Posts Tagged Pantry

Make Your Pantry Feel Twice As Big: How To Decant Pantry Items

Make Your Pantry Feel Twice As Big: How To Decant Pantry Items

How To Decant Your Pantry

NAVIGATION

There’s something so satisfying about a perfectly organized pantry. Neat rows of shelves with ingredients stored in matching containers makes cooking a fun task instead of a boring chore. Decanting your pantry not only makes it look great, but also maximizes storage in a compact space.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Not having a lot of space in my tiny home means that if I don’t have everything looking ridiculously neat, it can come off as cluttered. Decanting helped bring a lot of order and uniformity to all the different food packaging in my pantry.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Does Decanting Your Pantry Mean?What Does Decanting Your Pantry Mean

The word “decanting” may sound fancy or intimidating, but decanting your pantry is simply the process of removing items from their original packaging and storing them in jars or containers — usually clear glass or plastic ones for easy visibility.

Having a cohesive, organized look to your pantry can make food storage a source of satisfaction and be more pleasing to look at.

how to decant your pantry

Benefits To Decanting Your Pantry

Benefits To Decanting Your Pantry

As someone who lives in a tiny house, I am always looking for efficient ways to manage my storage. I found decanting to be a great way to organize my kitchen and maximize space in a small area.

Pantry Helps You:

Save  Money

Clear storage containers allow you to see exactly how much of one item you have left before you head to the store.

Stay Healthy

By having a visual of the items in your cupboard, you can make more conscious and healthy choices.

Save Time

Decanting saves you time in the long run by making it quick and easy to assess and access the items in your pantry.

Keep Food Fresh

Airtight seals on containers extend the shelf life of your foods you don’t have to worry about replacing stale snacks.

tiny house kitchens

What To Decant and What To Leave Alone

What To Decant and What To Leave Alone
When you’re getting started with the decanting process, it can be difficult to decide what needs to go where. I sat down with my friend Marie, a blogger and organizing expert, to discuss what items to decant and what to leave in its original packaging.

Organizing Baking Items

Organizing Baking Items

Since the packaging for many baking ingredients tends to be flimsy, these are the first things you should decant. This way, you won’t risk a bag of flour ripping and spilling all over the floor, and you know exactly how much of everything you have before you start a baking project.

Baking items to consider decanting

  • Flours
  • Sugars
  • Cake and batter mixes
  • Baking soda and baking powder
decanting flour and sugar

Dried herbs and spices are another good item to decant. Putting your spices in uniform containers can help you store them more efficiently.

Separating Snacks

Separating Snacks

If you have children, it is especially helpful to know how much of their favorite snacks you have left and what needs to be replaced. This way, there’s no fighting when you go to pack lunches and there isn’t enough to go around.

Common snacks for decanting

  • Goldfish
  • Gummy snacks
  • Breakfast bars
  • Nuts and trail mix
  • Popcorn
  • Chips
decanting trail mix and nuts
decanting a pantry pro tip
“Decanting chips can be up to your personal preference. Some people prefer to keep chips in their original bags and store the bags in a bigger basket or bin. If you do decant chips, consider using a strainer to sift out all the crumbs before you transfer them to a separate container.”–Marie Jackson, Organized Marie

Other Dry Goods To Decant

Other Dry Goods To Decant

There are a number of other dry goods that decant well and look nice when they’re displayed in your pantry.

Try decanting things like

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Cereal
  • Coffee
  • Quinoa
storing pasta and rice in containers

Decanting Liquids

Decanting Liquids

Decanting liquid pantry items is helpful for saving space. A lot of liquid items come in different shape and size containers, so decanting them makes the space more cohesive and harmonious.

Some liquids you can decant

  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Salad dressing
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Cooking wine
  • Soy sauce
decanting cooking oils

Non-Food Items

Non-Food Items

Decanting is a tool that can work for organizing all parts of your home, not just in the kitchen. Separating things into their own containers can maximize space and restore the aesthetic of your cupboards.

Non-food Items To Decant

decanting craft supplies

What Not To Decant

What Not To Decant

There are a few things that sound like they might decant well, but should probably just be left in their original containers to save your sanity. If you find yourself decanting the following, stop and leave well enough alone.

No Need To Decant These

  • Raisins
  • Syrup
  • Crackers
  • Mac and cheese
  • Cookies
store cookies in original packaging
decanting your pantry pro tip
“Avoid decanting cookies. As someone who has tried it numerous times, the chances of cookies breaking in half are very high and you end up with a canister full of crumbs.”–Marie Jackson, Organized Marie

Decanting sticky things like raisins and syrup can make your containers difficult to clean, and cookies and crackers break too easily. Mac and cheese boxes are typically portioned out perfectly for the ratio of noodles to cheese, so it’s easier to leave that as it is.

Getting Started Decanting Your Pantry

Getting Started Decanting Your Pantry
The end result may look amazing, but getting started on your decanting journey can be daunting. Taking things one step at a time and being patient with the process will help you get your pantry organized and efficiently working in no time.

Step-By-Step Pantry Organization

  • Step 1: Take everything out of the pantry and lay it out on the table. This way, you can take inventory of what you have and what needs to be decanted.
  • Step 2: Decide what you want to decant. Keep in mind what your needs are and what you use every day. Prioritize decanting things with flimsy packaging like flour and sugar.
  • Step 3: Wash out your containers. Making sure your containers are clean will ensure your food stays safe to eat, plus make them look nicer and help you see what’s inside them.
  • Step 4: Make a plan for the leftovers. Ideally there won’t be any, but set aside a “back-stock” bin so you are ready, just in case.
  • Step 5: Label each bin and container with a sticky note so you know what goes where. It’s good to do this before you make your permanent labels so you can rearrange things as you go.
  • Step 6: Lay out the labeled containers in your pantry so you know where everything will go and how it fits together. Take a picture so you don’t forget!
  • Step 7: Decant each item one at a time. Once you’ve poured the item into its new container, tape any instructions, expiration date, and nutritional info to the back if desired.
  • Step 8: Add any overflow items to your back-stock bin. Make sure if they are in their original packaging that it is sealed with a chip clip, rubber band, or lid.
  • Step 9: Make and add permanent labels to each container. Keep the look you want for your pantry in mind and choose labels that are appealing and fun.
  • Step 10: Put everything back onto the shelves the way it is in your photo. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy your newly organized pantry!

Types Of Containers Needed For Decanting

Types Of Containers Needed For Decanting
When choosing container varieties, it’s good to start with a set. This way you have multiple size options and they are cohesive. Keep in mind the look that you are going for, and pick a set that inspires you.

It is also good to keep your shopping habits in mind. If you routinely shop at wholesale stores like Sam’s Club or Costco, buy containers accordingly. You will likely need larger size containers to store bulk foods.

how to decant a pantry pro tip
“I like to buy containers that are from a brand that’s been around for a while. That way, I know I can build my set and it will all look uniform and stack together properly.”–Marie Jackson, Organized Marie

Buying The Right Quantity Of Containers

Buying The Right Quantity Of Containers

Planning out the number of containers you need all depends on the size of your pantry and the number of items in it.

how many decanting containers is enoughCount out the number of items you want to decant and remember that each item gets its own container. Are you decanting all of your dry goods? Only baking items? Maybe you just want a set of jars for your spices. Having a cohesive group of decanted items will make planning a lot easier.

Measure out the size of your pantry or cupboard so you know how much room you have to work with. The size, shape, and number of containers you buy will depend on how much space you have.

Decanting Container Suggestions

Decanting Container Suggestions

When you’re searching for the perfect set, it’s good to have a rough idea in mind of what types of containers you might need. Below, I’ve provided a breakdown of some suggested containers to get you started, but you’ll want to adjust for your specific needs.

