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Whether you have a kitchenette or a portion of a communal kitchen, today I’m sharing six tips for getting the most out of your small kitchen space.
Be real about your cooking style and preferences
People with large kitchens can collect appliances, try out every cooking gadget, and load up the pantry with infrequently used ingredients. But, when space is at a premium, you don’t have that luxury. Focus on what you will really use.
What do you actually enjoy cooking or baking? How do you typically use your kitchen? The answers to these questions will help you decide how to maximize your space. Live in the now, not in the future. You can always make changes later if your habits change, too.
Be intentional about appliances
Kitchen appliances take up a lot of of real estate, so limit yours to those you really use. Once you have a good idea of what you like to cook and eat, go through your existing appliances and be brutal! Anything that isn’t used regularly, or that doesn’t have at least two purposes, should be donated or recycled. Do the same for tableware and cutlery, since you can save a lot of space by trimming your place settings to a more realistic number. I’ve used Freecycle before to find folks interested in a vegetable steamer I was gifted or a pressure cooker I didn’t use often enough.
If it’s only your kitchen that’s small, put seasonal items like the ice cream maker you only use in the summer in storage elsewhere in your home.
Going forward, consider making a 30-day list. (This is an idea I borrowed from the Frugally Sustainable 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge. As a side note, this challenge is now available as an email course.) When you see that shiny new gadget, put it on a list. If, in 30 days, you still think that appliance would be a great addition to your kitchen (and you’ve already cleared a spot for it), you have my permission to bring it home.
Keep a shopping list
If you have an apartment-sized or compact refrigerator, or limited pantry space, you can’t really “stock up” on groceries items. Disorganized shopping can lead to “doubles” clogging up your shelves.
Keep a shopping list handy so you can remember to buy what you need. My kitchenette faces the entrance to my apartment, so I keep a magnetized pad and pen on the front door. You can also place one on the refrigerator, or take notes on your smartphone.
Shop, prep, and cook thoughtfully
Maximize the limitations of your small kitchen by being very deliberate about what you cook and when.
There are many ways to do this, but here are two that I do regularly.
- In my kitchen, counter space is limited, so once I clear off an area for the cutting board, I prep for several meals at once. I store diced seasonings and herbs, or chopped and peeled vegetables, in the refrigerator in plastic or glass containers.
- Make a meal plan for the week before shopping. You can shop for smaller portions of meats and proteins if you don’t like leftovers, or larger portions that you repurpose into several slightly different meals.
The reality is that small spaces get cluttered much faster than expansive kitchens. I will confess that organizing my kitchen is not my favorite activity, but everytime I uncover an ancient can of beans that could have been eaten or a broken egg slicer hiding in a drawer, I know that a few minutes of preventive organiztation would have saved me time and space.
Unless you are one of those people that love taking apart a room and putting it back together (I’m looking at you, MC), tackle one part of the kitchen at a time. Spending an hour in the drawers can free up a lot of space and won’t put a huge dent in your schedule.
Consider the best use of large spaces
This last one will vary a lot based on your own cooking style, but think about repurposing your oven, refrigerator or freezer, or counter space for storage if necessary.
We’ve found that our oven is much better put to use storing pots and pans than for baking. We generally use our toaster oven for baking and reheating leftovers. It doesn’t heat up our apartment as much as the oven and we can fit more cast iron in that oven than on the counter. Other friends store pantry items like flour in airtight containers in the freezer. Think about where you have space and be creative about using it.