It’s so easy to let your kitchen become a magnet for chaos, especially when it takes a backseat to your list of more pressing chores. Cleaning out the fridge, reworking how your space is organized, decluttering cabinets—who has the time for proper kitchen organization? We really do understand that it seems like a lot of work, but we also know that a crazy kitchen can make healthy eating much more difficult. That’s why we’ve compiled the concrete tips you need to make the job—and your space—far less overwhelming. There really are some simple ways to get your kitchen under control so that you can easily find everything you need. From snacks to gadgets, having a space that you feel sane in can help ensure you keep up a healthy lifestyle with minimal effort once you’re all set up!
We asked experts to reveal their top tips and proven hacks for making your kitchen a place that promotes weight loss, while also being one of peace and harmony instead of mess and stress. Once you are good to go organizing your kitchen, get crackin’ on a week of more smart moves with our guide to Meal Prep Sunday: 25 Tips to Cook Once, Eat for a Week!
Alphabetize your spices.
Have you ever desperately searched your pantry looking for a particular spice only to go out and buy a new one—and find the one you were originally looking for later? Yes, us too! An easy solution: alphabetize your herbs and spices! “It really helps! We’ve definitely struggled more than once to find the right spice and end up buying extra of something we already have,” says Karena Dawn and Katrina Hodgson of Tone It Up. “Get your spice drawer organized for easy access to all the flavors your food may need—and have fun with it, too. You can choose fun jars and get creative with labels.” The it-girl of spices right now is turmeric; find out 14 Reasons People Are Obsessed With Turmeric!
Have multiple cutting boards.
If you don’t have cutting boards in your line of sight, it’s tough to get your fresh fruits and veggies sliced, diced, and ready for action. Tricia Griffin, RD, CSSD suggests keeping an array of different sized cutting boards stacked and leaning against your backsplash. “That’s how I remember to use fresh veggies and fruits in my meals,” she reveals. Go ahead and splurge on ones that you find aesthetically pleasing—choose colors you feel good looking at!
Buy multi-use appliances.
When it comes to appliances, there’s an overload of options out there that do everything from blend, mix, steam and boil right on your countertop. While it’s easy to think you need every single one, it’s best to take a more practical—and space-saving approach—with your appliance collection. “I love things like a 3-in-1 cooker that browns, slow cooks, or pressure cooks,” recommends Dr. Robert Silverman, DC of NY ChiroCare. “Healthy cooking doesn’t need to take up a lot of your precious time—or counter space.” Speaking of gadgets, sneak a peek of these 20 Genius Healthy Cooking Gadgets and see which one you can’t live without!
Use Mason jars to organize your pantry.
Keep your pantry looking pretty and functional by storing nuts, seeds, and grains in mason jars. That’s what the Tone It Up girls swear by! “Not only does it keep your pantry more organized but it gives you a better sense of how much of everything you have left,” suggests Karena and Katrina.
Organize your fridge.
Your fridge is one of the most important parts of the kitchen to keep organized. But stocking it isn’t enough; you need to have easy access to the healthy items. Marissa Ciorciari, MS, RD, LD/N, CLT, Functional Nutritionist at Carillon Miami Beach suggests keeping portioned containers of roasted veggies and salads, and a pitcher of water with sliced produce. Detox waters (think water infused with lemon and lime slices) are great options to help yourself to these 21 Healthy Ways to Detox Without Juicing.
Keep your roots and aromatics fresh.
“Sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic need dark spaces in order to stay fresh,” says Karena and Katrina. “If you have an empty deep drawer in your kitchen, line it with parchment paper, then store all of these items in it.” Speaking of stuff that you need to stick in your fridge, find out these 11 Surprising Foods You Should Keep in the Fridge.
Get your knives sharpened.
Another important part of cutting up fruits, veggies, meats, and more? Knives! “Have your favorite knives sharpened so it’s effortless to cut and chop your veggies,” says NY Health and Wellness’ Fitness Director Lisa Avellino. “Store them on a magnetic block so they’re easy to reach for, too!” Bonus: A mounted magnetic strip keeps your drawers free of big knives—and possibly even be harder to reach for younger family members.
