Ask Unclutterer: Corner kitchen cabinets

Reader Marnie submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

Our house has corner kitchen cabinets with lots of wasted space. Is a lazy susan the way to go? I feel like there is a decent amount of unused space when they are used. Do you have any recommendations?

Marnie, I love this question because I had been struggling with the same problem in my kitchen and recently found a solution. The answer we discovered are storage systems that use the descriptive phrase “blind corner” in their names. Some are called “blind corner tracks” or “blind corner cabinet systems” or some version of all of those words.

They are regular cabinet shelves that sit on a sliding hinge and pivot mechanism. The unit pulls out into the room so that you can have easy access to everything on the shelves. When it is not in use, it folds back into the cupboard and occupies every nook and cranny.

blind cabinet shelves

There is also a blind-corner pull-out system. It is comprised of two large shelves that swing out of the cupboard door on a large pivot. The shelves can be pulled out one at a time so you can easily access the contents. You can purchase either a left-hand or right-hand opening depending on the design of your kitchen.

Unfortunately for corner cupboards, the only system seems to be a Lazy Susan. You can use wedge-shaped bins and half-shelves that will help you maximize your storage space.

Thank you, Marnie, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Are cookbooks a thing of the past?

cookbooksIt’s another Throwback Thursday! This post was originally published in 2008. Back then we believed that cookbooks were becoming a thing of the past but there are still many, many for sale. Most are available in a Kindle version which will reduce the clutter in the kitchen.

Read through the post below and let us know in the comments if you have stopped using and buying cookbooks.

My wife enjoys cooking and baking. She has a shelf dedicated to her cookbooks, but she hardly ever uses them. More often than not she accesses recipes via the internet. The amount of information that is at your fingertips is astounding and the ease of accessing that information gets easier and easier.

One cookbook that my wife swears by is the Joy of Cooking. It is an encyclopedic volume of just about anything you can think of cooking or baking. She swears by its usefulness and relies on it quite a bit. Other than that, her cookbooks are seldom used. So are cookbooks obsolete? Why clutter up a whole shelf in your kitchen for a bunch of books that you never use? Here are the recipe sites my wife frequents instead of using a cookbook:

One site that I just happened upon is Supercook.com. The site lets you enter the ingredients you have in your kitchen and then gives you ideas on what you may be able to prepare. Maybe it’s time to let some of your cookbooks go?

Organizing food storage wraps

If you’re not lucky enough to have a designated drawer for food storage wraps in your kitchen, you probably have to sacrifice space in your pantry or cupboards for plastic wrap, wax paper, parchment paper, aluminum foil, plastic sandwich bags, freezer paper, cellophane bags, reusable shopping bags, and reusable produce bags. I have to store these items in my pantry, too, and I have been considering the following items to help better organize my space:

Right now, the wrap shelves and the bag holder are what I think I’m going to buy. What do you use to organize your food storage wraps in your kitchen? Or, are you one of the lucky ones with a designated drawer? Tell us about your food storage wrap situation in the comments.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.

Wine storage

Most wine is consumed within a few weeks of purchase and often within a day of purchase. Some people are wine collectors and store wines for long-term aging. Here are a few ways to store your wine.

For storing a few bottles of wine on a countertop or shelf, the VonShef rack’s geometric design has a retro minimalist look. The gentle curves in the Oenophilia Bali Wine Rack were inspired by ocean waves. Sleek and chic, the Butterfly wine rack is made from light-weight wood and stores eight bottles of wine.

 

These free-standing stackable bamboo wine racks hold 12 bottles each. They can be placed on a counter, shelf, or it can be used in a wine cellar. They do not require any tools to assemble. An alternative to wood racks is this 24-bottle chrome rack. It is light-weight and inexpensive.

 

 

In smaller homes counter/shelf space and floor space often cannot be spared to store wine. This wall-mounted rack stores six bottles of wine in minimal space. If you need somewhere to store your stemware too, this wine shelf has a built-in stemware rack.

 

 

 

If dinner parties are the only time you have wine, the Monkey Mat is your best choice. Simply roll it out on the counter and stack the wine on it. When the wine is gone, roll up the mat and stick it in a drawer — or use it to store bottled water in your fridge. It is a multi-tasker!

Whichever rack you choose, keep your wine away from temperature fluctuations, light, and humidity. Do not place racks where they will be exposed to direct sunlight, furnace or air conditioning vents, or in damp basements.

If you are thinking about building a wine collection and storing wine for long-term aging, investing in a dual-zone wine fridge will protect your investment.

