Get Started: Once A Month Cooking in a Medium/Large kitchen
Tricia has already shown that her kitchen is one of the smallest around! However in most new construction homes, the builders finally started listening to their clients and realizing bigger kitchens are where it’s at! In fact do you know that most residential construction is based on the kitchen square footage? That’s where the average family spends most of their time. I know for a fact it’s where I spend most of my time at home. Not just cooking but washing dishes, washing toddler hands, getting milk or water, snacks, cleaning supplies, I swear my floor is warped from me standing in there. My neighbors joke with me that I am the neighborhood watch because the window over my sink overlooks the street and it’s the only house that it does. And I’m ALWAYS at the sink.
When it comes to my big cooking days I am a big planner. And similar to Tricia’s plan for a small kitchen cooking day, I like to have certain areas and spaces for parts of my day. I like to spread out too and utilize all the space I have. Here’s what I do:
“Open House” Clean Up
Similar to Tricia I like to maximize as much counter space as I can on my cooking days. We refinanced on our house last year and a friend of ours told us to have our house “Open House” clean before the appraiser came. And it’s my new trick for cooking days. This means you have nothing extra on your counters at all! No extra clutter at all! It allows you to use every square inch of space, and also start fresh. Hide away the appliances, butter bells, anything that you will not immediately need. See the images below for a before and after!
Make a Slow Cooker Area
Again just like Tricia, scout out a place in the house or kitchen for the slow cookers to cook DURING the cooking day. I typically use the smaller parts of my counter, for example the small counter between the stove and the fridge, or the corners under the cabinets. Wherever you choose MAKE SURE THAT CHILDREN CAN NOT REACH THEM! The last thing we want is children burning themselves so please be smart about where you place them.
Designate a Spot for Non-Perishable Items Outside the Kitchen
As you can see my dining room and kitchen are all one large space. Therefore I really like to use my dining room table to stage. Again with no clutter on it, I section it out to non-perishable items and miscellaneous cookware.
The night before my big cooking day, after I have chopped all those dang vegetables, I set up the dining room table and grab my grocery list. I take it to my pantry and I retrieve EVERY item on it that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or frozen. I place that on the card table. I try to organize by section on my grocery list: cans, boxes, spices, bags, etc so that I can easily retrieve those items without doing too much thinking on my cooking day. I don’t organize them by recipe as other readers have reported that this is somewhat confusing because ingredients often get used in multiple dishes.
I continue with this process until I have EVERYTHING checked off my grocery list and I make sure that I am ready to go. This is also a good way to find out early if you forgot an item when you were shopping. If you find something missing you still have time to run and grab it before you start cooking.
Designate a Spot for Utensils, Cookware and Appliances Outside the Kitchen
I know we don’t give you a master list of items needed with each menu (sorry, creating the menus already takes so long) BUT by reading through all of the recipes you can get a sense of what you will need for your cooking day. And if I am cooking with a partner, which I HIGHLY recommend, I want to make sure that they know where to find items in MY kitchen. You can waste A LOT of time directing a person to items needed when they aren’t familiar with your set-up. This way you can say, “Everything you need is X.”
Like the non-perishable items, I put these items on my dining room table as well. I want to reserve all the kitchen space I can for actually cooking. I pull out each of the recipe cards I am using, read through them and then place the items I believe I will need. If your table is small, you can set up another table just for these items. The important part being that you designate an area that you can just go to for those items.
Organize Your Recipe Cards
Again, counter space is prime real estate, you don’t want all of your recipe cards laying around. Tricia likes to tape her cards up around her kitchen cupboards. That way you can just look up and see the items that you need and instructions you need next without using an extra hand. I am so Type A that I like to print out my recipe cards and my instructions, then organize the recipe cards according to the instructions. I then place the instructions up on the refrigerator, and my recipe cards on a cookbook holder and go from there. I take a pen and cross off each step on the instructions sheets so I know where I’m at in the process.
Make a “Trash” Bowl and a Wash Rag Bag
If you’re a fan of Rachel Ray, you know that she always has a “trash bowl”. It’s simply a bowl for all the little extra scraps of food while you go through your cooking day. If you’re a composter, you can take this bowl and dump it into your compost bin at the end of the day or throughout. If you’re not a composter, you can put other scraps of paper, plastic or whatever comes throughout the day. It just helps to limit the trips to the trash can and helps with clean up.
In my house we haven’t used paper towels or sponges in over four years. Yes you read that right, we do not use paper towels or sponges in my house. Not only has it saved us a TON of money, it’s just another small contribution to helping the environment. We simply have a drawer full of kitchen towels and I buy these cute little cloths for a sponge in the sink I change out every day or with every tough cleaning. That all being said, I like to hang a reusable shopping bag on the pantry or cupboard door and I just dump my dirty rags in it as I go throughout the day.
Take Cleaning Breaks
Unlike Tricia, I’m a total clean as you go person. I also typically am cooking by myself so I don’t have a lot of extra utensils around. I typically clean after every two or three recipes. I do a quick wash or dishes, even just a rinse if say a bowl only had celery in it. I do a small wipe of the counters then go again. I like to do these breaks when I’m waiting on a simmer, baking, etc.
At the end of the day I clean all the dishes and then enlist my husband to do a thorough wipedown of all the surfaces while I enjoy our take out dinner.
Designate an Assembly/Cooling Station
Again I like to use my table for this, once all of the perishables are being depleted I replace them with items that are cooling, or waiting to be completed for freezing. This is where those stacking cooling racks become really handy. At the end of the day I go back to my large counter, and do a label assembly line. Then I bring in a laundry basket and start loading it up and making trips out to our freezer.
All cleaned up!
Cook, Clean, Repeat
I hope that this gives you some pointers for cooking in a large kitchen. Those of you with large kitchens, is there anything that you do that is especially helpful as well? We would love to have your helpful hints.