Baking Set

  • Flour container
  • Sugar container
  • Brown sugar container
  • Powdered sugar container
  • Additional small container

Pantry Set

  • Tall pasta container
  • Short pasta container
  • Spice jars
  • Large rice container
  • Additional small container

Snack Set

  • Chip basket
  • Large snack jar
  • Medium candy jar
  • Popcorn jar
  • Additional small container

simple diet

Shopping List Guide

Shopping List Guide

So, you’re ready to head to the store, but you’re still a little shaky on what size containers you’re looking for. The chart below demonstrates a few commonly decanted items and the corresponding quart size container for each.

General Conversion Chart

General Conversion Chart

It would be great if everything was measured the same way, but depending on the item and where you buy it, you may find everything marked differently. Here’s a chart with some common conversions to help you avoid confusion.

Pantry Decanting Container Options

Pantry Decanting Container Options
There are a ton of good container options out there for your pantry. You’re probably trying to decide between several options, so here’s a quick summary of some the most popular brands.

OXO POP Containers

OXO POP Containers

Plastic, $$$, Stackable, Dishwasher Safe, Airtight

OXO POP Containers tend to be one of the most pop-ular options out there (pun intended). The button on top pushes down to engage an airtight seal and also doubles as a handle for the lid.

This is one of the larger sets available, and containers are modular and stackable for maximum storage in a minimum space.

The 10-piece starter set includes the following:

  • 2.8 qt. container
  • 2.7 qt. container
  • 2.2 qt. container
  • 4.4 qt. container
  • 1.1 qt. containers (2)
  • 0.6 qt. containers (2)
  • 0.4 qt. containers (2)

One complaint I found was that while the pop lid is airtight in theory, water is sometimes able to seep through the seal. This is also one of the most expensive options, so it is not easy to build up your collection without dropping quite a bit of money.

I did, however, find a lot of praise for these containers. The brand has a lot of variety when it comes to different sets and accessories. There are a lot of different size options so you never have to worry about finding a container that fits whatever it is you are trying to decant.

Many people swear by the OXO Pop set because it offers a lot of size and set variety. They are also stackable to help you maximize storage space in your pantry.

Progressive International Prepworks

Progressive International Prepworks

Silicone/Plastic, $$$, Dishwasher Safe, Airtight

Progressive International Prepworks comes as a six-container set with each piece made to store a specific item. This is nice because it provides you with some guidance on what to decant and how to store it.

There are also accessories for each item that comes with its respective container. For example, the flour container has a leveler, the brown sugar container has a terracotta disc to keep your sugar from drying out, and the powdered sugar container has a sifting spoon.

The entire set includes:

  • A flour keeper
  • A sugar keeper
  • A brown sugar keeper
  • A powdered sugar keeper
  • Mini-keepers (2)

Containers for pasta, coffee, cereal, and grains are sold separately. Each lid latches shut with a silicone gasket that keeps the container airtight but can be removed for easy cleaning.

One flaw reviewers found was that the sugar container, due to its pour spout, doesn’t seal perfectly airtight. This set is one of the more expensive options on the market, but many found it worth it due to the added accessories and item-specific designs. This is ideal for people who like the guidance of an item specific set and want to invest in building beyond the six-container starter kit.

Rubbermaid Brilliance

Rubbermaid Brilliance

Plastic, $$, Dishwasher Safe, Airtight

Rubbermaid Brilliance pantry set includes four containers (eight-pieces total with lids). As far as I can tell from reviewers, each container is perfectly airtight with no sealing issues.

The set includes:

  • 16 cup (4 qt.) flour holder
  • 12 cup (3 qt.) sugar holder
  • 6.6 cup (1.7 qt.) pasta holder
  • 3.2 cup (0.8 qt.) all-purpose container

The main complaint I found with this pantry set is that the pasta container is too short to hold uncooked spaghetti at only 9.25 inches tall. However, you can purchase additional sizes that are taller.

This set is modestly priced, and while it doesn’t have item-specific design, this actually allows more flexibility for people who are looking to decant things at their own pace. The airtight seal guarantees that decanted items will be kept fresh and pest-free.

Overall this is a good choice for a starter set because it doesn’t limit your item choices and it is not too expensive to build from. The versatility is good for people who are looking for variety in their decanting.

Weck jars

Weck Jars

Glass, $$, Dishwasher Safe, Airtight, Environmentally Friendly

Since they are traditionally used for canning, Weck jars are about as airtight as you can get. Lids are leak-proof so you can feel comfortable decanting liquids as well as pantry items. The Weck 760 Jar set linked here comes as a pack of six 5.4oz (0.17 qt.) jars. Lids, gasket rings and clamps are included.

While there are several different varieties of Weck jars, they typically come in sets of the same size, so there is not a lot of room for variety. Glass jars are not necessarily kid-friendly, so decanting items that children will need to access frequently could lead to broken glass.

Because Weck jars are primarily made of glass (although some sets have wooden lids), they are environmentally friendly as well as very aesthetically pleasing. Many people choose to decant with glass jars because they give your pantry that Pinterest-worthy look.

Ikea 365+ Food Jars

Ikea 365+ Food Jars

Glass, $, Environmentally Friendly, Dishwasher Safe

These jars are some of the least expensive on our list, although they don’t come in sets. There is a ton of variety as far as shapes, sizes, and types of containers, so you have a lot of options. The containers are made of glass, making them more environmentally friendly than some of the fully plastic options. However, the lids are made of plastic.

The downside here is that since these don’t come in pre-determined sets, you have to put in the work to build your own. There are also mixed reviews about how tightly the lids seal and the ability to stack.

Ikea 365+ Food Jars are nice to look at and inexpensive to buy. If you are looking to customize your own kit, then these are a good product to try.

ProKeeper+ Canisters

ProKeeper+ Canisters

Stainless Steel/Silicone/Plastic, $$$, Dishwasher Safe, Airtight

ProKeeper+ canisters are another product of Progressive International. The nine-piece set comes with five containers and four accessories.

These include:

  • 4 qt. flour container
  • 2.5 qt. sugar container
  • 1.5 qt. brown sugar container
  • 2 qt. powdered sugar container
  • 1.5 cup (0.4 qt.) mini container

The accessories are:

  • A flour leveler
  • Terracotta disc
  • Dusting spoon
  • Mini dusting screen

Like the Prepworks set, the downside here is price. Progressive products are some of the more expensive ones out there, but they are also some of the highest quality.

The seal on the ProKeeper+ containers is as airtight as advertised, and buying sets from an established brand means you are able to continue building as your pantry needs change.

Decanting Container Labels

Decanting Container Labels

Labeling your containers is a fun way to build the aesthetic of your pantry. It is important to include the name of the item so you know what is in the jar, but beyond that you can be creative.

labeled decantersA lot of packaging has expiration dates, instructions, and nutritional info that you might want to keep. You can include this on the label if you like, or cut it off the box and tape it to the back of your containers or store it inside with the contents.

Label makers are a no-brainer solution for creating your decanting labels. Marie’s go-to tool is Brother’s P-Touch Label Maker. This is a cool option because it is easy to use, inexpensive, and has multiple different font options. This way, you can really customize your pantry.

I’d recommend avoiding chalk labels. While it may seem convenient to erase and rewrite labels as the items in the container change, chalk will leave a ghost of itself behind and, over time, the label will look messy. A better alternative if you need labels that are easy to switch up might be washable glass pens or dry erase markers.

At the end of the day, you want labels that will make you excited to open your pantry. The whole point of decanting is to have a well-organized, aesthetically appealing approach to food storage. Keeping up with any new organizational tactic is all about staying inspired, and your labels are a great way to make you happy to continue your decanting journey.

organized marie

“Labeling is your road map. When you take a trip, you have directions to get you back to your destination — labels make sure everything goes back where it belongs.”

– Marie Jackson, Organized Marie

Pantry Decanting Ideas

Pantry Decanting Ideas
Sure, decanting your pantry can save space and help you shop more efficiently, but at the end of the day you want your project to look nice too. There are a lot of different ways to personalize your pantry, and your technique when it comes to organization should be all about the look that you like best.

Decanting can be a tedious task, so you want an end product that makes you glad you put in the work and willing to keep up the effort going forward.

