The 11 Kitchen Organization Tips Ina Garten Swears By

Straight talk: We're never, ever, in 1 trillion years, going to serve up a dinner party like Ina Garten. Nope, never, not even trying. We've come to terms with this, mainly because only Ina can cook like Ina. Her Engagement Roast Chicken recipe makes people propose to each other! Who else can say that?

But here's the thing. While we can't even pretend to soufflé like Ina, we can surely organize our kitchen like she does! And don't worry, no one's making you heave any sledgehammers through the wall to turn your space into an open-concept. Ina's here for all of us, with any size kitchen, and any type of fridge — and whatever's currently in it. Does that ancient, crusty jar of mayo spark joy? Didn't think so.

Let's unapologetically lean into our collective Contessa'bsession, and dig up the deets on Ina's hottest clutter-crushing tips. From room temperature produce, to old deli containers and make-ahead macaroni and cheese, set your timer! This is how Ina really organizes her kitchen.

Rinse and reuse

We're all happily rocking our stainless steel water bottles and glass bento lunch boxes (#sustainable), and yet we still end up with the pint-sized plastic container from the Whole Foods deli full of our favorite chicken curry salad. But before you sneak out to throw it in your neighbor's recycling bin in the middle of the night, hang on to that thing! Ina uses these containers for everything.

"Pint, half-pint, and quart containers. And I just use them over and over again, and they go in the dishwasher, and they're great," Ina explained to Domino's podcast "Design Time." And as she's shared on Instagram, deli storage even works in the freezer for soup and chicken stock. She also stores pantry items in these containers, effortlessly organizing staples like dried beans, different types of flour, nuts, chocolate chips, or piping tips into delightfully tidy order.

While the plastic material can survive the microwave, many culinary pros think that the heat may break down the plastic and release the chemicals that make it so durable. So you might want to skip the nuking. A rule of thumb on how long to reuse your containers: If they crack, start to feel sticky even when they're clean, cling to food smells, or it's been several months, it's time to love and let go. If you don't do deli or takeout, they're also available on Amazon. Because, as Ina famously puts it, "Store bought is fine."

Wrangle your utensils

Maybe you enjoy blindly feeling your way through a jungle-like kitchen drawer full of stabby things, pinching your finger with a can opener, slicing your wrist on a vegetable peeler, or shredding your palm on the lemon zester. Well, no more rolling pin problems for you — because starting right now, you're curating your collection like a freakin' Contessa.

Grab the cutest stoneware utensil holders you can find. We're clearing out the junk drawer, and putting our favorite ladles and serving spoons on full display! But before you start mingling Grandma's wooden spoon with the steel pie server, let's take a page from Ina's own organization playbook. "I also like big white crocks with utensils on the counter so they're easy to reach," she posted on Instagram, adding, "All the white and wood utensils in one and stainless steel in the other." Done and done.

But don't leave your trusty cutting boards in the breeze. A sturdy woven or metal basket provides the perfect home for a few boards that might be wasting away in the cupboard. Now, they'll be ready for their countertop close-up.

Rock the room temp

Take a break from alphabetizing your cupboard from allspice to za'atar, and focus on the fruit in your fridge. Maybe you grew up leaving citrus in the cold so it lasts longer, but when we're talking about lemons and limes, putting them out on the counter not only adds a pop of vibrant color, it also happens to be the best way to juice those sucka's.

As Ina explained it on Instagram, "Some pretty lemons and limes on the counter not only make the kitchen feel good but you get more juice from room temperature citrus." Told ya so. Second bonus, have you smelled a perfectly ripe, freshly-zested lemon? Come on! It's like an instant trip to the Amalfi Coast. And yes, those are gentle lapping waves at your feet and not your Roomba bumping into your toes.

Of course this storage method is all about the visual appeal. But it's also a strategic move to trick yourself into using more fresh citrus. Pretending for just a moment that we aren't forensically glued to exact amounts in recipes, we imagine ourselves as Ina, freely adding that impromptu finishing touch. She told the podcast Domino's Design Time, "I always have things that can stay at room temperature, in bowls, in front of my butcher block. Because I might be working on a recipe and there's an orange there, and I go, 'You know what? I'm looking for something a little bitter in this. Maybe I'll try some orange.'" Still waiting to find out exactly how many ounces there are in "some."

Finesse your fridge

Let's be honest. Anything except for one of those "Real Housewives" full-frontal glass display-type refrigerators is vulnerable to morphing into a 37-degree-ish condiment wasteland. Whether it's a smart fridge that camos into the cabinetry, or a sky blue '70s Frigidaire, behind that closed door, a once-organized series of yogurts, dressings, and veggies quickly becomes a crime scene with the ketchup pointing fingers at the frankfurters. But Ina's got some tips to get your fridge looking like a display model at IKEA.

