Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Minimalist-ish Graduate Student Kitchen

via Pinterest. My actual grad-school kitchen was, naturally, much less nice.

When I was a graduate student, I cooked almost all of my meals for the first two years. That habit eventually slipped, but I had a good grasp of the bare minimum of tools and supplies I required. I bought my kitchen goods piecemeal, often as needs arose, and that made it easy to keep my cupboards and drawers minimally stocked, even before I discovered minimalism and the KonMari method. When I went through and decluttered all my things KonMari-style, eleven months ago, I didn't do much in the kitchen except repurpose some boxes to serve as drawer organizers.

Shopping-wise, I bought most of my things at HomeGoods or TJMaxx, with an occasional trip to Housing Works, IKEA, or Daiso while I was home in California. When I was stocking my kitchen, I wasn't sure I would stay in NYC after graduating, so the quality of my pots and tools wasn't a priority. The cost of my stock of kitchen goods was probably well within the range of being frugal and reasonable for a student's kitchen. 

A few other notes: Now that I live with K and we combined some of our kitchen things, I have a little more of everything to work with. I cooked often, but didn't bake, which cut down significantly on my kitchen needs and wants. I generally made small, simple meals, cooking mainly for myself or one other person at the maximum, except for the occasional potluck dish. Thus, my kitchen felt fully stocked with just the following (links are illustrative only, some are affiliate, some are not):

Pots, Pans, etc.
1 mini (1 quart?) saucepan, w/ lid
1 3 quart saucepan, w/ lid
1 12-inch nonstick skillet
1 electric kettle
1 cookie sheet*
1 5-quart stock pot**
1 spatula
1 slotted spoon
1 ladle
1 set measuring spoons
1 meat thermometer
1 silicone pastry brush**

Tupperware, assorted sizes
1 oven mitt
2 kitchen towels
2 tea strainers
1 soy sauce bottle for olive oil**
Knives and Things
1 large cutting board
1 vegetable peeler
1 small cutting board*
3 medium-sized plates
3 cereal bowls
1 small rice bowl**
3 mugs
1 reusable water bottle
3 sets of wooden chopsticks**

*indicates things I didn't own or owned in a less efficient size, but that I would have bought 

** indicates things that are a bit idiosyncratic, and that I generally purchased for one particular recurring need

This might seem like a strange thing for me to write about, but well, I find reading about what's in people's kitchens and refrigerators absolutely fascinating. My more rambling thoughts on why I picked particular kitchen tools and in what quantities are behind the cut. 

I didn't actually pay attention to the sizes of some of the things in my kitchen so certain sizes are guesstimated. My baking pan came from the prior resident of my student apartment, and was actually smaller then 9'' by 13'', but that seems to be the standard size most likely to be able to do everything  I tended to do, up to and including roasting a small whole chicken. My mini saucepan was also of an unknown size, but because it had enough room to poach two eggs at a time with a bit of room to maneuver that slotted spoon around, it probably was bigger than 1/2 quart. I owned a 6-quart stock pot, which I bought to make chicken soup with a whole chicken, but that was so big that a 4-quart might honestly have been big enough.

I'm a big believer in two knives being plenty (well, they recommend three, but I don't eat much bread and the chef's knife is fine for most everything else) for just about any kitchen: one larger chef's knife (8 inches or so) and one small fruit knife (3 inches or so, similar linked above). With all the cooking I did, I never felt the need for anything else, except in maybe two instances: (1) I might have appreciated a larger, cleaver-type knife for chopping corn on the cob apart and (2) a chef's knife is not great for slicing bread. That was it, and both were such rare needs that they wouldn't actually demand a new knife purchase. I never actually acquired a smaller cutting board for fruit or cheese, but it would have been helpful.

Because I bought all my pots and pans from Homegoods on the cheap, everything was nonstick, which made it best to stay away from metal cooking tools. I used olive oil often, and I found that I would waste quite a bit if I didn't put it into a small soy sauce bottle to drizzle it with. I used the IKEA salad spinner to wash my fruits and vegetables. Because I never cooked pasta or anything similar that needed to be drained, I didn't require a metal colander. 

Although I skimped on the number of plates and bowls I owned, I didn't see any way around buying a full set of flatware because I didn't feel like digging through Housing Works to piece together a smaller set. I like chopsticks as cooking tools. That small rice bowl is actually for making steamed eggs, so that I could put the bowl directly into the medium saucepan to use it as a steamer without most of the bowl touching the hot water directly.

Tupperware (avoid IKEA, these are terrible and leak) is probably not eco-friendly and possibly has some issues due to being plastic, but what I bought - large Gladware to store dried beans and lentils and various sized Tupperware for leftovers and bringing lunch or snacks to my internships - was, to my knowledge, all BPA-free. I also did my best to take good care of it. I almost never put it into the microwave since I generally re-plated any leftovers that needed heat. When I moved out of my student apartment, I downsized by giving away almost everything to other students rather than discarding. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to hear from anyone who might be reading! Please feel free to leave a comment or question.