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Here are important kitchen planning considerations, some of which you might have never thought of.
Despite the increase in take-out dining, the kitchen is still the heart of the home. This space is central to the house, allowing families to gather and share special moments. A well-appointed kitchen is always a joy.
Whether getting the kitchen of your dreams, you’ve wanted for years, or just reorganizing the space to add efficiency to your days, here are some essential considerations for your kitchen space.
We don’t always pay attention to these factors when considering a kitchen revamp, but they are critical and will make your life easier, your kitchen more appealing, and support your lifestyle and health.
1. Thoroughly Declutter
There’s little you can do in a cluttered and unappealing kitchen.
So, the first thing it needs is thorough decluttering. Remove everything from drawers, cupboards, and cabinets to start.
Then, sort every single item and decide what goes and what stays. The more you let go, the simpler your life will be. For example, why keep kitchen utensils and gadgets duplicated or that you do not use or want?
2. Establish Kitchen Work Zones
Kitchen efficiency depends on the proper designation of work zones. Establish zones according to how you use the space to get the most out of your kitchen. Think about how you move around the area and what you do there to understand better where to allocate everything.
Here are some ideas for zoning your kitchen:
Establish a clear distinction between a cooking zone, a meal prep zone, and a baking zone.
Assign the drawer and cabinet closest to the dishwasher to flatware and dishes. It is easier to put these items away when emptying the dishwasher.
Place baking tools and accessories together to save time and effort when baking if you bake.
Keep most frequently used items within easy reach. For example, less frequently used appliances or seasonal serving dishes can occupy out-of-the-way places such as higher shelves or back sections of cabinets.
Place drinking glasses and dishes in upper cabinets because that space is more accessible. Specifically, glasses should go on the upper cupboard closest to the fridge because the fridge is where beverages are.
Dishes go on an upper cabinet above or directly across from the dishwasher to facilitate putting them away.
The counter area by the fridge is ideal for a coffee/tea station. Thus, the drawer below that station should have all coffee/tea accessories.
3. Create Extra Storage Options
Sometimes, a proper declutter won’t create the space needed for optimal organization. In those instances, it becomes essential to create new storage space.
Over-the-door storage racks are good alternatives. These go on kitchen doors and inside cabinet doors.
A formidable storage solution is the Elfa Spice Rack (sold at The Container Store). It goes inside the pantry door to accommodate all cooking spices and condiments, creating more space for other things.
Pull-out drawers or drawer inserts in cabinets solve the never-ending problem of things getting lost in the depths of cabinets.
When the budget does not allow for a kitchen remodel, achieve the same result by using bins to organize the cabinet contents. You can pull out these bins to manage their contents, eliminating the need to bend over and reach inside the cabinet.
4. Evaluate Your Trash Situation
Few things are less exciting than trash. Whether you like to compost, recycle, sort your garbage some other way, or discard what you no longer need, you need a system that works for you.
Nothing speaks of unhealthy habits like trash and perishing food accumulated in the kitchen due to the lack of a proper disposal system.
We must consider the trash situation to maintain a clean yet great-looking kitchen.
Investing in a large, functional trashcan for the kitchen is a must. Some kitchens have a pull-out drawer that contains a space for the trashcan. If this is your case, measure that space and divide that number by two. Then, get two identical containers comfortably fitting together in that area: trash and recycling.
If your kitchen lacks cabinet space for trash, it is essential to pay attention to the style of your trashcan. Consider getting a rectangular, double-sided trashcan. Rectangular ones are easier to disguise. Budget permitting, get a trashcan with a sensor lid for a hands-free experience, which keeps the bin cleaner.
5. Clean Up Your Food Container Act
Do yourself a favor and recycle all that mismatched, old plastic stuff that overflows your cabinets. Get a set of new, BPA-free, dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe, plastic or glass containers with lids.
You need them to store leftovers and organize your fridge and freezer (more on that in the following section about systems you should have in place).
You should also get an additional but less expensive set for sharing food with others (avoiding resenting them for stealing your best containers or growing old waiting for them to return them).
Select a specific cabinet, preferably a lower one, to neatly organize those containers in one single place in your kitchen.
6. Corral Cleaning Products
Store cleaning products that pertain to the kitchen under the kitchen sink. Install cabinet organization solutions in that space to easily access these products and equipment.
