The Minimalist Kitchen: Book Review

I picked up a flashy cookbook by Melissa Coleman (The Faux Martha) from my library. On every other page was a gorgeous photo of some easy-to-make wholesome dish. When I brought it home my husband was so excited about the recipes that he bookmarked almost every single page.

Minimalism, and minimalism in the kitchen, is highly appealing. Take these comments from the inset: minimalism is about “making life simpler” (Martha Collison, Twist), it’s about taking a “modern perspective” on food (Lindsay Ostron, Pinch of Yum), it’s about making “homemade meals without sacrificing quality time with your family” (Kate Arends, Wit & Delight). Simple, modern, and maximizing precious time—this is what we want. How does minimalism fulfill these needs?

A Modern Take on Food

Are canned meals and frozen dinners becoming a thing of the past? Millenials are willing to stretch their budgets to eat well—but still eat conveniently.

Millennials, that is, the generation that is 18-34, are setting new trends in the way we eat. For one, millennial parents feel more obliged than previous generations to consume organic. For the US “52% of those buying organic are millennials, which compares with 35% of Generation X parents and 14% of Baby Boomer parents” (Food Business News). Millennials want to have good food, not necessarily low-fat, but sustainably sourced and preferably local. This article in the CBC notes how millennials are willing to spend outrageous amounts of money on food in general, not just organic.

Along with eating more “green” in the full-sense of the term (eating with an awareness of how you are affecting the environment), I believe there is also an intimate connection between eating well and feeling you have “made it” in life. But in the move from zero to one child, or from one to two children, a young millennial couple may feel compromised. How can they avoid compromising their “good” eating habits and remain in budget?

convenience without compromise

There are a couple food trends today that I’ve been noticing among families: fresh dinner kits that you buy and then assemble and cook yourself, and apps that meal plan for you (including telling you what to pick up at the grocery store)! All of these convenience options have one thing in common: they allow people to save time without compromising lifestyle.

Millennials are the drivers behind … grocery delivery services, food trucks, online ordering and the growth of heat-and-eat options at grocery stores.
— 9 ways millennials are changing the way we eat, The Washington Post


Option 2: Minimalism. That cookbook that I borrowed from the library had 90 holds on it. I returned it three days late so I could write this post and accrued $2/day because it’s so popular. Minimalism in the kitchen is appealing right now because it promises to give you back your freedom in the kitchen: it says you can do more when you have less.

How Minimalism can give us back our freedom in the Kitchen

One of Melissa’s main points that she illustrates in her introduction is that to reduce feeling overwhelmed in the kitchen you have to set parameters. She uses the analogy of bringing your kid to a big park with lots of structures. The child might feel overwhelmed at first, but place the child in a sandbox with a couple of toys and you’ll see that he has fun because he has fewer options. So in the kitchen, limit the amount of things you own, recipes you use, things you buy, and you will have a less overwhelming kitchen. Simpler = less stress.

Taking inspiration from Melissa, here are the problem areas of cooking that I’ve identified need parameters:

1.       Grocery shopping

2.       Food budgeting

3.       Meal Planning

4.       Time cooking and preparing

5.       Tidying up

6.       Organizing


Melissa’s recommendations:

1.       Grocery shopping: Have monthly and weekly shopping lists. Monthly for the staples, and weekly for things like fresh fruits and vegetables that you need for recipes that week. (You can see a list of all the staples she buys monthly and all the weekly items she might purchase in her cookbook). 

2.       Food budgeting: Becoming aware of our emotions when we buy helps acknowledge potential motives for overbuying. Good shopping habits have parameters such as the number of cereal boxes you keep in your cupboard and which type of rice you like to stock up on.

3.       Meal Planning: Make a meal plan at the beginning of the week. (This part is time consuming! So I think this is also the appeal of so many apps that do this work for us. I hope to cover this topic in a later blog post.)

4.       Time cooking and preparing: Consider sorting your recipes into weekday and weekend options, or in other words, sorting recipes according to the amount of time it takes to make them.

5.       Tidying up: Add tidying up the kitchen to your calendar, so that it actually gets done.

6.       Organizing: Having a system helps everyone in the family contribute to a tidy kitchen. Melissa provides a list and description of each tool she uses in the kitchen. I think the idea of this helpful; there should be a reason why we have six knives in our knife block (Melissa only has three). If we don’t use it, we should lose it even if it “might” come in handy some day.

my take on minimalism in the kitchen

I love the idea of parameters in the kitchen, especially if they can be agreed upon by all members of the family so everyone is on the same page. My mom, for example, hates her salad spinner, but still keeps it (mind you, outside in the shed) because she knows I use it when I come to visit.

We all get into routines. As much as Gerhard and I were both so excited about all the new recipes, we have only tried a few of them. It takes time (and energy) to try new things. And usually we fall back into our old habits. But I do like some new flavours I’ve discovered, and some new simple recipe ideas (like bacon wraps for the weekend).

Simple means different things for different families. Melissa has one daughter who is three. I have two boys (and a third on the way!) under three. My simple means less ingredients, so I struggled to understand how some of the recipes were “minimalist” as far as ingredients go. That being said, I took out some new ideas and tried a few new tasty things. Tonight we are trying out her refried bean recipe. Everything goes into the blender, which sounds simpler than heating and mashing in a pan.

Do you have any minimalist kitchen ideas you’d like to share?

If you liked this article, check out:

My article Mr. Messy and Mrs Clean: A Love Story

More tips on keeping life simple at