Decant Into Jars

Decant Into Jars

Separating your pantry items into jars is a unique and artistic way to organize. You can use jars for colorful items like candy or sprinkles, or you can go with a more neutral pallet by decanting almonds, pasta and sugar. Either way, decanting with glass jars is a great way to create a charming pantry.

Play Around With Stacking

Play Around With Stacking

If your end goal is to save space, try stacking different sized containers until you’ve found the balance you need. Using a stackable container set opens up room in your pantry or cupboard and helps things stay organized. There’s also something satisfying about seeing a perfectly stacked row of containers.

tall and short stacks of pantry items

Vary Your Container Sizes

Vary Your Container Sizes

Not only do different pantry items need different sized containers, but varying the height and width of your containers adds interest to the look of your pantry. Try tall, thin containers for pasta, and shorter, wider containers for flour or oats.

Organize With Bins

Organize With Bins

Some pantry items need organizing, but you want to leave them in their original packaging. Bins or baskets are a great way to make your pantry neat and appealing without losing the added convenience of the original packaging. This method works great for things like chips, fruit snacks, mac and cheese or breakfast bars.

Tips To Keep In Mind When Decanting Your Pantry

Tips To Keep In Mind When Decanting Your Pantry
Decanting your pantry should be a fun and satisfying process that ends with a good looking and more organized kitchen space. Because there are so many different types of things you’re going to be organizing, there are a lot of details to consider.

Here are some tips and trick I’ve learned over the years.

Ensure Canisters Have An Airtight Seal

Airtight containers ensure your food doesn’t go bad. This may seem like a no brainer, but making sure your containers are as airtight as advertised will save you from throwing out stale or spoiled food, plus keep unwanted pests out.

Buy Easy-to-Use Containers

Choose containers with an ergonomic shape that are easy to pick up. Remember that you will still be using these items every day. You want containers that don’t just look nice, but function the way you need.

Stick To A Brand You Like

Containers from different brands may not fit together well, so find a company that has a lot of quality items you want to build your collection from in the future.

Create A Back-Stock Bin

In a perfect world, all of your items would fit neatly into the jars or containers you bought. However, overflow is an inevitability, so create a back-stock bin or basket to house the overflow containers out of sight until they can fit into their respective jars.

Avoid Decanting Sticky Things

Raisins, syrup, chocolate chips — all these things seem like they’d look great decanted, but when items are sticky, containers can get murky and difficult to see through, and cleaning them is a pain.

Your Turn!

  • What types of containers work best for your household?
  • What got you started on your decanting journey?

The Complete Tiny House Kitchen Guide: 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Set Up My Kitchen

The Complete Tiny House Kitchen Guide: 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Set Up My Kitchen

Complete Tiny House Kitchen GuideWhen I built my tiny house, I knew planning my tiny house kitchen was critically important. After all, the kitchen is usually the center of the home—the command center.

In a small space, having a well-organized and clear setup is critical. Even if you don’t like to prepare or cook food (or prefer to pop an instant meal in the microwave), your kitchen will still get used regularly. I, for one, enjoy cooking and food prep. In my tiny home kitchen, I can’t really accommodate giant meals or parties, but making a delicious meal for one or two people is easily doable and fun. I always keep my tiny house kitchen clean and ready for action.

Questions about tiny house kitchens are some of the most frequent queries I get. Everyone worries about how they should set up their kitchen, what type of appliances they’ll need, and how to make their tiny house kitchens functional, useful, and comfortable. I decided to put together this guide to tiny house kitchens to help you set up a kitchen where you’ll love (or at least, not hate) to cook.

A Video Tour of My Tiny House Kitchen

For a more in-depth look at my tiny kitchen, please enjoy this video tour. In this tour, I’ll walk you through my tiny house kitchen, and what I find useful.

11 Things What I Wish I Knew When I Set Up My Tiny House Kitchen

things i wish i knew when i setup my kitchen

Now, I’ve had several years of prepping, cooking, and eating in my tiny house kitchen, which has been enough time to learn a few things I wish I’d known BEFORE I set up my tiny house kitchen.

Don’t get me wrong—my kitchen is great (and some of what I didn’t know ended up working out anyway as happy accidents), but of course, looking back, there are always adjustments you’d make.

1. Understand How Much Kitchen You Need

Understand How Much Kitchen You Need

If you’re a person who microwaves a burrito a couple times a day, then you probably don’t need a huge kitchen. If you look at people who live in tiny apartments (for example, in New York City), they may not even have a kitchen in their apartment since each square foot is so expensive. They may get by with a microwave and a hotplate, a small fridge or a little kitchenette. So, really assess how much kitchen you need.

For me, I cook all my meals from scratch, so I knew I needed a fully functioning kitchen. I had to fit a lot in a small space. For my needs, I have a stovetop, a fridge, a sink, and counter space for prep. I don’t have a dishwasher, microwave or an oven. Being off the grid, I knew the power requirements for those appliances was high, and I’m okay with handwashing my dishes. Similarly, I don’t bake. I love to cook, but I don’t need an oven. (I have a toaster oven, which I rarely use).

2. Recognize the Challenges of Having a Small Kitchen

The Challengens of having a small kitchen

The kitchen is a very specialized space. Tiny house builders tend to give a lot of square footage to the kitchen. With other single-use rooms, like the bathroom, the tendency is often to go as small as possible. While the same applies to the kitchen, you’ll want to be sure there’s plenty of room to make it functional. Only you know what you need in terms of space. Keep in mind, it’s easier to live with a plan that’s a little too big, rather than planning a kitchen that ends up too small.

3. Figure Out Exactly What You Need to Put in Your Kitchen, First

What you need to put in your kitchen to make it work

Before I started to design my kitchen, I made a whole grocery list of what I wanted in my pantry. This was one of my smartest ideas while planning my tiny kitchen. I was able to measure everything I would want and need regularly, and I built my pantry cupboard to accommodate it all.

Similarly, I went out and bought my pots and pans, as well. I measured all of them and designed around them so they would all fit. After all, nothing’s worse than finding out your cookware doesn’t fit into your tiny home kitchen cupboards, and you must store it in another spot (or go out and buy all new).

Buy dishes, silverware, and utensils—everything you’ll need to equip your tiny house kitchen. Then plan around them.

4. Ditch the Gadgets

Ditching kitchen gadgets

The kitchen is an area where there are hundreds of different gadgets out there. I used to gravitate toward a cool garlic press or a neat spice grinder. Then I realized you could do so much with good knife skills and the basic tools; you don’t need all those extra bells and whistles.

Once I brushed up on my knife skills in the kitchen, I found I could do almost any job faster, better, and with more accurate results with a knife alone. I really didn’t need a whole drawer of extra tools and one-trick-ponies. After living in my tiny house for a while, I’ve pared back more and more, especially as I’ve moved toward a minimalist lifestyle and approach.

5. Clear the Counters

clear off your counters

ryans tiny house kitchen sinkIt’s easy to clog up your counter space with small appliances. After all, there are so many options out there—a bread maker, a toaster oven, a food processor, a big mixer…and the list goes on. I find it’s helpful to assess what you actually use on a REGULAR basis and ditch the rest.

On my counter, I only keep a cutting board, there is nothing else kept on the counter regularly. I’ll pull out my blender (which does almost anything I’d need a mixer or food processor to do), an Instant Pot (replacing the need for a slow cooker), and a toaster oven all of which I store in my cabinets. That’s all I need or use regularly. You may find you need a microwave, or you prefer a food processor to a blender. Whatever you keep, be sure you really need it on your premium counter space.

I couldn’t use the first toaster oven I bought for my kitchen. It was a really nice $200 toaster oven (way more than I’d ever spent on such an item before). I plugged it in, and it pulled way too much power from my house. So it’s still in the box (and way past the return date). Carefully plan your purchases, especially for items taking up valuable spots on your counter.

6. Ventilation is Critical

ventalation is important in a tiny house kitchen

When I cook, my house warms up quite a bit, so my air conditioning will kick on. Food smells permeate the entire tiny house. I would say about every third time I cook, my smoke alarm goes off—not because I’m lighting food on fire, but because it’s a lot of steam in a small space.