Throw out old and broken utensils.
Are you keeping random utensils because you might need them some day? Did you receive two of the same pizza cutters off your wedding registry and you have convinced yourself you might have a giant party one day where you’ll need them both? Stop what you’re doing and discard any broken or duplicate utensils that you haven’t used in two years, as well as random things you never wanted in the first place. “Simplicity is the highest form of sophistication. So keep everything clean, fresh, modern, and new,” says Avellino. “When you’re inspired with a new color palette, you’re more likely to make better healthy choices in the kitchen. When stressed or overstimulated, we tend to rush and just grab anything. So slow down, be discerning, and literally clean house.”
Write your menu for the week.
“Out of sight, out of mind” is a motto that does not apply when you’re trying to plan your meals for the week. According to Avellino, the best addition to your kitchen is a chalk or dry erase board. “You can plan healthy meals in advance on it to help manage your kitchen and gain the support of the entire family.”
Create zones in your kitchen.
You can drive yourself crazy zipping around the kitchen to all the different drawers and cabinets collecting the supplies you need to do things like make coffee or whip up a post-workout protein shake. Jennifer Marcus, owner of D’Clutter Design, has an easy way to keep things for one “activity” all together while keeping yourself sane: Create zones!
“If you’re a coffee drinker, create a ‘coffee zone’ where all your supplies are within reach of each other,” Marcus suggests. “Use hooks under a cabinet to hang your mugs right next to your coffee maker, add a decorative container next to the maker with your favorite sweetener.” According to Marcus, you can do this with any kitchen-based task you do with regularity. For example, if you like to bake, don’t keep your flour and sugar on the other side of the kitchen from your mixer and bowls. Create a baking zone by utilizing one cabinet or drawer to house all the ingredients and supplies.
Ditch the packaging.
Food packages come in different shapes and sizes, which can take up more room than needed in your cabinets. “Remove food from their boxes and put them in individual, clear, like-size containers Not only will you gain space, but by using clear containers, you will know when you are running low and need to replenish your stock,” suggests Marcus. If you don’t want to forget the exact brand/instructions/nutritional info of the items, cut the label off the box and adhere it to the containers. Marcus also recommends that you could add a small hook to the container and hang a measuring spoon right on the container if it’s a food you always have to measure out. But while we have your attention about packaged products, we beg you to make sure you’re not eating any of these 26 Worst Foods in America 2016!
Adjust your cabinets and fridge shelves.
Repeat this mantra: You can make your kitchen work for you! “In most cases, your shelves in both your cabinets and refrigerator are adjustable! Set them to fit the needs of the items you want on them,” says Marcus. “Don’t just accept that you have to put an item somewhere inconvenient just because it ‘didn’t fit.’ You’re flexible and so is your kitchen.”
Label your freezer.
It sounds simple enough, and yet so many people don’t do this. If you’re all about making extra food so you have leftovers to freeze for later—or you just know to keep certain things frozen, like bread (which turns it into a resistant starch!—Marcus says to be sure you label it with the date you popped it in the freezer.
Grow your own herbs.
There’s nothing like the satisfaction (and zen effect) of growing your own food. Herbs are one of the easiest things you can cultivate on your own—even if you don’t have a backyard for a full garden.”Keep small pots of planted herbs like mint, parsley, and basil around your kitchen and sink so you’ll always have fresh flavors and garnishes on hand to throw into any meal or dessert at any given time,” says Griffin. And better yet? It’ll give your kitchen both an appealing look and aromatic touch!
Put your snacks in a specific area.
Make a designed area for snacks in the pantry. “I recommend have this as an enclosed space instead of left out in the open,” says Ciorciari. “Inside, keep items that you feel are tasty and fairly healthy, but ones that don’t trigger a ‘snack attack’ and leave you spiraling out of control. Out of sight, out of mind. If you know it’s a trigger food before you buy it, let it be in the store for some time before allowing it rental space again in your kitchen!” For some great options, check out these 25 Best New Clean Eats You Can Buy Online.
Consolidate like it’s your job.
