As the days grow colder every autumn, our appetites and our cooking styles change with the new season. Different types of produce become available at the farmer's markets and grocery stores. We crave different foods - hot soups, baked potatoes, pot pies, casseroles, chilis, crusty breads, pies, apples, pears, and hearty vegetables.
Those of us who live in colder, rainy or snowy, darker climates might find ourselves going out to restaurants less in the upcoming months. We might stay home for quiet meals, or have just two or three other people over for dinner. We might be trying to save money in this difficult economy, by cooking at home or entertaining just two or three guests instead of many.
It's time to start gearing up for fall cooking, baking, feeding overnight guests, giving food gifts, and entertaining. Time to sort and organize our kitchens, take inventory, and stock our pantries with necessities.
QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:
- Fridge and freezer maintenance - Clean, sort, sanitize and organize one shelf, one drawer, or two door pockets in both your fridge and your freezer today.
- Do you put up Halloween lights indoors, outdoors or both? Is it time to put them up?
- Make menu plans and create your grocery list for the week.
- Life can't be just about doing housework or homemaking! Go to a movie tonight after today's project is done; get out a book; go out with friends; take a bath; listen to music; or catch up on your backlog of DVR shows.
TODAY'S PROJECT: Fall Kitchen Organization, Part 1
I prepare my kitchen for autumn in manageable chunks. I'll put in a huge amount of effort today, on a Sunday, but leave myself time to relax and enjoy my weekend evening. I'll continue my efforts with about an hour of work each evening this week. I'll make it fun, by turning on the little TV I keep in the kitchen, playing music in the living room, and enjoying tea or wine while I work.
Even if you hate cooking, or if you don't consider yourself a cook, you'll need to get your kitchen in order. That way someone who does the cooking in your household (perhaps your husband, boyfriend, teenager, grandmother, mother-in-law, or good friend who comes over and gets bossy in your kitchen) has all the tools and supplies they need.
- Go through your stack or folder of takeout menus from various restaurants. Throw away duplicates or out-of-date menus, and organize your collection. Store near the phone for easy access. There will no doubt be cold nights ahead when you're too tired to cook and don't want to go out. Those menus will come in handy. Get in the habit of grabbing a take-out menu whenever you're at a restaurant you like that offers them. Plan ahead for those cold, rainy, snowy nights.
- Go through your potholders and kitchen towels, immediately discarding any limp, smelly kitchen towels or crusty, stained potholders. Be firm with yourself - don't give in to the temptation to keep an old towel around "just in case." Transfer old kitchen towels to your Rag pile (I use mine for dusting, cleaning floors and windows, etc.) But then get rid of one of your worst rags for every old kitchen towel you put in the rag pile. It's all about avoiding clutter and weeding out unnecessary items in our lives.
- Put new potholders and new kitchen towels on your shopping list, as needed. Don't forget to grab some next time you are at the grocery store. Many stores are actually carrying attractive seasonal towels right now (as opposed to some of the hideous monstrosities I see at other times of the year), so you should easily be able to find something you like. It's a small expense that makes your home cleaner, cozier and prettier, so don't be afraid to skimp somewhere else in your budget in order to afford $10 worth of new kitchen towels.
- If you have guests helping you in your kitchen often, please be sure to have plenty of clean, soft, dry towels for people to dry their hands with. I can't tell you how often I end up with red, chapped hands from helping do dishes at someone else's house and not being able to properly dry my hands; or from drying my hands on very rough scratchy towels.
Seasonal Contrast Striped Dishcloth, at Williams-Sonoma
- Speaking of towels, check your paper towel inventory (if you use those). Be sure you have a good supply.
- Take a look around your kitchen and see what needs to be done to make your kitchen clean, usable, enjoyable and efficient. Can you declutter items off the counters? Any appliances you don't use every week that you can store elsewhere?
- You won't want to be sorting and organizing in a dirty kitchen. So today is the day to empty and fill the dishwasher, scrub the sink and counters, wipe down all the cabinet doors, and mop the floor. Empty the trash can and take out the recycling. Wash windows as needed. Sort through fruit bowls and get rid of anything rotting. Wash fruit bowls and replace back on the counter, preferably with fresh fruit you'll pick up at the store today.
Done with your preparations for the rest of this week's kitchen projects? Get yourself in the fall cooking mood, if you at all enjoy cooking magazines, by treating yourself to reading one or two today. Pick up Bon Appetit, Food & Wine or even just the fall Williams-Sonoma catalog - or read their websites to save money. Have a nice cup of coffee or tea and something to munch on as you browse - looking at beautifully photographed food makes me so hungry! Visit fun food, cooking and home-decor webpages tonight during your nightly Internet browsing time. Drool over kitchen gadgets you don't need and can't afford, impractically beautiful expensive dishes, and amazing mail-order pastries. Get on your TIVO and look for cooking shows that are coming up to record, if you like such a thing.
Have fun looking at beautiful things today, because we have a lot of work to do in the kitchen tomorrow and the rest of this week.