How to Make Your Own Meal Kits

How to Make Your Own Meal Kits

How to Make Your Own Meal Kits

This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. Read my full privacy policy here.

What is a Meal Kit?

Normally, it’s a kit you order online that’s delivered straight to your door. It has pre-portioned ingredients for a provided recipe. Many people love them, and I can understand why. They are convenient. They are cheaper than takeout. And the food turns out well with minimal skills.

However, there is no way to make them work for me and my family. We have too many food restrictions ranging from allergies to weight loss to personally fussy taste.

But whenever I look at the very pretty picture of the menu option for these subscription services, there might be one meal that could maybe work. Generally, it’s something I would file under I’m willing to eat it knowing I won’t enjoy it, like pork chops.

So, I like to make my own meal kits when I meal prep on Sundays. This step speeds up weeknight cooking. It takes out any weeknight guesswork because I already know that I have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go. Meal kits also fit very well with weekly meal planning.

Sliced apple and rolling pin

Why You Want to Make Your Own Meal Kit

Some nights you want to eat a home-cooked meal, but every minute really counts. Or you know you are going to be exhausted, and still want a nice homecooked meal.

By making your own meal kits, you know what you are going to eat, and you have a plan to make it happen. Making a meal kit can turn a more adventurous recipe into something a bit more doable after work.

Ways to Go About It

Note that these kits aren’t dump recipes. These are mostly prepping and portioning. A lot of this falls under the easy to medium meal prep levels I describe in my meal prep post.

First, let’s talk about the produce. Some you can slice ahead of time, like onions. Some you can wash ahead of time like apples. And some all you can do is just section them off in the fridge, so they are with the rest of the meal kit, like potatoes.

Then there are the meats. You can buy a large pack of chicken or ground beef on sale and then portion it so it’s ready to go the night of. For foods like chicken, it’s worth the time to pre-cut for kabobs or stir fry. These portions can go into Ziplocks or other food storage containers. I like these pyrex ones because they clean so well and are just the right sizes for a lot of my recipes.

Sometimes you can start the marinade when you make the kit, but you don’t want to start it too early. A nice thing about most marinades, even homemade ones, is that they have a shelf life of at least a few days. You can make a marinade for your kit ahead of time. Just mix and store. This also reduces time-consuming measuring during the week.

Sliced apple and rolling pin


Here are a couple of examples of meal kits I make.



I make a marinade in the flavor of the week. Then I weigh out the meat I need, usually about 1 pound. Next, I cut it into kabob-sized chunks and store them in a glass container.

For the marinade, I like to mix it up and then set it right on top of the chicken container. Then the morning I plan to make the kabobs, I’ll pour the marinade on the chicken while I’m heating my breakfast.

Later, I’ll start some rice when my husband texts me that he’s finally leaving work. I’ll also put together some sort of simple vegetable side around here (by simple I mean I pour baby carrots into a bowl and if I’m feeling fancy I’ll add a side of fat-free ranch).

Once he’s home I’ll heat up the indoor grill and assemble the skewers. As soon as the grill is hot, they only take 2.5 minutes for a pair. Then we eat and I will have spent less than 15 minutes in the kitchen.



I love tacos and meal kits let me have more variety. First, I portion the meat. It usually doesn’t need cutting because it’s either already ground or I’m going to shred it after cooking.

Then I’ll prep all the produce (onions, peppers, garlic, etc.) in the food processor. This gets stored in a covered glass bowl next to the chicken in the fridge.

The night of I’ll pour the chicken and sauce into the instant pot and cook to perfection, while I walk the dogs for 30 minutes.


I could go on, but why? If you are looking for more recipes, check out my recipe page here.

Sliced apple and rolling pin

 What You Need

There are two things you need before you start making your own meal kits: a plan and food storage containers.


A Plan

You need to know not just what you want to eat in the future, but roughly when you want to eat it. I am a strong believer in meal planning because meal planning is awesome.

A weekly meal plan does everything from reducing weekly food stress to helping plan grocery runs. Without my plan, weeknight cooking would be completely overwhelming.

However, if you are overwhelmed by meal planning, you can get my free meal planning worksheet by subscribing to my email list. Also, check out my Chaos Management Series here.

Food Storage Containers

I group my food storage into two categories.

The first is disposable and it’s all about the zip locks. They might not be the best for the environment, but they are clean and you don’t have to clean them afterward. They also come in a lot of different sizes. I favor these for anything I want to be compact, or bunch together.

I can pre-measure and bag toppings or ingredients separately and then throw all the little baggies into one larger zip lock. I find that they store well flat in both my fridge and freezer. If you plan to fill a bunch of zip locks regularly, I recommend these bag holders. They are like giving yourself an extra set of hands in the kitchen.