Less is definitely more when it comes to many of the items you may be “hoarding” in your kitchen. Sarah Harris, MS, RDN and founder of Simpletic Nutrition, says there are several things you should get rid of immediately. “Throw out all food containers that do not have matching lids. They’re taking up valuable space in your cabinets! And throw out or give away all but three cookie sheets. You should not own more cookie sheets than you have space for at one time in your oven!” she says. “Throw out or give away any pans that are not nonstick. They ruin food like 90 percent of the time because everything sticks to them. Lastly, keep only as many pans as you have room for on your stove top at one time. This would be, in a typical kitchen, a maximum of four pans.” FYI, same thing goes for pots—stick to four, max.
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Know what’s worth buying.
There are so many simple solutions out there just waiting to be discovered at places like Bed, Bath & Beyond—and yet many people view these items as non-necessities. But turst us; the 10 bucks for that over-the-inside-cabinet plastic bag holder is practically life-changing. The thing that keeps your pots and pan lids in a neat little row? It’s awesome. Another win: the mini lazy susan to stick inside your cabinet for your small, non-spice jars and items. No, we’re not saying to buy random things! But if you know something will definitely make your life easier on a daily or weekly basis, then it’s probably worth the extra couple bucks.
Buy a fruit bowl.
“Get a cute bowl to leave on your counter and fill it with fresh fruit! It is such a simple change, but can be so effective in adding healthier food into your day,” suggests Jen Flachbart, MS, RD. “When we’re hungry, we are apt to reach for something convenient and within reach. You’ll be more likely to stop at your counter for a healthy snack instead of rummaging through your cabinet for those cookies!”
Have a ‘just in case’ supply handy.
You know those weeks where there just aren’t enough hours in the day and getting to the grocery store seems like an impossible feat? “Always have ’emergency food’ in the freezer—frozen veggies, fruit, veggie burgers, and rice,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN. “That way there is no excuse to order takeout!” The Eat This, Not That! team can relate to this tip so much that we compiled a list of 35 Foods Busy People Keep Stocked!
Put junk food high on the shelf.
Those foods that give you that quick sugar fix? You know, the culprits like cookies, crackers, and candy? Don’t make it so easy to give in to mindless temptation and easy to break into! Make it a challenge by putting them high up in the cabinets so if you really want one, you have to work for it by breaking out a step stool to reach ’em!
Take advantage of kitchen tech and apps.
We live in the not-so-distant future, so take advantage of all the high tech kitchen gadgets available to you, suggests Avellino. There are apps that will preheat your oven while you’re in your car on your way home or sensors that know if those eggs are still good—and others that can literally tell you the exact date and time you opened a jar that’s been sitting in the fridge. They’re fun to use—but best of all, help prevent waste and help you get the most out of your groceries and to take advantage of these 25 Ways to Use Almost-Spoiled Food.
Have a kitchen-only tablet.
If you’re ready to upgrade your personal tablet to the next generation—think twice before getting rid of your old one. Instead, consider making it a dedicated tablet just for the kitchen. Get rid of clunky cookbooks and even piles of old recipes and get them all in just a tap or swipe on your kitchen tablet.
Group healthy eating appliances together.
All those healthy-eating appliances like spiralizers (for things like zoodles), high-powered blenders for smoothies, your food scale, and more should stay in easy reach for easy access if they are tools you’re using on a regular basis. “Keep them neatly placed on countertops so you always have some basics when it comes to quick food prep,” says Ciorciari.
Consider an extra mini wastebasket.
Instead of constantly moving between your counter and main garbage can while prepping and cooking your meals, consider getting a small wastebasket-like container that you can put on your counter either temporarily or permanently for seamless access to getting food scraps out of the way.
Get strategic with your coffee pot.
Why have to worry about one more container or one more thing to clean if you really don’t have to? Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, and co-founder of MommyMDGuides.com has the easiest solution when it comes to your morning buzz. “Put your coffee machine close enough to your sink to use the retractable faucet to fill it,” she says. “No pitcher required!” Love coffee? Then you’ll adore these 21 Foods You Can Add Coffee To!