Organizing in the Kitchen

The ritual of sharing a meal with loved ones and enjoying fresh food prepared in the kitchen is something that organization expert Peter Walsh says is really important to him. "The kitchen nourishes your family in so many ways and good food—well prepared, lovingly presented—is actually the glue that I believe holds the whole family together," he says. "That is why organization in the kitchen, for me, is absolutely critical."

A caller named Julia says that her kitchen is covered with paperwork from her home office. "The kitchen looks like an office, it doesn't look like a kitchen anymore, and to feed my family at night it takes 20 minutes to clean off the table," she says. Often, Julia says she takes food out of the kitchen and eats elsewhere—a habit that she says leads to overeating.

Peter says the clutter in Julia's kitchen is adding stress to her life and he shares some tips to help her get organized:

  • Do not use the kitchen as an office.
  • Organize your cupboards, shelves and countertops, removing cookware, utensils and other items that you don't routinely use.
  • Remove anything from the kitchen that is not key to the physical and mental nourishment of your family.

NBA star Shaquille O'Neal and his wife Shaunie have six children between them, and keeping everyone's schedules straight is practically a full-time job that Shaunie says requires a lot of organization. In the O'Neal household the kitchen is home to a giant paper calendar that keeps tabs on everyone's comings and goings. "I swear by my calendar," she says. "I try to [fill] it two months at a time—which, of course, that changes a lot. I take my sharpies to it so it is kind of color coordinated."

Peter says keeping the calendar in the kitchen makes perfect sense, and to help make things even more organized, Peter suggests planning out daily meals on the same calendar.

Peter says that variety is important in the kitchen, but trying a new fruit, vegetable or cut of meat can be intimidating. Katherine Melenovsky of Whole Foods Market says when in doubt, ask someone working in the produce aisle or behind the meat counter to fill you in on a new-to-you item.

"They are going to know exactly what it is, where it came from, how much they have in, if they are going to be getting any more in—they know all of the logistics," she says.

America's Test Kitchen, a real test kitchen outside Boston whose goal is to develop delicious recipes, is known for perfecting many mouthwatering recipes found in The New Best Recipe, America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and several other acclaimed cookbooks.

Chris Kimball, who hosts the corresponding cooking show, America's Test Kitchen, talks about the importance of paying attention to the instructions in recipes. "A lot of people think recipes are kind of vague instructions, you know, suggestions," Chris says. "What I say is, 'Look, we spend weeks and sometimes months on [recipes]. [So] please, the first time, follow the recipe.'"

Peter and Oprah Radio producer Rita Whack try out an America's Test Kitchen recipe for crab cakes. Peter says he likes to serve this classic and simple dish with extra lemon juice and homemade remoulade sauce.

Try the recipe yourself!