The second category is reusable storage containers. These are probably greener than the one-time-use plastic baggies, but you have to clean them. I prefer glass to plastic storage because I hate and worry about them staining and smelling. I’ve thrown out way too many plastic ones.

I recommend using glass. I like this pyrex storage set because they stack as well as they clean. In fact, I like them so much that I made my mother get a set too. I like to use these for marinating chicken and storing other ingredients every week.



Making your own meal kits can be an easy and affordable way to cook on a weeknight. The best part about making them yourself is that you can tailor them to fit you.

If you liked this post, please subscribe to my email list with the box below. If you have any questions, I would love to answer them in the comments section. Happy Eating!

How to Find Good Recipes

How to Find Good Recipes

How to Find Good Recipes

This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. Read my full privacy policy here.

Finding recipes can be intimidating but oh so deliciously rewarding. Here are my tips and tricks to picking the good ones.

Finding a Good Recipe is Amazing

A new recipe is a delicious thing. It adds variety and fun to your meals. But it can feel intimidating when you start looking at all the recipes out there.

An untried recipe can make or break an evening. I’ve had so many new recipes turn out terribly. Nowadays, I’m more okay with risking it because I like having a backup plan.

Where to Look

There is always google. I only start here if I’m looking for something specific and I want it right now.

Pinterest is a wonderful place to look for recipes because you can both explore and hoard them. It’s also a great place for inspiration. If you want to check out Caramelized Chaos on Pinterest, click here.

Other social media can be inspiring, but harder to gather recipes. It works if you are looking for the spur of the moment type thing; however, it’s not very effective for meal planning.

Why Recipes Fail

There are many reasons why a recipe that looked delicious on the internet fails when you try to make it in your kitchen.

Sliced apple and rolling pin

It Wasn’t Tested Enough

Sometimes the person who wrote the recipe didn’t test it enough. It is generally recommended to food bloggers that they test their recipes at least 2-3 times before posting. All recipes on Caramelized Chaos are tried at least 3 times after finalization before being posted.


Conversions are another common reason for failure. It’s hard to realize how ambiguous some sizing is until you are in the grocery store or actually making the recipe. Just how big should a chicken breast be? Because I can find them at the grocery store up the street at over 1 pound each, but when I think of chicken breast, I mentally imagine something around 6 oz.

Some ingredients are different in different places and these variations can affect more than just taste. Tap water can be hard or soft depending on where you live. Flour has different protein contents depending on where the wheat was grown. If you live far away from farms, it can be near impossible to get the fresh produce you need for certain recipes.

Cook Times

There are so many factors that affect cook time. The first that always comes to mind is doneness. I like all my meat at least medium-well, if not well done. My husband (and most people I know) prefers medium steaks and moist chicken. Some people like their salmon flaky in the center and others just want to sear the outside and enjoy the dark pink center.

Appliance Differences

Is your oven convection? Because that can make or break certain recipes, like roast Turkey for Thanksgiving. My oven does not convect, so I made my Turkey in a bag, and it came out perfectly. But this method was different than my mother’s Turkey recipe because she has had exclusively convection ovens since before I was born.

Is your stove electric or gas? A gas stove controls heat by flame size, but that doesn’t change the temperature of the flame. Electric stoves usually use coils, and the temperature of the coils will change with the settings. This difference is why some people say gas stoves cook hotter. I believe you can cook just as well on an electric stove as a gas one, but you do need to cook differently.

Your Tastes are Significantly Different that the Recipe’s Author

Spiciness is the poster child of this discussion. When I lived in the Midwest, spicy could literally mean black pepper or paprika. Further south, we could be talking about ghost peppers.

It’s important to take into account that what is flavorful to one person is bland to another. As you cook more recipes from a wider variety of sources, you will start to recognize not just what you like, but the intensity of spices you need to be happy with your meal.

Salt to taste is another one of those ambiguous statements. I shamelessly put a lot of salt on my meat when I cook, because I don’t eat a lot of processed foods, so I don’t worry about it. Other people who are watching their blood pressure might omit the salt entirely. There are people out there who love pouring salt on everything and will add salt to their dish regardless of how you season it.

Some people also enjoy fattier foods than others. My husband and I can’t take a lot of heavy cream in our desserts without starting to feel sick (a little goes a long way for us). Other people are happy smothering all their foods in butter. But you should keep this in mind when you are deciding to use a recipe or not.

Skill Level

Perhaps you’re ambitious and trying a recipe a bit outside your comfort zone. The recipe might fail, but you will probably learn a lot by just attempting it. Practice makes perfect and giving those macarons another try could be worth it.

Sliced apple and rolling pin

Red Flags

Several things will keep me from even thinking about trying recipes from certain blogs.


