This week we've been sharing the everyday cooking habits of chefs, cookbook authors, and other people who spend a lot of time cooking, and we're ending the series with a peek inside our own kitchens. Here are the 18 daily habits The Kitchn editors rely on to stay motivated and inspired in our everyday cooking — plus the six habits we're hoping to adopt in the coming year.
18 Daily Habits That Make Life in the Kitchen Better
- I wash as I go which means less clean-up and a more relaxing space to work in.
- I incorporate leftovers into new meals. For example if there's a leftover piece of chicken from last night, I put it into a salad the next day for lunch, or one slice of pie gets chopped up as an ice cream topping.
- I have someone over for dinner at least once a week; it keeps my cooking fresh and my house clean!
- I clean out the sink after the dishes are done; this is a refreshing reset for an often-gunky part of the kitchen.
- I fill a big bowl with hot, soapy water and slip silverware and cooking utensils into it throughout the day.
- I keep a running list on a whiteboard in the kitchen of ingredients and leftovers in the fridge. This is so helpful for me and my husband to see what’s still there, and it helps keep the fridge cleaner too.
- I clean my knife immediately after using it. It's so much easier to get it clean before sticky stuff dries to it, plus I use it constantly, so it's nice to have it always ready to go again.
- I freeze bread. It's just me and my husband in my house, but I always make at least 2 loaves of bread with every batch. I cut each loaf in half, use one immediately, and freeze the rest.
- I make a meal plan. I used to waste a lot of food — particularly produce — because I just bought food spontaneously and it would go bad before I found a way to use it. I finally made a rule for myself that I HAD to have a specific recipe in mind before I could buy anything! It was a complete drag at first (not gonna lie), but now it feels second nature.
- I use a garbage bowl, usually just one of my mixing bowls, which helps keeps my cutting board clean and saves me from frequent trips to the trash.
- I try to always keep a clean towel over my shoulder or within easy reach when I cook. Bar mop towels are great for this. I'll use it as a potholder, or to quickly pat dry vegetables or wipe up a small spill.
- I set up a clean area for myself before I start cooking. Even if the rest of the kitchen is messy, I try to clear off the island completely, or the countertop space next to the stove, so I can have some breathing room for chopping and prepping.
- I capture all the online recipes I want to try in one place — and actually look at them. Like Emma, I make a meal plan every week and I use Paprika to keep track of the recipes I want to try for dinner.
- I transfer bagged food into mason jars. I was already storing beans, grains and other bulk goods in inexpensive canning jars, but this year I started doing the same with trail mix, dried fruit and other food that comes packaged in bags. It keeps my small pantry cupboard neater and more organized.
- I keep a big stockpile of rags near the kitchen. I've been weaning my household off of paper towels for awhile, but I had the biggest breakthrough when I finally sat down one afternoon and sliced up a big pile of old towels and cotton t-shirts into kitchen rags that I now use to clean up even the scummiest messes. Now I never run out between laundry days.
- I keep a roll of tape and a sharpie on top of my fridge. Makes it easy to quickly label things I made or purchased.
- I lay out mise en place. This one is super important to me. I like prepping and measuring everything I need before I start cooking so I don't panic when I can't find something.
- I wash dishes and countertops as I go. Makes cleaning after eating so much less of a pain.
...and 6 Kitchen Habits We Want to Adopt
SARA KATE: I'd like to get better at planning a whole week of meals ahead; as nice as it is to have the skills to cook spontaneously, with children, it helps come dinnertime to actually have a plan.
FAITH: Prep vegetables at the beginning of the week so I snack on healthier foods.
EMMA: Unload the dishwasher as soon as it's clean and start loading dirty dishes into it right away. All too often, I end up with a dishwasher and dish drainer full of clean dishes and a counter so packed with dirty dishes that I don't have room to cook! It's ridiculous! I just need to get in the habit of putting those clean dishes away.
CAMBRIA: Clean the kitchen every single night before I go to bed. I'll admit it — I do not often end the day with a clean kitchen, and it's always super stressful for me the next day. This year I really want to get into the habit of cleaning up entirely before I go to sleep. I know I'll be so much more motivated to cook the next day if I wake up to a neat, sparkling kitchen.
ANJALI: Make big batches of roasted vegetables and hearty salads to snack on throughout the week. I'm trying to get my husband to eat more vegetables for lunch, which he is happy to do, but only if they are as easy to grab as a handful of chips.
ARIEL: I want to entertain more — because cooking + friends is always a good idea. Always.
Readers, what daily habits make life in the kitchen better for you? Any new habits you hope to adopt this year?
(Image credits: Rachel Joy Photos; Chris Perez; Gabriela Herman)