Cooking and eating at home is on the rise. In fact, over 80% of the meals consumed by Americans are home-cooked. This might surprise you, given that eating out has become so easy with widely available fast food, chain restaurants, and food delivery services. However, surveys show that Americans eat at home 80% of the time, up 5% from just ten years ago. Cost is cited as a major factor for this shift toward home cooking, with the expenses of eating out increasing at an average rate of over 2% per year.
Research shows that cooking and eating at home can benefit you in many ways:
- More nutritious meals
- Greater control for those with food allergies or sensitivities
- More accommodating for people on special diets such as gluten-free, low salt, paleo, or low carbohydrate diets
- Meals have less fat and fewer calories for those concerned about weight loss
- Less expensive
- Learn new skills and try new foods
- Express your creativity
Additionally, families that gather together around wooden dining room tables realize benefits beyond nutrition. Meal times can be bonding time, particularly for families with children. High school, middle school, and elementary school age children who eat meals together with their families show improved communication skills, greater self-esteem and confidence, lower risk of eating disorders, higher grades and test scores, and fewer behavior problems.
With all these benefits to eating at home, it is no wonder that kitchen renovations are consistently among the top two home remodeling projects undertaken by Americans every year. Not only will a kitchen remodel increase the value of your home, but it can provide a comfortable and functional space to prepare home-cooked meals. Here are ten ideas for ways to remodeling your kitchen for cooking at home:
The kitchen, like every room in the house, is getting a boost from technology. Smart appliances can customize their programming to particular situations or even your preferences. For example, intelligent ovens and pressure cookers can execute set cooking programs to produce the perfect dish every time. Similarly, smart coffee machines have temperature settings, pre-soak settings, and brew time settings to produce coffee just the way you like it.
Another feature of smart kitchens is connectivity. Many appliances, such as slow cookers, frying pans, and thermometers, can transmit data to a smart phone or tablet so that the performance of the appliance and the status of the food being cooked. This allows the home cook to monitor the doneness and quality of the dish with greater precision than ever before.
Some smart appliances can also be controlled from a mobile device, which essentially allows cooking by remote control while performing other household tasks. Additionally or alternatively, smart appliances may be activated through voice control or other smart home systems.
Smart refrigerators connect to the Internet so that they can download product information based on the bar codes on the packaging of the products stored in the refrigerator. These refrigerators use this information to monitor the groceries you have on hand and send grocery lists to your mobile phone or tablet before you run out. These smart appliances can even track expiration dates, order groceries on your behalf, and track the nutrition of what you have consumed.
Smart trash cans operate similarly. However, rather than monitoring the food you have in your refrigerator, smart trash cans monitor the packaging you throw out. Using this information, the smart trash can infers what you have consumed and can perform many of the same grocery list creation tasks as the smart refrigerators.
Restaurant Quality Appliances
While they can be more costly than home appliances, there are benefits to food service equipment for the home kitchen. They typically have a larger capacity and provide greater control over their functions. For example, catering ovens are wider than home ovens, allowing them to accommodate larger sheet pans and baking dishes.
Equipment used by the food industry, such as industrial fridge freezers, are often more efficient and durable than home appliances. This reduces the costs associated with the operation, maintenance, and replacement of your kitchen appliances.
When renovating kitchens, one goal is to make the kitchen more efficient. A more efficient kitchen is a more functional kitchen. One way to improve the efficiency of a kitchen is to place the three most important components of the kitchen — the sink, refrigerator, and stove — in a triangle. This ensures adequate counter space but minimizes the distance between them, allowing the cook to move efficiently around the kitchen.
Once you know where your sink, refrigerator, and stove will be located, lay out your cabinets based on their locations. This creates a zone around the sink, refrigerator, and stove that contain the tools, pots, pans, cutting boards, and cleaning materials needed in each zone. For example, the rack for hanging your cooking utensils needs to be near the stove rather than the sink or refrigerator. Likewise, the cutting boards likely need to be near the refrigerator rather than the sink or stove. Thinking in zones allows you to streamline the layout of our kitchen and create an efficient and functional space.
Streamlined designs also take advantage of dual-use objects, such as under-counter appliances and island bars. Streamlined designs give kitchens a cleaner look and allow the cook to better use the available space.
Modern kitchens can take advantage of advances in materials technology. Synthetic materials, such as quartz counter tops and back splashes, provide a high-tech option when renovating a kitchen. These engineered materials combine resin with natural stone to produce a counter top that looks like stone, but is resistant to heat, water, stains, abrasion, chipping, and cracking.
Quartz counter tops reduce home maintenance since they can last forever. Quartz is also less likely to harbor or transmit food-borne illnesses because they are non-porous. This means that they can be easily sanitized, killing any bacteria on the counter top surface before they can contaminate your food.
Similarly, advanced vinyl flooring improves on other synthetics like laminate flooring. Vinyl flooring is less prone to tearing, chipping, and cracking than laminate flooring. Moreover, vinyl flooring is easier to maintain than laminate since it can be cleaned with a wet mop rather than special laminate cleaners.
Cabinets also benefit from advanced materials. Rather than using hardwood, which can be costly and depletes forests, synthetic materials like thermofoil can be used. Thermofoil is a plastic that is formed around a wood core. Thermofoil coated boards used for cabinets and cabinet doors are easy to clean, water-resistant, and durable. Thermofoil cabinets can be formed in any color and provide a clean, modern look to a renovated kitchen.
