10 Kitchen Habits To Save Time + Avoid Waste

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I love spending time in the kitchen! I get SO much joy out of standing in our quiet, sunlit kitchen, washing strawberries in our farmhouse sink, stirring soup, chopping veggies for curry, or whipping up another batch of oatmeal bars. My husband grew up in a home where they really love spending time in the kitchen together, as well – whether it is spent sitting around the kitchen table chatting about their day, playing games, or chopping up ingredients for a family taco night (I LOVE those!). 🙂

Growing up, I was blessed to be able to watch (and be taught by) my mom. She really knows her way around the kitchen! Over time, I learned to mimic a lot of her habits. Other habits haven’t come completely naturally to me so I’ve had to be especially intentional about them.

Bjorn, Sophie, and I currently live in a rental home. I moved here in 2013 before starting my first teaching job, and Bjorn moved in 7 months later when we got married. This home has been a blessing for us, and I’m really happy our first years of our marriage are starting off in this home, as it gives me the opportunity (and responsibility) to care for a house and learn how to unify all my homemaking systems! Life can sure get busy, with Bjorn’s multiple jobs and the addition of a newborn in the mix 🙂 but I’ve learned over the years that despite all the hustle and bustle, keeping a house tidy and functional can be done fairly well if it’s done with intention!

We certainly have days where things get a little chaotic, but it’s always my goal to cinch up the loose ends of any messes and bring the home back into workable order.

I get a special kind of joy out of having a clean kitchen! Are you like that, too? There’s something extra wonderful about stepping into the kitchen and seeing clean countertops and a sparkling sink, and everything in its place. But it does take a few ongoing systems and rhythms to maintain that feel! I also love efficiency in terms of grocery shopping! So…

Since I’m all about being intentional with housekeeping, I sat down and thought through the main kitchen-related habits I stick to around here!

Simplified Kitchen Habits (That Save Time + Avoid Waste)

1 // Write your grocery list BEFORE grocery shopping. As much fun as it is to wander the aisles of the grocery store 😉 the goal is a quick in and out! (Especially with an infant grocery shopping with me!) Chances are, you’ve got other errands to run, so it’s a speedy mission. Efficiency is key! Plus, it helps me with self-control and with the budget to avoid shopping around just looking for random things that look good.

RELATED: How I Prepped Freezer Crockpot Recipes Before Baby 

2 // Don’t grocery shop hungry. It’s extremely dangerous to grocery shop while hungry, as you’re obviously more apt to grab additional goodies (unless you’ve got amazing self-control). Boy, have I learned this the hard way, haha! (Why on earth is my cart full of all these bags of chips and boxes of crackers?!) So, plan ahead. Know the meals and recipes you’ll need to pick up. I love going through my favorite recipes and selecting a few for our suppers for the week, then writing their ingredients down (either on a physical list or on Evernote on my phone – which I heavily rely on for multiple things!).

RELATED: 5 Reasons to Strive For a Clean Home

3 // Write your grocery list in the order of the store. This just may be my very favorite “hack.” My mom does it and I think it’s brilliant so I make sure I always do it as well! Once you’ve been in a location long enough to know the layout of your local grocery store, you’re good to go! This way, you save SO much time by not zipping back and forth through the store multiple times, forgetting items while you’re in the checkout line, or chanting those last 4 ingredients to yourself in hopes that you don’t forget them. 😉 I’m speaking from experience, haha.

4 // Eat leftovers before making a new meal. Or, when you’re planning ahead, if you know you’ll make a big enough batch of chili on Monday, then don’t plan to make a new recipe for supper on Tuesday. Save that next meal idea for Wednesday. This tip lacks a little in the fun department (I’m not really the biggest fan of leftovers), but it’ll save time and money because you’ll be stretching each meal you make as much as possible!

5 // Prep in advance. If you know your family tends to eat recipes with ground hamburger, you can really save time by browning a big batch of ground hamburger in advance and freezing it up in manageable (recipe) portions! You can do this with things like rice or diced onions, too.

6 // Don’t forget about crockpot meals! These aren’t just a fall and winter thing! I have a whole post talking about these too!