We trust her. Remember how she once owned her Barefoot Contessa store? She definitely knows her way around an enticing display. She recalled to Domino's "Design Time," "I used to be a specialty food retailer, so if the Evian wasn't lined up perfectly in the refrigerator at the store, it would drive me crazy!" Even if you don't stock chilled Evian, you can 100 percent organize like you do.

Ina suggests grouping similar items together, with dairy, proteins, and veggies each enjoying their own spots in the fridge. Anything with a label? Face it forward, so you can easily read it. And if it's Worcestershire ... maybe face it backwards so you don't have to try.

Value your veggies

Storing vegetables isn't just one-berry-container-fits-all. You can try throwing all your produce in the crisper drawer, but don't be too shocked when you discover that your fresh basil has turned into something brown, soggy, and not of this world. Better call 1-800-INA-HELP (really hoping that's her cell number) so we can get our veggies in order once and for all.

First, not everything needs to go in the fridge. Basil is one that you can trim and store like fresh daisies in water, out on the counter. Also whole tomatoes, avocados, onions, potatoes, apples, and fruit that has yet to ripen; all that stuff can sit pretty outside the fridge, or on a butcher block like you're lowkey living in Williams Sonoma.

But as for veggies that do like it nice 'n chilly, Ina has thoughts. She keeps her carrots wrapped in a moist paper towel and zipped up in an airtight bag to stay crunchy for days. And she has her cut asparagus soaking up all the moisture it needs while perched in a cup of water. With a little TLC (Turnips Lettuce Carrots), and placement of your produce in its ultimate spot in your kitchen, your veggies will last even longer than it takes for you to Google a recipe that specifically calls for the Velvet Pioppini mushrooms in your fridge.

Prime your pantry

It's the lusted-after walk-in closet of food lovers everywhere: a stunningly stocked and organized pantry. And as we definitely expected, Ina's pantry is a thing of spectacular beauty. (Sigh ... the Madagascar vanilla bottles all standing proud in their own little row.)

You've seen Khloé Kardashian's pantry with her labeled snacks and signature Oreo cookie-stacked glass jars that feel like they're following us everywhere. This isn't that (no offense to Oreos, which are delicious). This is for those of us who cook, bake, simmer, broil, and sauté — who need the right ingredients and our favorite tools at our fingertips. Ina kicks things off for us with some open wire shelving and clear storage boxes. The vibe is utilitarian and stylish, and fully capable of organizing the good stuff.

Ina explained, "I have like-minded things together. All the oils and vinegars together, I have all of the sweet things like honey and Karo syrup and molasses, all of those are together, all of the pastas are together, the grains are together, chocolate and vanilla and things like that, and the baking supplies are together. So, I have them grouped." If you really wanna go full Ina, stock up on her favorite pantry staples like Rao's marinara sauce, Grey Poupon Dijon mustard (she keeps it right next to the pickles and capers), Maldon sea salt flakes, Olio Santo California olive oil (she says it's smoother-tasting than Italian olive oils), and Stonewall Kitchen maple syrup which hits the tongue just like a sweet Fall leaf. With Ina's picks on hand, your perfectly stacked mini boxes of Froot Loops will feel like a million bucks.

Make-ahead meal prep

If your kitchen looks like a Category 5 hurricane blew through after you baked a few cupcakes, this one's for you. Meal prep with Ina is all about doing the messy work ahead of time, so you can keep it easy breezy (and clean!) on the day of. That way you're not scouring pots and pans — and scrubbing spaghetti sauce off the walls — until 3 a.m.

Ina was so inspired to save us from ourselves, that she even wrote about it in "Go-To Dinners." As she explained to People of her 13th(!) cookbook, "I found easier ways to make delicious dinners with make-ahead, prep-ahead, freeze-ahead recipes plus 'two-fers' — cooking one dish that becomes something totally different the next night." A thousand times, yes. We have to flip through the pages again, but was there something in there about magically turning Top Ramen into filet mignon for dinner #2?

She also simplifies recipes by using just one pot for the entire meal, resulting in much less kitchen clutter to deal with later. We have eyes on her Chicken in a Pot with Orzo, Orange Marmalade-glazed Ham with ruby port, dijon, and brown sugar, and the effortless do-ahead Overnite Mac & Cheese. While you're conked out and dreaming of sugarplums, the pasta sponges up the rich cream, providing a luxurious base for a cheesy, buttery, toasty, bread crumb topping. We're not drooling, you are. (And we are.)

