Saturday, January 7, 2012

Minimalizing the Kitchen

I recently read Minimalist Mom's post about living without kitchen gadgets & thought smugly, we don't have tons of gadgets either. Then I went to the kitchen & started enumerating them. We have a blender, juicer, stand mixer, waffle iron, electric frying pan, slow cooker, rice cooker, popcorn popper, salad spinner, three springform cake pans, non-stick wok, toaster & microwave. I didn't even count the smaller gadget-type things like the garlic press. That's a TON of stuff clogging our cabinets & the top of the fridge. If we had a spacious, modern kitchen, with easy-to-access deep drawers & tons of cabinet space, okay, maybe it would be fine. But we don't. We have a tiny kitchen that was last renovated (badly) in 1969. Because it's a U shape, about 50% of the usable cabinet space is in corners, requiring a flashlight & kneepads  or a step stool to access.

However little space we have, it's hard to get rid of many of these devices, for various reasons. I feel like we use most of them (at least barely) enough to justify having them. The waffle iron, doesn't see much action, but there really isn't any other way to make waffles. I haven't used the popcorn popper for nearly a year & a half because Sprout was afraid of the noise. Stovetop popcorn--though very tasty--is hard to make without burning the pan & the kernels. After reading about some of the toxic chemicals that tend to be in microwave popcorn, I think I'm going to go back to the air popper. The toaster I'm thinking about replacing with a toaster oven, to minimize the use of the large oven for small meals. Takes up a lot of counter space, but saves on electric bills in the end. The rice cooker is a bit silly, if you actually know how to make rice on the stovetop. I have never been able to do this, for whatever reason. The rice cooker makes me much more likely to eat healthy things like brown rice, quinoa & millet. The microwave is clearly not just clutter, as it's used multiple times a day--I honestly don't know how I'd live without it.

There are easier decisions. The (slightly gimpy three-legged) electric frying pan could just be pitched, instead of replaced. It's easier to use & larger than a frying pan on the stove, but I could make do for the ten or twenty batches of pancakes it sees in a year. I'm not sure about the stand mixer. I just got it (hand-me-down), but I managed to bake occasionally for 15 years without one, so I'm leaning toward nay on that one. The juicer I've been trying to get rid of for years--it's a MASSIVE 70s thing that Oliver somehow ended up with ages ago. He's very attached to it, though he hasn't actually used the thing since we moved to this house four years ago, as far as I know. The wok is large, but I am a little suspicious of non-stick cookware: how can I be sure it isn't flaking off & getting into our food? The salad spinner doesn't see a lot of action & it is extremely limited in its usage. That might have to go.

Maybe we should try a 'trial separation': pack up all the ones we think we can live without & put them in the garage. If we still haven't dragged them out in a year, I think we could safely get rid of them.

How many small appliances & gadgets have you got hiding in your cabinets & squatting on your countertops? Have you ever thought about culling them? Which ones are absolutely indispensable to you?

1 comment:

  1. We have the popcorn popper from Mom and Dad, but only use it a few times per year(the noise scares N&K), so it lives in the basement. I've read that you can use a regular paper bag and pop popcorn in the microwave-maybe try that instead? much cheaper than commercial microwave popcorn, and you don't have the chemicals.
    We don't have a waffle maker (waffles need eggs), and used to make pancakes in frying pans but it is a PITA. I bought a cheap steel griddle that sits on our gas stove for making pancakes (it's meant for a coleman camping stove), and it is WONDERFUL. Only takes up as much space as a cookie sheet and fits 6 pancakes on it.
    We actually used our electric frying pan so much it wore out/broke, and the plastic legs cracked off. We recently bought a new one-half again as big, and it gets used at least 2x per week.
    We retired our toaster oven-bought it for the reason you listed, but never really used it. I bought a 4-slice toaster which is so much more efficient, quicker, and takes up less space on the counter.
    Things we don't processor (2x per year maybe), blender (hand-me-down, only for smoothies), ice cream maker, popcorn popper. We do have the luxury of storage space though-and all of these appliances live downstairs in the extra kitchen.
    I know I bake a lot more often than you do..our mixer gets used at least 2x per week. ;)


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