Cheers!

Reader suggestion: Storing a George Foreman Grill

Reader Liz sent us the following solution for storing the removable plates and body of her George Foreman Grill:

I got the wonderful George Foreman grill with the changeable plates for Christmas a few years ago. I have since been struggling with how to store the 5 grill plates since they don’t stack conveniently and can get easily scratched. I live in an apartment, so storage space is hard to come by. After several disappointing online searches, I decided to create my own [storage solution]. I used a vertical, metal sorter (similar to this one) placed on top of a locker shelf (similar to this one) so I can store my Foreman grill underneath the plates. The file sorter that is holding the grill plates is coated in plastic so it won’t scratch the plates, which is vital!

In addition to being a great solution for a George Foreman Grill, it would be wonderful for waffle iron plates, lids for reusable storage containers, lids for pots and pans, and even baking pans and cookie sheets. Thank you for such a terrific suggestion, Liz!

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Unclutter your refrigerator before Thanksgiving

If you host Thanksgiving at your home, then now is the time to start making room for all of the dishes that need to be stored in your refrigerator. Use up the items that are currently taking up space. My wife calls the process of clearing out the ingredients available in the refrigerator as “creative cooking.” It consists of not shopping for groceries for a week while concocting dishes from the ingredients that remain in the refrigerator and cupboards. Creative cooking also takes place at our house prior to long vacations.

While you clear out the space in your refrigerator it is freeing up valuable real estate for the turkey along with the side dishes that will reside in there while they wait to be prepared. This also allows for room in your refrigerator for the all important leftovers.

With just a little more than a week to go, clear out your fridge and give it a good cleaning. Let us know about some of your favorite “creative cooking” recipes in the comments. One of my favorites is a good old fashion stew using up meat and savory vegetables.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

An impartial participant can help get rid of clutter

Little League BaseballSentimental clutter can be the most difficult clutter to clear from your spaces. “Oh, I remember this!” is the exclamation that inevitably gets tossed around while trying to clean out a closet, basement, or attic. Until you went to organize the space, you probably had no idea that you were holding onto these items. You’re then struck with the pang of nostalgia and you flirt with the idea of keeping everything you’ve rediscovered.

If you are going to take the time to clear your home of clutter, it can be a good idea to get someone impartial to help handle your sentimental clutter. Whether you hire a professional organizer or you get a friend or spouse to help you, their impartiality may help you get rid of sentimental clutter.

Trying to get rid of things that you think you’ll miss or one day need is a problem for most of us (I struggle with it). This article in the San Diego Reader is entertaining and shows how the process of getting rid of clutter can be helped by having an impartial participant. From the article:

David sat on the floor and began unloading a large box; I stood beside him and sifted through a crate. Every few seconds, I would hold up an item and say, “You don’t need this. Trash?” I’d wait for him to nod before placing it in the big white plastic bag. David grumbled here and there, but an hour in, I’d filled three large bags and broken down four boxes.

If you’re struggling with clearing sentimental clutter, you may want to read the full article for some inspiration.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Unitasker Wednesday: Capabunga Artisan Bread Saver

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

Artisan is a term used to describe food produced by non-industrialized methods, often handed down through generations but now in danger of being lost (also known as home cooking). An artisan baker is a craftsperson who is trained to the highest ability to mix, ferment, shape and bake a hand-crafted loaf of bread (also known as my grandmother).

Interesting though these definitions are, most people buy their artisan bread at a bakery where bread making can be automated to some extent. There are variable speed, electric mixers and blenders, and proofers and ovens with accurate timers and fine temperature controls — a long way from how my grandmother made bread using a bowl, a spoon, her hands, a clean linen cloth (which at other times acted as a tea-towel), and a wood stove.

I guess if some people buy their bread at artisan bakeries they would also purchase the Capabunga Artisan Bread Saver to ensure that their bread stays fresh as long as possible. To keep a loaf of crusty bread fresh, you have to cover the cut portion to keep the moisture inside the loaf while allowing the crust to stay exposed to keep it, well, crusty. My grandmother told me that. She also told me that waxed paper or foil wrap and an elastic band (all of which you probably already own) would work really well.

Thanks to reader Joy for bringing this unitasker to our attention.

Can a deep freezer save you money on meals?

This is the first in a two-part series on how you can use a deep freezer to help with meal planning.

