The Perks to a Tiny Kitchen

While there are more than a few things that take getting used when making the switch from a full size to small size home cooking is perhaps the most challenging.

Not only does the act of cooking take place regularly throughout the day, day-in and day-out, but also it’s one thing that we assume, “the more space available the better.” Who among us hasn’t crafted a meal in which both sinks and counters were overflowing with dishes? The oven stuffed, the burners full, and the microwave zinging while all remaining counters look slightly like a food fight just went down. If you have not, I applaud you. But, one of my favorite things about bunking down in a small space is the forced transition to very green and eco-friendly cooking which becomes a necessity, whether or not we always like it.

Rather than dread or complain about the fact that your kitchen may now be more of an “idea” than an actual, physical “place,” relish and embrace the new knowledge that you’re about to become one of the greenest cooks on the planet, or in your neighborhood for sure. Here are some of the easiest things to embrace and to look forward to if you’re just in the process right now.

You can’t Waste Much if You Can’t Store Much
Mega fridges and mega pantries are just destined to become sources of waste. We overbuy and overstock. And then things get buried and hidden and eventually expire. Events come up, forcing us to eat out and in turn we eat less of that fresh beautiful produce than we thought we would. And we waste. Small spaces mean small pantries (if you have them) and small fridges. Relish in the fact that you will naturally waste less because you just can’t fit that much in there anymore. You’ll be able to see what you have, and chances are good you won’t possibly be able to buy more until you’ve used what you have. On the other hand, there are perks to buying in bulk. So if you can, consider a small shed or invest in some heavy duty barrels where you can store things like 50 pound bags of flour outside of your home without worrying about damage.



Greener Cooking

Choosing to skip big ovens and big stovetops is loaded with benefits for the environment. A tiny house is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of grilling outside more often (skip the charcoal and wood). Solar powered grills are probably your best eco-safe bet, but can also be the most time consuming. There are hydrogen powered grills as well as plant based grills that work very well. Also, you may cringe at the idea of a microwave, but if you don’t have anything against them, they do use less energy than your stove. And they come in very tiny sizes.

More Fresh, Less Processed
With less room to store processed, packaged “stuff” and less desire to stand in a small kitchen over a hot stove, chances are very good that you’ll naturally find yourself leaning towards more fresh fruits and veggies. You may even find a hidden salad connoisseur buried deep inside you that you didn’t even know about! You’ll have an excuse to take more frequent trips to the Farmer’s market, meaning fresher produce all the time and better meals because of it. Green eating is typically the healthiest, and if that isn’t something to embrace, I’m not sure what is! Look at your new tiny kitchen as an exploration into creativity. How many new no-cook, no-bake creations can you whip up? I’ll tell you: the number is infinite. You’ll never run out.

Less Cleanup!
If you haven’t thought of this yet, then you should be changing your mindset right about now! Less counter space simply means less scrubbing and wiping down 24 hours a day. Less floor space equals less sweeping and mopping, and let’s face it: we all know the kitchen is the worst. It gets dirtiest the fastest and is the hardest to clean.

Less Effort and Cost Heating and Cooling
Nothing is worse than cooking in the freezing cold or the super hot. With a tiny kitchen, you’ll warm it up quickly with some simple cooking, and you can cool it off just as rapidly opening the windows, turning on a fan or may a small AC if you have one in your home. You’ll love being able to regulate the temperature more easily, especially when rising fresh loaves of bread…

A tiny kitchen doesn’t have to mean tiny meals or skimpy meals. You can dazzle any number of people with just the bare minimum. It may be more challenging, perhaps more time consuming, but chances, are, also probably much more rewarding. Enjoy going greener and being more creative and embrace that little kitchen wholeheartedly. It’ll pay off and the environment and your health will thank you.

Freelancer Jocelyn Anne writes to encourage families to be greener and more environmentally friendly in their daily living. At the moment, she’s promoting the summer use of small portable air conditioners as a cost and energy-saving option in lieu of central AC systems.

Join Our eMail List and download the Tiny House Directory

Simply enter your name and email below to learn more about tiny houses and stay up to date with the movement.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

freespirit - July 23, 2011 Reply

I agree with a lot of what is said about staying small and tiny home living. However, many of these articles and perspectives are written from the perspective of if you live in an urban area. If you live in a rural area, you need room to store things and store food in various ways whether dried, frozen, or canned. Otherwise you are being less green by taking multiple trips a week to the grocery store, which could be miles away.

Also, while you may grow your own food, it doesn’t come out of the garden in exact portions that you can eat. You must harvest and then figure out how to preserve much of it so you can consume it later. Storage sheds would work, but if you live in an area that freezes, then you have to dig a root cellar deep enough so it doesn’t freeze.

