Meal Planning Archives - Page 2 of 2 - Percolate Kitchen

3 Reasons Why You Need Better Kitchen Organization

Better kitchen organization is crucial to making quick, easy recipes. Don't just DIY it; use this handy template for ideas on organizing your own kitchen! Better kitchen organization is crucial to making quick, easy recipes. Don't just DIY it; use this handy template for ideas on organizing your own kitchen!

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.

PSST: Want to grab the template from this post AND all 22 recipes, cheat sheets, and worksheets from all the other posts in the series?

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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.

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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.

Example:

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

This is so helpful! Totally saving this for my new kitchen, I love that it helps organize and decide what i need to get, it even includes awesome recipes for each appliance.


What are the best, ‘must have’ kitchen appliances to keep in your arsenal?

I’m talking about the kitchen gadgets and ‘must have’ kitchen appliances you turn to every day. Is your kitchen well-stocked? Bare as can be? Do you keep your favorite, most-used items organized neatly, or are there gadgets and measuring spoons falling out of every cupboard?

A worker is nothing without his tools, and the same goes for a cook in the kitchen. However, a quick stroll down the kitchen aisle in Target tells you there are likely way more ‘must have’ kitchen appliances you could ever use or need; the trick is figuring out what’s is a must-have, and what’s a must-not.

After all: all the fancy ingredients in the world don’t really matter all that much if you don’t have a can opener!

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So what’s a cook, especially one who’s hoping to streamline their kitchen processes, to do?

Which appliances do you make sure you own, which to get rid of, which do you own but keep out of the kitchen in the name of reducing clutter?

Which kitchen appliances do you really need?

For this next post in my ‘Make the Most of Your Kitchen‘ series, I’ll go over the 5 essential gadgets/appliances I think every good kitchen really should have, plus a few gadgets I consider helpful if you’ve got the room, but not in the category of essential.

What’s even better? A FREE COOKBOOK that features recipes used in this post, plus the others: How to Cook ‘Family Meal’ Just Like a Chef, Repurposing Leftover Ingredients, and 3 Reasons Why You Need Better Kitchen Organization. They’re all bundled together, full of checklists and guides and recipes, and it’s yours if you want it. Just leave your email down below and I’ll send it over to you immediately!

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Ready? Let’s go!

Before I begin:

You have a good knife, right? I consider a good chef’s knife so completely essential that I’m not even going to list it here as a must-have. Needing a good knife in the kitchen is like ‘needing’ CO2 to convert air into oxygen; it’s that important. So make sure you’ve got a good one, keep it sharpened (more on that below) and let’s start with the rest.

How stocked is your kitchen arsenal? I'm talking about those essential, must-have products and gadgets in your kitchen. What do you have to have?1. Handheld grater 

We use our small, hand-held grater just about more than anything else in the kitchen, with the exception of a knife and cutting board.  I use it to grate garlic when I don’t feel like mincing and to finely grate cheese into the kids’ omelets in the morning. I grate nutmeg into cookies and smoothies in the winter. I’ve even grated stale bread into breadcrumbs when I forgot to buy more and needed them for a recipe!

Tip: Make sure your grater has a handle that is comfortable and won’t slide off after a few years of use.  I also like the plastic protector on this one; ours got lost years ago. We now have to keep it up and away on a higher shelf, so tiny fingers don’t get cut when ‘helping’ in the kitchen.

Replace your grater every 3-5 years or so, so the holes stay sharp. The difference between a sharp grater and a dull one will amaze you.

I Recommend: This OXO Good Grips Grater, $10

Great Budget Buy: Culina Hand-held Fine Spice Grater, $5

Make this with it! Chilled Tomato Soup

How stocked is your kitchen arsenal? I'm talking about those essential, must-have products and gadgets in your kitchen. What do you have to have?2. Slow Cooker

Truly, I can’t mom without a slow cooker. This is the exact model we have here at home, and it’s a steal at only $19.

It’s inexpensive but does the job, for sure. I feed our family of four using this Crockpot slow cooker at least once a week in the winter.

Pros: It cleans up easy, is light to transport, and has an even heat distribution although I feel it runs a little on the hot side.

