How To Best Organize Your Tiny House Kitchen - Tiny House Blog

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October 12, 2016

How To Best Organize Your Tiny House Kitchen

After living in a small space for over 5 years now one thing has become completely obvious. While kitchens are essential, the ones that stocked like the clearance section of Bed, Bath and Beyond, are not. There are so many tools and gadgets available to the novice cook that one can easily get blurry eyes trying to decide how to best organize their tiny house kitchen; what is essential and what isn’t.

That said, let me point out the things that I have found to be almost useless that have subsequently found their way out of our small kitchen:

  • Ice cream maker
  • A juicer that takes a long time to come apart and is hard to clean
  • Specialized Glassware meaning an assortment of wine glasses, beer mugs, tea glasses, champagne flutes, etc. and in sets of four nonetheless
  • Multiple sizes of casserole dishes
  • Cheesecake spring form pans
  • Frosting tubes and kits
  • Service wear that is themed for a one-day holiday
  • A full block of knives including a double serrated grapefruit pulverizer thingee
  • Cookbooks that are not sentimental in some way but are just printed versions of online recipes
  • Sauce ramekins

RULE OF THUMB: If you haven’t used it in 6 weeks, it is non-essential and can be liberated from your kitchen.

All that said, let’s talk about what I have found to be essential in the small kitchen:

  • Manual can opener
  • A paring knife
  • A bread knife
  • A chef’s knife
  • A teapot
  • A sautee pan
  • A stock pot
  • A 10″ frying pan
  • Silverware for four (w/ steak knives)
  • Bamboo spoon, spatula, pasta spoon, set
  • A whisk
  • Ball jars that when emptied of preserved food, become drinking glasses
  • A cutting board
  • A 9″x11″ Pyrex
  • A colander
  • Dinnerware for four

There is probably a few things I left out and I did not mention our “coffee station” which we take very seriously and includes a standard 12-cup coffee pot, a french press, a manual bean grinder, a frother, and a Whirly-Pop because we grind our own beans!

Just getting rid of a few things means nothing though unless there is a reason why and you adapt your cooking/preparing to really take advantage of those tools. Below are some tips and ideas to help you better organize your tiny house kitchen.

MOVE TO CAST IRON. Doomsday preppers are not the only ones who have found cast iron to be a handy tool. While heavier than stainless steel or ceramic coated cookware, cast iron can be used on the stovetop or an open fire. They are fantastic tools. Lodge has become the go-to brand it seems andThe Lodge Signature series is sold at most outdoor supply stores, Bass Pro shops, and Cracker Barrel restaurants nationwide.  Its more expensive cousin, the Le Creuset enamel-coated cast iron (sold at Williams-Sonoma), is a more decorative looking tool, however both styles get the job done extremely well. Cast iron can withstand extremely high temperature, they cook easily, and washing them after each use actually hurts them rather than helps.

TAKE STOCK. Since we live less than an hour from the Atlantic Ocean our summers (and even early falls) are filled with fish stews, shrimp stews, steamed crabs, steamed shrimp, oysters, and the like! Such cooking (and even when moving into chili season and vegetable soup season, in the mid-fall) demands a proper stock pot with lid. The best can be found at restaurant supply stores, has a chrome finish, and can withstand the heat of even an outdoor propane cooker. At just over $50 a good 16-quart covered stockpot is a must.

RETHINK THE FRIDGE. The modern American kitchen is dominated by the refrigerator. Stores are even now stocking fridges that have built in Keurig machines, are Bluetooth compatible, and even have an interior door camera so you can see the fridge contents on an exterior screen without ever opening the door. The issue is they are huge though! Well, they are huge and expensive. In fact, at just under $4k and measuring 4′ wide by 3′ deep, “standard” fridges now are larger than some entire kitchen spaces in a tiny house! Rethinking the need for a fridge is an important way to better organize. In fact, here are a few things often found in the American fridge that simply don’t need to be:

  • Hot sauce
  • Onions
  • Berries
  • Bread
  • Coffee
  • Ketchup
  • Peanut butter
  • Most fruits

If you don’t drink milk, have a water filter on your counter, don’t save leftovers, and prefer room temperature cheese wheels to refrigerated cheese spreads and slices, you can downsize to quite a small fridge and maximize the use of kitchen space.

A GOOD GLOVE. I can’t say it enough. Throw away the hot pot mats and the crocheted oven mitts and all of the stuff that hangs in odd places throughout your kitchen. Replace them all with just a nice, silicone oven mitt. They protect from everything and are universal in use. You can’t burn them on a hot potato.

BREAK IT DOWN. Part of organizing is understanding your space; using your space to its fullest potential. Our kitchen has collapsible bowls, a collapsible dish drainer, a collapsible strainer, collapsible measuring cups, and the list goes on. We also have nesting bowls and dishware that is sized sequentially to take up as little space as possible. Try not to think of such tools as “camping gear” or apartment-style. A number of brands are making high-quality, space-saving tools such as the ones mentioned and they can be incredible ways to organize an already limited space.

