that persistent hope

When we first moved into this house where we will be living for one more month, Lu was only 8 months old. There is no way to convey how long ago that feels. A dear friend of mine and I were pregnant at the same time and have survived every phase together since. When the girls were less than a year, we both admitted to looking at 3-year-olds in amazement. How would our small, crawling babies ever be big enough to dance in tutus, talk in full sentences, or skip besides us down the street?

These last few years have been several lifetimes long.

Now, not only does Lu talk in full sentences but she goes on talking jags, galloping through the stories of her day, plus the imagined ones, with a determination I love. Yesterday, she was on this kitchen counter, talking with me as I cooked. Suddenly, she grabbed the apples in the red bowl and said, “Mama, apples are not vegetables!” (Except she pronounces them something like wapajos.) She put the apples in the fruit bowl, decisively, then returned to telling me about chasing Max that morning.

I honestly don’t remember her much when she was 8 months old. Pictures give me a glimmer but not much more. Now is so present, so giggling, so here. 8 months old is a long-ago memory.

So is moving into this house. When we moved here, we were really moving to the island. This house was our leaping pad.

It doesn’t feel like the right place anymore.

Oh, this has been our home, the space where we survived Lucy’s surgery and the sleepless year that followed it. Where she took her first steps. Where she started talking. Where we grew a garden and learned to run and fell down and laughed and laughed and laughed. We have done so much laughing here.

And so much cooking. We did all the major edits for our first cookbook here. I’ve cooked every meal in the new one on the gas stove in our kitchen. We have loved this home.

However, this photo up there? That should tell you. There’s just not enough light.

I took this photo in the middle of the afternoon, the sun out, on a low shutter speed. There just wasn’t enough light to make it more than a dark Rembrandt feel.

Have I ever told you that I take almost all the photographs for this website on our porch? I have a marble pastry board set up on a rickety black table, underneath an awning. Sometimes I’m dodging raindrops as I make a photograph of pasta.

I’m looking forward to taking photographs on our dining room table again soon.

Book’s due in a couple of weeks. I’m working nearly every moment that Lucy is asleep or in school. I’m going to make it. I’m going to make it. 

However, when I’m not cooking or writing, I’m thinking about our new kitchen. I’m purging everything from the house we don’t need anymore — the thrift store on the island is probably bulging with our stuff right now — and putting the rest into plastic tubs and organized boxes.

This move is a fresh start.

When we moved into this house, Lu was 8 months old. She caught a nasty virus that required a trip to the emergency room. She recovered and then had skull surgery. She didn’t sleep for longer than an hour or two at a time, for a year. All the while, I was editing our cookbook.

We lived in chaos for awhile. Not anymore. The kitchen is clean as I write. The laundry done. The floors swept.

It feels good.

I’ve learned a few things lately, especially as I have cooked three to six dishes a day for the cookbook. (There are 120 recipes. Every one of them has been cooked at least twice. Some, many many times, especially the baked goods.) As you can imagine, I spend almost the entire day in the kitchen these days.

This helpful primer from David Lebovitz on the tricks he has learned about how to keep a kitchen running efficiently helped me to change my habits. (Read it. He knows more than I do.)

I’ve been cutting out anything we don’t need. We used to have SO MANY pots and pans. (I still think we have too many. Danny disagrees.) Now, we have three cast-iron skillets in various sizes, a sauté pan, a Dutch oven, a stockpot, and a pot for cooking sauces. There’s no need to have anything more than that.

We’ve purged almost any tool that has a specific purpose, like an avocado slicer someone gave us. I want to toss the citrus reamer. A good pair of tongs is great for everything. I use a baking sheet for almost every food that goes into the oven.

I’m still learning to label everything in the refrigerator. That used to be like a toxic waste site after awhile. What is this grey-green sludge anyway? Now, whatever I make, I label it. It’s not pretty. Masking tape and a Sharpie does it. I have a label maker but it’s in another room. And the masking tape and Sharpie is a trick I picked up from the restaurant kitchens where I’ve been.

Speaking of restaurant kitchens, I’ve been watching Danny do inventory every week at his restaurant and learning from him. I’ve made a long list of every ingredient we have used in our cookbook as well as any ingredient we have used, even once, in our discovery of dishes. This weekend, I’m typing it up, in specific categories, and putting it in a folder in a kitchen drawer. Once a week, I’m doing inventory for our kitchen. What is running low so we can buy it on our next trip to the city? What do we need right now? It’s a heck of a lot more efficient than trying to take notes on my phone as I stand at the start of the store.

Speaking of trips to the grocery store, I have learned to not just fling the bags on the kitchen counter and walk away. The work only begins there now. I unload the groceries immediately and start chopping. Finally, I have learned to cut up all my vegetables, wrap them in a paper towel or damp cloth, label them, and make a list of the produce we have on the blackboard in the kitchen. There are very few shriveled carrots in our fridge right now.

(And this video from Tamar Adler? Beautiful. Man, I wish my kitchen was as spacious and lovely as hers. But I love the way she roasts the vegetables for the week in one fell swoop.)

I could tell you more, but I have recipes to write. I’ll be writing about some of this in the book, too. Mostly, though, I would love your help.

What do you know about keeping your kitchen organized? (The rest of the house too, for that matter.) What helps you keep on top of it all without cleaning all the time? What is your food storage like? Has anyone figured out a better system for buying produce than using all those plastic bags from the store? What is your psychological state when you’re cooking in a clean kitchen? How do you get there?

Oh, and our spice cupboard is still a shambles. I have a few systems in mind but what do you use?

Tell me your secrets. I want to learn.

In a few weeks, the first draft of our book will be in. And then, we move to a new home. It’s not grand but it’s filled with light.

And soon, hopefully, there will be another baby in that home. Before that beautiful chaos sets in again, I want to know how to do it right this time.


131 comments on “that persistent hope

  1. marcella

    I hope someone has a vegetable storage solution! I’ve tried so many eco-friendly bags but being fabric of some type they all just result in wilty, dehydrated produce in a day or two. I don’t have room for glass containers either. But spices, I love the way I’ve been doing spices. I bought some labels and used them on the lids of the spice jars. Jars went into a drawer and now I can just pull open the drawer and read all the lids to find what I need. So much easier than lifting jars on a shelf to see things.

    1. Pam J.

      That’s the exact same thing I was going to post!! I lay my spices down in a drawer right by my stove. Very handy!!! I stole the idea from a friend who had a kitchen remodel and installed a spice drawer. Best thing I ever did in my kitchen!!

      1. Courtney Simcox

        Same here! I just realized one day that it makes SO much more sense to have them laid out in a single layer in a drawer than piled in front of each other in a cabinet you can hardly reach.

  2. JeanELane

    I so know what you mean about light. I am addicted to the sun! I love trees. We used to live where there were towering oak trees shading the yard and the house. But in winter, with the leave off, the sun shone through.

    Now we have moved to New Mexico. I never knew what sun was until we came here! I could never move back to the Midwest! My mood – oh how light! Even on a bad day, the sunlight makes everything better.

    Don’t worry about getting things ‘right’ this time. Its all a matter of perspective. You are always doing what is right for you at the time. Especially when it comes to children. What is right for someone else is not necessarily what is right for you, in anything. Just be willing to change, to be taught. That is what makes people really great – that they are teachable! I want to be that!

    1. Mari

      Great last paragraph!!!..After raising three children, you realize they are all different and you have to teach them and yourself how to adjust. Some things work and some things don’t. Mistakes are tools that we all learn from.

  3. Shannon

    Spices? I use 8″ lazy susans. The most frequently used spices stay on the perimeter, and the seldom used jars drift to the middle. However, I think Marcella’s spice drawer system is brilliant! I can’t wait to see your new full-of-light photos!

  4. Michelle

    I use a drawer for my spices and they lay flat, visible. Never poking around jars trying to find what I need. I always have a running list on the fridge that everyone uses to keep track of things that we need.
    I try to have as few things on the counter tops as possible. I love white space in the kitchen.
    My biggest trick in the kitchen is to scrub out my sink and dry it with a towel. It sparkles and no one will leave dishes in a sparkling clean sink. Seriously.

  5. El

    Everything is in glass jars in the pantry so we can see everything. Small baking accessories are in labeled & stacked plastic drawers and hidden inside an armoire. Cleaning? It’s constant. Sadly.

  6. Liz

    I don’t have a lot to add except that I did buy some peel and stick jar labels on Etsy – paper bag colored with pretty shape and a cutout. There are some things that I nearly always or at least often make and I use those labels for those items, as in they stay on a specific mason jar: homemade mayo, pesto, ricotta, a few herb or spice infused syrups, marinara sauce, etc. For the one-off items, I go the masking tape route but I am neat as I do like even the frig and all that homemade stuff to look as pretty as possible …just me :)! (BTW, the Etsy labels are lasting through washing)

    I read the primer – thank you for that link. I don’t have a dishwasher and I make all my own bread, crackers, sauces, goodies – and I work from a home office so tend to have some cooking or baking going on in the background most of the time. I use the warm water in a bowl or the sink method to get everything soaking even if I can’t wash it right away. The floor is my nemesis, though…it is always a little “crunchy”

    My cast iron skillet lives on the stovetop – my most often used “pan”. I have the typical jar of implements but the primer gave me the idea of leaving cups and measuring spoons out as well – have to think of a good container(s). I do use a scale but always need something to scoop with and then the spoons. The primer made me aware of how often I’m opening, bending & retrieving spoons or a cup!

    That, for me anyway, is the key – becoming aware of something I’m spending time doing that with a small adjustment could be done differently. I try to review my processes in home chores – not just cooking – every once in awhile and think about that. I am always working towards simplifying and weeding out both things and motion. The time-wasters are different for each of us depending on layout of space, tools, what we make – but I think a key is becoming aware and then taking some time to think through a different way.

  7. Bettina Goodwin

    I used to have cupboards full of bags, containers and bottles. Then I changed everything over to a streamlined plastic container system so everything was in the same kinds of containers in different sizes.
    Last year, I decided that I wanted to be rid of as many plastics as possible in my kitchen. (I’m a very old fashioned girl), so I bought a bunch of glass jars with good seals and put all my baking and cooking ingredients in them, with nice labels I made. Large jars for regular flours, smaller jars for all my gluten free flours, chocolate chips, coconut, stuff like that.
    And then I cleared out a one of my wide shallow drawers for my spices. I bought small mason jars, made labels for the tops, filled them with spices, lined them up alphabetically on a piece of that matting stuff you use to prevent slipping in the drawer and I love it! It’s so convenient, everything is easily reachable and in alphabetical order I can find it quickly.
    Love reading your blog!

