The German kitchenette doesn’t really offer a lot. Having lived in different student apartments across Germany, I know that a typical kitchenette is nothing but a 1 x 0,5 square meter space occupied by a small refrigerator, 2 hot plates, a small sink, and a cupboard.
A lot of my colleagues, who also live in my apartment building, complain that they cannot cook properly in their kitchenettes. I seem to be the only person not to bicker about it. And it is only because I’ve learned to live with it. And I would like to share six ways as to how you can survive it too.
1. Clean as you go
I know, it’s common sense right? Well, so is drinking 8 glasses of water everyday. Good in principle, terrible in practice.
Kitchenettes provide very little workspace if any at all. It is then a necessity that items that can be put away, actually be put away. This includes materials and equipment used for prep work, food scraps, and the dishes.
During weekdays, I wash my dishes once a day, normally before preparing dinner. This way I have a clear work area to do all of my chopping and slicing and the sink is free to dump used utensils into.
2. Frozen vegetables
Ahh frozen vegetables. This is going to be controversial as most foodies champion fresh ingredients, but hear me out here.
Fresh vegetables are normally sold in 0.5 – 1 kg packs in German supermarkets. For a single person, to buy a package can be wasteful; not all will be used up within a week and not all have a long shelf life.
Frozen veggies guarantees availability and longer shelf life at low cost. You don’t sacrifice nutrition because the vegetables used were picked at their peak ripeness before they are blanched and flash frozen.
I like to buy Kaisergemüse (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots) or Mischgemüse (Peas and Carrots) because they are more versatile and can be used with a lot of stews or stir fries.
Now when your mama calls you, you can say, “Yes, Mom. I’m still eating my peas and carrots.”
3. Portioning proteins
Proteins from discount supermarkets like Aldi or Lidl are pre-packed in plastic trays. There is normally a lot of airspace inside, making the container too bulky to be stored in my small freezer.
Here’s an example of how I work around it. I portion a 500 g package of chicken breast into three and put them in individual 1 L Ziploc bags. When I need them later in the week, I just have to take out one bag and thaw it. If I need more meat for batch cooking, I just take out more bags.
4. Stackable storage
Dry ingredients can come in bulky packages. Some come in carton boxes while others are packed in plastic. Now I do not think it makes sense to keep the pasta cartons when it is only 1/4 full. And plastic packages don’t sit well on the shelf.
So I recommend that pasta and rice be stored in stackable airtight plastic containers. The smaller the size, the better. Don’t hesitate to transfer to a smaller container when you see that there’s only a portion or two left inside.
Worried that you’ll forget how to prepare what’s in the container? Cut out the cooking instructions from the package and put them in the container or tape them on top. This way you know which type of pasta or rice is inside.
5. Mini & Micro
Get the smallest equipment as possible. Always craving for pizzas? Get a mini baking oven. Coffee-dependent but no space for a coffee maker? Get a stove top moka. Asian and can’t live without rice? Get a 3-cup rice cooker. There is almost a mini alternative to any device. (off topic: I onced owned a mini washing machine.)
I will be honest to say that I don’t own a microwave, but I see the value of it for a lot of people. If you are the type to do batch cooking during weekends, a microwave will save you a lot of time during the week by quickly reheating your dishes. Not to mention it’s the fastest way to prepare popcorn during movie night.
6. Minimum Equipment
The less equipment you have, the more workspace and storage you can get. So before you start hoarding all of that beautiful kitchen goodies from Ikea, pause, breathe deeply, and start editing your shopping cart.
Here’s a quick list of what you basically need:
- Glassware (plates, drinking glasses, cups, bowls) for 2 people
- Cutlery for 2 people
- 1 non stick frying pan
- 1 sauce pan with cover
- 1 2.4-L cooking pot with cover
- 2 wooden spoons
- 3 piece utensils set – cooking spoon, ladle, slotted spatula
- utensil holder
- mixing bowl
- can/bottle opener in one
- chopping board
- 1 chef’s knife and 1 paring knife
- measuring cup / measuring spoons in one
I hope some of you will find this list of ideas useful, specially those of you who are just about to begin your Ph.D. journey.
Got any more ideas? Please feel free to share them. I personally am open to suggestions 🙂