10 Steps to Successful Small Space Cooking

It's that time of year again…our little travel trailer, "Cookie," comes out of storage and we take off for new adventures. This means sharpening my small space cooking skills, as well.

I like talking about this issue, because for LOTS of people, cooking in small spaces isn't a seasonal thing, as it is for me, but a daily circumstance. So with this in mind, here are more tips on how to make the best of the space you've been gifted.

And I say "gifted" because I believe the space we have is just right for us as long as it isn't holding things we don't like, don't use, don't need, don't want, and don't have room for. In other words, CLUTTER. And this is a personal thing-what's clutter for me may not be clutter for you.

But the hard fact of life is that for our spaces to work well (to work for us rather than against us), we do have to decide what we DO like, DO use, DO need, DO want, and DO have room for. This is step number 1 and it's exhausting work, so my blessings on you as you push forward with this first step.

Very good. With clutter eliminated, now here are tips for cooking in small spaces:


If possible, line the inside walls of cupboards (especially under the sink) with pegboard. Insert hooks and viola, you can now hang everything that's hangable (and many things are).

Back in the day, when I was cooking for a family of 9 in a kitchen the size of a phone booth, I would hang everything possible. I even inserted tiny eye bolts in the ends of my 2 wooden spoons so I could hang them, too. I didn't have counter space for a crock to hold utensils and I didn't have drawer space for utensils. Hanging was the best option.

3. And speaking of 2 wooden spoons, keeping a minimum number of things is crucial to tiny space management. Avoid duplicates of anything. Only one or two of something works just fine-you can wash things up as you cook. This approach means more space for the bigger things and for things that can't be hung up.

4. And speaking of bigger things, be very careful about appliance collecting. There are really only one or two that are truly indispensible. My vote is for the slow cooker and the pressure cooker.

If you're REALLY tight on space, drastic measures are needed. For instance, you could broil bread in your oven to make toast, which means you could do without a toaster, thus saving some valuable space. Keep an open mind and you might open up some space.


Akin to the above steps is to avoid single-use items. The hot-dog cooker, the hamburger maker, the muffin top pan, the multi-sided brownie pan, and so on. You know what I'm talking about. We're being bombarded with single-use, space-eating cooking and bakeware today. While a simple 8-inch square baking pan isn't as sexy as that fancy and expensive multi-sided brownie pan, it has many more purposes, so it earns the space it takes.

6. And that's the next step. Evaluate all the stuff in your kitchen to make sure your things are actually earning the space they take up. Kitchen real estate is prime real estate. No free-loaders allowed.


Place a sturdy cutting board over your sink or stove top to expand your work surface. (Obviously you'll be sure the burners aren't on or hot.)

8. Pretend you're living in a ship! In this circumstance everything gets stored inside of everything else, and not an inch of space is wasted.


Hang from under cupboards or from your ceiling if possible. Hanging baskets can hold not just fruit and veggies, but nicely folded kitchen linens as well, thus saving drawer space.

10. Finally, the key to cooking in a small kitchen is ORGANIZATION of processes (including where you store items and your food prep!). Mise en place is key to preparing meals with less stress, especially in small spaces. (See "What Do Professional Chefs Do to Save Time and Energy?")

I know there are lots of other tips and tricks to cooking in small spaces. What are some you use? But whatever techniques we use, wouldn't you say the best and most important is attitude? A feeling of gratitude for what we do have, rather than a feeling of self-pity and scarcity over what we don't have, can turn a house into a home and a meal into a feast (to quote Melodie Beattie)!

  •   www.houzz.com
  •   www.pinterest.com
  •   www.amazon.com
  •   www.thekitchn.com
  •   www.thekitchenwindow.com

    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author! alice@dvo.com

blog comments powered by Disqus