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How to Store Food in a Small Kitchen

Domestic CEO welcomes the Clever Cookstr to discuss savvy tips and techniques for storing food in a small kitchen.

By
Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #145

Did you know that February is Canned Food Month?

Since I love canned food, I couldn’t let this holiday go by without a little celebration. So let's crack open a can of canned beans and celebrate this wonderful month.

But wait...there's a pretty big challenge when it comes to canned food. What if you live in an apartment without a big kitchen or pantry to store all that canned goodness? Where do you put all those cans?

I recently encountered this problem with some of my clients. After a few months of not coming up with any good solutions, I decided it was time to call in an expert. Kara Rota, otherwise known as the Clever Cookstr, is a fellow podcaster. She hosts an awesome show that brings you smart, savvy, and delicious tips from the kitchens of the world's best cooks every week.

After getting to know Kara, I learned two very important things about her: She loves to cook and her apartment has a very small kitchen. Considering those two facts, I knew she would have some good advice on how to store food in a limited space. I’m excited to welcome her to the Domestic CEO show today!

Click on the arrow button in the player above to listen to the interview or download it for free from iTunes!

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Domestic CEO: How do you shop for more than 3 days’ worth of food? I find that when you have a small kitchen, you have to go to the store a few times a week, which ends up costing me way more than Iif I shopped weekly because I seem to always buy a little something extra on each trip.

Clever Cookstr: It’s really important to be realistic about what I’m going to use and to plan around meals that include lots of leftovers. There’s always an array of canned and dried beans, broths and stocks, pastas and grains, pickled vegetables, and sauce in my kitchen cabinets and in the freezer. I also keep several kinds of cooking oils, condiments and a well-stocked spice cabinet. That way, I can pick up a nice piece of fish and some vegetables that I’m in the mood for on the way home and have everything else to make the meal ready to go.

When we splurge, it’s generally on really high-quality proteins and fresh, organic vegetables. This is the same approach that a lot of people with small apartments apply to their wardrobe: A great steak might be a statement piece that you can build a meal around based on generic, shelf-stable staples (kind of like that little black dress). I do find that having less storage space keeps me from shopping on a whim—less room for junk food isn’t a bad thing.

Domestic CEO: So, no more junk food. Got it! Now, I’ve been really tempted to find ways of storing food items in other areas of the apartment. Do you store your food only in your kitchen, or do you use other areas as well?

Clever Cookstr: I keep my food supplies in the kitchen. But it's important to note that I’m only cooking for two. If there were kids involved, I would probaby need to branch out.

Just because you have limited space in your kitchen, doesn't mean you can't maximize it to the fullest. For example, I use bookshelves in the hall between the kitchen and the living room as a makeshift pantry. In my past two apartments, the kitchens have included absolutely no drawers! (No kidding. We live in New York where space comes at a major premium).

To counter this lack of storage, I added a kitchen island with drawer space that also gave me extra counter space and bins underneath the counter to store cookware and dishware. I also installed hooks on a wooden board on one wall, which hold potholders, dish towels, pans, and things like the cutting board and dish rack when I’m not using them. Oh, did I mention I also don’t have a dishwasher?

Domestic CEO: Yikes! OK so are there any storage solutions for the insides of cabinets that you’ve found essential?

Clever Cookstr: I think it’s so helpful to use bins and dividers to organize cabinets and shelves. It makes everything feel neater and less overwhelming. The Container Store has some fantastic pieces that are total lifesavers and very affordable.

Domestic CEO: I love the Container Store! That could take me off on a whole different topic. Staying on task though, is there any way to avoid having to keep things out on the counters?

Clever Cookstr: I’ve had to be ruthless about keeping non-kitchen items out of the kitchen: no mail piling up on the counter, no half-done craft projects, no junk drawer. I do have some mesh magazine racks that go on the wall so they don’t take up counter or drawer space.

I like having my clutter organized but visible, so that I’m more likely to deal with it on at least a weekly basis. The things that do go on the counter get displayed nicely and in pretty bowls so that their presence on the counter feels purposeful. This includes bottles of alcohol and fruits or veggies that don’t go in the refrigerator.

Domestic CEO: Be ruthless with clutter - got it! Is there anything else you would recommend to help keep a small kitchen well stocked?

Clever Cookstr: The best thing to do is to clean out your fridge, freezer, and kitchen cabinets mercilessly and often. Just by keeping cans and boxes in some semblance of order, you’ll be using space more efficiently and creating more of it. I’ve found that my biggest weapon against food waste is being very aware about what isn’t getting eaten, so that we can stop buying it or buy less of it.

This also helps us to never run out of staples. In my household that includes olive oil, pasta, canned anchovies and sardines, canned tomatoes and beans, good salt and pepper, and ketchup. And if you don’t have a dishwasher, get some good gloves, good hand lotion, and soap that you love the smell of! 

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Thanks so much to Kara Rota, the Clever Cookstr, for bringing us these great tips. If you aren’t yet subscribed to the Clever Cookstr podcast, be sure to check her out at quickanddirtytips.com/clevercookstr or at iTunes.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.