These 12 quick fixes for a more functional kitchen reduce meal prep time and keep your kitchen cabinets and countertops organized.
When is the last time you went into your kitchen and found everything you needed in less than ten seconds? Do you now feel like an octopus reaching counter to counter for one pan, one knife, and one plate? How about when you ordered take-out two nights in a row because your refrigerator is as full as your to-do list? Your kitchen could fit one butt at a time or four, but yes, any kitchen can be a more functional kitchen. All it takes is an afternoon implementing some of these quick fixes.
1. Keep dishes and utensils near the dishwasher.
This one is a game-changer when it comes to saving time. If emptying the dishwasher is part of your morning routine, you’ll save a lot of steps by being able to keep your feet planted in one central location as you reach back and forth to empty the bottom rack. You can almost cut your dishwasher-unloading time in half!
2. Create a lunch prep zone.
If you’ve got kids, or you prepare lunches to take to your day job, you know how much goes into prepping those meals. Create a lunch prep zone in an area of your kitchen and stock it with lunch boxes, tupperware containers, zip-top baggies, disposable utensils, napkins, and a Sharpie for labeling. I keep these in one of the deep drawers in my own kitchen, but you can also stash it all in a large basket in a cabinet.
3. Add containers to your refrigerator.
Those wide shelves in your refrigerator aren’t doing you any favors. And the deep drawers aren’t either. Add containers and extra drawers to your fridge to keep like-items together and keep things from getting pushed to the back and forgotten about. This starter kit is great for getting an Insta-worthy fridge in just a couple of hours.
4. Add extra shelves to upper cabinets.
Unless you have a completely custom-built kitchen, you probably have standard upper cabinets with one or two shelves. You and I both know that that is never enough, and tons of wasted airspace hangs out in every single cabinet you’ve got. Grab a starter kit like this one from The Container Store to add shelves and hanging racks, or hire a local cabinet builder to make extra shelves that can be adjusted with pegs like a bookshelf.
5. Use dividers in your drawers.
Every. Single. Drawer. There are tons of different dividers on the market that will fit literally any and all drawers. You can buy customized trays like these for junk and gadget drawers, and telescoping dividers like these to keep bigger items from sliding around.
6. Keep napkins in your utensil drawer.
This is something I recently started doing and I’ll never look back. It makes prepping the dinner table SO easy! I can grab the forks, knives, and napkins all at once. Humble brag time: this idea was so genius that Good Housekeeping Magazine shared it!
7. Keep a running grocery list.
There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down on a Sunday morning and trying to come up with a full grocery list. You always forget something and you end up buying duplicates. Trust me, I do the same thing! To fix that, I made a grocery list template and I keep 5-10 copies of it on a clipboard hanging from a Command hook on the inside of one of my cabinets.
I keep a pen with the clipboard, too, so I can easily make a note when I’m running low of EVOO. When it’s time to shop, I just finish up the list, take it off the board, and take it to the store. **PS: You can swipe my grocery list template here and print copies for yourself!
8. Install pull-out shelves to give your back a break.
Lower cabinets are great because they hold a lot of stuff, but you practically have to be on your hands and knees just to get something out of them! Pull-out drawers are definitely worth the investment, and they score tons of bonus points for making that dark black hole an organized and easy to reach storage space. I love this style from Amazon, mainly because they’re so easy to install and the top and bottom pull out separately, which is a hard feature to find, apparently.
9. Upgrade your lighting.
This step is so important! Most kitchens straight-up suck when it comes to lighting, especially at night when it gets dark. Bring on the 6pm sundown in the winter, and making dinner turns into an all-out squint-fest. One of the best investments you can make in your kitchen is upgrading your lighting. Whether it’s hiring an electrician to install extra can lights or DIYing some undercabinet lights, you’ll wish you had done it way sooner.
10. Use trays on your countertops.
You don’t have to have completely bare countertops in order to have a clean and neat kitchen. But you do need to keep things contained so it doesn’t look like you forgot to clean up from last night’s dinner. Store your most frequently used oils, vinegars, seasonings, and sauces in a pretty tray or divided lazy susan so everything is within arm’s reach next time you make your famous spaghetti.
11. Get an anti-fatigue mat.
No, not the ugly rubber mats at the restaurant of your first job. These mats have come a long way since then, and they’re [dare I say it] actually kind of pretty now. I found this company on Kickstarter and they’re making mats that look like vintage rugs! You can totally get two for both of your most-used stations of your kitchen, but if you only want one, I suggest putting it in front of your stove instead of your sink. Your dishwasher does most of the washing for you, so you’re probably spending more time at your range.
12. Make a coffee/tea station.
I call mine The Caffeination Station. [Go ahead and laugh, but you know you love it!] I keep all my coffee and hot tea stuff all in one place in a part of the cabinet above my coffee maker. This is definitely a spot for bins and containers, since most coffee and tea things are usually pretty small. Depending on your needs, a clear lazy susan or lidded stackable bins would work great.
You didn’t think I was just going to throw a bunch of tips at you and then say, “Alright, now go do it!” did you? Nah, that’s not how I roll. Sign up for my weekly email list below to gain access to my Freebie Library. There’s a kitchen setup guide, a printable grocery list, and a quick decluttering guide for messy countertops.