Appliances worth their shelf space
Last August we moved out of our tiny home into one that’s not only a good bit bigger but also just plain better distributed–we can use the space we have here. Kids each have their own small bedroom, our master bedroom is small but does the job, we have a respectable looking living room and a comfy (i.e. trashable) family room. And there’s my sewing room that becomes a guest room for the 6 days out of the year that we need one.
It’s in general a great house. There are only two major drawbacks: 1. no master bath, and 2. teeny teeny kitchen without even close to enough cabinet space.
This is actually a change from our other house which, though it was tiny, did have both a master bath and a lot of kitchen storage. It had a whole pantry, bigger than the closet I now have, plus a nice big eat-in kitchen worth of cabinets. The one we have now is long and skinny, broken up by a door to the garage and another door to the patio and in general wasting a good bit of what little space there is.
But we’re making do. We put some Ikea shelving units into the garage, so some of the not-every-day stuff can go there, like beer and soda, baking gear, empty containers waiting to be filled with things, herbal potions, etc. Nothing froze over the winter, which was good. And we have a second freezer in there too. (Greenmama needs her extra freezerspace!)
The whole adaptive process has been really good for me, though, in discovering what items of my kitchen I need and actually use, as opposed to those that are just kind of cool and I don’t. Because in this kitchen, if it’s taking up space, it better be needed.
So it’s made me take a good look at the things I really do use, the things without which life would be of questionable value (or, more to the point, the things without which we’d be ordering a lot more pizza). For the moment I’m not going the Basic Pots And Pans route; I’m talking the other stuff.
My Immersion Blender–this is actually a little thing, taking up very little space at all. You just plug it in, dip it into your soup or fruit or garbanzo beans, press the little button, and in a few seconds you have cream soup or fruit puree or hummus, respectively. (More or less.) And then the little end just comes right off and goes into the dishwasher. No mess, no fuss, no “transfer by batches into food processor.” I love this thing. All the more because I didn’t actually buy it, my mother had it and never uses it, so she gave it to me.
Crockpot. Two of them. Seriously.–probably anyone who ever reads this blog knows about me and my crockpots. Problem is, having a couple in different sizes is fairly important if you’re going to use it a lot, because it cooks best when it’s 2/3-3/4 full, and you’re sometimes going to want to cook massive amounts of things, and other times you’re not. But both of them are totally worth the counter space.
Standalone Freezer–this was a total non-negotiable when we moved: we needed a second freezer. With all the quantity stuff I do, and all the “staple” food I save, even to the way I always take the first and last 2 slices of every loaf of bread, cut them into cubes, and throw them into a big ziploc in the freezer for bread pudding and Thanksgiving stuffing–the freezer is probably the single best investment ever. If I ever actually did get into canning and preserving for real, it might not be such a big deal, but as it stands I really do need it. (It’s in the garage.)
My serrated Wusthof paring knife–okay, so this doesn’t take up that much space. But kitchen knives really are among the “you get what you pay for” kitchen utensils. This one little knife, despite my having a reasonable set of Wusthof knives (butcher knife, bread knife, little paring knife, I forget what else…), is my go to utensil and seldom actually makes it back into the knife rack because I’m always pulling it out of the sink and washing it off to use it for another job. Buy a good knife or two; totally worth it.
Toaster Oven–this does take up a good chunk of counter space, but it’s absolutely worth it from both an ease and an energy consumption standpoint. Uses more energy to toast bread than a toaster, I believe, but we’re not big toast eaters anyway. And when we want to make little pizzas for the kids, or garlic bread, or my veggieburgers, or honestly almost any use-the-oven small cooking job it’s quicker and energy-lighter, not to mention easier on the room’s ambient temperature in the summer, than the big oven by a long shot. Honestly, except for the rare occasions when I actually Bake, we seldom use the “real” oven–almost everything can get done in the little plug-in thing.
Then there are the questionable items the get used just often enough that I can’t really get rid of them:
Food Processor–with the immersion blender, I hardly ever use it, and a single use ends up taking up the whole top rack of the dishwasher; I honestly can’t stand the thing. But…it’s a food processor. It does what nothing else really can, you know? So I keep it.