How have you organized your tiny house kitchen? In what ways have you saved space, downsized, or just made things make more sense? Do you have a tip or a tool that others need to know about? Leave a comment below. If you like this article, consider sharing it on Facebook or Google+ or tweeting out the link!

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

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alice h - October 12, 2016 Reply

Good advice, except for the 6 month thing for me. I have kitchen tools specifically for canning and harvest prep that are only used once a year but very well used when needed. Those things I keep in a separate tote that can be tucked out of the way until needed. That’s what those awkward to reach storage places are just right for. Likewise a few special seasonal baking items. I love cast iron (the original non-stick pan if well kept) but the enamel coated stuff isn’t quite as hardy. The plain stuff can be used on open fires if need be and survives a good rough cleaning if you burn something in it. Once the enamel coating gets scratched and chipped it gets harder to clean, though it’s probably still safe to use. I still have a Dutch oven that survived a house fire many years ago. Good cast iron can often be found in second hand shops, often looking horribly rusty and crusty. As long as it’s not cracked or warped you can usually clean it up and re-season it as good as new.

Cynthia E Van Dyke-Melchor - October 12, 2016 Reply

Nice country small house.

Daniel - October 12, 2016 Reply

I’m trying to use cast iron more lately. I’ve had a 12″ Lodge skillet for a few years and now trying to get more use out of it. Got the seasoning just right where I can even cook eggs without them sticking (hint I found: butter).

Because the 12″ skillet is too heavy for the wife, I got other sizes. Working to get the seasoning just right on those as well and still have some time to go. But that 12″ is a good one for meals. I haven’t washed it in a while and only wiped it down and added another coat of Crisco while it was still warm. Very durable and will last a long time…. so long as the wife doesn’t try washing it.

    Sue - October 29, 2016 Reply

    I use my cast iron skillets for baking awesome pies. I got rid of my pie plates except for one glass one I get from Goodwill type stores so I can take pies to functions and not worry about getting the plate back or to gift a pie and its plate on special occasions like the holidays or birthdays. I also bake my corn bread and brownies in one of my cast iron skillets. I sometimes bake the corn bread, cut it in wedges and freeze it, thawing out just what I need. Best part- I got my set of three older graduated CI skillets for $5.00 for the set at a second hand store!!!!! My best purchase ever!!!!!

      Kate - November 10, 2016 Reply

      Cast Iron for $5.00? 🙂 What a great find! Thanks for the idea, never even thought to check the second hand stores for those.

Pia Hinsley - October 12, 2016 Reply

What a great article. I don’t live in a tiny house. But the idea of downsizing is going strong in my house. My husband and I have been culling our possessions quite a bit recently.
The kitchen has always been my domain and relaxation zone. I’ll come home from a day at work and will go straight into the kitchen. My other half doesn’t get it. But, it’s one of my favourite places. And as such, over time, I have accumulated lots and lots of stuff. Recently I have been looking around though and have seen just how much excess crap I have in there. I have started clearing it out, drawer by drawer, shelf by shelf. I sold/ gave masses away. Have stored some in the garage for when our niece moves into her first place (she’s currently living with us). And I am slowly culling the amount of utensils that live on the kitchen counter by the stove. What I don’t use I put into the second drawer. If I haven’t used it within 6 months, it will go into the garage for the niece. It feels really really nice to be slowly but surely cleaning up the space and it looks so much better as well.
The next items to be culled are the cook books, they are lovely and lovely to look at. That one will be the hardest. But hey, we all have our vices.

Sol - October 12, 2016 Reply

“The” wife? “The” niece? How endearing! If you maintain a healthy plant based food diet and drink teas rather than coffee you can eliminate many of the pieces you mention. 🙂 Thank you for the ideas and here’s to your well-organized good health!

Jack - October 13, 2016 Reply

Great tips.
Here are some I have for when I build a small home.

1: LED (2700k color)/Dimmable. Dimmable lights can use less power when needed, further increasing efficiency.

2: Many houses have very complex power control boxes, 20+ controls not including main. Mine is 5 simple controls.

a: All house
b: Kitchen
c: Dining
d: Bed
e: Bath

3: On/Off wall switches, so energy vampires can truly be turned off. Many appliances continue to use power, even after turned off. Such as VCR/Microwave/Cable TV box, etc. My idea is to wire a light switch directly beside every wall outlet I install, to provide an on/off switch. People who already built their house & still want to control energy vampires, I recommend Belkin Energy Conserve switches that you can find on Amazon. You can buy a 3 pack & save over buying 3 individual pieces. Plug in the Belkin Energy Conserve plugs, & they will light up if a device is using power so you can spot an energy vampire immediately. They include a switch to kill power completely, so you can leave devices plugged in but remove their power draw.

