25 Daily Habits That Make Life in the Kitchen a Million Times Better

published Nov 16, 2019
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The kitchen can be your happy place. That’s not to say we think you’ll be doing an Irish jig every time you have to make dinner, but at the very least, you can turn the kitchen into a zone where you feel at peace.

That’s a lot easier said than done, though, we realize. So to make it seem more possible, we asked the editors from our sister site, Kitchn, to share the little things that they do to make their kitchens better on the daily. Here are the 25 habits they rely on to keep on kickin’ in the kitchen.

Credit: Diana Liang

Christopher Michel, Food Director

  • I put on music! I have speakers in the kitchen and usually have some kind of upbeat mix on Spotify or whatever album/band I’m currently into (right now it’s Vampire Weekend’s “Father of the Bride”) queued up. It puts me in the mood to cook and makes dinner prep more fun.
  • I keep my favorite chef’s knife on a magnet right next to the counter, and store the cutting boards right there, too, so when I go to start cooking, my place for prep is all set up and ready to go.
  • I put out a small snack for the kids (like nuts or those mini mozzarella balls from BelGioioso) and I pour myself a half a glass of wine. This cuts a bit of the “have to have food NOW” pressure, buys a little time for me to make whatever I’m going to make, and makes me feel like I’m relaxing and enjoying the end of my day *while* making dinner, instead of feeling like I have to get through dinner before I can relax.
Credit: Diana Liang

Lisa Freedman, Lifestyle Director

  • I wipe down my counters constantly. I’m not sure how our counters get so crumby and sticky (although I have a theory and I’m married to it), but I make it a point to wipe down my counters at least twice a day. There’s something so nice about a clean counter!
  • I pack up leftovers directly into lunch-sized containers, so that I can just pull one out of the fridge the next day. No reason to put it all into a big container and THEN some of it into a smaller one.
  • I make a conscious effort to put my food storage containers away neatly. I used to have a super-messy cabinet that made it DANGEROUS to take one out. I reorganized it and now I make sure to put things back in a way that makes sense.

Grace Elkus, Deputy Food Director

  • I keep a small basket in the freezer that holds sealed bags and airtight containers of nuts and seeds. They used to be piled up in a jumbled mess, but the basket keeps them corralled, and freezing them prevents them from going rancid as quickly.
  • I clean out my fridge before doing my weekly grocery shop. I’ve started doing a bigger shop on Sundays, but before I go I take inventory of what I have and what I need to use up, and base my meal plan and shopping list on that.
  • Whenever I prep greens — even if I just need half a head of cabbage or romaine for the dish I’m making — I’ll chop and wash the full thing, then store what I don’t use in the fridge. I’m always thankful for less prep the following night. 
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Faith Durand, Editor-in-Chief

  • I clean out the sink after the dishes are done; this is a refreshing reset for an often-gunky part of the kitchen.
  • I fill a big bowl with hot, soapy water and slip silverware and cooking utensils into it throughout the day.
  • I keep a running list on a whiteboard in the kitchen of ingredients and leftovers in the fridge. This is so helpful for me and my husband to see what’s still there, and it helps keep the fridge cleaner, too.
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Meghan Splawn, Associate Food Editor

  • We meal plan and do some prep every weekend. I used to be a very detailed meal prepper, but I find my planning has shifted now that we have two school-aged kids. It helps to have a few meals planned for the week and some lunch and breakfast staples to keep us eating well during busy weeks.
  • After dinner we do a 10-minute family pick-up. I set a timer and usually start in the kitchen and the kids pick up their toys and backpacks. It helps us all relax during the bath, books, bed routine and somehow makes the morning easier, too.
Credit: Alliance

Christine Gallary, Food Editor-at Large

  • As tired as I am, I make sure the counters are clean and the sink is cleared every night. Because I’m not a morning person, it makes the morning rush a little more bearable.
  • I try to keep similar foods together in the fridge to both find them easier and so that things don’t get lost. Fruit together, leftovers together, and breakfast things together.
  • I take an extra minute to pull everything I need out of the fridge/pantry before I start prepping dinner. It saves so much back and forth and I don’t forget to prep something! As things are used and ready to go back in the fridge, I just set them aside in one place on the counter and put them away in one go toward the end or when I have a moment.
  • I make a conscious effort to put dirty dishes into the sink in some semblance of order. Silverware and measuring spoons go into a bowl or glass of soapy water, like things are stacked. It makes loading the dishwasher much faster and there’s less of a chance of a whole pile of dishes crashing. Side note: I also married someone who doesn’t mind doing dishes. That counts, right?
  • I always pour myself a big glass of water before I start prepping or cooking. If I don’t, I either forget to drink or keep putting off drinking water and end up thirsty and grumpy.

Ariel Knutson, News & Culture Editor

  • I keep a roll of tape and a sharpie on top of my fridge. Makes it easy to quickly label things I made or purchased.
  • I lay out mise en place. This one is super important to me. I like prepping and measuring everything I need before I start cooking so I don’t panic when I can’t find something.
  • I wash dishes and countertops as I go. Makes cleaning after eating so much less of a pain.
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Lauren Masur, Staff Writer

  • I keep a running list in the Notes app on my phone of every single thing that I have in my fridge, freezer, and pantry. Some weeks I find that I hardly have to grocery shop at all as long as I get a little creative. Of course, that sometimes means that making dinner sometimes looks like an episode of “Chopped”. Oh well, I’ve saved so much money on groceries I don’t need.
  • Embrace “nextovers.” I learned this from Meghan’s podcast, Didn’t I Just Feed You: “Any time you cook a meal component, whether it’s vegetables or grains, just double it.” I’m only cooking for one person (me), so I’m not really a big-batch home cook, but that doesn’t mean I can’t apply some of the principles to my own life. My favorite thing to meal prep for the week? A pot of rice.
  • To make life easier for myself, I make sure I always have ingredients in my freezer to cobble together a morning smoothie. I feel so much better knowing that I don’t have to overthink at least one meal of the day. As The Lazy Genius would call it, a smoothie is my “brainless crowd-pleaser.”

What are some habits that make the kitchen your happy place?

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: 25 Daily Habits That Make Life in the Kitchen a Million Times Better