I am so excited for fall and for all the family fun that it brings. Cooler air, festivals, family celebrations and delicious food.  Being a chef means that this year, like most years, Thanksgiving is at my house. I don’t know about you, but every year I promise myself THIS year my holidays are going to be more organized and less stressful. Organization makes everything easier, but when gearing up for the holidays, many of us don’t have a bunch of spare time to take on such a project. That’s why I came up with this list of 31 simple kitchen organization tasks.  This list breaks it down so single-day tasks so that I can be ready to entertain my large group of 25 this Thanksgiving. When November 1st rolls around, getting these simple daily tasks done will free up my time and let me enjoy my family and friends.

Pumpkins on front steps of home during Halloween/Thanksgiving sEach of these 31 tasks are meant to take about 30 minutes, but definitely no longer than an hour. These tasks do not have to be done in any order, per se. When I begin, I set a timer and stick to it.  That way I don’t allow myself to get off task or get stuck doing more than I intended. If it’s not perfect… so be it! You are making progress and that’s what counts.

A perfect home just means that someone is working and stressing way too hard. Let’s get organized, but leave perfection to the elves this holiday season.

  1. Test your oven – Set oven to 350°, place an oven thermometer in the middle of a center shelf and check in 20 minutes to make sure it has come to temperature. Take another reading in another 20 minutes to make sure it is holding temperature. If both readings are around 350° with a 10 degree variance, you are probably fine. If not, now is the time to call the repairman instead of the day before Thanksgiving.
  2. Check, consolidate and restock your spices – Combine any duplicate spices, adding the older one to the top of the newer one (I recently found 3 bottles of  cinnamon in my spice cabinet!). Make sure that any spices you use regularly are not too old and caked. Also, make sure you have all of your go-to holiday spices for cooking and baking, like poultry seasoning, sage, allspice and vanilla extract. Now put everything back in an organized fashion and make a list of what you need so that you can pick them up on your next trip to the grocery.
  3. Consolidate and restock pantry baking items – Combine any extra bags of flour, brown sugar, or baking powder. Here’s a good-to-have list of basic baking ingredients so you can always whip up something sweet without leaving the house; all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, corn starch, white sugar, confectioners’ sugar, light and dark brown sugar, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, honey, molasses, corn syrup, vegetable oil, condensed milk, evaporated milk, pecans and vanilla extract. Add anything you are out of to your shopping list and pick up what you’re missing on your next grocery trip.
  4. Plan your Thanksgiving menu – Write down your menu of all of the delicious things you’d like to have.  With a large group of people, I’ve found that asking friends and relatives to bring a side dish or appetizer helps lighten my Thanksgiving Day load. Make your guest list and shoot them an email and ask!31 tips
  5. Count your chairs, plates, silverware, glasses, napkins and wine glasses – Check that you have plenty of what you want or need for the number of guests you intend to have. It’s a lot more convenient to pick up those items now than stressing about it right before Thanksgiving.  Or, call a friend…you may be able to borrow some items without any additional cost.31 tips
  6. Organize your junk drawer – Having your scissors,rubber bands, tape, bag clips, scrap paper, pens and pencils all in one place will help keep you keep a cool head should the need arise.  This will come in handy all year long as well.
  7. Wipe down the baseboards – Use a little cleaner and a magic eraser to quickly spruce up those baseboards. Don’t go nuts, just identify those problem spots and give them a once-over.
  8. Buy some seasonal scented candles – Nothing says “Welcome!” more than a light holiday scent in the air.
  9. Start saving reusable containers – Don’t throw away those extra jars and plastic containers. They will come in handy when packing leftovers to go.
  10. Wipe down cabinets – Try not to be too particular… just give the face of your cabinets a once-over.
  11. Make room in the freezer Throw out any unidentifiable foods and combine those duplicate bags of frozen peas in a large freezer bag. Then, put everything back in an organized fashion.
  12. Plan 3 holiday go-to cocktails or non-alcoholic cocktails – Restock your liquor cabinet. I love using my Smart Juicer to make fresh juices for cocktails.  It really adds pizzazz.
