Friday, February 29, 2008

The Minimalist Kitchen - Pots and Pans

Pots and Pans: Having a good set of pans will save money over time because they will last. After buying cheap nonstick pans over and over for years, I shudder to think what a waste that was on so many levels! (money, time, landfill space, my family's health, my sanity!) I did some research on this subject and found out some creepy things about nonstick coatings, like if birds are in a kitchen where they in use they may die!

So, I spent a bit more on a set of good stainless steel pots and pans and they are holding up beautifully. They are easy to clean, they spread the heat evenly, and require less heat on the stove (which I'm sure must save gas.) I researched on the Consumer Reports website before I bought. It didn't take much time and was well worth it.

Minimalist tip: The idea of really researching something before you buy and perhaps, spending a bit more is minimalistic because if you buy something of quality it should last a long time. Hence, you don't need to re-buy.

Here's a real life example: One of my sisters still has a leather couch she bought in the eighties in her family room. I asked her how she kept it so perfect looking and she said ," Oh, I just scrub it with cleanser!" The couch was white ( 80's), but it looked great and she is a decorator and has great taste. When I think of how much money my husband and I have spent on couches over the years I realize that if we had bought one quality, leather couch we would probably still have it and would have saved thousands of dollars! We figured this out about five years ago and even though I am a vegetarian, now we only buy leather furniture. Think about how my sister, Trish's one purchase decision, kept all those couches she would have bought over the years out of the landfill!
Green tip: Buy things that will last!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Minimalist Kitchen - Small Appliances

Popcorn Maker: Did you know that before there was Jiffy Pop and microwave popcorn people made it by shaking a sauce pan filled with a bit of oil and popcorn kernels? Unless you make popcorn often, you can probably ditch this appliance and never miss it. To get rid of it for free, donate it to a school. Teachers love these for their classrooms because popcorn makes a cheap, fun reward for their hard working kids.

Bread Maker: Kneading bread is good therapy. Ditch this appliance.

Food Processor: These are great because they are so versatile. If you want a big one that does everything like makes pasta, bread, etc. and you know you’ll use it a lot, just make sure it will fit into a cupboard and won’t have to clutter up your counter space. I bought a tiny one at Target (link) for $15.00 and it is all I need. If I need a lot of something I just process twice. It takes up very little space and its parts go right into the dishwasher!

Blender: You don’t really need this if you have a food processor.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Minimalist Kitchen Sink

A primary focus in a kitchen is the sink and it offers up many opportunities to save time, space, money, the environment, and your health.

They say some kitchen sinks are as bacteria ridden as a toilet. It is really easy to let this happen or to keep it from happening. The best line of defense against bacteria is a spray bottle filled with water, a bit of dish washing liquid, and a cap full of bleach. Spray your sink and kitchen surfaces, let it sit for about a minute, then wipe off. Green Tip: I just cleaned and reused an old spray bottle.

Space saving tip: Install a dish washing liquid dispenser into your sink. They're inexpensive and easy to install. Just ask for directions from someone at Lowes or Home Depot.

Kitchen sponges and scrubbers are another source of bacteria. I used to think that those fake drawer fronts that tilt out to hold sponges were great because they were out of sight but, they are bound to become bacteria ridden from moisture. The best place to keep your wet sponges in in your dishwasher in the silverware compartment, (so they don’t cause any trouble!) Keep a few in circulation. Use them once then pop them in. That way you are always using a fresh, sanitized sponge.

Bar rags are great for keeping counters clean. Use them with the bleach solution. Buy a bunch and use a new one every day. Just circulate them through the laundry. Paper towels are a waste of money, space, trees, and create garbage but you might want to keep one roll from recycled paper on hand to use sparingly.

Cutting boards that fit right into the sink are really handy and save space in cupboards and counters. They can be used, then washed right away and can be sprayed quickly with the bleach solution when you wipe down your counters. If your sink didn't come with one, use a small cutting board next to the sink. Another green tip: Use a bowl to collect your veggie scraps, then toss them into your outdoor compost bucket. (Bowl then can be rinsed and put away or popped into your dishwasher.

