Give yourself an early present and make your kitchen functional for the entertaining season ahead with these holiday kitchen organizing tips.
When you've got four pots on the stove, a turkey in the oven, a ham in the microwave and 18 hungry people in the living room, you'll be glad you did.
Start with the Great Holiday Kitchen Clean Out and Clean Up
First, get rid of everything you are not going to use this holiday season. To be organized and sane, you need space - and lots of it!
Your holiday kitchen should be home only to items that will be on your holiday table, or be used in holiday meal preparation.
Open up your cupboards, cabinets, drawers, pantry, refrigerator and freezer and take everything out.
Clean the empty areas and then - now this is the trick - only put back what you are going to use over the next two months. Pack up the rest and store it in the garage. Toss out any ancient foods from the fridge and freezer.
Organize Kitchen Cabinets and Cupboards for Holiday Cooking: Replace the summer patio ware in your cabinets with your holiday kitchen serving dishes and good china. Find and clean the roasting pan, bread pans, etc. Replace your everyday glasses and cups with ones that match.
Holiday kitchen drawers: Put your silverware in a handy drawer. Find the holiday gadgets (basting thing, candy thermometer, meat thermometer, cheese knives, cheese holders, etc.) Tuck barbecue skewers, forks, etc. in for a nice winter nap in the attic.
Pantry organization: Be ruthless here. Is anyone really going to eat that six-month-old opened bag of Oreos? Toss. What about the cans of soup no one liked? Charity bins. Have the spices been there as long as the house? Trashcan. Make room for foods that people are actually going to eat.
Refrigerator and freezer clean-up: Nothing says "ick" quite like a dirty refrigerator. Dump everything out. Clean it from top to bottom. Toss the stuff with old expiration dates and any jellies dating back to the last decade. Make room for the goodies you're going to be cooking.
Regroup Items in Kitchen Drawers
Use your holiday kitchen organizing as a time to rethink your cabinet and drawer plan. Which cupboard is really best for the glasses? Which counter is more convenient for the coffeemaker? What drawer should the corkscrew be in?
A lot of the time, we tend to leave things where we first put them, even if that spot turns out to be inconvenient. Why? Because once you move the the glasses to the cup cabinet, you now have to find a new home for the cups, which displaces other items. It's a round robin effect. So take advantage of this opportunity and develop an organized kitchen that works for you.
Mentally divide your holiday kitchen into activity areas so you and your family won't be falling all over each other as you work. Here are some ideas:
Food prep center: Keep knives, a butcher block, blenders, mixers, food processors, measuring cups and spoons here.
Cooking center: Near the stove, store pots, pans, potholders, cooking utensils, oils, etc.
Baking center: Even those who despise cooking succumb to a little baking at holiday time. And if you make it easy for yourself, you may do it more often. Gather your holiday recipes, flours, yeast, baking powder, pans, cookie cutters, mixers and bread machine in one corner of the kitchen. Bring on the cookie exchange!
Kid center: We want the kids to be more self-sufficient - just not underfoot. Set aside a cabinet (in a far corner of the kitchen) that's just for their stuff - kiddie cups, paper plates, napkins, straws, crackers, juices. Then they can get their own snack without interfering with holiday cooking.
Guest center: You know how people congregate in the kitchen - usually right in front of the drawer you need to get to. Create a cozy little area at the bar or kitchen table where they can sit and talk to you as you work - but stay out of the way. This can be as simple as setting up an area with various types of teabags in a pretty basket, a couple of cups, napkins and scones - all ready to be enjoyed.
Make Your Battle (Menu) Plans
Plan your main holiday meals now. Check what ingredients you have on hand; put the rest on a shopping list. Find your holiday recipes and put them in one binder in your kitchen. Find serving dishes for each entree and make sure they are clean and ready to roll.
If you're planning a dinner party, carefully schedule the food preparation. What time do you plan to eat? Then when should the turkey go in the oven? When should the shrimp be sautéed? Make a schedule for the evening, listing all the preparations you need to do at the time you need to do them.
That way the shrimp will be cooked on time and you won't find a forgotten tray of appetizers on top of the fridge after the last guest leaves. When 20 people are in your kitchen chatting and asking questions while you're trying to put a five-course dinner together, that checklist could be a holiday sanity saver.