22 October 2012

31 Days - Maximizing the kitchen

Matt has been applying for scores of jobs as of late, primarily judicial clerkships, for which he needs to apply now in order to get one for next summer. When he logs online and starts browsing openings, he'll shout out the locations for my approval.
"Is that a yes or no?"
As the weeks go by, my preferences get less and less imposing.
"It's only for a year, right?"
"I guess why don't you apply."
No offense, Atlanta, but scorching hot weather isn't my cup of tea.
Sometimes Matt comes up with something more exotic.
"Hell, yes!"
Moving 1300 miles south will probably look easy compared to moving to an island, where it is hot and humid to boot, but it would be an unbelievable opportunity.
Sometimes I'll hop online and price-point a few apartments, see if we could maybe rent a house next time, calculate how long the drive would be to visit family. I don't mention the interviews because I don't want to have to make a point of announcing when he doesn't get a job. But when he gets one, then we'll start celebrating.

* * * * *

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and have decided to try my hand at 31 Days of Frugal Living.

In the meantime, I've been living frugally, over here. I made a second batch of homemade bread the other day. I tweaked things a bit and this time the bread came out lighter and fluffier than it did the first time. I also found some more recipe cards in the Michael's clearance bin. This time I found three packs of cards for $.01 a piece. That's right, one penny for 18 recipe cards. Times three. I told Matt that it was the deal of the century, but he thought I was blowing things a bit out of proportion.

One of my next adventures in living frugally was to re-organize my kitchen. In my experience, whenever I move somewhere, I put all our things away in places I think they should go, but after a few months of living, I realize that was an incredibly inconvenient place to put the serving bowls, or winter blankets, or what-have-you, so I end up doing some re-organizing a few months later. Most of my apartment is fine, but the kitchen needed some work. It is a pretty small kitchen, a slightly-wider than typical, apartment style galley. In order to maximize my frugality, I need to have storage space for giant bags of flour, and I need to know what I have so I don't buy things we don't need.

I don't mind small as long as it is designed smartly, but this kitchen is not very smart. When standing in the doorway to the kitchen, this is the wall to the right:

Do you know those tiny cupboards you probably have above your fridge? They're up really high, containing two shelves so close together you can barely fit a jar on them? Those are my cabinets, but all the way across one wall. I can't really reach them without getting a step ladder, so I only put things on the very edge of the shelf:

I'll put identical items behind one another, but for the most part, I have a lot of lost space. As I've mentioned before, we are not putting any money into this place, including buying baskets or mini-shelves that would make this kitchen more useful, since we're only living here for one year. I've lived in enough places to know that what works in one home may not work in another, and I'm not willing to spend money on a place I'm only living in for one year. So I have to get creative.

Across from the doorway is the door to the stairwell that leads to the back alley and a large window. I keep the trashcan and the cat food beneath the window, but other than that, the back wall is not useful for much. This is a picture of the left side of the kitchen, although I took it with my back to the back door instead:

Normal cabinets (although the space between shelves is still very narrow), more counter-space, and one cheap dishwasher that has a vendetta against me having clean dishes. I was super stoked to have an official microwave cubbie, which frees up my counter space dramatically.

A shelf in the dining room is the only way I can store "tall" objects upright, including spaghetti, oatmeal, and canola oil:

As a pan of veggies and lentils was boiling on the stove this weekend (Abigail's diet, not mine), I broke out the step ladder and started reorganizing. I found a way to get the cereal in the kitchen, I finished off a thing of protein powder and filled it with beans so that I could stop spilling the opened bag in the cabinet. I re-filled the spices on my spice rack and tossed out some old jars. This is the method I use for spices that aren't on the spice rack or are used to fill up those jars:

An old shoe box holds them all nicely and makes it easier to grab one when their way up high.

I finished in about 40 minutes (the time it took the lentils to boil), which included washing a sink full of dishes. My kitchen is more efficient and, when I put it to the test last night making bread, easier to navigate.

Some of the things I've noticed after 22 days of frugal living include fewer trips to the grocery store and smaller bills at the check out. I can't wait to see what making my own crackers, pudding, and soups will do for my grocery bill. I am also freer in the kitchen. For example, if I want to make veggie calzones but don't have pizza dough, tacos but don't have tortillas, or french onion soup but doing have dipping bread, I just make it. I don't have to run to the grocery store at the last minute, I don't have to put it off for a few days until I go grocery shopping, I just make it. And one thing I wasn't expecting was to have less trash. Maybe because I have less packaging?

I think this journey helped me discover and nurture the inner miser I didn't know existed. I enjoy the challenge of making an inexpensive radiator cover or creating a bath caddy to hold Abigail's toys without buying a thing. I like that my desire to shop is dimming while my desire to pay off debt is growing. I like seeing the life I profess I want and the life I'm living grow closer and closer. It feels very amazing when I find myself willingly doing without something I used to think I couldn't live without.

I largely use this website for recipes and this website for recipes, household products, and to learn about things. The further down this rabbit hole I go, the deeper I see the tunnels going. Like making my own crackers. Or foaming hand soap. I never knew it was possible. I never stood in a grocery store before and wondered if I could do it myself. I could easily keep this 31 Days adventure going for an additional month and still have new ideas to try. Today I am going to attempt making my own liquid hand soap. And next month, I'm heading out to the hardware store to pick up some small pots, a bag of dirt, and a few seed packets: mint and oregano to start. So many new ideas; In fact, I haven't even really ventured into homemade cleaning products yet because I haven't run out of my store bought versions!

I think the last day of this campaign will be a photo-montage of frugal things I've tried in the last 31 Days.


Matt said...

I love how much better all the homemade food tasts too! Double Win.

Sage Grayson said...

We moved across the country from Chicago to San Francisco last year for my husband's job. I love it! (And you're right about Atlanta--too hot!)

The cabinets in my kitchen are too high for me to reach too. :(