Plan plenty of ventilation in your tiny house. Now, this is a bit of a pain because you need an 8 or 9-inch vent tube to go through your entire wall. With a tiny house, this is challenging to fit in, so plan carefully. Ventilation is mandatory, so you’ll need to figure out how to work it into your design.

7. Remember Storage Areas

don't forget storage areas in your tiny house kitchen

It takes time to plan tiny house kitchens that function well. In fact, you may want to let your design rest for a bit, before coming back to it. I find there are three areas people often forget in their planning: pantry space, an area for the garbage can, and an area for recycling. Figure out precisely what you want to store and then design around it.

After building my tiny kitchen and living in my house for quite a while now, I’ll admit I wish I doubled my pantry space (despite my minimalist approach to food storage). Even though I planned it all out, I still struggle with flexibility.

As I said above, purchasing your “go-to” items and measuring ahead really helps, but I found I even had to tweak things along the way to fit everything in my pantry. Chances are, even with the best plans, you’ll need to adjust once you’re living in the space.

8. Counterspace is Nice to Have

extra counterspace is a nice to have

I planned a pretty big countertop space in my kitchen. It was important to me to have enough room that it didn’t feel cramped (but of course, to still fit within my space). Again, it’s because I like to prepare meals ahead, and I do quite a bit of chopping and work on the counter.

Ryan's L shaped tiny house kitchenOther people I know plan more modular designs, where countertops pull out, fold-out, or move around to get bigger or smaller. While these approaches will work, I don’t suggest it for something you’ll need every day or even once a week. It’s kind of like a murphy bed, no one realistically makes their bed and folds it back every day, it just stays out the entire time and is awkward.

Once again, it comes down to how you want your kitchen to function. If you don’t do a lot of food prep, or if you find you’re the type of person who piles up mail, paperwork, or other items on your counter, you may want a small counter to eliminate that tendency. On the other hand, if you love working in the kitchen, give yourself enough room to chop and prepare your meals properly. Cooking will become much more pleasurable.

I also planned in a drawer for my utensils and tools. Some folks prefer a knife block or a crock of kitchen accessories on the counter (my knife block is built into my counter). Keep in mind, while it’s convenient to keep the tools right on hand, it will also begin to eat up your valuable space.

9. Plan Your Lighting Carefully

planning lighting in a tiny house kitchen

Lighting is so important throughout your tiny house, but especially in your kitchen. When I was planning my lighting, I was very careful to take a lot of time, and I put a lot of thought into the functionality of the lighting. I used LED puck lights and plotted out the layout. As a result, in terms of lighting, my tiny house is probably the most well-designed space I’ve ever lived in. There’s enough light, the switches are well laid out, and I can see in every area.

The LED lights are nice because they don’t kick off heat, and they’re low power (ideal for living off the grid or relying on battery power). They don’t take up a lot of space and depth, unlike a can light that has to be inset into the wall by about 12 inches. You may not have space in a tiny house, so surface-mount lights are great. Also consider what lights you want on dimmers or three-way switches and plan them out ahead of time.

10. Organization Will Keep You Sane

organization solutions for a tiny house kitchen

Organization is critical for tiny house kitchens, but also tiny houses in general. The thing about a tiny house is if ONE item is out of place, it will drive you nuts. I’ve found days when I toss my backpack on the floor, I’m bothered until I put it away.

When you live in a small space, you can’t ignore a mess. You can’t live in a tiny space unless it’s neat and tidy. I clean my entire house each morning. That may sound excessive, but honestly, with a tiny house, it doesn’t take long at all and I always feel like my space is calm, inviting, and organized. When you’re in a small space, even a little clutter makes it feel like a disaster zone.
In the kitchen, I created a wall organizer for the items I use every day (tinfoil, salt, pepper, hot sauce, cups, and measuring cups). I also planned open shelving tucked away where I keep all my dishes. The convenient aspect of a tiny kitchen is every item is within arm’s reach. Every item has a home, and keeping it tucked in the proper spot will make your life SO much less complicated.

11. Buy Items Meant to Last

Buy high quality materials and items that last

I’ve found the kitchen is one area where I permit myself to splurge on high-end purchases. You might not own a lot of items, but the items in your kitchen need to last a long time. You will use them over and over daily (and if you don’t use the items over and over again, they probably shouldn’t stay in your tiny house kitchen).

When I was setting up my kitchen, I purchased two very high-quality knives and the best pans I could find. I researched and learned what I was buying beforehand, so I was sure I was purchasing top-of-the-line items that will last a lifetime. Yes, they cost hundreds of dollars, but it was worth the investment for an excellent item I use every single day.

How I Set Up My Tiny House Kitchen

How I set up my tiny house kitchen

Below you see how I decided to set up my tiny house kitchen.

Here is the floorplan design:

tiny house kitchen floorplan
tiny house kitchen diagram

And here are renderings (note the colors changed):

tiny house kitchen cabinets
Sink cabinets in a tiny house kitchen

My Tiny House Kitchen

kitchen overview in a tiny house

Kitchen Overview
Here is an overview of my tiny house kitchen. You see how it all came together, including my counter space and storage. I found it was important when I was planning to avoid worrying about what I like to call “outlier activities.” For example, people worry they need two ovens to cook Thanksgiving dinner once a year. The rest of the time, they don’t need an extra oven at all. If you’re planning a tiny house kitchen, it’s essential to let go of these outlier activities when space is a premium.

Instead, I find you should only consider what you need for your everyday activities. If you need to cook more food, there are induction burner cooktops available to purchase for under $50. When the time comes for you need to cook a big meal, consider the investment. If it’s worth it, go for it. If not, pass on hosting duties (or ask someone else to bring the turkey).

Verona Two Burner Stove
Here is my stovetop with two burners. This is a Verona stove, which was the only one I could find at the time that was a two-burner (it’s actually meant as an auxiliary cooktop for a larger range). I chose gas/propane, which is better for solar, as electric stoves require so much energy. There was one I looked at made for an RV that was cheaply made and useless. This stove has held up quite well, though, so I’m glad I got it. I like this stove overall, but it burns a little hot.
two burner propane stove in a small kitchen in a tiny house
built in knife block into a kitchen counter Built-in Knife Block Above Fridge
This is my built-in knife storage, which takes up very little room on the counter, but keeps my knife set right on hand. This is seriously one of the best decisions I’ve made in my kitchen!

Below, this spot is my fridge. I went with a regular refrigerator-only unit (no freezer). It’s a small, dorm-size fridge, which works for me and my needs. I found a freezer wasn’t necessary, and the freezers in those little fridges didn’t work well anyway. One benefit of not having a freezer is I eat less junk food (Hot Pockets, frozen burritos, pizza rolls, and the like). Since I don’t store ready-to-eat food in my house, I don’t need a microwave either. This saves me quite a bit of space and helps me stay healthy.

If I were to need a freezer for food storage or preservation, I would recommend a chest-type freezer (which you could also keep in a storage shed). Chest freezers are more energy-efficient and run well with solar. There are also other approaches to food storage and preservation, like dehydration, which you may want to experiment with.

Deep Kitchen Sink
My sink is very deep. I wanted a sink to accommodate my pots and pans easily. I also chose this sink because I use it for laundry, as needed. I don’t own a washer and dryer. I HATE doing laundry, and so I pay for a laundry service. For me, it’s worth the investment.

Having a deep sink is quite helpful if you need to wash one shirt or a few pairs of socks quickly. I wash what I need, rinse it out, and hang it up. It’s very functional. The undermount is also nice so I can wipe crumbs right into it and there is no lip to catch anything. You can also throw a cutting board over the top if you need a little extra counter space.

deep tub sink in a tiny house kitchen
haning measuring cups
Hanging Storage
Hanging everyday items like measuring cups is useful, so they’re within your reach at all times. It also keeps them from cluttering up drawers. Find tools that do double duty and you use all the time. Get rid of all those “one-trick pony” items. Chances are you don’t need a waffle iron, fancy chopper, zester, and avocado-pit remover.
Spice & Dry Goods Storage
This is my spice and dry goods drawer that holds uniform bottles. I keep all my spices here for easy access. I only keep spices and items I use regularly. If a few months go by and I don’t use something, then I know it’s not worth the storage space to keep it.

