In the Kitchen

An organized kitchen follows two basic rules for effective storage: (1) store items close to where they will be used, and (2) keep frequently used items in the most convenient storage areas.

Look around your kitchen. Think about the tasks that you do there and apply the two basic rules.

  • Cooking: Pots and pans and cooking utensils that you use regularly should be kept close to the range. Pots that you use rarely can go in hard-to-reach corner cabinets, under the often-used pots, or even in the basement.
  • Eating and clean-up: Everyday plates, cereal bowls, glasses, and silverware should be close to the sink (or dishwasher), and/or close to where you eat, in easy-to reach shelves of upper cabinets. Special-occasion dishes can be kept on top shelves that are harder to reach, or in the dining room where you tend to serve fancier meals.
  • Microwave heating: Dishes or containers that you use in the microwave should be stored close to the microwave or close to the counter area where you fill the dishes to be heated.
  • Making coffee: Locate the coffee, creamer, sugar, and the coffee maker in the same area.
  • Food storage: In the cabinet or pantry where you keep canned goods and other staples, put those that you use most frequently on the most accessible shelves. If you stock up on, say, spaghetti sauce when it’s on sale, and space in the kitchen is tight, you might store the excess in another closet or in the basement.
  • Lunch preparation: If you or your child take a bagged lunch to work or school, you’ll want to keep those items together: plastic bags for snacks, plastic wrap or containers for sandwiches, plastic forks and spoons, single-serve microwavable containers, or any other items you use in preparing those meals.
  • You probably also do some tasks in the kitchen that aren’t food related such as making phone calls or paying the bills. Decide what tools you need for those tasks, and assign a space to keep them.

Less frequently used items should go in the less convenient storage areas, such as deep corner cabinets, uppermost shelves that are hard to reach, or even outside the kitchen.

Some additional tips may help you organize some of your kitchen challenges:

  • Plastic containers: Whether you have purchased plastic storage containers or if you re-use containers that prepared foods came in, the key to organizing them is to limit the number and type that you keep, so that they take up minimal space and you can find lids and bottoms that match. You might choose to keep just one set of round containers of various sizes that nest, or keep only the containers that one kind of margarine, whipped topping, or other purchased item comes in. Then, keep lids in a clear glass baking dish that you seldom use, or even in a clear plastic bag—anything to keep them together where you can see them.
  • Heavier items should be kept in bottom cabinets.
  • Some easy modifications can make your kitchen storage more usable.
    • Using dividers in drawers for kitchen utensils, knives, and flat ware.
    • Moving some storage to the countertop (kitchen utensils in a crock.)
    • Placing flatware in a multi-compartment basket or container.
    • Hanging pots from a rack or hooks on a peg board on the wall.


What kind of recipe-keeper are you? How many do you have? Corral like items together, then see what kind of storage you need.

For example, you may want to sort recipes by whether you’ve used them:

  • “Tried and true” recipes that you’re likely to use again: a recipe box with dividers might be the ideal container for these, or a photo album that will let you slide the recipe into a plastic sleeve.
  • Recipes you plan to try: grouped by type of dish (main dish, salad, dessert) or by main ingredient (beef, lamb, cheese), and each group placed in a labeled plastic page protector, or plastic zipper bag, or box, depending on the volume you have.

When you save a recipe, try to use the same approach recommended under the section on magazines—labeling the recipe with the category where you will file it, and perhaps highlighting the ingredient or feature that caught your attention.

If your recipe box is overflowing or has papers sticking up out of it, your box may just be too small. If you're using a box that holds 3x5 cards, consider switching to a 4x6 box. Four by six cards are large enough that you can usually tape a magazine clipping directly onto the card, without ragged ends sticking up out of the box. You can even tape your 3x5 cards onto the new 4x6 cards to avoid rewriting them.

If you simply have too many recipes to fit in the box, you may want to cull out some. Alternatively, look for a box that holds more cards, or divide your recipes into two boxes. You might put desserts, snacks, and foods for entertaining in one box, and regular meat, poultry, vegetable, and casserole recipes in the other.