How to Organize Your Kitchen & Planning for Healthier, Easier Cooking
The secret to successful, fast, delicious cooking has as much to do with a prepared, properly -stocked kitchen as it does using great recipes. Our friend Peggy Curry, co-founder of wonderful Curry Girls Kitchen and author of the gorgeous cookbook Damn Good Gluten Free, shows how it’s done with her KIND method (Kitchen Improvements to Nourish Daily) for easier, healthier meal making. Your ticket to practical ways to alleviate meal-prep stress and up the joy of healthy, delicious cooking and eating, it all starts with a little organizing and planning, and includes easy recipes worth making.
Ready? As Peggy says, it’s as easy as one, two, three:
3. Meal Plan
Step 1: Declutter
A fast-working kitchen is an organized kitchen. To set your kitchen up for success, you have to know what you really have. Plus, you want to ensure that what you DO have is the highest quality version possible. This is to give yourself a solid foundation to work from every time you set foot in the kitchen. Start by going through your pantry, fridge, and spice drawers, and check those labels. Toss low-quality ingredients for tastier higher quality ones.
- Let’s start with an easy one: TOSS all expired or oxidized products. Products such as oils, nuts, and seeds that are over their due date and just smell bad. Oxidized also can be rancid.
- For my gluten intolerant/Celiac friends, double check that nothing contains wheat, barley, rye, or any of their derivatives, such as spelt or farro. Most oats are a no-go, too, unless you can eat gluten-free oats. If any products contain these grains, give them to your gluten-eating friends or DONATE to a food bank.
- Now, let’s level up. Check labels for additives, dyes, or low-quality oils *. If some of your favorite products contain such ingredients, take note to look for higher-quality versions in the next step. For now, either DONATE or start to phase these products out over time so their loss doesn’t feel dramatic.
*Additives, dyes, and low-quality oils include added sugars, HFCS/High fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial food coloring/dyes, artificial sugars, nitrates, and words that are hard to pronounce or mysterious. Low-quality oils include hydrogenated oils, and genetically modified oils (such as canola, vegetable, cottonseed, soy, artificial trans fats, and highly heated/fried fats).
Step 2: Replenish
Restocking your pantry after a declutter can be an exciting yet daunting step. Remember to only buy what you actually need. Focus your shopping on finding the highest quality version of your everyday staples. This again means no additives, dyes, GMOs, or low-quality vegetable oils. If you need extra help identifying high-quality foods, check out this article or Peggy’s pantry guide.
For now just make a list of what to replace. Once you’ve done the next step, you can replenish while shopping for your next meals!
Step 3: Meal Plan
You can really save time, stress, and even money by planning out the week’s dinner in advance. No more worrying “What am I going to cook tonight?” or scrambling to the grocery store at the last minute. With a good meal plan, you only need to shop once a week. And since you’ll know exactly what you need to buy, your over-shopping days will soon become a thing of the past. This not only saves you time and money, but it also means less food waste.
If the idea of thinking up a week’s meals seems daunting, we have a solution for you: Theme your dinners! Just pick a type of cuisine for each night of the week to help guide your dinner choices. This eliminates decision fatigue, allows for adding in lots of variety, and builds your kitchen confidence because you can rely upon a formula. You’ll never be bored because every night is a new culinary adventure. Plus, it’s a great way to involve your partner or your roommates or your kids. Everyone can collaborate to pick nightly themes that vibe with the household.
Here’s what a sample week could look like:
Mediterranean Monday: In many areas, Tuesdays are local farmer’s market days. This means Monday nights are the perfect time to use up all leftover produce to make room for new recruits. Italian food is a perfect vehicle for this. Pasta, risotto, or a simple green rice with veggies… or (the kids’ favorite) Cheesy Pasta Bake always tastes extra good loaded with tons of veggies.
Taco Tuesday: Who doesn’t love tacos? Plus, they’re so versatile they can include any combination of vegetables, meat, and seafood. Whether hosting a crowd or cooking with leftover lunches in mind, Taco Pie is the ultimate Tuesday meal.
Wild Fish Wednesday: A visit to the fish counter at the store or your fish monger at your farmers market the day before makes fish on Wednesday easy peasy. Of course with fish, freshness is key, so buy it and cook it! If you’re not a big seafood fan, try this Hazelnut-Crusted Fish It’s made converts out of even the pickiest eaters.
Veggie Thursday: It’s nice to have at least one day a week to focus on vegetables. Minimizing meat consumption is great for the planet and the wallet. Plus, it’s pretty cool to have a couple great vegan/vegetarian recipes under your belt, for when you end up hosting guests with different dietary needs. Who’s not up for a Baked Potato Night of fun loaded with lots of topping options (think grated cheese, steamed broccoli, chopped green onions, sour cream, and more)!
One-Pot Friday: Fridays are perfect for a “set it and forget it” kind of affair. One-pot/one-sheet slow cooked meals are ideal for this. Here are a few recipes to get you started.
Weekend Party: This one is kind of a wild card as we tailored each weekend around our activities and entertaining family and friends. I planned it so that we wouldn’t carry stress over into our weekend plans and activities. Who doesn’t love burgers and pizza. Especially to fit everyone’s food preferences! We made these two meals our family’s go-to for the weekends. However, in Damn Good Gluten Free, Pegs shares many recipes in her weekend chapter for inspiration. Having a little more time, you can gather friends and family for the ultimate BBQ, picnic or dinner that might take a little more time in preparation, but good leftovers for a meal during the week.
Ready to meal plan and shop? Check out the following recipes by Peggy Curry:
Cheesy Baked Pasta
Or grab Peggy’s awesome cookbook, Damn Good Gluten Free, to get the full KIND Method breakdown plus 140 deliciously adaptable gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan/plant-based, and paleo recipes for every day of the week.