Eat Well, Spend Less: Overall Kitchen Organization

This month in the Eat Well, Spend Less series we’re going to take a look at a few things you can do to organize your kitchen to save you time and money. The ins, the outs, the ups, the downs and my own present failure. Plus more from everyone else on their food resolutions for 2012.

My dream is to have a pantry like this someday. Via Escapade

I have made quite the mess in the kitchen. We’re not talking an “I’ve been baking all day and have yet to clean it up” type of a mess. Anyone that knows me knows that I clean as I go, such is the Type A trait that flows in my soul. There are very rare occasions that I break from that rule, but yes, I do color outside the lines every now and again.

This type of mess that I’ve been creating is instead one of exhaustion. It starts with a bit of ingredient shopping at the store. The ingredients are usually purchased in larger amounts than needed, and then only a portion is used leaving the rest of them to sit and occupy space. Multiply this times holiday baking, book making and general family meals. It causes me to arrive home with groceries intended for this cookie or cake, that dish that needs to be made and then realizing that the cupboards are still full.

It is a mess of pushing, of finally giving up and sighing, of placing the food directly on the counter because it’s winter, it can’t go outside, and it doesn’t fit inside the limited kitchen storage space. It’s a mess that makes the Type A part of me wriggle under the thin layer of skin, screaming to get out.
Counters for the baker. Via Better Homes and Gardens

Someday remind me to tell you how I suppress the Type A and let all the mess just pile, defeated. It’s called motherhood. Some days I’m more successful at that suppression than others. Some days…well, we don’t talk about those days.

The facts. I know the mess needs to go, which is actually quite a fun concept for someone who likes to organize, but I’ve gone beyond the organize into pout at this point. I want to stomp my feet, sit on the couch and proclaim, “This mess is so big and so deep and so tall, we cannot pick it up, there is no way at all.”

Still, it is my view that having a well-stocked kitchen can help you save money and eat well at the same time, and if I can’t even figure out what all this stuff I’ve been stocking is and can’t reach the half of it, I’m doomed to continually spend more money than I need to be and eating pretty poorly in the process. It’s also hampering my ability to genuinely invite people over to my house to share food, which is perhaps an equally great loss.

How Overall Organization Saves You Money

The main concept is pretty straightforward. If you know what’s in your kitchen and can assess what you have in a glance, then you won’t buy things you already have or feel like you don’t have what you need to make a certain meal.

Still, it’s more than just what food you have on hand. The way your kitchen is organized, how easy it is to reach pans and cutting boards can make you feel like every step of a recipe is insurmountable as well. If lack of organization makes you feel like cooking is a hassle, then you won’t want to cook.

What Organization in the Kitchen Looks Like to You


There are many different options for containers you can use in your kitchen to help organize things. Aimee just did a great post about this over on TidyMom where she goes through the different types of containers you can use to organize so as not to spend a ton of money. The main takeaway is use what you have first before you buy other things. Look around your house and repurpose other items to help contain the things you need organized. Baskets, tins, glass jars and bins you may have been using somewhere else but aren’t any longer can all help to separate linens, store dry goods and create drawer dividers.

Containers that fit the object and the space can be attractive and fun, as well as functional. Via TidyMom

Shelves, Hooks and Dividers

When we moved into our home, there was one large cabinet that must hold all our pots, pans, cutting boards, baking sheets and everything else. It was completely empty. Not a single shelf in the entire thing. Before we even moved in I went out to the store to pick up wire shelving to help separate areas so we could organize and stack things. While I was out, I picked up a few bins for the refrigerator as well to help create a cheese drawer and more areas to store small packages that belong together.

Adding shelving and dividers can help keep you organized. It separates things in larger spaces, and it can also make things more accessible. A hook on the wall to hold potholders, for example, will help them from getting lost in the drawer with the linens.

Tension rods act as dividers for cutting boards and baking sheets, making them slide in and out of storage easily. Via Martha Stewart by way of TidyMom.

Moving Things Around

Sometimes moving things can make all the difference in the world. Simply storing spoons and spatulas next to the stove, for instance, can make a world of difference when you need one as you’re hovering over a steaming pot of soup or a sauce that needs a good whisk to keep from overflowing.

A brainstorming activity: Stand in the middle of your kitchen and consider the scene. Think about where you are when you usually reach for things. Do you always find yourself at the island wondering where the spatula is? Can you never seem to find the potholder when you need to pull a pan from the oven? Do you search for the salt and seasonings only after you cross the room? Then determine if you can make a few changes to the layout. It might be as easy as adding a salt cellar and a few commonly used spices near the stove, switching the drawers for silverware and spatulas or creating a board to hand your measuring spoons and cups on so you’re ever digging through the junk drawer when baking.

More easily accessible measuring cups and spoons. Via Infarrantly Creative

Getting Started

I’m a perfectionist. Oftentimes I won’t start a project unless I feel I can adequately clear my brain and focus all my efforts on the project to get to a reasonable stopping point or, even, the end of the project. I don’t like leaving things unfinished. I am this way with many things in life, the least of which are books. I will read until the book is finished. It’s a good thing I’m a fast reader.

