If you do the majority of the cooking in your family, you know how difficult it can be to cook in a disorganized kitchen. However, you don’t necessarily need a top-of-the-line professional kitchen to make delicious meals. Before you invest in space saving appliances and have your cabinetry overhauled to accommodate your kitchen needs, simply un-clutter your counters, organize your pantry, and make a meal planning chart – you’ll feel like you’re cooking in a professional-style kitchen in no time. Here are some meal prep organizational tips for any major cooking event:
- The first thing to do when preparing a complex meal is to make a meal planning chart. So, what is a meal planning chart, exactly? This kitchen helper is simply a list or chart that you can make by hand (or computer) that lists the steps to your meal. These steps can be divided up into time and put in chronological order. The chart doesn’t have to be fancy, just something to help you stay focused as you cook and prepare everything in a timely, efficient, and orderly fashion. This will greatly assist your ability to make sure all the dishes are staged correctly and come out of the kitchen at the right time. Tape your chart up on the pantry or cupboard where you’ll be cooking and check off each task as you go.
- Before you even boil your water or preheat your oven make sure that you start with a completely cleared dishwasher. The last thing you want is to start cleanup only to realize that you never ran the dirty dishes through the wash cycle. This will result in a major dish pileup in the sink and a stressful after-cooking mess.
- Put your trashcan directly under the ledge on which you’re cutting. This will help you cut and clean, simultaneously. Just chop, then throw the remnants into the garbage in one swoop.
- Designate a “chop time” in your meal planning chart and do all your cutting at once. While you cut, put a dishtowel under your cutting board to prevent it from shifting under you. Doing all off your cutting at one time will save you time in the long haul. After chopping up all of your ingredients, put them in separate bowls, throw a piece of saran wrap over each bowl, and pop them in the fridge until you’re ready to use each ingredient. This will keep all of your items fresh until their use.
- Make sure that you’re cleaning up as you go. This includes keeping surfaces sanitized and disinfected (especially if you’re cooking with raw meats!), throwing pits, ends, stubs, bones, and fats in the trash as you go, or even quickly cleaning knives and soaking pots and pans while the main dish is cooking. Since you have (hopefully) completely cleared your dishwasher before cooking, you can easily throw any bowls, utensils, or pans in the dishwasher while you cook. Find a gap in your meal planning chart in which you can designate a “clean-up time.” This designated clean-up time will allow you to clear counters and cut out some after-cooking cleaning.
- After your dish is finally completed, it’s time to store your leftovers. Make sure to label and date all food: a sharpie is a Chef’s best friend! If you have any extra chopped items, store them in individual baggies or in aluminum foil for your next cooking venture.
Overall, a meal planning chart, staging cooking and clean up, and strategic cooking will help you keep your kitchen area clean and tidy. After having a clean, professional-style kitchen, you’ll never be able to go back!