How an Organized Kitchen Can Save You Money, Time & Sanity

Last week I told you that I’m working my way through Peter Walsh’s book, It’s All Too Much. It struck me recently that the way I used to feel about debt is very similar to the way I feel about clutter. It makes me feel like I can’t breath.

For a very long time, I’ve blamed myself, saying things like, “I’m just too lazy.”

While I still think I may lean a little toward lazy, I’ve mostly realized that sometimes – often times – it’s not me. It’s the stuff. It’s all too much.

Have you ever heard the saying that you can’t organize clutter? This is sooooo true. When clutter exceeds capacity, it doesn’t matter how not-lazy I am. I could be up everyday at 5 a.m. with rubber gloves on. I will still lose the battle.

So now that I’ve come to that rather life-altering realization, I plan on systematically dealing with the clutter and organizational issues around my home — office, bedrooms, storage spaces, playrooms and more.

But today, I am starting in the kitchen. I figure for a blog about keeping kosher on a budget, this is as good a place as any to start with my declutterization (yes, I did just make that word up).

So. Our kitchen. Let me first say that it’s really pretty. We have gleaming granite counter tops and shiny stainless steel appliances. We’re very fortunate that the previous owners had such lovely taste – which you can sort of see in this picture from my daughter’s first birthday.

birthday bunting

But our kitchen was most obviously not intended for a family that keeps kosher. Or heck, a family that cooks more than chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese. It’s a one-wall kitchen – one counter top, one row of cabinets and drawers. No island (I wish). No corner spin-around thingies.

There is one narrow closet/pantry dealie next to the fridge on a perpendicular wall to the counter and cupboards. I used to use this pantry for food. It was a jumbled mess. See for yourself.

I had no idea what was in there. Which means I didn’t use what was in there. THIS WASTED MONEY. It also means I bought duplicates of what was in there – not because I stocked up at a rock bottom price, but rather because I simply didn’t know what I had. THIS ALSO WASTED MONEY.

My under-the-counter cupboards are all shelves. Deep shelves. We have two of these deep shelved cupboards, in which I tried, unsuccessfully, to shove all of my meat and dairy pots, pans and baking sheets. I had nowhere to put my pareve stuff. I also had nowhere to put all the little kitchen appliances you now know I love.

The “plan” was for this stuff to reside on shelves in our basement storage room. Turns out, this was an awful plan. Who wants to schlep down to the basement every.single.week to get the crockpot or the pareve soup pot? Not I!

So instead, the crockpot, the food processor, the hot water heater, the pareve soup pot… they all just ended up sitting on my kitchen floor (I’m hanging my head in shame, if it makes you feel any better).

We tripped over them constantly. We had to move them around in an elaborate game of small appliance chess just to be able to  sit at our kitchen table or open our cupboards. THIS WASTED TIME. And a lot of my sanity.

After a few months of chaos, I had grown to completely HATE my kitchen.

It was a time for a change. Here are the some of changes I made:

1. I went through every drawer, cupboard and covered-bit of floor and decluttered. I didn’t find a ton of stuff to get rid of, but I found enough. Enough to donate four grocery sacks filled with stuff. Enough to consolidate my glasses into a smaller cupboard, which opened up a larger double cupboard right over the main expanse of the counter top. Enough to move my meat dishes out of the other double cupboard and into an end cupboard.

2. I paid someone a not-small-amount of money to turn my under-the-counter cupboards into rolling drawers. Love. This immediately solved the “teenage girl closet” syndrome I had going on in there. All that depth could finally be put to some good organizational use. (Sorry, no pictures.)

3. I cleared out all that food from the “pantry” and relocated it to the two open cupboards I had freed up in #1. Instead of a non-functioning pantry, I made two very much functioning cupboards – a baking cupboard and a food cupboard. In the food cupboard, I store canned goods, plus grains and beans in repurposed glass containers. I only store that which we can reasonably use in a few weeks. The “surplus” is on the shelves in my basement.