Most kitchens have a large slide out cutting board, but unless you are cutting up a turkey or roast they’re over kill. When used on a daily basis, they tend to end up pushed back in dirty or wet, yuk! I pull them out when I use them and wash and dry them at the sink with my bleach solution when done.

Party Tip: Large cutting boards can be used to put out a spread of cheeses, French bread, and other yummies on your kitchen or coffee table at a party.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Minimalist Kitchen - Microwaves

When my last microwave broke, I looked at one that had a toaster built in that I thought would be a nifty space saver, and it would be built in over my range as well. However, I then thought about how many microwaves I had owned that had given out over the years and I think the number may be as high as ten! So I decided to see if it would be a big deal to live without one. Guess what? It isn't. I just use the stove top to heat things up.

Microwave cooking has some disadvantages as well: the microwave takes up counter space, (which is unacceptable in a minimalist kitchen,) and there is speculation that food loses some nutrient value when cooked this way. Many people reheat food in plastic containers that aren’t meant to be used with heat and can cause toxins to leach into the food. Of course, they use energy even when not in use if they’re plugged in. Lastly, they can be dangerous because I actually managed to set one on fire once!

So this minimalist skipped the microwave and saved the expense to buy it, (and get rid of it when it inevitably dies), the counter space clutter, and the time I’d have to spend cleaning it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Minimalist Kitchen - Toasters

A minimalist's kitchen must have clear counter space. That is what gives the feeling of calm and serenity to a kitchen. Many people leave small appliances out when they really only use them for a few minutes a day. In a minimalistic kitchen, there aren't any appliances on the counters unless there is an appliance garage to put them in. So, here's my tip about toasters.

Buying a toaster that is small enough to fit into a cupboard when not in use is a great counter space saver. After it cools, open the crumb tray and brush the crumbs into the sink then put it away. The toaster never needs special cleaning because it just stays clean saving you both time and space. Check out the Hug The Cook website to compare toasters. The link is included in my favorite links.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Minimal Kitchen - Refrigerators

In this and future posts, I am talking about how to create a minimalistic kitchen one element at a time.Today I am talking about refrigerators.

Having a refrigerator that dispenses filtered water and ice is a time saver in many ways. Obviously, you don’t have to fill ice trays, but the real advantage is by just changing the water filter every 3-6 months,
(I ordered six filters at once on line to save time,) you don’t need a water filter pitcher taking up space in your fridge and can save the expense of installing a filter on your faucet. There is no need for bottled water either, and we all know what a scam that is. But that’s another subject.

Your freezer should stay full. This saves energy. If you don’t eat a lot of frozen food, you can fill it up with bread, bagels, English muffins etc. You can also free up some of your cupboard space by storing baking mix, flour, nuts, and bread crumbs in the freezer where they will last longer. Packaged seeds you may have bought to plant later will stay fresh in the freezer also. Another thing you can do to fill up your freezer is to make ice and put it into plastic bags. Ice really comes in handy when you're having an outdoor party, because you can fill a big bucket with it and stick in bottles of beer, wine, and other beverages for your guests to help themselves. And here's a random minimalist tip: if you're in the middle of a a paint project, you can wrap your brush and roller in plastic wrap, store it in the freezer and use it the next day!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Mininimalist Kitchen - Dishwashers

So many people fret over their kitchens. Either they don't have enough space, or they can't seem to keep them clean and uncluttered. The trick is to make the most of what we need and get rid of the rest and to use our appliances to their full potential rather than acquiring more of them. In future posts, I will discuss how to simplify a kitchen one piece at a time. Today I'm going to talk about dishwashers.

