As any New Yorker knows, a large and well-equipped kitchen is hard to come by, especially when you’re 20-something and half-broke. Not to worry, though, with a little bit of planning and a healthy dose of resourcefulness, you can happily cook and clean in (almost) any space. I've learned this since moving into my micro-studio this past year and wanted to share a few of my favorite tips and tricks!
1. Choose Your Kitchen Tools Wisely
Basically, bring the crockpot, but nix the juicer. Where space is limited, prioritization is key. When I first moved into the city, I brought my massive Breville Juicer with me, hence this 3-day juice cleanse I embarked on. I only ever used it that one time, though. Why? Because you can buy a fresh-pressed juice in NYC on every other block for around five bucks. So, after year 1, I took that baby home to Mom & Dad because it simply wasn’t worth all the space it took up. The crockpot, on the other hand, is the perfect NYC cooking machine. It contains 3 pieces which makes for easy cooking and quick clean-up. If you’re pressed for space, just compare. Like, do you really need that ice-cream maker or would that shelf space perhaps better serve a toaster oven?
2. Always Make Semi-homemade Dishes
This is actually a great tip for anyone, small kitchen or not. When you cook semi-homemade, there’s simply less prep to worry about and it usually ends up being easier on your budget, too. For instance, I love sautéing a hefty portion of Trader Joe’s fresh pre-cut/washed kale and sliced mushrooms in a pan with some fresh garlic and oil and then adding a bag of TJ’s frozen mushroom risotto on top of it all. If I’m extra hungry, I’ll get a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken as well (nomz). This all takes maybe 15 minutes to prep, cook and plate and it tastes incredibly delicious and refreshing because of the fresh vegetables. Best of all, at the end of the meal, I only have one pan, a stirrer, and a cutting board to clean up. Why break out 5 different measuring cups and a fire up a slew of burners when you can do it all quicker and cheaper?
3. Add Counter Space Creatively
I was floored when I walked into my current studio for the first time. The kitchen was comprised of a sink and cabinetry, a real refrigerator with a microwave on top, a (working) oven and a gas-burning stove! Who knew a micro studio could fit so much!? It may sound ridiculous, but studio kitchens in NYC often lack at least one of the aforementioned appliances. Needless to say, I was as happy as could be. After I moved in and the enamor wore off, though, I realized that, DUH, I didn’t have a single bit of counter space. Since I spend too much time watching HGTV, I knew I could manage an affordable solution, no illegal renovations necessary. As with most obstacles in life, a little creativity goes a long way! See below's before & after:
4. Invest in Rubber Gloves & Paper Products
If you live in Manhattan in a walk-up, there’s a strong chance you don’t have a dishwasher. Newsflash: this is O.K. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cook, it just means you should act like an adult and clean up after yourself. I know, I know; it’s a novel idea. But rubber gloves will help! Wearing rubber gloves while cleaning dishes means you don’t have to touch any mushy food in the sink (that always grosses me out) and your hands won’t smell like said sink afterward. Most importantly, you can clean your dishes properly since you can wash with scalding hot water without burning yourself. Of course, having paper plates & cups on hand is also helpful for those times when you’re in a rush, having a snack or just trying to veg out and avoid any cleaning whatsoever.
5. Grocery Shop Frequently
There are a few reasons I suggest this. First, if you have roommates, you don’t want to be hogging the fridge and freezer with all your bulk items. That’s just rude. Even if you live alone, though, it’s still probably best to shop once a week. Assuming you have a healthy diet (or at least want to have one), you will be buying lots of fresh fruit and veggies and you don’t want them hanging around too long and going bad. Even bread and sandwich meats don’t have a very long shelf life. And, who hasn’t “forgotten” about that half-eaten pad thai in the back of the fridge before since it was hidden from sight? Too much uneaten food equates to wasted money and a stinky fridge. And when you live in a small space, a stinky fridge can mean a stinky apartment. Ain’t nobody got time for that.