This makes the getting started part of kitchen organization more terrifying and difficult than ever when the mess has grown so deep and so tall. For this reason, I know I need to break down my goals in more manageable pieces that I can tackle one at a time in the bits and pieces of the day I end up stealing away.

The Plan: Pick a day to do one thing. Even if it’s just reorganizing my spices, if I can focus and chop the job into small pieces, soon the entire project will start looking smaller and smaller, and I’ll get to a more manageable state.

This is the method that will work best for me, and it is a method that will have me inviting friends over for dinner again, not cringing instantly when someone shows up unannounced. It’s time I reclaimed a piece of my life that is a piece of me. My food resolution for 2012: Reclaiming my kitchen.

As always, you can check out what others are writing in the Eat Well, Spend Less series on food resolutions for 2012:


  1. I love all of these ideas (and those pantry pics… wow). Great tips!

  2. Love the suggestion to ‘consider the scene’. When we moved into our current home, I literally sat in the middle of the kitchen on a stool for an hour and visualized how I would cook, move and entertain in it. Only then did I begin unpacking boxes.

    Good luck with reclaiming your kitchen! A noble goal for the year.

  3. This is an area that I’ve been putting off but with my spices in several different places and ending up buying doubles of stuff, I need to stop and consider what will work best for me in my small kitchen. Love the idea of using containers from around the house to store stuff in!

  4. Very inspirational post, make me want to shuffle a few things in the kitchen now.

  5. That pantry and baking counter are amazing! Oh what fun it would be to have such a pantry like that!! I’d just stand there amazed and never get anything baked…

  6. I was JUST saying to my husband that we need to start eating our way through the pantry! I’m completely guilty of stockpiling just like you. And yes, those photos… when can I start remodeling?

  7. Jennifer S says:

    What perfect timing! I just came home with a giant load of groceries and was feeling the same overwhelming feelings you’ve described. Thankfully, I have an organization pro for a husband, and will defer to his expertise! I will definitely be showing him your post, too!

  8. Those pantries are so inspirational and just down right gorgeous!

  9. I love the visuals in this post and dream of kitchens like those. Oh, and they include a Dacor or Viking six burner stove too! And then more time to actually cook! The secret dreams of a working mom 🙂

    Anyways…We use canning jars to store items we buy in bulk or after we open pasta, beans, etc. to keep them fresh but it also helps me easily see what I have on hand. There’s no guessing. I do wish my spices were more organized so perhaps I’ll tackle that next. Every few months I get a wild hair and completely reorganize the entire kitchen which drives my husband nuts because he can’t find anything. It’s the nester in me.

    Thanks for the inspiration and ideas!

  10. Love every single idea! Now if only I could manage a pantry like that first image. A man can dream! And this makes me want to get better organized in my kitchen. I can always use pointers.

  11. When we first moved into the house I was so meticulous about where I put everything and excess junk was always promptly escorted out. Nowadays things aren’t quite so tidy and I just close the doors in a hurry to avoid seeing the mess. 😉

  12. This post is useful for housewives like me. I have a small kitchen so maximizing the spaces helps a lot. It can make my kitchen clean and organized. Can you please post about how to organize a closet?

    Thanks for the tips.

    Johny Sy Online Dating Tips and Advice

  13. Hi Shaina – great to see you last night at the MN food bloggers event! Love this post – I am in dire need of reclaiming my kitchen as well. My pantry is in the basement but I dream of a nice big pantry filled with glass jars – just like in that photo. Maybe someday…..

  14. Jami Hicks says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I now know I’m not alone 🙂 You described me perfectly and gave me hope!

  15. In modern homes the kitchen is becoming important – this is a revival of how things were in earlier times before TV and computers and when it was cheaper to heat just one room. It is a great idea to make your kitchen more welcoming to all members of the family. If you have room put in a small sofa or an easy chair or two. If you have small children make a place for paper, paints, glue and brushes so they can paint whilst you have to be in the kitchen.

  16. Please help me with empty jars!!! I have so many jars- mason jars, 1/2 gallon, full gallon, empty peanut butter, etc… I have given away what I don’t need and need to keep what I have but I don’t know how to store them!! I use some of them constantly (barely have a chance to wash them) and some of them seasonally… Country kitchen (bigger layout not much storage)… Thanks!

  17. Oh that pantry is just amazing!

  18. It is really an area which I’ve already been postponing but with my own spices in a number of distinct areas and dealing purchasing doubles regarding products, I need to stop and also think about what’s going to work most effectively for me within my little kitchen. Really like the thought of using storage containers through around the house to keep goods within!

  19. Love the idea of the cupcake liners!

  20. LOVE all these tips, Shaina! We’re going to be remodeling our kitchen in a few months and it’s a sad little galley – so I’m absorbing all these tips!


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