Cons: This particular brand is round, so I can’t fit oddly shaped cuts of meat or a whole chicken comfortably inside. The lid rattles during cooking, meaning that occasionally I have to tie the lid down using rubber bands attached to the handles

I Recommend This Black and Decker Teal-Colored Beauty. $33. It would look amazing in my kitchen #noshame

Great Budget Buy: (pictured) Crock-Pot 3-Quart Round Manual Slow Cooker, $19

Make This With It: Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

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How stocked is your kitchen arsenal? I'm talking about those essential, must-have products and gadgets in your kitchen. What do you have to have?3. Hand Mixer

Besides being great for mixing cookie dough and cake batter, whipping egg whites, creaming butter, and all other baking activities, I love my hand mixer because it makes such fabulous homemade mayonnaise and Caesar salad dressing.

Have you ever made either from scratch? It could not be easier with a hand mixer, especially if your mixer comes with a whisk attachment as well as beaters. Not only that, but freshly made Ceasar dressing keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator and tastes a million times better than anything you’d buy bottled. (Want the recipe? Click the ‘Make This With It recipe below!)

I RecommendKitchenAid 7-Speed Digital Hand Mixer, $66

Great Budget Buy: (picturedHamilton Beach 62695V Power Deluxe Hand Mixer, $27

Make This With It: Homemade Caesar Dressing

How stocked is your kitchen arsenal? I'm talking about those essential, must-have products and gadgets in your kitchen. What do you have to have?4. Food processor

Likely one of the more expensive items on this list (though still under $100!) I love my food processor. If the house was burning and I knew my husband and kids were safe, I would grab my food processor.

I use it constantly, especially when making chicken nuggets, meatballs, soup, patties, hummus, and so much more. (There’s a recipe for chicken nuggets below, the free download!)

I Recommend: This KitchenAid 7-Cup Food Processor, $79

Great Budget Buy: Hamilton Beach 10-Cup Food Processor, $36

Make This With It: Chicken and Spinach ‘Nuggets’

How stocked is your kitchen arsenal? I'm talking about those essential, must-have products and gadgets in your kitchen. What do you have to have?5. High Quality Cutting Board

There is something lovely about chopping vegetables with a well-made cutting board.

This may seem like a silly investment, but for under $20, it totally upgrades your cooking experience. A good quality wooden board just feels nice under your knife.

 

 

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To properly care for your wooden cutting board, follow these tips:

  • Make sure to wash in extra-hot and soapy water
  • Rinse well
  • Hand dry immediately to prevent cracks or warping. Every once and a while,
  • Every once and a while, rub it down with mineral oil.

I Recommend: I adore my Martha Stewart brand rosewood cutting board with nonslip feet, but they don’t make them anymore. If you’re feeling like a splurge, I popped this guy into my cart earlier today while browsing for this post.  $40

Great Budget Buy: (pictured) Extra-Large Bamboo Cutting Board , $19.99

Make This With It: 10 Minute Apple and Cabbage Slaw

More kitchen items I recommend:

Regarding the chef’s knife: it’s so important. You don’t have to go out and buy a Wusthof in order to have a good chef’s knife; this does not need to be an expensive investment. This is a link to a pretty decent knife, and it’s less than $30. 

My number one request of your chef’s knife? Keep it sharp, please. You have a better chance of cutting yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one. If you don’t know how to sharpen your knife or don’t care to learn, have it sharpened a few times a year by a professional. Most hardware stores will do it for you.

Immersion Blender, $26: I’ve had this little immersion blender for almost 10 years now and it is a total workhorse. It’s mid-range on price but a powerful kitchen tool. I use it mainly for blending soups right in the pot, although I have also used it to make baby food and smoothies.

Mandoline, $30: perfect for slicing potato chips, zucchini chips, crinkle fries, and potatoes for a dauphinoise or Spanish tortilla.

Pyrex Glass Measuring Cups, $7 : I rely on these just as often as I do my smaller, individual measuring cups. I prefer to use these for liquid measures and my individual cups for dry measures. (Check out this post for a recipe converter sheet, if you’re ever halving or doubling a recipe!)

3-Inch Mini Strainer, $9 : So cute and so functional. When I’m in a hurry at dinnertime (uh, always) I sometimes give my daughter an individual serving of peas as her vegetable choice. This little sieve makes draining the peas super simple. I also use it for loose tea.

And, that’s a wrap! You really don’t have to break the bank to outfit your kitchen. Oh, and don’t forget the coffee maker. My kitchen would look naked without a coffee maker. My brain would feel naked without the jolt that the coffee maker gives me. It’s important.

