30 September 2011

5-S, The Final Chapter

At long last, we have come to the end of the kitchen reorganization, only to find out that it never ends.  Yes, the 5th S of 5-S is Sustain.  It's the hardest one.

It's not as if clearing out, cleaning, sorting, and organizing are easy, but sustaining takes more than one push to do, and it takes everyone doing it.

We're only middling good so far.

I went grocery shopping the other day, and was tired when I returned.  I just wanted to throw everything into the cabinets and be done with it, but I had to tell myself, that this was the slippery road on which I did not want to venture.  So I took the time to empty the cereal into the containers, open other packages and refill other containers, store excess in the basement, make note of what went into the freezer, blah, blah.  It took some time, but I'm hoping that that time will save me time and money and frustration in the future.  I can now look at a clear container and see that the cereal is getting low. (Since I don't like cereal, I never pick up the boxes.)

If I could only train the rest of my family to do this, it would be smooth sailing, but that is small potatoes, since I do most of the shopping.

The other area to train the family is to OBEY THE LABELS.  Sheesh.  The labels are there for a reason, so if you get the bread from the shelf marked "bread," it seems logical that you would return it there. *sigh*  Again, this is small stuff, and as long I consistently keep things in order and gently remind others to do the same, it will happen.  Eventually.  I'm glad that stuff like this doesn't tie me up in knots.  I can see how it would bother other people.  Just don't go folding my towels the wrong way.  In fact, don't fold the towels at all.  I'll do it.

So was it worth it?  After 3 months of living with a 5-S'd kitchen, I'd say definitely.  Cooking is so much easier now, and actually, even with the time it takes to put things away correctly, putting away groceries is easier because I know where stuff is supposed to go.  And I think I'm saving time and money by not accidentally buying, say, mustard 5 weeks in a row.

If you have kitchen logistic woes, I urge you to try a little 5-S-ing.  You don't need to do it all at once, though it is probably most efficient if you do.  However, if you can only do a little at a time, do it anyway.  If your kitchen is like mine, you can't be any worse off.

21 September 2011

5-S, Step 4

The fourth phase of 5-S, which kind of overlaps step 3, is Standardize.  What does that mean?  It could mean many things, but I think we can all agree that if we standardize, things will be more orderly.

Burt informed me that standardization might mean storing certain types of things in like containers.  I really goofed there.  I was trying to make this project as inexpensive as possible, and took myself to Big Lots to buy every storage container I could get, regardless of its compatibility with other storage containers.

One goal I had was to be able to buy in bulk, store a reasonable amount of what I bought in the kitchen, and store the rest in the basement, as a refill depository.  So if I bought the mombo box of Cheerios at Sams, I would store some of the Cheerios upstairs, and when that supply ran out, I would simply run to the basement and refill the cereal container.  It makes sense.

However, I am regretting my purchases.  Some are glass and round; others are glass and square.  Some have airtight seals, while others don't.  A few are plastic, though I was really trying to steer away from BPA's.  I'm at the point, where BPA's be d***ed, I want everything to work well together.  For instance, I quickly found that storing freezer items, such as whole wheat flour, in a glass container is not very smart.  Frozen glass is not pleasant to grab onto.

My dream standardization line is the Tupperware.  Everything in their storage systems interlocks with everything else, making it easy to standardize the whole set.  For instance, if I had something big stored in a #3, I could also stack on top of the #3 a #1 and a #2.  It adds up, and makes sense.  Burt is really intrigued by this whole concept, and perhaps we can swallow the cost at some point and get rid of the pesky, space-hogging, round containers.  We'll see.

Rubbermaid makes a fantastic container that can be used for cereal and chips.  It is big enough to hold a decent quantity, and you can either pour from it or easily remove the airtight lid.  And the price is more reasonable than Tupperware's.  But Rubbermaid lacks the mathematical beauty of Tupperware's "legos for grownups," as the Tupperware rep. described the system.

Another step to the Standardization was labelling everything.  Burt suggested I buy a label maker a few years ago, and I have never regretted the purchase.  All containers were labelled: chips, cereal, flour, sugar, raisins, you name it.  You would not believe how much easier it is to navigate a cabinet or pantry just by having the containers labelled.  Never mind whether you can see through them and tell what's in them.  The label just makes life so much easier.  I took it one step further and labelled the shelves in the cabinets and pantry with what went onto each shelf.  That way, if it is someone other than me replacing things, ideally, things will return to their proper places.  More on that later.......

19 September 2011

5-S Series, Humpday Edition

We are now in step 3 of the 5-S Series of Kitchen Reorganization, and I've got to say that if it had taken me as long to DO 5-S, as it has taken to write it, I would have disintegrated into a quivering pool of shattered nerves.  Thank goodness, it only took half a week.

