My kitchen is tiny: these are the essentials I use (and what I wish I hadn’t bought)
There are some items in a kitchen that are essential to every cookspace, no matter the size... and some you really don't need. After moving into a tiny kitchen, Lauren Heskin now knows the true meaning of 'kitchen essentials'.
Last Christmas, my brother very kindly bought me a juicer. I love to cook and bake and it really was a very thoughtful gift.
After looking at the box longingly for a few days, I decided to return it. Not because I didn’t want it but because of the size of my kitchen. By anyone’s standards, it is tiny. There are two under-counter cupboards, open shelves along one wall and a little fridge. That’s it. So I have to be economical about how the space is used and functions. Here is what I learned.
Don’t invest in: What you think you’ll need
I know when you first move into your first real kitchen that isn’t full of chipped Ikea glasses and bits the previous tenant has left behind, it’s easy to lose the run of yourself. My best advice is not to buy something until you’re absolutely sure you need it.
Do invest in: The things you’re sure you’ll use
I exchanged the juicer for a pestle and mortar – what might seem like another intermittently used kitchen item. But I make a lot of pastes for curries and Asian dishes and it saves me a lot of time. For me, it became something I knew would regularly come down off the shelf. As a simple rule of thumb, if there are three occasions when you could have used an item and haven’t found a simple work-around, then you can consider buying it.
Don’t invest in: Lots of pots
Having lived in multiple places with a pots and pans cupboard that’s overflowing with rusted pots and pans and inhabitants who only use the same four, I’ve learned to be cruel and dump any pans that haven’t been used in the first month since moving in. You’re probably not going to miss them or you’ll figure out something that works just as well.
Do invest in: Three good-quality pots
At the moment, I have a small non-stick pot (for scrambled eggs, a necessity in my house); a slightly larger pot for boiling rice, pasta and making soups; a large, good-quality, non-stick frying pan with a lid (this bit is crucial, a frying pan without a lid will not stretch as far as it could). I regularly cook for four adults and never need anything more or larger than this.
Do invest in: Items that are on display
Because we had open shelves that we were going to be using for a lot of kitchen bits, I splurged on some nice dishware because they were going to be on display. And I’ve never regretted it, I eat and drink out of them daily and I think they’re beautiful and they make the kitchen look functional but pretty. Don’t deny yourself the little luxuries, even if you have a small kitchen.
Top tip: Choose dishware that has a pattern all over them or a distinctive edge, as this is what you’ll spend most of the time looking at when it’s up on the shelf.
Don’t invest in: The obvious kitchen kit
We could not afford to give up space to a microwave and we’ve since realised that we almost exclusively used it for microwave popcorn. I have since become professional at cooking popcorn on the hob (and it’s significantly cheaper to buy a bag of kernels on their own).
Do invest in: Kitchen kit you’ll love
We did, however, invest in a Nespresso machine this Christmas, the mini one, and it’s our new best friend. It takes up the same space as a large cookbook and brings us joy every morning. I regret not getting one sooner.
Essenza Mini, approxmiately €106, Nespresso
Don’t invest in: Matching tableware
Aside from your dishware, I think matching everything is a myth told to newlyweds in the 1950s. All of my cups come in pairs, my cutlery is bits and pieces purchased as random when necessitated, and some of it pinched from my parents – they always have too much anyway. And no one has ever noticed or passed comment that the fork and knife I served their dinner with are two slightly different shapes.
Do invest in: A good knife
This cannot be underestimated. If you buy one good knife, you will wash it to reuse again rather than use the mirage of other less sharp knives – you know this to be true. So bite the bullet, spend the money, and julienne that onion to perfection. Also, a magnetic strip to hang knives from saves you drawer space and ensures you don’t get accidentally injured while rooting around.