Always scrambling to find a spatula and searching for the right spice? The new year can be just the right time to regain control of your kitchen space with some storage tweaks and a focus on easier access.

From cabinets and drawers to your refrigerator and pantry, check out this neat mix of ideas for making the most of your time in the kitchen with creativity and ease.

Let's start with some tips from professionals in the business,

French Master Chef Frederic Lange and his wife and partner, Graciela Lange, of Green Valley's Lavender restaurant.

While a commercial kitchen usually has much more space than a home kitchen, the principles of organization are similar, say the Langes. Refrigerators at the restaurant are organized by produce, meats and dairy and frozen items. At home, be sure to separate your meats from your produce in the refrigerator drawers for safety.

And now there is even help available to keep your produce fresher longer, says Mark Hoffman, owner of Sahuarita Ace Hardware. OXO Good Grips GreenSavers' Produce Keepers absorb ethylene gas that fruits and veggies produce and which ages them. These containers also promote proper airflow and control humidity levels when you store fruits and vegies at home. This line of containers includes three sizes of Produce Keepers, a crisper insert and carbon filter refills.

Come together!

Also in your home kitchen, a comfortable way to organize is to group items frequently used together, say the Langes. Baking pans, spatulas and mixing bowls should be stored together. Small appliances in the same area, and spices, herbs, sugar and flour in another, Graciela advises. That way, everything should be within easy reach when you begin baking or cooking.

Both at home and in the commercial kitchen, lots of small containers help organize a recipe, she says. Ingredients can be measured and portioned in these small bowls, and pre-assembled in order of need for preparation.

And to make storage of containers with lids even easier, consider a set of nesting containers and lids, says Hoffman. He and his wife use a six-piece set from JosephJoseph that includes a 1-quart, 2-quart and 3.4-quart containers. When not in use, each fits inside the next larger size.

“It works. It's really slick,” Hoffman says.

If you keep numerous spices and herbs at home, those bottles/cans can be alphabetized for quick access, Graciela Lange notes.

In place of a traditional wooden spice rack that may take up counter or wall space, plastic-coated wire shelving can be easily installed inside a pantry door or cabinet door, says Jim Capin, one of the owners of Green Valley True Value. It's an easy way to gain more space to store bottles and tins of your favorite herbs and spices.

If your kitchen space permits, hanging frequently used items — such as pans, spatulas and whisks — keeps clutter out of cabinets, as well off the counters, say the Langes.

Similarly, turntables inside smaller cabinets keep small items within reach with a turn. Popular Lazy Susan designs are available in lightweight plastic, or Sahuarita Ace Hardware sells metal turntables from its hardware department to handymen and women to make one themselves.

Easier access

And don't forget drawer organizers. They can be a big help for flatware and more. For example, look for a long, narrow one to store such items as chopsticks, skewers or plastic tableware.

Who doesn't appreciate spacious kitchen cabinets, especially as our collections of cookware and dry goods grow? But once these spaces fill up, it can be a struggle to access items that end up toward the back.

To solve that problem, Sahuarita homeowners Ken and Kitty Bottemiller a few years back bought some pull-out cabinet shelves at a big-box store. These made their tall, deep cabinet much more accessible.

“We didn't have to do so much bending and kneeling to reach the bottom level in particular. It also helped us keep track of stock and avoided items getting shoved to the back and basically lost as we added new items,” Kitty explains.

The shelves were easy to install, though required a bit of adjusting for it to glide easily, she says. Still, the Bottemillers agree they were well worth the effort.

The couple also finds that a help for any pull-out are inexpensive, shoe-box size, see-through plastic containers to contain small items like gelatin packages and packets of gravies or sauces.

Try some of these ideas in your own home this year and see if it makes your kitchen space the best ever!

Karen Walenga | 547-9739

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