Apr 022011

Make no mistake about it, I love to eat.  I enjoy the hell out of food.  It’s an addiction.  I started eating when I was a child and haven’t been able to kick the habit since.  You’ll read a lot of minimalist blogs, usually by younger authors, where they have all these bizarre hippie eating habits.  Not me.  I’m not a vegan, not a locavore, not a food snob.  I enjoy a variety of foods, preparing and eating them.  Yes, I eat some stuff that is considered bad for you, although I am getting better, and I have gotten better on the amount I eat but I still enjoy good food.  I tried to kick my food addiction at one time.  All it did was make me hungry.  It’s hopeless I know but at least it hasn’t affected my appetite.  I’m going to keep eating food, maybe even on a daily basis, and I don’t care what anyone thinks of me.  Food is a good thing.

This is a two part post about approaching food and eating from a minimalist point of view.  Part 1 will cover the minimalist kitchen.  Part 2 will cover some tips on food shopping and how to save some money on your food bill.  So grab yourself a sammich and follow along.

I grew up in the traditional 3 meal a day family.  A big breakfast to start the day, everything stops at noon for lunch, and a big supper at 5:00.  And plenty of snacks in between.  i couldn’t eat like that again if I tried.  For one, I’d weigh 300 lbs, and I’d be broke.  Even now, when I go to visit relatives, the entire trip involves either eating, or getting ready to eat.  I usually gain about 10 pounds after such a visit.

Nowadays, I usually eat a very light breakfest, rarely eat lunch, and have a nice dinner.  Still snack too much and I tend to graze all day so I need to make some adjustments.  But I’m doing better.

I love to cook.  Enjoy the hell out of it.  I rarely eat out.  There are a ton of good restaurants in the Florida Keys.  You can find just about any kind of food you want on the islands.  But, they are pricey, they give you a bit too much, and they tend to get a little heavy on the frying, salt, fat, and butter.  I don’t eat out mainly because of the cost.  An average dinner at a modestly priced restaurant with a drink and tip, (never get dessert in a restaurant, way overpriced), will cost me the equivalent of 3 days of food I could get at the store and prepare at home.  Plus I really don’t like the whole restaurant experience.  It’s usually a crapshoot as to whether or not you will get a good wait person, a quiet table, comfortable surroundings, and a meal that is good enough to eat.  It’s not knock on the restaurants down here.  As I said, there are a lot of good ones.  It’s just from a minimalist point of view I prefer to buy my food, take it home, and fix it my self.

So you would expect that since I like to cook and eat I would have a big kitchen with all kinds of utensils and gadgets.  If so, then you haven’t been paying attention.  Here is what I use in my minimalist kitchen.

First, I rent so I don’t own any major appliances.  My current digs have a propane stove and oven, microwave, and fridge.  And that is pretty much all I need.  I rather like cooking with propane.  A ten pound tank, which I can exchange when empty for about $20 will last me nearly 6 months with regular use.  Propane cooks fast and efficiently, still fires up when the electric is off, and is easy to work with.  The microwave is used mainly for defrosting or reheating leftovers.  I never really do much cooking with it.  I don’t have a grill at the moment but when I do it gets used a lot.  Grilling is a great way to cook and you can do a lot of good stuff with one.

The only other electric appliance I currently use is a cheap blender.  I use it mix stuff up like the occasional smoothie.  Beyond that everything else is hand driven.  If you are trying to downsize your kitchen start with appliances.  Get rid of the one trick ponies.  The appliances that only do one specific thing.  Like a toaster.  Yes I know, they are cheap, but all they do is toast, nothing else.  You can do the same thing with a frying pan.  I don’t drink coffee so I don’t have a coffee maker.  If you are a coffee addict, you can justify a coffee maker.  Remember there are no rules for this stuff.  You can pick and chose what you want in your kitchen.  If you have an appliance that you use on a regular basis, fine, keep it and use it.  But, if you can replace a bunch of those appliances with one item then reduce down to that one item.  Here is a good example:

This device will slice, dice, chop, shred, peel, and cut.  It runs on hand power, and will last a lifetime.  It’s portable, cheap, and easy to use.  What is it?  A paring knife.

This simple little knife can do most of your food preparation with a minimum of fuss.  A paring knife can be had for just a couple of dollars. (Remember to use the $20 bill and save the singles).  Little gadgets like the paring knife are key to minimalist kitchen.  If you are willing to spend a little extra time and hand power, you can cook really good meals for very little money and without a kitchen full of useless expensive appliances.

So here is my current kitchen inventory.  Dishes, plates, cups, and glasses, all came with the rental and will stay behind when I leave.  Everything else has a total cost of less than $50 total:

1 frying pan with glass lid, good for frying, stir fry, toasting.

1 2 gal pot with lid good for making a big pot of shrimp, corn on the cob, pasta.

1 1 gal pot with lid good for potatoes, sauces.

1 qt pot with lid good for heating up vegetables.

1 roasting pot good for pot roasts, meat loaf, chops.

1 colander

1 large plastic bowl

1 measuring bowl

1 measuring cup

1 paring knife

1 steak knife

1 filet knife

2 ea. butter knife, fork, spoon

1 hand masher

1 pr of tongs

1 spatula

1 wooden spoon

1 hand operated can opener

In addition I also quit using plastic storage bags and replaced them with a half dozen tupperware bowls.  Instead of a dedicated broiler pan, I get the six pack of aluminum broiler pans, use them until they are unusable, and throw them in the recycle bin.

I quit using paper towels or napkins due to it being just plain wasteful.  Instead I get a pack of reusable cloth napkins that clean up easily and last forever.

That’s it.  No gravy bowls, no salad forks, no fondue pots.  That is all I use in my kitchen and I can cook all kinds of goodies with that small amount of utensils.  And when I move, I may just leave it all for the next tenant and replace with new and maybe less stuff at my next home.  It can all be replaced with one quick trip to the store.

Again, how you outfit your kitchen is up to you.  But if you want to minimalize start with your kitchen.  There is a lot of useless junk in there that you can replace with fewer and cheaper items.

In Part 2 of this series, I’ll be talking about actual food, some tips on saving money on groceries, and maybe even a minimalist recipe or two.  See you then.

The Fritter

Odd, now I’m hungry.