4: Induction hubs are most efficient at 90% efficiency. Electric coil based cook-tops are perhaps 65% to 75% with gas 55%. Induction are very nice, but require you to have cast iron or steel cookware to work. Cast iron has the advantage of also working great with other sources of heating such as wood cook-top or stove. Most people probably do not cook huge turkeys or really need the huge fridges, so downsizing to smaller makes sense. Tiny houses are small, so small kitchens work great. Be sure you leave adequate shelving for food & water storage, as well as decide if you need an ice-maker on your small fridge. If you get used to auto-ice, it can be great. Don’t forget this part, when paring down your fridge.

5: Vertical space is wasted in many cases. Make use of it, placing more used items near the bottom & lesser used near the top.

6: Many tiny homes place kitchen/bath the length of the house. You could use less plumbing if you put the bath at the back running the width of the house instead, then place the kitchen directly behind the bath. Since many people love the feeling of hot water in a shower & waste many gallons this way, consider installing a “recycle” valve that recycles clean water so that people can shower without wasting clean water. Only run clean water when rinsing off, but after rinse is complete, switch to recycle mode so they can enjoy heated water without wasting water. In addition, by placing the bath/kitchen the width of the house instead of the length, it can leave more room for the dining/living room & make things feel more open & spacious. Placing the bath/kitchen the length instead of the width of the house also creates a small hallway between bath/kitchen. Something that is completely eliminated by going length ways instead. Hallways waste space & are completely unnecessary in tiny homes. Use the extra space for closets, living room, whatever.

7: Consider what you really need. Many people install bathtubs, but rarely take a bath. If you are a shower person, do you really need to purchase & install a space wasting tub? You could use a bath tile enclosure instead, with the drain built directly into the floor, or even use brick/stone/ceramic/other materials to make an all natural shower enclosure without wasting time/space/money on a bathtub. It will make your bathroom simpler & neater as well. If you do use an enclosure, consider a mobile style shower enclosure with soap holders etc.

8: Consider installing a push to drink water fountain. Why waste water/dish soap on cleaning a glass just for drinking water?

9: If you mount dishes over the sink with a self draining shelf, you can wash dishes & put them directly onto the shelf & eliminate having to use a drying place, then putting them on the shelf. You eliminate having to clean or empty the drying drain, because your shelves ARE the drain, & drain directly into the sink, whether you have slightly slanted stainless steel drain to sink directly below, or utilize some other method.

10: If you are still using a normal toilet, I have heard great things about composting toilets. Well maintained ones rarely have to be emptied, if ever, & no water is used, since waste breaks down naturally. No water splashing up to hit you, & no water wasted on flushing. This alone, can save a lot on water.

11: Instant on water heaters can save a lot on heated water. If you have to have a water heater, consider a 30 gallon, or even a 10 gallon small heater instead.

12: If you decide to heat a tiny house with something like an electric heater, the most efficient would probably be a ceramic with temperature control, so that it auto-offs when it reaches a temp, instead of staying on the whole time till someone turns it off.

Hope you like my tips.
Thanks!!!

    Kate - November 10, 2016 Reply

    Thanks Jack.

Jack - October 13, 2016 Reply

Just wanted to mention an additional & important consideration:

Many foods come with artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, & preservatives.
Which is healthier, eating non-foods that your body can’t process, or natural?

My thoughts:

Some people use, for example, Saccharin or Splenda as alternatives to sugar.
Your body doesn’t know how to process these unnatural things, & they can cause cancer or other problems.

Some people use Stevia as a natural sugar substitute.
Ok, but realize that certain things can be comparatively 200x as sweet.
Do you really think if something = 200x sweeter, it is better for your body?

What I am getting at:

If you must eat something, why not eat the real food, the real thing, the natural thing.
Don’t you think it would be better for your body?

Moderation is key, & try to limit your intake of trans fats.

Thanks!!!

    kate - November 10, 2016 Reply

    Jack,

    Okay, was wondering if you would consider writing for the blog, instead of in the comments. Please do not feel I am criticizing you. I am not! I just feel you edited your thoughts down, and I for one feel you have something to contribute. Thanks for the information, your thoughts and choices. I truly would like to read more on the subjects you brush on.

Kate Bohn - October 13, 2016 Reply

Over the years, I’ve been slowly and steadily weeding out the things that I don’t need for my kitchen–because my current kitchen is small. Mostly what I keep is food stuffs, and tons of variety of spices and flours in my cabinets.

I’ll need to keep a few things around, even when I move into a tiny house. My entire family has about eighty food allergies and sensitivities, very few overlapping. I’m thinking to combat this by planning for some extensive pantry space in my flooring…

I cook three meals a day and do a lot of baking and canning. I plan to make it work. If nothing else, I’ll decorate with food jars and dare someone to make a comment.

    kate - November 10, 2016 Reply

    Kate,

    I for one would absolutely love to see your house decorated with food jars. I am positive it will look cozy, comfy and welcoming. Looking forward to your move to tiny…. keep us posted!

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