  8. Donia

    I, too, hate using the plastic produce bags from the store. I purchased mesh ones from Etsy, and love them (just do a search for mesh produce bags). You probably don’t want to store produce in them, because they are very breathable, but they are great for transporting produce from the store to home.

    1. celeste

      My solution to the plastic produce bag…I don’t use them. I put the items I’m buying in the shopping cart – I wash them before I eat them anyway. If needed, I store them in the fridge in damp kitchen towels.

  9. mpv61

    I used to have my spices in three or four different places because they didn’t all fit well in one spot. Then I came across a small cabinet (29″ X 14″ X 4.5″) that I think was supposed to be for hanging men’s pants.

    My husband took out the hanger-hardware, added shelves (adjustable), and hung it on the wall. Now all my spices are there, stored alphabetically. I could use just a bit more space in it, but compared to what I had, it’s heaven.

    Good luck on the move!

  10. Shira

    Great post! Ah, the joys of a well oiled kitchen with just the right storage and organizing solutions. I love a clean kitchen and try my best to stay on top of things. Veggies are a tough one and I do try to shop every few days for them, for fresh greens especially!
    I am a fan of washing all my greens at once and keeping them visible in big ziplocs. It takes a little while to get them all ready (spinach, watercress, lettuce, fresh herbs) but if I do this they are fresh clean and ready for the next few days when I want to use them – it seems the cold water helps to keep them crisper than if I just stored them dirty and dry. Maybe it’s the mom in me with little time but this really works for me! Thanks for the great writing, I am a new reader 🙂
    Yours in Less! ~ Shira

  11. Jennifer @ Raisin Questions

    There are a lot of things that could be improved in my small apartment kitchen, but I realized yesterday that I am beginning to feel happier in it more recently, and I think the cause might be that in its two drawers and six cupboards, I am finding a feeling of home. I have worked in it for a little over a year and also grown a lot in my confidence as a cook in that time. I know exactly where to find anything I need, even if the cupboards don’t hold items in perfect rows. I feel some pride in my kitchen now, and I probably take care of it better than I used to. I feel more inspired and dedicated to it. I think maybe those feelings just developed over time, as I shifted and tweaked and adjusted the organizational systems I had developed, until every utensil and tool and box and jar found it’s home…and then also I found mine! So I guess that’s how I would describe how I have gotten to my current psychological state in the kitchen… though I still often dream of my next home and how I feel in it’s gigantic kitchen with a million cupboards and probably and island too, maybe a double oven, and a double sink, and tons of windows with beautiful natural light!!! Naturally. Good luck in your move!

  12. Jill Cauthen

    I keep all my usual baking spices & extracts in 2 clear plastic bins (shoe box sized) in a pantry cupboard with different sugars–when it’s time to bake I pull them out and put them on the table or counter. The savory herbs and spices are on a double-decker lazy Susan in a cabinet near the stove~I like to see those for inspiration while cooking.
    I try to use square or rectangular clear containers for dry goods–they take up less space than round ones.

  13. Sarah

    I have a wall in the kitchen that is painted with chalkboard paint and on it, written in chalk, is a grocery list. Every time I run out of something, I write it down. If I come across an idea, like “boy I sure could go for some pots de creme”, I write it down. The grocery list stays fixed on one side of the wall and gets added to or subtracted from when I bring an ingredient home from the grocers. The rest of the wall is big enough for ideas, quotes, messages. Right now I apparently need rice flour (sweet), crystallized ginger and sanding sugar. The word of the month is there, in blue (I have a 14 year old I’m trying to make ready for high school) and the word is “Probity: integrity, incorruptability, uptightness”. When there is a dinner party at my house, I often write the evening’s menu and signature cocktail or available beverages. People help themselves to chalk and draw pictures and funny things too.

    1. Kimberly

      I love this idea so much I might use it too!

      Including the word of the month. Not because I have a 14 year old. But because I am a dork.

  14. Annah James

    Oh spices! Years ago, I bought about 40 matching jars with cork stoppers and my sweetie typed up a list of all my herbs and spices. We taped ’em on the front of the jars using some kind of super-sticky tape (22 years later, they are still the same labels – ha!). I’ve had them on shelves and in drawers….but a few years ago, a friend made me a spice rack – four shelves, about a foot wide. It holds everything. Well, okay, the peppercorns are in front of the other spices in the larger jar…but mostly this works. I also organize them by type: herbs, spices, whole spices. I don’t bother with alphabetizing! My husband is grateful for that. But it’s nice to reach for a bit of cumin and know that seed is on the top shelf and ground is on the second shelf…

  15. Rebecca

    I have been looking for storage solutions as we will be moving halfway across the country in a week and a half (yikes!). For the spices, we found a nifty spice storage system on several websites (Target is one, that is a little set of drawers that you can label on the outside and put the bottles flat in the drawers. We are going to get a spice rack that is pretty for on the counter and add only spices that we use the most and put the rest in those drawer thingies.
    We try to only buy kitchen gadgets that do more than one thing, except for things like a waffle iron or things that are very small. We try and use every bit of food that we can and have found that multiple trips to the grocery store have been better than a few large trips. We always try to find creative ways to use leftovers, especially right now with the move. We sometimes will just make them into a totally different dish which can be a lot of fun. This way, nothing goes bad and we spend less on food. If it has been sitting for more than just a few days, it goes in the freezer. We are still working out our food storage, but are getting better.
    We always keep a spray bottle and rag in the kitchen to wipe it down before and after cooking (most of the time) which seems to keep the kitchen fairly clean. We are now working out a way to keep my genious of a Jack Russell Terrier out of our food. He has figured out how to open the fridge and can open cabinet doors, so that is our greatest challenge for keeping our kitchen in order. I think the dogs will be hanging out in the spare room from now on when we are gone!
    I love all of your recipes! Thank you for your blog and books, they have been helpful over the past year in my gluten-free journey. I have made many of your baked goods for others and they couldn’t even tell something was “missing”. I look forward to the next cookbook. I am now studying to get my degree in dietetics and I hope I can pay it forward by helping others in the future.

    1. Mirna

      You should purchase a refrigerator lock, the kind meant to keep little kids out. I used one for my adventurous 3 year old a few years back.(She like to paint walls, furniture, floors with whatever food she could get her hands on.) This might stump your Jack Russell.

  16. Suze

    @Marcella – I shake off any remaining water on my produce, wrap it in a paper towel and put it back in the (dry) produce bag. Seems to work pretty well. I’ve learned not to buy as much as I used to, but I still probably keep produce a lot longer than I should. And I too use a lazy susan for my spices with the most-used on the perimeter. Also have racks that attach to the inside of an upper cupboard door so they are at eye level. I keep a running grocery list on the fridge (but often forget to take it with me haha!) When I was at your stage of life, Shauna, we often ate the same things on a monthly rotation so I pretty much knew my grocery list by heart! I would do a big shopping at the beginning of the month and only stop back in the store if I needed a weird ingredient or fresh salad veggies. I’ve realized how blessed I was to learn good kitchen habits from my mom. I take those habits for granted and have been amazed to find that many families’ kitchens don’t work as easily as hers did. When you have seven kids, it’s organize or perish!

  17. Caitlin

    In a word: Tupperware. They make containers for veggies that actually extend the life of produce. I’ve kept all my grains and flours in their containers for decades too. Goodwill is a great place to find this otherwise expensive storage solution. I keep the most used spices on a magnetic rack on the wall ( city kitchens – Seattle ) and have a upper cabinet dedicated to the rest. Lazy Susan’s employed in said cabinet. My kids are grown and moved out now. This makes keeping the house neat much easier. Young children are more important than perfect organization. This is a hard lesson for a neat freak such as myself and I urge you to prioritize what’s important and let the rest go! Yet, even the very young will enjoy matching clean socks, if it’s time spent with mom or dad. Final hint is Roomba. Once you’re over watching its algorithms, it’ll actually save you time and clean for you!!

  18. Janice

    Oh to be organized! We redid our kitchen about 4 years ago now. No change to the footprint of the kitchen, but we did eliminate one run of dark, unused counter, and replaced it with floor to ceiling pantry units, which helps a lot!
    For my spices, I took them right out of the cupboards and drawers and have them in round magnetic cannisters, on a 3×4 ft stainless bulletin board! Theres room for tons of them, the little cannisters are cheap enough that if I go crazy with new spice acquisitions, its not a big deal to add a few more to the wall!
    The other thing I find helps a lot is having shelving in the basement for all the stuff we buy in large quantities — flours, sugars, chocolate etc. I have smaller cannisters in the kitchen cupboards, and the 20kg sacks reside in the basement — one set of shelves for gluten-free, and one for the wheat-based supplies, separated by shelves for home canning.

    1. Dee

      Where could I get some of those magnetic containers?! Sounds perfect for my uber-small bungalow kitchen ( with NO drawers!)

      1. CJ

        I’ve seen the round magnetic containers at World Market.
        Unfortunately, I have so many spices that I’d go broke buying them – and my refrigerator surface would no longer be visible…

  19. Jenn Sutherland

    I use a giant corner turn-around cabinet for spices, each one in their little jars with black caps from The Spice House. All spices must be in those jars, and I buy empties for anything I randomly acquire that will need storing. I then take a white paint marker, and label each lid. Savory spices on one side, sweet on the other, most used spices go where I can reach them easiest.

    For the inventory & grocery list, I use an app called “Our Groceries” (Android) that can keep tabs on what’s in the pantry, and track lists for each store. The best part is – you can sync it between phones, so when Danny’s out shopping and you realize you forgot to add something to the list – you just add it on, and it pops up on Danny’s phone in real time. It’s saved us a lot of text messages/calls from the store!

    1. Liz

      I’m going to look at that app – Thanks Jenn!

      I do keep my list in a file on my computer, saved to DropBox, which is synced to my phone and that has helped me. I have been successful at keeping the list on the computer but was not always successful in remembering to print it out before going to the store.

  20. Kadee Barrett

    Oh what happy chaos going on! Sending you patience, rested eyes, and grammar love for your editing. Sending you patience, organization, and labeled boxes for your packing and moving. And so much luck and love for the new little one hopefully joining you soon and the beautiful one dancing through your life now. I’m adopted too! Adopting rocks!
    As for your requests for kitchen help, I can’t imagine I can teach you anything, but here is what I use for produce bags and spices. I love the reusable produce bags I have, mine are made by flip+tumble. They are color coded, which is nice and can be useful, wash easily, and roll up small. Also, they are currently on sale on amazon ( which means I’ll probably be getting more.
    For spices, I am using a three tiered organizer with drawers that have slots in them. You can label the outside of the drawers and know whats in there at a glance. I have a slowly growing collection, but it seems to work well, as you can fit small ones doubled up, regular, and larger or square ones in the different spots. The really big bottles don’t fit, but I just decant those into a smaller empty bottle. I’m sure you can find them lots of places, but here’s an amazon link
    For grocery lists, I have a note app/checklist app on my phone. I made a checklist called store and put all the things I frequently get on there. When I’m planning a trip, I just reorganize it and put the things I need up at the top, making sure they’re unchecked, and then off I go. You can go back and forth between checked and unchecked as you need. I did the same thing for a list of things I normally take when I’m packing. Check them off as I pack, uncheck them when I pack to go home, and I’m ready for the next trip. Hope that helps!

