We recently caught up with our friend, cookbook author and all around winning human, Julia Turshen, about how she keeps things tidy in her fridge and pantry. Julia tends to keep a lot of irons in the fire at once, so it’s important that things don’t get out of control. Below, her top five tips for maintaining order in the kitchen:
1. Make Labels
Store spices in a cool place away from the stove and oven. Try sticking them upright in a drawer and label the tops. That way you can see everything in one top-down glance (and the ginger never gets caught hiding behind the garam masala). Label light-colored tops with a Sharpie or, for dark tops, a little piece of paper tacked on with scotch tape. We recently discovered these chalk markers perfect for the task.
Whenever possible, buy spices in small quantities. Some supermarkets even sell spices in bulk. Buy just what you need (OK, maybe a little bit more) and you'll never be stuck getting rid of the two-year-old dried oregano (looking at you, Mom).
And don’t be tempted to create rollover storage. Everything should fit in the drawer, even oddly shaped tins or jars. Think of it as built-in hoarding control. Remember the first rule they teach us at culinary school: F.I.F.O, First In, First Out. If you absolutely must have extra space, say, for that bag of chilies you brought back from Mexico or the extra-special vanilla beans your grandmother gave you, keep it somewhere you can see it and, more importantly, where you'll be encouraged to use the treasures inside.
3. Will It Susan?
Julia keeps shelf-stable ingredients like soy sauce, honey, and various types of vinegar on an inexpensive 10-inch lazy Susan from the Container Store. That way you can spin her around to see what's in stock and nothing gets buried in the back. This nifty trick also works for your collection of jams and mustards on the top shelf of the fridge.
4. Fridge Door Do's
Don't neglect the fridge door. To keep things tidy, line the fridge door with a layer of paper towels to catch any drips. Group like items together—hot sauces and other spicy stuff, pickled things, mustards—so they're easier to find. And use a juice glass or other narrow container to hold tubes of tomato paste, harissa, wasabi, et al. upright so they don't get yucky or lost.
RELATED: Which Condiments Should Be Refrigerated?
5. Use It Before You Lose It
"Waste not," says Julia. Don't toss the last of that honey or Dijon. Instead, build her No-Sweat Vinaigrette with the last of what's in the mustard jar or make an easy honey syrup—perfect for sweetening cocktails or soda water—by adding a splash of boiling water to the dregs left in the honey bear. Shake both for the best effect.