The under-sink cabinet is also an excellent place to store the various types of filters you might need in the kitchen (sink faucet, fridge/freezer, etc.) and your trash bags.
7. Know What That “Junk” Drawer Is and Is Not
A miscellaneous drawer in the kitchen is handy, but this space should be manageable and intentional.
Junk drawer implies accepting everything we do not want to decide on — clutter.
This utility drawer is not a substitute for the garage either. We’ve seen drills and all kinds of tools in some kitchen drawers.
The utility drawer should contain a few things that are often needed, such as a tape measure, a couple of pens, scissors, a notepad, some tape, maybe envelopes and stamps, a mini screwdriver, and the like.
Tools go in the garage. Lightbulbs and batteries should have their bins and belong in the laundry room area or utility closet. Get the idea?
8. Determine Where the Spices Go
Where do spices go? The most convenient place for spices is near the stove, where we frequently use them.
Select an upper cabinet for the spices to the right or left of the stove area. Another great area is the drawer next to the stove.
Once you decide on the spices storage area, choose among the many spice storage solutions available to make your life easier while cooking with them.
The pantry is the next best option without cabinet space or a drawer for spices.
As with any other pantry group, herbs should be together on a shelf area. Use a tiered spice rack on the shelf to better see everything without much effort.
When a pantry shelf is unavailable, the Elfa Spice Rack comes to the rescue! This clever solution goes on your pantry door, on the inside. It is a lifesaver.
9. Light Up!
Ideally, the kitchen should be well-lit and combine top light and task or functional illumination.
Lighting also impacts your mood. For example, placing light under upper kitchen cabinets offers the functional task illumination needed on counters while preparing food, but it also does wonders for the ambiance of your kitchen.
10. Clear Counters
Sometimes, people go overboard with décor on kitchen counters and islands. Although some décor items are essential, do not overload flat surfaces with stuff.
Counter space is not storage either. Keep counters as clear as possible. It makes the kitchen look much better and gives you the space needed to work.
11. Don’t Ignore The Pantry
The process of organizing the kitchen needs to include the pantry. Organizing the pantry is an excellent opportunity to clean the space and, if warranted, line or reline the shelves.
You’ll be amazed at all the duplicates and expired products in your pantry when you see it all in front of you.
Separate the items you keep into categories and designate appropriate spaces in the pantry for these categories.
Label the pantry areas accordingly to make it easier for everyone in the house to maintain the space organization achieved.
Place products with a closer expiration date to the front to use these first.
Invest in pantry containers to store rice, cereals, flour, sugars, grains, chips, cookies, crackers, etc. Square and rectangular containers utilize the space best. Containers stand and stack better than the usually opened product bags with clips we keep in the pantry, right? With these containers, products stay fresh, and you can always see what you have and how much, thus knowing when to buy more. Additionally, your pantry will have that magazine look you admire. It takes effort and discipline to keep the system as you need to transfer the products to the containers when coming home from the store, but it pays off immensely in the day-to-day kitchen operation. Oh, make sure you label these containers.
Remove pre-packed items from their primary packing — group snacks in clear containers for easier access.
12. Befriend Your Fridge
As a principle, limiting your grocery shopping of produce and meats to smaller quantities that the family will consume weekly is best.
This practice preserves the product’s freshness and nutritional value. It also helps organize your refrigerator space efficiently and enables you to remember the items so food does not get spoiled.
An excellent routine to achieve an organized refrigerator and freezer is to wash, cut, and repack produce and meats when coming from the store.
This process takes some time and effort but ensures that the refrigerator and freezer stay clean and organized. Opening the fridge to see plastic and paper bags, some halfway open, saluting you is not an inviting proposition.
The washing, cutting, and repacking of produce and meat before placing these in your fridge or freezer also saves significant time throughout the week during cooking.
Being disorganized can cost you. Think about all the food you throw away in an average month.
On average, your fridge and freezer need a thorough cleaning and disinfecting each month. Use an open pack of baking soda to eliminate odors in your fridge safely should this become a concern.
A well-kept kitchen is a process that takes time. Staying tidy requires lifestyle changes. If you’re ready for those changes and want professional assistance with your kitchen adventure, don’t hesitate to contact us at My Space Reclaimed, LLC. We will be thrilled to partner with you.