  13. Download 3 holiday or jazz albums – Nothing helps get you in the mood for being in the kitchen more than good music.  Pick your favorites and get moving!
  14. Sharpen those knives – Do it yourself (carefully) or splurge to have them sharpened by a professional knife sharpener. A professional can often restore them as well.
  15. Check kitchen outlets – Make sure all outlets are in working order. You don’t want to be caught short. On that note, if you have little ones coming and your house is not baby proofed, consider covering all unused outlets to put everyone at ease.
  16. Disinfect trash receptacles – Grab some plastic gloves, disinfecting spray and a toilet brush and take the receptacles outside. Give them a good scrub, rinse and dry.
  17. Test smoke detectors – If you’re like me, these puppies can be a regular part of your cooking routine… but it’s a good time to make sure they are in working order, just in case you forget that apple pie in the oven.
  18. Consolidate and categorize the food in your pantry – Combine any duplicate items in the pantry and reorganize according to category; grains, cans, pasta, condiments, baking items, beans, etc.
  19. Use post-it notes to mark the recipes you will be using in your cookbooks – This way you can easily organize your shopping list and find the recipes in the heat of cooking. You may even want to color coordinate the post-it notes to indicate what day you will be making the recipe on. I make my pies the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and most sides on Wednesday.
  20. Organize your Tupperware drawer/cabinet – Consider labeling your containers with your name if you send guests home with leftovers and want the containers back.
  21. Clean your oven – Not a job you want to save for the day before entertaining. Many modern ovens have a self-cleaning mode that you can take advantage of.
  22. Pick a drawer or cabinet to organize – Just do one. (You know, the one that things always disappear in or fall out of when you open it.)
  23. De-clutter counters – Ask yourself if you use it on a daily or frequent basis. If not, find another place for it. Sort through papers, find a new place for those bills, remove outdated items from the refrigerator doors. Ask yourself if the knickknacks are still bringing you the same pleasure they once did and store all unnecessary items elsewhere. 31 tips
  24. Organize cleaning supplies – Organize and consolidate duplicate items. Restock on any missing items. 31 tips
  25. Throw away or donate 10-15 things from your kitchen – Things have a way of adding up over the years. If you have a duplicate, if it’s broken, or if you haven’t touched it in 5 years… let it go.
  26. Use a cake stand or large plate to hold your top 8-10 kitchen ingredients – Mine are salt, pepper, garlic powder, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, olive oil, ghee, cinnamon sugar, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning. This is a pretty way to store these go-to items on the counter top, and saves time when cooking.
  27. Clean out the refrigerator – Throw away any expired items. Give everything a good wipe down and put everything back according in its proper place.31 tips
  28. Clean the microwave – Place 4-5 paper towels soaked in white distilled vinegar in the microwave and set it for 3-4 minutes. Let the towels cool then give the interior a good scrub down with the wet paper towels. The vinegar loosens up baked on food and freshens the lingering smells from the microwave. Give the outside a nice wipe down as well.
  29. Give your dishwasher some attention – Remove any debris from the bottom drain; run the dishwasher once without any dishes with 2 cups of distilled white vinegar to remove built up grease and grime. Run another empty dishwasher with 1 cup of baking soda to freshen the dishwasher and leave it shiny. 31 tips
  30. Inspect your bakeware and cookware – Make sure over the course of use you still have both parts of your spring form pan and identify any pans you may need to buy or borrow. While you’re at it, put them back in an organized fashion.
  31. Email or call guests – See if anyone has food allergies or specific diet requirements, and let them know what to bring, if anything.
  32. Okay one more thing to do:  Go to Ronco.com and order a Showtime Rotisserie for your turkey, Ready Grill to save on oven space, Smart Juicer for holiday cocktails, Pasta Maker as a gift, a Turbo Dehydrator to make some homemade ornaments for your tree and a Veg-o-Matic to safe time chopping all of those veggies.31 tips

I’ll keep you posted on how my organizing goes.  If you follow along let me know how it goes for you too. Here’s to a relaxed and happy holiday season to you and your family from us here at Ronco.

Chef Paja