    1. vegetablej

      Thanks. That link on storage is so helpful!

      I never use plastic or cloth bags for vegetables or fruit unless they come that way. I use paper lunch sacks, very occasionally, when I really need something, or just pack them in the top of my shopping cart or in one of those hand baskets they provide. I put them up on the counter the way they are — I’m going to wash them anyway, and someone had to handle them to put them in the bags. Then they can be packed in one or two of the cloth reusable bags together which makes it easy to wash them and put them away at home.

      In the fridge I favour waxed paper, dish towels, bowls, and plates, and large and small mason jars. They’re also wonderful to send out lunches of leftovers and they go in the dishwasher.

  21. Dawn

    Almost two years ago my husband I moved from a wonderful little house on a lake that we loved dearly, but was always dark. Our new home is full of light, especially from the south and west. The difference it makes on one’s attitude, outlook and well being is incredible. I wish you and your family years and years of basking in the light.

  22. Carolyn

    I am also in the process of moving and re-conceptualizing my kitchen storage. I used to have all of my spices in small metal tins with clear lids mounted on magnetic boards on the backsplash of my counter, but they tend to get a film from cooking oil after awhile. In my massive search for the next best thing, I ran across this tutorial:

    It’s so far the only thing I have found that would be large enough to hold all my spices (I currently have 44 different spices, not including the home made ones like za’atar) without a: costing a bigillion dollars, and b: taking up too much counter space.

    As for pantry storage, I haven’t hit on the ‘master set’ of stackable plastic storage that’s going to do it for me just yet, but I used to have an el-cheapo set with blue tops and they were fabulous. That’s the best investment ever. I’m currently thinking of hitting the restaurant supply store up.. they have lexan-style storage for $20 for 6 4 qt. square containers.

    1. shauna

      I love that link, Carolyn! (The Kitchn always comes through.) I might see if I can find someone to build it for me! I love how the colors become part of the design of the kitchen.

  23. bec

    I’m very much in agreement about the sunlight needs in a kitchen. When we bought our first house (the one we’re still in now), I insisted that the kitchen face south. My husband thought I was being too picky, but in our culture – in our family especially – a lot of social interaction happens in the kitchen. We live there, in short, and even more so because we homeschool (everyone knows homeschooling always ends up at the kitchen table). Of serious note, the right color on the walls was key to making it feel like home.
    We do use the lazy susan idea in our pantry cabinet for our spices (although, frankly, I wish I had more drawers to try Michelle’s idea), but keep the salt & pepper grinders with the olive oil on a shelf above the stove for easy reaching. Otherwise, the trick I need for feeling at home in my kitchen is making sure it’s not cluttered on the countertop or fridge. People leave things out if they’re used frequently but kept far away. The recipe books are in the cabinet with the flours and baking supplies, the coffee mugs and tea are in the cabinet above the coffee maker, the water glasses are next to the sink. I keep the removable dishwasher silverware basket in the sink next to the dishwasher for gathering silverware during the day’s meals, then drop the whole thing in at the end of the day, but the big dishes get loaded immediately after use. I arranged my shelves and drawers in my fridges so that all food is visible (nothing can hide). The pantry has several shelves for staples, one for my husband exclusively, one for particular ingredients purchased for particular recipes, one for non-food items like the crockpots & grilling supplies, one for condiments. The second fridge holds the larger number of same items, like extra containers of milk and yogurt – anything I buy more than one package of – as well as the less-frequently used condiments and defrosting meats. If I don’t have time to chop my veggies as soon as I get home from the store, they go into the second fridge, while the prepared foods and leftovers go into the main one. Having my cleaning on a schedule helps as well, and of course my kids are older and can be a part of that process (sometimes that means it’s more work, though).

  24. Kimberly

    I am not so sure how to organize the rest of your house, because the kitchen is the only place I have that is regularly in order.

    Like you describe above, I have a “base” grocery list of items I nearly always get at the store. I also save all my shopping lists from major holidays that way I know in general what I will need on those occasions.

    As for kitchen storage, I purchased a number of OXO storage containers. I use them for my dry goods: different types of flours, sugars, grains, etc. Even though they are clear, I also put a label on each. This way, when I do inventory, I can easily see what we need more of. I have found that it helps organizing because they stack neatly instead of a jumbled mess of bags that I used to have. They are pricey, but sometimes places like TJMaxx or Marshalls has them cheaper. Alternatively, Bed, Bath, & Beyond sends out 20% off coupons a lot and I put it towards those.

    My spices are always organized in alphabetical order to find them easily. I have an old-fashioned spice rack that is mounted on the wall and I love it.

  25. alumiere

    Like several other people mentioned, I use a pair of lazy susans on one shelf in my tiny tiny apartment kitchen cabinets (no room for a spice rack to hang on the walls since pots, pans, and utensils go there). One is full of spices, the other is full of meds for my fibro/hashimotos/me/csc. The middle of the lower shelf is the least accessible, so that’s where the bulky less used things like baking soda/powder, big canisters of salt and pepper, and such go. The rest are pretty obvious and easy to reach, and it’s a huge improvement over having them all on the fixed shelf.

  26. Zoe

    Greens with stems get trimmed on the bias, and go in jars on the top shelf of the fridge tented in the plastic bag they came in (if any).

    Living on my own when I was 23 and broke taught me a few things. I never need as many groceries as I think I do, so I implore myself to use what I have as I go. Being a couple ingredient shy forces improvisation out of me. Some of my favourite meals came from risky substitutions.

    It also helps me to detach from my likes and dislikes. Like over-tipping at a restaurant, I find it crass to stock abundantly. But I do always label.

  27. Carolyn

    I don’t like plastic, so it’s mason jars for me! A well-loved Canadian chef, Michael Smith, had a link about his new kitchen and I just fell in love with the “usability” of the space. You might not like everything out in the open as he has it, but look at this link and you’ll ooh and ahhh over the floor to ceiling shelves for mason jars!!!! A similar thing could be done for say, spices alone. (btw, one thing to note- if you find a jar you like for spices, buy way more than you need. They might break, or you might expand your spice collection.) Or how about his simple, and smart, idea of having all your cookbooks in a normally unusable space – above the window, on a shelf. Anyway, here is his kitchen. Enjoy…

    1. GCW Kitchens

      Hi Carolyn!
      Thanks for including us in this interesting conversation.
      I’m glad you fell in love with Chef Michael’s Kitchen! 🙂
      It was such a pleasure to work alongside him to create his “Dream Kitchen”.
      And just like you mentioned, everything is out in the open – a true Chef’s Kitchen. Easy access to all of his utensils and ingredients. Not everyone’s cup of tea, no doubt, but it was so awesome to design and build his very own Kitchen.
      His kitchen will be the backdrop to his new TV Show “Chef Michael’s Kitchen” (on the Food Network), in his very own home.
      It’s really an east-coast theme, with maritime blue MDF Cabinets, and a beadboard door style, which really keep the PEI theme evident in the design of the Kitchen. Another great touch is the barnboard drawer fronts, such a rustic feel, but yet there is a splash of commercial kitchen flavour added with stainless steel accents.
      Here’s a video of Chef Michael giving a tour of his GCW Kitchen:
      And if you don’t mind, we are fairly new to the Blogging World, so if you could follow us that would be fantastic!

      Thanks again for the mention!
      GCW Custom Kitchens & Cabinetry Inc.

  28. InTolerant Chef

    I keep my working spices in the little jars they come in, upright in a drawer. I label the tops of the lids so I know what they are immediately. I top them up with bulk packs that I keep in my storage pantry in another room.
    I also have a white board beside my chest freezer so I know exactly what’s on hand.
    Good luck with the move, new kitchen, and of course the new baby! 🙂

  29. Emilah DeToro

    I use 1/2 pint, pint, quart, and half-gallon canning jars to store just about anything…nuts, dried fruits, beans, flour, grains, etc. I keep the ones in use on a bookshelf in the kitchen (so I can see them and know immediately what I have) and store the backstock in a pantry/closet.

    I use regular old spice jars on tiered shelving that’s just as wide as the jars (also on the bookshelvse in the kitchen). I don’t typically label any of them because I know them by sight and smell. However, my husband doesn’t, so I write the spice on the glass jar with a Sharpie on the few he tends to use! It washes off easily enough.

    I have my spices in categories on the shelves…left are whole spices (whole cloves, sesame seeds, dried basil, etc.), on the right are ground spices (ground cloves, cinnamon, mustard, etc.) Basically, the ones I use most are up front, and on back to the ones I use the least.

    I’m with you, Shauna, in keeping as few pots and pans as necessary. I’m in the process of weeding ours out, but stalled cuz me hubby likes non-stick and I don’t!

    I really dislike cooking in a dirty kitchen…I typically clean it before I start. Having it clean opens up the creative juices and gives me access to all the counter tops and sink. It’s like creating space in the physical kitchen creates space in my mind to create yummy food.

    That’s all I have time for for now! Hope it’s helpful.

  30. Darby

    I just want to say how much I enjoy this blog. Your attitude and clear enthusiasm for fantastic gluten-free living encourages me so. I have been GF for 6 months and I feel great but I must admit I still have elaborate fantasies about thick, chewy crusted pizza. (I sometime catch myself staring at people eating their slices…very embarrassing) I’m really looking forward to your upcoming book especially since you mentioned the part about it being aimed at the home cook and not the chef-with-minion types. Thank-you for doing what you do. 🙂

  31. Jenn

    Zoe is so right about using things up- we call it inventory reduction. My husband also takes leftovers to work to share with younger, broke co-workers. They love it, our fridge doesn’t get cluttered, and we don’t feel that we waste food because we can never eat all the leftovers.

    We also use Sarah’s trick with a chalkboard in the kitchen for any items needed at the store. We just take a picture of the list with the iPhone on the way to the store. We also love our magnetized knife strip on the wall rather than keeping knives in a drawer or a knife block.

