Even if your kitchen’s crap, your food doesn’t have to be
by Catherine Szabo
The fridge is separated from the stove by a countertop spanning about 12 inches, the opposing three-foot-long countertop is within arm’s reach, cupboard space is at a minimum and there’s only one sink. Not only does this sound like most university dorm residences or a student’s first apartment, but it always qualifies as a “crappy little kitchen,” according to Jennifer Schaertl, chef and author of Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens.
“Just because you cook in a crappy little kitchen does not justify a crappy meal,” she wrote.
Even with limited space, a limited budget and limited dishes, healthy choices are still an option, added Jill Parnell, an assistant professor in the physical education and recreation department at Mount Royal University.
“The key is to be organized,” she said, noting that it may not be practical for students to make multiple trips to the grocery store each month, to have fresh fruits and vegetables at all times. “If you’re scrambling and starving, you’re not going to make the healthiest choices.”
She listed nuts, eggs and beans as relatively inexpensive protein sources, adding that whole grains are always better than white bread or white rice.
“Shopping on the edge of the grocery store is going to give you the healthiest choices,” Parnell said. “Because that’s where your fresh fruits and vegetables, your breads and dairy products are going to be. On the inner sections they’re going to have the processed stuff and the canned stuff.
“So from a health perspective, definitely shopping the outside is going to be beneficial. From a ‘things are cheap and are going to last a really long time’ perspective, that’s where you’re going to find those things, on the inner areas. You’re always going to be playing with that when you’re a student.”
Leftovers are also a great thing — provided you don’t overestimate portion sizes and eat chilli for three months straight — but it raises a common problem with small kitchens: storage.
In the original “Crappy Little Kitchen” video, Schaertl says laying a cutting board over the sink or hanging pots and pans can free up counter space as well. But being creative with kitchen space is only one part of the battle — time and money required for preparing meals is a reality for everyone, not just students, Parnell said.
Websites, including RecipeKey.com and RecipeMatcher.com, allow users to find recipes based on ingredients already in their cupboards.