Make the Most of Your Kitchen

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Check back next week for the final post in the series! I’ll be covering how organizing your fridge and pantry can save you oodles of money. It’s a keeper.

Did you see the recipe suggestions for these favorite items? If you’d like them all in a printable pdf sheet, leave your email above to grab the download.

Please note the affiliate links in this post! If you click a link and make a purchase, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting Percolate Kitchen!

How stocked is your kitchen arsenal? I'm talking about those essential, must-have products and gadgets in your kitchen. What do you have to have?

“Don’t Throw That Out!” Reusing Leftover Food In Your Kitchen

Stop! Don't throw it out; follow this guide to reusing leftover food. Here's a huge list of ideas, with downloadable recipes & an easy infographic.

Stop! Don't throw it out; follow this guide to reusing leftover food. Here's a huge list of ideas, with downloadable recipes & an easy infographic.

Stop! Don't throw it out; follow this guide to reusing leftover food. Here's a huge list of ideas, with downloadable recipes & an easy infographic.

Stop! Don’t throw out those old leftovers before reading this first. Here’s a handy guide to repurposing and reusing leftover food.

It’s the hallmark of good meal planning; stretching one dinner into two. Of course, it’s a simple change to turn a roast chicken dinner one night into chicken salad the next; but what do you do with those really random ingredients, which might not be so obvious? Reusing leftover food can save you so much time and money!

You have to think outside the box and figure out just how you’re going to use up the rest of that buttermilk, but that’s not always so easy when you’re busy and dinner needs to get on the table, pronto.

One Meal, Two Dinners

I have totally been there! So I put on my designer hat and created a handy cheat sheet that helps you figure out just how go about reusing leftover food in your own kitchen.

You can pin the image to save for later! It’s got some great recipe ideas, each of which is listed below. If the recipe is available on this site, it’ll be a clickable link. If you want access to all the recipe, click the big yellow button below to download a full PDF.  Follow the ‘read more’ link for more!

Stop! Don't throw it out; follow this guide to reusing leftover food. Here's a huge list of ideas, with downloadable recipes & an easy infographic.

(psst! Before you click- leave your email to access ALL 22 recipes, cheat sheets, worksheets, templates and advice in this ‘Make More Of Your Kitchen’ series!)

Make the Most of Your Kitchen

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(more…)

How To Cook ‘Family Meal’ Just Like a Chef

Have you ever heard of the restaurant “family meal”? It’s a term used in the hospitality industry, and it usually means a big meal that the chef makes for the rest of the staff.

Before service, everyone on shift that night sits down and eats together. Family meal is the perfect way to connect with your fellow staff members before the insanity of a busy dinner shift hits. It’s also the perfect way for the kitchen to reuse leftover food and cook straight from the heart, instead of ‘by the book’.

Since everyone is sitting together, the family meal also gives the manager a chance inform the staff about important things going on that night. They’ll run through specials, what’s 86’d (ie what the kitchen or bar has run out of), big parties or special guests that have reserved tables, or give a heads up on items that need to get “pushed” (ie, encourage your customers to buy)

Isn’t that just like how you imagine a good family meal in your own home to be? The best meals use up whatever is currently in the kitchen to make a big, satisfying meal, then everyone sits down together and hashes out their days and plans.

(psst! First, download ALL 22 recipes, cheat sheets, guides and templates from this kitchen series!)

Make the Most of Your Kitchen

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(more…)

This is the Ultimate Pantry Essentials Checklist (includes my go-to items!)

What's in YOUR pantry? Here's a handful of some of my go-to items, products, and ingredients that help me cook simple, quick dinners and meals.

Check out this handy Pantry Essentials Checklist to make sure you never run out of your most-used items!

Click the image to be taken to the pantry essentials download, and then read on to see some of my favorite quick recipes and meal ideas using these essentials. I like to slip this printable into a plastic sleeve and then use a dry-erase marker to check things off as needed.

Go to percolatekitchen.com/pantry-essentials-checklist to download the full pdf!

Life is easier when we’re not rushing around to get food on the table! One of the simplest ways to stay on top of meal prep is to always keep a well-stocked pantry. Having a trove of your most-used non-perishable goods on hand will make quick and simple recipes easier to pull off, leaving you less stressed, with less waste, and on top of your game. a pantry essentials checklist keeps your on your game!

Below you’ll find a handful of items I always keep in my cupboards, fridge, and freezer, with a short explanation of how I use these items. It’s right there after the jump!