    We compost but have also started a separate small plastic bin in the fridge for veggie pieces that are not the favorites for eating but too fresh and good to compost- celery tops, hard broccoli stems, the ground up leftovers from juicing carrots and ginger, etc. Every Sunday, we dump it all into a pot and make vegetable stock from it. The flavor is always different and it forms the base of one meal each week, plus some goes into the freezer. If the fridge gets too cold, we just stick the bin outside in the winter air.

  32. Hannah S-Q

    I can relate to this post in a major way!

    Congrats on so many things. The book, your gorgeous and delightful daughter, your upcoming move. We’re also about to move out of this house that we’ve lived in for 9 years. This was our first house together. Several circumstances began pushing us out of here and it was just time.

    I’m feeling worn down thinking about the move stuff, and things with my daughter that I need to do. I know that feeling of dealing with ongoing sleep and health issues. My daughter struggled literally the entire six years of her life with horrible sleep issues, then seizures, and now has been seizure free for more than two years. I remember reading about that year after the surgery here on your blog and remembered commiserating (at least in my head) about the stress and bad sleep.

    I wish you many happy memories in your new house, lots of bright light, and lots of laughter and good food.


  33. Kate

    I use glass jars for all my storage, including produce in the fridge. Right now I have pre-washed and chopped mizuna and celery waiting to go in a grain-free Japanese “rice” porridge for dinner. I agree with you that prepping vegetables right away is key for using them up efficiently. I also have a jar of preserved lemons, a jar of steamed bean sprouts for breakfast salads, and a thawing jar of broccoli soup for tomorrow’s lunch. I eat a lot of sauerkraut so I don’t even have to buy new jars – just wash them twice and use baking powder to remove the vinegar smell! I also use glass jars to store gluten-free flours or nuts in the freezer. I can see what everything is (though I try to label freezer jars with dates/contents to avoid that mystery discovery) and they organize nicely. I’ll try and get a picture up if I can!

    I heard you shouldn’t keep spices out on the counter or near the stove, so I have a small rack that I pull out of my cool, dark cupboard. All the spices are in glass jars or containers with clear lids so I know what it is at first glance. Then I can see everything I have and simply pop things back into place and out of sight.

  34. PollyDee

    This lovely lady inspired me to organise spices like a pro. Love it because your not having to peel off/ cover labels…ever.

    Also, paper bags for veg. If I’m at a big supermarket I’ll just use the paper bags they provide for mushrooms but a lot of fresh food stores either provide them around here or are happy for you to bring your own. Easy to label and stays fresher for longer than plastic.

  35. Mish

    As long as I’m using my fruits and veggies in a timely manner, I save my bags and bring them back to the store with me to fill again with new produce. Obviously this doesn’t work all the time, since there’s often the forgotten half eaten cucumber in the bottom of the crisper (found one today), but most of the time we have a stash of bags to reuse.

  36. Karla

    I was given some foldable, bendable colanders a while back and they are perfect for storing produce of varying sizes and shapes. As soon as I get home from the supermarket, I soak the veggies in some distilled white vinegar and cold water while I put the other groceries away. (I’m always amazed by the filth that washes off of them in that process). Apples, oranges etc. make their way to a bench in the garage that stays nice and cool for a long time here in upstate NY. Can’t wait to see your cookbook. Good luck with ALL that you have on your plate! You continue to inspire, Shauna. Thank you.

  37. Netty

    My husband is a NEAT freak and he has rubbed off on me! I still make a mess everywhere I go but it’s much easier to clean up after having read this book:
    It’s amazing….you don’t have to be into Feng Shui to learn from it and have it change your life. After I cleared out all my clutter I found it was SO SIMPLE to clean up the house—everything has a spot where it goes…. so it takes about 15 minutes to pick up any of our mess and then we just do the actual cleaning once a week. You’re already on your way by getting rid of extra kitchen stuff! 🙂

    I too label everything in the fridge & freezer—I love using china markers (those weird wax wrapped pencils) on my glass containers.

    I love what we do with our spices…. I have a really WIDE drawer in our kitchen (36 inches I think) and I got matching jars online (from I think). I put all my spices in their own labeled jar and put them in the drawer. I can just pull the drawer open, see everything, use it and put it back. To me it’s much more space efficient than a spice cabinet.

    Good luck on your quest to simply and organize. I LOVE it! It makes life so much better!!!! Clearing out everything makes your house feel more open. 🙂 It will be super fun to go along with your new house! Good luck with that! (Something else too—in the first book written by the author above she talks about when you move to go to each room and “take” the happy memories with you, then move to the new place and “unpack” them in each room…I did it with our last move and it was really nice. 🙂 )

  38. AJ

    We renovated our kitchen four years ago. In the planning process we spent a lot of time in discussion (with people who are supposed to know about this stuff) about how to organize our spices. Finally, against the advice of some, I decided to devote a couple of double-wide drawers to the cause. The spices are mostly in one-cup size mason jars; I put a label on the lid. Since it’s about function not aesthetics, a number of regular old jars have made their way in, too, most with the spice name scrawled with a Sharpie on top. The system works like a charm – I simply pull out a drawer and pick out what I want.

  39. Ann

    I have a tiny kitchen with no counter space. I love my shiny Oneida pots and pans but they all sat on top of the stove at the same time with lids sliding off frequently. Don’t laugh, but I bought one of those over-the-toilet chrome shelving units and used it in the kitchen over the wastebasket instead. Now each of my pots and pans has their own shelf space and light bounces and sparkles across them! I am no longer washing unused pans due to spatter 🙂

    I have magnetic spice racks hanging on the refrigerator-very convenient. I have a magnetic basket/bin on the stove door and keep potholder and mit in it. And I have a magnetic paper towel holder on the fridge-you wont find shopping lists etc on my fridge!

    I have another basket/bin hung on the wall over the sink with 3 hidden cups nestled down in-one cup holds knives/scissors/fondue forks, one holds serving spoons, one holds spatulas-I replaced all of my big handle spatula’s with ones that have a straight skinny handle so that they stand better in the container.

    I would like to buy one of those magnetic knife holders…but then I would have to buy an attractive set of knives lol.

    In the cupboard I use those coated wire inserts that let you stack salad plates over dinner plates-only mine is paper plates over spaghetti bowls 🙂

    In the cupboard and the fridge I use shallow but large clear plastic containers as shelf liners so that I can slide them out to look at the items in the back. I have two shoebox-size clear plastic containers in a cupboard that are for nothing but envelope-type items-sauces, quick rices and pastas, biscuits, etc. Nothing wrong with plastic imo 🙂

    I have two 6foot tall free-standing “country” cabinets that are ~15 inches square and each shelf inside is for an electrical appliance-waffle iron, steamer, George Foreman type appliances, indoor grill, pressure cooker, etc.

    I replaced my large baking sheets/sheet pans/muffin pans etc with multiple small ones-small enough to set down into the bottom of the sink to soak.

    I mentioned the wastebasket but didnt mention it is industrial size-I cannot stand having to empty a tiny wastebasket every day. My dream kitchen would have a giant garbage can on wheels hidden under the island with a square hole cut in the granite with a lift-out granite/marble slab covering the hole.

    Wow, I just hogged your blog-I need to start one of these myself!

  40. Brie

    I confess to alphabetizing the spices. I know that’s anal retentive, but with 20+ little bottles in there, I have to have a system and it’s easy. My husband could even use it, should he choose to remember to do so. It used to have a turntable, which was pretty cool. I could fit a lot of spices on that. But the new house didn’t have room for a turntable, so now it has a little stair-step thingy I found at Target. I don’t like it quite as well, but it does the trick.

    I like your chalkboard for veggies idea. I bought a marker board a few years back and I plan menus on it for a week or so. Not specific days but just meals. Those go on one side, and the grocery list is in marker on the other side. That allows me to scribble something down in the midst of cooking without looking for a piece of paper, and also makes sure that if something doesn’t get purchased, it doesn’t get erased or the list thrown out or whatever. In the middle of the board, I list leftovers as they go in the fridge. It’s easy to erase meals that got made, leftovers that get eaten, groceries that were purchased, etc. and keeps me from wasting food. It also helps my husband when I’m working at night. He knows what’s around to eat and doesn’t just cook yet another hamburger. (Nothing wrong with burgers, but the idea gets old when I’m working four nights in a row!)

    We liked the marker board so much that we purchased another one for the front of the fridge. This one has those dumb things that need to be kept track of somewhere. Like the garden to-do list, the date for flea meds for the dogs next month, the expiration date for that Home Depot coupon I really want to use but not today, etc. It’s like a junk drawer for thoughts – a bit of this and a bit of that, contained in one simple place!

  41. Archer

    Last summer I started a grocery inventory… similar to what you talk about. Its in excel. I made a separate tab for reach store. Because, of course, I get different things at different stores. The plan is to print them out, tape them inside my kitchen cupboard, and highlight items as I need them. I’ve missed that ‘hanging up part’ the past month or so, but having a pre-made list ready to go has helped me eliminate extra trips to the store… And we used to go 3-4 times in one week!

    The other thing I like for spices is those little 1/2 pint Kerr jars. I label them with masking tape and a sharpie (who says that doesn’t look cute?). We buy most of our spices in bulk, so this way, they’re not shoved in the spice cupboard in this little ziploc baggie from the store. The 1/2 pint Kerr jars are also easy to use when cooking… with Tablespoons for example.. just dip it in. Plus, they stack very nice and I can see them so much better than a bunch of little bottles.

  42. Amanda

    I use a lot of glass containers for storage, and I love a dry-erase marker for labelling stuff in the fridge! We get incredibly creamy Jersey milk from a farm down the road once a week, so I always have lots of cream in my fridge. When I skim new cream, I put it in a canning jar (I get about 2 cups a gallon, with plenty left over to keep the milk creamy!) and write the date on the jar. When it’s time to make butter, creme fraiche, cream cheese or whipped cream, I know the relative freshness of each jar of cream! When I wash the jars, the date washes off easily.

    1. Autumn Hoverter

      Amanda, what a fabulous idea to use a dry erase marker for labeling! I use jars and glass pyrex for storage but have been relying on the ol’ tape and pen method for labeling. Bought a new set of dry erase markers yesterday and I’m ready to start labeling!

  43. Susan

    Large nutella jars – use them for sugar, flour, beans etc etc, write the name on top of the jar, all stacked in a deep drawer ( the big original bags are kept in a separate cupboard for refills). The same jars are used for various leftovers eg fried rice, custard, choc sauce, easy for the teenagers to find, or for fresh herbs – easy for me to see. All plastic boxes are the same style and stackable. I have the spice jars in a drawer lying flat. I use a Kenwood mixer with attachments, so do not need separate processors etc. After a big shop – trying to only shop every 2-3 weeks – half of the vegetables ( carrots, onions,celery) are chopped and frozen, and half the fruit roasted (apples, pears,plums) and frozen, they are then used towards the end of the shopping.