People who pay attention to their ingredients while writing recipes will list them in the order they are used. When they are out of order, it’s a sign that there are probably inconsistencies elsewhere in the recipe. So, you need to double-check it before deciding to use it.

Superstitious Instructions

Another red flag is when I see extra fussy instructions. Now I don’t mean detailed instructions, where someone writes in-depth about a cooking skill. But that is when they are teaching a skill.

I’m talking about when are ultra-precise bordering on superstitious about their cooking directions. They don’t just list the order to add things into the pan. Instead, they take almost a printed page of instructions to caramelize the onions and add some spices. If the recipe maker has to be that crazy careful when cooking, the chances are high that it’s not going to be a good recipe.

They Don’t Use Their Own Pictures

I sometimes see stock photos for certain recipes. This is sometimes obvious if the brownies look delicious, but don’t contain the caramel reference in the recipe.

Other times when you research a certain recipe, you will see the same photo repeated across sites and that means they are either stock photos or someone is stealing content. Neither is a good sign. The original author’s recipe might still be good. Thankfully, I don’t think this is a common problem, but keep an eye out for it.

Sliced apple and rolling pin

Good Signs

Glowing reviews and lots of stars are classic signs of a quality recipe. But it’s not always there for newer blogs or more unique recipes. There are other aspects you can look at when you are considering a recipe.


Cooking Variations

If they talk about how they have tried different ways to cook the dish. This could be certain substitutions, like butter or olive oil. It’s good when they talk about cooking in different places (ovens, stoves, houses).


Ingredient Lists

When there are both volume and mass units, it shows that the author took extra care while writing the recipe.

It’s important to quantify ambiguous ingredients, like how big is a medium potato? Flour should really be listed with a mass measurement. If the author has paragraphs describing how to sift flour to get a proper volume measurement, run away.

On Caramelized Chaos, I’m trying to get better at listing both volume (American) and mass measurements on my recipes, because I grew up with more of an eyeball method of cooking.

Sliced apple and rolling pin

Be Careful with Changes

When you intentionally change parts of a recipe, it’s not quite as the author originally intended and recommended. So, you need to be careful how you go about this.



Always be careful with your substitutions. Some things are relatively safe, like substituting an Anaheim pepper for a poblano. Others you need to do your research first.

You cannot sub most flours at a one-to-one ratio, think white all-purpose flour and wheat flour. Some flours need to think if it’s a good idea in the first place. This is extra true if you are trying to turn a recipe gluten-free.

Oils are another ingredient you need to watch out for. You don’t necessarily want your cookies to taste like olive oil. Besides taste, you need to be careful about smoke points. If you try to deep fry in oil with a low smoke point, you could easily start an oil fire. Please be safe.


Cooking Appliances

Take your cooking appliances into consideration

One instant pot is similar to the next, but one oven can be hugely different from another. Some ovens run hot, and others run cold or have cold spots. You might need to adjust cook times or even temperatures to better suit your oven. If you are not sure how to do this, consider getting an oven thermometer.

You also can’t wave a magic wand and transform your standard oven into a convection oven. If you’re like me and have double oven dreams, my little convection toaster oven brings that dream closer to reality.

Electric stovetops just cook differently than gas. If you are making caramel or even pan-frying, you need to be extra careful and adapt how you cook the recipe for your stove.

Sliced apple and rolling pin

Other Considerations



People will cut corners on measuring their prep time. They start with diced peppers and washed potatoes. However, it will take you time to prep these ingredients and you need to make sure your schedule allows for it.

There are also certain phrases you need to watch out for, like “leave in the fridge overnight” or “let marinate for at least 30 minutes”. Many recipe authors don’t think that these steps count toward their total time.

So, a chicken recipe that I thought I could throw together on a weeknight, turns into a production because it needs to start marinating the night before.

These omissions are so common that they are almost standard. I don’t think that they inherently reflect badly on a recipe’s quality at this point. But you still need to plan for it.



You need to estimate how much prep time you personally need. It won’t be the same as someone else. It might not even be as long as last time as your cooking skills improve or you buy additional appliances to help you out. A recipe that I know I can prep in the food processor takes a lot less time than a recipe I can’t.

Also, will you need to acquire a specialty item? I worry that online orders won’t arrive on time or that I won’t be able to make it out to a specialty store. Think about any extra work required before you decide to commit to a recipe. I don’t want to dissuade you from trying new things, but I don’t


Be Generous with Yourself

If you are trying something you’ve never done before, give yourself a bit extra, like extra time.

Extra kindness if it doesn’t turn out perfectly.

Perhaps, a gift of extra spare ingredients. Maybe consider stashing an extra meal as a backup safety net (frozen pizza is always a favorite).