So, while I’m all for living smaller, some city oriented sustainability practices just don’t make sense if you live in a rural area. Stocking and preserving makes sense in these cases so you don’t waste money or gas making more trips. Also, do you notice how much more you spend with more frequent trips to the store???? This means you are buying more, and possibly more than you “need” as it comes into your sight.

Sustainability is a practice of mindfulness that may look very different for each person’s situation. It is not a cut and dry one-way perspective.

    molly - July 23, 2011 Reply

    I agree. Even if you live in an urban or suburban area a lot of these things wouldn’t work. I have noticed since I started going to the store only once a month I spend a lot less on food, and gas. My previous tiny fridge held so little produce that I ate less of it. I love a full sized fridge and freezer. Plus, tiny fridges usually use MORE energy than the full sized ones.

    I would love a small home, but since I value cooking at home and eating well, my kitchen will be an important place. I will not shirk on it.

    Amanda - July 25, 2011 Reply

    I totally agree with you on this one. More frequent shops also tends to mean more packaging. I think most people can do with less gadgets (and hterefore less space to store them in) and perhaps less counter space, but as far as food storage goes, there is a certain amount that I need. I do a lot of canning and freezing and dehydrating, and need places to store these until use and even the stuff I buy at the store tends to be in bulk (less travel, less cost, less packaging). I think some of this can be overcome through efficient use of the space you have and the purchase of appliances which are efficient as possible, but for many of us, having an overly small kitchen is not practical, green or particularly fiscally responsible.

Judi - July 23, 2011 Reply

Earlier this year I moved from a one bedroom apartment to a studio apartment. My kitchen is almost the same as the one pictured and I love it! There is no wasted space and the space that I do have forces me to utilize it wisely. The best part? Cleanup is a breeze! I love my tiny kitchen.

Grace Rinaldi - July 23, 2011 Reply

50 Lb. bags of flour??? I used to be in the wedding cake business and used that much flour…in a big giant comercial kitchen. What on earth would you use that much flour for in a tiny little space?? Small means less…way less.

    Rachel P. - July 26, 2011 Reply

    Our family goes through five pounds of flour in a week. A fifty pound bag put in a food safe container in our chest freezer is a God-send when we are in a budgeting crisis.

      Amanda - July 27, 2011 Reply

      I was thinking hte same thing. We buy flour in large quantities and then keep it in a air tight bin. We bake our own bread, etc and we do go through it at a decent rate.

Roberta - July 23, 2011 Reply

So agree with this article and will share it with my readers. I have a question regarding the portable a/c-heater units…that is…we have an unfinished attic space that we use for storage and we were wondering if if one of these units would work in our space? We want to make the space usable and safe for storing clothes but also thought it might work to cut down on the ac energy costs of the main house as well? Any advice? Thanks, Roberta

    Benjamin - July 23, 2011 Reply

    Are clothes temperature-sensitive? I thought it was common for people to store clothes in unfinished attics.

    An AC in an unfinished attic sounds like a huge waste of energy.

      Josh - July 23, 2011 Reply

      Are clothes temperature-sensitive?

      Mold certainly is. Clothing being stored should be clean, cool, dark, and dry. Air conditioning takes care of the cool and dry part of the equation.

        Roberta - July 28, 2011 Reply

        Yes I’m concerned about mold and have had concerns plus the fact that going up there in the summer is almost like a death sentence…especially since we’ve had 100 degree weather for over 30 days straight. Deep summer came early this year for the Carolinas. If we do put a portable a/c heating unit in we’d be sure to insulate better so that it would not be such a waste of energy. Our questions for these units were regarding the installation and venting. Thanks, Roberta

MJ - July 23, 2011 Reply

Great article, Kent! In or out of urban areas. A small kitchen in the country can be augmented by an outside kitchen for big projects (and often are). Working for ingenious storage solutions for bulk buys can solve a lot as well.

jaz - July 23, 2011 Reply

great article.. i have spent alot of time overseas and find that kitchens on the whole outside of the US are much smaller and jst as usable.. here is somthing i did. the upper part of the wall between my bathroom and my kitchen ( the backsplash area in other words) is hollow.. so i tore out the sheet rock and put in wooden plank walls. the top and bottom of the backsplash has a 3.5″opening where you can see into the wall.. i did this to store all my can goods . i put the new ones in the top sideways and take the old ones out of the bottom where there is a small lip to keep them from rolling out .. i always know how many i have because i can see them in the tiny crack between the redwood planks.. after awhile i decided i didnt need all that can storage so i opened up some of the storage slots and jst put shelves between the 2×4 studs,, i keep all my flour, sugar, coffee, dries beans , lentals, and such in large flip top glass jars i bought at Ikea.. it actually looks really cool ,, it dose need a dust from time to time though..