  44. Nicole

    I have no kitchen advice for you that could top any of this, but I’ve an organisational tool that saves me so much frustration with the laundry. We have two laundry baskets in each bedroom, one white, the other coloured (bedroom owner’s choice). Whites go in one and darks in the other. Thus there is no sorting when it’s time to wash and getting the washing on takes all of a minute.

    We tried this first with baskets with lids but we often didn’t use them. We needed open-topped baskets that you can just throw the clothes straight into. As a bonus, those were much cheaper!

    Nothing I know will make folding or ironing any quicker.

  45. Nita

    I have no tips to share as my kitchen is my horror room in our home. I am gathering ideas myself and can’t wait to remodel. But I want to make one comment on the last line in your post, “Before that beautiful chaos sets in again, I want to know how to do it right this time.”

    You didn’t do it wrong the first time. You did it with love and the best you could do with how it was. This next time, you will just do it differently.

  46. Bri

    Wow, there have been some wonderful tips here! Here are a few of my own, nothing special, but it works for me! I bought a couple four packs of mesh bags at the dollar store for my produce and sewed a quick little drawstring bag to put them in. Now when I go to the store I just grab that along with my canvas bags. A friend was so enamored with the idea that I gave her mine on the spot. Considering that it takes about 5 minutes and $3 to replace, it was an easy decision. Now I just have to get in the habit of doing all my vegetable prep when I bring the produce home. Tamar has inspired me!

    As for spices, I use baskets stored in the cupboard above where I do most of my prep. All the jars are labeled on the top, so as soon as I pull the basket down I can see what’s what. I have one for baking (nutmeg, baking powder, cinnamon, etc), one for spicy things, one for dried herbs etc. That way when I’m cooking, I just grab the appropriate tray and get to work.

    The rest of my pantry fits in one cupboard and two deep drawers, mostly in OXO containers and canning jars. Oh, how I love canning jars. When they’re not being used to store home canned salsa, tomatoes, jams or other fruit, they’re used to store leftovers or carry my morning smoothie to work. They’re pretty hard to beat for versatility and performance. Love the idea of a dry erase marker for labeling, I’ll have to try that!

    We live in the Northwest too, so I understand the craving for light, especially in the winter. I hope your new home is bright and happy and wonderful.

  47. Susan

    The best tip I ever received came from a woman who taught my Girl Scout cooking class: Clean up as you go. Getting in the habit of picking things up, rinsing things off, and putting things away as I move through my world makes for so much less work when it comes time to really clean: washing, dusting and vacuuming. If you set up your new home with a place for everything, putting things away after you’re done using them is relatively easy. At the end of day, before turning out the lights and going up to bed I make sure there are no dirty dishes, and the rest of the house is relatively picked up. It takes a little work to establish the habit, but once you’ve got it going it becomes a pleasure.

    1. Kimberly

      I definitely clean as I go when I am cooking and it makes a huge difference!

      I have a hard time cleaning as I go for the rest of the house because somebody is usually behind me messing it up again! I totally agree with the phrase “a place for everything and everything in it’s place” but what if the people you live with disagree about where that place is? Aghhhhhhhh!

  48. Autumn Hoverter

    So many ideas for spices already! Last year I got fed up with my cupboard of chaos and decided to make magnetic spice containers that sit on my fridge, mostly alphabetized! I adore this system and won’t go back to having my herbs and spices jammed in a cupboard, though I’m going to admit that are still a few in plastic baggies. Just can’t resist new flavors like amchoor or ajwain. If you’d like to see what my spice rack looks like and where I got my containers, check out my post:

    As always, thanks so much for a lovely post!

  49. Christina

    Have you ever heard of Abeego food wrappers? Made on the west coast of all natural products, like beeswax, and used instead of saran wrap!! They work wonderfully as pouches to store snacks on the go, or over top bowls of pre-cut veggies. Reusable too. I am one happy customer.

  50. Maggi

    Well, I know a thing or two about organizing a pantry. It is rather comical that my friends come over to my home and oooh and ahhh over my ‘perfectly organized’ pantry. Now, I will not say it is exactly perfectly organized, but one thing that makes it LOOK that way is my use of Expand-a-Shelf modules on my pantry shelves. (I have no affiliation with the product, I’m just one VERY happy consumer.)

    Anyway, because I can actually SEE everything, even stuff on the back of the shelves, it really makes it easy to organize and take inventory. I use two different sizes – small for spice jars etc. and large for canned goods. I bought mine at the Container Store, but you will probably can find them near you or online.

  51. Nina

    I’m pretty chaotic but Julie Morgenstern’s book, ‘Organising From The Inside Out’, has made a big difference. It doesn’t have pretty pictures like a lot of organising books, but it’s written by someone who really knows about disorganisation. It has actual helpful information rather than tips for colour-coding your purse contents.

    The secret of my kitchen is that I cook, and Boyfriend cleans up. He’s a master at getting it all neat and tidy again. Apart from that, we eat VERY simply, which helps (see the 4-ingredient pancake recipe that I’ve just posted). We also buy all our groceries except fresh produce in bulk, direct from the wholesaler, every two months. That means we only have to check supplies every eight weeks (took us a while to fine-tune the ordering, but now we know what we need and how long it lasts). Fruit, veg, and eggs come from an organic farm delivery scheme once a week; we waste a lot less now that I choose exactly what to get each week rather than taking the standard box. I try to remember to write the date on the carton of rice drink when I open it. My super-organised aunt has her spices in a drawer like some of the commenters above. I’d love to chop veg and store it in the fridge for easy meals later in the week, but our fridge is stupidly small (like, one size up from a hotel mini-bar).

  52. madonnadelpiatto

    ah there is so much to say!

    Nr. 1 discipline: Shauna you mention getting read of things. During the years I have found out that learning to buy less food/spices/pans is key. Buying less ingredients is very important. I have become pretty particular about throwing away food, basically it’s not allowed and I act consequently. I try to buy only what I am pretty sure I will use within a short span of time. Still my kitchen if full of food and I could feed an army.

    Sorry but I disagree about prepping all vegetables in advance. Roasting is nice, but as lovely as that caramelized undertone can be, it will make every dish taste the same after a while. Roasted vegetables will become soft, I like some of my veggies lightly sautee in olive oil, just cooked thourgh but still crispy. Chopping without cooking will expose the vegetables to oxidation and loss of flavor by vaporization. My solution is to make simpler recipes, with less ingredients so they are not so work intensive.

    Nr. 2 drawers: when we remade our new kitchen I bought cabinets which mostly had large drawers instead of shelves. I mean those drawers where you can fit also pans and pots. Inside the drawers I use boxes wich I fill with similar items, one box for seeds and nuts, one for cans, one for honeys, one with kitchen tools I use more often, one with tools I use rarely, etc…

    Nr. 3 good cleaning equipment and easy waste disposal. I’m always surprised at the primitive sponges and other cleaning implements people uses in their kitchen. There should be no gimmik involved in opening and closing a garbage or recycle container. Sturdy nylon brushes and microfiber clothes allow for quick cleaning with minmal use of nasty chemicals.

    Nr. 4 making lists easy: my life has changed a few weeks ago when I got a smartphone. I don’t need to type lists, I use a shopping list app, they are fabulous. I use the Notes app for odd items. I used to spend a lot of time making a shopping list and then being so stressed and in a hurry I would forget it at home. Now the list is always with me, what a relief.

    Congratulations with the your house and plans and thank you for your ever wonderful and inspiring words.

  53. The Cozy Herbivore

    Ugh, my spice shelf is a mess too. I don’t know what to do about it, but as soon as you find a solution, do let me know.

    However, I’m with you wholeheartedly on the labeling of dishes in the fridge. This has saved me so much time and energy and science experiments, it’s really unbelievable.

    Congrats on the big move– how nice it will be to have a new place, unclouded by memories of sleepless nights, ready for your new beginnings!

  54. Carol Peterman

    I relate to photographing outside for light. I’m hoping it doesn’t start raining before my cheesecake cools so I can cut & photograph it.

    Spices – My mess drove me so crazy I quit my job, designed my dream spice storage and started my company. My before and after photos say it all!

    Let me know if this looks like an interesting solution. I’m in Seattle and would love to consult on your spice storage. By the way, painter’s tape and a sharpie are always at the ready in my kitchen too.

    1. shauna

      Well goodness, Carol, that looks great! Let me finish this book and plan our move and we’ll start talking!

  55. christa

    Shauna, you sang to my heart when you asked for organizing advice!!! I am very OCD & not ashamed of it! I love having a place for things and knowing where they are when I need them! Honestly, the best piece of advice I could give you is to figured out what 10-15 items you use most (ie-for me it’s whisk, med mix bowl, lrg fry pan, my beloved 9yr oxo spatula,etc) and place those things in easy to reach places. All the things like avacado slicers……can be stored further back :p Most of all, just wash dishes as you go. A trick my grandma taught me. That way you can enjoy your meal w/o worry of clean up!

  56. GF Annie

    I can definitely relate to the need for a bright kitchen even though I don’t photograph food! It makes life worth living and the heart of a home glow! My kitchen is not the best organized for sure but I do a couple of things that work well for me. Like many others I too am a big fan of glass over plastic wherever possible. For my spices, I don’t have sufficient room (or I have too many spices!) to lay them in a drawer. Instead I label the tops of the jars and line them up in a drawer – yes, alphabetically! I have a shallow rectangular tray in the cupboard in which I store the basic necessities of baking – the baking soda, baking powder, salt, vanilla – the items I use virtually every time I bake. I just take the tray out and sit it on the counter and everything is handy. When I’m finished, away it goes. I store all the small bags of GF flour in what would normally be the meat drawer of my fridge. Again, I just take the drawer out and sit it on the counter beside my work. A quick trip back to the fridge and it’s away. My measuring spoons (2 sets) stand in a favorite mug. I keep it in the cupboard too and just grab it out when I’m ready to cook. In two previous kitchens, I installed small nails inside the cupboard doors to the left and right above my working counter. There I hung my measuring cups and spoons. I could just open the doors, leave them open while I worked, and be able to grab the measuring spoon or scoop I needed with barely a glance. Doesn’t work in my current kitchen but I loved it before! I think the key to organizing a kitchen is to group like tools and ingredients and store them together in some kind of container. Dealing with a box, drawer, bin, tin etc. is faster, easier, and neater than dealing with dozens of individual items. Good luck on everything coming up! And thanks for sharing so generously with all of us. Your site is a treasure.