Dishwashers get a bad rap because they used to use a lot of water and energy. This is no longer true of newer models. According to the Tree Hugger site it uses less water and energy to run a dishwasher if it is full than to wash dishes by hand. Also, there are some great dishwashers out there now with the Energy Star label that you can get a tax credit for and sometimes even a cash rebate.

My favorite dishwasher is the double dish drawer made by Fisher Paykel and Kitchen Aid. The drawers are easy to load and you can run one at a time or both together. They use very little water and energy to run, so you can just fill one up and run it. Dirty dishes in the sink or around the house do not bode well with a minimalist, and this is a great way to keep dishes out of the sink. You don’t have to rush to put the clean dishes away because you have more dirty ones. You simply load the other dish drawer.

There are varying speeds the least of which is 15 minutes - plenty for drink glasses. I have a lot of parties and clean up is a breeze because I can put serving dishes in the bottom drawer (run it longer) and glasses in the top and run a quick cycle.

These dishwashers aren't cheap but are well worth the money. There is the option to buy just one drawer for half the price as well. The varying speeds, ease of loading and energy and water savings are worth it even it you buy just one.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Minimalist's Kitchen - Coffee

So many people fret over their kitchens. Either they don't have enough counter space, cupboard space, pantry space, or they can't seem to keep it clean and uncluttered. Really, a kitchen is an amazing space filled with time saving appliances that people not so long ago would loved to have had! The problem is we are tempted to buy every kitchen gadget and wizard to do things that can be done without them faster than the time it takes to find them in a cluttered cupboard, wipe the grime off, use them, clean them, and cram them back in with the rest of the junk we've been coaxed into buying that we don't need. The trick is to make the most of what we do need and get rid of the rest. In future posts, I will discuss how to simplify a kitchen one piece at a time. Today I'm going to talk about coffee.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, there are two basic drinking pastimes: coffee and micro-brewed beer. Making coffee at home saves a huge amount of money as mentioned in The Late Factor by David Bach. ( We'll talk about beer later.) But who wants that ugly coffee maker on their counter? They're usually too big to be put away into a cupboard, and you'd have to wait for the warming plate to cool off even if you could. Chances are that big, ugly, plastic thing with its dirty coffee pot will greet you whe
n you get home from work. Now you're already behind before you've even walked through the door. Of course, you could wait until the next morning to take care of it, giving yourself one more task to clutter up your morning routine.

Here's an easier alternative: Ditch your coffee maker and get a coffee press.

A coffee press and a hot water carafe will save space on your counters because they can easily fit into your cupboards. The used grounds are easily tossed into your compost bucket ( I'll get to that later too.), and the press goes right into the dishwasher. They're inexpensive, so you could even own two (if you don't run the dishwasher every day.) Another advantage to putting small appliances away is that they will be unplugged which saves energy because appliances drain energy when they are left plugged in even if not in use. If you don't mind using a tea kettle on the stove, that's about the same. You have to keep an eye on it though. An advantage to the hot water carafe is it will turn itself off when it reaches a boil.
Coffee presses can be found at Kitchen Kaboodle, Williams Sonoma, Zupans, basically any kitchen store. The hot water carafes can be found at stores like Target.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Minimalist Orange

How can an orange be part of a minimalist lifestyle? Here’s an example:

I needed a can of mandarin oranges to put into my son’s favorite chicken al orange recipe. I decided that I could cut up a fresh orange in about the same amount of time it would take to open a can. After some thought I realized that not only would the fresh orange certainly be healthier, but I wouldn’t have to recycle the can which would take my time to take it to the garage where it would take up space until it got recycled at the curb. The fresh orange’s peel can simply go into my compost bucket and return to the soil from which it came without the cost of transportation to a recycler who will undoubtedly use more energy to reprocess the can. Of course buying one orange was cheaper than a can of mandarin oranges too.

The orange example puts forth the basic concept of minimalism and it touches on each of the areas in my definition of minimalism. Use just what you need and don’t create waste. So before you act, think of the orange.