Tantalizing aromas, delectable flavors – who doesn’t love to eat? But before you can eat, you need to cook, and that means planning ahead. Check out these tips for organizing your kitchen to make cooking easier and safer, and get you to the eating part faster. These tips are helpful if you’re blind and preparing to tackle a culinary challenge, or if you’re helping someone who is visually impaired set up a cooking environment.
- Organize the kitchen. A place for everything and everything in its place. Group like items together and store items close to where you’ll be using them. If you have multiples of an item, store one behind the other on the shelf. Also, be sure to store cleaning products separately from foods.
- Be smart about labeling foods. You don’t need to label items that are in distinctive packaging, such as a can of shortening, baking powder or milk. (If you have similar milk and juice containers in your fridge, put a rubber band on one to tell them apart.) Label different containers that are similar in shape, like tuna and cat food, soups, breakfast cereal boxes and oils and vinegars. Use braille or large-print labels and rubber bands, tactile markers on rubber bands, a Pen Friend, or a Talking Tag iPhone app.
- Use a cafeteria tray at your prep area to organize materials and contain spills. Anticipate making somewhat of a mess (that’s part of the fun of cooking!). Locate and take out all ingredients and supplies before starting to cook so you won’t need to hunt for things later. A simple method of organizing is to place all your waiting-to-be-used ingredients and equipment on the left side of the tray. Do the actual prep work – slicing, mixing and so on – on the tray. After using an ingredient or piece of equipment, move it to the right side of the tray. When you’re finished cooking, all the items that need to be cleaned, put away or tossed into the trash will be in one place.
- Use nesting measuring cups or spoons for measuring wet and dry ingredients. Put liquids that you’ll measure small amounts of, such as vanilla, in wide-mouth containers. Bend a measuring spoon to function as a ladle to measure them out. That way, you won’t have to pour liquid into a small spoon.
- Transfer dry ingredients from paper bags, plastic bags or cardboard boxes to rigid, labeled plastic or glass containers. This makes measuring, identification and storing easier. It also discourages kitchen pests like weevils and ants.
- Keep a wet towel at your prep area to wipe fingers. This minimizes unnecessary trips to the sink and also reduces mess from touching things with wet or sticky fingers.
- Play it safe with boiling water. Add ingredients such as pasta and rice to water before boiling (and remember to add a few minutes to your cooking time). That way, you avoid the potential splashing hazard of adding items to water that’s already boiling.
- Don’t be afraid to cook something new. Be creative! With good planning and cooking techniques, and good friends who pass along a delicious recipe or two (and are a phone call away if you have questions), you’re ready to cook your next mouth-watering meal.
Thanks to Jessica Alves, Kathy Bull, Kate Crohan, Sue Shannon, Rachael Noyes, and Alex LaVoie, Occupational Therapists and Home and Personal Management teachers.