You and your family members are busy people, and keeping everyone fed can feel stressful. One way to minimize that stress is to streamline your kitchen environment. That's right, we're talking about creating a minimalist kitchen. But that doesn't have to involve an expensive, high-end renovation, and it doesn't mean you have to throw out everything you own.
An accessibly minimalist kitchen does mean culling some of your clutter so you can easily find what you use the most. And it means arranging your food and tools in the most convenient locations possible. We all know this. But we don't always know where to begin.
We're here to help. Here are some minimalist kitchen essentials and tips on how to set it all up.
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Do you have a lot of cooking equipment stacked in the pantry, under the stairs and at the back of the cabinet? Do you have more vegetable peelers, pot holders, and spatulas than you actually use? When was the last time you used that madeleine pan? It's time to let the seldom-used and duplicate tools go. A good rule to uphold is to save only what you've used in the past year, and get rid of the rest.
- 1 set of tongs: Keep your sturdiest set with a good spring. Unless grilling is part of their use, tongs should be shorter for more control when using to toss salads, grabbing noodles and moving a piece of meat around the pan. Look for solid tongs that are easy to clean and clip together for storage.
- 1-2 wooden spoons: A solid wooden spoon can be used to stir anything boiling on the pot. Make sure to clean the spoon and dry it after use; don't leave wood in the sink or clean in a dishwasher (unless the brand specifies dishwasher safe).
- 1-2 spatulas: Keep spatulas made of quality, dishwasher-safe silicone so they are easy to clean and so food won't stick to the sides. A regular-sized spatula is great for mixing and scraping batter off the side of a bowl, and the smaller size is best for getting into tight spaces like honey jars or gourmet peanut butter in order to extract everything from the container.
- 1 silicone flipper, 1 metal flipper (optional): Sometimes a flipper is also called a spatula, but in general a flipper is a flat-bottomed kitchen tool used to turn over grilled cheese sandwiches, pancakes and anything else that needs to be cooked on two sides. Make sure yours each have a thick handle and sturdy flat end. Make sure not to use the metal flippers on any pan that has a non-stick coating that can be damaged by scratching.
- 1 set each measuring spoons and measuring cups. Unless you've got avid bakers in your household, this is enough.
- 1 colander: This key item should be in any minimalist kitchen. A colander can be used to drain pasta, clean vegetables and fruit, squeeze moisture out of squash and many other things. Get the standard five-quart size and use for everything. The metal ones will last longer, but the cheaper plastic version are just as good.
- 3 nesting mixing bowls: A solid set of durable mixing bowls in three stacking sizes should be included in most minimalist kitchens. These can be used for baking, mixing ground meat with spices, holding foods and even for serving salads or cut fruit. Some come with lids and switchable graters on the top, which means there's even more use to be had out of one item.
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Like with cooking equipment, there is no need for an excess of dishes. Keep only what has been used in the past six months, including dinner, salad and dessert plates, coffee and tea mugs and bowls. The goal is to maintain enough dishes to get the family through the day, plus a few extra in case of guests.
- Dinner plates: For a family of four, keep six to eight dinner plates in case one breaks, for guests, and to use as platters.
- Salad plates: Likewise, for a family a four can use six to eight salad-sized plates for sandwiches, kid-sized meals, and breakfast dishes.
- Bowls: We recommend two different-sized bowls per person. The reason is because they can be used for breakfast, lunch and dinner, depending on what's served. Plus, you can easily stack the smaller one inside the larger.
- Cups and mugs: Keep one cup and one mug per person in constant rotation. Keep a second set of glasses on hand for guests, extra beverages, and to supplement any cups that break.
- Extras: Water bottles are an essential, but often overlooked kitchen item. Consider cutting down on water cups by issuing a fresh water bottle to each household resident that they can fill up throughout the day. At the end of the day it's washed and ready for the next.
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While having a lot of pots and pans can feel good, a minimalist kitchen is best with just a few of the most favored shapes and sizes. Think about the way the household uses the pots and pans, and choose from there.
- 1 sauce pan: For a constant cook a sauce pan has many uses, one of which is making and heating sauces. It's useful for sure, and the 1.5 quart size is pretty standard.
- 1-2 skillets: A skillet or frying pan is a necessity, but having every size available won't make anyone a better cook. Stock the kitchen with non-stick pan and one cast-iron or stainless steel pan in the sizes you'll most often use.
- 2 baking sheets: Two baking sheets is all that's really needed in the minimalist kitchen. Sheet pans are great for other things besides cookies, such as whole meals, using as a platter for a causal meal, roasting vegetables and more.
- 1 6-quart pasta pot. Not only can you boil pasta in a pot this size, you can also make soup and broth.
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Every kitchen needs few good knives, particularly these three:
How do you most often sharpen or hone your knives? Make sure a whetstone, honing steel or knife sharpener is part of the knife kit. Hanging the knives on a magnetic holder that's drilled right in the wall is the minimalist kitchen move.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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How many do you need? Two forks, two spoons, and one knife per person (plus a couple extra sets for guests/lost items) is a good rule of thumb.