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My Top Three Meal Planning Basics (plus a Printable Meal Planner!)

Meal planning for beginners on a budget? Here are some great ideas, plud a free printable meal planner!

Looking for tips to begin meal planning on a budget? Not sure where to start? I’ve got my three fave tips for beginner meal planners, PLUS a handy printable meal planner template.

Before we begin, though, I gotta tell ya: my top three meal planning basics are juuuuuust a little different from what you might normally see online when people recommend you start a meal plan!

I’ve spent a lot of time and effort in trying to figure out how to create the best meal plan for my family.

When I was just beginning to get into meal planning, I would read every blog article, post, or piece of advice I could get my hands on.

Eventually, I figured out how to piece together the best budget meal plan for my family.

After some trial and error, I eventually honed my meal planning efforts well enough that we could see not only a marked difference in our grocery bills, but my overall stress level as well!

I’d love to share with you today my top three meal planning basics, which I turn to every week as I sit down to plan out what we’ll be cooking and eating.

Here’s how you usually find advice for beginning to meal plan:

  1. Go through your recipes and decide what you want to eat this week
  2. Keep a recipe box or binder of your favorite recipes as go-to’s
  3. Buy groceries (in bulk if you can)
  4. Above all else: stick to the plan

The biggest problem for me was that “the plan” so often wound up resorting to overly processed food in order to be made quickly enough to get on the dinner table.

I wanted to make fresh, homemade food for my family that didn’t rely on canned soups, seasoning packets, or other flavor boosters that take the place of longer cooking times.

We’re a meat-eating, dairy-loving, no-allergy family with zero special diets to consider. If I had a hard time figuring out what the heck to make for us, I can’t even imagine what it would be like for people and their families who are on special diets or living with allergies.

Something had to give!

So I pieced together this handy list of my top three meal planning basics!

(Psst- want my handy meal planner template? it’s part of my awesome Meal Planning Bundle, and it’s yours, free! Fill out the form with your email and I’ll send it to you!)Free! Download my super-helpful, crazy-handy meal planning bundle. Join 500+ others who've joined and gained access to my helpful guides! This handy bundle is exactly what you need to jump-start your meal planning process. It couldn't be easier!

I’ve been tweaking my meal planning skillz here for a few years now, and I want to share with you today my top three meal planning basics for creating a meal plan for my family that works.

We live in New York City, one of the most expensive cities on the planet, and I usually keep our weekly grocery shop for 4 people to ~$100/under. Don’t think that’s possible? It totally is!

Here’s how I do it:

1. Look at what’s in your refrigerator now.  

Don’t just plan to cook what you feel like cooking; so often this means over-purchasing at the grocery store and food winds up either getting thrown out or shoved it in the freezer to be forgotten about there.

2. Don’t over plan.

Life happens. Try not to plan a full 7 days in advance and purchase food for each day; instead, plan one night for food delivery, if your budget allows, and one night of leftovers.

3. Make sure each recipe – or at least most recipes – in your meal plan can “chain” together.

(This one is my favorite tip!)

Not sure what I mean by “chain”? Check out this meal plan example:
Monday: Weeknight Crispy Orange Beef, served over white rice, with roasted broccolini
Tuesday: Chicken and Rice Soup, with leftover broccolini and leftover white rice
Wednesday: Vegetarian Skillet Chili, with avocado, sour cream and shredded cheddar on top
Thursday: Slow cooker shredded pork tacos, with leftover Vegetarian Skillet Chili on top, avocado, sour cream

and so on!

See what I did there? Each recipe “chains” to the next, for the most part.

 If you plan ahead as you’re cooking, you can use the leftovers from one meal to start the next! Sometimes, it’s the entire dish that’s getting leftover (as with the Vegetarian Skillet Chili as a taco topping), or it’s a component of the recipe (the white rice from the Weeknight Crispy Orange Beef gets reused in a soup the next day).

There are so many benefits to planning this way!
√you don’t wind up with a ton of excess food at the end of the week
√you’re still eating something new and different every night
√your grocery bills get cut down because you’re sharing ingredients between dishes.

Woohoo! Cash money and delicious food for everybody!

 

Want to use the same handy meal planner I use to create my meal “chains”? (It even has room for your grocery list!) Fill it out, stick it up in your kitchen, and get on top of your week. 

Leave your email address below and then click “Send It To Me!” to access the download!