When your kitchen drawers are so stuffed with dishes and gadgets that they won't shut all the way, you know it's time to cut out the clutter. By getting rid of damaged and unused items, you'll score extra space for storing fresh ingredients and high-quality cookware. You can also reclaim your counters for food prep instead of using them as an all-purpose storage shelf.
Refrigerator and Pantry Cleanup
It's easy to toss leftovers in the fridge and then forget all about them until they go bad. If your refrigerator is stuffed with food, take stock of what you have, what to keep and what to throw away. Pitch expired food or items that have a foul odor. If you know you won't eat those leftovers soon, freeze them or get rid of them now before they turn moldy.
Organize food so you know where to find something when you want it. For example, stash humidity-loving vegetables in the produce drawer and cold cuts in the meat drawer, if your refrigerator has one. Large-capacity refrigerators may have two produce drawers, so you can keep fruits in one and vegetables in the other. They might also have a dairy bin for storing cheese and butter. Put canned and bottled beverages in the door holders so they don't take up space on other shelves.
Repeat the process with your pantry. No one in your home is likely to eat stale chips or old candy, so it's best to toss those things. If you have edible items that you don't want, consider donating them to charity. Group boxed foods and cans together with the labels facing out.
In many homes, bulky kitchen gadgets, such as bread makers and coffee pots, take up prime real estate on counters. If you never seem to have enough space for food prep, take a look at what's on your counters. Store appliances that you seldom use, such as the toaster oven, juicer, ice-cream maker and stand mixer. You'll appreciate the extra space, and you can always take the appliance out of storage when you need it.
Many new ranges handle multiple jobs at once. With some models, for example, you can cook meat at a certain temperature on one rack and a vegetable dish at a different temperature on another rack. Odors from a dish on one rack won't transfer to the food cooking on the other.
If you've lived in your home for a few years, you've probably collected enough dishes and flatware to serve dozens of people. Unless you have a very large family or you like to throw parties, it's safe to get rid of the excess. You can donate the goods to charity or, if the items are of high quality, sell them at an online auction or a yard sale. Toss dull, cheap knives that aren't worth the time it takes to sharpen them.
Don't hang on to dented, rusty or poor-quality pans, especially if you already own a good set. Ditch those kitchen gadgets you tried once and never want to use again. You don't need a special tool for chopping onions, cutting potatoes or slicing avocados; you can do all of that with a chef's knife.
In a busy household, kitchen counters become a storage center for mail, homework, change and miscellaneous odds and ends. If you have handfuls of coins, get them off of the counter and store them in a digital bank. An electronic bank counts your coins as you drop them in and then displays the total, so you'll always know how much you have.
Designate another spot for incoming and outgoing mail. Get a basket or a sorting tray and keep your mail in that. Toss junk mail as soon as you receive it instead of throwing it on the counter to deal with later.
If you have a library of cookbooks, it's hard to find space for them in the kitchen. One solution is to keep just a few frequently used cookbooks on hand and put the others on a bookshelf elsewhere. A Wi-Fi®-enabled tablet device is a compact way to organize and display recipes. From your tablet, you can look up recipes saved on your computer or browse the Web for new ones. For existing favorite recipes, you could scan pages from your cookbook and either copy them to your tablet or print them and keep the pages in a binder or folder in a kitchen drawer for easy access.
Some high-tech refrigerators feature Wi-Fi touchscreens built into the door, and if yours has one, you can look up recipes online with it.
Photo Credits: Heidi Monner/Demand Media
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