Maintaining sanity in your tiny kitchen

Ever feel like there just isn’t enough room to comfortably work in your kitchen? Maybe your kitchen really is small or you have given up stationary life for one in an RV? Does the thought of cooking without much counter space cause you to single-handedly keep a local Thai place in business with all your delivery orders? Does putting away leftovers into your tiny fridge make you feel like you’re playing the most annoying version of Tetris imaginable? Well, you can stop daydreaming about that 150 square foot kitchen because with the right checklist and a little planning you can grow to love even the tiniest space. This this is the checklist I follow when I work in my RV’s kitchen:

  • Before anything else, start with a clean sink. Wash any dirty dishes or utensils from previous meals, then set them to dry in the drying rack. You can go a step further and dry everything with a towel so you can put away the drying rack, thereby giving you even more counter space while cooking.
  • Read the recipe twice, then tape or tack it up in a place where it can be easily seen. Do you have all the required ingredients? This would be the time to check by gathering them up in preparation for measurement and set up. Does the recipe mention specific cooking tools or vessels and do you have these ready to go? Gather these items as well. Finally, make sure to check over any cooking times mentioned in the recipe to make sure you aren’t starting a five-hour roast at 6:00 p.m.
  • Check to see if you have enough room in your fridge or freezer to store what you are about to cook. If leftovers keep taking up too much room, try using an elastic recipe to reuse them as ingredients for something new.
  • Try to anticipate how many ingredient cups you’ll need to hold chopped and prepared ingredients, then gather them up and place them nearby. I like to reuse margarine/butter-spread containers for this task. Also, now would be a good time to search for bigger plastic or glass storage containers for the expected leftovers. If something in the fridge can be transferred to a smaller container, I do this now so I can wash and reuse a larger one.
  • Now that you’ve got an empty sink, it’s time to take care of any cooking ingredients that need washing. Scrub down vegetables and have a towel or two ready for drying. While optional, this would also be a good time to prepare a large bucket with hot soapy water for holding any used cooking utensils once they’ve been dirtied. Keep this nearby, but out of the way of your feet.
  • Measure out any non-perishable ingredients into the ingredient cups mentioned earlier.
  • Begin prepping any vegetables. Chop them according to the sizes mentioned in the recipe, then measure and place in additional ingredient cups.
  • Prepare any meats for the meal, chopping them according to sizes mentioned in the recipe, then measure and place in additional ingredient cups (I like to use paper plates for this).
  • Wash and dry any cutting boards or knives used during prep so they are ready to go by the end of cooking. This is so the finished product will have a nice place to land for any slicing or further prep.
  • Time to maximize counter top space. If you live in an RV, you’re probably familiar with sink covers. Since everything has been washed and you no longer need the sink, you can set these up now to add even more usable work area. This would also be a good time to set up a folding table in your kitchen to use as another useful surface.
  • Cooking time!

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t exactly have this checklist printed out or anything, but these tricks are ones I try to keep in mind whenever I begin preparing something big (rather than, say, weekday breakfast).

Do you have any tricks like these for staying sane in your tiny kitchen?

2 comments posted

  1. Posted by Merikay - 03/01/2011

    I recently bought a neat folding table that can be raised to counter height. I am planning on using it in the RV as an extra counter. I also got the idea that I could use my ironing board with an oil cloth throw over it for extra work space (instead of the table)

  2. Posted by Living the Balanced Life - 03/02/2011

    Definitely starting with a clean work space is key!

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