tired, less frustrated and clean up is easier.
My mind races with ideas to utilize the efficiency principles in my pantry . . . then the garage, my sewing station, the laundry closet, the medicine cabinet, etc. If I can get my whole house to do the work, then guess who'll get to play!
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *