House Shopping: Evaluating the Kitchen
If you’re looking for a new home, you may not realize the importance of selecting a house with the “right” kitchen. As the “heart of the home,” kitchens are meant to encourage meal preparation. A kitchen design that doesn’t meet your needs will influence other critical decisions, like how often you eat out and your ability to save money for other priorities.
Calculate Your Potential Savings
For example, assume that you will cook two additional meals each week if you have an efficient and easy-to-use kitchen. On average, it’s estimated that a family of four (two adults and two teens) spends $35 more to dine out, compared to eating at home. Eliminating two of those meals a week will save you $70. That adds up to $3,640 per year. Keep it up for five years, and you’ll save over $18,000!
Simply making sure your house has an easy-to-use kitchen can provide a substantial financial boost. Also, cooking at home is usually a healthier option than eating out, which can protect your health, add to your quality of life, and provide additional positive impacts on your long-term finances.
So let’s talk about kitchens.
Types of Kitchens
Kitchens come in all shapes and sizes. Be sure the home you select has a kitchen that will accommodate your cooking style, your family size, and the number of simultaneous cooks in the kitchen.
Five of the most popular options include:
1. One-wall or Pullman kitchens are popular choices for studio apartments and small spaces. The kitchen may or may not add a fixed or moveable island.
2. Galley kitchens place cabinets, appliances, and workspaces along parallel lines, with a walk-through space in the middle. The kitchen may be boxed in by walls or freestanding on one or both sides. This layout is best suited for households where one person uses the kitchen.
3. L-shape kitchens have countertops intersecting at a 90-degree angle on adjoining walls. It’s an efficient layout, as long as neither “leg” is too long.
4. U-shape kitchens use the space on three walls, with or without an island in the center, depending on the size of the area. This layout allows for multiple cooks in the kitchen and several task zones.
5. Peninsula kitchens usually combine an L-shaped kitchen with an attached island to form a U-shape space that only uses two walls.
Is the Triangle Still Magical?
For years, the most efficient kitchen layout was described as one which places the three most important areas of the kitchen—the refrigerator, sink, and stove—in a “work triangle.” Each leg of the triangle was spaced 4 to 9 feet apart, with no obstacles in the middle. This layout was based on manufacturing industry motion studies from over a hundred years ago and became popular for kitchens in the 1940s.
In recent years, the triangle was replaced by “work zones,” considered more efficient because today’s kitchens often have more than three main appliances and more than one cook at a time.
Additionally, food storage is usually more centralized in or near the kitchen compared to past years, when food was often stored in canning jars placed in the basement or cured meat in a cellar. Dried fruits and vegetables may have been stored in attic spaces, and a large deep freezer was usually kept outside the kitchen.
Choosing Your Kitchen
Determining which layout works best for you depends on who cooks, when they cook, how many major and small appliances are in regular use, where you prefer to store food, and how much food you like to keep on hand.
One thing is certain: Evaluating which kitchen style and layout will work best for your family is an important consideration.
Selecting a layout that makes it easy to prepare more at-home meals will protect the family budget, which can help build an emergency fund or retirement nest-egg, or might turn your dream vacation into a reality.