10 Smart Kitchen Habits of Highly Organized People

Steal these timesaving, tidying tips from the ever-busy, bustling chefs in our test kitchen.

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Organize Your Cooking Like a Pro

Don't worry, we're not going to tell you to alphabetize your spice jars (how many times have you heard that one?). Instead, we've got some real-world advice from a few of the most-efficient people we know: the chefs and shoppers in Food Network Kitchen. Here's how they cook better, smarter and easier — and how you can too.

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Arrange Your Grocery List by Category

Making a shopping list is a no-brainer. But Amanda Catrini, Food Network Kitchen's purchasing and events coordinator, bolsters her list by organizing it into sections: produce, pantry, dairy/eggs, meat/fish/poultry and bread. Sweet potatoes go in one column, milk in another and cereal in another. She finds this helps her skip backtracking through the store. Follow her lead and you can gather everything from one section of the market in one fell swoop — trimming shopping time significantly.

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Wash When You Get Home

Rather than rinsing and spinning greens each time she wants a salad, Miriam Garron, Food Network Kitchen's sous chef, cleans all of them as soon as she returns from the market. Then she wraps the leaves in paper towels and tucks them into plastic bags or resealable containers before stowing them in the refrigerator. This works best with sturdy greens like kale, spinach and romaine. Catrini also makes a big batch of vinaigrette so she's good to go for the week ahead.

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Freeze in Small Portions

Next time you make a double batch of spaghetti sauce, chili or soup (good job!), resist the urge to just dump the extra into a big container before you freeze it. It will take hours to thaw, and scooping out just a serving or two will be nearly impossible — defeating the whole purpose of cooking ahead. Here's the better way: Divide the dish into single servings for easy defrosting and short-order meals.

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Always Keep Pens and Stickers Handy

More than a dozen chefs go in and out of the Food Network Kitchen walk-in refrigerator every day, so labeling food containers is a necessity. In fact, Richmond Flores, a Food Network Kitchen stylist, is never without a marker in the pocket of his chef's coat — and you should mimic him at home. You may know that's leftover tomato soup on the top shelf, but others could think it's pasta sauce. Include the date the food was packed and other relevant notes (like "Use by Thursday!") to make sure nothing goes to waste.

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Stow Equipment by Season

Don't let little-used items crowd your workspace. If baking is mostly a holiday thing in your house, move the cookie sheets, cake plates, piping bags and apple corer to a drawer that's out of the way of your daily chores. Rotate the ice cream machine and pop molds to an easy-access cabinet when summer comes.

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Keep Everyday Tools Within Arm's Reach

Put wooden spoons, tongs and spatulas in a crock or a drawer by the stove, advises Flores. Knives, peelers and cutting boards should be kept by the counter or island where you do your prep work. Store silverware and serving pieces in the same place so you can grab them when setting the table.

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Work "Sweet to Smelly"

When she has a mess of vegetables to chop, Garron uses the same cutting board but works in a specific order. She starts with the cukes and peppers and holds pungent items like onions and garlic for last so she doesn't have to wash the board between ingredients.

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When Cooking, Clean As You Go

Cooking is easier, more enjoyable and faster when you have room to work. As you make your way through dinner prep, toss measuring cups in the dishwasher and get the bulky mixing bowl out of the sink, says Flores.

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Rely on a Trash Bowl

Keep a prep bowl by your work area to corral onion skins, carrot tips, and all the other odds and ends that can clog up your cutting board. (Bonus: You'll make fewer trips to the garbage can.)

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Don't Forget to Preheat

Nothing slows you down like waiting for a cold oven to heat up. Before you begin working, turn on your oven, start the grill and do any other presetting of equipment, says Flores. By the time you finish preparing your ingredients, you'll be ready to start cooking.

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