This rule of thumb goes for most of your food storage. Only keep the food you need for the next week or two (within reason, obviously; condiments and other items may last a little longer). Buy items from bulk bins, where you get only what you need. Buy most items in small quantities, so it’s easier to use it up quickly and you don’t need to store them in your tiny home kitchen.

custom spice drawer holder
storage nook in small kitchen
Open Shelving
Open concept shelving is used to hold cups and other items I use regularly. I love these metal cups because they don’t break and they will last forever.
Butcher Block Countertops
I love my counter space. I also like the wooden “butcher block” look for my countertops. They’re maple, sealed with a food-grade polyurethane coating which is going strong even after 7 years! It’s easy to maintain, and I think it looks nice, too. One area to watch on countertops is weight. If you want granite countertops, you may run into a weight concern. Granite counters add about 800 pounds to your trailer, so ensure you factor in the weight.
custom buther block counter tops
kitchen essentials storage area in tiny house kitchen
Easy-To-Access Shevling
In this other shot of my storage area, you see the salt, pepper, and tinfoil I use so often during food prep and cooking. It’s really nice to keep these items accessible.
Deep Utensil Drawers
I designed these drawers deep enough to hold utensils easily. I only keep exactly what I need and use regularly.
custom made utensils drawer

Remember: When it Comes to A Tiny Kitchen, Less is More

Less is more in a tiny house kitchen

I’ve adopted a minimalist mindset when it comes to my kitchen (and life in general). It’s incredible how distilling what you need down to the necessities really brings clarity and helps you feel organized, calm, and less stressed.

When it comes to cooking, I’ve found the simplest way to cook food is to grill. Honestly, I grill a lot! Typically, I’ll put a steak or chicken on the grill 3-4 times a week. Not only is steak delicious (sorry vegetarians), but grilling is so easy to clean up. It keeps the heat outside and there are very few dishes, if any.

Grilling outside to expand your tiny house kitchenSometimes I’ll cook a protein on the grill and cook enough for dinner, breakfast, and even lunch the next day. Usually, I eat similar foods, and I buy only what I’m going to eat within the next few days or week. As a result, I don’t often have food that goes bad or gets spoiled. This also helps me save money on food since I’m not buying extras.

For most people, their kitchen is the central gathering place in their home. When you live in a tiny house, your whole home becomes the gathering place. Having a tiny house kitchen isn’t challenging, though. I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all with a small kitchen, and I actually enjoy meal prep and cooking more.

When I entertain, friends usually gather around my firepit outside. Some people use pop-up tables and other setups for entertaining, as well. Like I said, it’s important not to plan around those big, once-a-year events for your kitchen. If something does come up, you can always borrow an XXL crock pot from a friend or look up ways to roast your turkey outside. There are plenty of workarounds to make your tiny kitchen functional and enjoyable.

Your Turn!

  • What is most important to you in your tiny house kitchen?
  • What solutions have you found for cooking in a small space?

10 Tiny House Kitchen Essentials: Small Kitchen Solutions for Your Tiny House

10 Tiny House Kitchen Essentials: Small Kitchen Solutions for Your Tiny House

the complete tiny house kitchen guideNo matter the size of your house, chances are high you spend a lot of time in your kitchen. If you live in a tiny house like me, you demand even more from your kitchen, because storage and surface space is at a top premium. Fortunately, I’ve figured out with a few tiny house kitchen essentials, you’ll ensure your kitchen is perfectly organized and functional.

As a tiny house owner, I’ll tell you, fitting everything you needed to cook in a tiny kitchen seems daunting at first (I know it did for me), but don’t give up your cooking dreams! Since I’ve outfitted my tiny house kitchen with many of these essential kitchen tools, I’ve found I enjoy cooking even more.

Cooking in a cluttered space takes time. It’s stressful. You never feel organized or focused. Now that I’ve figured out what worked to keep my kitchen clean, tidy, and in order, cooking becomes something that I look forward to at the end of the day as a way to unwind. Using these tiny house kitchen essentials, I’m able to quickly prepare meals, keep my house in order, relax, and truly enjoy the process.

Whether you’re planning a tiny house kitchen or you’d like to organize the kitchen you’ve already got, there are a few tools to level up your culinary game. I gathered my ten favorite kitchen solutions in this post to share with you today. Here are my favorite tiny kitchen essentials, in no particular order.

1. Slide-out Trash & Recycling Bins

A slide-out trash, and recycling bin is handy when you need it and hidden when you don't. These pull-out bins are great space savers for tiny house kitchens.

True confession time—when I was planning my tiny house kitchen, I forgot to include a spot for my trash and recycling. Now, I don’t generate a ton of garbage, mainly because I’ve adopted a minimalist lifestyle. Still, space for trash and recycling is one thing I wish I’d included when I was drawing up my tiny house plans. It was so easy to forget!

If you have full-depth counters, take advantage of the space in your tiny house kitchen with a slide-out cabinet for your trash bins. You could also include slide-out storage for items in the pantry (cans, boxes, and non-perishable items). These simple solutions maximize narrow spaces and help you fit all the things you need in your tiny kitchen.

2. A Hanging Rail for UtensilsUse a rail system like the IKEA Grundtal to keep your utensils and kitchen tools off the counter and within reach.

It seems like a lot of people keep a telltale overflowing crock on their kitchen counter, stuffed to the brim with cooking utensils and other kitchen essentials. While these crocks are (somewhat) functional, they take up counter space, which is already limited in a tiny house kitchen. Instead of the crock option, save valuable kitchen real estate by hanging your utensils and tools with S-hooks.

Before you lock yourself into a utensil storage solution, start by first eliminating as much as you can. Truth be told, you only need a few essentials. I know for me I might make mashed potatoes a few times a year, so I just use a fork instead of cluttering up things with a masher. Adopting this mentality will let you reduce the amount you need to organize in the first place.

The Grundtal, while being an excellent name for a disgruntled bridge troll, is actually a rail system from IKEA that is affordable and very popular in tiny house kitchens. One word of caution before you start hanging all your kitchen tools—pare down and assess which items you truly need and use regularly. I’ve found a knife set, cutting board, and a few measuring cups are almost all I need in my minimalist kitchen. Just because you can store it, doesn’t mean you should.

3. A Hanging Dish Rack and Paper Towel Holder

A hanging dish rack is a great space-saving essential in a tiny house kitchen.

Continuing the vertical storage theme of kitchen organization, you may want to consider a hanging dish rack. A hanging rack keeps your drying dishes from taking up valuable counter space. They are also used to store and display dishes, freeing up cupboard space.

Over-the-sink dish racks are very popular in minimalist and tiny house kitchens. Use the racks to dry your dishes as well as to hold frequently used items like dish soap, olive oil, salt, and pepper, keeping your kitchen essentials within arm’s reach. Think about things you use every time you cook, position those in a place that’s easy to grab. Mount the rack above your sink or your stove (depending on how you plan to use it) for quick and easy access.

A few space-saving kitchen racks to explore are:

4. Over-the-Sink Cutting Board with Strainer

This over-the-sink cutting board creates extra counter space with built-in drainage thanks to the handy strainer. This tiny house kitchen essential, maximizes your space.

When you’re cooking up a storm and in need of some extra working room, this space-saving idea is so pretty handy. I have an undermount sink, which makes this over-the-sink cutting board perfect for those moments when I need extra room to work. Not only does the cutting board extend the counter space over your sink, but you can conveniently slide your chopped vegetables right into the strainer for rinsing. Genius!

You could also use a regular chopping block (like a Boos block) to extend your counter space. The extra space is helpful if you’re entertaining guests in your tiny house. Turn the kitchen counter into a buffet, and then simply remove the block when you’re ready to do the dishes.

