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A small kitchen isn’t a mac-and-cheese-forever sentence. Here’s how to cook well and smart in a tiny kitchen space.

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As a student, I had my share of small kitchens. The one I lived in while doing undergrad was barely big enough to hold both my and my roommate. In Edmonton, I had a tiny bit of counter space and NO table, so I had to stack stuff on my desk or breakfast bar (way too high for comfort) to cook something more complex than, let’s say, pasta.

I had the luxury of two fairly well-sized kitchens after that, but now I’m back to a small one. Which is okay, because I tend to cook less complex meals when I live alone, but still… space to knead some bread, or cut veggies, or hold different ingredients in different bowls… I’d like to have more of it.

Yet, I find that I can cook effectively if I follow a couple of tips and use the right tools. Here are a few things I’ve done to make my kitchen more manageable and efficient.

Clean. Always.

In the townhouse, I could get away with piling a few dishes in the sink and on the counter.

Here, I can’t. Unless I want to feel terribly bad and like I’m living in filth.

Less space means, obviously, less space for clutter and dirt. So I’ve learned to do dishes every day, and put them away as soon as they’re dry. I try to keep my counters as clutter-free as possible, because I might want to cook something for lunch or dinner and I’ll need the space.

I also discovered that cleaning the counters (black) as I go makes me feel a lot less like a slob.

Use the kitchen table

Sometimes when I have an overflow of ingredients I’ll use the kitchen table. It’s not very practical for immediate cooking purposes, but for holding ingredients I don’t need right now, it’s perfect. I also try to keep the table clutter-free, but right now it’s kind of a “put things I don’t know where else to put” area that I’ll probably declutter once every couple of months.

Use burner covers

I don’t personally need to use this, but I’ve seen them. When you’re not using the stovetop, you can put tray-like boards over the burners so you have more prepping space. The stovetop is at the perfect height for cutting or mixing, and you get an extra couple of square inches instantly!

Get an over-the-sink cutting board

This is probably my next purchase, as I really don’t have the kind of space I like for cutting. Some of them even come with a little receptacle on the side for your cutout bits of veggies and meat. Throw it in the compost after you’re done, and whee! No cleaning of counter required, only washing of the cutting board.

Install a magnetic knife strip

Don’t let your knife block clutter your limited counter space. Use the walls to move them above the counter! I always thought magnetic strips were super clever and awesome, and I do have plans for one.

And a bonus use: you can stick your current recipe on it, under a small knife, too, so you don’t have to use counter space to hold THAT too!

Rinse and reuse

One of the worst things for creating a mess is using 3 different spoons for 3 different ingredients. That means 3 times the cleaning! You can simply rinse and reuse the same utensils throughout a recipe so you can save yourself some dishwashing time later on.

Also, unless it’s for ingredients like chicken, I like to reuse my bowls if at all possible. I only have two of them, so I can only make so many separate bowls of ingredients. Honestly, if all the veggies go in the stew at the same time, why use a different bowl for each?

Don’t forget the space above your cupboards

I’m short, so heights are not a great storage space for me, but I do keep some seldom-used items up there and use a stool or a chair to bring them out when I need them. People like to keep their baking pans and cutting boards up there so they don’t clutter other spaces, and you can simply reach out and take what you need when you need it.

Cook smart

Living with a small kitchen has taught me some great efficiency strategies for cooking and cleaning. What about you? Do you have any lessons or tips for all those small kitchen people reading this today? Let me know in the comments!

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Anabelle Bernard Fournier

Anabelle is a freelance writer, writing teacher and blogger. She spends a lot of time at home, so she likes to make sure that it's cozy and nice, especially in her reading nook. In her free time, Anabelle knits, walks and learns how to write stories.