How to tune-up your kitchen for 2013: 9 easy steps

It feels like we’re having a record winter for snow and I haven’t been interested in going anywhere unless I absolutely have to. Today, unfortunately, I’m slotted for the dentist’s chair and a double extraction, but you can be sure that the rest of the weekend will be quiet.

By the way, thank you for all the tips on Facebook for my post-op recovery. No straws. I got it.

Being snowed in means that I’ve had some time to organize my kitchen for the new year. Nothing too drastic, more of a tune-up than an overhaul, but much needed all the same.

9 small steps for a kitchen tune-up

My intention here isn’t to burden you with a checklist to dutifully follow, but instead to give you a snapshot of how I plan to stay organized for the coming months. You can pick and choose what to prioritize in your own kitchen, taking on one small step a week until things are ship shape — or tackle it all on a Saturday morning.

1. Bring back the menu plan. Tack it on the fridge and you’ll see how you already feel more on top of things.

2. Make more refrigerator space by relocating root vegetables and winter squash to a makeshift cold room or root cellar.

3. Extend the shelf life of your pantry items by storing staples in jars, tins or Tupperware. This post pretty much walks you through the how and why.

4. Contain cupboard sprawl with containers and racks. It’s an easy way to tidy all areas of your kitchen and pantry. From the Ikea Rationell Variera kitchen organizing series, the nifty wire rack pictured above houses my pot lids neatly.

5. Plan to eat down the pantry. Then stock it with these nine important foodstuffs for healthy eating in the new year.

6. Scan for chipped or damaged dishes and glasses and dispose of appropriately. We discovered a chipped glass serving bowl and a wine glass after one of our holiday parties. No matter, it happens; the important thing is that we were able to toss the items before anyone got hurt.

7. Box up the Christmas dishes and other holiday themed items that are taking up space and stash them for another year. You can leave the cookie cutters for year-round fun, though.

8. Break out the hottest new ingredient of 2013 and give those trouble zones a much-deserved clean. I’ve got a sparkling microwave (but don’t look in my stove — yet.)

9. Stash a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie in a drawer and slap a label and the date on anything going in the fridge. This old restaurant system will help you cut down on waste and keep track of what needs to be used first. Thanks to Autumn for the reminder.

Once the kitchen is in order, remember the valuable lesson of ‘Clean As You Go‘, the practice of combining cooking and cleaning to help free up valuable work space, eliminate visual mess, and make for manageable post-cooking clean-up.

Have a wonderful weekend, all. I won’t be cooking Sunday dinner, as I’ll be resting up from my dental surgery, but I’ll be back in the kitchen on Monday morning.

How are you organizing the kitchen for a new year?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Great reminders! I need to get more masking tape.
    I hope your dentist appointment and recovery goes well.

  2. Last spring, after my dishwasher was out of commission for several months, I found I had several chipped drinking glasses. In desperation, using the rougher side of a clean new flexible nail buffer, I “sanded” the chip spot to a smooth even level. I used the polishing side of the buffer to bring back the shine. It worked like a dream! I’ve also done the same with spoons that ended up in the garbage disposal with some luck.

  3. Great tips, Aimee! I’m so guilty of not labeling everything as it goes into the refrigerator and totally need to set up a cold storage pantry to free up more space! I’m off to re-read your advice on setting one up!

  4. So I’m really jealous of your collection of pans! I’m wondering: if you were to start your cookware collection over, what would you buy? I’m trying to get rid of my TFal stuff this year, since it’s all getting worn down and I want to invest in safer options this next time. I have a 6 quart enameled cast iron dutch oven, an 8 inch stainless steel frying pan, an 8 inch and 10 inch cast iron saute pans, and one stainless steel sauce pan that I will be keeping. So what sizes and types of cookware would you add? 🙂 I try and keep things minimal, but I feel like I need a few extras before I throw out the TFal.

  5. We just went through and decluttered our kitchen. But now I need to work on labeling things in the freezer because I’ve been bad about that.

  6. Very useful post especially when we all are geared up for the winter and many cold nights!


  7. So many great tips here! I’m surprised to discover that I’ve coincidentally done a lot of these on my own over the last few months- everything in the freezer gets a tape label with a date, all root veggies are in my cold basement, and I just tacked all of the sprawl in my kitchen cabinets. Going to clean my microwave now!

  8. Great tips! I am still wishing for a little more kitchen space in addition to efficiencies! 🙂

  9. Such great tips and ones that I should certainly utilize….

  10. I really like the idea of labeling everything that goes into the frig. I’d also like to share a line I read from a friend that her mom used to say. I have adopted it as my new motto for 2013.
    ” Don’t put it down, put it away!” I’m going to work on that one this year, and see if I can limit the clutter.

  11. Great tips, Aimee. I especially like to reorganize my fridge/freezers *before* working on my menu plan so I know what I have to work with–and check off 2 tasks with one . . . effort.

    I hope your surgery is free of complications. And yes, no straws.

  12. Great post! This comes in handy for planning our kitchen layout… home reno underway… kitchen scheduled for March. Yay!
    Hope you’re enjoying the winter wonderland. xo

  13. LOVE this!!

  14. Such a great post!! I really need to organize my kitchen and then the rest of the house!! Goal for 2013 – declutter everything!!!!

  15. I need to do this. I have a near-death-experience every time I try to pull out a pot!

  16. I wish I had room for the lid rack in the photo. I donated one after it sat around for two years–it doesn’t work anywhere in my current kitchen.

  17. Thanks Aimee,
    All great reminders- a meal plan is my achilles heel (it’s so helpful but I find it so hard to do- whyyyyy?) and eating down the pantry & clearing the fridge are top priorities- this post will make me focus! I love the tape/sharpie method- use it in the freezer always.
    Good luck with the extraction- I just had one last Nov and I was so anxious about it. Other dental work is fine but I rarely hear about extractions and just didn’t know what to expect- it wasn’t nearly so bad and all my stressing about recovery wasn’t necessary. Your dentist will likely tell you but mine also suggested brushing without toothpaste for the first 24 hrs- toothpaste requires spitting which creates negative pressure in the mouth (same as using a straw). Best of Luck!

  18. I love having the time to organize my kitchen! Between the cooking and working full time, it just gets so disorganized with everything getting “shoved” into its place. I love your ideas on here. Definitely a great way to conserve space and use the space wisely!

  19. How did you know I had a trip to the Container Store planned for today? Since we won’t be renovating the kitchen in 2013, I need to tackle a new system for organizing pots and pans. You’re my inspiration!

  20. Yes! I needed this. I really need to bring back the menu plan too!

  21. Amen to the menu plan. I spent the holidays in so many places that the menu plan fell by the wayside, but now that classes are starting up again I am making the effort to stick to my meal plan. It helps that my friend delivered 12 fresh eggs from her professor’s chickens to me. Quiche quiche quiche 🙂

  22. Thanks for the shout-out, Aimee! I’ve also had eating down the pantry (and freezer!) on my mind lately.

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