It’s super important, but: Do you know why you need better kitchen organization?

I worked for years as a line cook in a variety of restaurants, and you know what tip stuck with me the most? Hint: it wasn’t splashing water next to a cheeseburger on a grill so the steam would melt the cheese (good tip, tho).

No, the best tip I took from working in professional kitchens is this: organize yo’self. 

Pro cooks call it ‘mise en place’, which is French for ‘set in place’. This is the most important part of your kitchen organization.

Put simply, it means everything in the kitchen has a ‘home’. And not only that, but God bless you if you move something out of its home and you don’t put it back; you will face the wrath of not just your boss but the rest of the kitchen staff, too.

But another, more important reason for everything having a ‘home’ is that it makes a cooks’ life easier. You work faster this way, without scrambling to find butter or breadcrumbs when you need them the most.

If your home kitchen isn’t organized with a clear, easy-to-follow system, you might not feel the wrath of your boss for being a slowpokey mess. But you will have a harder time making the most of your kitchen.

Let’s take a look at my top 3 reasons why you should get yourself a kitchen organization system already.

With an organized kitchen system, you can:

1. Grab it quick

It probably goes without saying that a well-planned organization system will help you find your stuff faster. You don’t want to start baking cookies only to have to hunt down the baking soda.

But the real magic in an organization system comes not just from knowing where things are, but why they’re there in the first place. For example:

  • Keep the baking ingredients in the cupboard above the stand mixer and mixing bowls.
  • Store your pans with their lids close to the stove.
  • Keep silverware close to the sink so it’s put away clean much easier than traipsing halfway across the kitchen.
  • In the fridge, place defrosting meats in a dish or bowl on the bottom shelf. This way, any dripped juices won’t contaminate the rest of your fridge.
  • Put hot sauce and ketchup in the fridge door so they’re grabbed quickly on the way to the table.

These little things make a big difference in terms of speed!

Check out this example diagram I put together. Obviously, every kitchen is laid out different and requires its own system. But see how like item is placed with like item? The ‘flow’ of products, appliances, and ingredients makes sense compared to the location of the stove, sink, and fridge. I only wish my NYC kitchen was this big and airy, but that’s for another day.

Do you know why you need better kitchen organization? Years as a line cook taught me this important kitchen tip: organize yo'self. Here's why.

Side note, I only wish my NYC kitchen was this big and airy, but that’s for another day.

2.Use FIFO

‘FIFO’ stands for ‘first in, first out’.

It’s also the way grocery stores stock their goods; the oldest thing goes in front of the newer thing.


You have a box of chicken broth that will expire soon. That soon-to-expire box of chicken stock should be used in something so it doesn’t go to waste, yes; but it should also be in front of the next oldest box of chicken stock. Not only will you be able to grab it quickly, like in Step One, but you’ll be able to tell immediately that you need to write ‘chicken stock’ on your grocery list.

This means a little extra work when you’re putting away groceries since you have to rotate the new stuff to the back, but it saves a ton of money in the long run and gives you peace of mind.

Won’t it be nice to never have to find yourself hunting down, say, tomato paste while swearing to yourself, “I KNOW I bought it last week! Or did I use it? Did someone else use it? WHERE DID IT GO.”

 3. Ninja-like speed

When you have a kitchen organization system, you can cook much faster. There’s no scramble. As you get to know your system, you can reach without thinking to grab the olive oil, or a pan, quickly move boiled pasta from the stovetop to a colander without extra steps involved. A smart system means you work faster, which gets dinner on the table quick. And that’s why we’re all here, right?

The key takeaway

The thing is, all three steps work together in order to best get your kitchen organized. Once you’ve got things in their ‘homes’, are operating with a FIFO rotation, and are so knowledgeable as to how your system works, your meals will get on the table faster, you’ll save money at the grocery store by not buying what you need, and (bonus) anyone can come into your kitchen and easily find their way around.

This also marks the end of this series! Woot woot! If you hung with me all the way through, you’re a freaking rockstar. I’d love if you shared your favorite part of the series so others can benefit, too!

Click below to read the last three posts in the ‘Make the Most of Your Kitchen Series’ 

How to Cook ‘Family Meal’ Like a Chef

‘Don’t Throw That Out!’ Reusing Leftover Food

The 5+ Best, ‘Must-Have’ Kitchen Appliances Every Busy Cook Needs

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