Do you cook up all kinds of new ways to procrastinate when it’s time to start fixing dinner? If so, is it because you don’t like cooking, or because you don’t like your kitchen?
A few easy changes to the ways you organize and equip your kitchen may make all the difference. A massive open-concept remodeling job may not be in the cards at the moment, but making friends with the kitchen you have could give you an immediate energy boost. See if any of the following hurdles are coming between you and the finish line, and try these three strategies for a happier kitchen experience.
Identify missing piecesIf you always seem to be one saucepan short, it may be causing more frayed nerves than you realize. How often do you end up needing to wash a pot before you’ve even started cooking? If you find yourself making last-minute changes to side-dish lineups because you can’t steam two vegetables at once, it’s time to take stock of what you have – and what you need.
A frustrated cook is steps away from becoming a resentful cook, so pull all your pots and pans out of their hiding places and take a closer look at them.
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It’s so tempting to buy pots and pans in sets because we can feel much more organized when everything matches and looks new. Beautiful cookware that truly meets your needs can be a pleasure to use. But before you order that gleaming new set, take the time to check the measurements of the pots and pans it includes.
Taking a critical look at your own haul will remind you why that’s important. Do your largest frypan and smallest saucepan look almost new, while their medium-sized counterparts are wearing out? You might be happier buying an extra 2-quart saucepan to complement what you already have than shelling out for a big set with one go-to saucepan and a tiny frypan that’s too adorable to use and a headache to store. Assembling and customizing your own set that suits what you cook can be streamlining – and liberating.
In the spirit of spring cleaning, now is a great time to part ways with saucepans and lids that have lost their handles, cookie sheets that are too battered to lie flat on the oven rack and any nonstick pots or pans that are heavily pitted, flaked and gouged. If it is no longer in good enough shape to use safely, and you’d be ashamed to give it away, throw it away.
Some kitchen items that are in your way can find new jobs in other rooms. If you know you’re not going to use all those lidless plastic storage containers, get them out of the kitchen. Lidless boxes can help keep cans of cleaning products together under the sink or stain removal sprays and dryer sheets in one place in the laundry zone. Try them in the garage to store spilled nails and screws that need sorting or crayons and markers in your home office that refuse to fit back in the box. A larger one can keep an exuberantly watered houseplant from relieving itself on your counter.
Reserve your precious kitchen cabinet real estate for storage boxes with lids that fit. If that means ordering more soup from your favorite Chinese restaurant because the sturdy lids fit the containers securely and you find yourself reusing them for years, remember that there’s always room for intentional takeout in the No-Cook Cooking universe.
Once you’ve culled the herd and dusted your cabinet shelves, consider updating the way you store your pans to keep them within reach while you’re cooking and make it easier to put them back in place while you’re unloading the dishwasher.
This is the time to be selfish and arrange your equipment in a manner that’s convenient for the cook. If the right spatula or saucepan is exactly where it’s supposed to be when you need it, there’s less room for stress in your dinner routine.
Your best friend may have a completely different organizational system that works for him or her, but this is your kitchen, so set yourself up for success. Hanging pans attractively on hooks suspended over a kitchen island might be fine for a shorter cook but a constant headache for a tall one. And make certain that you don’t need to haul out a stepping stool to reach your fire extinguisher.
Think practicality, safety and convenience. If a family member who will remain nameless ever uses a serrated knife to peel back can lids that never completely open, find a can opener that’s comfortable in your hand and buy two of them. If you always hurt your hands trying to drain pots using their lids, spending a few bucks on a colander that fits your sink may save time, effort and skin.
While you’re shopping for that extra go-to saucepan, pick up some new tools to help it stay new longer. If your favorite spatulas have melted blobs of plastic or little threads or shreds along the edges, replace them with sturdier new ones. And show no mercy to ragged or charred potholders, which may not have the structural integrity to protect you next time you’re pulling something heavy and bubbling from the oven.
Taking a few minutes now to arrange your kitchen for ultimate convenience and making a few simple additions and subtractions can make your kitchen a happier place to be. And while you’re building confidence in the kitchen, every smile counts.