5 ways to survive your small kitchen

Maryalene LaPonsie | Improvement Center Columnist | April 1, 2016

small kitchen design ideasNot everyone gets to cook in a gourmet kitchen. Some people are stuck in tiny galley kitchens or regulated to working in nooks that include a stove and not much else. Still others have strangely configured kitchens that result in minimal counter space or storage.

While a kitchen renovation may be ideal, it's not in the budget for many people. Fortunately, you can improve your cooking experience by following these five low-cost steps to free up space and make your kitchen work for you like a well-oiled machine.

Choose your appliances wisely

Appliances are space hogs in any kitchen. If you're working in a postage sized space, you simply can't afford to be storing anything you do use on a weekly basis.

That means it's time to reevaluate whether you really need a blender, food processor, juicer, ice cream machine, or any of the other gadgets taking up precious space in your cupboards or on your countertop. You may even decide it's time for the microwave to go.

Next, consider your major appliances. You may find you'd prefer to ditch the dishwasher and hand wash in exchange for more cabinet space. Or perhaps you could free up valuable room by downsizing the fridge. A smaller model may mean shopping more frequently, but it also may mean less food waste since you won't miss items languishing in a back corner.

If and when you do decide to switch appliances, look for Energy Star models which can result in lower utility bills. Then you'll save money as well as space.

Group your goods according to function

In a small kitchen, you may already feel like you have everything within arm's reach, but cooking will be more enjoyable if you keep like items together.

Keep all the spices together where you normally prep and mix. Hang knives near the counter where you chop. Group cleaning supplies and dish towels by the sink. Pots and pans should be near the stove. You get the idea.

This system of grouping can make more efficient use of your space, and it won't have you searching high and low as you try to remember where you stashed that particular something.

Maximize your wall space

Small kitchens often have a limited amount of floor space which means you'll have to cross off storage ideas such as bringing in a freestanding rack or portable island. However, you may have plenty of wall space waiting to be used.

Here are some ways to make the most it:

  • Install a magnet strip to hang knives.
  • Add open shelves which provide storage space without making the room feel smaller.
  • Hang pots and pans from the wall.
  • Add hooks or bars under cupboards for towels, mugs or measuring cups.

Use stacking storage whenever possible

In a small kitchen, you really can't spread items out but you can stack them up. When it comes time to buy organizational supplies, look for those that let you take things vertical.

There are, of course, plastic bins that stack on top of each other, but you want to step it up a notch for your kitchen. Look for wire baskets, skinny pull-out pantry cabinets, and stackable shelves for a more upscale way to make the most of your vertical space.

Stacking storage isn't only for your countertops or pantry either. You can use many of these options within cupboards to store more items without making it a nightmare to find what you're looking for.

Invest in a burner cover or over the sink board

Those cursed with a kitchen that has little to no counter space understand the frustration of trying to make any meal that involves more than one step.

If you need to prep ingredients and set them aside, you may find yourself running bowls to the dining room table or precariously stacking them in the kitchen. And forget about pulling out the food processer or a stand mixer. There's simply no place for those to go.

While there is no complete solution for this problem, you may be able to instantly add counter space by buying a burner cover for your stove or an over-the-sink cutting board. These affordable additions to a kitchen let you turn temporarily unused space into a de facto countertop.

Small kitchen living requires some creativity, but it doesn't have to make cooking a chore. Use these five tips as a starting point to transform your meal prep time from dreadful to delightful.

About the Author

Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.