The Daily Beet

07 May The less complicated kitchen.

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Written by E2 team member, Natala

My mother is moving. As anyone who is moving knows, you find out you have A LOT of stuff. Too much stuff. She called me to tell me she found 30 spring-foam pans. I wasn’t even sure what those were exactly, but she had 30 of them.

When my husband and I decided to leave the life we had near Washington DC we decided to sell everything. I’m not kidding, everything. Every utensil, every kitchen gadget, every plate, every fork. All of those wedding gifts, most that went un-used, all of those end cap Target clearance items, which all seemed COMPLETELY necessary at the time, all gone.

We packed up our car, our 2 door coupe to be exact and hit the road. Everything we owned fit in that little car. Eventually we would settle on the following in our kitchen:

A pan (stove top)
A pot
2 dinner plates
2 cereal size bowls
2 glasses
1 spatula
2 forks, 2 spoons, 2 knives
1 small cutting board
1 kitchen knife
1 large spoon
1 small baking pan
1 colander

That is our kitchen. We cook 98% of our meals at home. We have yet to have  run into any problems. The key? Keeping it simple.

The more simple you can make your kitchen, the easier your life will be. I think one of the bigger myths about having a simplified kitchen is that somehow the gadgets make things easier, when I’ve found it to be the opposite. Gadgets end up stressing me out, and sometimes I would find myself trying to create complicated meals or I would feel guilty about not using that 125 dollar chopper in the cabinet.

Some of you like a more complicated kitchen, you enjoy all of the gadgets, and that is perfectly fine. Enjoy!

But for those of you who are feeling overwhelmed with all of the gadgets and tools, rest assured that you can  do a lot with a very little. Last week we heard from someone who is currently eating 100% plant-strong with just a hot plate, a pot, a can opener, and mini fridge/freezer! Lisa had this to say:

“Because of very unusual circumstances I have no kitchen at all, and I am not able to have more than a small box of non clothing items where I am currently residing. I am living plant-strong, mostly eating Jeff Novicks Fast Food meals, using just a hot plate, pot, can opener, scissors, a spoon and then one bowl to eat out of. I’m actually finding it easier! I eat plenty of food and really enjoy it.” – Lisa in Alaska

You can see more recipes from Jeff here.

Some of the most common misconceptions is that this way of eating takes too much time, costs too much money and is complicated. My husband and I have been eating this way for a while and have never found the need to have a more complicated kitchen life, we rarely spend more than 15 minutes preparing a meal and save tons of money over how we used to eat and live before.

Give it a try! If you currently have a kitchen full of gadgets, why not see what you could do if you were put in a position to only have very basic tools for one week.

Personally, the easier I can make living this way, the more successful I am.

How about you, have you simplified your kitchen life?

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Natala Constantine
  • Dana
    Posted at 13:52h, 07 May

    As a grad student this helps me out so much! I am so tired of all my friends bragging about their thousand dollar blender or 300 dollar food processor. I have a microfridge, a stove top and that is it, and that is all I can afford. Thank you for reminding me that it doesn’t have to be hard.

  • Sarah
    Posted at 13:55h, 07 May

    Hardest thing I ever did? Sell my vitamix, and then my mixer, and then a processor, waffle iron, immersion blender, juicer, electric pressure cooker and the list goes on and on. My husband was laid off his job and I looked at my kitchen and the 1000’s of dollars I had spent. Even though I loved my blenders and gadgets, it was time to get rid of them. The strange thing is that when I got rid of all the gadgets I started to get healthier!

    I was just making simple meals, but not eating or obsessing so much in the kitchen.

    It was hard, but well worth it. Even though I could buy all that stuff again, I choose not to.

  • Doug
    Posted at 14:01h, 07 May

    I’m a single guy, paramedic and I have a kid. I don’t have time for complicated, I have about 10 minutes to prepare meals, and I do, no excuses. I don’t get all the kitchen histeria, just get yourself a small kitchen, you don’t need marble counters and granite shelves. A working fridge, stove, microwave and you are fine. The only thing fancy I own is a hand me down crock pot.
    Thanks for the link to Jeff’s recipes and movie, I’ll be getting it.

  • Diane in Palos Verdes
    Posted at 14:08h, 07 May

    Stepping back and looking at kitchen organization is huge. For cupboards that are hard to get into, buy stacknig plastic drawers to put in them so you have inexpensive “roll outs”. Buy and use a label maker (it’ll help everyone put stuff away in the right place). Since going vegan, what we buy in terms of ingredients has automatically become more simple. A smaller list of staples. I combine things into clear plastic boxes I can grab and use as needed– for example, I have a box on a kitchen shelf labeled “coffee stuff” with the filters, the grinder, the beans, everything but the espresso maching (or French press) in there. I have another called “baking stuff”. All my pastas are in a clear plastic box called “pasta”. Lets you use all your space. Keep things close to where you use them. We have enough stuff to cater fairly large parties at our house, and we’ve still simplified via organization. Liking what you have, and USING what you have… and being able to do so easily without the stress of disorganization… that’s peaceful and fun.

