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How to Cook in a Studio Apartment With No Kitchen

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Ah, the things we do to save money. Snagging an affordable place to live often means settling for a tiny space—such as a studio apartment with no kitchen. I’ve been there (many times). I’ve lived in a small apartment with no fridge, no cooking appliances, and sometimes no running water in Peru. I’ve lived in a 250-square-foot basement studio with no kitchen in San Francisco. And I’m currently staying in an efficiency with no kitchen, just a small mini fridge and a cooktop.

So are you doomed to eat pre-made salads and microwave ramen noodles for the rest of your days? Thankfully, no. Here are my 10 best tips for how to live in a studio apartment with no kitchen.

How to Live in a Studio Apartment With No Kitchen: 19 Ways to Survive (and Even Thrive!) Anyway

Create a dedicated space for your food and cooking area.

Even if you live in a studio apartment, you can carve out a corner that you will use as the “kitchen” area. The reason this is SO crucial is you don’t want to spill food on your couch or have crumbs on your bed. Have just ONE area for cooking/eating.

Empty food waste daily.

Because you’re in such a tiny space, food smells can easily fill your entire apartment. That means when you throw out onions into your trash can…you’re gonna smell them by that afternoon. At the end of every day, if you have food waste around, take it outside and throw it in the dumpster or trash can.

Find or create ventilation.

One of the biggest challenges to living in a small space with no kitchen is that there is often no hood or way to vent out smoke and food smells. You’ll have to create your own ventilation. Got a window near your kitchen space? Great! Open it when you cook!

Ventilation was a HUGE problem when I lived in that basement apartment in SF. I had no windows! (Well, I had TINY bathroom window that faced a building wall). So when I cooked, the room would fill with smoke. I had to cook with my front door wide open! (Which led to a garage.)

If you don’t have a window or if a window is not enough, invest in a HEPA air purifier. This is what I use in my little efficiency, and it does a great job of eliminating smoke and food odors while I’m cooking.

Enjoy more fresh, raw foods.

Yes, cooking in a studio without a kitchen is a pain. So, when you can, don’t cook at all! Lately, I’ve been enjoying fresh salads. Just buy lettuce mix, throw in your fave toppings (like avocado, cheese, tomatoes, onions, etc.) and throw on some salad dressing. I like to throw them all into a Ziploc bag and shake the ingredients up. I love eating these!

Get a microwave.

If you’re trying to figure out how to cook in a studio with no kitchen, get a microwave! It’s a MUST. With a microwave, you can cook frozen meals, heat up leftovers, and even make things from scratch.

Tap into your creativity with microwave recipes.

Speaking of making things in microwave from scratch, have you checked out my mug cake recipes? You’ll be amazed what delicious dishes you can create. I’ve even made QUICHE from scratch in a mug with a microwave.

Get a toaster oven.

To complement your microwave, get a toaster oven. A toaster oven works great at making things more crispy on the edges, like pizza (microwaves tend to make things mushy). You can also cook frozen dinners in a toaster oven; it just takes longer than a microwave. I’ve used toaster ovens to bake quiche too (can ya tell I really love quiche?).

Get a cooktop.

Now, if you want to boil something, fry an egg, or simmer a sauce, a cooktop is the way to go. You can just pop one of these babies onto a countertop or table and use it like a regular stovetop.

Try a hot pot.

When I lived in a cottage studio with no kitchen in California, I cooked almost everything in this hot pot. My favorite meals were those frozen dinner pasta meals, and I’d pour the ingredients into the hot pot with some oil and cook it that way. You can also make pasta in these.

Get an electric kettle.

I love my electric kettle. I use it only for boiling water quickly without needing to bust out a pot. But you can technically also boil noodles and other foods in it! (Just be sure to clean it out before the next use.)

Create a pantry area.

Every kitchen needs a pantry to store nonperishable food items. You can easily create one with a tall rack like this or by purchasing a freestanding cabinet like this.

Get a rice cooker and use it for more than just rice!

When I lived in Peru, I bought a rice cooker and frequently cooked meals on the floor of my bedroom in the hostel I was living in (not sure if this was technically allowed, but…). I would just add things like pasta, veggies, and sauce, and then add water and let it cook for as long as it needed to. You really can get creative with a rice cooker.

Invest in sealable storage containers.

Keep critters like roaches and mice out of your studio apartment by sealing your open food items. Invest in airtight storage containers like these to keep unwanted critters out of your food.

Set up a tall shelving/rack area for vertical storage space.

If you want to maximize that unused wall space without drilling holes in your wall, try one of these tall freestanding shelves. I have one of these in my current efficiency, and I use it as a pantry and as a place to store my water filter pitcher and some disposable cups and bowls.

Get a nice refrigerator WITH freezer compartment.

If you have room, get a full fridge. But if not, a mini fridge with a freezer compartment will do just fine as long as you do your shopping more often (since you won’t have as much space for perishable food). You can also use the top as countertop space!

Does the freezer really matter? For me, it does. When you want a quick meal, nothing beats a frozen dinner (yes, there are some good and healthy ones!). And you can heat it up in the microwave.

Opt for nonperishable alternatives.

If you get a mini fridge, you’re not going to have much room for cold foods. Opt for nonperishable alternatives instead.

When I lived in an apartment in Peru that had no fridge, instead of buying milk for my coffee, I bought powdered milk. It kept much easier, since it didn’t need refrigeration. So each morning, I just spooned some into the coffee—and voila! It tasted just fine.

Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.

This is just your basic fire safety tip: Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen. The cramped space coupled with the heat-generating items increases the chances of something accidentally catching fire.

Clean up immediately and always keep the space tidy since you don’t have much space!

Because your space is so limited in a studio apartment, you really have to put everything back in its place immediately after using it. Otherwise, things get crowded FAST, and it’s no fun living in a messy apartment.

Use disposable utensils and dishes.

Another HUGE pain of living in an apartment without a kitchen is that, often, you don’t have a kitchen sink! Sometimes, you end up having to do dishes in the bathroom, and believe me, that is no fun. Bathroom sinks are much smaller; plus, that’s where you wash your face and brush your teeth. It’s kinda unsettling have to mix food stuff with that.

So, if you can, look into getting a kitchen sink installed as part of a freestanding cabinet/countertop situation.

If you can’t do that, use disposable utensils and dishes to cut down on the cleanup.

The Top 5 Must-Haves If You Live in a Studio Apartment Without a Kitchen

Air Purifier

Cooktop

Microwave

Toaster Oven

This Amazon best seller toaster oven can fit 6 slices of bread or a 12-inch pizza! Perfect for the solo apartment dweller.

Freestanding Cabinet

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