You can tell a lot about a recipe by reading it carefully. Don’t be afraid to read it more than once before you commit.

If you found this post helpful, please subscribe to my email list where you will get weekly advanced chaos management techniques and my free meal planning worksheets.

Are food processors worth it?

Are food processors worth it?

Are Food Processors Worth It?

This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. Read my full privacy policy here.

The BIG question, “Are food processors worth it?”

For me, the answer is YES. It saves time. It makes larger portions with ease because it’s a meal prepping wonder machine. And it performs small miracles for holiday cooking when there is so much cooking to do, but so little time.

If you don’t cook a lot or have the knife skills of a ninja, then it’s probably not worth it for you.

My Food Processor

Red 7 cup KitchenAid Food Processor

This is one of my favorite wedding gifts. It’s a KitchenAid 7-cup food processor. It came with two attachments, a multi-purpose blade, and a reversible slicing/shredding disc.

The multi-purpose blade is by far the one I use the most on everything from onions to Oreos. The disc is good for cheese. It’s probably good for other foods as well, but I use it to grate block cheese (an essential step in our family’s mac and cheese).

I love this appliance so much. I use it every week for meal prep. And every part cleans beautifully in my dishwasher.

Time Savings

Your time is precious, and a food processor can help you make the most of it. Saving time is the number 1 reason why I love my food processor and why I think you would love one too. Time is valuable and anything that helps make the most of it is valuable too.

A food processor cuts everything in a fraction of the time it would take me, especially onions. I hate cutting onions. My husband hates being in a kitchen where onions are being cut. We are a couple of wimps when it comes to onions.

But this machine could cut onions all day. It turns a pile of veggies into a sauce for my instant pot in moments (my favorite method to sneak more veggies into our meals).

It’s normal for us to use our food processor to cut a bunch of veggies for meal prep. Wash it. Then turn around to make a cookie crust without fear of it tasting like onions. It just keeps going.

It Helps Me Make Large Portions

It is a meal prepping machine. If you meal prep habitually, a food processor could significantly speed up your prep time. This is a tool that makes meal prep possible for a person like me.  

I can make a triple batch of meatballs or two pounds of chicken tacos, without being overwhelmed by how much needs cutting. There’s also the added bonus that all the food stays in the bowl and doesn’t fall off the cutting board where little doggie mouths can reach (I’m looking at you, Poppy).

Poppy looking innocent in the kitchen


Holiday cooking combines not having a lot of time with needing to make huge amounts of food into a single event. A food processor takes away a substantial amount of that stress. So much so, it will live out on my precious counter space for the holiday instead of in its usual cabinet residence.

There are so many dishes to use this for I don’t know where to begin. Thanksgiving is always a foodie favorite with as many dishes as I can find space for. Many needing things in small pieces like veggies, cheese, and crumbs.

Then there are the Jewish classics like latkes and charoset, both of which I have tried to make without a food processor and vowed to never do so again. (I’m serious. Don’t host Passover without one of these unless it’s potluck style.)


If you are a busy person, this device will help you in the kitchen. Even getting a mini one can help save time if you are only cooking for one. There are many different food processors on the market and many different price points, so I think there is one out there just for you.

You could easily love yours just as much as I love mine.

If you like time-saving tips and want weekly ideas on managing your kitchen chaos, sign up for my email list below. As a bonus, you will also get my Chaos Management Worksheets when you sign up.

Kitchen Contingencies: How to Prepare for the Unexpected

Kitchen Contingencies: How to Prepare for the Unexpected

Kitchen Contingencies: How to Prepare for the Unexpected

This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. Read my full privacy policy here.

How to prepare your kitchen for the unexpected, like burning dinner or getting sick.

Nothing Ever Goes Wrong

No really, nothing ever goes wrong in my kitchen, except, you know, on days ending in y.

Life happens and I’ve found it’s best to be prepared. Perhaps some of this sounds familiar to you? Your ingredients spontaneously grew mold in the fridge despite buying them yesterday. Your head is pounding so badly, you have equal chances of cutting your finger as a carrot. Your dinner burned.

You Get the Idea

It’s important to take the stress out of these events by controlling the chaos in your kitchen. Backups and redundancies can apply to your kitchen because eating is essential for you and your family. Hence why you are reading about advanced chaos management techniques for your kitchen.

If you are just getting started, check out my chaos management series starting with meal planning, and subscribe to my email list to get your chaos management worksheets.

Part of Your Meal is Ruined

My Most Common Reason

The number one reason I run into this problem is that food sometimes goes bad before its expiration date. Now I’m not going to claim that I have the best luck. But I don’t think food going bad before its time is that unusual.

