If you're a serious foodie like me, I think some of these tips will make your kitchen life better. After doing all of this over the last few months, my kitchen is so much more efficient and useful that I find myself grinning every time I enter it. In that time, I've removed or rectified literally dozens of inconveniences, inefficiencies, dislikes, and downright hates.
1. Get some InterMetro shelving.
Why? My reasons: I initially bought the 24"x18"x72" tower, with three extra shelves, to put in a corner to reduce the incredible amount of cookware, bakeware, and pantry clutter that had developed over the years. That shelving worked out so well that, a few weeks later, I bought the 48"x18"x72" InterMetro unit (with two extra shelves) to replace the clunky microwave cart on the other side of my kitchen that took up four feet of horizontal space, had very limited and nearly useless storage space behind two doors, and, except for the microwave itself, offered only awkward access to all the appliances I had on it (mixer, food processor, blender, ice cream maker, etc.).
Now I have easy access to all the items you can see in the photos and I can use all those appliances, plus the kitchen scale, slow cooker, etc. without having to fetch, rearrange, or climb over things, And I finally have a place to put that breadbox I bought ten years ago.
Tip: Install the lowest shelf at the second or third inch up so you can vacuum underneath.
2. Get your most-used cookware and bakeware and all of your herbs and spices out in the open.
Get some hooks and vertical bakeware racks at The Container Store for the shelving. If you're like me, you tend to forget about some of the things you own when they're hidden away and you'll be inspired to cook and bake more when you can see them right in front of you. Because this is all all out in the open now, I also no longer have to hire small children to retrieve bakeware from the back of that blasted under-counter corner cabinet with the double-jointed door. They were always complaining anyway: "It's dark in here!" "I'm thirsty!" "You said my quarter was in here!"
A few years ago, I got a small convection/warming oven to sit next to the main stove, and devised a plan: If I could find a sturdy cart the right size for the convection oven with a slide-out shelf, I could finally organize my dried herbs and spices the way I always wanted. I did, and found perfectly-sized square tins with windows that hold half a cup by volume. The accompanying photo depicts the results. Search for "clear top square tin containers" and you may be surprised to find that the tins can be had for well under a dollar apiece. Visit The Spice House online and you may also be surprised to find that, for far better and fresher spices, they charge less than half the price supermarkets charge, sometimes even a quarter of the price. Just plan ahead a little by doing a regular spice inventory and you'll never again pay through the nose for discolored, dusty stuff that may have been ground a year or two ago.
Tip: Get a labelmaker when it's on sale for twenty bucks and label the cover and front of each tin with black-on-white tape so you don't mix them up.
3. If you don't have an island and do have the space, get the biggest one that will fit.
I had a very small wheeled island (18"x24") for years and it was inadequate for most of those years as I made bread more and more frequently. The old one had a granite top, and I do a fair amount of dough and pastry work, so I wanted that on a much bigger island but couldn't find one with granite that was reasonably priced. Instead, I bought a very substantial and solidly-built four-foot by two-foot wood-top island for about $220 with the idea that I could perhaps find a deal on a granite remnant. In fact, I did find a fantastic deal through a friend of a friend of a friend and spent a grand total of $420 for the island and the 3/4" granite slab pictured (cutting and polishing included). I installed it myself (with help from a friend as the granite weighs about 150 lbs) on top of the existing wood top with Liquid Nails for Granite, which added another five dollars to the cost.
When you're deciding on a size, find an island that will leave you with at least three feet of clearance on all sides in the kitchen. If you get one like mine, you'll have two giant drawers for tool and supply storage, uncluttering your existing drawer or drawers, and a couple of large shelves where you can put your plastic wrap, aluminum foil, wax paper, and parchment paper for easy access. I also keep my cooking spirits (vermouth, cognac, Madeira, etc.) on the bottom shelf and my quart and gallon size freezer bags are on the island for quick and easy access.
On the near end of the picture, you can see the heavy-duty hooks I added for the measuring cups and spoons, strainers, and the welding gloves that I use instead of oven mitts.
5. Organize your lids to retain your sanity and your root vegetables to retain them longer.
I got a lid organizer from The Container Store for an upper cabinet right above the stovetop -- now free of cookware thanks to the shelving -- early on in this project. Clattering and rearranging things to retrieve lids makes no sense. Get rid of the frustration.
The root vegetable shelves (pictured) each pull out for convenience. There's a good reason root cellars exist: Darkness doesn't promote growth. It won't be as chilly as a root cellar, but your veg will last at least a while longer and won't sprout so quickly.
6. Maximize your refrigerator's usefulness.
On mine (pictured), I have magnetic holders for my Microplane graters and paper towels. I also have my often-used peelers there and a notedpad and bank-style pen on a chain so I can quickly jot down grocery needs, ideas, and to-do items with only a very brief interruption of what I'm doing at the time in the kitchen. I used VelcroÂ® strips recently to mount the box of food prep gloves to the side.
7. Add some self-inspiration.
Go look for an inexpensive digital photo frame (mine, which you can see at the upper left of the large InterMetro shelf, is 800x600 and was a $39 closeout special) and load it up with pictures of food you've made and photographed, as I did, or just load it up with food you'd like to make someday. I have about 150 pictures of my own creations on it and, as I intended, I find it a great inspiration to get off my duff and make something instead of, say, buying a sandwich.