Eating nutritious food is essential for my health. If I eat more than two high-fat, low nutrition meals in a week it takes longer for me to heal after injury and my energy level plummets. For most of us, more than two high-fat, low nutrition meals in a week also adds unwanted pounds and can mess with our hearts and arteries. The easiest way I’ve found to keep on track with healthy eating is to have the majority of my meals at home where I can control the ingredients.

On Unclutterer, we’ve written in the past about how to make eating at home easier with meal planning techniques. The process allows you to plan for healthy meals, create a simple shopping list, and avoid the stressful “what’s for dinner” moment in front of the open refrigerator.

Since our meal planning article initially ran, I’ve received dozens of emails asking if we use a deep freezer in addition to the refrigerator/freezer we have in our kitchen. We currently don’t have one, but it is something we discuss a couple times a month. One of the questions we’ve been trying to answer is if the expense of the deep freezer plus the cost of the electrical energy to run it is less than the amount we spend buying in smaller portions and driving more frequently to our butcher and local market.

Then, a PR guy from Frigidaire sent me a press release, and instantly I could ask someone all of my weird deep freezer questions. (I am certain this guy thinks I am one of the strangest contacts he’s ever made.)

So, to start off our brief series on using deep freezers for meal planning, I want to address my initial question of cost. Is it financially prudent to own and use a deep freezer?

Sticker shock?

The commonly purchased model chest style deep freezer is around $600. Upright freezers cost considerably more than chest freezers. If we were to buy one, we would go for a small chest freezer (under 10 cu. ft.), which has an MSRP of about $300.

Most freezers use between 100 and 400 W of power per day. This translates to roughly $175 of electricity per year depending on the size of freezer and your electricity rates. I would have a difficult time justifying the expense of a larger freezer solely based on convenience. But, if I lived in a rural area and shopped less frequently, had kids and more mouths to feed, then the increased costs would be reasonable.

The cost of food

To get a good comparison of food prices in bulk versus smaller portions, I want to look at the price of beef. I know not everyone eats beef, but I had to pick something to compare and beef figures are easily obtained.

I purchase my beef from an organic butcher who gets the majority of his stock from regional farms. In his butcher shop, I can order half a cow twice a year (butchered and vacuum sealed into meal-size portions) or I can make weekly trips into his shop to buy cuts of beef as I need them. Half a cow roughly translates to about $5 per pound, and beef I buy on a weekly basis usually starts at $5 per pound on sale and can be as much as $30 per pound for premium cuts. Without argument, it is cheaper to buy half a cow and freeze the bulk meat than it is to buy weekly.

Even if you don’t buy your meat from an organic butcher and pay grocery store prices, you’ll still spend more than $5 per pound for a cut of beef.

Final answer

Ultimately, the expense of a deep freezer plus the cost of the electrical energy to run it is less than the amount we’re currently wasting when we buy our food in smaller portions. My final answer is that it is financially prudent for us to purchase a deep freezer and buy in bulk.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Unitasker Wednesday: The Prepdeck

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

Reader Pete brought today’s product, The Prepdeck to our attention.

The Prepdeck is designed to organize and unclutter your kitchen work surfaces. It includes a fold-out cutting board, 15 containers in four sizes, a storage compartment for knives and utensils, an accessory drawer with prep tools (grater, slicer, juicer, etc.) and a removable trash compartment for collecting scraps.

The Prepdeck is large and cleaning all those little parts would be a challenge! As Reader Pete put it, “I shudder to think of the potential for cross-contamination, especially if you’re a meat-eater.”

In other words, Prepdeck duplicates everything that your kitchen already has, all of which can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher. Not to mention the fact that the little containers have to be stored in the fridge individually while the Prepdeck remains unused taking up almost all of your counter space.

Here is the thing though…

I just finish setting up my youngest kid at college. The Prepdeck would be very helpful. The cutting board would be easier to clean and sanitize than the chipped and stained countertops in the dorm kitchen. Having a small compartment for collecting scraps means they wouldn’t fall on the floor and attract pests. The Prepdeck’s little containers hold just enough for one person and are small enough to be stored in the fridge in her room. She could fill up the containers at home on the weekends and have enough fresh fruits and veggies for the week. Being able to store all of her own kitchen tools in one spot would be beneficial as well.

Actually, for anyone living in a dorm, small apartment, or RV, and doesn’t already have kitchen tools, the Prepdeck would be the way to go.

Should we call it a large, cumbersome, multi-tasking unitasker? I’ll leave it to our readers to decide.

Book Review: The Kitchen Shortcut Bible

When I agreed to review The Kitchen Shortcut Bible, I assumed that it would be just a book full of tips and tricks to keep your kitchen uncluttered and make meal preparation easier. It is indeed that, and much more.