alice - July 23, 2011 Reply

Summer kitchens are the way to go for canning, especially since most of it is done on hot summer days. As usual, the size of your kitchen depends a lot on how you use it. If you do a lot of baking or food prep that requires more counter space you can use temporary arrangements but it might make more sense to have a permanent one. All depends on what you’re comfortable with and what functions are important to you. Some people like to keep a lot of food on hand for times of no income or even religious reasons. It’s quite possible to have a year’s supply of some foods on hand without wasting any, plus assorted bulk necessities like toilet paper, soap, etc. A 10′ shipping container can be excellent for bulk food storage, especially in bear country, and is usually rodent proof. Sometimes I live in the country, sometimes I live in town, and when in town I’m lucky to have lots of good food shopping within easy walking distance. When in the country I’m limited to dried and canned goods stocked up when I have access to a vehicle and whatever fresh stuff I can carry walking off the ferry and occasionally hitchhiking to the village and back.

Mira - July 23, 2011 Reply

I’ve been living in studio apartments that have more or less the same size kitchen as the one in the picture. I agree with freespirit’s comment that tiny kitchens such as these are a breeze for urban-dwellers such as myself because the closest grocery shop to me is 5 minutes walk. I realized that I go there around twice a week and that it has become my de facto pantry/fridge 🙂

I’m a bit of a health nut who exercises at least 4 times a week and keeps a close watch on the proportions and calories I eat. I don’t eat junk food or drink more than 2 beers a month, so my grocery bills are kept down. People would be surprised at how much smaller the proportions of meat and how much larger the proportions of vegetables they really should be eating to maintain a good figure(and as a knock-on effect, a good budget).

I do most of my cooking with one halogen oven which is 30 centimetres in diameter and about 20 centimetres deep. It cooks meat very well. I usually eat fresh salad though the halogen oven also does a good job with roasting peas, broccolis, carrots and eggplants. You can even make a hard-boiled egg with these ovens, funnily enough. Whenever I have a craving for fried food, I go to a restaurant and get it from there. However, being a health nut, the craving for fried food actually kinda fades over time, so I only really do this about once a month. Anyhoo, the oven takes up one tiny corner of my tiny kitchen, and I don’t even use the oven or stove, so I could do with an even tinier kitchen 🙂

If I had to go back to living on a farm like I did as a child, I would most definitely need a larger storage space and a bigger backyard for a vegetable garden, some fruit trees, chickens and maybe a goat or two. I can’t stand long drives, and would look to buying in bulk so I wouldn’t have to make frequent driving trips to the stores.

Jenna - July 24, 2011 Reply

I’ve always found that more space just equals more cleanup. When we lived in less than 400sq.ft. I was diligent about cleaning because I HAD to be. And I LIKED it, because being “diligent” really meant about twenty minutes of time spent cleaning when we were doing a DEEP clean (tidying took about 5min).

With cooking, you just do the dishes as you use them and you make meals simple. No need for a fancy side dish, just do a loaf of bread and some sugar snap peas or sliced fruit. In the winter it’s one-pot-wonder soups and awesome casseroles.

And the best part for me? Being able to tell people, “no no, it’s okay, you just sit. I’ll most likely burn you with a pot or accidentally stab you in this tiny kitchen anyway.” (Yeah…I’m one of those people who would rather be left alone in the kitchen.)

Jenna - July 24, 2011 Reply

LOL, just noticed…and this could just be because I’m a mom of toddlers…but is anyone else cringing at the sight of that small kitchen appliance being supported over what seems to be one half of a double sink (or possibly a drying rack attachment on the sink)? Designers take note that you might want to consider a layout that can keep all the electrical bits a little bit farther away from the sink 😉

    Josh - July 26, 2011 Reply

    I think a double sink would have the faucet in the middle of the two sinks. If that were a double sink, I don’t think you’d even be able to get water into the other side!

Josh - July 25, 2011 Reply

I agree, to some extent, with the idea that having less refrigerator space available could cut down on perishable items, like produce specifically, going to waste. However, I also agree with the earlier posters that reducing pantry space to store food isn’t the best idea. Most tiny houses are probably going to be in rural areas, either out of desire or necessity. If you live 10 miles from the nearest grocery store, it’s going to be expensive to make frequent trips to the store for groceries. Plus, I would want to have a little stockpile of food in case I got snowed in or was otherwise unable to make it to the store. In fact, if I were designing a small home for a rural area (which is where I’d want mine), I’d want to make sure to include space for a large chest freezer. In the interest of being economical, I would probably do more hunting and fishing for food rather than just recreation. To preserve it I’d need the freezer. Not only that, but in the interest of being economical, I would want to prepare large batches of things that could be frozen for use later – soups, stews, pasta sauce, etc. And would probably take greater advantage of grocery store sales on meats and vegetables, etc. that could be kept in a deep freeze. If you’re trying to eat less processed food, and be more time efficient with your cooking, I would think that reducing the size of the kitchen is the worst thing you can do. I’ve always liked to cook, but I can recall when I was in the Army, and had only a small kitchenette area in my barracks room, with full-size fridge and sink, but no stove, and also in college when I lived in an apartment with a very small kitchen, I ate a lot more fast food and pre-packaged frozen or canned foods. It was just so inconvenient trying to prepare meals from scratch in cramped quarters. Ample room for food storage insures that, should conditions arise that prevent you from getting to the store, you’ll have something to eat. And a large prep and cooking area will make it easier, and, I would think, encourage you, to cook more at home. That’s going to be both healthier and cheaper.