  57. June

    I love freshly ground spices so I use large and small canning jars with lids. The small ones stack so nicely in my cupboard. The large ones are used to store whole spices waiting to be ground. I have found this to be the best system for me. You can write on the jars with a sharpie and when you want to change what spice goes in the jar, you simply scrub off the writing with no stains left behind. They are dishwasher safe and easy to sanitize. When I open my cupboards I see nicely stacked jars and it makes me smile. Around here we also have to be careful of those nasty little bugs that get into everything so we use a lot of glass canning jars. 🙂

  58. KC

    Spice tub! I have a clear plastic tub, a bit bigger than two shoeboxes side-by-side, and as tall as the average tall-ish spice jar. Spices are sort of clumped on a spectrum from mostly-baking spices on the left to mostly-cooking spices on the right; if I didn’t know basically all the jars by sight, I’d label the tops of them, but the collection is so eclectic that it usually only takes a glance to pull the right jar by shape and color of lid (if I had 20 Spice Islands jars, though, I’d need lid labels!). Loose bags of things (bulk bay leaves, spice mixes, odds and ends) go in a little square box tucked into the corner of the tub. Then the tub lives on the top shelf of a cupboard; it’s light enough to lift down easily whenever it’s wanted and the most-used spices are in the front so I can grab them from the cupboard. It’s always full enough that the jars don’t tip over. If I had the right size of drawer, I’d probably go for the spice drawer option, but as long as I don’t, the tub is easier to clean than a drawer would be and there *is* something fun about pulling down the tub and rummaging as one would in a treasure chest. 🙂

    In terms of organizing other kitchen goods, the other system that has surprisingly worked well for me is sorting canned goods primarily into normal-use and occasional-use instead of by related-ness. Normal-use things are stacked with items of their own kind all the way to the back of the cupboard (a row of beans; a row of canned tomatoes) and get replaced as I visually see the number in the cupboard decreasing, while occasional-use ones are all in one cupboard and, if they’re “always in stock” foods, go on a list for replacement next shopping time as soon as they’re used. One still has to rummage in the occasional-use stack sometimes (where straw mushrooms, black olives, baby corn, tinned salmon, and sweetened condensed milk all live together in harmony, if not logic), but they aren’t lost behind a sea of tomatoes or beans, you know they’re in stock, and you don’t have to always be shuffling them around to get at more everyday food. Poking around in the occasional-foods cupboard is also a good way to crack a creative block with food you already have on hand…

    We don’t have shelves in our freezer (?) and hence were much irritated with trying to organize things until we started using clear stacking 12-cup flat boxes; one for chicken, one for bits and pieces of things (herbs and such), one for frozen fruit, etc. No avalanches or where-in-the-freezer-did-that-bit-of-pesto-go hunts, and as a bonus, flavors and freezer-burn are both a tiny bit more contained. The containers do crack if you drop them while they’re still frozen, though.

    I use the same containers in the cupboard to organize, protect, and rotate beans, lentils, and cornmeal in a least-recently-purchased-in-top-bin sort of system. I suppose I’ve become a huge fan of putting things that don’t stack or organize well (pudding; tiny bottles of extracts; food coloring; bags of lentils) into containers so they *can* stack and be sorted. It’s really useful having the containers all the same so that empties can be nested for storage (and the lids are interchangeable, which is lovely; no hunting in the tupperware crate for the single lid that fits the single container).

    Hope your move goes well!

  59. Cynthia

    Living in a tiny NYC home where I cook and bake every day has made me appreciate kitchen organization tools like those magnetic round spice jars with the turn-able lids. I got mine at the Container Store, but found some identical ones on Amazon here:

    I keep all my flours in large OXO air-tight containers and all my dry goods like lentils & pasta on the counter in the tall glass Ball jars with canning lids. Love using a dry-erase marker for marking contents and dates on glass containers for leftovers or other ingredients in the fridge. It washes off so easily, so no need for tape!

  60. Kate at Serendipity

    Hmmm… I love reading these tips. Here are a few of mine:

    In the summer I buy all of our fruit and veg at the outdoor market (we live in Belgium). When I get home I prepare it–roast it, chop it, rinse it, whatever it needs–as soon as I can. Otherwise it will sit and get too old to eat… I was amazed to see the video of that–we’ve done it for years and it’s good to see that we’re not weird…

    I don’t store the veggies in the veggie compartment of the fridge. Instead, I keep that very very clean and fill it with washed salad ingredients, already mixed and ready for dressing. In essence, the crisper is a giant salad bowl. (We eat a LOT of salads in the summer). When we’re ready to eat, we just reach in there and grab a couple of handfuls and toss them in a bowl with some vinaigrette.

    I do most of our cooking on the weekend and we eat it through the week. Fridays are sometimes omelette nights, as the rest of the stuff is gone…

    I don’t have a bowl of measuring spoons, cups, etc on my counter. I like my worktop to be uncluttered. Instead, I bought some hooks on suction cups and I hang them, along with whisks, strainers, and some small ornaments I like on the tiled walls. They serve as decoration as well as being easy to find.

    I keep my most often used spices in test tubes with labels on the cork stoppers. The tubes are in a rack and I keep the whole thing next to the stove. Less often used spices are in a shallow drawer in no particular order, but I know where everything is.

    Thanks for the chance to have a look into others’ kitchens. I love your blog and your books. Thanks for all of it.

  61. Rachel

    I used to suck at meal planning but a couple months ago I started printing blank monthly calendars that I could write meals on. I usually only write one week at a time but for some reason having the whole month in calendar format makes it easier for me to plan. Plus there is enough space to write everything. I have been saving the sheets so I hope to have a seasonal menu list by this time next year.
    For spices I have an alphabetical master list inside the cabinet door – makes it simple to see if I have the spices for a recipe. I also mark the jars with a sharpie with purchase date. The actual spices usually self group by use when I shove them back in the cabinet. It is however time for a yearly clear out of stale ones.
    I have gotten more willing to use a dishwasher half full if it means a clean counter in the morning.

  62. Julie

    I do many of the things other people have talked about. My measuring cups and spoons are in a container on my kitchen cart where I can easily reach them in the places where I use them. My spices are in the large flat top drawer of my kitchen cart arranged alphabetically so I can easily find what I need. Since I have dozens and dozens of spices this is important. All of my cupboards are organized to have the cupboards arranged so every thing is together. Tea on one shelf, vinegars and oils on one, pasta, rice and beans on one etc. I have a grocery list attached to my fridge so when I run out of staples I can write it down right away and my husband can also write things he wants. All the food is in my cooking space and all of my dishes are by the sink and dishwasher. There is no table in our kitchen it’s all working space with lots of cabinets floor to ceiling. We have a bar separating the dinning room and kitchen with chairs so I can park people who come there and they can talk to me, nibble apps and have their cocktails with out being under foot. I HATE wasting food! I spend a lot on organic quality food so I’m not throwing it out. Very week I make a menu for dinners. I use what I have on hand and then write what ever else I will need on the list. This way every night when I come home from work tired and unable to think of “what’s for dinner?” I don’t have to. I know what I’m making and I know I have everything I need to do it. I just turn on some music and get to it. Every Sunday the fridge is packed and every Saturday it’s total bare. Dinner left overs become lunches as well as any left over veg or meat which will become a soup for lunches. I save all bird carcasses, Lamb leg bones, Pork bones, shrimp shells etc in the freezer for stock. I also scrub all my veg well and then save all the peelings from carrots and parsnips, all the ends of celey and all the ends and peels of onions etc in a bag to make stock. I wish I could find a good way to replace all those plastic produce bags but nothing seems to work as well.

  63. Jessi

    I love the idea of having a rubbish bin hidden in a worktop. 😀

    The bes thing my parents ever did when we refurbished our house before we moved in was to built a laundry shoot, so that we could literally just throw dirty washing to land in a washing basket downstairs! If I ever did it myself, I’d have two doors – one for colours, and one for whites… but it does require a bit of holes-in-walls making!

  64. Melissa

    Hi Shauna! My husband and I move often because of work so I have kept my kitchen down to the basic essentials, which are probably a lot more things then the average home cook…
    Anyway, I love what Alton Brown says about not having anything in your kitchen that can only do one thing. I have stuck to that rule pretty religiously. My basic “kit”
    1 med saucepan
    1 lg cast iron le cruset dutch oven
    1 egg/crepe skillet
    1 set of 3 cast iron skillets, different sizes, and I do use them all often.
    1 lg stoneware baking dish + 1 metal 13×9 cake pan
    2 round 9×9 pans
    1 square 8×8 pan
    1 9×9 square cake pan, with removable bottom
    2 circle tart pans
    1 rectangle tart pan
    1 loaf pan
    1 cookie sheet (yes one and it needs a buddy!)
    2 springform pans, 1 lg and 1 small
    a turkey roaster for the holidays
    Pizza stone
    Thats about it for pans. I almost never use anything else I have, which isnt much.

    As for kitchen tools, I have…
    1 ladle
    4 wooden spoons
    4 reg spatulas made from different materials, one is very thin metal for cookies & candy
    2 offset spatulas for icing cakes or many other things.
    2 sets of measuring spoons
    1 set measuring cups
    standing 6 side cheese grater
    2 metal tongs, lg and med
    2 mesh strainers, small & large
    3 pasta strainers, small, large, extra lg
    About 10 mixing bowls of various sizes, I have a problem with mixing bowls. I promised myself I wouldn’t buy anymore.

    Thats most everything. There are some other random things like a set of mini tart pans, a small heart shaped pan, a lg square grill pan someone got me as a gift that I dont use often.

    So are you moving off the island? Have you found a place yet? I hear what your saying about bad lighting. I just moved into a cute house I love except the light in the kitchen is horrible! I haven’t found a great solution yet, but its going to involve moving to another room for photos.

    1. shauna

      Hey Melissa, I love this list! So helpful for me and other folks. And heavens, we’re not leaving Vashon. We’ll never leave this place. We just found a place closer to town than we are now.

  65. Amélie

    Congratulations on the move! (I’m currently trying to find a better set-up in my house to take pictures; I also feel like I don’t have enough light, even though I’m in South Texas).

    For spice storage, I’m over the moon with my solution (, which happens to be the same one used by Tea from Tea and Cookies. The only thing I would do differently, if I had the space, would be to store them in the pantry instead of next to a window.

  66. Liz

    I can’t say I have any tips to offer as I’m where you were two and a half years ago. I have a two month old. But! Thank you for passing along the tips, Shauna. And the lovely commenters too.

    It’ll help me loads.

