Cooking at Home While Staying at Home Part I

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Part I: Getting Organized in the Kitchen

During the stay-at-home order, you might take advantage of a little extra time to do some spring cleaning in your kitchen. Having the items you need where and when you need them, makes cooking easier and less time-consuming. The first step to organizing your cabinets, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer is to remove everything. This might seem a bit overwhelming, but tackle it one area at a time – one drawer, one cabinet, etc.

Some items in our kitchens are necessary; others not so much. Stick to the items you use on a regular basis. Donate or re-purpose the rest. If possible, organize items based on these basic kitchen categories:

  • Measuring – spoons, dry measuring cups, and liquid measuring cups
  • Cutting – chef’s knife, paring knife, cutting boards, can opener, and kitchen shear
  • Mixing – bowls, spoons, whisks, and spatulas
  • Draining/Rinsing – colanders and slotted spoons
  • Cooking – pots, saute pans, baking dishes, sheet pans, and muffin tins
  • Appliances – slow cooker, skillet, blender, mixer
  • Serving utensils – large spoons, forks, and tongs

Refrigerator & Freezer

Remove all food and throw out any refrigerated leftovers more than four days old. Any frozen food that you cannot identify (be honest, we all have those mystery foods in our freezer), should be discarded. Wash all shelves, drawers, and walls of the refrigerator and freezer with hot soapy water. Rinse with clean, hot water and let air dry. Work quickly so that perishables can be returned as soon as possible. Sort like items together and combine packages if possible to save space. Label and date any products that have been removed from their original container.

For the longest storage life of refrigerated foods, place:

  • Fruits and vegetables in crisper drawers
  • Deli meats and cheeses in the deli drawer
  • Milk and eggs toward the back where it is coldest
  • Raw meats on the lowest shelf
  • Sauces and condiments in the door
  • Leftovers grouped together with the oldest leftovers in front as a reminder to use them first.

The optimal refrigerator temperature is 36-40 degrees. A good rule of thumb is to keep it as cold as possible without freezing delicate foods like lettuce. Optimal freezer temperature is 0 degrees. You can purchase inexpensive refrigerator/freezer thermometers at many stores in the county.


Again, remove everything. Throw away cans that are dented, bulging, or rusted. Wipe down shelves and walls. Hot soapy water, all-purpose cleaner, oil soap, or vacuum can be used depending on the surface. Sort and group similar foods together and return to their proper storage area. Use this same procedure for cleaning out utensil and equipment storage (see list of basic kitchen categories above).

Now that you are organized, check out the next article in this series on using what you have on hand.

Written By

Tracy Davis, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionTracy DavisExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences Call Tracy E-mail Tracy N.C. Cooperative Extension, Rutherford County Center
Updated on Apr 27, 2020
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