Mise En Place is a culinary term that describes the act of gathering, preparing, and organizing all your ingredients and materials before you start cooking.
Mise En Place refers to the physical setup of the process. It also refers to the mental readiness to get the job done. Of course, we need a kitchen with the right ingredients to prepare exquisite, nutritious meals. But a confident physical and psychological readiness is also necessary.
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 when we have 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 true heroes behind an efficient, enjoyable kitchen and a happy cooking time.
The value of meal services such as Green Chef or Blue Apron, for example, is the Mise En Place delivered to your door. They provide all the ingredients needed to prepare dinners in the amount needed. Their ingredients have been sourced, washed, cut, and individually packed for your specific meal, including the recipe to follow, of course.
However, if you wish to enjoy that same efficiency in meal prepping but without the price tag of a meal delivery service, you must pay attention to the processes behind that Mise En Place and the systems that support an efficient kitchen.
Here are four processes that support an efficient kitchen and a streamlined meal prep process.
Managing Recipes & Meal Planning
Organizing Fridge & Freezer
Managing Recipes & Meal Planning
Managing your recipes takes care of all those clippings, books, and notes floating in our cabinets. But most importantly, it promotes the use of 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 it easier to develop the weekly grocery shopping list 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 if we seek to improve kitchen efficiency.
Incorporating groceries into our systems means that pantry products and refrigerated items need to 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 to put together a snack or breakfast as ready to be used 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, preferably 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. By grouping items according to purpose or type of meal in the freezer and fridge, everyone has an easier time finding what they need.
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.
Despite the increase of families ordering take-out dinners, the kitchen is still the heart of the home. This space is central to the house and allows families to gather and share special moments. A well-appointed kitchen is always a joy.
And 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 real attention to these factors when thinking of 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 not much you can do in a kitchen that is cluttered and unappealing. 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 in duplicate or that you do not use or want?
2. Establish Kitchen Work Zones
Kitchen efficiency depends on the proper designation of work zones. To get the most out of your kitchen, establish zones according to how you use the space. 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. Establish these zones according to how you will use each one and what is most efficient.
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 all baking tools and accessories together to save time and effort when baking if you bake.
Keep most frequently used items within easy reach. Less frequently used appliances or seasonal serving dishes, for example, can occupy out-of-the-way places such as higher shelves or back sections of cabinets.
You want to place glasses and dishes in upper cabinets because that space is more accessible. But specifically, glasses probably should go on the upper cabinet closest to the fridge because the fridge is where beverages are.
Dishes might go on an upper cabinet above or directly across from the dishwasher to facilitate putting them away.
The counter area by the fridge is probably the ideal place for a coffee/tea station. Thus, the drawer immediately below that coffee station should have all coffee/tea accessories.
3. Create Extra Storage Options
Sometimes, a proper declutter won’t yield the kitchen 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 inside the pantry for other things.
Pull-out drawer 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 for lack of a proper disposal system. To maintain a clean yet great-looking kitchen, we have to think about the trash situation.
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 that will comfortably fit together in that area: one of trash and one for recycling. Think out of the box when looking for these containers, as these do not need to be actual trashcans. They just need to be light in weight and conform to the required measurements.
If your kitchen does not have cabinet space for trash, it is even more important to pay attention to the style of your trashcan. Consider getting a rectangular, double-sided trashcan. Rectangular ones are easier to disguise. Please avoid round trashcans, which waste space and make their presence unavoidable. 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 left-overs and organize your fridge and freezer (more on that in the following section about systems you should have in place).
You should probably 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 so you can 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.), as well as your trash bags.
7. Know What That “Junk” Drawer Is and Is Not
It is handy to have a miscellaneous drawer in the kitchen but not a junk drawer. Junk drawer implies accepting everything we do not want to decide on — clutter. And it would be best if you did not wish for a clutter drawer. This miscellaneous drawer is not a substitute for the garage either. I have seen drills and all kinds of tools in the “junk drawer” of some kitchens.
The miscellaneous drawer should contain a few things that are often needed, such as a tape measure, a couple of pens, scissors, a note pad, 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 the spices is near the stove, given that this is where we frequently use them. Select an upper cabinet to the right or left of the stove area for the spices. Another great area is the drawer next to the stove.
Once you select the storage space for spices, choose among the many spice storage solutions available to make your life easier while cooking with them.
The pantry is the next best option in the absence of 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 not available, 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!
The kitchen should be well lit in various ways. Ideally, the kitchen will combine top light and task or functional illumination. Light sources are up to your style and budget. However, good, efficient lighting is crucial. In addition, lighting directly 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 important, 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 will be amazed at all the duplicates and expired products in your pantry when you see it all in front of you.
Separate items you are keeping into categories and designate appropriate spaces in the pantry for these categories. Better yet, 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, flours, 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 while browsing social media. It takes some 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, it is best to limit your grocery shopping of produce and meats to smaller quantities that the family will consume weekly. This practice preserves the product’s freshness and nutritional value. It also helps organize your refrigerator space efficiently and enables remembering the items in your fridge 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. Get organized to stop the waste.
By the way, your fridge and freezer need a thorough cleaning and disinfecting each month, on average. Use an open pack of baking soda to get rid of odors in your fridge safely, should this become a concern.
A well-kept kitchen is not a one-time process. Staying tidy requires lifestyle changes. If you’re ready for those changes and would like 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
If you don’t have a meal planning routine, you should see how it can make your life much easier. Of course, this requires some prep work, but it is just once. Then you’ll be gliding through your weekly planning, shopping, 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 truly like or want to try. Then, either clip them or make photocopies of those recipes, so you can individually place them in 4″ X 6″ index cards. Next, 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).
Select 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 its ingredients and the amounts, you have your grocery list done! Add any other items like snacks and miscellaneous needed and go shopping to that list.
Coming back from the store, remove bags and packaging from every item. Wash all produce, meats, fish, etc. Store packaging helps you transport things home but is not appropriate for storing food items in your freezer or fridge. Peel, cut, divide, season all your items as needed and transfer them to your food storage containers.
If you still have some energy left and would like to save significant time during your week, batch-cook dishes shared by some of your recipes. Then use your containers to save those dishes until you need them throughout the week.
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, each person should rinse their items and place them inside the dishwasher instead of leaving them in the sink or the counter. After dinner, presumably the last meal of the day, all dirty stuff will be inside the dishwasher. 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 to accumulate 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. It’s always a good idea to do a weekly fridge cleanout before shopping for groceries. 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. Do not neglect the dishwasher filter. The filter needs to be hand-cleaned about every other week for the dishwasher to do its job correctly.
So, there you have it — fifteen less-than-exciting considerations to make your kitchen space more efficient, whether renovating the area or just reorganizing.
Hopefully, these steps will make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable and productive once into place.
But if you feel this is too much for you to handle alone, you don’t have to. Contact us! We’ll be thrilled to partner with you on your kitchen adventure.