Ditch the junk

Expired spices, oils, and baking soda? Bye-ee! Nobody wants flat cakes, flavorless seasonings, and an expired vinaigrette of free radicals drizzled over their salads. So feel free to pull a total Ina, and kick those old pantry items to the curb!

As she posted to Instagram one April, "Spring cleaning time! Every year, I organize my pantry and weed out old oils and baking powder ... It's very satisfying to have an organized pantry." Not only does this trick eliminate ingredients that no longer do their job, it helps you figure out what you'll need to pick up during your next shop. Expired canned tomatoes? Trash 'em, and add them to the grocery list. Spoiler alert: It's much easier to do this task once a year, versus while you're in the middle of cooking a complicated recipe.

But hold on a minute. Before you chuck that old baking soda, you might want to think about keeping it around for its second life as a cleaning agent. Added to a soft, damp sponge, baking soda offers extra abrasiveness for scrubbing those tough spots in sinks and tubs, without leaving any scratches.

Set the timer(s)

Here's a kitchen organization hack for your head. If you've witnessed the number of timers beeping during the Showstopper round of the "Great British Bake Off," you already know how important it is to time your bakes. But when you've got multiple things cooking at once, each with its own temperature and timeline, you can keep the mental frazzle at bay by busting out several kitchen timers — just like Ina.

During a kitchen tour for "New York Times Cooking," Ina showed off her timer collection (of course, they coordinate with each other), sharing, "These are really important ... I have lots of timers. I don't want to put something in the oven and forget about it, which I can do." Yes, all of her high end appliances probably feature their own state of the art timing technology. But it's way more fun (and easy to keep track of) to turn the dial on a hand-held version — and then hear it ding when the food is ready.

If you want to go full Ina, pick up a couple of white Lux Minute Minder timers. With a clearly visible tilted clock face, a glorious 60 different minute settings to choose from, and a long, loud ring, you'll never burn your cookies and overcook your roast at the same time, ever again. Even if you're at the neighbor's house down the street. Hear that? That's the sound of no stress.

Cover your cookbooks

Does anyone actually use real cookbooks anymore? We used to work our way through "The Joy of Cooking," and crack the spine on Ina's "Cooking for Jeffrey," lovingly dog-earing our favorite pages while wiping up chocolate drips from the edges. Now, we Amazon Prime our favorite chef's latest edition, display it, and go straight to our phone to read the recipe. Whichever way you cook with your literary companion — be it a paperback, a Kindle version, or a collection of your own family recipes — Ina's all about keeping your content in mint condition.

She recommends organizing recipe cards and other ideas into a binder, where transparent sleeves offer the perfect wipeable surface for any splatters, spills, or explosions. This keeps you from completely destroying your nonna's 100-year-old recipe for the best-ever Italian pizzelles, which she wrote out for you in pencil.

We can skooch this tip into modern times by also applying it to hardcover cookbooks and iPads that may be spending a lot of time next to bubbling soups and sauces. A clear book cover for the books, or a see-thru sleeve for your device, and you can splish-splash all you want around the kitchen, using the spoon as a microphone. (This is a two-way screen. We saw the whole thing.) As Ina once noted of her cooking, during an interview: "'You can do whatever the f*** you want to do'... I'm just having fun here."

Stock your booze in the pantry

We know Ina Garten loves a good cocktail (Especially an XXL cosmopolitan, per her Instagram). She's clearly got a full bar's worth of top shelf booze on hand at all times. But she doesn't just serve up the goods willy-nilly on a rando bar cart, letting guests go nuts on the Fabbri Amarena Cherries. Nope! Garten keeps her booze cleverly organized in her pantry — and brings out just what she needs, when she's ready to party.

We've all seen the Pinterest bar cart with the mini tonic and ginger ale bottles, and oddly twee booze collection. (So, where should we put the margarita machine again?) But Garten skips the hassle and stocks her hard alcohol and multitudinous liqueurs in her pantry. If she's serving guests, she mixes an easy pitcher-friendly cocktail ahead of time, or puts out just what's needed for the event — maybe vodka, sliced lemons and limes, and a little snack ... you get the picture. 

Just like everything else in her kitchen, we were curious about which alcohol makes the cut for the famous cook. Garten shared with fans, "I usually have Scotch, vodka, bourbon and gin, and it's always good to have a red and white wine on hand. For mixed drinks, I would stock tonic, club soda and ginger ale." From what we can tell from Garten's photos and recipes, she prefers brands like Grey Goose, Knob Creek, Johnny Walker, Maker's Mark, Tanqueray, and Casamigos. We'll take one of each, with a twist! (Making a note to also check her medicine cabinet for a couple Advil.)