how to give your kitchen a makeover for 15 bucks or less

I’m home today with my still-sick Rosie, watching the ice fall outside. I’m doing laundry and scrubbing bathrooms, hoping the sickness is making its exit. I hope so, because I’m not sure how many more times I can watch African Cats, and we’re running out of movies.

Really, truly, this post is an excuse to talk about my salt pig. That’s it, up there, dashing and handsome in blue.

Yesterday (taking a break from African Cats), I was admiring my salt pig, and thinking about the day I bought it. I was standing in my favorite kitchen store, trying to convince myself out of it. I told myself that I didn’t need a wonderful little fancy container for my salt, that the cylinder that it came in was just plenty fine for me. But luckily the better me triumphed, and 9 bucks later, I was the owner of a salt pig. I’ve never looked back. In fact, I’ve bought them for other people, too.

I only bring this all up, because I think that this particular moment of mid-January has the capability to bring up the desire for newness. And as that newness coincides with winter hibernation and depleted bank accounts after the holidays, sometimes a little special thing just does the trick. And so I’d like to bring up a few ideas for bringing new life into your kitchen, just in case you might need them.

1. Buy a salt pig.

Again with the salt pig! I don’t know why this thing has so much magic, but it does. It will transform your counter.

2. Treat your wooden utensils and cutting boards with a beeswax rubdown.

Oh, the satisfaction in this one! All wooden utensils (including rolling pins) and cutting boards will be happy for a beeswax treatment. Everything will look like new, and your kitchen will smell fantastic. You can make your own beeswax oil, or you can buy it.

3. Buy a new food-themed calendar, just for the kitchen.

This is my Wild Edibles calendar by my friend Laurie Coyle, and it inspires me every time I look at it.

4. Buy fancy sponges.

These are made by Twist, and honestly, I just love the look of them. The top is natural loofah, and somehow even though the whole thing is white, it stays pretty clean. And when you’ve used a sponge to the fullest, you can compost them!

5. Organize your spices.

Seriously. You know how good you’ll feel. Throw out random bags of red spice (cayenne? paprika? that sumac I bought forever ago because I thought it seemed interesting?), make sure everything is labeled, and not entirely ancient. Then (optional, of course), alphabetize.

6. Find a surface in your kitchen to cover in chalkboard paint.

This was a Christmas day activity for us, and it’s been a source of happiness for us all ever since. Every week, someone gets to draw the week’s monster. And I use it for shopping lists, too.

That’s my list for today… I hope it brings something new into your kitchen. I’m going back to African Cats  (the baby cheetahs!), but I’d love to hear your ideas on how to breathe new life into the kitchen in these dark days of January.






  1. says

    You and your salt pig are adorable! (mostly your love of your salt pig is adorable:-).

    I get organized in January. Last year it was compulsively organizing my spice cabinet (a life list goal of mine, don’t laugh!). This year it was finding the right labels for all my canned goods (both posts on my site). It just makes me happy to have things looking sorted (even if it doesn’t stay that way for long…).

    Love the blackboard paint. Looking for a spare surface now…

  2. Michael Schneider says

    > “that sumac I bought forever ago because I thought it seemed interesting?”

    I still have that sumac! I bought it for a Marcus Samuelsson recipe, which turned out disgusting, but I wasn’t sure whether it was the recipe or me, so I kept the sumac because I thought I might try it again some time. (Well, that and the fact that I’m—well, the nice way to say it is “thrifty”.)

  3. says

    So I don’t have a salt pig, but you are swaying me toward one. I keep my salt in a little colorful little vessel bought in Oaxaca City, Mexico so it too has a story. As for a January’s kitchen updo, hmm, I’ve been sorting through unused cookbooks and piling them for donation. We also had a stray collection of fortunes from chinese cookies around the kitchen. I found a glass jar and stored them on the bookshelf. That’s about it. Like Tea, I’m in search of a surface for chalkboard paint for some time now. Thing is, it doesn’t really work with our cabinets. Think I’m going to buy a small board instead. That and a salt pig.

  4. Marya says

    You’re going to have to have a mini makeover contest! i’m going to do framed cork, magnet and chalk boards on our kitchen wall. thanks for the inspiration!

  5. says

    I feel like we are on the same wavelength! My little family had the stomach flu over New Year’s, and I can so sympathize with the cleaning & movie-a-thons. I saw the salt pig at the top of the post & said “yes!” I had been thinking about one but you’ve motivated me to go for it.

    My recent kitchen upgrade is a piece of artwork I purchased on etsy. It is a carved wooden sperm whale just like the ones I admire when we go to Nantucket.

  6. Emma Wells Walsh says

    I was catching up on your blog and randomly came across this post…though I don’t know how…but it must have been fate because you taught me about the salt pig!!! I ordered one! So excited and I’ll let you know all about it once it arrives. Thanks again for the inspiration Alana!

  7. Valerie says

    At your urging, my kids and I gave our woodens a beeswax oil rubdown yesterday. It was the most instantly gratifying, lastingly satisfying thing to happen to me in the kitchen. My daughter (7) is gleemingly proud of the luster she gave every cutting board, salad bowl and spatula handle in the place. My son (1) waxed himself silly. Today we’ve had magically water-repellant boards to chop on, polished bowls to eat from and a new relationship — part fresh appreciation, part craftsmanly ownership — with each piece. Thank you again, Alana, for being a soul and for sharing that soul with all of us.

    • alana says

      Ah- thank you Valerie! I was just looking at my woodens over here, and thinking, “It’s time, it’s time.” Thanks for the reminder.

  8. roxann.chavez says

    I don’t know a ton about cooking but I too had purchased some sumac one day and whimsically decided to toss it on my asparagus with olive oil and salt before throwing it in the toaster oven. I don’t know why these two go together so well but it is hard for me to eat asparagus any other way now!


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