The Kitchen Shortcut Bible is a recipe book like many others, full of healthy, sumptuous dishes including breakfasts, appetizers, dinners, and desserts. There are lovely glossy photos of the foods just like in every other cookbook too. But, the Kitchen Shortcut Bible differs from typical recipe books because there are time and money saving shortcuts on every single page and larger sections of helpful instructions and advice before and after every chapter.

One of the things I liked about this book is that the authors promote make-ahead meals which allow readers to do some meal planning but still have the flexibility to change their plan when the need arises. One of my favourite ideas was the make-ahead chicken packets. Foil wrap boneless, skinless chicken breasts in one of the marinade recipes provided and place the packet on a baking sheet in the freezer. Once the packets are frozen, pile them up in the freezer. When you are ready to make dinner, simply pull out the frozen packet and pop it directly in the oven. If you make one or two breasts per packet, you just pull out the number you need to make dinner — super easy if you’re dining alone or if guests drop in at the last minute!

There are dozens of slow-cooker, one-skillet, and sheet-pan supper recipes that allow you to create flavourful meals with minimal clean-up. The authors advocate time-saving preparations such as buying pre-cut or frozen vegetables, dried pasta, and canned beans, and they tell readers how to work with these ingredients to obtain the best results. They also provide guidance on choosing fastest cooking fresh meats and fresh vegetables without sacrificing quality or flavour.

There are suggestions for vegetarian/vegan options including a section on Better Veggie Burgers. (I can’t wait to try these out!) In the margins of some recipes, the authors indicate which processed food used in the recipe contain not immediately obvious ingredients such as gluten, peanuts/nuts, or high amounts of salt. This is very useful for those with allergies or on special diets.

One thing that made me smile is how they turn some unitaskers such as the waffle maker, garlic press, and coffee press into multi-taskers. There are ten recipes that use a waffle maker and only one of them is actually waffles (and it is a super-quick recipe too!). The section entitled, Better Living with a Garlic Press, explains how to make great rubs and marinades by using a garlic press for ginger, cocktail onions, pickled jalapeños and more. The coffee press is given a new multi-tasker life by making flavourful teas and infusions.

To be honest with Unclutterer readers, many of the food preparation and time-saving tips are not new to me. I have a Master’s Degree in Food Chemistry and I spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen. However, I did need to be reminded of a few things and it is always good to try different recipes! The Kitchen Shortcut Bible would be an ideal gift for someone new to cooking, perhaps a young adult who has just moved out on their own or someone interested in reducing their dependency on ready-made and restaurant foods. I highly recommend The Kitchen Shortcut Bible. You will save time and money in a uncluttered kitchen and enjoy restaurant quality meals with very little work.

Make your kitchen magnetic

When talking about kitchen magnets, most people think of those plastic alphabets we had when we were kids. But magnets can do more in your kitchen than spell “dog” and “cat.” Magnets, when used wisely, can help you free up valuable counter space, and keep all your most used kitchen tools close at hand.

Spice it up

One of the most common magnetic tool these days are magnetic spice tins, which are simply metal or plastic containers with clear lids. Some come with a special board that sits on your counter or attaches to the wall (like these), but you can also buy them individually and stick them to the side of your fridge. Some spice enthusiasts eschew these because they let light in which can damage delicate herbs, so pick a metal surface that doesn’t sit in direct light. Alternatively, choose these spice containers that come with labels which cover the transparent lid.

Wipe it up

Also very handy – a magnetic paper towel holder. If you don’t have much counter space, one of those freestanding ones can be a hassle. But with a magnet, it’s right on your fridge door, and you can just tear one off when your milk spills.

Hang it up

Next time you’re at the hardware store, see if they have inexpensive magnetic hooks. They are perfect for hanging spoons next to the stove or keeping potholders out where you need them. Hooks are one way to get commonly used items out of drawers and within easy reach.

Cut it up

My absolute favorite – a magnetic knife rack. Knife blocks are huge counter space hogs, and keeping sharp pointy things in a drawer can be dangerous for the clumsy-inclined like me. With a magnetic strip, the knives are always handy and out of the way. The magnets are powerful enough to resist a slight bump of the elbow, but pull off without too much force.

The only thing with magnets is that you’re somewhat limited by the number of metal surfaces you have in the kitchen. If you want to add more, try getting a few extra knife racks, or a magnetic memo  strip that can be mounted to the backsplash or any other wall in your kitchen.

What else do you hang in your kitchen?

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.