3 Things Everyone Should Always Label in the Kitchen

published Nov 21, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Labeling brings next-level order into any space. When objects are graced with words, it tells you and everyone else where to find something — and where to put it away when they’re done with it.

It also cuts down on frustration when looking for items. If things are stored in plain opaque containers, you don’t know what’s what without labels. But even if items are stored in clear or semi-transparent containers, labels cut down on visual strain and the subtly stressful feeling that comes with searching for something. They provide a calm place to rest the eye, each one a straightforward “sign” that points you in the right direction.

In addition, labeling is often a key part of an organization system that can actually be maintained. Even the most spic-and-span space won’t be that way for long if no one puts things back where they’re supposed to go. Labeling leaves no excuses, and this applies not only to labels on containers, but even on shelves and drawers.

You may not be an avid labeler, and that’s totally okay, of course. But even if you don’t label your refrigerator and pantry shelves or the hooks that hold rags used for different things like I do, you can borrow this habit to save you money and frustration in a few specific areas in the kitchen.

Here are some suggestions of things to label, even if you’re not a labeler:

Leftovers.

Putting a use-by date on your leftovers means you won’t be outraged when you catch your husband eating leftovers from a week ago that he found in the back of the fridge. The Mayo Clinic says leftovers can be kept for four days max before the risk of food poisoning increases.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Items you freeze so they don’t go bad.

We all have mystery items in our freezers and, really, these too often end up being nothing more than garbage that takes up space in your freezer until you decide to get rid of it. But label that extra tomato paste or marinated meat and it’s far more likely it’ll get used before it gets freezer burned or your give up trying to guess what it is and toss it.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Products you decant into other containers.

It saves space and it looks nice when you decant things like flour and sugar into modular containers for your pantry. But you will quickly lose appreciation for the practice if you can’t tell the difference between the pancake mix and the all-purpose flour when you want to make brunch.