  67. barefootOCmama

    Hello! Came across your blog and it totally resonated with me- I have recently started a second blog (my main one is focusing on our new journey along the gluten free path- 1 of my three kids is definitely intolerant and I have always wondered about myself… so here we go!!! We are assembling a once-a-month-cooking group to see if we can make a gluten free plan work to help simplify our lives- and after reading your post I am going to purge my kitchen!! With baby # 4 on the way, I need to streamline- in more than just the kitchen. Anyway, I started a Fridays Foodie Blog Hop and wanted to invite you to join it, as I am sure my readers would love to visit your blog! Happy Friday!

  68. Barbara

    Hi Shauna, I have a spice drawer. I use one of my longest drawers and have them laying down in alphabetical order. It’s kind of a jigsaw puzzle as not all spice drawers are the same size but it’s been a huge help. Plus, I don’t have outdated spices stuck “in the back” of the cupboard. Your new home sounds lovely. Thank you for all you have shared over the years. I am so much the better for your blog! Blessings, Barbara

  69. kathleen

    Love all this advice. In my tiny house, if we don’t use something, out it goes to the FreeBox or local thrift shop. I have a similar number of pots & pans and if I really need something, I call my neighbor, as she does me. Another neighbor and I share canning equipment and can in tandem. Large, wide-mouth jars hold all nuts, grains, dried fruit and some flours. The most helpful part of my kitchen life is to constantly move things – to better places, to clean out or to recycle. Good luck in your new house!

  70. Beth

    H Shauna –
    First, I grew up on Vashon, and it is a magical place. I’m so happy for you and your family that you are staying. Such a gift to your daughter to grow up in such a spot.

    With regard to organization: really, it is like anything — what works for me, won’t be the best for you; what works for you, isn’t going to work for me. It is personal.

    So, having said that, let me share the personal:
    – My kitchen is my workspace, and my family knows that good quality work (aka, meals) means they need to respect my workspace by not messing it up (yes, I am the mother to two teenagers…)
    – My organizational mantra is a combo: the lowest tech that will get the job done (I enjoy the pleasure of slicing an avocado, and would also have discarded the avocado slicer — I won’t be going to Grannie’s Attic to find yours!) plus keep the tool/supply as close to where it will be used as possible. Spices are in a drawer (labeled like so many others have indicated) next to the stove. Drinking glasses are in the cupboard closest to the sink. Silverware is in the drawer closest to the dining table. Coffee and mugs are in the cupboard closest to the coffee maker. Bakeware is in the cupboard/drawers closest to the oven. You get the idea. It is all about convenience and being able to put my hands on what I need with a minimum of steps.
    – Dry and canned goods in the pantry are organized by use. I have a plastic box that is full of my baking decorating supplies (sprinkles, colored sugars, food coloring, baking cup papers…) that I pull ou and use whenever that is the direction inspiration is taking me.
    – My grocery list is decidedly low tech. Two pads of paper (the type with magnets on the back) that I keep on the fridge, with a magnetic pen between. One is for regular grocery shopping — the other is for Costco. I jot down things as I use them up (or find a recipe with a new ingredient I want to try). Family is well versed to do the same (my mantra: “I don’t care if you eat the last of x, as long as you write it on the list”). So easy — heading for the store? Tear off the appropriate list. No fumbling with phones. No going to a computer to write down items… just jot and go.

    Not sure if that helps, as I really do think that organization is personal. I look at some of these magazines that promise to organize your life and scoff, as most feature all sorts of pretty “organizing” features that actually take up space and don[‘t add value (IMHO) — back to that “lowest tech that can get the job done”.

    Keep blogging – can’t wait for the cookbook! You’re an inspiration to so many. 🙂

  71. Kristen

    oops, sorry. It seems my link doesn’t work. Here it is but I got it this morning in my email inbox from the Writer’s Almanac:


    by Jane Hirshfield

    Each night you come home with five continents on your hands:
    garlic, olive oil, saffron, anise, coriander, tea,
    your fingernails blackened with a marjoram and thyme.
    Sometimes the zucchini’s flesh seems like a fish-steak,
    cut into neat filets, or the salt-rubbed eggplant
    yields not bitter water, but dark mystery.
    You cut everything into bits.
    No core, no kernel, no seed is scared: you cut
    onions for hours and do not cry,
    cut them to thin transparencies, the red ones
    spreading before you like fallen flowers;
    you cut scallions from white to green, you cut
    radishes, apples, broccoli, you cut oranges, watercress,
    romaine, you cut your fingers, you cut and cut
    beyond the heart of things, where
    nothing remains, and you cut that too, scoring coup
    on the butcherblock, leaving your mark,
    when you go
    your feet are as pounded as brioche dough.

    “Cook” by Jane Hirshfield, from Of Gravity and Angels. © Wesleyan University Press, 1988. Reprinted with permission.

  72. Krissy @ Make it Naked

    The most helpful organizational change we’ve made to our kitchen was purchasing a kitchen cart. We put all small appliances on top plugged in to a power strip ready to go. I have a stand mixer, toaster oven, blender, coffee grinder all plugged in on top. The microwave is on the bottom shelf (this was weird at first but we don’t use it often so it’s fine). This freed up the counter top and now I don’t waste time pulling out appliances when I need them and plugging them in. I’ve been looking for a spice storage solution so thank you for this post! So helpful!

  73. Ginny

    It’s been interesting to read about the lack of light, as well as storage solutions. My situation here in central Texas for the past several years has been the opposite. We have had summers with more than 80 days of triple-digit temps, and flours, oils, and brown rice start going rancid in the pantry (yes, I have air conditioning, but the cumulative effects of 110-115°days on end are the pits.
    Can I store my nut and rice flours in the freezer? I keep reading different opinions about that.
    Thanks for your wonderful blog; it’s been a wonderful help.

  74. Laura

    I hear Ikea has some great, cheap glass spice containers- perfect for buying small amounts from the bulk section. (Really, do we need $5 worth of poutry season for the 1x/year we use it?! Buying some small white stickers that you can write on and stick on the jar is a perfect solution to endless baggies of small amounts of spices in which you can no longer read your own writing along the fat twist tie from the grocery!

    Shauna, y

  75. Kelly

    I recommend painter’s tape instead of masking tape; it stays put on anything until you’re ready to take it off, and then it peels of easily without leaving any residue (masking tape can leave a bit of stickum on things). Date everything that goes in storage. Also you can write directly onto glass with a medium tip sharpie and it will wash off.

    I also use a sharpie on the lid of any jar I open to date when I opened it.

    I also put something on my list one item *before* I run out. It’s like my own personal “backstock.” Then you have a bit of time leeway to actually make a normal trip to the store instead of needing to go right away.

    I use a lot of canning jars for storage, and wash out any other jars that come into the house for odds and ends: dried mushrooms, etc.

    I find the meal planning thing doesn’t work that well for people that base their meals around the farmers markets! What I do is Farmers Market on Saturday morning: buy veggies and fruits at their peak. I also might pick up some meat; if not, I stop at the butcher on the way home and get pancetta or guanciale (always), and one other meat for the week. (Midweek I go to the fishmonger for fish- whatever they say is best comes home with me). So a cured meat, one (chicken/pork/steak or roast), and usually one seafood each week.

    Instead of a menu planning, I do “planned overs.” That means when I roast chicken, I roast double what I would serve: first night is roast chicken, that night I make stock overnight in the oven with the carcass after picking off the meat and reserving it. A day or two later I am making soup – not necessarily chicken soup, but something using the stock (it could also be used for braising, or making a gravy). When I soak beans I soak extra; some may be for soup, some for a warm salad later on. Extra steak is cooked to slice thinly and become another meal.

    Friday is “use up all the veg that are left – clean out the fridge day”. and this means that there is some sort of quiche or frittata that night incorporating the odd bits that I didn’t get to during the week and leaving me with a clean fridge for the following days market.

  76. Therese

    I’m with you on the dark kitchen problem. I’m on the east side of Seattle and on the sunniest days, I need a lamp to read in the kitchen. It’s nice to picture you getting everything perfectly arranged for a photo, giving your daughter a kiss on the forehead, and then dashing out to take a quick pic before the rain starts up again. And do your photos suffer for it? Not one bit. Artists like yourself who work with low lighting conditions have always been an inspiration.

  77. Lisa

    We live in the country and mice invade our house every fall and winter. They’ve actually chewed through the lids of Tupperwear containers. We’ve tried cats and traps, but you have to keep them out of the food! I’ve scoured Goodwills, garage sales and antique stores for a variety of glass jars in many sizes and shapes, all with metal screw on lids. Always label with the contents and the date. They look beautiful in the pantry and cupboards and you can see when you need to shop.

  78. gisele

    Spices! I have an entire cupboard full of spices. Instead of jamming them all onto the shelves where you end up using the front 3 inches and forget about the rest, I have put my spices in plastic containers that fit exactly to back of my cupboards. They are labled according to use – everyday spices, rarely used spices and my husband’s spices. If I baked more a bin with baking spices might make sense as well. So when you need a spice you just pull out the appropriate bin, grab the spice and go.

    As for containers in the fridge – most of mine are in glass containers – I just write right on the glass with a sharpie as it scrubs off easily in the sink.

  79. gisele

    I also forgot to mention that I recently moved into a much bigger kitchen and have found that it is actually more difficult to be organized. In a small space everything is cozy and within reach. There’s only one drawer to look for things in. Nothing is ever very far away or hidden when you have a small space to work in. I find I am walking around a lot more in the bigger kitchen, and messes seem to expand to fill the available space. It seems like a silly thing to complain about, but I mention it here as a lesson in counting your blessings. There are challenges in every situation.

  80. meg

    I am in need of completely starting over with a whole new set of kitchen supplies and spices.
    Does anyone have a list of must have kitchen appliances, pot and pan types/sizes, and accessories? Also, must have spices would be great to know too.
    Since my boyfriend realized he was gluten intolerant I have been using Shana’s website and cookbook like a bible and have learned some great new cooking skills.
    Sadly (and in a way, good) I have also recently completed a one month gluten free trial for myself and am 90% sure I am gluten intolerant as well- so it looks like I need to revamp my kitchen to prepare for even more cooking. 🙂

  81. umer

    I am having the same feeling of winter blues and love the idea of your getaway! I don’t think we will be able to go away for a few months, but I’ll daydream about the sun until then:-)

  82. Phyllis

    I try to make a list of what’s on hand before writing my weekly menu. That way I incorporate what needs to be used into what will be prepared. I cook most of a week’s worth of food on one of my day’s off. I’m just too tired after working 8-9 hours to go home to cook dinner and it’s a more efficient use of the oven, dish-washing, etc. I’d much rather spend a day roasting, baking, prepping. I usually figure on 6-10 servings of three different entrees each week, totaling about 24 portions. A batch of soup, an ethnic casserole like moussaka, enchiladas, or some such, and then something lusty like osso buco, sausages with lots of onions, peppers, etc., or ??? I can eat something 3-4 times in one week IF it’s well-made and flavorful. My husband and I pack lunches every day and we joke about how we never use the word leftovers – around here it’s “portions.” We hardly ever throw food out – that truly pains me on so many levels. We also don’t eat out much because most of the time when we do, we look at each other and say, “We eat so much better than this at home every day of the week.” Writing the menu before getting to the store really works for me because when it all gets home, it goes together and is coherent. If I see something on sale like meats or fish, I’ll chuck it in the freezer and plan next week’s menu with it. That way I have time to look through a few cookbooks to figure out a recipe and see what other ingredients I might need. I’ve been cooking this way now for about 15 years and it really works for me – thrifty, yummy and my evenings are SO much mellower.