13. Adopt A Meal Planning System
Having a meal-planning routine makes your life much easier. Of course, this requires some prep work, but once that’s done, you’ll be gliding through your weekly planning, shopping, and cooking.
It starts by going through all your clippings and books full of recipes. By the way, as a bonus for following this procedure, you get a streamlined kitchen book and recipe area.
Get all those recipes out and choose only those you like or want to try.
Then, clip them or make photocopies of those recipes to place them individually on 4″ X 6″ index cards.
Divide these cards into salads, main dishes, pasta, soups, desserts, beverages, protein shakes/smoothies, dressings, snacks, etc.
Finally, get all your categories sorted into index card boxes (choose the style of boxes that makes your heart sing).
Choose a day of the week to make your meal planning. On that day, each week, mix and match recipes to compose your weekly meals.
For each meal, choose the main course and other dishes as desired. You’ll have all kinds of options, so choose the type and number of dishes needed per each meal you’ll be making.
Then, group each day’s recipes and have them accessible for later cooking.
Since each recipe includes ingredients and the amounts, you have your grocery list done! Add any other items like snacks and miscellaneous needed and go shopping.
Provided that your dishwasher is in working order, there is no need to see the accumulation of dirty dishes and things in the sink or counter.
Start every morning with a clean kitchen and an empty dishwasher.
As kitchen stuff gets used, people should rinse their items and place them inside the dishwasher instead of leaving them in the sink or the counter. All dirty stuff will be inside the dishwasher after dinner, presumably the day’s last meal.
The dishwasher runs, and at the end of the cycle or first thing in the morning, whoever is responsible for this task puts items away. The dishwasher is available for a new day every morning.
However, if the day starts with a loaded dishwasher with clean stuff, there is no chance of accumulating used equipment inside it. Therefore, dirty stuff gets all over the kitchen. It’s as simple as starting the day with an empty dishwasher. Really!
15. Clean & Maintain Appliances
Get in the habit of cleaning the refrigerator and freezer, inside and out, at least once a month.
Performing a weekly fridge cleanout before grocery shopping is always a good idea. That ensures no food gets forgotten and spoiled in the fridge, plus it makes space in the refrigerator and frees up containers for that week’s fresh groceries.
Clean your microwave weekly, inside and out. It makes no sense to warm up meals in a crusty microwave featuring food remains from weeks ago.
The dishwasher needs cleaning as well. Pay attention to the dishwasher filter. The filter must be hand-cleaned every other week for the dishwasher to do its job correctly.
So, there you have fifteen less-than-exciting considerations to make your kitchen space more efficient, whether renovating the area or just reorganizing.
These steps will make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable and productive once in place.
But if you feel this is too much to handle, contact us! We’ll gladly partner with you on your kitchen adventure.
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Here are 15 tips to increase your pantry’s space, order, and beauty so you can love it again.
1. Edibles Go In The Pantry
Space permitting, contain all edible items in your kitchen in the pantry. Kitchen cabinets are for kitchen equipment, dining, and serving items. Include pet food and snacks in the pantry. Use pet food containers to avoid having open pet food bags and spills. Use the smaller versions of these pet food containers for treats. If you mix treats, snack time will always surprise your furry friends. Mixing their treats in a single container avoids having many bags and treat containers open at once.
2. Remove Cleaning Products
Avoid storing cleaning products in the pantry. Kitchen cleaning products should go in the cabinet space under the sink. All other cleaning tools and products have their place in the laundry room.
3. Use Floor Space Wisely
Fit your pantry floor with baskets or crates to store plastic and paper serving products, beverage bottles or cans, water gallons, water jugs, and other items like lunch boxes. The floor area is a good storage space, but we must make it appropriate for holding our stuff.
4. Zone Your Pantry
Create zones in your pantry so the various product groups are on their dedicated space/shelf. Creating areas for the different product groups makes the space more efficient.
5. Hook It Up
Include a hook behind the pantry door for aprons if you use them.
6. Contain Plastic Bags
Add a plastic bag dispenser behind the pantry door. Think Simply Human. Their Wall Mount Grocery Bag Dispenser offers a practical addition to your pantry space to contain those plastic bags while keeping them accessible.