4. I bought some cool organizers for my baking cupboard. Yes, I spent money. Mostly Swagbucks, actually. But still. These pretty little ones weren’t free. They weren’t even cheap. But Amazon’s price was better than I found anywhere else. And I LOVE my baking cupboard. IT SERVES ME. I now save time – and MONEY – when I bake. I now clean up after the baking IMMEDIATELY. No more leaving the flour out for a few days because, gosh, I have no where to put the bag anyway.

A word or two on the Oxo Good Grips Storage Containers you can see on the bottom shelf. SWOON. They are BPA-free. They have this awesome one-hand opening (and closing) mechanism – it just pops right up. This is perfect for when you are baking and simultaneously holding a crying toddler on your hip. They also seal totally tight thanks to that gasket thingy. And they come in many, many sizes.

I measured the bottom shelf in my cupboard and figured out that I could get one square and one rectangle storage container and they would fit together perfectly, two-deep in my cabinet. I repeated this x3 and lo and behold, it held all my baking stuff – three kinds of flour and three kinds of sugar. Beshert.

(Obviously I had to label them with my Brother labeler. Whatever. Make fun of you if you must. It makes me happy.)

The other two shelves in my baking cupboard contain a basket of cake decorating supplies (I’m no Martha, but I do enjoy making my kids’ birthday cakes), our glass mixing bowls, a spin-around with vanilla and other good stuff, and a few baking boxes and mixes. Oh and I also tucked baking powder, soda and salt on the right of that bottom shelf.

Now everything I need to bake a loaf of bread, a batch of cookies or a birthday cake is neatly stored in the most convenient place – right above the counter where I do my baking. The location and the functionality of that cupboard mean that even when everything is out, I don’t get stressed out. Because I can get it back in in a flash. Everything has a place – and everything is in its place.

5. I repurposed my non-functioning pantry into a functioning appliance garage. All the appliances we use on a regular basis are now stored in this pantry. Not in the basement. And not on our floors. I also designated one shelf for “filing” my dairy cookie sheets, muffins tins and other metal bakeware that didn’t fit on the roll-outs.

(If you enlarge the picture, you will see that we also store bags and wraps in the pantry, plus our cereal boxes, a shelf of cookbooks, and a nested set of extra dairy mixing bowls.)

Oh, and if you’re wondering where I store my spices, oils and vinegars… I keep them over by our stove. My spices are on the side of my fridge in these cute little magnetic spice holders, which I’ve actually had for quite some time. And my oils, vinegars and Pam spray are in the cupboard next to the stove. I use them when I cook, so I store them where I cook.  Location, location, location.

Does my kitchen still get overrun with dishes and food and school papers and Pinewood Derby cars? Yes. Yes, it does. But instead of being so overwhelmed that I could cry — since where am I going to put it all????? — now, I just take a deep breath and dig in. I can reshelve the whole kitchen in less than 10 minutes. And that includes emptying the dishwasher.

Did I have to spend some money to get my kitchen like this? Yeah, I’ll admit it wasn’t free. The roll-outs were pivotal, but they could have been done less expensively by a handier person than I. The Oxo Good Grips storage containers weren’t cheap either – and I’m sure I could have found a less costly solution. Although they wouldn’t have been as purty.

Mostly, though, I accomplished this kitchen overhaul by decluttering, streamlining and carefully considering the functionality of each of the precious few spaces we have in our kitchen.

…Now I just have to do this in every other room in our house and we’ll be set. Blah.

So, tell me: How do you feel about your kitchen’s organization? Does it serve you? Or does it waste your time and your money? Let’s dish about kitchens in the comments section.


  1. I just recently de-cluttered my kitchen and it feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders! Not only does it save you money, but it is a HUGE time saver –I can now make out a grocery list in no time at all! Plus, I can put away my groceries faster and get to what I need very quickly.

    • YES! Everything runs smoother when that kitchen is decluttered. While the rest of the house is important, more and more I am realizing the kitchen is really the hub! If the kitchen isn’t functioning, nothing is functioning!

  2. This post was not too long at all. It was actually inspirational. Our kitchen is ‘fairly’ organized yet it has some major pitfalls. Essentially our meat section stays organized beautifully since it is only used once or twice a week. Where the kitchen goes to you-know-what in a hand basket is in the spice area.