5. Vertical Dividers for Flat Items

Vertical dividers, like these dividers made from tension rods, are a kitchen organizing essential for keeping trays, baking sheets, and cutting boards in order.

Even if you rarely cook or bake, you know the pure misery of stacking and re-stacking cookie sheets, muffin tins, or cutting boards to find the one you want. Small cupboards in a tiny house kitchen become hazardous disaster zones, with piles of pans rattling around.

Solve this common kitchen problem with this simple kitchen space-saving solution: use a bakeware organizer or vertical divider. Storing pans on their sides with vertical dividers solves the space problem handily and keeps the pans from clattering around. The photo above shows how to use simple tension curtain rods as dividers for a DIY solution or buy a divider made especially for this purpose. Either way, vertical stacking will keep your cupboards organized and accessible.

Here are a few organizers to help you get a handle on those clunky pots, pans, lids, and trays:

6. Square-Shaped Storage Containers

Square-shaped storage containers are easy to stack and organize in a tiny house pantry or small kitchen.

Among the tiny house kitchen essentials you MUST own, are quality, uniform and modular stackable containers. I can’t tell you the difference proper containers make when it comes to organizing and maximizing your tiny house kitchen (or any small space).

Avoid the knee-jerk instinct to get a bunch of mason jars. Aesthetically, jars are appealing, but circular objects are a space-saver’s nightmare. Square-shaped storage containers, however, come in all sizes and stack up neatly in your pantry or fridge. This stackable feature is critical if your refrigerator is particularly tiny because every nook and cranny counts!

There are many great square containers sets out there for an affordable price. A few sets to consider:

7. Collapsible Silicone Measuring Cups and Spoons

Collapsible measuring spoons and cups, really help you sort your dry ingredients before they go into the mixing bowl. Store these measuring cups and spoons away easily, when you finish cooking.

I own a set of collapsible silicone measuring cups and spoons in my kitchen, and I love them. I can store four measuring cups on their sides in my drawer in about 2 inches of space. They’re easy to clean, too, making them a tiny house kitchen essential.

There are all sorts of other gadgets that collapse as well – colanders, washing buckets, top hats, and more. (Okay, so no one really needs a collapsible top hat in their kitchen, but the rest of these items are convenient space-saving solutions.)

8. Adjustable Measuring Spoons

Adjustable measuring spoons and cups are a tiny house kitchen essential. Sets like this stainless steel and black set, take the place of multiple kitchen tools.

I like having numerous measuring cups and spoons if I measure several ingredients at once. That said, I don’t do a lot of baking (where proper measurement is essential). In fact, the more I cook, the better I am at simply eyeballing most ingredients. Measuring cups are still handy, but storing several sets, takes up way too much space.

If you think having too many gadgets and tools in your kitchen is a hassle, then a set of adjustable measuring cups and spoons could be perfect for you! Three adjustable spoons take the place of eight or nine measuring cups and spoons, which means more space saved in your kitchen drawers. I’ll stand behind any tools that streamline a job and take up less storage space in a tiny house kitchen.

9. Wire Under-Shelf Baskets

Make the most of extra cupboard space above your dishes, with organizing wire under-shelf baskets.

In most kitchen cabinets, there’s often a lot of unused space hovering above the stacked plates and mugs. I usually recommend when people are planning a tiny house kitchen, they should gather all the items they want to store in their cupboards. Lay the elements out and measure exactly how much space they take. This step saves you from installing shelving that’s way too deep or high.

But, if you didn’t plan your space or build it yourself, you can still make the most of the extra room in your cupboards. Put the area to good use and avoid precariously-stacked cups, plates, and bowls with under-shelf baskets. Find these at the Container Store, Walmart, Target or other organization specialty stores.

A few under shelf baskets to look at:

10. Magnetic Spice Containers

Magnetic spice containers help you easily see and store your spices on a fridge or any metal surface.

In my tiny house kitchen, I have a specially designed spice drawer. I keep the uniform jars lined up in the drawer, where I can quickly see each ingredient. If you don’t own a dedicated spice drawer, use this space-saving kitchen hack for organizing your spices.

The biggest challenge with spices is they all come in different sizes, so it’s hard to organize them with so many form factors. Decant your spices into magnetic tins or other uniform jars and eliminate the mismatched jumble of spice jars cluttering up your pantry. The transparent lids also show you when it’s time to buy more turmeric or tarragon (you may also want to label the spices on the back so you can easily tell what’s what.) Line the magnetic spice jars up on the front of your tiny fridge to put otherwise unused space to work!

Cooking in a small space or a tiny house kitchen doesn’t need to be a hassle. With these easy organizing tiny kitchen essentials, you’ll have a clean, orderly kitchen where cooking is easy and enjoyable. I highly recommend using these space-saving tips and tricks to maximize your storage and workspace in your tiny house kitchen. Happy cooking!

Your Turn!

  • What are some of your favorite space-saving kitchen gadgets?
  • What’s the one kitchen essential that you can’t live without?

Minimalism & Diet: Simplify Your Food With A Minimalist Diet

Minimalism & Diet: Simplify Your Food With A Minimalist Diet

What does my minimalist diet look like? After minimizing my belongings, my relationships, and my schedule, I took a look at my diet. Minimizing my diet has been one of the biggest money savers that minimalism has brought me and the health benefits have been huge too. Here are tips on how to simplify your diet:

what is a minimalist diet

What Is A Minimalist Diet?

For each person it’s going to be different depending on your preferences, goals and requirements. A minimalist diet is a simplified approach to cooking meals where you balance nutritional needs, ease of preparing, and optimizing your ingredients to have as few as possible while still being able to cooking a variety of meals that you love. You approach it in a way that’s right for you, but you are making sure to be intentional in how your meals fit into your life.

Here are some of the main consideration I took when I wanted to simplify my diet and how I prepared my meals:

1. Learn Staple Meals

Learning how to cook a few simple meals is not only a beneficial life skill, it can drastically reduce your grocery budget. One major shift in my journey was when I was able to leave my job because I no longer had so many expenses, what that meant was I could cook all my meals from scratch each meal.

simple staple meals

I have a few simple breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that I alternate between, which makes it easy to know what to eat when that time rolls around. I know that I love all of these meals, so when I go grocery shopping, I make sure to pick up ingredients for each one.

2. A Minimalist Diet Meal Plan For You

everyday meals for simple meal planning

I tend to get really into a meal, and eat it constantly. By eating the same foods over and over, you’re saving money by not needing new spices, exotic ingredients, or a vast array of groceries. I like to always have staples on hand to create any of the following: smoothies, breakfast muesli, vegan sandwiches, sweet potato and chickpea curry, burritos, and my famous nourish bowls.

Nourish bowls happen when I throw the following into a bowl: some type of grain, some type of protein (usually beans, as they are so high in fiber and minerals!), loads of veggies, avocado, and hummus. This can also be a really simple way to use up leftovers.

When you start out look at your favorite dishes and write out the ingredients that it takes to make them. After you have a list of your favorite dishes, see what ingredients overlap. By choosing the dishes that share common ingredients we can optimize your go to recipes so that you can make the most amount of dishes with the fewest amount of ingredients.

common foods for a simple diet

 

3. Keto Diet For Minimalist Weight Loss

keto low carb dinner

Over the past year I’ve started the ketogenic diet into my daily habit to help with weight loss. Initially I started keto because I wanted to improve my energy levels by reducing my carb intake, primarily by eating only foods that were low glycemic foods.

This is because I’ve noticed that my body seems to have big energy swings around my meals and keto boosted my energy, lets me loose weight, simplifies my diet and just works really well for me.

At first I was just going to go low carb, but after reading up on keto I decided to go all the way with the diet because it closely matched my own diet. I didn’t eat a lot of pasta, I have never been a big sweets person, I don’t drink, and I already had a lot of healthy fats in my diet as it was.

How is the Keto diet a minimalist diet?

At it’s core it’s inherently a “restrictive diet” meaning it limits what you can eat by a good bit. But I’d actually argue another point that is more important for minimalist.