7. Got Bulk?
Dog food containers are ideal for storing dry bulk goods in your pantry. Align these containers along the floor or the highest shelf.
Consider adding lights to each shelf underside and watch the magic happen! Lighting under cabinets adds an incredible vibe to the space but also the functionality counter space needs.
9. To Line Or Not To Line?
Some people consider lining their shelves and drawers a must; others don’t. If shelf-lining is essential, consider a product like Zip-N-Fit Premium Liner. This liner easily cuts to size by folding and tearing the pieces. It makes lining a breeze. There are great alternatives, but you should get a product that makes the job easy and makes you happy. Lining shelves (the right way) is a project and can be an investment. Whatever you decide, measure twice and cut correctly so your shelves and drawers look sharp and are appropriately protected.
10. What To Do About Cans?
Organize canned products using tiered can organizers. These organizers allow you to see all cans at a glance and save space on the shelves. Look for the expandable kind to maximize the use of space.
11. Pantry Corners (Do We Have To?)
Using Lazy Susans on pantry corners is a good idea to maintain access to those awkward spaces. For added convenience, consider those lazy susans with raised edges and divisions so that what you place in them does not fall off.
12. Snacks, Anyone?
Consider baskets or bins to place individually packed snacks. Remove them from their original boxes or packaging first.
13. Dry Goods: The Pantry Defining Item
Dry goods will define your pantry’s biggest question: Do you want a Pinterest pantry or a more functional one?
The Pinterest look is a high-maintenance alternative, as it requires consistently transferring all dry goods to containers each time you bring new products home.
The functional approach allows items to remain in their original packaging but clustered in bins or baskets.
Dry goods are cereals, rice, grains, dry fruit, crackers, cookies, pasta, flour, chips, and the like. These items should not be exposed to moisture and should last for some time after opening the package.
Pro Tip: measure each shelf to determine the space available and count how many different kinds of dry products are in your dry goods category. Whether you use the functional or high-maintenance approach, you must first know what to buy and how much.
Pro Tip: Stay clear of round containers, as they waste a lot of space. Go with rectangular or square, but stick to the same type of container to achieve a polished look.
14. Labeling Is Important
Labeling is a necessary step. It allows everyone to find what’s needed quickly. Labeling also reminds everyone where to put things back; thus, it is crucial to preserve the pantry order when many people share the space.
When using containers in your pantry, label these with a system that adapts to changes. Tastes and preferences of household members change over time. You want a labeling system that looks great but that can be modified easily.
If you use the cluster method to keep items in your pantry, label your bins or baskets with the product category.
But regardless of your preferred method, labeling the shelves also is a good idea. Label the shelf space where each item category should go.
15. Where Do Spices Go?
Unless you keep your cooking spices next to the stove, these should go in the pantry. As with any other pantry group, spices should be together and have specific space on a shelf. A tiered spice rack on the shelf is ideal for placing all the spices because it lets you see them all at once.
When pantry shelf space is not an option, the Elfa Spice Rack comes to the rescue! This clever solution goes on the inside of your pantry door – a true lifesaver.
These tips will help transform your pantry into a happier, more efficient place for the benefit of everyone involved.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some pantry help. We love pantries!
Not surprisingly, the first assignment was called the “kitchen reset.”
In the kitchen reset, we were to:
Discard all ingredients contrary to the plant-based philosophy
Acquire those ingredients needed to prepare the meals
Organize both the pantry and the refrigerator
The Organized Kitchen and Mise En Place
This assignment made me think of the tight relationship between having an organized kitchen and the Mise en Place concept.
We can easily monitor product freshness and inventory levels with an organized pantry and refrigerator. That’s a big step in favor of nutritional quality and budget control.
Also, having an organized kitchen allows one to achieve the mental and emotional readiness required to be efficient at and enjoy the process of cooking.
Organized and clean kitchens are more inviting, so we use them more often than messy, cluttered ones. Owners of such kitchens enjoy cooking and tend to cook healthier meals.
Efficient Kitchen Systems
To become a true kitchen ninja, you better know more than what a Mise en Place is.
Daily processes, maintenance routines, and kitchen systems are the heroes behind an efficient, enjoyable kitchen and a happy cooking time.