Blender–similar category. Actually, I had a wonderful cheap little Black and Decker one for years that I totally dug; eventually it just got exhausted and gave up the ghost after maybe 14 years. My husband has this very schmantzy thing called a “vita-mix” that’s supposed to do everything but make your coffee (and the main reason it doesn’t do that is because it knows coffee isn’t good for you), and I honestly hate it. It’s big and heavy and klunky and so full of overkill, and I despise it. I swear part of me would love to toss the thing and just get another nice cheap little BnD one, but in the interest of my marriage I keep it.
Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker–okay, total luxury item, I know. And it takes up a lot of space–the unit itself is out in the garage, and the two freezer-bowls take up a lot of room in the freezer. But…a summer evening when you can grab a quart of homemade yogurt from the fridge and serve the kids “homemade ice cream” in about 20 minutes is worth the other 340 or so days of the year it just sits there. Totally worth it. It just sort of has that little “edge” that can make ordinary into “wow you’re the coolest mom on the planet” in a very short time, and those moments are to be prized.
Bread machine–a few iotae more legit, I guess, than the ice cream maker, but also a big heavy thing that doesn’t really get used that much. And especially given my current efforts to relieve myself of some of the 30 lbs I gained since my wedding, easy access to delicious warm white bread (of which I can honestly eat a loaf at one sitting, I jest you not) is not necessarily a plus. But…sometimes fresh hot bread is just wonderful. And I’m not a baker, so I know for those who are a food processor can do most of what a bread machine can, except for the shaping part. But we keep it. (Although I think we only used it maybe twice this winter…my husband is the bread machine baker in the house. Another reason to keep it…someone else will do the baking!)
Ridiculously huge calphalon roasting pan and rack–One word: Turkey. And to its credit, I’ve used the thing more total times than several other items I received as wedding gifts. But it’s so bloody big! and the rack makes it impossible to stack other things in. What else can you roast a turkey in, though? One of those stupid aluminum foil things from the grocery store? Not.
Waffle Iron–just like pretty much everything in this list, it’s something we use seldom, but when we do use it it makes mom immensely popular, and it’s not like you can actually make waffles in anything other than a waffle iron–lots of things you can improvise, but not these. Plus, I like them. One of these days I’ll research (read: cook and eat!) some healthy waffle recipes and post them here. Like my blender, this was a cheap no-frills thing, and it’s served me really really well.
Espresso machine–this is one of the real borderline things. It was a gift from my parents after my first Italy trip about 20 years ago, where I discovered the wonder that is espresso (long before it was all Trendy in the States). Every time I’m about to get rid of it, I seem to go on a kick where I make the stuff regularly. As a non-breakfast-eater, I used to really depend on the morning latte (i.e. a good way to get some morning calories, protein, and carbs into my system) to get going in the AM; now I am more likely to make real hot chocolate instead, since the caffeine isn’t good for my system these days…but I keep it anyway. Right next to the Mr. Coffee machine that I also don’t really use.
Admittedly there’s another boatload of stuff that made the move with us, things I don’t use and may never use, that we still keep. The pasta maker is fun and exciting, and I keep meaning to use it, but we never do. In theory it seems like a great idea, make a lot and freeze it, avoid buying so much, use healthier ingredients, play with recipes till one can make a whole wheat pasta that doesn’t taste vile. (Trader Joe has finally managed that, though, so the pressure is off.) But we have used it exactly twice, and we inherited it from my mom who gave it away because I think she had used it exactly twice.
Then there’s all the baking stuff–springform pans, bundt pans, cookie sheets, muffin tins, blah blah blah. I’m fairly sure I’ll get rid of a lot of those, because now I have a basic assortment of silicone stuff and I love love love it.
It’s amazing, though, how much of what I had in my last kitchen I really didn’t need, how much was redundant, how much stuff I never used that I kept because “I might someday” or “It’s perfectly good, so no reason to get rid of it” or a series of reasons like that…
Traveling lighter is much easier.