    I tried the little magnet containers and my husband just laughed. Spices are used in such large quantities and varieties at our home that we have quart mason jars filled. We prefer to use whole spices so we also store two coffee bean grinders that we use for our spices along with a mortar and pestle. Once you add the Indian cooking, it’s an additional pantheon of spices to be organized. We also have a salt fetish so we have numerous exotic salts (red, black, smoked, etc) in addition to the massive box of kosher salt. An entire whole corner kitchen cabinet is dedicated to our spices.

    On one shelf are the “savories” and on the second shelf are the “herbs”. This is my husbands classification system and it makes little sense to me, so I am always mucking it up and can never find what it is I am looking for. A year ago I too took out my handy-dandy label maker and labeled everything in large font so I could ‘see better’. The kids were laughing at me. “Ima, doesn’t the jar already say ‘black poppy seeds’?” My husband understanding my frustration and my obsession with order tried to explain it to the kids, probably to little avail.

    I continue to struggle with my spices. It is a never-ending project. What I have learned from my friend Meera, who is an excellent Indian cook, is that they keep all their spices in a spice tray. She brought one back for me from Indian – so I dutifully put all my Indian spices in it. Then it dawned on me that I could have a tray for all my Italian spices too- since that is the majority of my cooking style (and I am the one who can never find anything). Why not?? So literally after months of bugging the guy at the local Indian grocery I was able to procure another one for my Italian spices. Hmmm…maybe next I should get a tray for all of our exotic salts?

  3. oops…my apologies to my husband. I posted under his name rather than my own.

  4. I definitely should reorganize the pantries! (we have two, but they’re not being utilized to their best!)

  5. I make sure to keep the kitchen in my house in tip-top shape. Or else!

  6. I really like what you did with your pantry. I’m inspired by that since we might someday spend a bit to redo one area of our kitchen. I’m not sure when that day will be though. . . .

  7. missfrizzly says

    i loved this post! we just redid our kitchen this past summer and made it much more usable…i love being in the kitchen now! still working on figuring out the best way to organize cabinet and pantry space – just wanted to mention that i got some awesome containers for baking ingredients at the container store – they’re very similar to the oxo ones you have, but they’re called click clack – made in new zealand and they have tons of sizes, shapes etc…i actually saw some at target recently, too but the selection isn’t as good…similar to the oxo ones, they aren’t cheap but they are nice looking and work wonderfully…

  8. We took out our broken dishwasher and replaced it with a unfinished cabinet from Home Depot. I then reorganized everything early one morning. I ended up putting the meat pots where the dairy pots used to be, only I forgot to mention it to anyone. My daughter came home from school, reached into the former dairy cabinet and took a meat pot and made macaroni and cheese!

  9. LOVE this post. We too did the rolling out shelves and they were worth every penny spent. I can house several of crockpots (yes, I said several) along with other appliance I enjoy but do not have prime counter real estate.

    We also re-purposed a coat closet that was next to the kitchen into a pots/pans/etc. closet. Now I don’t have to crawl around on the ground to get a pot or take everything out of cupboard because said pot was in the back hanging out with mystery tupperware. I can stand upright, see and grab what I need in one motion. Ah, bliss.

    My only wish – a bigger pantry. Ours is the size of a peanut and I often have kitchen envy when I see people with these huge walk-ins. Ah, another life, right?

  10. Thanks for this post! We recently moved into a temporary home while we prepare to build and my kitchen is MUCH smaller than before. I have been trying to figure out what the heck to do with everything because I also recently came to the same conclusion about STUFF… Love also that you talk about containers. My baking cupboard is a HUGE mess.

  11. I’ve been thinking about my pantry and some of my kitchen cupboards for a long time. My pantry is a disaster, something that those pull out drawer things i think can cure a lot of. I find some of the space a little awkward, since i am short, and also just the size of the cabinets themselves. I guess i’m going ot have to creative.

  12. I’m catching up on old posts. I spent all last summer decluttering (I teach) and I felt so good.

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