Step 3 is Set in Order.  This had to be the hardest part of the process, making it a true humpday/midway kind of job.  First, I was tired of the whole thing by this time, and second, I had to really think about making a difficult kitchen more user-friends.

Setting in order entailed deciding where the very best place to put things was.  Some things were easy.  For instance, next to the stove, I have a built-in spice rack.  Spices go there.  Check.  In the cabinet next to the spice rack, there is a lazy susan, and I decided that cooking ingredients go there: things like olive oil, vinegar.  But the lazy susan can hold more than that, but not enough more to make it also hold baking items.  So do I keep all the baking items together?  Or do I split them up and put some with the cooking item?  I decided to keep all baking things together, even though the designated place for them, on the far side of the fridge, is not the ideal place, nor the handiest place.  But I cook more than I bake, so I'll just have to walk some extra steps when I need baking soda.  Not ideal, but it made sense to me.  You know, I can always change it at some later date.

The drawers also offered puzzlement.  Which is the very best drawer for silverware?  The one closest to the table seemed logical, and yet, that put it pretty far away from the heart of the kitchen, and I know that I need those spoons and forks and larger spoons for food prep, too.  I'm trying out a new system, which is to place all the untensils for eating in a caddy near the table, and keep the rest in a drawer near the stove.  Of course, moving the silverware there meant that the dishtowels and dishrags had to go somewhere else, so they took over the aluminum foil/saran wrap drawer, and then I had to find a new spot for those, which ended up being a rack that I installed under a cabinet.  You see why this is such a complicated step?

It takes living in a kitchen, deciding what are some problems that you would like to eliminate, and really thinking about your space to do it well.  For example, one thing that often caused problems in the past was that while I was flying around the stove area right before dinner, a boy would be trying to get silverware to set the table, and we would be in each other's way.  Moving the silverware to a caddy solved that problem.  If my priority is to get help while at the same time work efficiently, I had to identify what the problem was and try to solve it by rearrangement.

My challenge to you is whether or not you're reorganizing your kitchen, identify a problem and find a way to solve it by a little creative arranging.  And then let me know what you've come up with.  I may be able to use it!

07 September 2011


I'm interrupting my 5S series for a bit about tweaks to breakfast.  I've done two lately, and they've been huge successes, so I'm sharing them to inspire you to devise tweaks of your own.

Tweak #1: Mary Poppins says a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but around here, all it takes is a spoonful of pork, preferably in the bacon or sausage category.  Here's the story.  I had some leftover cooked  sausage in the fridge and wondered what in the heck to do with it.  Sure, I could put it in an omelet, but I don't do omelets.  Lots of other ways to use it, but I ran across an idea from A Real American Breakfast.  This is one of those fantasy cookbooks, where only in my fantasies would I be cooking like this.  After all, I have lots of other things to do, and there are still only 24 hours per day.  However, I was glancing through and saw that they stuffed cooked sausage in the center of baked apples.  Up to this point, boys have refused baked apples.  I've tried stuffing them with brown sugar, raisins, pecans, cinnamon, all of the above, and no dice.  "What the hey," I thought, "can't hurt to try."  Let me tell you, those apples disappeared in nano-seconds.  Wish I'd made more.  Brown sugar won't do it, but sausage does.

This is super easy to make; all you need is to be awake an hour before eating.

1. Have some cooked, crumbled sausage left over.  You don't need much.
2. Peel the apple, just a circle off the top of it.  This helps keep it from splitting open.
3. Take a melon baller if you have one, and use that to scoop out the core.  This makes it so easy.  Be sure to leave the bottom intact.
4. Stuff a little sausage in the middle, up to the top of the apple.
5. Now place apple or apples in a pan with just a little water in the bottom, and bake at 350 covered for 30 minutes.  Then remove the cover and bake another 15 to brown things up.

That's it.  The only real work is coring the apples, which will take you about 5 minutes.  After that, the oven does the work, while you make coffee, and work your crossword puzzle.  And it is so worth it.

Tweak #2: The Mmmelvis.  This is named after the Elvis bagel plus our common first inital.  And you say "Mmmm" after eating it.  Get it?  Here, I was just make the ol' Elvis bagel and on a whim decided to add a few chocolate chips to the mix.  What a hit!  One caveat: you may not want your bagel toasted.  When I tried that, the peanut butter, and banana, and chips all kindof slid off the thing into a puddly mess.  Cool Guy was not amused.  So Mmmelvis is better eaten non-toasted for those who prefer not to get messy hands.

Tweaking is fun, and breakfast is so forgiving, that you should really try it sometime.  And if, as when I tried adding rhubarb to the oatmeal, it turns out a disaster according to the peanut gallery, there's always cold cereal to fall back on.  And life goes on.