Good Morning! I’m Brittany Wise and I’m the blogger behind Our Home Made Easy. Over there I love sharing easy methods of cooking dinner, home décor, and DIY projects that working parents can finish quickly.
Carolina has been sweet enough to let me say ‘Hi!’ and have a chance to meet y’all. I have a fellow love for butter when I am cooking meals in our home. Some of my favorite dinners are Taco Burger Sliders and Easy Chicken & Vegetables Quinoa Casserole. Are you sensing a theme? We love easy prep in our chaotic house. 🙂
This morning I want to discuss how to make life easier in the kitchen. What makes cooking dinner during the week enjoyable? Aside from butter, because it goes with everything, it’s a little kitchen-centric organization that helps out so much!
So let’s get started! If you’re like me, and need to keep toddlers entertained while cooking dinner, you’ll enjoy my 7 simple habits that will keep your kitchen organized while cooking dinner!
1. Immediately Tackle the Drop-Off Zone
I know, I know, I mentioned “while cooking dinner.” In order to cook dinner without feeling instantly overwhelmed, it’s super important to put away all of the items that magically appear when everyone arrives home. Between the four of us we have 4 lunch boxes, 1 tote bag, 3 book bags, and a purse. Occasionally extra stuff comes in, too… like the mail. ☺ Drop off can overwhelm your whole cooking space and make you unconsciously feel like you’re squeezing in to prep/cook.
Solution: Take 3-5 minutes and devote it to immediately unpacking every box and bag. Empty each lunch bag and toss the plastic dishes in the sink (away from the countertop). Discard any paperwork (like that junk mail). Hang up the tote bag & book bags so they are not lying on the counters.
2. Have Specific Locations for Everything
This seems so simple right? But sometimes just getting started is its own large act! As a start, consider keeping all of the pots that you use 80% of your nights closest to your stove. Group your spices together. I need to do this when I realized that I was mixing my baking items with the spices. The result was a lot of moving flour and & sugars just to find Italian Seasoning in the back.
The best part of this habit? It’s completely free.
Solution: Start by designating a staging area for every item that comes in each evening. Next, consider grouping food items by use. Look at your pots & pans to see if there is a more convenient way to store them so that they can be quickly retrieved.
3. Sacrifice Style for Minimalism
I love looking at blogs that have beautiful wooden cutting boards stacked with pretty bowls full of fruit and wall art leaning against the wall. The scene makes for a lovely picture. Unfortunately, that much stuff clutters up a busy parent’s flow during the evening. The same concept applies to all the appliances that take up too much counter space! If we had every appliance that looked cool, my husband would’ve filled up our kitchen by now! 😉
Solution: Review the items on your countertop. Consider paring down your décor to maximize your workspace. Move items you don’t use every 2 or 3 nights to another location or in a high cabinet.
4. Clean As You Go
Have you ever noticed on cooking shows how their kitchen never seems like they are really cooking in it? Maybe it’s just me…. The secret to making you feel like you have complete control in cooking is to clean while you go. I learned this while taking a cake decorating class in Alabama. My instructor was firm that every step needed to be cleaned up before we moved on! I couldn’t believe it… but yet it worked. I was more focused on the current task and didn’t dread the impending clean up if I hadn’t been cleaning as I was going!
In the event you need to step away from the kitchen, because kids… you’ll walk back in knowing where you left off and with less clean up to do.
Solution: As you use a set of like ingredients, place them back in the cabinets. When you’d normally toss measuring spoons into the sink, place them in the dishwasher instead. You’ll alleviate having to touch them twice.
5. Consider a Portable Kid’s Zone
One of the hardest parts for any young parent, is what to do with the kids during dinner prep. We battle between telling them why they can’t have another treat and how it will only be a few more minutes until dinnertime. For safety reasons, it’s such a struggle keeping them away from the cook top and open oven. To keep our toddlers busy, but still nearby, Aubrey has a plastic pencil box (it’s pretty big) that is full of crayons, marker, and coloring pencils. She knows that while we are in the kitchen she can go over to the mess drawer, pull out her box and color pages for us. This allows us to enjoy each other without yelling for more snacks and we still make dinner in a reasonable amount of time. Once dinner is ready, it’s a rule that her art supplies need to be put back into the drawer for the next night.
This eliminates the extra clutter that always seems to end up right below my feet when I’m trying to drain a pot. Anyone else?
Solution: Have a reclosable box that contains crayons or coloring supplies. Keep it tucked away in a drawer. We’ve been doing this nightly for almost a year. It’s fun because Aubrey only uses these supplies when she is sitting at the island, so it’s still a novelty. And… she is staying safe away from hot pans and stovetops!
6. Incorporate Their Help
As Aubrey gets older she asks more and more to help. Rather than to shut her out completely, or start her on a task that will result in a considerable amount of work, I let her help. She and her brother are in charge of setting the table. I remember this fondly growing up; my sister & I traded off who set out the silverware and who set out the plates & napkins.
As she is getting older, she is asking to bake more with me. I’ve found that I’m about 115% more likely to get her to try new a recipe if she has a hand in pouring a new ingredient or mixing it up for me.
Solution: Assign age specific tasks to make dinner a family affair. Allow these items to be done them nightly to avoid kids running around asking to ‘help’ with every step of dinner. By the time dinner is ready you’ll be satisfied to just be finished and they’ll be proud to have helped!
7. Lastly, Lose the Mom-Guilt of a Pinterest Worthy Kitchen
I worry all the time that I’m not cooking a good-enough dinner in my beautifully staged kitchen because I’m not making a casserole from scratch every single night. Or that I forgot to cut up the veggies in time for the kids’ snacks and now they are mush.
Such a waste of energy.
I’ve learned that we can organize and create systems that really help our families, but we can’t do it all flawlessly. And that is perfectly okay.
Solution: Cooking in a kitchen with a young family is so difficult. You’re doing a great job. Find which habits works best for your family. One or two can have a large enough impact that you’ll instantly feel in control. My goal is to make your dinnertime as easy as possible and leave you still enjoying your family!
Whew. That was so much information! If you liked it and want even more ideas on how to make your weeknights easier, consider enrolling in my FREE 5 day eCourse. [Click here to enroll!] Yes, it’s free and super easy. 🙂 I’d be so excited if you joined!
Thank you so much for having me!
Brittany Wise is a full time working mama who has a to-do list that is often too long. She spends her evenings with her toddlers, Aubrey & Owen, and husband Jordan. She was Ohio born, enjoyed her Alabama living, and am now a Michigander. But we still yell “Go Buckeyes!” every Saturday. After everyone goes to bed, she blogs their latest projects at Our Home Made Easy.