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Prairie Fare: Conquering Kitchen Clutter Takes Self-discipline

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
Sometimes simple rearrangements will help you keep everything you need at hand.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

I cleared a stack of mail and newspapers from my kitchen countertop and another stack from the table. This paper is multiplying at night when we’re asleep, I thought to myself.

As I sorted and discarded, I thought about a study reported in The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues. The researchers worked with moms of young children, who probably rank among the world’s busiest people.

Twenty moms participated in 45-minute telephone interviews. Overall, they cited limited or poorly used storage space, lack of time and “family members who mess it up” as barriers to keeping their kitchens organized.

In another phase of the study, moms tried out educational packets that helped them analyze the zones in their kitchens and prioritize the changes that were needed. They identified barriers to streamlined cooking and strategies to overcome the issues they found.

Overall, the moms gave high ratings to the advice provided by the researchers. I will share some of the insights and suggestions and add a few of my own.

Think about your own kitchen. Your needs change through time as children grow up or your living situation changes. Sometimes simple rearrangements will help you keep everything you need at hand.

Could you tweak the organization of your kitchen to increase efficiency? Instead of organizing things by where they fit, try to place them in easy reach of where they will be used. Can you easily reach everything you need when you are making cookies? Could you streamline your drawers to get rid of duplicates?

Consider creating “centers” in your kitchen. These are centers commonly described in textbooks about kitchen organization:

  • Food storage and preparation center: This typically would be located around the refrigerator-freezer, with cabinets nearby. Along with food, you would store accessory items such as foil, plastic wrap and storage containers in this area.
  • Cooking and serving center: In this area, you would keep your pots, pans and cooking utensils, such as spatulas, serving bowls and potholders.
  • Cleanup area: In this area, located by the sink and dishwasher (if you have one), you would store your dishtowels, cloths and detergents. You also might have your colander and vegetable peeler within reach.

Controlling kitchen clutter takes some personal discipline and help from others in your household. To keep a handle on accumulating papers, set aside a regular time to sort through them. Instead of dropping items on the counter, provide a rolling file cabinet or plastic tub in a designated spot for “stuff.”

Consider picking up a set of stacking trays to keep papers in, designating one for each family member. Be sure the information in the trays has an expiration date, or the trays can become out-of-control stacks.

An organized, uncluttered kitchen is a pleasant place to cook. If you are time-strapped, keeping your kitchen organized can reduce your stress and help increase your cooking efficiency.

The Web site of the Canned Food Alliance at has many more tips to help you organize your kitchen and serve flavorful, economical meals. It also has numerous tasty recipes such as this one.

Curried Chicken Salad with Peaches

1 10-ounce can chunk premium white-meat chicken,(see note below) drained

1 8-ounce can peaches* in juice, drained, chopped

1/2 c. raisins

1/4 c. light mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1 tsp. curry powder

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

4 large lettuce leaves

Pita pocket bread

Note: Leftover grilled chicken and fresh peaches could be substituted for canned.

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, peaches and raisins. Separately blend mayonnaise, vinegar, curry powder and garlic powder. Add blended ingredients to the chicken mixture. Mix gently. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, if desired. To serve, spoon chicken salad onto lettuce leaves. Serve with pita pocket bread.

Makes four servings. Each serving (without bread) has 200 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 26 g of carbohydrate and 440 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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