7 // Pull items to the front of the fridge. This is something I started doing within the last year or so and it’s amazing how it changes our perspective and keeps us aware of what all we have in the fridge! You know how in college when you share one fridge with, hypothetically, 6 other girls, everyone’s food keeps getting pushed further and further back in the fridge before finally going bad? 😉 Let’s avoid that. It’s like a black hole back there!

8 // Consider unique ingredients. Before you try a new fun recipe, make sure you are aware of how many unique ingredients it has and how you’ll use those up. I know “unique” is a relative term; it does depend on the type of cuisine your family usually eats, but I’ve learned from experience that buying large containers of maple syrup (I personally don’t like maple syrup on pancakes – only in recipes) or sesame oil or rice wine vinegar just for one recipe can cause you to be reallllly committed to whatever’s left of that ingredient! Or you end up throwing it away. So maybe think of more than one recipe you could use your more unusual ingredients for before you buy them for the one recipe you’re currently looking at.

9 // Label fridge items. I love this one because I love labels. 🙂 Bjorn really appreciates it when I do this too. I often suffer from a case of, “What’s that? Well, it must be bad by now” syndrome, because if I don’t recall using something recently, the date gets fuzzy in my mind and I worry the food has started to go downhill. I get paranoid so my default is to assume it has gone bad. So, now days, I frequently label leftovers or things like opened sour cream, dressing, or yogurt with the date made or the date opened. It saves the guesswork and worry.

10 // Clean up as you go. This one is HUGE. If I’m working on a more complex recipe, like our favorite Thai curry, that means I’ve got a dirty pot, a dirty cutting board and knives, and 1-2 dirty bowls, not to mention measuring cups and colanders. So, instead of making the whole meal, sitting down, eating supper with Bjorn, then feeling relaxed and tired and wanting to turn our attention to Netflix….(thereby forgetting and/or HATING the dishes), I know I must clean up as I go!

If things are sautéing in a pan, I’m quickly scrubbing the cutting board. If all the ingredients are measured and cut up and the curry’s okay for a few minutes in the pot, I’m washing up the measuring spoons and throwing away excess veggie peels/stems. It’s just a great way to work, and then I don’t “ruin” the relaxing feel of eating a good meal with the thought, “Well, I guess I’ve got to do the dishes now.” 🙂

I’ve learned from experience that it is almost always worth it to wash the dishes instead of leaving them in the sink overnight. Weekends are usually when I struggle with this the most…and I always regret it! So, little by little, I have learned to just make the choice to dedicate 10-20 minutes to dishes each day. It’s such a lovely feeling to come downstairs to a sparkling kitchen in the morning, so a little intentionality in the evenings makes a huge difference.

This was really fun to reflect on! What are your favorite kitchen habits – whether taught to you or something you’ve developed on your own?


  1. Great blog post and very helpful! As someone who’s getting married soon, I’ve been super interested in finding out how to have an organized kitchen and save on grocery bills. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Thank you, Ro! And congratulations on your upcoming wedding! That’s so exciting 🙂 It sounds like you’re getting a wonderful start by approaching house systems thoughtfully! I hope this post helps you with the organized kitchen aspect! 🙂

  2. I love this list!! I try to do all these things – sometimes I annoy my husband by how much I clean up as I go when he’s cooking with me. haha

  3. These are very helpful – and I’m actually already doing some of them! You are right, it does help to write out your grocery list in the same order of the store – I started doing that too and it helps a lot!
    Since we don’t have kids yet, my husband and I go shopping together. It’s more fun that way, and he keeps track of the $$ l while I cross things off our list. We almost never go above the budget because of it! We work well as a team. 🙂
    A tip that my mom taught me… “brown” a big batch of burger in the crock pot instead of over the stove. This makes it a completely hands free method and when it’s done cooking just divide it all up and freeze it!
    Rebekah Joy

    1. Thanks, Rebekah! I love your crockpot beef browning tip! That is great advice! My husband and I used to enjoy grocery shopping together, too! It sounds like you two work as such a great team that way! I agree – isn’t that grocery list writing idea a great one? My mom does that, and it really helps streamline the trip! Thanks for reading along 🙂

  4. I have a small dry erase board on our fridge and as I make a meal or we go out to eat, I label what leftovers are available and when it needs to be eaten by. It definitely helps, especially for my husband who may forget what options are available!

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