What if Michael Phelps was your swim teacher or Julianne Hough taught you to dance? You’d probably rock it because if you want to do something well, why not go straight to a master teacher?

That’s why we tapped the expertise of busy chefs for their advice on how to organize your kitchen. Try some of these steal-worthy tips today for a more organized space and an easier cooking process.

pantry jars of chia seeds, and brown sugar

Use Bulk Containers

Empty bags of flour, sugar, rice and any other basics you use in bulk in large, airtight containers with mouths big enough to scoop at least a one-cup measuring spoon into.

-Brad Nierenberg, Bradthegourmand.com, Scranton, PA

Label and Date

Use a Sharpie and masking tape to label and date bulk items as well as anything in the refrigerator, from a carton of soy milk to take-out boxes. No more trying to remember or guess when you opened it.

-Anh Luu, executive chef, Tapalaya Portland, OR

Gizmos Together

Group all your random gadgets together in baskets in cabinets or organizer trays in drawers. Corn cob pokies, cherry pitters and avocado scoopers should all have a home together. Having them loose in drawers tends to lead to always feeling like one or more is missing. -Ariane Resnick private chef, Los Angeles Kitchen Storage of Grains, Rice & Legumes

Food Groups

Put like with like; as in putting all of the pasta in one place and stacking cans of veggies together. Corral containers too by keeping all the lids in the same bin, then stack containers. -Anh Luu

Consistent Containers

Create a system for your storage containers instead of just buying and using random ones. Choose a set of half-pint, pint and quart containers which can stack on top of each other to make your pantry or fridge space efficiently organized. -Jenny Dorsey, co-founder and chef,  I Forgot It’s Wednesday, New York City

Heavy Rotation

Rotate by using the “FIFO” system: “First In First Out!” to help keep food fresh. Put the new cans of soup or boxes of cereal behind the old ones so you never wonder which was purchased first.

-Anh Luu

Spiced Up Rack

A pull-out spice rack can easily be mounted in a cabinet, making it simple to find spices, even if you can’t come up with a system to categorize them.

-Brad Nierenberg

Pegboard Filled with Old Cooking Gadgets

Go Vertical

Use vertical space. I am a huge fan of peg boards — there is usually free wall space somewhere in the kitchen, and you can customize the size of the boards. They are great for hanging kitchen utensils, pots, pans, strainers and lids for storage containers, among other items.

-Marcus Lage, chef, Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, Kihei, Maui

Bookshelf Pantry

No pantry? Store all of your staples on a freestanding bookshelf or other freestanding piece of furniture. A wire shelf fits easily into modern and contemporary spaces while classic wooden pieces blend with most decor.

-Marisa Baggett, sushi chef, Memphis, TN

Display Your Snacks

I keep snacks out in the open so that no one has to displace my organized cabinets. Smaller items such as granola or nuts get decanted into clear glass jars while bags of chips and crackers rest neatly in an oversized bowl. It’s easy enough to move these items out of sight when you have guests over, but I actually love seeing food in a kitchen. -Marisa Baggett

Lose What You Don’t Use

Be realistic about what you really use, and give it a home accordingly. For instance, you might love the idea of making bread, but if you only do it once a year, don’t take up counter space with a bread maker. Seeing it regularly won’t inspire you to make bread more often, but will actually probably make you feel guilty for not doing it. -Ariane Resnick

Whiteboard Fridge

Paint the side of your fridge into a whiteboard and use it to write down to-do items and grocery lists. -Jenny Dorsey

Prep Like a Pro

Use the French technique of “mise in place,” which means “everything in its place.”  Before you start cooking, make sure you have everything you need out and ready: salt, pepper, oil, butter, knives, cooking tools, cutting board, pans, etc. Many cooks make sure everything is chopped and ready before starting to cook. Having your recipe, ingredients and timing planned out is essential. Even if you are just throwing stuff together, you at least will have your staples at hand, and it will make things easier to “wing it.” -Carlo Lamagna, executive chef, Clyde Common; chef/co-owner of Honky Tonk Taco in Portland, OR

Clean As You Go

Prep for clean up while you cook. Always empty the dishwasher before you start cooking and keep a large bowl of hot soapy water in the sink to soak utensils and tools as you go. 

-Brad Nierenberg

Protect Your Recipes

Use plastic sheets to protect your recipes. You can also use a dry erase pen right on the plastic to note times or other details.

-Scott Lutey, executive chef, Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, Seattle

Keep Essentials Close

Keep “heat of the moment” items near the heat. Anything you use involving the stove, like spatulas and pots, should be in drawers right next to it. Otherwise, that few-second trip to a faraway drawer for a tool you need could result in your food burning.

-Ariane Resnick

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Cathie Ericson
  • http://www.TheSeanaMethod.com/ Seana Turner

    Great idea to use a bookshelf if you don’t have a pantry!

    • http://www.sparefoot.com Jodi Bart Holzband

      I thought so too!

  • Jill Robson

    Love it, i grew up with a father who was a chef , and i agree with everything on your list, and i do all of them. Cooking is easy if your are prepared.

    • http://www.sparefoot.com Jodi Bart Holzband

      Glad to know it rang true to you, Jill.

  • http://www.janetbarclay.com/ Janet Barclay

    The biggest reason to assemble everything before you start cooking is so you don’t get halfway through a recipe and realize you’re missing a key ingredient. This may have happened to me; I’m not admitting anything.

    • http://www.sparefoot.com Jodi Bart Holzband

      LOL Janet! I’m the worst at this! It’s my husbands pet peeve. I just get so excited to get going that I skip the prep. I usually regret it.

  • Hilda Rodgers

    I love the vertical space tip… it really helps maximize space… especially in a small kitchen.

  • http://www.classicallyorganized.com Sarah Soboleski

    I know the one in / one out rule, but I like the first in / first out rule for the kitchen! Such a clever round up of tips!

  • http://bradthegourmand.com/ Brad Nierenberg

    Thanks for using a few of my tips along with all the great advice you got from other chefs!

  • http://getorganizedalready.com GetOrganizedAlready

    So many helpful ideas here.
    Going to the pros is the best idea.
    Look to retails stores to find inspiration for storing those items. Look to chefs’ kitchens for inspiration there.
    Great stuff, Cathie! Thank you for writing it all down for us.

    -Nonnahs
    And I love displaying the snacks on my counter. Decant Decant Decant. <3<3<3