Friday, January 16, 2009

The Secret to Being a Great Home Cook

It's not talent, it's not the right food, it's not schooling. It is organization. Seriously.

Think about it for a minute. How many times have you had the goal of making that perfect butternut squash and kale casserole when  you realize you have no rigatoni. You thought you did but it turns out the pasta was used for something. You lose the chance to cook and you end up with take out and the squash and kale spoil. So sad (really I do get sad when food spoils!).

So how do you get organized? First, you need to get your kitchen in order. Get yourself a label maker or a roll of Scotch tape with a sharpie. Put the pasta, nuts, baking, chocolate, etc. in their own marked areas. And keep them there. Check out the fridge. Again,  get out the label maker and put things in their own spots, clearly labeled. I have a cheese drawer (because I love cheese), a dairy shelf, condiment shelf, washed produce drawer, unwashed produce drawer and a deli shelf. Do the same for the freezer (labels are trickier but I have found Scotch tape holds up fairly well). Explain to the family your system and explain how important it is to keep all items in their places. I have even made a chart explaining placement for our Laz-E-Susan items. (I admit I am a bit anal when it come to the kitchen --my spices are also alphabetical.)

Now that everything is in its place, it is time to plan a weekly menu. I love getting out cookbooks and recipe cards. I note each breakfast,  lunch, snack and dinner along with recipe book and page number. Then I go through each dish and name the needed ingredients. At this point, I do a quick walk through of the kitchen and determine what I have and what I need.

Finally I write the remaining ingredients based on their respected sections in the grocery store. I also make sure to add a few extras for the kids if I see the snack supply is running low for playdates, etc.  Yes, I do this every week. 

I know this seems really time consuming but if you figure the time it takes to run out to the store to grab that missing item (and the money you spend with the extra impulse buys), it really is not that hard. And after a few weeks, it truly is second nature. I can get my menu planned in less that half an hour. I have a grocery list divided based on the lay out of my grocery store. I can get my shopping done in less than 40 minutes with 4 children. That my friends is a feat. This means I get all of this done in a little over an hour per week. Not bad at all!

So if you have plans of making meals at home and becoming the next Top Chef, grab the label maker and get organized :)

(A big plus on this--you will stop buying the things you already have and therefore get a smaller grocery bill!)


Jules from "The Roost" said...

Girl you are SOOOO right! It is all about being organized. Great post!

RuensOnTheRun said...

And I thought my kitchen was organized until your post! :) I think I need to work on it a little harder, you've got it more together.

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Amanda said...

When it comes to the kids i am an organised person ~ usually ~ but my kitchen is an unorganised mess!
I'll take your tips on board!
Amanda x

Tyne said...

How? How the heck do you do it, mamma of four? I am baffled!

JCK said...

This is what I yearn to be like. I'm working on it! Great post.

dani said...

organization should have been my word of the year... i am completely unorganized; hopefully you will give me the inspiration i need, lisa!!! this was a great post:D

Jackie said...

Oh man...I thought I was organized until I read this! These are some really fantastic tips, Lisa...thank you!

Unknown said...

I can honeslty say I have never had the goal to make butternut squash and kale casserole! ; )

I am in awe of you. About the only thing I do is make my grocery list by my route in the store. Otherwise, none of this. But you can bet I will be taking a few of these tips! : )

Dawn said...

If I lived in Texas, I would totally hire you to help me get organized! :)
I think my kitchen must be the polar opposite of yours! :(
One of these days, I'm going to at least try your weekly menu and grocery store tip.

Anti-Supermom said...

Lisa, I'm drooling over your kitchen from afar.

I love that you label-maker everything and that your family actually sticks to it.

Thanks for sharing your great ideas.

Jennifer S said...

I wish I could say that I'm trying to be like this...but that would be a lie. Someday...?

You're amazing, really.

virginia said...

Organization is definately where it is at.It is the only way we can stay on budget and still eat healthy.