For example, the value of meal services such as Green Chef or Blue Apron is the Mise en Place delivered to your door. They provide all the ingredients needed to prepare dinners in the amount required. Their ingredients have been sourced, washed, cut, and individually packed for your specific meal, including the recipe to follow.
However, suppose you wish to enjoy that same efficiency in meal prepping but without the price tag of a meal delivery service. In that case, you must consider the processes behind Mise en Place and the systems that support an efficient kitchen.
Four processes support an efficient kitchen and a streamlined meal prep process.
Managing Recipes & Meal Planning
Organizing Fridge & Freezer
Managing Recipes & Meal Planning
Managing your recipes removes all those clippings, books, and notes in our cabinets. But most importantly, it promotes using favorite recipes in healthier, varied menu creation. The key is how you organize your recipes to start using them daily. See the video where we discuss recipe management here.
As a bonus, managing the recipes makes developing the weekly grocery shopping list easier without overbuying (recipes include all ingredient amounts). Not overbuying means less waste of food and money.
What happens to all those items bought at the grocery store when they come home? These need to become part of our systems to improve kitchen efficiency.
Incorporating groceries into our systems means that pantry products and refrigerated items must be unbagged, unboxed, stripped of outer packaging as much as possible, washed, cut, divided, re-containerized, or decanted.
The goal is to have every item needed to cook or assemble a snack or breakfast ready to be used as much as possible.
Organizing Fridge & Freezer
An organized fridge and freezer means adequately designating the containers to maintain those items processed from grocery shopping.
Containers should seal properly, be transparent or translucent, be labeled (choose a labeling system that allows for constant changes), be BPA-free, and be dishwasher and microwave-safe.
The freezer and fridge organization also needs to consider the zoning. Everyone can easily find what they need by grouping items in the freezer and fridge according to purpose or type of meal.
The pantry configuration can make or break your time in the kitchen. The organization of the pantry should maximize the use of its space, add convenience with the placement of items, and maintain product freshness. Read all about the details that comprise a stellar pantry here.
Achieving a functional storage space that looks great inside and out is challenging. For example, what do you do with an overload of things to organize when there is little to no closet, drawer, or cabinet space available?
That’s when people typically place everything anywhere, just as long as these things are on a flat surface. Well, that does not look organized or pretty (but no one said they were trying either).
Some places do have open storage space by design. And this is where the challenge is.
One of the most charming houses I’ve ever worked with was a custom-built home without any storage space! The few areas available to store things, even in the kitchen, were small and exposed (as in no cabinets, drawers, etc.). Furthermore, every storage area consisted of built-in niches, which made using storage furniture pieces an awkward proposition.
Consider This To Make It Work
Some factors to consider when organizing an area with open storage are the style of the space, harmonious storage solutions, minimalism, and maintenance.
When things need to remain in plain sight due to lack of concealed storage space, arrange them stylishly- those items that might look good enough to display by themselves.
However, when storing items that clearly can’t stand by themselves as they are, like food or cleaning products, consider using baskets or bins that share either color or style to create a homogeneous, harmonic look that complements the style of the space. Otherwise, the area will look disorganized and cluttered.
Maintenance is essential because, over time, we turn blind to the looks of a space we see daily. Due to its openness, we forget that such storage space is an integral part of the area’s decor and style. Therefore, visible space needs to be well-kept, not only in order but also in color, item arrangement, and balance with the rest of the space.
Consider the picture below.
Open storage space is an organizing challenge
This kitchen would only look this appealing with attention to color balance, positioning, and item amount. Some kitchens rely on open shelves like these instead of upper cabinets.
NOTE: The attention that open storage space requires does not excuse using cabinets and drawers carelessly (as in shoving everything inside in a messy pile) because these are concealed storage areas. These covered spaces still need to be organized so we know what we have and can easily access them. Otherwise, why keep any of it?
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you are in a difficult spot deciding about your open storage space.
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Don’t you go insane when you hear the dreaded daily question: “What’s for dinner?” (please admit you roll your eyes at least).
What if I told you that the horrendous hour after grocery shopping might be essential to spare you the feeling you get when you hear that question?
What happens after you come home from grocery shopping? Do you place plastic bags in the fridge to avoid dealing with the groceries? You might find the lightbulbs and toilet paper you bought inside the fridge tomorrow morning.
