There are countless ways to use the clear, plastic containers you often see stacked in restaurants for your own prep. Tall ones are perfect for large quantities of stocks and ice creams, while shorter ones can hide pestos and dressings away. As you are well aware, dinner routines are an essential part of the week, and storing your food prep in easy-to-see containers should help. The best part? These lids are interchangeable, so you don’t have to worry about a stray topper.
Home kitchens have always been more casual than restaurants, but they can also be as efficient. Follow these restaurant-approved storage tips.
Place your prep in plastic containers
Make space for pegboards or rails
There’s a reason why Julia Child used a custom pegboard in her famous kitchen. By having her trusted pots and pans within reach, it was easier to pick and choose which items she needed on the fly. Take her advice and install a pegboard for everything from pots and pans to ladles and spatulas.
No space for a pegboard? Opt for a single rail beneath upper cabinets to hang your favorite items from hooks. A bronze one will patina over time, making your vignette look as perfectly lived in as Child’s.
Create zones for flow
Restaurants get food out quickly because everyone on the line knows their place. And even though no one should expect a meal on the table in about 12 minutes where you live, they should be able to move around the room in a flash. All utensils, cups and plates should be gathered in the same area of your kitchen, and set at least a few feet away from the high-trafficked areas of a refrigerator, oven or even microwave. Store once-in-a-blue-moon appliances inside your pantry, or in a cupboard out of the way.
Use bench seating to maximize space
There are likely two reasons why banquettes are a classic part of the dining experience: They fit as many people into one space as possible, and it simply feels cozier than individual chairs. If your kitchen has a breakfast nook, consider the possibilities of creating a banquette of your own, or at least adding a bench. Either option provides the chance to add storage underneath the cushions as you also expand seating. A drawer would be perfect for linens, but open-air baskets would pull off the same trick.
Add shelving everywhere it fits
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or peeked in the back, then you’ve probably noticed that no space goes to waste. Shelving spans above and below countertops, and walk-ins are lined with tiered units. If you have a pantry, then take note of this design: Place the items you use most at eye level, the heaviest items beneath and the specialty items above. If you don’t have a pantry, add open shelving to a blank wall — for everyday items like plates and cups — or place a cart beside a small countertop. And while you’re at it, add extra shelving inside your cabinets to maximize the number of pieces you can fit inside.
Label everything you eat
You know that tasty tomato sauce you made a while ago? Its leftovers are now sitting in the fridge, and you can’t quite tell if that smell means it’s still good or not. This would never happen in a restaurant — and for good reason. All ingredients are promptly labeled, making it easy for anyone to see what’s still fresh and what’s past its prime. Get in the habit of writing the contents of your leftovers on masking tape with a permanent marker and include the date. It’s a fast and cheap way to keep your fridge clean.