- Organize utensils: Yes, you are justified in getting a drawer caddy to corral your utensils by type if you don't already have one.
- Place near locations of use: Put your cooking utensils by the stove and your eating utensils either nearest the table or next to the dishwasher.
- Pack away extras: Put any utensils that don't go with the most-used set in storage for later use. This includes serving utensils too, unless dinner parties are something that happen multiple times a month.
- Heirloom items: If there's a cache of grandma's silver or a set of serving tongs that were passed down generations, use these as often as is practical.
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Holding onto used yogurt and sour cream containers to use for food storage is a worthy and thrifty American tradition and there's no shame in that game. But is there an avalanche that spills out every time you open the cupboard?
Go through your collection and get rid of any containers that don't have lids. Now divide what's left in half and put the rest in the recycling.
As an alternative, buying a set of matching storage containers is a bougie move we certainly endorse, but only if you get rid of all the empty yogurt containers.
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Step 7: Cull Your Small Appliances
Time to get radically honest: Do you have small appliances you haven't used in a year? Time to say goodbye to them. Those that get used a handful of times a year can go inside your cabinets. And the small appliances you use every day (or weekly), keep out on your counters.
- Toaster or toaster oven: Decide if a the smaller toaster is all you need or should the larger toaster oven be on the counter.
- Microwave: This large-to-small appliance can be useful, or it can fill a room. If you don't use yours, give it away.
- Blender: Unless every meal is a smoothie, you only need one. If you don't use your full-sized blenders, consider switching to a smaller, hand-held immersion blender instead.
- Air fryer: This cult favorite is great if you actually use it. But if the novelty has worn off and you haven't used your air fryer for several months, it may be time to say goodbye.
- Instant Pot: It's a slow cooker, a pressure cooker, a rice cooker, and maybe even a yogurt maker. If these types of cooking are in rotation, this is a handy all-in-one small appliance easily justified in a minimalist kitchen.
- Hand mixer: Unless you're baking cakes and bread every week, skip the huge, heavy and expensive stand mixer and go for a hand-held mixer instead.
- Say no to unitaskers: A minimalist kitchen list should never include gear that only does one thing, like a panini press, egg maker, yogurt incubator, or ice cream machine. Maybe keep your waffle press, because you can waffle all kinds of foods.
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If you want to reduce food waste and avoid overspending on groceries, keep your pantry organized, with everything visible, so you can see what you have at a glance. If you want to prepare for an apocalypse, that's another article. Minimalism or prepper, pick one.
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- Each month, go through the pantry and take out what is expired or what no one wants to eat.
- Sometimes food gets forgotten in the pantry, so make sure to pull out or put in front items that should be eaten soon.
- Put the pantry in an order that works for the family. Keep boxes of pasta next to jars of sauce. Have a snacking section. (Should it be within reach of the kids? Up to you.)
- Stock like similar-shaped items, like cans, together.
- If it's in your budget put bulk items in clear containers; otherwise, reuse containers, but label them clearly.
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Step 9: Clean Out the Refrigerator
It happens to everyone; the full fridge teeming with leftovers, half-empty drinks and more condiments than anyone can remember going in there. Keep the family sane by making the refrigerator part of the minimalist kitchen. By planning, cleaning, and organizing this key appliance, families can save money as well as time trying to figure out what's in there.
- Clean each week before making a shopping list.
- Pull out must-eat items and plan meals around them.
- Limit that amount of sauces and condiments, making notes of everyone's favorites and throwing away any that are mostly empty or that nobody likes.
- Meal plan before shopping so the amount of groceries going in the refrigerator aren't overwhelming.
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Step 10: Designate Your Landing Strip
It's a good idea to have a set place in the kitchen where household members can drop things temporarily. (Temporarily!) This includes lunchboxes, water bottles, grocery bags, treats that might have come in the mail, and anything else that doesn't out right have a place to be and/or needs to be dealt with before putting away.
Use a large tray or basket to contain these items.
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Step 11: Organize the Countertop
The only things on the counter (outside of the landing strip) should be 1. what you use every day and 2. anything that would be an inconvenience to move around. Here are some possible examples, but your list may look different.
- Coffee pot: There are many ways to make coffee, and no one needs multiple options. Pick one and let the others go.
- Spices: Most people don't use spices every day, save for salt and pepper. Having a caddy on the counter with these spices is a great way to keep them out and neat at the same time.
- Toaster: Making toast everyday is a part of life for some people, and if this is the case then keep this appliance handy.
- Crock of kitchen tools: Now that you've culled our spatulas etc. down to the essentials, they'll all fit inside a crock that sits next to the stove, exactly where you need them.
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You're almost done! One of the key components to keeping a minimalist kitchen is to make sure it's cleaned up every night. And that doesn't have to be solely your job.
Now that you've organized the kitchen, assign your household members daily tasks: clearing our the landing strip, doing the dishes, unloading the dishwasher, taking out the trash, sweeping the floor, putting away lunch boxes, and anything else that needs to be done. Unless you're a baby, if you eat, you have a job. Yes, there may be nagging. Is it worth maintaining that minimalist kitchen? We think so, especially if it instills helpful habits for your kids.