Hygiene and cleanliness is the most important in our kitchen. For those who are not worried about the biology, in economic terms, cleanliness saves us a lot of money. Food is perishable and using it to its best advantage requires regular cleaning. Keeping our kitchen clean doesn’t mean becoming obsessive about every little detail at the expense of a few hours quality family time. It means changing our habits that can make us sick, cost us money and send a negative message to those around us.
My fridge magnet collection, magnetic timer & note pad
Following are a few reasons why we should take out at least ten minutes a day from our busy routine and make an effort towards developing cleaning habits specially in the kitchen.
1. Stay Fit
Of course the first reason why we clean is to keep us away from germs that can make us sick. Following are some simple reminders for reducing the risk of illness:
Always wash hands before and after handling perishable foods.
Wash cutting boards in hot, soapy water every time we use them.
Wash hands after touching nose, mouth or eyes.
Wash hands after handling raw meat or eggs.
Keep household cleaners away from food preparation areas.
Dispose off spoiled food promptly. Never keep leftovers in refrigerator longer than four days.
Refrigerate perishable foods after no more than two hours at room temperature.
If a food item looks or smells off in any way, pitch it.
Clean all the gadgets we use for food preparation like: measuring cups, measuring spoons, can openers, sieves, colanders, blenders, wooden spoons, and spoon rests. Anything that touches perishable foods, must be cleaned.
2. Stay Safe
Cleaning is also about safety. Unconsciously dropping oil on kitchen floor is disastrous as one can have a really bad fall. Kitchen is one spot in our house where water, high heat, electricity and sharp objects all come into close proximity. The only way to control this potential hazardous environment is to keep everything in its proper place. Most of the accidents take place in a persons own house (mostly kitchen) so try not to be someone who has to spend days at the emergency room because of a silly kitchen accident.
Drawer organizers in the kitchen
3. Be Confident
Having a clean kitchen is politically and socially correct. No matter how nicely you have decorated your drawing room and want your guests to stick there, there will always be times when they walk in to your kitchen unannounced. Kitchen is the most happening place in one’s house so people are automatically attracted there, one excuse or the other. Don’t be surprised if your friends give you company leaning on the kitchen counter while you prepare tea rather than comfortably seated in the drawing room. It is such a nightmare finding a cockroach on your kitchen table in front of your friends. If we have clean kitchen habits, we wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of our guests. It is also a good habit to teach our children by example.
My freezer in the UK
4. Save Money
The dirt, dust and grime buildup on our appliances like fridge, freezer, microwave oven, grill oven and stove is actually expensive for us. Not only does our refrigerator use more energy, its compressor gets hotter. The fridge in turns works inefficiently, the compressor may burn out more quickly also. Similarly if the stovetop reflectors are dirty, they take more time and energy to cook. The interiors and bottom of ovens are designed to reflect heat onto your food, if your oven is covered by grunge, it uses more energy and cooks food less evenly. So basically if we don’t care about cleanliness, we pay more to prepare a roast that’s over cooked only one one side. Like wise, your food processor, dishwasher, juicer, blender would work more efficiently if they are kept clean. Efficiency means longer life.
We can save money on food costs also. We all know that one rotten tomato in a bag would rot the rest of them in the bag really quickly. Taking a proactive approach to food maintenance would help to reduce spoilage and thus save money. Discard spoiling food immediately so it doesn’t ruin other stuff. A few times, I have had to throw the entire contents of my veggies section in my fridge only because of one rotten vegetable. It feels bad throwing all that food away. It is also a sin if we don’t take care of the blessings Allah has given us in the form of our food.
5. Sharing Etiquettes
The majority of us share our kitchen with one person or the other. Sharing a kitchen teaches a lot of important lessons in life. If we are untidy, we not only cause inconvenience to our housemates but also pass germs to them. We also portray a grubby self image. Sharing a kitchen and toilet with someone really shows you what kind of a person he or she is. You can never really know someone until you share these two with them. I have developed such a respect for people who take out a minute and wipe the counters or sink once they are done. It reflects good upbringing and concern for others. The key is to make time in life for things that matter. Following is a picture of one of the kitchens in my last office Davenport Black in Slough, UK. We all used it the whole day to make our beverages. The moment even a drop would fall on the counters, we would use paper towels to clean it up. So throughout the day, it would remain this clean. It is not the cleaning lady’s job to clean everyone’s muck after she has cleaned it in the morning. No matter how royal we think we may be, we all have to clean after ourselves; no two ways about it.