Advances in cabinet design have allowed home cooks to reduce clutter. Finding what you are looking for is more difficult in a cluttered kitchen. As a result, working in a cluttered kitchen is more frustrating and stressful. De-cluttering a kitchen produces a more pleasant and efficient kitchen.
Cabinets can include pull-out drawers that allow more of the cabinet space to be accessed. Likewise, lazy susans can be installed in corner cabinets to provide better access and more efficient use. Many cabinets include built-in racks and bins to help organize the storage space and reduce the need to dig through the contents of drawers and cabinets to find what you need.
For smaller kitchens, rolling carts can provide additional storage and additional work space. These carts free up cabinets and counter tops for other uses and can be rolled under a counter when not in use.
While de-cluttering a kitchen often involves clearing counter tops, this may be impossible in smaller kitchens. If your cabinets are simply too small to hold everything, consider using suspended racks and hangers. Ceiling mounted pot racks have been used in professional kitchens for centuries because they can free up cabinet space and keep your pots and pans accessible. Similarly, utensil racks and magnetic knife strips can free up drawers and make your knife and utensil storage easier to reach while you are cooking.
Open storage for staple items, like flour, salt, sugar, and rice, can make your kitchen more efficient and free up cabinets and pantries for other items. Keeping items that you use frequently on the counter helps you to eliminate the time and effort of digging through your cabinets looking for them each time you cook. Keeping staples in open storage also helps you to monitor your stocks, so you can replenish them before you run out.
Another way to gain more work space in a smaller kitchen is to build or buy a sink cover. A covered sink is exactly what it sounds like. A cover fits into the rim around the sink, covering it so that the surface of the cover can be used as a cutting board or extra counter space. When it is configured as a cutting board, the sink cover can include trash holes to drop peelings into the garbage disposal. The cover can also include finger holes for easy removal.
The sink cover can be made from wood or plastic, such as acrylic or high density polyethylene (HDPE). Although wood cutting boards are easier on knives, plastic is generally considered to be a safer surface because it limits transmission of food-borne illnesses. The reason is that plastic can be sanitized, while wood is porous and can absorb the bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses. On the other hand, plastic boards need to be replaced more often than wood because cuts in the board can attract and retain stains, debris, and bacteria.
A new trend in cutting boards is bamboo. Bamboo is harder than wood, less porous than wood, and is naturally water resistant. This means it is easier to clean and less likely to harbor bacteria. Finally, bamboo grows extremely fast. Therefore, bamboo is a much more sustainable option than hardwood, such as maple or walnut.
Like rolling carts, islands can provide additional work space and additional storage. An island can make the kitchen more efficient and organized by providing more space for under-counter appliances and garbage cans. Moreover, islands are trendy and can bring a contemporary style to the kitchen.
Best of all, an island can act as a gathering place for the family. Single-level islands are popular because they can function simultaneously as a work space and bar seating. In this way, the family has a place where the kids can work on homework while mom and dad cook dinner. In the morning, an island can provide a place where everyone can grab a quick and nutritious breakfast. During family get-togethers, an island can play double duty as a buffet table and extra seating for guests.
Outdoor Dining Areas
A trend in home design is to add an outdoor dining area off the kitchen or dining room. This frees up space inside the home during much of the year, depending on your local climate.
Outdoor dining areas provide space for entertaining friends and family. These areas often include space for a grill and granite or quartz counter tops for food prep. These outdoor cooking and dining areas can make you look like a professional when it comes to grilling and entertaining.
Few things make cooking more difficult than bad lighting. Not only can bad lighting affect your precision, but can create downright dangerous conditions with knives and hot pots and pans.
Good lighting, unfortunately has always come at a price. Bright incandescent lights generate heat and are expensive to operate. Fluorescent lights can cause eye strain and headaches.
The U.S. government’s Energy Star program certifies energy efficient light bulbs and light fixtures. High efficiency lights, such as LEDs can illuminate your kitchen without generating heat or causing eye strain. Moreover, LEDs are inexpensive to operate. Some estimates place the cost of operating LEDs at 75% less than incandescent light bulbs. LEDs also last longer, cutting the cost of replacement by as much as 25 times.
With more concern about the environment and our impact on it, consumers have sought out more eco-friendly materials. For example, bamboo flooring is more sustainable than hardwood because it matures in five to seven years. By contrast, ash, beech, and oak can take up to 100 years to mature.
Another option for eco-friendly flooring is polished concrete. Concrete is highly sustainable since it is made from limestone, sand, gravel, and water. Polished concrete is created by applying a pore filler to the concrete and running polishing pads over the floor until it is polished to a shine. The surface of polished concrete is hardened due to the pore filler. This makes the floor resistant to stains and abrasions. The pore filler can be mixed with dyes or textures to produce a final appearance that can look like terazzo or tile.
When looking at counter top materials, as discussed above, quartz is durable and sustainable since it is not made from a slab of natural stone but from a blend of stone and resin. Counter tops can also be made from recycled materials such as reclaimed wood, Richlite (a blend of resin and recycled paper), and Alkemi (a blend of recycled metal and plastic).
The kitchen is, for many people, the room where they spend the majority of their waking time. Renovating kitchens are a good way to make your life easier and richer.