Cooking in a Minimalist Kitchen

Cooking in a Minimalist KitchenOne of the things I was looking forward to the least when we moved into our 400 sq. ft. house was the tiny kitchen.

I’d been living in a one bedroom apartment for four years and then a studio, but the kitchens in those spaces were expansive compared to the tiny little space I was about to try and cram my cooking arsenal into.

My kitchen consists of two shelves, two reasonably deep cupboards, and two more that are only about a foot deep.

There’s no counter space to speak of, other than a single surface to prepare food.

I knew going into it that I was going to have to really take a look at my kitchen stuff and pair it down in order to function in that tiny space efficiently.


One of Each

When it came to food preparation tools, like pots and pans, I stuck to the one of each rule. One big frying pan, one small. One cast iron pan. One cookie sheet, one big casserole dish, one small. By eliminating duplicates (many of which I’d accumulated as hand me downs through school) I was able to fit most of my cookery into one of the cupboards.


Keep Only What You’ll Use!

I think everyone reading this has some product in their kitchen that they’ve never used but can’t bring themselves to throw out or donate. Something that you think you’ll need someday, perhaps? I took a hard look at what had been gifted to me over the years and started to pair down.

I got rid of the handheld mixer (I love to cook, but don’t bake), the four beer pitchers, the small veggie chopper, and innumerable other things that I knew that I’d honestly never use. I didn’t get rid of everything though, I kept one nice glass pitcher, the gravy boat, the handheld immersion blender, our Magic Bullet, and I’ll keep our new blender until it croaks. Sure some of that stuff I only used occasionally, but it was worth hanging on to. Most of it – however, got donated.


Minimalist Cutlery

I live with my fiance, and since our place is so small, we don’t entertain too often. Because of this, an expansive collection of plates and bowls isn’t necessary. I have a set of four bowls, plates and mugs, and that’s more than enough. A bonus to having less of this stuff is that doing the dishes is so much easier! We’re never tempted to leave the dishes unwashed, because we’ll run out if we do!


Organize and Clean Often – Be Merciless!

Living as a minimalist in a small kitchen can be a challenge. Things can get messy and out of control in the small cupboards quickly. The only way to keep things under control is to clean and organize frequently. Any food ingredient that is more than a year old gets put on the “cook with this now” list or gets tossed.

For example, I’ve had a bag of dried black beans taking up valuable real estate in my cupboard for awhile now. Our mission this month is to use them up, otherwise, they’re getting tossed! Luckily, because there’s so little space, frequent cleaning and organization sprees don’t take long.


Move the Seldom Used Items Out of the Way

There are a few things that I need for cooking, but rarely use. I hate pawing through various items in my cupboards in search of a random utensil or pan, so instead, anything that doesn’t get used regularly goes into storage in our laundry room, where space isn’t so precious.

If I need the item, I’ll go and get it. This is where I keep my crock pot, my large simmering pot, and my roasting pan.


Doing Double Duty

This is the key to a minimalist kitchen. Do you really need three salad bowls of varying sizes when a mixing bowl will do the same job? Do you need a complete tupperware set when you can just throw some tin foil over a bowl and achieve the same effect?

My favourite double duty item is the mason jar. It makes the perfect container to store dry goods, left overs, smoothies, freshly ground coffee, and for taking my lunch to work. I even use one to grow sprouts at home. I always have a few mason jars in rotation for whatever needs done.


Living with a Minimalist Kitchen – You Have to Want It

I recently was trying to help a friend pair down her kitchen utensils. She had everything one could wish for in a well appointed kitchen, but no place to put it all. Every time I would make a suggestion for her to get rid of something, she’d explain why she needed to keep this item. This went on for awhile until I realized that she didn’t want to give up any of her stuff.

Being a minimalist in the kitchen takes some adjustment. There will be moments when you say “Damn, I wish I had _____”. Eventually, those moments will become fewer and farther between, and in time, you’ll be completely adjusted to living with a minimalist kitchen.

Have you ever thought about living with less in your kitchen? I want to know!



  1. says

    The tiny kitchen in our old place was the thing I hated the most. It made us MISERABLE. Only one person could fit in there, you basically couldn't turn around, and were always in danger of hitting your head on the rangehood (did that soooo many times). Our current house has a bigger and open kitchen but severely lacks in storage space. I think we're pretty minimalist – we don't even have a kettle – we're just stuck with a lack of cupboards at the moment.

