What’s in a Minimalist Kitchen?

When we sold our house and purged almost everything we had (see My Minimalist Story, Part 1: A Clean Slate), we discovered that the majority of our “stuff” came out of the kitchen. We had never realized just how many plates, pots, pans, glasses, utensils, and other cooking implements we had accumulated over the years.

After ridding ourselves of all the excess, we thoroughly enjoyed having an ultra-minimalist “kitchen” during our six weeks of transition from the US to the UK: nothing more than our sporks, titanium cups, and a tea kettle (and the occasional hotel microwave). Of course, we relied heavily upon restaurants and prepared foods from grocery stores—not exactly a long-term solution.

Now that we’re “rebuilding” our kitchen, we’re determined to keep things to a minimum. We only want to own those culinary items we use on a regular basis.

Sure, we could have a super-minimalist kitchen if we didn’t cook very often (or ate mostly frozen dinners or convenience foods). However, my husband and I enjoy preparing meals together, and try to base our (vegetarian + fish) diet on whole, unprocessed foods. Therefore, we’ve deemed a functional kitchen one of our necessities.

After an initial run to Ikea for the absolute basics, we’ve been taking it slow when it comes to culinary apparatus—and acquiring things strictly on an as-needed basis. Our main criteria: we must use something at least once a week for it to earn a place in our kitchen. So far, we’ve been getting by quite nicely with the following items:

Pots and pans: large skillet, saucepan, pasta pot, baking pan

Small appliances: tea kettle, rice cooker, French press (instead of coffee maker)

Other: chef’s knife, bread knife, paring knife, colander, steamer, cutting board, measuring cup, spatula, serving spoon, whisk, can opener, corkscrew, stainless steel mixing bowl, water filtration pitcher

For utensils, we purchased an inexpensive, four-place setting (after looking high and low for open stock or single settings, to no avail). It seems excessive to have extra forks and spoons on an everyday basis, but I suppose they’ll come in handy if we have guests for dinner. We also bought four plates, two bowls, two coffee mugs, and a set of four small glasses (to be used for all liquids other than coffee and tea).

[In general, I’m not a fan of owning extra stuff for the handful of times we entertain; when we hosted Thanksgiving dinner last year, I had no problem borrowing extra plates and utensils for the evening. That might be a bit harder here in the UK, though, without friends and family who understand our minimalist lifestyle!]

Plenty of websites and cookbooks offer lists of kitchen essentials; more than a few, however, seem intent on making sure you’ll be able to cook anything at any time. In that sense, having a minimalist kitchen requires some minor adjustments in priorities and lifestyle. I wouldn’t be able to bake cupcakes tonight on a whim, for example—but I’m okay with that. In fact, we’ve decided to forego bakeware almost entirely; instead of making our own sweets, we save those calories for when we travel—and sample the baked goods of the countries we visit. :-)

Of course, everyone’s list of essentials will be different; ours simply suits what we like to cook, and eat (mainly pasta, rice, soups, salads, and sautéed and steamed vegetables).

I’d love to hear what everyone else finds necessary… Leave a comment, and let me know what’s in your minimalist kitchen!

74 comments to What’s in a Minimalist Kitchen?

  • love reading your blog and am slowly working my way to living my simply. Something I notice is that it seems like most of your readers are families of 2 maybe a kid or 2 but we have 6 young kids and I dont really know how to minimize with a big family

  • I have minimized almost everything in my house except the kitchen. Somehow we seem to use a lot of plates, pans, etc on a daily basis. And it’s only my husband and I. Right now I think I am just going to monitor what we use before getting rid of anything because I don’t want to have to re buy anything later.

  • Ofelia

    I always thought that I needed to have EVERYTHING I have in my kitchen…in my kitchen. I am in the process of moving from a 500 sq feet apartment to a 100 sq feet one. I was surprised to see the amount of stuff I have, specially in the kitchen, packing was a reality check, most of the stuff I have I don’t use, or use once in a while, I could live with two pans, two plates, two cups, etc. etc., since is just me and my husband. This site is so great, The idea of living with the minimum is so refreshing, that I feel lighter already.

  • […] What’s in a minimalist kitchen?. Check out her list and make your own. […]

  • Andrew

    Completely agree, I have gone through the same process, however things that I personally find essential in addition are: Kenwood Chef – for making bread dough with, Liquidiser for soups etc and a slow cooker. Although I could probably do without the slow cooker as a large pot in the oven on low all day does more or less the same thing! and I could kneed the dough myself.

  • Carl

    I live on my own and minimalism has become not just an interest but rather a serious game of doing so much more with so much less. On kitchens, I recall a radio documentary many years ago that opened with the definition of a kitchen – “A flame, a drain and a shelf”

    I did the exercise of putting everything in one room for a week and back in one cupboard once I used it. 14 days later what didn’t get used got moved on.

    So looking forward to next time I move house, probably only need a shopping trolley for everything other than he furniture…..

  • […] Google I looked up blogs and websites about minimalist kitchens (faves included this, this and this), so get some idea where to start. There is a lot of info out there. I knew I wasn’t looking […]

  • S Brown

    Unless you are cooking for a large family, ditch the stove. A modern convection/toaster oven and a hotplate or two work well. Cooking for two, months would pass before the oven got turned on. My convection toaster uses less electricity, generates less heat, and can cook anything that would go in a full-size oven

  • Jamie

    This was helpful. I’m reading up on minimalist living as I am in desperate need of decluttering/destressing my hectic home. the less i have, the easier it will be for me to keep up with everything, as a single mother of 2 wild boys. we can do it. :) Thanks for the tips. what do you do with all the empty cabinet space??? :)

  • Tina

    I have at least 3 sets of dishes that we seldom use. But we do use them. We also have a lot of silverware. That doesn’t take up much room. I must get rid of the baking sheets I haven’t used in years. And the very large bowls I never use.

  • Tina

    I kept 2 baking sheets I always use at least 3 times a year and got rid of the rest. I just got rid of a box of china I’ve had for at least 20 years and never used. I am planning a party and since I have enough china and Corelle I will use it. I just need to count silverware and see what I come up with. I don’t have many pots because I don’t cook much.

  • Thera

    We do not have a rice cooker, french press or steamer; instead we have a baking sheet, muffin pan, a 9×12 baking pan and a round baking pan. But I use every single one at least once a week.
    We are basically the exact same for all the other items.

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