I confess I don’t particularly appreciate going to the grocery store. And it is not necessarily the process of buying the stuff. Instead, what follows gets me – when all that stuff comes home. It takes me much longer to organize what I bring from the store than the errand.
Yet, I manage the groceries every single time. An hour devoted to the process pays off in many ways during the week.
This helps me save time while cooking, allows me to plan varied, healthy meals, looks delicious and inviting (so family members get interested in healthy cooking), and makes cooking joyful when everything is organized, fresh, clean, and accessible.
So, if you dislike the after-grocery shopping events like me, here are eight steps to help you stay on top of your game.
Plan Daily Menus
Schedule an hour to plan your menus for the entire week. Make this a commitment and calendar this hour on the same day, at the same time every week. Make a list of ingredients for each dish with specific quantities according to the amount you plan to prepare. Having the particular amounts you need helps you save money by not overbuying and not wasting products.
Pull out those index cards and mix and match your dishes to get complete meals. All the information you need to prepare your grocery list will be there. Leave those index cards out, group them by meal and date of the week, and you’ll be ready to go when you start cooking.
Calendar The Shopping Trip
Choose a day of the week to plan your grocery shopping and do this every week. If this is part of your routine, it will become a habit. As part of your grocery shopping process, block in your calendar the time needed to deal with the stuff when you bring the groceries home.
Invest In Fridge Containers
Select containers that are similar in size and shape, so they stack nicely in the fridge and freezer. Avoid round containers because they don’t use the space efficiently. Stay with a line that serves the refrigerator and freezer, so you only buy one type of container. Select a microwave-safe system, dishwasher-safe, and BPA-free line of containers. I love the these containers for fridge and freezer.
Wash and Prepare Produce
Remove all packaging. Remove stems and other non-edible parts and cut up the fruits and vegetables. Your produce will stay fresh longer by washing and repacking in sealed containers. Also, your fridge and pantry will look spectacular. Everything washed, cut, and ready to go will make meal prep straightforward and more pleasant. You’ll have your Mise en Place in a flash!
Another great advantage of following this routine is having healthy snacks very accessible. When we are hungry, we eat what’s available. And if we have ready-made fruit packs or cut-up veggies available, we will probably make healthier snack choices.
Remove Packing From Frozen Item
You save a lot of space in the freezer and fridge when you remove your frozen items from the packaging and re-group them in designated freezer containers or use your freezer door compartments. Frozen fruits and vegetables in bags, for example, stack poorly, and once the bags are opened, the content starts deteriorating.
Organize The Fridge With Bins
Typically, the fridge has a couple of drawers to keep some items at slightly different temperatures. But you can add some bins to the refrigerator to create compartments and separate products by categories. Your fridge will look fantastic, and items will be easier to find. In addition, it will be easier to monitor what’s there, what we need to buy, and what has expired. Some fridges’ design allows the drawers to be substituted with some bins to create even more space.
Be sure to complete the labeling part. You must know their expiration date to maintain the freshness of your fridge and freezer products. I know labels can be problematic, and the process could be tedious. Labels in the freezer and fridge need to change quite often. Pick a flexible label system such as Label Once labels! Write on them with any sharpie or marker and erase them with an eraser. These labels stay on the containers, even if you put them in the microwave or the dishwasher. It is simple to label and relabel this product.
Respect The Pantry
Use transparent or translucent air-tight containers for dry goods such as flour, sugar, rice, pasta, dry beans, chips, cookies, crackers, and cereal. This way, products stay fresh longer, and you’ll know how much is left. These containers stack well and give your pantry that polished look we all want. Bags and opened boxes do not look appealing or stack well; they can spill, and the product inside can get contaminated.
For all other products that don’t need decanting to containers, use baskets or bins to create product categories and separate food groups.
Have a condiment system, whether a section inside the pantry or a designated cabinet next to the stove. Another alternative for condiments is to use the Elfa Spice Rack. This tool makes excellent use of the much-neglected vertical space of the pantry door.
An organized kitchen reduces food waste and promotes cleanliness, joyful cooking, and a healthier lifestyle. Get in the habit of managing your groceries after going to the store and see your productivity, efficiency, and joy in the kitchen exponentially grow.