Rachel - July 27, 2011 Reply

My husband and I have spent the past year in a 365 sq foot cottage with only two electric burners, a mini countertop fridge, and a microwave that converts into a microwave oven. A plug in hot water kettle, crock pot, and occasionally used electric skillet add to our options. Luckily, the builders cleverly utilized open shelving, a small spinning pantry, and managed to put in enough counter space to accommodate chopping!

I’m just amazed that I have barely noticed the lack of kitchen space/stove in our lives; in fact we are eating much healthier this year because of all the fresh foods often procured from the local farmers markets. I have become a huge fan of tiny spaces after this living experience.

Victorian - August 1, 2011 Reply

I have to disagree on this article. I have a very small kitchen and I find it causes me to eat less healthy because it’s not enjoyable to use. Also a small frige means extra trips to the grocery store, with no vehicle that’s difficult, time consuming and wasteful. Clean up isn’t any easier, in fact it’s harder because there’s no where to set anything down. And cooling it is the same. Once the oven, in my case toaster oven, is on it heats the room up quick. You don’t have to go with a huge kitchen but a decent sized one would be much more enjoyable and useful in my eyes.

cathy katz - August 1, 2011 Reply

My husband and I are back-to-basics farmers looking to go tiny. We are watching the plans that go through the tiny house blog for one that is all workroom kitchen with an overhead sleeping area. We do need a large work area!

To complicate/further simplify matters, we’d be rural, off-grid, and hand pumping water.

TR Kelley - August 1, 2011 Reply

Different strokes! Excellent picture, love how we can see everything. Personally, i don’t cook, i’m a single person who assembles minimal ingredients, sometimes involving heat, but never an oven or more than one pot or pan. This kitchen’s work area is too big for my needs. However I’m also very rural and philosophically into preparedness, so food storage is a consideration. I like to have a year’s worth of food on hand. Smaller kitchen, bigger pantry is my style. Love seeing all the options.

lisulisa - August 3, 2011 Reply

I prepare my meals mainly in one pan;
a so called dutch stove.
so I need only one heating spot

Survey of the literature on food in tiny houses « delusionsofminiature - August 10, 2011 Reply

[…] 1. The Perks of a Tiny Kitchen from the TinyHouseBlog.com. […]

jpatti - October 4, 2011 Reply

We have a huge kitchen, giant cabinets and a deep freeze. And we neither overbuy nor overstock.

We buy much in bulk and we USE it. Meat, beans, grains, etc. Very little packaged crapola.

I can feed us only organic fruits and veggies, grass-fed meat, pastured eggs, raw milk… for less than I could feed us when we lived in the city without all this storage eating only normal food.

At one point, we had several hundred quarts of home-canned meals, plus many pounds of dehydrated veggies and fruits – most from our garden.

When you have a lot of space, you can wait until things are on sale and buy enough to last you until the next time they’re on sale. This saves a good bit of money.

When my husband was out-of-work for 6 months, that we had all this food here was amazingly useful. We didn’t have to buy anything but dairy. Then when he went back to work, I restocked up.

I could get by with less space, and am planning to. However, that’s the biggest issue with some of the truly tiny houses, where they just have a couple burners and no oven, a tiny sink that’d never wash my stockpot, etc.

The floorplan I am working on has an apartment-size propane stove, a utility sink, a large cabinet/food prep area, and an unfortunately small 12-volt fridge/freezer. So far, I am managing it at 8 1/2 by 24… including a stacking washer/dryer. My floorplan is more than half kitchen!

I will have to adjust, we will eat less meat and more beans and eggs, more soup, use fewer condiments.

Food WILL be more expensive as I won’t be able to buy 6 months worth of something when it’s on sale. I will do less canning and more dehydrating to save weight. I think I’ll need a pressure cooker for making stock and cooking beans as I can’t see simmering things on a propane stove for hours and hours when you have to run out and buy propane. I’ll be utilizing thermos cooking for most grains and soups. There will be changes, sure.

That doesn’t mean how we’ve been doing it is wrong though. We eat better than nearly anyone I know – and cheaper too. I’ll miss having a chest freezer and hundreds of homemade meals at my fingertips without cooking…

Leave a Reply: