Posts Tagged Pantry

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!

How To Stock Your Minimalist Kitchen + List: 16 Pantry Staples

How To Stock Your Minimalist Kitchen + List: 16 Pantry Staples

The term “minimalist kitchen” is a bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it? After all, many of us love cooking and the kitchen is one of the most complex areas of our home. Even with a tiny house, my kitchen is my “command center.” I like cooking. I keep my kitchen organized and clean it every day–it’s small and orderly…but does mean it’s a “minimalist kitchen?”

kitchen staples

At the heart of it, minimalism is all about embracing simplicity. When we have a bunch of expired ingredients on hand and storage for a small army we’ll never need to feed, it gets stressful. Rather than working through a cluttered kitchen and sorting through expired jars of who-knows-what, a minimalist kitchen list consists of items you use regularly for meals you enjoy. Stock your minimalist kitchen with the equipment you’ll use and the items needed to prepare your favorite foods. That’s it.

When it comes down to it, all you really need to store in your pantry or kitchen are the ingredients to tide you over until your next trip to the store. Now, that said, there are a few staples that are helpful to keep on hand. This is especially true if the weather gets bad or life gets busy and you need the components of a meal, fast.

So what items should go on your minimalist kitchen list? What are the basic guidelines for stocking a minimalist pantry and what ingredients will maximize your meals in a minimal amount of space, clutter, and stress? This is what I’ve discovered when it comes to keeping a small, but useful kitchen and pantry.

Guidelines for Stocking a Minimalist Pantry

If you’re ready to start cutting out pantry clutter, especially if you have a small storage space, there are a few guidelines you should follow:

1. Buy only what you like

buy food you like

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they stock a small pantry is storing extra food for special meals or occasions—from cake mix to cranberry sauce. Some people get a “food storage list” and assume they should buy every item on it. Only buy foods you like to eat and eat regularly. If you don’t bake, then don’t keep baking supplies on hand. If you aren’t a fan of beans, don’t feel like you should buy beans for your storage. This is especially applicable if your space is at a minimum.

2. Watch for items that go with many different meals

Ingredients like broth or canned tomatoes go with all sorts of dishes. It’s a good idea to keep a few cans on hand. The same goes for items like pasta, oil, spices, and rice. Look for simple ingredients that work into many of your favorite meals.

3. Stick to a meal routine

taco tuesday food planningJust like wearing similar outfits every day, sticking with a regular meal routine cuts out a lot of stress. If you know you’re always going to enjoy Taco Tuesday or fish on Friday, then you don’t need to spend time planning and ensuring you’ve purchased a bunch of different ingredients. Treat yourself by going out when you want to enjoy a meal out of the routine or plan a dinner at home for a special occasion. The rest of the time, stick with foods you enjoy and put them in a regular rotation.

4. Purchase shelf-stable items

Stocking a pantry, whether big or small, calls for shelf-stable items. When you purchase foods requiring cold storage like freezing or refrigeration, it takes up a lot of room. This is a problem if you don’t have a much fridge or freezer space. I have a very small fridge (a 4.4 cu ft bar fridge), which I use to house the basics: milk, meat, cheese and fresh vegetables. Many items (like eggs, butter and produce) are easily and safely stored right on the counter or on shelves rather than in your fridge.

5. Watch expiration dates

If you’re decluttering and organizing your pantry, watch your expiration dates! Anything past the “best by” date, get rid of! If you don’t plan to eat it (but it’s still good) consider donating it to a food bank. Don’t keep items you don’t like or won’t eat before their expiration date. Chalk it up to a good life lesson and toss it out.

when do food expire chart

6. Store only what you’ll need until your next trip to the market

You don’t need to store weeks or months of food in your pantry, especially if you’re applying a minimalist approach. Store only what you’ll use before your next trip to the market. Keep a few basic ingredients on hand to pull together meals you enjoy.

Minimalist Kitchen List: 16 Pantry Basics You Need on Hand

Obeying the guidelines above, these are pantry basics most people like to store. Again—follow your own preferences and habits. If you don’t bake, skip baking supplies. If you’re a vegetarian, then you won’t have much use for canned meat or jerky. Keep one or two weeks’ worth of each item on hand.

1. Beans

beans for pantry

Beans are inexpensive, easy store and a great source of protein. If your storage space is limited, beans give you a great shelf-stable option to dress up or dress down. Dried beans and chickpeas are typically softened by soaking overnight. Lentils and split peas will soften as they cook (no need to soak). Beans provide a nice, simple base for many dishes.

2. Rice

rice as pantry staple

Rice is another great, simple item to keep on-hand, especially if you don’t have much space. Store it easily—any dry spot will do. There are tons of meal options using rice as the base. Mexican food, Middle Eastern dishes and Asian meals all work well with rice. There are many different types of rice: Jasmine, Basmati, sushi…but buy basic white or brown rice (white takes less time to cook) if you only have room to store one type.

3. Baking Supplies

baking items - flour, sugar, salt

If you’re a regular baker, you may want to purchase baking supplies (flour, sugar, baking soda, etc.). Buy only the basics you need in between your trips to the store and watch for items like Bisquick or cake mix which are used to bake several different dishes. When space is limited, baking supplies take up a lot of room, but for those who use them often it’s well worth the sacrifice of space. I personally prefer to buy a few pre-made baked goods, so I don’t need to store ingredients like big bags of flour.