I’ve precut potatoes and had them grow mold in my fridge in less than 24 hours. Then there are the bags of lettuce, where the leaves become slimy a week before the printed date. Or the “fresh” package of chicken that when you open it smells like a nightmare’s gym socks.

Vanilla Beans bound with twine

Need a Side

Sides can be fairly simple to replace if you keep your kitchen well stocked. The first place I always start is by looking at the produce I bought for snacking. I normally have a little more than I really need. A pile of baby carrots or sliced cucumber can be a healthy replacement any night of the week. Also, there’s no rule saying that the salmon you were going to serve with asparagus won’t go well with a sliced apple.

Then there are dry goods, which in my apartment tend to be starches. Pasta only takes 15 minutes after the water boils. If you have a bit of extra time, rice in the miraculous rice cooker goes with so many dishes. (I love things that cook perfectly without my assistance or supervision.)

You might want to store something yummy in the freezer. Everything from frozen green beans to dinner rolls could be strategically placed in there just waiting for when you need them.

There are also many prepackaged side dishes that have a long shelf life, like instant mashed potatoes. These don’t take up a ton of shelf space, which can be a necessity. However, I don’t buy these because of our food restrictions. But they could work very well for your family.

Hands with pink dish washing gloves, sponge, and a soap bottle

You Need to Replace the Main Dish

I love my freezer for these situations. There are so many wonderful foods you can stash away for a rainy day in here. I’m a big fan of frozen filets, like salmon or steak. My mom always has a package of hot dogs in hers for just in case.

Canned goods are an alternative, but I don’t like them as much. You can keep a can or two of anything from soup to chef Boyardee ravioli.

Then there is always boxed mac and cheese and instant ramen. Since I set these aside as an “in case of emergency food”, and not as part of my regular meal rotation, I’m not too concerned about how healthy they are. Just that there are no allergies. The nice thing about these foods is they can sit in the back of a cupboard for a long time. The bad thing is you can forget to check their expiration dates.

Your Entire Meal is Ruined

Dinner is Burned

Is your dinner more cinder than food? Take a deep breath, you’re going to be okay. After the smoke clears, literally, it’s okay to have a snack while you mentally regroup. Personally, I find that a snack is better than picking a fight or breaking out into tears.

Let’s say, theoretically, your dinner is now completely inedible. I’m sure you never burn food, but I will admit to it happening on occasion. Cooking can be a learning process for everyone. The first time my husband grilled skin-on chicken thighs, they literally caught on fire. I’ve burned everything from microwave popcorn to chicken breasts.

I’m not going to admit to eating my half-burned kitchen mishaps. This has not totally happened more than twice or anything already this year. But you can only do that if at least some of your meal is intact.

Entire Backup Meals

For breakfast, this can be as easy as deciding to have toast instead of eggs. Or keeping some oatmeal in the cupboard and microwaving it.

Lunch or dinner can be harder to replace. For my household of two humans, I like these meals to make enough for 2-4 servings and to have 2-3 of these backups on hand at any time. The larger meals are so I can still have my regularly scheduled leftover lunches if I need them during the week. Having more than one meal stored gives both the extra backup for a really terrible week and the ability to choose what you are in the mood for after dealing with smoke.

The Freezer is Your Friend

I’ll be honest, we like to always have a frozen pizza in our freezer just in case. For healthier weeknights, I love keeping a dump recipe or two in my freezer at any given time. When I make one for my scheduled meal plan, I’ll make an extra one just to keep in the freezer. I might plan to eat it in a few weeks, but I sleep easier knowing that it’s there just in case.

On Your Shelves

Boxes and cans can also be helpful. These tend to look like just combining the replacing a side and replacing your main dish sections above. Box mac and cheese with frozen green beans. Salmon filet on rice with an apple.

Sliced apple and rolling pin

You Can’t Cook

Perhaps, your head is pounding so badly, you have equal chances of cutting your fingers as a carrot. Or maybe your schedule is making crazy demands on your time.

Be it stress, illness, or even illness caused by stress sometimes your body demands that you take a day off. I try to listen to mine when it starts yelling like that. But as usual, I had to learn the hard way. I cut my fingertip off with a mandolin while having a migraine once. It’s not an experience I would recommend.

You Still Have Options

Premade and pre-prepped food can be great in this circumstance. Sometimes all I can do is preheat the oven and then go lay down. Then my husband will pop a frozen pizza in the fridge for us. Or he’ll just get takeout.

Worst case, you can order in. Delivery isn’t sin, but I still try to avoid it when I can. Just make sure you take care of yourself. You are important.


Life will keep throwing us curve balls and we can try to be ready for them. Even if you burn dinner, you can still make sure that there’s food on the table. Setting aside a little now can save you a frantic headache in the future. Your future self will thank you. I would love to know some of your unexpected food stories in the comments below.

