There is no way around it. Cutting out processed foods takes more time in the kitchen. Instead of popping in an Eggo waffle, you make a whole wheat waffle from scratch. Instead of grabbing a pouch of fruit snacks, you cut up apples. Instead of a frozen pizza, you make your own.
Because I found myself in the kitchen more often, I wanted to streamline my experience. I was inspired by this post to organize my kitchen into ZONES.
Here are a few points to consider when organizing your kitchen into zones:
First, take a hard look at what you have in the kitchen and what you really need. I mean how many strainers, cookie sheets, spatulas, or plates does one really use? Do you really need that angel food cake pan or the panini maker? And remember, a good knife can take the place of many little kitchen gadgets. The less you have, the easier it is to organize. As I organized my kitchen into zones, I took the opportunity again to declutter and deown.
Second, realize each zone is not the same size. A zone is some cases is one shelf while in other instances it is multiple cupboards. Do not be concerned with giving equal space to each zone.
Third, be willing to rethink organization. Initially, I thought I had to put my waffle iron with other small appliances because all appliances should be together, right? But then I realized that I wanted my waffle iron in my breakfast zone because that is when I use it and it is way more accessible there. I also had an epiphany with my spices. I usually kept them all in one cupboard, but then I realized I only use pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc. when I bake. So I moved those spices from the spice cupboard in the cooking zone to a shelf in the baking zone.
Fourth, use your limited kitchen real estate wisely. I was showing my friend my zones and she asked, “Where’s all your food?” Well, first of all, when you are trying to cut out processed foods most of the food you eat is in the fridge or the freezer. I just don’t have as many boxes and cans as I used too. But also if I am not using the food (or an appliance) on a weekly basis, then it does not deserve space in my small kitchen. I store items that are used less frequently in my downstairs storage room. I can walk downstairs for a can of chicken broth once a week, a bag of chocolate chips once a month or a bundt pan once a year. If you are very low on cupboard or pantry space, not everything kitcheny has to be stored in a kitchen.
Fifth, kitchen zones might require a little trial and error and a few test runs. Cook a few times and see what you are reaching for. Move those items to your cooking zone. Bake some cookies or some bread and see what you need. I moved some rubber spatulas from my utensil drawer in my cooking zone to a drawer in my baking zone because I was always needing them when I was baking.
Sixth, don’t be afraid to duplicate. I know not every ingredient or item can be categorized as one zone or another, so when possible I have the same ingredient in two different zones to avoid confusion. For example, I keep salt in my baking zone as well as my cooking zone and I have measuring spoons in both zones too. When it is not possible to duplicate, I keep the ingredient or kitchen item in its mostly used zone. I occasionally use my Bosch food processor to grate cheese, but I use it every week to bake so it stays in my baking zone.
And lastly, I got over the fact that kitchen zones are not perfect. There are not hard lines that divide the zones. My breakfast and baking zones morph into one another. All foods can’t be neatly categorized as this or that. My dishcloths are spack dab in the middle of nowhere because that is the only drawer available. And I couldn’t fit my toaster in my breakfast zone.
But “don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good” (Gretchen Rubin; The Happiness Project). Just because kitchen zones aren’t a perfect solution, does not mean that they are not helpful, useful and time saving.
Here are my kitchen zones and what I have in them:
Ingredient basket (cinnamon, honey, baking soda, baking powder, salt)
Sugars (brown, powdered, white)
Toppings (brown sugar, agave, peanut butter)
Disposable items (paper sacks, plastic spoons, napkins)
Lunch notes (I printed and pre cut a whole stack of my lunch love notes to have them handy)
Bins (more on this later)
Essential oils diffuser
Vitamins and Pills
Chad’s water cups
Appliances (crock pot, rice cooker, pizza pans, etc.)
(*Remember to keep this zone down low so that your kids can reach it. This allows them to unload the dishwasher and set the table independent of you! This is the second best thing I ever did.)
You may also want to consider a Prep zone, Beverage zone, or Dinner zone. Whatever works for you!
I knew my new organized kitchen was working for me when I made homemade macaroni and cheese last week. I didn’t take more than two steps to make that meal. All my spices, pans, dishes, utensils and were right within reach in my cooking zone.
And when I made treats for the teachers I had all my supplies within reach in my baking zone.
I am loving my kitchen zones and they are working so well. Maybe kitchen zones would work for you too?