Gourmet Kitchens on a Shoestring
Having a well stocked, stylish gourmet kitchen does not have to cost a mint. In fact, implementing just a few of the following ideas can save you thousands of dollars. Now what would you rather be spending that money on?
- Display your cooking ingredients. These have a great deal of color, texture and aroma, which makes for loads of visual drama in the kitchen décor department. A large jar of tri-color peppercorns with a nice grinder is an affordable choice. Some other consumable décor items that make a nice visual statement? Garlic ropes, chili pepper garlands, large bottles of infused oils and specialty vinegars . . . I’m sure you get the idea.
- DIY kitchen islands. There are tons of fun affordable ways to make your own island and add to the functionality and style of your kitchen. Two ideas off the top of my head? A cool old farm table with a nice patina and a long waist-height dresser with locking castor wheels attached to the legs. Add a couple of towel bars on each side, and you are good to go. One thing we’re planning on doing when we get our belongings out of storage is use an antique top opening soda cooler with an added stainless steel top. Kitchen islands can be phenomenally expensive to purchase from a design center. A little imagination can save you tons of cash.
- Bulk buying of spices and cooking infrastructure. I covered this briefly in a recent article, but I think it bears a second run here. There are some incredible deals out there on large quantity spice purchases. Since spices are often a main hold up to trying new menu items at home, indulging in a well-stocked spice pantry is in my opinion, a smart move for the would be at home gourmet.
- Tools on the cheap. Along with slotted spoons, mixing bowls and garlic presses, I include pots and pans in this category. One super place I’ve found to get decent pretty close to professional quality stainless steel items is Ikea. Strolling antique markets is a fun way to have an afternoon out and find old kitchen gadgets for cheap. You'll also find some with fabulous character and patina this way.
- Custom storage with one of my favorite things . . . industrial shelving. I touched on why I love this stuff so much in the spa bathrooms article. Those reasons and others make industrial shelving a prime kitchen candidate as well, particularly for single city dwelling folks who are short on tools. The newer stainless versions of these things come with not only the add on wine and glass racks, but pull out drawers and one of my favorite things for custom dish storage, the add-on shelf option. Sound inconsequential? Au contraire. Imagine those architect-designed custom kitchen cabinets you’ve seen in design magazines. You know what I think of when I picture them? The fact that there is only enough space on each set of shelves for one complete set of each type of dish and a bit of room to reach in. Know what I think of when I picture regular kitchen cabinets? Those shelves that put so much space between the storage sections that you are forced to stack bowls on plates and perhaps a couple of chili mugs on top. By the time you get out what you need to prepare and eat a simple dinner, you’ve likely broken a dish or two, and are ready for either take out food or a stiff drink. Enter, the rolling shelves with the simple add-on shelf option. With little more than a butter knife and a bottle of wine, you can have an affordable custom kitchen storage system by midnight tonight. Invite a few friends over and give it a whirl!
- Don’t forget the soffit space over your cupboards for decorative storage. A great way to work this in with style is with another favorite of mine, clear glass containers. While you’ll want smaller ones available in your prep area, the extra large glass canisters at restaurant supply and discount department stores are great for holding things you might normally put in white food storage buckets. Since the soffit is more of a decorative area, giant containers of things like dried chili peppers, chana dahl, and turtle beans can serve both form and function in this case.
- The corner pantry. While the bulk shopping article covered these for large quantity food storage, they are also handy for awkward to store appliances and holiday / party serving dishes. If you can’t build in a custom one due to renting or financial concerns, go with a long curtain from a rod or tension cable or a carved wooden divider screen from some place like World Market. The items will be stylishly hidden, and imagine just being able to walk in and grab what you need off an easy to access industrial shelf. No more fighting with stuff in hard to reach cabinet corners. Woohoo!
- Precision purchases of small kitchen appliances. I recommend choosing these things judiciously. The last thing you need is to give up valuable storage space to gadgets you never use. A few standard appliance staples? Electric hand mixers, a good blender and if possible a wide mouth food processor. From there, choose only those appliances that will make a huge contribution to your life and cooking styles. For example, I would KILL to have my bread machine out of storage, but a kitchen aid mixer might top your list. Another friend of mine swears by the ability of her George Foreman grill to cook chicken breasts quickly straight from the frozen state. What will make a difference to you and your family is what you should invest in. If you are new to the cooking at home thing, give it a while and see how your habits develop. That’ll lead you in the right purchase direction.
- Fresh herbs. These can make a tremendous difference to the flavor of your meals and also the look and feel of your kitchen environment. Garden windows are popular, but some people have issues with the logistics and look of them. If you have a deep window casing however, you can add some shelves or at least put a few potted herbs on the bottom sill without blocking the view. Even one really lush healthy plant featuring one of your favorite herbs can make a big decorative statement, such as a potted bay leaf tree or extra large rosemary bush.One of those decorative plant holders that goes over the top edge of your balcony is a nice way to combine a few things at once. Also, if you are an urban dweller, see if you can get a few people from the complex to go in with you on an alley or rooftop herb garden. What a great way to work in urban composting right at home!
- Make your own hanging pot racks. These are another item that can sink you major dinars at the design stores. Multitudes of options are available for the DIY folks out there. Re-bar with chain and S-hooks, wagon wheels, antique garden ladders and old gate sections are just a few. Get creative and have fun with it. If you don’t like what you come up with, you didn’t sink much cash into the project anyway so there’s not much stress about trying another approach.
- Open shelving. You can use this above the counter tops as a carry-over from the rolling industrial shelves idea. Just put them as far apart as you want for custom storage that meets your needs. If you are starting a kitchen from scratch, it’s a way to scrub those expensive cabinets and save money for more important things like wine and brushed steel appliances. Another place to go with open shelving can be below the counter tops. Curtains in front are a popular way to be able to put a front on stored items you don’t want on display. If the gingham farm fabric isn’t your thing, consider something a bit more international like a French country or solid colors with stenciled words like coffee or sage painted on. When we were in Costa Rica, I snagged some oh so fabulous stenciled burlap coffee bags from the Monte Verde Coffee Company. Can’t wait to hang those with the steel cable and metal clip rings I got from Ikea. Come on, movers!
There you go! A whole list of affordable ways to bring gourmet function and style into your home on a major budget. Got more ideas that didn’t make this list? Join in the discussion so we can all be inspired.