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How to Buy in Bulk for a Small Kitchen

How to Buy in Bulk for a Small Kitchen

How to Buy in Bulk for a Small Kitchen

This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. Read my full privacy policy here.

Buying in bulk can seem intimidating when it feels like you have no space. But you too can take advantage of buying things at a larger scale, even with a small kitchen.

A Bit About My Kitchen

Like you, I enjoy saving a bit of money and bulk buying when I can. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment with my husband and two dogs. All things considered, my kitchen is larger than what I would expect in a one-bedroom, but I wouldn’t call it large. I’ve had larger kitchens in college dorms. But it’s mine and right now all the appliances work, so I couldn’t ask for more. I might have big kitchen dreams, but I’m making my real kitchen work.

Two Ways I Bulk Buy

The first way is the standard large quantity method. Either just buy the larger bags, boxes, and packs. Or taking advantage of a nice sale, where I can buy six jars of my favorite tomato sauce.

The second way is to buy from the bulk sections at the local supermarket. You know where you scoop, bag, and weigh it yourself. Near me, my favorite store to do this at is Sprouts. It lets me buy 5 pounds of flour around the same per pound price as the 10-pound bags. This method also has the perk of only buying what I need and can store, while keeping my costs down.

Prioritize the Things You Can’t Run Out of

I always like having extra of important items. The saying “One is none. Two is one.” certainly applies to what I look to buy in bulk and goes well beyond toilet paper. These items absolutely deserve the extra shelf space. This list includes oatmeal, so I don’t start my day hangry, and dish soap, because it’s nightmare-inducing to imagine my kitchen without it.

Vanilla Beans bound with twine

My Favorites to Buy in Bulk

Small Things I use All the Time

I use vanilla extract every week. I can buy a 2 oz bottle for around $6 at my local grocery store or I can buy the 16 Fl oz bottles, which will save me at least $16 over the lifetime of that bottle. And vanilla extract keeps. This method doesn’t make sense if you won’t use it, but if you like to bake just go for it.

Yeast is another one. I like to buy a pound of yeast and store it in my fridge. Not only do I stop worrying about how many of those tiny packets I have left, but I frequently see savings over 50%. Even if I don’t use all the yeast before it dies, I still save money. During the pandemic, yeast prices fluctuated a lot, but the shortages appear to be over for now. I also don’t like worrying about running out of yeast for the bread machine.

Spices are another item I like to buy big. I only do this for the spices I use often, like garlic powder and chili powder. I’m on the fence about cinnamon, because it feels like I go through a lot on my morning oatmeal, but I know a half teaspoon a day isn’t that much.

Tea can also be fun to buy in bulk. It always feels like Christmas when a pound of tea arrives for me in the mail. I always try a few samples just for fun but stocking up on my favorites is essential because I drink tea all day every day.

Shelf-Stable Stuff

I love Sprouts the grocery store and one of my favorite sections is the bulk section. I can scoop out as much as I need for flour, sugar, oatmeal, etc. at prices comparable to the huge bags that aren’t going to fit in my kitchen.

Other shelf-stable favorites are things like chicken stock and tomato sauce. These items stay good for a very long time, but I use them regularly and worry about running out of them. So, I prefer to buy packs of several small jars or cartons instead of the huge jars because they keep better that way.

I could probably find the space for one of those 25-pound bags of starch if I was willing to commit to one type: potatoes, rice, or flour. I’ve had terrible luck with bags of potatoes. Perhaps my apartment is just too humid, but they always start sprouting within a week. Rice and flour go in storage containers, and I’ve never had an issue. There are plenty of containers that will hold such bags. The only ones large enough that I’ve tried are cleaned-out dog food containers, but it worked so well for flour I would recommend it.

Hands with pink dish washing gloves, sponge, and a soap bottle

Cleaning Products

These are always in constant demand in my kitchen. Because I cook every day, I always need to clean my kitchen (if only a little bit). I don’t want to even think about what I would do if I ran out of kitchen cleaning essentials.

I’ve carved out some oh-so-precious closet space for a huge thing of paper towels, which are essential for everything from microwaving leftovers to cleaning my counters. I always have at least one extra can of sprayway under my sink, which I use on a lot more than glass. It works surprisingly well on mystery countertop stickies.

Then there’s just soap. I love soap. I keep huge things of dish soap and hand soap under the sink and refill more manageable-sized containers for everyday use. I also keep large quantities of both dishwasher pods and rinse aid down there, because I run the dishwasher at least once a day.

