If you're like most of us, you'll do more cooking and baking during the holidays than you thought was humanly possible. Here's what to do now to get your kitchen ready for the busy season.

Herbs and Spices
Herbs and Spices | Photo by Meredith

1. Refresh Your Herbs and Spices

Why? Because dried herbs and ground spices lose potency over time, so testing them out before you start serious holiday cooking and baking helps ensure your recipes will taste their best. Whole spices can last 4 years, but ground spices lose their oomph after 2-3 years. How can you tell if they're still good? Use your senses: smell and taste will reveal all. Pro tip: Buy small quantities from bulk bins to reduce waste and ensure a constant flavor refresh throughout the year.

2. Sharpen Your Knives

Why? Because dull knives just don't cut it. All your slicing and dicing will go a lot faster and easier if your knives are sharp. For best results, have them done by a pro. Why now? To avoid the rush when everyone else is trying to get their edge on. You don't have to do the whole shebang; just the ones you'll use most frequently. A chef's knife, paring knife, and carving knife could be all you need. After that, keep the blades in shape by honing them with a knife steel after every use.


3. Eat Down Your Freezer

Why? Because you're going to need the room. Maybe you're one of those super-organized cooks who always knows and uses what's in the freezer. If so, I bow to your awesomeness. But for the rest of us, the stuff that's piling up in there won't leave room for stashing, say, pie crusts and cookie dough and casseroles and appetizers — all those smart make-aheads that smooth holidays run on. So eat what's in there now to free up space for later. While you're at it, eat down your pantry, too.