Clean & clear counters at my previous office kitchen
Some ideas for kitchens
It sure is challenging to have a small kitchen. The only kitchen that I didn’t have to share with house mates in London was so small that two people could barely stand in it. It is a huge challenge to organize a small kitchen if your height is just over 5 feet. I was literally standing tip toed on the stool one second and then head against the floor the next, trying to get something out. I was really short of space. I value space a lot more now. If you are struggling with space, here are a few inspiration pictures. The space inside the cupboard door, under shelves, behind doors and even the walls can be utilized.
My mom Shireen Gheba Najib (author of the book ‘Kitchen Management’) is a great believer in ‘Time Management’, she believes that a cook should make an effort to eliminate extra walk from one place to another. According to her, we should keep a tray with us when we walk to the fridge and take everything out at one time, rather than walking to it 20 times while we cook. Prior planning is important, even if you need a little diary for reminders of the ingredients. There are many things that we do to ourselves in our life that exhaust us unnecessarily. We all need to learn to conserve our energies to accomplish more in less time.
If you have been following my blog, you would have come to know about my love for labels. Our Asian foods require a lot of different spices which makes it vital to have labels clearly displayed on top each container. This will avoid any time being wasted and any embarrassment of using the wrong one.
Spices drawer in my Slough kitchen
Items like pasta, raw lentils, white flour, gram flour, baking powder etc should be taken out of the box they came in, and put in air tight glass or plastic labeled containers. This way, they will remain fresh for longer. It will give you better shelf space also.
Fridge & Freezer
The key to keeping a clutter free fridge is to keep plastic or glass boxes to subcategorize the sections. You don’t always have to buy these. I used the ones you get for free when you buy mushrooms or fruit. Always keep similar things together. Have a proper place set for each item. Be very particular about expired products lying in the fridge, bacteria easily flows from one thing to another by cross contamination. Fridge odor is another issue that needs tackling. One can easily buy smell neutralizers in the form of balls as shown here. But for those who prefer DIY, baking soda or wood coal (lakri ka koyla) can be used as an air freshener. Here is one blog on how to use that in your fridge to keep the nasty smells away. Don’t forget to properly clean the fridge inside out, once in a while.
Liners may be important for every drawer in our house, but they are vital for the kitchen because dirty drawers could mean dirty spoons. A lot of people use ordinary newspapers as liners without realizing that they may attract cockroaches. A neighbor of mine gave me a million dollar idea of using Aluminum foil as a liner in the kitchen. It is true that these cost a little more than using ordinary wrapping paper but they will last a lot more and will work wonders. If you live in a country where you are afraid of insects getting into the kitchen cabinets, then after cleaning the cupboards, sprinkle boric powder and then spread the foil. Boric Powder can be easily purchased from your local chemist/pharmacy. Foil very easily adjusts to the shelf space, is easy to clean and looks neat too.
I put foil in cupboards in my moms kitchen
All-in-One Food processor
This is my favorite appliance in the kitchen. We all need chopper, blender, whisker, grinder, juicer, cutter, dough, cake and smoothie maker while we are busy in the kitchen with our favorite recipes. No matter how big your kitchen may be, I don’t believe in wasting space. So, in my opinion, one should definitely invest in a multi pro food processor. Kenwood has 25 functions within it. You save so much space and clutter when you have one machine for everything rather than 10 machines for 10 different uses. Realize that the price for this is far less than the cumulative price you would incur to buy all appliances separately. Consider the time, effort, space and inconvenience costs you save too. It makes perfect dough for making Aata for rotis and parathas as well.
I bought this baby for 69 pounds from London during the Christmas sale.