Other Bulk Buys

These are just odds and ends that we use a lot of, like chocolate chips. Between cookies and waffles, we use chocolate chips about once a week. Somehow, I still stay in my calorie budget despite my proximity to a giant bag of chocolate.

We sometimes buy cheese in bulk. Hard cheese, like parmesan, can keep a long time in a ziplock in the fridge. Softer cheeses like mozzarella, we only buy if it’s been subdivided in the packaging. But we can afford the buffalo mozzarella that way.

Occasionally we also buy snack foods, but generally, we get the kind that’s already individually portioned, like chips. Microwave popcorn keeps pretty well too.

Chocolate Chips on Wooden Spoon

How to Store

For everyday dry good storage, I use 4 quart Cambro containers with these little oxo scoops to weigh out flour and sugar.  They are simple and do the job well. I use these for flour, sugar, and oatmeal, but you can use them for a lot of different ingredients, like rice and beans.

For my smaller storage needs, I have these Rubbermaid containers for rice, more flour varieties, and yeast. The one for yeast has been doing an excellent job keeping it fresh in my fridge.

If you are worried about spills, like me, shelf paper can feel like a necessity. I also have a label maker, which I use on most of my containers. Occasionally, I’ll write directly on something with a sharpie, but the labels always look nicer and bring me joy. Regardless, remember to label your containers. White powders look eerily similar to other white powders and even tan powders if your kitchen lights are as yellow as mine.

Things I Bought in Bulk and Probably Didn’t Need To


The first thing that comes to mind is sponges. I have enough to last for years and now they take up valuable real estate under my sink.

Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil

The next is a bulk pack of heavy-duty aluminum foil. I use this for almost everything that goes into my oven. But apparently, I don’t use as much as I think I do. I only go through a roll every 6 months or so.

Optimistic Snack Foods

But the number one thing I need to stop buying in bulk is optimistic snack foods. I am known to occasionally have these crazy ideas, like “We are going to be responsible and prep individual bags for the week.” and “There’s no way we would ever rapidly eat through the whole Costco sized thing in two days.” You can probably guess what happened from there.

This madness also occasionally reaches out for health food that I don’t really like. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I eat for pleasure and if it isn’t tasty, it’s probably not worth eating to me. So, I learned the hard way to stop buying healthy stuff I won’t eat. Buying extra isn’t going to persuade future me to like it more.


Part of this is that my eyes are bigger than my stomach (and calorie budget). I say we can go through five pounds of potatoes in two weeks, no problem. But I have yet to successfully store potatoes that long. Also, the two of us don’t go through that many potatoes.

In Conclusion

You can still buy in bulk if even if your kitchen is the size of a postage stamp. I have for many years in for several different apartments and you can too. What do you like to buy in bulk for your kitchen?

How to Keep Your Kitchen Clean with 15 Tips

How to Keep Your Kitchen Clean with 15 Tips

How to Keep Your Kitchen Clean with 15 Tips

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#1 Start with a Clean Space

Wash your hands and wipe down your counters right before you start cooking. I recommend this not just for general health reasons, but because it will give you space to cook. I generally clean my countertops and glass top stove with Sprayway and I’ve found that it works really well on most smooth surfaces.

I always make sure to wipe down my stove before I use it because I also use it as counter space. If I don’t I end up burning a practically invisible reside.

#2 Empty the Dishwasher

Starting with an empty dishwasher, lets you put things straight in as you are cooking, like scissors covered in chicken juice from opening the container or your vegetable peeler that you’re not going to need for the rest of the day.

If you have a lot of prep dishes, the dishwasher can run while you are eating. Then you can empty and reload after the meal. Or if you don’t have a ton of dishes from cooking, you can run your dinner dishes right after dinner.

#3 Empty the Sink

You will need the sink as you cook, so you might as well make the space early on. All the dirty dishes that might be sitting in there, can now go into the waiting dishwasher from tip 2. Depending on the size of your sink, if it’s empty before you start cooking, you might have room both to use the tap and let a few things soak.

#4 If You Aren’t Going to Use it Again, Put it Away

As you use ingredients, put them straight back into their place. Spices go into the spice rack. Flour into the cupboard, and so on. As you use spoons, knives, and plates, put them in the dishwasher as you go. If it needs to soak, start it soaking right away. That way when you are done cooking, it will be done soaking, and you can clean it or put it in the dishwasher

Soaking your dishes before they have a chance to turn into a dried-out mess, helps to make clean up a breeze since you can easily skip the hard scrubbing. You might have stuck on bits, but they are few and far between. I use Bar Keepers Friend on all my pots and tough jobs. It takes off burned bits without the scrubbing or scratching, which extends the life of my pots.