  83. ~Mrs. R

    Oh my! I have some tips for you!!! What a pleasure for me to return the favor, as you have helped me with my gluten free baking immensely!!

    No matter what has happened in the rest of the house, my bathroom is ALWAYS clean and SPARKLING! My secret is to wipe up or pick up something every time I am in there and I have taught our 12 year old son to do the same thing. Every other morning I swish clean the toilet bowl with the brush and I use the icky shampoo we don’t like or any cleaner really. The sink is rinsed out after every tooth brushing, NO BUILD UP! This sounds way more complicated that it is and… I get compliments on my clean bathroom all the time!

    I have one shelf at the end of the hallway to store my homemade soaps sold on my blog and books I am selling on Amazon, including all the shipping supplies like bubble envelopes, tape, etc. Makes for getting a sale ready to ship so much easier than having to hunt for tape and envelopes!

    When I make sure to do the dishes AS I COOK my kitchen stays so much cleaner! I am so much more cheerful and calm when my kitchen is clean and I need to cook in it! I find it stressful to have to wash up a bunch of pans in order to start the meal.

    My spices are stored in an under-the-counter pull down system I bought at an organizing store. I really, really like them, but they only hold those little glass bottles efficiently. In the cupboard just above those are where I store larger bottles (extracts), those rectangle tins (dry mustard which I have finally purchased a very large tin of I use it so much!). I have purchased larger quantities of some spices I use up more frequently and refill those smaller bottles to store in my pull down system My homemade spice mixes I store on the counter in glass caning jars. I like those cute squat ones and stack them. I use my P-Touch label maker to label the ones I make often.

    One of the BEST kitchen tips I ever got was to chop up a large quantity of onions and keep them stored in the refrigerator. I use onions for most meals and these will keep for 1 – 2 weeks. I usually chop them in a large dice as I can chop them finer if I need to for another dish. And I usually chop up a 1/2 gallon jar worth, which will last me a bit over a week. This does NOT work for celery… ask me how I know! 🙁

    Another kitchen/shopping organizing tip: I have three magnetized shopping lists on my freezer door. One for Azure Standard, one for Costco and on for my regular grocery store. If I need something at the hardware store I just write it at the bottom of the list I will be using next. This way when I am out of anything I can write it down immediately! I am still working on getting the 12 year old to do the same thing and he has actually been improving in this area! YEAH!

    When I do a weekly ‘quick clean’ my home stayed so nice! One day a week I do a quick run through the house and pick up all trash that was generated and not thrown away over the weekend, vacuum the middle of the floors, put away whatever had been left out (games, books, magazines, etc), a quick sweep/mop of the kitchen & bathroom floors and start a load of laundry. I also make sure the beds are made every morning, we each make our own beds. They don’t have to be picture perfect, but straight and not lumpy is good. I had the children do their own beds starting at a very young age (2 or 3). They were also required to put away one toy before getting out another one. Keeps all those toy piles form getting hour of hand.

    We also homeschool and do a pick up/put away at least once during the day. Books, teacher’s manuals and all manner of things get left out and a quick pick up keeps all these things at bay as well.
    Blessings, ~Mrs. R

    Oh, and my “rule” for laundry is I HAVE to finish the load all the way to the end – folded and put away! No more piles of clean laundry all over the couch, chairs and beds!

  84. Shelley

    It may seem dorky, but my mom had the spices in alphabetical order. Once they were in order she numbered them 1 through…whatever. That way you find the spice by it’s name super easy and you return it by it’s number, cause that’s easier than the alphabet. Just a small tip.

    As for keeping myself organized…I have 6 children from 10 down to 6 weeks old. My husband and two sons are celiac, two sons and myself do better off dairy. I homeschool all the kids and we are busy in our church and community. So how do I stay organized? The She has systems or routines for your home. I have a morning routine (which includes a load of laundry and deciding what’s for dinner or checking the menu). I have a night routine (which includes getting out meat or soaking beans for the morrow and finding clothes and keys and books or whatever we need the next day). I have zones in my home that I spend 15 minutes cleaning once a week (and yes…that really is enough if your routines are in place). I dejunk and declutter regularly and everything has to multitask in our 1500sq ft home! We only have 2-3 pairs of pants and 4-5 shirts per child plus a few outfits for church…this keeps laundry to 2 loads a day for 8 people. I buy in bulk and have a kitchen inventory that I print off and run through before shopping each month(it is my list if you will). I organize my digital recipes with pinterest…since it works on any site and I just look them up when I need them…save paper and organizing time. Routines are the best thing I’ve learned for staying up on things, clean, organized and not having so many “oops” I’m out of _____, the keys are missing, the phone is dead..etc 🙂


    1. Tiffany

      You are my hero. Seriously. My husband and I want a large family (at least 6 children), and you have outlined how I dream my life will become (including home-schooling). Just saying – I adore this post.

  85. Elizabeth

    Spice jars, I do not own. I use mason jars. Large for spices I use alot of or blends that are chunky, and small for more perishable or spices I don’t use very often or have purchased for a specific thing. I have them labelled on the sides which I did because I didn’t think I would have that many, but they have to stand up so I will label them on the top. Small sticker or tape does just fine. Also, purge, because you don’t use all those spices all the time. I buy at our local bulk store unless it is one I wouldn’t, like curry powder. I get that from my local Indian store. Buy unground, and grind as you need it. I also have a few spices from my local Spiceman, from “Epices de Cru”. Great spices that I grind myself. My favourite is the Ethiopian Berbere spice on shrimp.
    I use the same technique with my flours. I am not gluten intolerant or celiac. I have about 10 different flours in my cupboard. I bought large 2L jars from WalMart for those, labelled similiarly in my cupboard.
    My sis has her spices labelled and arranged by shelf. On the inside of the door she has written what is on each shelf.
    Good luck, as always with all your upcoming adventures…. What an exciting time of your lives!! I’m happy to be able to hear about it, even if I am on the other side of the continent.

  86. Ashley P

    I have a teeny tiny “one butt” kitchen. There is not enough drawer space for me to have a spice drawer, and the cabinets are not user friendly either. I have a spice rack screwed into the end of one of my cupboards, and another one screwed into the end of another cupboard… it was an INVESTMENT. at $44/rack, and $1 per jar, it was about $150 to get started. Savory Spice (you can shop online) makes a great standard spice rack, that comes in a multitude of sizes. Try this. you wont be disapointed. I label all of my spices, and keep them in alphabetical order. They are all right near the one counter in my kitchen I have for prepwork.

    Happy cooking 🙂

  87. Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf

    I bought several reusable produce bags off etsy. I love them!

    I work best when I work in a kitchen that was entirely clean before I start. That includes having the dishwasher unloaded. EVERYTHING must be put away. The counters must be clean. The area under the iron grates on my gas stove must be clean as well. Oh, and I must not be in a rush. If I begin work in a situation like this (rarely happens), the area will stay clean. Every tool or dish I use will be rinsed and put in the dishwasher as soon I am finished with it. By the time my food is prepared, my kitchen is already (still?) clean.

    Yeah, it’s a dream. It happens for a few days every few months.

  88. Tiffany

    You know those over-the-door hanging shoe racks? They are almost canvas in nature, with some stiff material in them to help them retain a rectangular shape while hanging? I have one of those on my kitchen door (I have a door that goes from my kitchen into my laundry room). In it, I have a few organizers I found (Target/Walmart, etc) that divide each shoe compartment into smaller compartments. That’s how I stack my spices and my produce that doesn’t need refrigeration (potatoes, onions, garlic, etc…) It keeps my shelves empty so I have space to cook, and keeps things visible so I know what I am getting low on.
    Cleaning the kitchen is a pain in the tukas – I don’t have a dishwasher, so all my dishes get done by hand. So being gluten-free since my hubby is a Celiac, you all know that baking and cooking creates SO many dishes. I spend half my life in the kitchen. But I love it – cooking creative dishes for me and my love gives me joy. Singing in the kitchen (with the dogs howling in the background) keeps me happy and full of joy. I also keep my kitchen basics to a minimum. If somebody gives me a pot I don’t need, I give it to somebody else. I don’t have much space as it is, so I can’t afford to waste the space I have.

    1. shauna

      I LOVE this idea of the shoe racks as storage for produce that doesn’t need refrigeration. Using that one for sure!

      1. Tiffany

        It really makes for ease of knowing what staples I need to go out and buy (especially potatoes!) And with so many compartments, it’s easy to sort out whatever it is that you have in there.
        I also have all my GF flours in clear glass jars, so I can see when I’m getting low on those. I also took craft paint with a narrow tip and painted the name of the flours on the jar. Blue and red paint on clear jars looks really cute when you see it over the various color flours. Whenever anybody comes into my kitchen, they see my “flour shrine” – a circular 4-shelf rack that houses all my flours and bulk liquids (canola oil, olive oils, molasses, etc…). It’s functional for me, and keeps all my flours easily accessible. Yeast packets are on the fridge being held by a magnet (rare-earth magnets my hubby yanks out of dead hard-drives; seriously, they’re amazingly strong!) because I have a tendancy to lose yeast packets in my hubub of baking supplies.
        As for the rest of the house – I have a crate by the front door that we dump stuff into that we don’t want to take to other parts of the house at that moment. That crate gets emptied once a week to the various parts of the house the contents belong in. We have 4 dogs, so I have to sweep quite frequently, not to mention cleaning the ragged remains of their toys from various corners of rooms and furniture. Bathrooms are wiped on a daily basis as we are in them, windows & blinds get cleaned once a month (taken down & dusted, washed inside & out, etc…) Like I said, dishes get done on a daily basis, since I don’t have a dishwasher (something the hubs has SWORN we’ll remedy when we own our own place), so the kitchen maintains a regular sparkle. Of course, good music always makes the chores enjoyable, so keep on singing!

  89. goal in life cook,cook,cook

    cooking is a gift anyone can have its what you dont have to be smart to do.Simply ,cooking is life made easy

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