If it’s true that the way to our hearts is through our stomachs, then the kitchen must be the heart of the home. You don’t need a fancy range, a giant sub-zero refrigerator, miles of counter space, or a walk-in pantry to make great meals. You just need a kitchen that’s functional, comfortable, and maximizes every square foot of space.

The key to cooking in a small kitchen is to plan, organize, and improvise. Follow these tips to make the most out of your small kitchen equipment and any pint-sized cooking space.

Plan Your Meals

  • Stock the necessities: If you have minimal cabinet space for groceries, it’s a good idea to keep inventory low. That might mean stocking only a couple of cans of tomato sauce or beans at a time or keeping only one shape of pasta on hand. Take a regular inventory of the ingredients you have on hand and stick to recipes that use those ingredients as much as possible. Use up ingredients you already have before buying more.
  • Make one-dish meals: Making one-pot soups and stews, sheet pan dinners, or skillet meals will cut down on the amount of dishes you need for cooking in a small kitchen (and will save you time cleaning up afterward).
  • Use your space for one task at a time: Go through your recipe ahead of time and make sure you understand how much prep space you’ll need for each step. If a casserole dish is coming out of the oven, you’ll need a spot for it as it cools. If you’re draining something in the colander, you’ll need an empty sink. Also, do all your chopping, measuring, and prepping before you actually begin cooking to clear your workspace for assembly, cooking, and cooling.

Organize Your Small Kitchen Equipment

  • Ditch the single-use gadgets: Try to purchase multi-use, small kitchen equipment whenever possible. While an apple corer might be handy, it’s only useful for one task. A cheese grater, however, not only shreds cheese, but also zests citrus. A fine mesh strainer has a number of uses, from draining rice and pasta to sifting flour or cocoa. The ultimate small kitchen multi-tasker might be this 3-in-1 Breakfast Center Station, which comes with a griddle, toaster oven, and coffee pot and fits in even the tiniest apartment kitchen.
  • Choose your containers wisely: Nesting sets of pots, pans, and storage containers with lids that snap together will save valuable cabinet space and keep items organized. Silicon stretch lids don’t take up much drawer or cabinet space, can be placed on a variety of containers, and can be reused again and again. Another space saver is a universal pot lid that fits over several pots (so you don’t need a lid for each pot).
  • Clean as you go: Clean and reuse utensils and put away dishes and cutting boards as you go, rather than letting items pile up in the sink. This will not only save you sink space, but will also make the after-cooking cleanup much easier.

Improvise to Expand Your Space

  • Think outside the kitchen: If you’re craving more storage than your small kitchen can provide, consider stashing little-used equipment or non-perishable pantry items in another room or closet. Use your dining table as additional prep space. A dining hutch or entertainment center can also become the new home for your special occasion table settings and linens.
  • Increase your prep space: An over-the-sink cutting board or roll up drying rack can add to your usable surface area . The same is true with burner covers for your stove top, which create an additional surface to place a cutting board, bowls, or utensils. This cutting board has adjustable legs, allowing it to straddle the burners without actually touching them.
  • Consider a mobile kitchen island: Increase your counter space and add more storage with a wheeled kitchen cart, which you can move easily around your kitchen. Plus, you can use the shelves for extra storage for small kitchen equipment.
  • Use vertical spaces, too: When cooking in a small kitchen, it’s all about using the space you have. Add little hooks to the walls, the sides of cabinets, and inside cabinet doors to hang lightweight kitchen items like measuring cups and spoons, flat graters, vegetable peelers, pot holders, or kitchen towels. Or install small hooks under your cabinets to hang coffee mugs or small tools. If you have space between your refrigerator and the wall or countertop, a slim rolling rack or slide-out pantry can be used to store spices, oils and other small pantry items. 

See What’s Cooking at Southern Management

While making meals can be a chore, cooking in a small kitchen can actually be enjoyable. Just think of a small kitchen as a laboratory of creativity, where everything is just within reach. With a good attitude, a bit of planning and organizing, and investing in the right small kitchen equipment, even the smallest kitchen can function more efficiently.

If you’re feeling pinched for space—whether it’s in the kitchen or in your apartment as a whole—Southern Management can help you find the perfect apartment (with the perfect kitchen) to suit your needs. We have apartment communities across Maryland and Virginia with a variety of floor plans and amenities that are guaranteed to fit your lifestyle. Contact us today with any questions about leasing, pricing, or just to chat about your options.