5 Clever Organizing Tips from Olympian, Cookbook Author, and Winemaker Natalie Coughlin

published Aug 6, 2021
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Three-time Olympian Natalie Coughlin has always had a competitive spirit. The swimmer has earned an impressive 12 medals for Team USA, and she became the very first American female athlete in modern Olympic history to win six medals in a single Olympics. Today, that winning drive continues in her career as a cookbook author and winemaker at Napa Valley’s Gaderian Wines.

With the excitement of the Tokyo Olympics on our mind, we caught up with Coughlin — who recently appeared on the Olympic Channel’s Legends Live On — to ask her about her success beyond the pool (and in the kitchen!). She’s super busy (as you might’ve guessed!) so we wanted to know, specifically, how she stays organized and on top of it all. These are her five best tips.

1. Keep must-have items ready at your workstation.

Coughlin has found that certain items are worth always having handy as you cook. For her, this list includes a wet rag to wipe her hands, a chef’s knife, and a cutting board. “This helps keep my station clean and organized,” she says. She also keeps a compost bowl and a kitchen scrap bowl (for her chickens!) next to her board. “As I prep, I clean off my board and discard the scraps,” she says. At the stove, Coughlin has a salt pig with kosher salt, a jar of finishing salt, and a pepper mill, too. Plus, she also has three squeeze bottles of oils: one filled with a robust olive oil, another with a mild olive oil, and one with avocado oil.

2. Sorting like items together. 

To keep an orderly kitchen, Coughlin has perfected the idea of organizing items by type. For example, she routinely keeps her spices together and all pastas together, and so on. “This allows you to effectively shop your pantry and avoid repeatedly purchasing that one spice over and over and over when you already have it. I see you, cumin!” she says.

Simply put, Coughlin advises, “Marie Kondo the heck out of your kitchen! Always store like with like, and be brutally honest with the multiples that you find. Do you really need six wooden spoons? If the answer is yes, keep it! If it’s just taking up space, thank it for what it has done for you and donate it.”

3. Decant as much as you can in the pantry.

Coughlin says the key to keeping pantry items fresh and well-organized is to decant as much as you can. “Staring at a pile of half-used bags of pasta, beans, and grains is the worst,” she laughs.

She’s a big fan of wide-mouthed Mason jars, too. Her go-to glass storage: Quattro Stagioni jars, which come in all sorts of different sizes to accommodate dried beans, nuts, spices, rice, grains, and more. “Just don’t forget to buy yourself a wide-mouthed funnel, too!” she says. Besides using these practical jars for food storage, Coughlin explains they are also useful for fermentation, to use as drinking glasses, and for canning projects. “They are incredibly versatile and durable,” she says.

4. Get a label maker … and use it.

“My label maker is invaluable!” says Coughlin, who recommends taking the time to label and alphabetize spices. By labeling everything, it helps to prevent duplicate purchases.

5. Download an app or two.

One of Coughlin’s favorite organization tips is making use of technology. Paprika, she says, has become the best recipe app she has ever purchased. Here’s why: You can manually add recipes, upload recipes directly from a URL, organize recipes, share them, and scale as necessary, she says.

Coughlin adds, “Plus, you can create your grocery list from this app. So, if you’re at the farmers market and see an ingredient you know you have a great recipe for, you can easily look up that recipe and get the necessary ingredients!”

We’d give Coughlin the gold for these organizational tips! If you’re also inspired by her advice, tell us in the comments below.