I used touch-screen glass hob in London for a few years. If you can afford it, it is the best way to keep a clean kitchen. You can easily wipe it sparkling clean. The part that is still hot will have red color so you don’t burn your hand. But before you decide to buy one, remember its very difficult to make good roti’s on electric hobs.
DIY Kitchen Cleaner
Harsh antibacterial cleaners contain toxins and always leave residue on surfaces which can be easily transmitted to the food we eat. These are harmful for our bodies. A quick DIY home made all-purpose cleaner is the best way to keep your surfaces clean. A simple water-vinegar solution is good enough. Lemon juice, salt, vinegar and water also makes a good cleaner for your counter tops, stove, sink and even the floors. One can pour that in a spritz bottle at an accessible place for everyday cleaning. These are not only efficient cleaners, but also better for health and the pocket.
Pots, Pans & Lids
Nothing winds me up more in kitchen organization than pans and their lids. I have always put the biggest pan at the bottom in the cupboard and put all smaller ones inside it. Then the lids wouldn’t fit anywhere. This idea below from Pinterest really made sense and I am looking forward to implement these ideas in my next personal kitchen.
My Favorite Kitchen Items
I honestly love kitchen shopping so a lot of things make me excited. But I will mention just a few here:
1. Glass Counter Protectors
I absolutely love using glass ‘counter protectors’. They keep your counters clean and are great chopping boards. You don’t have to take out your cutting board every time you need to chop a lemon or a fruit. They are also easy to wipe and there’s no need to remove them after use. They come in various materials and designs. Suit the best one for yourself.
2. Bag Clips
One thing that I recommend everybody to buy are ‘bag clips’. They are one of those things which are absolutely necessary for every kitchen. They are used to seal any open bag to make it air tight and to avoid the chance of its contents creating a mess in the cupboard. They come in many shapes and sizes, suit the best ones for yourself. I got a set of 20 for a pound. They are perfect to be used on any plastic bag to be resealed e.g. bread, sachets.
3. Magnetic kitchen Timer
A kitchen timer is also a must for every kitchen. Without it, I always get distracted and forget to check the progress of food being cooked, after a certain amount of time. Forgetting food on the stove or oven is not only hazardous but burnt up food causes too much wastage and can be poisonous. A fridge magnet timer is great as you have to walk to the kitchen to put the annoying alarm off and you cant possibly procrastinate.
4. Spoon Rest
After the horrific house sharing experiences for over 3 years, I was overjoyed to finally move into my own apartment in Slough in 2011. I spent much of my 2 week holiday in Seattle, Washington finding house stuff for this new apartment. One thing that my eyes were stuck on, were these gorgeous ceramic hand painted spoon rests. I bought two for my kitchen. They look great. They are great for placing the spoons while you cook on the stove. They are also ideal to place teaspoons in, on a dinner party.
5. Oil Pourer & Oil spray
Oil Pourers come in ceramic and glass. Ceramic ones are available in many funky designs. I find the hand painted ones the prettiest. If you don’t like color that much, a simple glass bottle oil pourer is also a neat option. Using a pourer not only looks good in the kitchen but also avoids any oil spillage which is vital for our safety. Cooked oil is one of the unhealthiest ingredient in our foods. Using a pourer gives you a good measure of oil so you don’t put access of it by mistake. Oil sprays are easily available at Poundland or other reasonable stores and work wonders on non-stick frying pans. You only spray a little oil onto your pan and cook like that almost oil free. Its’ perfect for making pastas, sauces, fried eggs etc.
6. Tea Bag Holder
This is a cute luxury item but since it costs as much as a chocolate bar, I think an organized person should definitely invest in it. It is used to put used tea bags as soon as they are taken out of the cup. They come in different shapes and sizes. Find the cutest one for yourself at your local store.
Other Kitchen Essentials
Apron, dish washing gloves, hand wash, hand lotion, diary & pen for groceries to buy list.
My favorite stores for Kitchen items
Pakistan: Al Madina, F-10 Markaz & Al-Fateh, Centaurus in Islamabad