#5 Use a Spoon Rest

Spoon rests help to limit sticky spots on countertops and the stove. My mother hates them and thinks they are a uni-tasker, which can be replaced by a plate. I think she’s wrong. They take up less space than a plate would, to do the same job, especially if you are worried about handle drips. They also keep me from misplacing my spoons while I’m cooking, because I know that they are in the spoon rest.

I love my spoon rests. I have a fancy Le Cruset spoon rest that was a wedding gift, and my other is a stainless steel OXO spoon rest that I’ve had for years. They are both dishwasher-safe, so I just pop them in after I’m done cooking or baking and they clean well.

Spoon Rests with green spoon

#6 Throw Things Away as You Go

Don’t make extra work for yourself for later. Later you is like present you, but more tired, so help them out. Throw away or recycle extra packaging as you go. If you have compost, put your cooking scraps in the bin as you go. It might take a week or two to develop such a new habit, but I promise you it’s worth it.

#7 Your Trash, Recycling, and Compost Bins Should be Convenient

These bins need to be near where you are cooking. I like them either under the sink, which is where I do a lot of prep. Or no more than 3 steps away from the sink, with a foot pedal lid. Foot pedal is my favorite trash can style. It is hands-free, keeps the smell in, and is relatively dog resistant. I’ve tried the swinging tops, and they just get filthy. No lid is very smelly and I don’t like needing to take the trash out that often.

I’m also a big fan of scented trash bags. They help to keep the smell at bay for us humans in the house. I have no doubts that the dogs still enjoy the trash smells without difficulty. They can sniff, but they now know to not go into the cans.

#8 Give Yourself an Extra Set of Hands

If you are meal prepping or even just putting away leftovers, these clipping bag stands are super helpful. They help me load several zip locks at once. I don’t need to wash my hands repeatedly or worry about getting food on the outside of the bag.

Bag clip holder

#9 Use Aluminum Foil and Parchment Paper

Aluminum foil is wonderful for controlling messes and clean-up in ovens. I like the heavy-duty and non-stick varieties for my everyday needs. The heavy-duty is for extra-large messes. The non-stick is for any food I’m worried about sticking, burning, or adhering in any way to my pans. Parchment paper deserves an honorable mention for most baked goods, like cookies.

All three of these will help you keep your pans clean without having to scrub them when you are done.

#10 Try to Deal with Spills as They Happen

It’s easier to clean a spill while everything is wet than when it’s turning into dried crud on the counter. When Sprayway doesn’t work (which is almost never) or I’m concerned about contamination (like chicken), I’ll use a Clorox wipe or a scrubbing sponge with some dish soap. Cleaning the spill this way, will save you time overall and help to keep your kitchen looking great as you cook.

#11 Use a Food Scale When You Can

By using a food scale, there is so much less to clean at the end. There are no measuring cups and spoons filling the sink. I still use measuring cups and spoons as recipes call for them, but not for most of my everyday things.

I know that volume measurements are very American, but a lot of other places use scales and I can see why. Not only does it accurately measure ingredients like flour, without complicated sifting methods, but it’s incredibly useful for sticky things like honey. I hate getting honey out of measuring spoons.

I use my food scale for everything from salad dressing at lunchtime to raw chicken while I cook dinner. I mostly thought of food scales as a dieting thing, until I started watching Good Eats Reloaded during lockdown. Alton Brown recommends food scales in so many episodes and you can see how he uses them in his kitchen.

#12 Give Yourself the Time You Need

It will take a few extra minutes to clean the kitchen when you start. But you will get faster as time goes on. I know I did. Those extra moments to throw things out and put them away are worth it. The hardest part is committing to changing your habits. But overall, I’ve found that all those little moments reduce my stress.

#13 Empty Your Bins Regularly

Having a full trash can when you start cooking is extremely frustrating. Recycling might be able to chill out on the floor for a bit before becoming a chew toy, but trash and compost don’t have that option. So, save yourself the frustration and take it out regularly. We normally take ours out every 2-3 days, but it’s just the two of us.

#14 Store Your Most Used Items Near Where You Use Them

By storing your most used items near where you use them your kitchen becomes more efficient. You might even save a few minutes as you cook. My vegetable peeler lives in a drawer by the sink. My stirring spoons are in a jug near the stove. I have a lazy susan near the stove and microwave for easy seasoning.

#15 Pan Storage Shouldn’t Be Frustrating

I used to keep a barely contained teetering pile of cookie sheets and muffin tins in my extra-deep cabinet. It seemed like it was filled to capacity and then some. Then I bought a pan organizer and it worked beyond my expectations. It saves me time both for finding what I need and for putting things away.

In Conclusion

These are my top 15 tips for keeping your kitchen clean as you cook. Are any of them surprising for you? Do you do any of these already? I would love to hear in the comments below.