Living in a small space is a great way to save money (and ensure you don’t accumulate too much useless stuff). Personally, I don’t mind living in small apartments at all, until it comes to the kitchen. See, I love cooking. It’s frugal and healthy, yes. But for me, it’s also so much more than that. Cooking is a way to de-stress, to challenge myself, and to show people how much I care about them.
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My last apartment had the smallest kitchen of anywhere I’ve ever lived. There was literally no counter space, and just three small cupboards sat above the small gas oven, sink, and fridge. However, I developed some inexpensive coping methods to make the kitchen feel much larger than it was. Here are some suggestions for making your little closet-sized cooking area feel more like Paula Deen’s palatial kitchen:
1. Use All the Space
Before you buy shelving, a pot rack for the wall, or other storage devices, make sure you’re using all of your space. In my itty-bitty kitchen, I displayed my more interesting dry goods, nice dishes, and other items on a window shelf and on top of the cupboards. And if you have extra storage space elsewhere in your home or apartment, consider using it to house less-often-used dishes or foods.
2. Don’t Buy Extra Appliances
While certain kitchen gadgets can save you money in the long term, there are some counter-filling kitchen appliances that you definitely can do without. Toasters and toaster ovens do the exact same things that an oven can do—if you already have an oven installed, just use that. Or, conversely, if you don’t cook a lot in the oven and don’t have one, consider getting by with just a toaster oven. Similarly, depending on how much coffee you drink, a French press can provide great java without hogging counter real estate.
3. When You Do Buy Appliances, Get Small Versions
Hand mixers are smaller than stand mixers, immersion blenders don’t take up nearly as much space as the full things, and miniature food processors can be just as effective as big ones if you’re willing to chop your foods in batches. Plus, all of these items are less expensive than the full-size versions.
4. Make Surfaces Multi-Purpose
The table you dine at can be a fine place to chop vegetables, and the top of the fridge is a great place for a dish-drying rack. I’ve also known people who have had specially sized cutting boards that allowed them to turn the area over their sinks or ovens into workspaces.
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5. Don’t Let It Get Messy
The best way to make a tiny kitchen feel large is to keep it neat and organized. Of course, a tiny kitchen is also easy to make messy—when space is tight, the dishes required to boil and eat spaghetti can fill up the sink. If you can, clean as you cook.
6. Avoid Overbuying
While buying in bulk is a great way to save money, extensive food stores can also quickly overwhelm a small kitchen. Find somewhere other than the kitchen to put your extra food, or only buy what you need.
7. Toss What You Don’t Use Regularly, Even If It’s Small
If you’re buying storage containers to have somewhere for your mojito muddler, citrus zester, and miniature cupcake pan but can’t remember the last time you used any of them (or see yourself using them again), let them go. Trust me, you and your food will be just fine without them.