Take Control of Your Kitchen with These 8 Tips from Lazy Genius Kendra Adachi

published May 13, 2022
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Credit: Lissa Gotwals

If you’ve ever walked into your kitchen; taken a moment of silence; and then glanced under the sink, in the drawers, and on the shelves of the pantry and decided it was time for a change, then you know the feelings that follow are both exciting and terrifying. The idea of reorganizing your kitchen or getting into meal prep is daunting, to say the least. 

Luckily, though, we have the organizing prowess and expertise of author and podcaster Kendra Adachi of The Lazy Genius Collective. Adachi released her first book, The Lazy Genius Way, in 2020 and her latest book, The Lazy Genius Kitchen, in spring of 2022. Both books are full of tips, tricks, and wisdom to help people tackle tasks that are important to them — and simply stop caring about those things that aren’t. Or, in the words of the Lazy Genius motto: Be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t

Adachi started The Lazy Genius Collective as a way to help families navigate the struggles that come with trying to answer the question, “How do I do it all?” Well, Adachi will likely tell you it’s OK to not try to do it all, and that it is indeed OK to not be perfect at everything. “I love being a permission giver in the kitchen because I think it’s one of the most stressful rooms in the house,” Adachi told me. “But with just a few things, it can be one of those life-changing rooms.” Here are five ways to apply the Lazy Genius philosophy to your kitchen.

1. Start small.

One of the most difficult parts of getting your groove back in the kitchen is simply knowing how and where to start. Adachi recommends focusing on one small area of your kitchen at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. 

2. Know that it’s OK to only have one skillet.

“Small” also applies to the number of things in your kitchen. Adachi encourages readers to declutter and only have what they really need in their kitchens. “If you only have one skillet and one pot, you’re not a bad cook or a bad adult,” Adachi told me. “We all get to make the rules that make the most sense for us.”

3. Decide on things once.

Another major guiding principle in LGK is learning how to decide once, and only once, when it comes to how you do things in the kitchen. Instead of revisiting decisions, Adachi recommends making an informed decision and never thinking about it again. When thinking, “Should the chips go on the middle or bottom shelf?” or “Should I buy meat from Costco or Sam’s Club?” choose one of those things and then stick to it going forward.

4. Consider a meal matrix.

One way in which Adachi applies the principle of only deciding things once is her Meal Matrix concept. “A Meal Matrix is a way of deciding just once what type of meal goes on what day, and then all you have to do is plug-and-play,” Adachi writes in LGK. “Pasta Monday, Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday, etc.” 

5. You can choose function over form.

Adachi says that one of most prominent misconceptions related to organizing is that everything has to be pretty. While making things look nice isn’t a crime, the pressure to emulate what we see on social media can be heavy. Adachi says that the prettiest way of organizing isn’t always the most efficient. “It’s OK to prioritize things being lovely,” Adachi tells me. “But if that’s where you begin and you think it needs to look that way in order for it to work, then you sacrifice the function.” For example, Adachi’s kids love anything and everything crunchy when it comes to snack time. The solution? One big drawer dedicated to chips. There are no special stacked bins or color coordinated bags. “It’s not pretty at all, but it functions fine and it works for us,” Adachi told me. “So there’s freedom to not make everything pretty.”

6. Consider these 3 “Ps” for making meals: people, proficiency, and pleasure.

The task of choosing something to make for dinner that will keep everyone happy is a feat. This is where Adachi’s principles for meal planning come in. “If you want to feel like yourself when you cook and eat, consider your people, your proficiency, your pleasure,” says Adachi in LGK. “If you cook for other people, their pleasure is probably tied to yours.” When you feel stumped about what to make for everyone, consider the “Ps” as a jumping-off point.

7. Name what matters.

Another way you can look at meal planning is through “naming what matters,” which is another one of LGK’s major principles. If what matters most to you is simply having more home-cooked meals, “Instead of going ‘I have to cook all the time or I’m never going to cook at all,’ you can decide to start by having one comforting meal a week that you love,” Adachi said in our interview. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you tell yourself you have to cook every meal yourself if that’s not really what you want. If you can make a promise to yourself to make that one meal, you’ll likely be happier than if you make yourself feel bad for not cooking everything. 

8. Stick to food and ingredient combos you know work every time.

Staying creative and motivated in the kitchen can be challenging — especially if you’re not well-versed in making recipes up on the spot. While sticking to the old “protein plus vegetable plus starch” formula for dinner is standard, Adachi advises focusing less on the mechanics of a meal and more on the flavors you love. In the “How to Make Food Taste Good” chapter of LGK, Adachi provides “27 ingredient combinations that will never let you down.” According to Adachi, some of the food combinations that are always safe to fall back on include tomato, basil, and mozzarella; steak, potatoes, and horseradish; and shrimp, garlic, and lime. When you think about it, these trios can really be transformed into just about any dish you’re in the mood for – all you have to do is a little mixing and matching. A tomato, basil, and mozzarella soup, a steak, potato, and horseradish dinner salad, and a garlic-lime shrimp pizza all sound rather amazing to me! When you think about dinner in this way, it takes away a good amount of the mental lift, and let’s you enjoy your time in the kitchen much more.