  2. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    My wife and I were just talking about this the other day as we got a breadmaker for Christmas and had to find a place to put it. I am sure that we have a number of things that we simply don't use. Reorganizing the kitchen has been on our list of to-do's for a while now. I have a funny feeling the breadmaker is the final straw.

  3. says

    Wow, I thought our galley kitchen was small! We just downsized from a huge-for-an-apartment kitchen with an enormous pantry to a galley kitchen with no pantry. We don't want to get rid of stuff because we'll need to split our kitchen stuff when my husband moves out, but we definitely packed some things away for the time being. I like having the gadgets I use often close at hand but it does clutter up the counter!
    My recent post Grandparents Providing Childcare

  4. says

    You really need to know what items you need. LIke, do you need a blender and a food processor? They practically do the same thing. Same thing with a toaster or toaster oven. You really don't need either if you have an over. There are so many little trinkets and appliances that do one thing, even pots and pants that are unnecessary, so figuring out what those things are and only keeping those are key.

    Also, is that your kitchen in the picture?? If it is, it's gorgeous for a 400-sf house!
    My recent post Week 1 on the Fodmaps Elimination Diet

  5. laurenab says

    Loved this post. I don't cook at all so I have no problem fitting into the ktichen, but these lessons could apply anywhere!

  6. Ashlee says

    My kitchen is pretty spacey, but I don't have many utensils, pots, pans, etc. and I like it that way. It makes it super easy to wash the dishes up every night and not have them piling up on me just because I can use 3 pots instead of 1.

  7. says

    When we moved out of our house and into our apartment, we definitely had to downsize all the stuff in our kitchen. We realized a lot of the stuff, we didn’t even use!

  8. Budget & the Beach says

    I have gone through my kitchen several times to get rid of things I never use. Thing can accumulate, so I try to do this every year. I do wish I had more counter space though, and I wish I had a better place in my apartment to put a workspace so I could actually use my kitchen table as a kitchen table! I do like to entertain!
    My recent post Link Love/Week in Review 1/11/13

  9. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says

    We have cutlery stocked because we did have up to 10 people at home over the holidays. However we only leave 2 of each out and are forced to do the dishes. Plus under the tropics it would attract bugs in no time. Keeping it minimal helps feel good and tidy.
    My recent post Friday recap, early rising and a hatching hen

  10. Leslie says

    I'm assuming that isn't your kitchen in the photo because that has plenty of counterspace and considerable storage with the shelves. But now I am curious as to what your kitchen actually looks like (if it is possible to get a photo of it).

    I have 4 cupboards and one counter-top area for food prep but, thankfully, a normal-sized oven! This is actually a decent-sized kitchen for a nyc apartment. To give myself more prep space I bought a kitchen island that doubles as an entry-way stand next to the door. I keep my stand mixer there permanently and use the space when I need to chop veggies or other things that take up some room. That has helped a lot – I'm not sure if you have room in the apartment for that option.

    I go by Alton Brown's rule to not own any unitaskers so that helped when re-organizing everything to fit in the kitchen. I ditched my crock pot because I used it once a year and just don't have the storage for it. I don't bother with a toaster and just toast things on the stove top when I need to. I'm living perfectly happy without a microwave. The only electric kitchen appliance I do own is a stand mixer because I bake a lot. However, I still just have one of everything. One pot, one pan, one cookie sheet, one casserole dish, etc. Sometimes things take longer because I can't use two pots at once but in the grand scheme of things, it is not a sacrifice
    My recent post Do This Not That in NYC

  11. says

    Thanks for sharing this! My boyfriend and I are hoping to move into a tiny house someday, and we're both avid cooks and bakers, so we'll need the most help with our minimalist kitchen. You have good tips here, and we'll definitely be referencing those when we do move. :)

  12. says

    We have a super tiny kitchen in our new apartment. It barely fits both of us at once and only one can cook at a time. It's been challenging but we've done some of the same things you have.
    My recent post Hire Me!

  13. Anne_UGifter says

    Wow – good for you, surviving in a small kitchen. Ours isn't very large, but the biggest beef I have with it is how difficult it is to have a second person in there. Lord help us if someone needs to open the fridge while there are two people in the kitchen, let alone the dishwasher (which opens into the same space as the fridge!)

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