Tiny House Kitchens: Meal Planning for a Small Space

A couple of weeks back, I discussed cooking in a tiny home and the choices that are available to prepare food. As a part of our Tiny House Kitchen Series, in the coming weeks we will discuss the essential equipment, utensils, spices and even foods that you are going to want to have in your tiny home to take advantage of the space (or lack thereof). Meal planning can be tough in a normal sized kitchen, but even tougher when you go tiny. Here are some tips and tricks to help you with tiny kitchen meal planning.

Assess the Situation

So you are in a kitchen that is more the size of a closet and you not only do not have a ton of storage space, but you are also lacking in work space as well? Welcome to the world of tiny kitchens! There is a saying from my military days that holds true: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. So what do you have to work with? Take stock of every type of cooking device and utensil that you have so that you know what your limitations are.

The same thing holds true of your basic stock of spices and pantry standards. If you have something that you are only going to use once in a blue moon, get rid of it or start to plan meals around it so that it gets used. Once I inherited three large rolls of aluminum foil. They were just taking up space until I started making Silver Turtles (Hobo Packs to some) and throwing them on the grill. There is no easier way for me to grill up veggies to serve along with my proteins.

Don’t forget about really getting a good idea of how much space you can dedicate to pantry, refrigerator and freezer storage. Chicken may be on sale when you buy five pounds of it, but you can truly only store two pounds.

Make a Menu

Meal Planning - ChalkboardThis is where most people get hung up. There is big trepidation about “not wanting to get stuck to a list.” People feel confined by a menu. However, the truth is that most people have a staple of about five to seven meals that they constantly rotate through. If you look at the ingredients of your favorite meals right now, you can probably morph them into other meals without adding much to them. For instance, if it is Taco Tuesday (because who doesn’t love Taco Tuesday?), then you already have things like beans, corn, salsa, tomatoes, lettuce, tortillas, and ground beef or chicken or veggies at your finger tips. Any Mexican dish is a snap from just these ingredients. My staples in the pantry include black beans and salsa, and in the fridge are tomatoes, lettuce, and tortillas.

Don’t feel like you are roped into just what is on the list. Take a long hard look at what you like and what you can make by taking the ingredients and moving  them around.

Do Meal Planning Research

One of the best ways to find out what to do with your staples is to use some of the recipe engine websites that are out there. Allrecipes.com and supercook.com are just a couple of the websites that offer up ingredient searches where you put in what you have on hand and it comes up with other recipe choices for you.

There are also whole websites dedicated to the type of cooking you are looking to do. If you want to find out new ways to use your slow cooker or grill, look no farther than the internet.

K-I-S-S

Meal Planning - PotatoWe have all heard the expression, made popular in the 1960’s US Naval circles, “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” Nowhere else is this more applicable than in the world of tiny home living, and even more so in the tiny kitchen. The fewer utensils, cookware pieces, ingredients and spices you end up needing, the easier it is going to be to store and prepare. At the same time, no need to abort all of your favorite meals. You might just need to find a different way to prepare them. See: meal planning.

I love to make kielbasa and pierogi. Usually, it takes a pot to boil the pierogi, a pan to cook the sausage in, and a pan to prepare the butter and onions that I will eventually slide the pierogi into. If I have limited space, I boil the pierogi in a Dutch oven, drop the smoked kielbasa into the water for the last two minutes to bring it up to temp, drain the pot, add butter and onions and when ready add the sausage and pierogi to the mix – a one pot meal.

Follow Through

When you are at the grocery store, it really helps to stick to the list and to keep in mind what you have room for. If you hate to lose out on the weekly flyer sales from your local grocery store, then make sure you look at it before you go shopping. This way you can incorporate those sales items into your menu for the week.

Sure, a lot of what is written here is common sense, but a systematic reminder every once in a while won’t hurt anyone. So what kind of proper planning and simple solutions do you have for meal planning in your tiny kitchen? Let me know in the comments below.

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About Tom Bastek

Tom Bastek is the Director of Marketing for Tiny Home Builders and has been on the tiny bandwagon for years. In his spare time he enjoys improv comedy acting, pinball, LEGO building, bowling, craft beer and the New York Jets. He resides in Atlanta with his wife and his hound Josie, who takes up most of the bed. He can be reached at tom@tinyhomebuilders.com or on twitter @tinyhousetom.

3 thoughts on “Tiny House Kitchens: Meal Planning for a Small Space

  1. Amy said:

    Are you from Pittsburgh? Kielbasa & pierogies, yum! Just need to throw some haluski in there and invite me!

  2. Danyelle Moss said:

    My favorite way to meal plan, even without limited space is to shop everyday. That way I can get what is on sale and don’t have to worry about storage for food. Obviously, this only works because I live close to a grocery store. But it does help me plan meals around ingredients leftover from the previous meal so nothing goes to waste.

  3. This reminds me of the time I was living in NYC, with a tiny kitchen and several grocery stores within walking distance. Now I’m in a rural area where fresh groceries are at least 10 miles away (unless I grow them myself). I’ll just try to combine the two approaches. Thanks for the article!

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