7 Essential, Space-Saving Tools for Small Kitchens, According to Experts

updated May 19, 2021
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Credit: Melanie Rieders

Outfitting a tiny kitchen is no easy feat. Along with carving out plenty of room for food prep, you’re tasked with finding the space to store all of your go-to kitchen tools. “Prioritizing what lives on your countertops and in your cabinets can be a real headache,” says food blogger and small-space-savvy chef Britt Shoffner of Avid Snacker. “These zones are prime real estate in a small kitchen, so you have to be strategic about how you organize them.”

Fortunately, with a little digging and imagination, you can uncover a whole assortment of small-space-friendly kitchen staples that work just as hard as their full-sized counterparts, but only take up a fraction of the storage space. “It pays to think outside the box and creatively about items that can be used to store, display, or contain kitchen items in a tasteful, organized way that is also aesthetically pleasing,” says professional organizer and home stylist Malaika Lubega of Huza Home Concepts. “Whether it’s a multifunctional utensil, tiered organizer, or a compact version of a bigger appliance, there are so many amazing items on the market today that allow you to organize a small kitchen in a way that makes everything accessible.”

Curious to learn what kinds of gadgets can work wonders in a cramped kitchen? From collapsible measuring cups to extendable over-the-sink-drying racks and more, here are seven essential tools for small kitchens that chefs and professional organizers say will free up so much countertop and cabinet space.

Compact Knife Holder

Let’s face it: Whether you store them on your countertop or inside a drawer, cutting knives can take up a lot of valuable kitchen space. No surprise then that professional organizer Katrina Green of Badass Homelife says a wall-mounted magnetic knife holder like the Modern Innovations Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Bar, can be a game-changer in a tiny kitchen. “I’m a huge advocate for utilizing vertical space for storage, and using a magnetic knife rack frees up drawer space and/or counter space, or whichever way you usually store knives.”
If you prefer to store your knives in drawers and out of the open, Lubega recommends purchasing a tiered knife organizer, like the DrawerStore™ Compact Knife Organiser by Joseph and Joseph, to help consolidate the space. “This has solved many spatial constraints in small kitchens for my clients,” she explains.

Flattening Utensils

Nothing crowds up a cramped kitchen drawer faster than bulky measuring cups, which is why home organizer Pia Thompson of Sweet Digs suggests investing in collapsable measuring cups. “These flatten down to under an inch so they can slip right into your drawer with your other kitchen tools,” she explains. “How wonderful that you won’t have to figure out a spot for these organizing troublemakers in your small kitchen.”
The sharp edges, and the awkward shape of cheese graters can also make them difficult to store. Luckily, Thompson says foldable graters, such as the OXO Good Grips Etched Two-Fold Grater are affordable and easy-to-come by. “This wonderful invention makes it easy to slip the grater into a safe place, since both sides come apart,” she says. “And this one comes with a cover and a non-slip handle so there will be no accidents.”

Flexible Cutting Mats

For as much as people depend on cutting boards, finding space to store them in a tight kitchen can be tricky. Fortunately, Green says flexible cutting boards composed of plastic, like The Pampered Chef Small Flexible Cutting Mat Set, make storage a breeze. “All three mats fit together and barely take up any space, especially compared to a usual thick cutting board,” she explains. “I find this is also a more hygienic route cause each mat is meant for only veggies, meat/poultry, and seafood, plus it’s durable and dishwasher safe so it wins in all aspects!”
If you already own a cutting board you love but are struggling to find the right place to store it, Lubega recommends employing an over-the-cabinet door organizer, like the SimpleHouseware Over the Cabinet Door Organizer Holder to take advantage of vertical space inside your cabinets. “Over-the-cabinet-door racks are a clever way to add extra storage to an area that might otherwise go unused,” she explains.

Mini Immersion Blenders

When you’re working with limited cabinet or countertop space, finding the space to store small appliances, particularly blenders and food processors, can be difficult to say the least. For this reason, Shoffner says that a handheld blender, like the Braun MQ5025 Hand Blender, is essential in a small kitchen. “They can accomplish so much between soups, smoothies, salad dressings, and other emulsions,” she explains. “Oftentimes, they’ll come with attachments, such as a small food processor or a whisk, which is also handy for cutting down prep time.”
For a small-space-friendly food processor that takes up a fraction of the space as its full-sized counterpart, Thompson says you can’t go wrong with this $40 mini food processor by Cuisinart. “The bowl is dishwasher-safe and best of all it doesn’t take up a lot of room,” she says.

Expandable Over-the-Sink Drying Rack

Drying racks take up a lot of valuable countertop real estate, which is why Dzung Lewis, host of the YouTube channel @Honeysuckle and author of “The Honeysuckle Cookbook,” says small space dwellers should strongly consider using an expandable over-the-sink dish rack, such as the ORG Aluminum Expandable Over-the-Sink Dish Rack. “Counter space is precious in a small kitchen and I don’t like to have a stationary dish rack always holding my dishes,” she explains. “I love this expandable over the sink dish rack because as I’m doing dishes, I can put it on a towel or a mat to catch the water and then after I’m done, I just pull out the sides and let it finish drying over the sink.” 
If you aren’t into the idea of an over-the-sink rack, Thompson says a dish rack that flattens down when not in use, like the Masirs Collapsible Dish Drying Rack, can also quickly free up coveted counter space. “What’s wonderful about this drying rack is that it’s full size and you can make it literally disappear to regain much needed prep space,” she explains.

Compact Cooking Utensil Holder

To ensure your go-to cooking utensils are readily available and within arm’s reach, it often means storing them on your countertop. To save precious countertop space, Lewis recommends investing in a magnetized cooking tool set, like the Iconics Tool Set by Material, that consolidates all of your meal prep utensils into one sleek and streamlined spot. “The side of the holder is magnetic, so you can store your knives in the same box that you stash your whisk, tongs, spatula, and so on,” she explains.  
If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a high-end all-in-one cooking utensil set, no worries. Equally stylish (and compact) magnetic tool stands, such as the Joseph Joseph Nest Utensils Compact Stacking Kitchen Tool Set and the Any Kitchen Stuff Magnet Tool Bar are available for under $30. 

Collapsible Storage Containers

Bulky food storage containers can quickly crowd up a cramped kitchen cabinet, which is why Thompson recommends investing in a collapsible set, like the STOGO Collapsible Food Storage Containers, to free up storage space. “Once they are flattened, they can stack on top of each other,” she explains. “If you want to store the bottoms and tops separately (to save even more space), these are color-coded so you know which lid goes with which bottom.”
If you’re already drowning in takeout containers, no worries. Thompson has a goof proof trick for storing plastic containers that can help save cabinet space. “Nestle your food storage containers within each other and store the lids vertically,” she advises. “This can instantly free up quite a bit of space.”