May 17, 2013

Small Kitchen Hints

Last weekend, I promised to share my hints for living with a small kitchen on this post. Using a doll-sized space takes some creativity, but I refuse to let the size of my kitchen dictate what I can and can't cook. Is it frustrating sometimes? Yes. Would I like more counter space? Of course! Am I able to still whip up some yummy delights? Absolutely. 

Despite the small factor, I've managed to turn my kitchen into a fully functional cooking space.  So, as promised, here are my top five small kitchen hints:  

1. Decide on your non-negotiables. Pick a few things that you simply MUST have in your kitchen, regardless of how much space they may take, or even what they may cost (within reason, of course). I've always heard the phrase, 'Buy the best you can afford'. While I love thrifting, I wanted to get good quality non-negotiables brand new, at the price I could afford.

For me, it was a set of great knives, stainless steels pots and a cast iron frying pan. (The Italian coffee-top espresso maker is a given -- there was never any negotiation involved in that one.) 

We married overseas and had a small wedding -- I never registered for dishes, knives or appliances. I didn't register for anything, actually. We had nowhere to put stuff at the time, plus I'm a little anti-registry. 

Once I had my own kitchen though, I thought about my non-negotiables, purchased them and then was happy to get the rest of my kitchen stuff from thrift stores. My knives do take up a chunk of the counter space, but I can't imagine not having them accessible. The frying pan stays on the stove, and the pots stack neatly inside one another under the oven.  

2. Everything must be FULLY functional. Having a small kitchen means you can't really have stuff laying around that simply looks pretty. That doesn't mean you can't have pretty things. 

One look at Vintage Pyrex and you can see that my kitchen is chock full of functional and pretty things. Problem solved. I am particularly enamored with the refrigerator dishes. (See more reasons why here.) You can bake in them, store them in the fridge and lids make them stackable.

Fully functional, fun AND pretty. 

Plus, if you don't have the cabinet space, you can use any of your bowls for other types of storage... like yarn, for instance. 

Having functional and pretty things sometimes means getting creative. I continually swoon over vintage cake stands and covers, but I clearly don't have space for them. This past weekend, I realized that I had a glass storage container with a rubber lid that was the perfect size for the 8" cake I baked -- upside down! Even if you don't have a lid, any clear glass container would work for the size of your cake or pastry, as long as you put a plate underneath.

3. Utilize all available counter space. I don't have a dishwasher. I wash everything by hand, and I have a dish rack, which takes up precious space. 

If you're in the same boat and need more space -- wash and dry the dishes, put the rack away and use that counter space for a while until you need to wash the dishes again. I know this seems basic, but I can't tell you how many times I've stared at the kitchen, willing an island to pop up out of nowhere, when this little corner was simply waiting for me to put the dry dishes away. 

I've also seen things that you can put over a sink in order to get more counter space. I only have one sink, and am constantly using the water from there when I cook, so it wouldn't be practical for me. But I think if you have a double sink, it would be great! (They sell these at places that sell RV supplies... and really, what better example of a small kitchen than an RV?!)  

I do have a wonderful strainer the fits over the sink, so it often comes in handy when I need more counter space. 

Of course, use the obvious: your kitchen table. My dining table happens to be right in the kitchen, so I just move stuff out of the way and onto the table when I'm cooking. 

4. Use your oven for storage. I'm always surprised at the number of people who only have a baking tray stored in their oven -- or nothing at all. I have a ton of stuff in there -- in fact all of my baking, muffin and bundt pans, plus a few Pyrex casseroles have made a home in my oven. 

Of course it means that when I use the oven, I need to remove everything. I usually just put it all on the table or on my bed. (Place an old towel on the bed in case there are yuckies stuck under the pans -- unless of course you have a spotless oven. In which case you probably have an immaculate and large kitchen... and you're reading this for entertainment rather than actual hints.) 

5. Choose smaller appliances. Unless you are a baker by trade and the Kitchen Aid stand mixer was your non-negotiable, choose appliances that are better suited for small spaces. After borrowing my mother's nearly 40-year-old hand mixer for a few months, I knew I needed to look for my own. I found this Sunbeam one on sale. 

The whole thing packs into a mixing bowl with a lid. I keep it on top of my fridge. The lid keeps everything dust free, I don't have to hunt for another mixing bowl, and it takes up far less space. 

Along the same lines, I do have a blender that I love using. But unless it's the summer smoothie season, I keep it in the back of the cabinet and just use my smaller stick blender when I'm making soups and small quantities of blended goodness.  

Of course having a small kitchen doesn't mean you can't use other gadgets and gizmos. I have a giant dehydrator, a popcorn popper and yogurt maker, but they usually stay stacked in the closet until it's time to use them. 

Happy cooking, no matter what size of a kitchen you'll be using! 


  1. I've lived with some very small kitchens and agree with your tips. Come to think of it we still go by some of suggestions. Really good knives, really good versatile pans. We have a hand held wand mixer but no food processer. Your chocolate cake looks yummy!

  2. Your post is so encouraging! Thank you for your great words. It's just so true. A small kitchen shouldn't keep you away from cooking. I lived most of my life in Switzerland, my first apartment was so tiny, I couldn't hardly turn around in that kitchen. But I love cooking, and I did it even there. It surely makes us aware of space and what utensils we really need, isn't it.

    1. Thank you! I still think some of the best food I've ever eaten has come out of the smallest kitchens.