How Our Family of Five Zoned Our 96-Square-Foot Kitchen for Efficiency

published Feb 20, 2022
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Credit: Tyler Moore

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Our family of five lives in a 750-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bathroom railroad-style apartment in NYC. Our space is like a puzzle that is ever evolving. As our family has grown and our needs have changed, we’ve had to think strategically about how to maximize our space for efficiency, especially in our 96-square-foot kitchen!

Mealtimes and snack times are some of the most joyous times of the day for our family, but the food routines are complex. From prepping to cooking to cleaning up and putting away, mealtimes are made up of so many small tasks. Each of those tasks can be more efficient when you zone your kitchen efficiency.

What is kitchen zoning?

Kitchen zoning is the concept of organizing your kitchen items by category and storing them in the location where they are used. The benefit is a clear organizational system, and a small cooking footprint which work together to save us time in the kitchen.

My wife and I initially learned of the concept of “kitchen zoning” from Cook Smarts, a meal planning service that we have used for over four years. Their founder, Jess Dang, also publishes resources designed to help make working in the kitchen less stressful and more joyous. After reading her article on Kitchen Zoning, we were inspired to reorganize our small kitchen too. As Jess shared, “Your goal is to have someone else use your kitchen and easily find everything because your placement of items would feel so intuitive.” Before creating specific zones, the placement of things within our kitchen definitely wasn’t intuitive.

Zoning our kitchen has transformed our mealtime routines and has helped make cooking so much more efficient. Whether you have a large kitchen or a small kitchen, I encourage you to assess your current kitchen organization and consider ways to add zones to your space! Here’s a look at the kitchen zones that we established in our small kitchen for efficiency:

Prep Zone

The prep area contains all the items used to prep ingredients before starting to cook. In our kitchen, we keep our wooden cutting board out right next to the stove, along with our knives. We keep our spices, vinegars, and oils in the upper cabinet and our vegetable peeler, measuring cups, and measuring spoons in the lower drawer in this area. Everything is close together and makes it easy to prep ingredients without needing to walk around the kitchen to grab items. 

Credit: Tyler Moore

Cooking Zone

Our cooking zone is also located right next to our stove/oven, since that’s where cooking happens, of course. We keep all of our pots and pans in the lower cabinet in this area, and have a jar of tongs, wooden spoons, and spatulas on the counter. We’re able to chop ingredients in our prep zone and put them right into a pot in our cooking zone, and then stir everything together. 

Clean-Up Zone

Our clean-up zone is located right next to our sink. We have our dish soap and sponges out, as well as our drying rack. We put command hooks on the backsplash tile to hold wet rags and washcloths. The drawer in this area has kitchen towels and the lower cabinet has extra cleaning supplies. 

Credit: Tyler Moore

Putting Away Zone

The kitchen items that get put away most often are plates, bowls, glasses, and utensils, so it can be helpful to store these as close to the sink or dishwasher as possible. In our kitchen, we created extra shelving right across from the sink to hold these items. The other items that need to be put away are prepped food items or food leftovers, so we keep our containers, tin foil, plastic wrap, bag clips, and food huggers all in one area.

Credit: Tyler Moore

Kid Zone

Finally, the most important zone we have created in our kitchen is a kid zone, where we store kid-friendly plates, utensils, napkins, and cups in locations where the girls can access them independently. Before meals are served, we ask our older daughters (ages 4 and 6) to set their place at the table. They are gradually increasing their independence with this task!