  • jessica
    Posted at 14:14h, 07 May

    Simple is good- but I could not live without my food processor!

  • Jen
    Posted at 14:15h, 07 May

    Who the heck would buy a blender for more than 30 dollars? We can’t do smoothies, blended food is not always best, and they are more clean up and hassle. I am on a very tight budget and have never found an issue in eating this way, just need a couple of pots or pans and you are good to go.
    Right on Natala.

    • Sue
      Posted at 14:51h, 07 May

      I went to a 28 day challenge with Whole Foods and they kept mentioning vitamix, I don’t know why anyone eating this way would need a vitamix, they made it sounds essential to being healthy. I told them I could buy a lot of groceries with the amount of money they were charging, a few months worth at least!

  • Ami Mackey
    Posted at 14:59h, 07 May

    We gave up our microwave 2 years ago when remodeling our kitchen. We only used it to cook junk – like microwave popcorn and processed convenience foods. We don’t miss it.

  • Janye
    Posted at 16:04h, 07 May

    I loved this article Natala. I really want to learn more about your travels, what an interesting life you lead!

    I was guilty of buying all of those end cap gadgets as well. It always seems like they will make your life more simple, when the opposite is true. I like to entertain, so that was my excuse, but even in entertaining I’v e found I don’t need much.

  • Jenn Edwards
    Posted at 18:39h, 07 May

    No food processor for me, though occasionally I use a blender, crockpot, or microwave.

  • Dia
    Posted at 19:57h, 07 May

    Great piece! ‘Unclutter’ has a great series ‘Unitasker Wednsday’ on those one use gadgets – keep it simple! (http://unclutterer.com/2012/03/14/unitasker-wednesday-the-spaghetti-fork/
    I am working on getting a better pantry set up for the staples (bags of beans, quinoa, etc) & have glass storage containers for the fridge.
    I’ve also lived in one of those ‘efficiency’ apts where there was a full size fridge, & a microwave (& sink) … I put the microwave in the garage (I was renting) went down to Bi-Mart for a 2 burner hot plate, & if I wanted to bake, did have access to the ‘full’ (also tiny) kitchen upstairs! I’ve also lived in the woods with a 2 burner propane hot plate & tiny fridge …. feel decadent these days with a full kitchen, & yes, continue to sort & pass things on.
    Several pans are handy, as I often make soup stock while I’m sauteeing veggies, a funnel & strainer for the kefir (which I make with coconut milk) a blender, as mentioned, works fine for most of mhy needs … pans for various baking, dishes to serve several …

  • Charlotte Engelhart
    Posted at 23:04h, 07 May

    Inspiring blog entry, Natala! We’ve recently revamped our whole kitchen to go plant-strong but we have countless cupboards & large pantry full of “useful” cooking supplies. Not ready to take this plunge but definitely thinking simpler would be better! Thank you for your inspiration.

  • Chris Gaunya
    Posted at 09:54h, 08 May

    Well, I don’t have a lot of gadgets but the one thing I won’t let go of is my Vitamix. I make rawfood smoothies everyday and that has done more to simplify my diet than anything else. I eat way more veggies and fruits than I would with out it. I think the key is to have a few tools you love to use everyday and resist the rampant consumerism that plagues our kitchens!

  • Joyness Sparkles
    Posted at 10:27h, 08 May

    I am so glad that I am not the only one keeping it simple! Thank you so much for this post! 🙂

  • Ninufar
    Posted at 20:12h, 08 May

    Simple is indeed so good! And probably different for different people — when I lived in a place w/no oven or microwave, just a 2-burner hot plate, the first thing I did was buy a rice cooker. (Can’t have wheat products, and hey, it cooks the rice perfectly every time!)

    I haven’t owned a food processor yet, but then again I don’t make potato kugel unless I’m visiting someone who has one. What wouldn’t work for me in the plan above is the number of dishes, bc I don’t like to use disposable stuff too often, and I routinely have 2-4 guests over. Feeding others is such a rewarding activity! If kids are coming, I sometimes ask their parents to bring favorite snacks, so there’s often dairy and non-vegan bread there on the table, but everything else I offer is low-fat plant-strong fare.

    Other tools I don’t want to be without? Chopsticks, a metal steamer basket, and a 2-quart glass baking dish with a lid.

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