Because the ketogenic diet functions of ketones it’s actually a more efficient way to provide nutrients to your body. In ketosis your energy stems from beta hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and fats yield 9 kcal per gram of fat, and approximately 4 kcal per gram for carbohydrates.

When you get your body optimized for fats you’re staking the deck in your favor. Practically speaking I get satiated much faster and longer. A tablespoon of butter in my coffee has replaced what once was an 800 calorie breakfast. I used to struggle to stay awake at work, now I go full tilt all day and then I go back after work some days to work on passion projects.

You Eat Less Food, Feel Really Full And For Longer:

I was super skeptical of this, but the standard DASH diet recommended by most doctors always left me hungry after cutting out 300 calories a day. After the first three weeks of keto I was eating till I felt stuffed and when I totaled my macros for the day I was astounded to see some days I was eating 1,000 of a deficit! Now as you get back to your healthy weight you’ll find you eat very close to your maintenance intake.

My Daily Keto Meal Plan:

  • Bullet Proof Coffee: Fresh coffee, 1 TB of grass feed butter, 1 TB of MCT oil
  • Breakfast: 3 free range organic eggs with 1 ounce of cheese
  • Lunch: 2 ounces of cheese and 2 ounces of salami or chorizo
  • Dinner: 4 cups of romaine lettuce, Cesar dressing, 1 ounce of cheese, bacon, MCT oil, 6 ounces of grilled chicken

I only really mix up my dinner, but I keep my other meals almost the same every day. For dinners I’ll have hamburgers without the bun and no sugar added ketchup, mustard pork chops, or buffalo wings with ranch. I have also found that keeping all my carbs at dinner helps me maintain energy levels throughout the day to an amazing degree.

food to eat on a keto diet

On average my Macros are 20 carbs per day, 120 grams of fat per day, and 140 grams of protein a day. Generally I’m eating closer to 10 carbs a day, but never more than 20 carbs. The results have been really incredible, I don’t get tired any more, I have the most insane energy levels for sustain periods, I’ve lots lots of weight and because ketosis suppresses your appetite, I don’t get hungry AT ALL even when I’m running a major calorie deficit.

4. Keep Snacks Simple

minimalist diet snacks

I used to be a big snacker – and I was a fan of processed junk food. After minimizing my diet, I’ve switched my snacking habits to do it less and less. Now, my keto snacks are jerky, cheese sticks and salads. During my normal eating I would snack on fresh or dried fruit, veggies with hummus, apples with peanut butter; I try to keep it as whole-food-focused as possible. Not only does this save me money, it is so much better for my overall health.

5. Try Themed Nights

theme dinners for the week

One of my favorite ways to keep my diet simple and minimal, but still exciting, is themed nights. I have a few themes that I like to work around, including tacos and docos (documentaries) night, or meatless Mondays. This is a really fun way to introduce simplified diets to children.

The best part about having a themed night meal plan is that it limits the scope of your shopping so you know it’s breakfast for dinner on Thursday and you don’t wander around the store looking for ideas, you can jump right to the things you need.

6. Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fasting for weight loss

I found that my body naturally fell into to this pattern of 8 hours eating and 16 hours fasting. For me and my schedule it works well. I eat lunch around noon and then dinner around 6:30pm, from there I may have a few pieces of cheese at 8pm if I’m feeling like I need more, but then I’m good for the rest of the night, skip breakfast and then don’t eat until lunch.

This 16 hour window is enough to firmly put yourself into autophagy (where your body weens out under performing cells and builds new cells). What’s interesting is that the amount of autophagy that occurs during a 16 hour fast, up to around 20 hours is very effective.

Longer fasting has been shown to only give an incremental effect, so I don’t see much need for it.

8. Vitamins And Supplements

vitamins

In general supplements and vitamins are largely ineffective be our body’s don’t absorb them very well. The big thing I’ve learned is there are many mitigating factors that help your body absorb them.

For example you need vitamin K2 to be available to facilitate the absorption of vitamin D, which then in turns let your body absorb calcium. Add to this that your body can only take so much in at a time, you sometimes need to space the dose out.

I only take vitamin B12 with Folate, fish oil pill for omega 6 fats, potassium, and magnesium. To this I’ll throw in a dusting of nutritional yeast (vitamin B) and some MCT oil here and there. I also will use Himalayan pink salt for general minerals.

The rest is pretty much a waste of money and I only keep these because there is some decent science behind it or my body responds well to them.

9. Which Cooking Oil Is Good For Health

  • Olive oil
  • Grass fed butter
  • Avocado oil
  • Ghee
  • Coconut oil

Oils was another one I had to learn about and luckily my go to oil, olive oil, was one of the better oils out there. I only keep three oils around for cooking: olive oil, butter and avocado oil. Many people like coconut oil, but recently it’s come under some scrutiny. Ghee is great I just haven’t gotten into it.

healthy oils for cooking

The big thing to understand is smoke points. When an oil hits its smoke point it can start to produce oxidants and other negative by products. The reason I use avocado oil is for high temperature cooking or grilling. Avocado oil has a smoke point of 520 degrees compared to olive oil which is 320 degrees.

10. Keep it Nutritious

wholesome foods for health

A simplified diet is a whole-foods focused, nutritious diet. I like to say I cook with ingredients, not foods. Ingredients are the most basic form, while foods have long list of a combinations of ingredients. Focus your meals around whole grains, beans and legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget that you can grow your own food to with these simple steps to setting up a garden with easy to grow vegetables.

I like to get my food as close to the source as possible – this means farmers markets for produce, bakeries for whole grain breads, and bulk stores for whole grain pasta, and dried beans. By constantly having the staples on hand, you’ll be able to make such a variety of meals.

Minimizing my diet has improved my health, relieved stress, and made me a happier person. There are so many benefits to eating more simply and healthfully, your wallet and your body will thank you.

Your Turn!

  • Would you consider simplifying your diet?

Your Complete Guide to Dehydrating Food

Your Complete Guide to Dehydrating Food

I wanted to do a post about dehydrating food—a topic several readers have asked about regarding food preservation and storage—but one problem, I’ve never dehydrated food before!

Undaunted, I decided the best way to teach was to learn about it myself. So I interviewed my pal Jennifer who’s an expert at the process of food dehydration and made this great video to share. Unfortunately, when I got home, I discovered the video was garbled, so instead, I went through my notes and created a step-by-step guide and getting started video for you guys. (Check out my video on food dehydrating below…)

 

Dehydrating food is a great way to preserve food and enjoy it for weeks and even months. To dehydrate foods, they’re simply heated at a low temperature with plenty of air circulation. Using a professional dehydrator is an easier method but you can also dry food in the oven, as I’ll explain.

When it comes to food preservation, I think a lot of people immediately bring up canning. I’ll break down and compare the two methods below, but when you weigh the equipment and cost, dehydrating is a cheaper, easier way, especially for those starting out.

Are you ready to get started? Here’s what you need to know about dehydrating food!

Dehydrating vs. Canning

The aspect of dehydrating that appeals to most homesteaders is the simplicity. Both canning and dehydrating have their strengths, but when it comes to dehydrating, less equipment is required (and it’s a simpler process.) Canning, as you will learn from our video is often a more involved process. While canning gives you a longer shelf-life (1-2 years), there’s a greater risk of serious issues like botulism.

For beginners, here’s the breakdown.

Cost

A food dehydrator is hardly pricier than the initial investment of canning. Most food basic dehydrators start at $40 and some are priced much higher. For fruits and veggies, a simple model should work. You can also dehydrate in your oven but it’s a less exacting process. (Some people even dehydrate food in their car—but let’s leave that to the pros!) In an oven it also takes a long time, during which you’re stuck at home. A food dehydrator requires less supervision.

bannana chips low cost

For newbies using a dehydrator is often the way to go. It does require electricity, so if you’re off the grid, that’s also a consideration. Fortunately most dehydrators don’t require a lot of energy. For a breakdown on dehydrator electricity usage check out this chart. Aside from your food dehydrator, you need knife and a cutting board.

