Taste of the week: Labeling your way to a more organized kitchen

La rentrée – the time of year in early September when France goes back to real life after a long, lazy summer break – is as much a formalized part of the year as Christmas or Easter. Kids are heading back to school, the papeteries (stationery shops) and supermarkets are piled high with stacks of notebooks, pens, diaries, ready to supply the nation with everything needed to start the new year. And while the only school I'll be attending is my cooking school, I always rejoice in a bit of annual reorganization. I round up unused utensils cluttering my kitchen and give them to friends, reorganize my cupboards after a month or two of hosting guests over the summer, and make sure my kitchen is in perfect order – not just so that my students can easily find their way around, but so that I can turn my hand to any task with a clear work space at my fingertips.

Strangely enough, one of my most frequently used items in my kitchen is not used for cooking. It's my label maker, the key to an orderly kitchen. Here are five ways in which labeling can transform your kitchen storage:

  1. Label and date anything that goes into your freezer, and also note it on a master list nearby. You think you'll remember what's in each container, but two months later, when the bag is frozen and your memory has faded, you'll be happy you have a well-marked inventory of your freezer contents.
  2. When storing leftovers in the fridge in glass or plastic containers, label the outside for clear identification. Then you're much less likely to leave perfectly good leftovers to languish at the back.
  3. Label spices and salts by jar in the same way. And if you like to renew your spices every six months, label the date of opening on the bottom of the jar.
  4. I always decant flours and grains into glass jars for storage. Labeling the jars makes for a much neater pantry, and helps avoid that moment when you're not sure if you're looking at self-raising flour, bread flour or plain flour. For grains, it's always useful to note the suggested cooking time and amount of water to cook in.
  5. If you have a lot of people coming through your kitchen like I do, labeling drawers and shelves for specific ingredients and cooking utensils is one of the best ways to make sure everything ends up back in its proper place at the end of the day.

Of course, you don't have to go out and buy a label maker, a roll of labeling tape and a sharpie can do the trick just as well. Happy organizing!