5 useful kitchen tips for solo living

1. Clean as you go

kitchen dirty coffee cups
Photo by Izzie R on Unsplash

I’m fairly certain that I have the same issue as everyone else, whereby I cook up a storm – think chicken pot pie with a side of crispy cheesy garlic bread, and all the works. But what I’m left with is, as they say, worse than the storm itself; a mountain-high pile of dirty dishes in the sink, a greasy air-fryer, and a stain-filled stovetop, all of which are simply yelling, “THIS IS TOO MUCH HARD WORK!”

So believe me when I say that I. feel. you. Doing the dishes has and never will be on my list of “chores I’m surprisingly okay with”.

dirty dishes
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Recently, though, I adopted the age-old “clean as you go” technique, and I have to admit that glancing over at the empty kitchen sink, just as I’m about to finish cooking my three-course dinner, is beyond satisfying.

My tip for you? Instead of playing Farmville on your phone, while waiting for your bechamel to thicken, use that 1-minute window to wash some spoons, and perhaps even a small bowl.

Keep making use of short waiting times like this, and before you know it, the dishes are all done.

I guess this technique is age-old for a reason.

2. Kitchen-friendly microfibre towels are everything!

kitchen cleaning microfibre towel

If you’re living on your own and currently reading some 21-year-old chick’s blog for tips on solo living, chances are you’re not a wealthy middle-aged man with a spacious bachelor pad. No, it’s more likely that you’re situated in a tiny studio or one-bedroom apartment, like myself.

And in that case, you’d probably want to reserve whatever little countertop space you have for the actual cooking, instead of a bulky drying dish rack like this.

kitchen dish drying rack
Photo by Andre A. Xavier on Unsplash

What I have found really handy for this are microfibre towels. Apart from being extremely absorbent (apparently, it can hold up to seven times its own weight in water), they are also relatively inexpensive and are easy to find.

Initially, I was rather hesitant to get on board with this as it meant adding an extra step to my dishwashing regime (which, as we recall, I am not too fond of). But once I tried it out, I realised that with these towels, giving wet dishes a solid wipe-down doesn’t take that much time or effort, and it definitely helps with efficiency in a small kitchen.

I got a pack of 6 at Big W for just $4.25. Not the prettiest colours, I’m aware, but it certainly beats having an, otherwise necessary, chunk of clutter on my countertop.

Shoutout to my friend Kenneth (AKA Eustace) for giving me this idea.

3. Boxes, boxes, boxes.

Or more specifically, storage containers, storage containers, storage containers. (They just don’t have the same ring to it, do they?)

kitchen pantry storage
Photo by Mega Stolberg on Unsplash

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking that you could get away with “neatly” dumping everything behind the closed doors of your kitchen cabinets.

Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well... yeah. But what happens when your baking soda is out of sight, out of mind just as you're about to bake chocolate chip cookies, resulting in a redundant last-minute trip to Woolies and an extra bottle of leavener?

Oh? “Give it to your neighbour?” Sounds like a good idea. But you and I both know that this won’t be a one-off incident, and is bound to happen again and again and again… and again. So why not just save yourself some trouble by organising your kitchen with storage containers?

Besides, they are highly versatile – you can use them in the fridge to keep the meats in one place, or in the cupboard for marinades and sauces. Quite frankly, the list goes on, but you get the idea.

Tip: Storage containers are seemingly inexpensive, ranging from $2.50 to $5, but it adds up, I get it. If you’re intimidated by the grand total, don’t be afraid to start out with just 2-3 containers. You can always purchase more if necessary; they’re not going anywhere.

4. Pantry lists are your best friend for kitchen organisation.

Make it a point to keep stock of whatever you have in your kitchen or pantry.

kitchen organise pantry list
Photo by Allie on Unsplash

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten if I’ve run out of a certain pasta shell and had to climb up on a stool to check, fail to find it, get down, and then repeat twice because my memory is akin to that of a goldfish.

Now, I have a list of everything that’s up in my cabinets, and trust me, it makes things so much easier when deciding what to cook for lunch; I don’t have to wreck my brain wondering if I’ve got any leftover teriyaki marinade in that top shelf, because it’s all right there!

5. Freeze!

kitchen freezer storage times
Photo by Dev Benjamin on Unsplash

This might seem like straight-up common sense to you lot, but I never gave it a thought to freeze my vegetables if I wind up not getting the chance to use them, until recently. Don’t be like Marie. Don’t forget about your trusty freezer.

Here’s an overview of common food items and their storage times.

Meat3-4 days6-9 months
Bacon7 days1 month
Fish2-3 days6 months
Shrimp3-4 days12 months
Vegetables3-4 days8 months
Bread5-6 days3 months
Cookie Dough3 days3 months
Butter3 months6-9 months
Leftovers3-4 days2-3 months
*This is merely a rough cheat sheet. For a more elaborate guide, click here.

I have to say, this trick comes in handy especially when you’re making a batch of cookie dough that yields 16 large cookies, but you are physically incapable of stomaching them all within a few days. And you don’t know your neighbours well enough to randomly knock on their door and offer them cookies without arousing suspicion.