4. Spices

piles of spices in spoons

Spices are an area where many people tend to go overboard. After all, they don’t require much space, they’re inexpensive and add flavor, so why not stock up on every spice, right? Well, spices actually have a very short shelf-life. Many ground spices only stay potent and flavorful for a year or two after opening. Dried herbs tend to last even less time. It’s better to buy small quantities you’ll use up quickly and regularly. Salt and pepper are exceptions of course. I keep my grinders along with Texas Pete (the best hot sauce ever–sorry Tabasco) right on hand at all times.

5. Pasta

keep dry pasta in pantry

Pasta is a fast, easy meal to enjoy all kinds of ways. Add peanut butter and soy sauce for Asian peanut noodles. Use pasta as a base for spaghetti or enjoy plain noodles with a little olive oil, cheese and egg. Dried pasta is easy to store, so it’s smart to keep a box or two ready for meals.

6. Canned Tomatoes

cans of tomatoes

Canned tomatoes can be pureed to make tomato sauce. Use them as a base for soup, stir them into pasta, or use them in chili. Canned tomatoes are another versatile and easy to store ingredient, even in the smallest pantry. They add a lot of flavor and stretch many different meals.

7. Oil

olive oil for cooking

There are many oil options. I tent to prefer olive oil because it’s shelf-stable and easy to use in almost any dish. Coconut oil is another good option because it’s used in both cooking and baking. Whichever type you choose, oil is a must-have for your minimalist kitchen list, especially if you’re looking for ingredients you’ll use all the time. Use oil to brown meat, keep vegetables from sticking or in pasta dishes. You can use olive oil as a swap for butter to dip bread. Add lemon juice or vinegar to oil and make instant salad dressing.

8. Dried Fruit

dried fruits

Dried fruit is one of those like it or hate it foods. Some people think raisins are the worst ever while others love them. As far as pantry foods go, dried fruit is pretty versatile. Use it in trail mix, add it to baked goods for sweetness, keep dried fruits on hand for snacking or adding into salads and sandwiches. If you like oatmeal or hot cereal, dried fruit is a nice addition. Again—choose only the type you like.

9. Cereal & Oats

dried oats and oatmeal

Basic cereals like Chex, corn flakes or Rice Krispies are great to keep on hand because you can use them as a coating for chicken or fish. Use them in rice crispy treats or snack mix. Then, of course, you can also enjoy them as a breakfast or snack with milk. You may also want to keep oats in your pantry too. Oatmeal is a great hot cereal and oats are often used in cookies and other baked treats.

10. Canned Vegetables & Soups

canned soups in pantry

As far as canned vegetables go, some people love them, while others can’t stand them. They’re certainly easy to store, especially if you’re living in a small space. Keeping a few cans of corn or another basic vegetable is smart, in case you need a quick meal or side dish. Similarly, soups are used for all sorts of meals, so storing a few cans of broth or soup makes a lot of sense for most people. To take up even less space, buy concentrated bullion cubes or paste, then just add water.

11. Peanut Butter & Nuts

peanut butter and nuts

Peanut butter is a great high protein snack and it’s also an ingredient in all kinds of meals. Peanut butter is used in Asian or African cooking. Peanut butter’s easy to store and almost everyone loves a PB&J when you need a fast, easy meal. Keeping nuts like cashews or almonds in your pantry is a good idea too. Add them in cereal, use them to top salads, add them to stir-fry and in other dishes.

12. Canned Meat/Fish

chicken for meals

Having a few packets or cans of tuna fish on hand is a basic for most pantries. If you need an easy way to add protein to your meals: just open a can of tuna and stir it into pasta or make a tuna fish sandwich. Canned chicken is also a good option to put together a chicken salad, use in soups, casseroles or pasta dishes.

13. Shelf-Stable Dairy & Sauces

shelf stable sauces

Parmesan cheese is shelf-stable and can be stored unopened in your pantry for a very long time. Soy or powdered milk is also a good idea if you only venture to the store occasionally and run out of regular milk between trips. It’s also used as an ingredient in many dishes. Most salad dressings, mayonnaise and sauces are shelf-stable until they’re opened. If you go through these items fast, it makes sense to add one extra bottle to your minimalist kitchen list.

14. Jerky

beef jerky lasts long in storage

Jerky is easy to store. It doesn’t take up much room and it’s great to keep on hand for a quick snack. Look for individually packaged sticks as well as different flavors and types. There’s turkey jerky, salmon jerky and even jerky with caffeine in it (a.k.a. Perky Jerky). If you need a high protein snack that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, jerky is a good option.

15. Bread & Crackers

crackers

Keeping bread and crackers on hand is a smart plan. Bread doesn’t last a long time though, so only store what you will eat within a week or two. Crackers are more shelf-stable and will last for months unopened. Tortillas are another option to keep on hand. If your space is small or if you’re looking for less clutter in your pantry, pick one type of bread you will use in several different ways.

16. Snacks

cookies

When it comes to snacks we all have our own preferences. Keep a few snacks on hand, but don’t go overboard. Cookies or chips are easy to store and don’t usually take up much room. Again, the best rule of thumb is to only store what you’ll eat within a week or two (between trips to the store). Most snacks aren’t used as ingredients for another meal, so there’s no reason to keep more than you need (unless you anticipate a snack emergency).

Your food storage is a lifesaver (literally!) if the weather is bad, if you live in a remote area or if you can’t get to the store for whatever reason. Keeping a minimalist kitchen should help make your life and meal planning less stressful. If you store only the basic ingredients you need for your favorite meals, you’ll always be prepared, even if you’re stuck at home or don’t have time to fix something big. Cut out the clutter and unnecessary items in your pantry today!

 Your turn!

  • What are your must-have minimalist pantry items?
  • Do you stick to a meal routine or mix it up?