Canning on the other hand requires more gear (depending on your method). If you use the water bath method, you’re looking at an investment in the pot, the jars, lids and tongs. A pressure canner on the other hand costs between $60-$300. So canning ends up being almost the same, if not higher cost than dehydration.

Food Safety

Again, canning and food dehydration are both safe methods of preservation if done correctly. With dehydration you’re removing 90-95% of the water content of food, making it an unwelcoming environment for bacteria and mold. With canning, food is heated to a bacteria-killing temperature and the sterile food is sealed in jars using heat and pressure.

With both processes, you need to follow proper procedures and use common sense. The benefit of canning is you know a jar is sealed by listening for the telltale “pop.” That said, when canning goes bad, it goes really bad (like food poisoning bad). Yes, everyone has a story of their grandparents eating canned food over a decade old, but don’t risk it. Canned food is good for 1-2 years, but you must use an exact, proper method.

food saver bags holding dehydrated fruit

With food dehydration, you check for doneness simply by testing the food. With most fruits and vegetables, they will feel completely dry to the touch. When your food feels dry it’s ready to store for a few weeks or for months in a FoodSaver bag or container. If you’re making jerky on the other hand, you don’t want to play around. That’s when it’s important to test for correct temperatures and follow dehydration procedures.

Taste & Ease of Cooking

Again, people love the taste of dehydrated food and the variety of possibilities. You can make cookies, fruit leather and even bread and crackers with a dehydrator! Many foods like vegetables and fruits are regularly enjoyed in their dehydrated form. Other foods are rehydrated by soaking in water or boiling.

With canning, the contents of the jar are completely cooked. Anyone who’s eaten cold beans out of can knows while they aren’t delicious, they’re certainly edible even without heating. Because of the chemical requirements of safe canning, you need to balance the salt and acid content in the food. This means certain foods are a little saltier or sweeter than your preference. Canned food also has a distinctive texture and taste some people don’t like.

Nutrition

Proponents of dehydrating foods often cite the nutritional benefits of raw food. When food is dehydrated it isn’t cooked. The dehydrating happens at a very low temperature, which means it’s an appealing solution for those who follow a raw food diet.

sun dried tomatoes taste amazing

With canning the food is cooked. However, it is often preserved right from the garden—much fresher than if it had to travel miles from harvest to processing plant. Food preserved in it’s peak state, whether dehydrated or canned often has the same or better nutrition than food stored in the fridge for a while. In both methods of preservation, plenty of good nutrition remains.

Canning or Dehydration: Which Method Wins?

So, which is best? Canning or dehydration? It really depends on the food. Both methods are excellent and serve a purpose.

For storage in a small space, however, dehydration certainly has benefits. After all, when food has been dehydrated, it’s often smaller and “shrunken down” from the original state (think of a raisin versus a grape). Dehydrated food can also be stored in vacuum seal bags or airtight containers—boxes or even reused jars. Canned food is stored in well, cans (or Mason jars) which take up a fair amount of space.

Your dehydrator also requires storage, which is a consideration before you invest. But many dehydrators are fairly compact. Again, the dehydration process also works in your oven (and yes, even in the sun).

What Can be Dehydrated?

You can dehydrate all kinds of different foods. The most common of course are fruits and vegetables and people often think of jerky as well.

Did you know you can also dehydrate breads and baked goods? Make crackers, naan and flatbreads right in your food dehydrator. It’s not difficult, but most require you “flip” them part way through the process to dry both sides. Many people love making cookies and bars in their food dehydrator. You can create fruit leather and even yogurt in some dehydrators.

Most foods need to be cut into small chunks to dehydrate properly. Here are the typical drying times and process to get you started.

Fruits

To start dehydrating fruits, it’s best to begin with the simple basics. Sliced apples, pineapple, apricots and mangos are all great dried fruit for first-time dehydrators.  Banana chips are another common dehydrator-friendly food. Slice the fruit into bite-sized pieces, 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick.

fruit leather

Fruit puree results in easy, delicious and portable fruit leather. Puree three cups of cooked fruit (frozen or fresh) and add water as needed so it’s spreadable. Pour it 1/8-inch-thick into parchment lined trays of your dehydrator or a lined baking sheet. Dehydrate fruit or fruit leather at 140 for 6-12 hours. Test for tackiness as you go. Use honey or syrup to sweeten.

Vegetables

With vegetables, you’ll want to blanch or steam the vegetable first (particularly if it’s a veggie you’d eat cooked normally like green beans). Mushrooms, onions and other “raw-friendly” vegetables don’t need pre-cooking. As with fruit, slice the vegetables into bite-sized pieces, 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick.

The method for drying vegetables is very similar to fruit. The drying often concentrates the natural sweetness in the vegetables and with a little salt and seasoning they turn into great chips. Try tomatoes and peppers for a chewier snack too. Depending on the moisture content in the food, it will take anywhere from 6-12 hours.

dried corn for cooking

Once dried, store your dehydrated food in airtight containers, jars or FoodSaver-type vacuum seal bags. Once opened or exposed to air, the food should be enjoyed within two-weeks. The shelf-stability will depend on the amount of moisture left in the food, so use common sense. Obviously, if you see signs of mold or spoiling, discard the food.

Meats

To make jerky in a dehydrator, you’ll need to heat it higher. Meat needs to be cooked to a temperature of at least 160 degrees, so preheat your oven or dehydrator first for at least thirty minutes, before you start. Marinate meat ahead of time, using your favorite flavoring.

The internal temperature of the meat must reach 160 during the cooking process to remain food safe. You can do this by either drying your jerky for 4-6 hours in the dehydrator and then cooking for 10 minutes in a 275-degree oven OR steam or roast the meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees before dehydrating for 4-6 hours.

When it comes to meat, remember you aren’t limited to just beef jerky either. Try pre-sliced ham, beef or turkey for a great, different flavor (following the same method). You can also dry fish, such as salmon!

Methods for Dehydrating

There are several methods for dehydrating foods. The oven is probably the most convenient (since most people own an oven), but if you enjoy dehydrating often and like the convenience of “setting and forgetting it,” a dehydrator is a worthwhile investment.

Oven

Using the oven to dehydrate your food is easy. Simply preheat your oven to 145 degrees for fruits and vegetables and 160 degrees for meat (following the jerky process outlined above). Using a wire rack on a cookie sheet will help air circulate, but food dries well on a silicone baking sheet also. You may want to use parchment too. Parchment works especially for fruit leather– easily peel, cut and roll the leather before you enjoy.

Smoking/Salting

preserve food with salt

If you want to cure and preserve meat the old-fashioned way, smoking and salting are tried and true methods. Because the objective is to remove all moisture from the food before preserving these methods work well and add great flavor. There are a number of food safety guidelines to follow if you decide to cure, smoke or salt your own food. For the best guidelines I recommend visiting the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s site on Smoking and Curing.  The internal temperature and sanitation guidelines are critical especially when working with raw meat.

Dehydrator

You can purchase a basic food dehydrator for $60 on up to deluxe models costing in the thousands. If you frequently preserve food, investing in a dehydrator may be worth it. This is especially helpful for hunters, gardeners or those who rely on food storage during the winter months (or if you simply enjoy dehydrated and dried foods). Dehydrating is a great way to extend your food storage capacity and safely prepare food to enjoy later.

food dehydrator excalibur

The Nesco and the Excalibur brand food dehydrators are the most popular and well-reviewed. There are also models from Presto, NutriChef and Cuisinart. For simple, small space dehydrators Nesco offers both a small square dehydrator and small round version for well under $100. Watch second-hand stores or Craigslist to score a dehydrator on the cheap.

If you’re interested in preserving food for storage or simply for delicious snacks, food dehydration is a great way to go. It’s easy and fun. You’ll end up with plenty of delicious foods to enjoy for months. After talking to Jennifer about dehydrating, I’ve definitely decided to give it a shot. Even if you’re a beginner, dehydrating is a great way to preserve food!