Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Taming the Lion: A Minimal Kitchen

One of the ways I gave myself a jump-start on the clutter was attacking my kitchen. I realized the bulk of my waking hours seemed to be spent there, cooking and cleaning. It makes sense that being the "personal chef" for a family of six will , by nature, require time spent there. However, I wanted to limit that time as much as possible, while still providing healthy meals for my family.

 I decided the trouble was in the sheer amount of kitchen stuff I had. If I feel rushed and I have three non-stick skillets, guess what? I use them until all three are dirty, often with additional utensils, etc. Then I have a sink full of dirty dishes and it suddenly gets added on the "to do" list. If I take away two of my three skillets (leaving my favorite, right?), guess what happens when it is dirty and I need to use it? I take the ten seconds it takes to clean it and just clean it already.

 After pouring over tiny house kitchen pictures, considering my family's menu, and copying The Minimalist's method to downsizing, I packed up all my pots, pans, and utensils and stuck them in the garage. I selected a few I knew I could not live without, knowing the rest would be there if I needed them. And It began. 

After about a week, I had only gone out to grab one item. I think it is important to note that while I could technically eliminate even more from my kitchen, minimalism for the sake of being minimal is not necessarily the point. I am not trying to win a contest, I simply want to cut down my kitchen clutter and maintenance so I can spend more time and energy on what each day brings. 

Months later, this is what makes up my basic kitchen.

1. Non-stick skillet. Note: these puppies come in a two or three pack at Costco. I will probably continue to purchase them that way, simply using one at a time until they wear out.

2. Pressure Cooker. These things are awesome, seriously. Fresh chili from dried un-soaked beans in 45 minutes, chicken cooked tender, roasts…do not get me started. And when I don't need to pressure cook something, guess what? It doubles as a pot. Oh yeah.

3. Cast Iron Casserole. I began using this more and more after my crock pot busted. So I rid myself of an unnecessary appliance and have the perfect pan for cooking steak in. I found mine for $5 at a yard sale, but someday I may grow up and get a fancy one. Or maybe not. I kind of like this one now.

3. Sauce Pan. Because it is so stinking useful.

4. Extra Pot. I really, really only wanted to use the pressure cooker pot and small saucepan, but various situations kept me going back to the garage for this pot. So I admitted my need, and it made the cut.

5. Good Cook Spatulas. I love these spatulas so much. And I've owned the red one since 2002.

6. NutriBullet. I am a wee bit embarrassed by this, mainly because my mind conjures up images of greasy late-night infomercial guys when I hear "____ Bullet." Whatever. It was a gift, and it is amazing. I own a Vitamix, but the bullet does not take as much counter space, is easy to clean, and does a great job for being a little blender. There. I said it. I use a Bullet instead of a Vitamix or Blendtec. Sue me.

7. Strainer. Because straining noodles, rinsing quinoa, draining chicken stock, and washing vegetables is hard to do with just your hands. And you might get burned.

8. Roasting Pan & Rack. The pan is from IKEA, the rack I have had for ages. With these two I can roast veggies, finish chicken before serving, and bake cookies. For the record, I generally do not allow felines so close to cooking equipment, but Susan was very invested in my kitchen photo shoot.

9. Pyrex Measuring Cup. I was raised with the understanding that this was a "must have," and I agree. I don't even have a picture of it clean. Here is a picture of it becoming clean instead. 

10. Toaster Oven Muffin Tin. Weird, right? But what little baking I do is in small batch muffin form, and how I use it most is as an egg poacher. It fits just right in my non-stick skillet, works perfect for poaching eggs, and I was able to get rid of a bunch of those silly silicone ones that always tip over and make my eggs all watery.

11. Big Lid. It fits on my skillet. Bonus life advice found in reflection.

12. Various Cooking Tools. Can opener, wine opener, ladle, pancake flipper, wooden spoon type things, knives, and scissors. I love using scissors in the kitchen. A few things are not pictured because they were in use or being washed.

13. Tea Kettle. I got mine secondhand for $6.99. Maybe when this one dies I will upgrade to one I really love, but in the meantime, it sure works to boil water. Also, it is best friends with my french press.

13. Chemex with Kone FilterCoffee is pretty important around here. Okay, it is very important. This combo will not only set you up for one of the best cups you have ever poured, but I will shamefully admit that Able Brewing's perfected stainless steel Kone filter gets used at least ten times a day for things other than coffee. After all, it is a filter. So home brewed kombucha, slow-simmered chicken stock, tea, etc all get improved by this finely engineered item. I have not purchased cheesecloth since this loveliness came home to me. The Chemex is sadly missing from this photo because I broke it yesterday. Never fear. It will be replaced.

14. French Press. Because I LOVE FRENCH PRESS. There will always be room for you. Public service announcement: If you like french press and Ikea ever makes these again, buy one. I have had it for eight years. It is double wall stainless steel and has probably lasted longer than anything else I have ever purchased there. Best $25 I have ever spent.

15. Scale. This little guy was introduced to the lineup for coffee preparation, but gets used often for all sorts of awesome now. Check out my radical countertop. It is original. Yeah it is.

So, That's my kitchen. I can prepare anything on our regular menu rotation with the items listed here, and it has not made cooking difficult. I have a shelf on my garage still for the "special" items that I need occasionally, but just removing them from the premises has cut my time in the kitchen by over half. I do not miss a single pot or pan, and when Thanksgiving comes, my platters and roasting pan are in the garage, hanging out with my pressure canner and canning supplies. Out of my everyday way.

Have Peace & Purge On!


  1. Wow! What an awesome post. I love how you have simplified everything so clearly. I also find myself jealous of your cast iron do-dads and need to get some myself, preferably second hand actually. I tend towards anemia so these things help doubly!

    And be proud of your bullet, girl friend. Be proud!

    1. Thanks Julie! That's why I use cast iron too (okay, that and the whole broken crock pot thing). I can use all the iron my anemia prone body can use as well.

  2. It's so much fun to see what other's include in their 'minimalist' kitchen. My collection/selection has varied depending on where I live, but I've always tried to keep it to somewhat of a minimum (although I did just buy an air popper for popcorn...totally not a 'minimalist purchase!), but I love getting ideas of how to reduce more! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Christy. I couldn't find a lot of bare bones minimal kitchen lists that I could actually see working for my family when I started this process, so I knew I wanted to share my "tiny kitchen" for six. I am sure it will bend and change as my family does, but in the meantime, it was fun to document this stage!

  3. I have been working on this whole minimalist concept and am finding the need more and more to "go there". Thank you. What a great perspective and I LOVE what you said about not trying to win a contest. Such a good point!

    1. Take your time-when it's time to jump, you'll know it! In the meantime, I am happy to plant a seed of inspiration!

  4. Great post! I love that you shared what you kept to show us how minimal a family kitchen can be.

  5. A year ago I never would've known what a Chemex is, but this year I totally do thanks to my coffee-nerd friends. :) Love the idea of becoming a minimalist. Truly, there's so much clutter in my kitchen. Gonna have to think this one through...