25 of the Best Ways to Upgrade Your Kitchen for $5 or Less

published Mar 8, 2020
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Fact: You don’t need to spend a small fortune making your kitchen better. To prove it, we’ve rounded up 25 of our smartest ideas for a more pleasing, more functional kitchen — all for $5 or less. You could even do every single thing on this list and still spend less than $125.

Credit: Sylvie Li

1. Hang some art.

We know what you’re thinking! Art and custom framing is expensive! That’s true, but there are ways around both issues. First, round up stuff you already have (think: recipe cards, menus, napkins, magazine covers, etc.!) and then either find frames for everything at the dollar store or just try one of these smart ways to hang stuff without frames.

2. Add washi tape to the edges of your shelves.

Depending on how many cabinets you have, a single roll of washi tape should be more than enough to cover the side edge of your shelves. It takes just minutes to put on (even for the less crafty among us) and adds a nice pop of color every time you open up your cabinet doors.

3. Bring in a plant.

A little greenery can go a long way. Hit up your local nursery or hardware store and you can certainly find a little guy for just $5 or less. Here’s a list of some plants that’ll do well in a kitchen.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Pick up some grocery store flowers.

It has been proven that flowers reduce stress and encourage us to keep cleaner, neater spaces. Pick up a bouquet at the grocery store and follow these tips to arrange the stems so that they look way more expensive.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

5. Add a table lamp from another room.

Table lamps are probably a misnomer — because they look great on counters too! Steal one from another room and set it up on your counter.

6. Hang a basket for a makeshift shelf.

Pick out a basket at the dollar store (or steal one that you’re not using from another room) and use nails or hooks to attach it to the wall. (Use anchors if necessary!) Instant storage that’s pretty and functional!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

7. Pull out your cake stand.

You know that cake stand you have and rarely use? Pull it out! Style it up with your salt, pepper, and other frequently used ingredients and you’ll have everything you need within reach. Plus, it looks more purposeful this way versus if you just lined it all up against the wall.

Credit: Faith Durand

8. And a serving tray.

This serving tray idea works for the same reason as the cake stand idea. Consider putting one next to your sink (with dish-washing gear!) and another next to your stove.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

9. Put a cheap cutting board under your small appliances.

Tired of dealing with appliances that skip and hop along your counters every time you need to pull them out to use? Slip a cheap plastic cutting board underneath and they’ll slide smoothly along your counters from now on.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

10. Label the contents in your pantry and on your shelves.

Labels will not only make your shelves look prettier, they’ll also make things easier to find. Pick up chalkboard labels like the ones above from your local craft store, or just get a set of glass pens (less than $5 each!) and write directly on your jars.

11. Turn a vase into a utensil crock.

Got any extra vases sitting around? (Even after you’ve treated yourself to flowers?) Put one to use holding your utensils. If you have a few vases, sort like tools with like. All lined up, the crock(s) will add visual interest to your kitchen and help you be a more efficient cook. No more digging around in a drawer while your mushrooms burn!

Credit: Ana Kamin

12. Paint something small.

Most hardware stores sell those jars of sample paint (usually for just $4) and that’s more than enough paint to get through a little DIY project. Paint your knife block, your cabinet hardware, the back of some shelves, etc. Just do a little something to add a pop in your kitchen.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

13. Affix a Command Hook to the side of your trash can.

If you’ve ever had a trash bag fall into your can, you know how annoying it can be! This smart hack calls for adding an upside-down Command Hook to the side of your basic trash can and looping the drawstring around the hook. No, it won’t make your kitchen look better, but it’ll surely upgrade your trash can!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

14. Find a use for empty food boxes.

When you buy certain foods (cereal, crackers, etc.!), you get organizers for free! Don’t be so fast to toss those boxes into the recycling. Instead, you can cut them down to hold your food storage container lids or to organize a junk drawer.

15. Simmer some lemons.

It’s probably too cold to leave your windows open for an extended period of time right now. And after being closed up these last few months, things are probably a little stale. Try simmering lemon wedges in some water (they can be ones you’ve already juiced for dinner!) to freshen up the room.

Credit: Lauren Masur

16. Pick up one of these $4 pot lid organizers.

Staff Writer Lauren Masur bought one of these pot lid organizers a few months ago and won’t stop talking about how great it is. If you’re tired of dealing with lid avalanches, this is the best budget-friendly bet.

Credit: Richard Seymour/Getty Images

17. Get your cords under control.

Between your stand mixer, coffee maker, Instant Pot, and all those other small appliances, you probably have lots of cords junking up your kitchen. Get them under control with some of these cord bundlers.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

18. DIY a lazy Susan.

While we have a favorite lazy Susan (these are things only adults say), it is $10 which is more than the $5 limit. Instead, just take two cake pans and some marbles to make a DIY lazy Susan on the cheap.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

19. Turn a cooling rack and a basket into an organizer for your container lids.

Grab a cooling rack and a basket that you already have on hand. Put the cooling rack on top of your basket and you’ve got a filing system for your container lids. Honestly, if we haven’t helped you figure out how to organize your lids by now, we’re doing something wrong!

20. Go to IKEA to stock up on this classic dish towel.

A pretty dish towel can help transform a room, but you also want it to be inexpensive and useful. That brings us to these classic towels, which are just 79 cents each! You can get five and still have money left over for a hot dog.

21. Set out a bowl of fruit.

A bowl of fruit not only looks nice on the counter, but it also might actually encourage you to eat, say, an apple instead of a handful of chips.

22. Wipe down your windows.

Chances are, it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned your windows and all that dirt and grime is blocking the sunlight from getting in. Clean your windows and you’ll be amazed by how much brighter your kitchen looks.

23. Clear off your refrigerator.

A refrigerator door that’s loaded up with photos and papers can make your space look more cluttered than it really is. Go through and pull off the non-essentials. You might even find a few things worth framing (see tip #1!).

24. Hang some mugs.

Order some cup hooks and screw them into the bottom of a shelf or your upper cabinets. This way, you can display your favorite mugs and free up some cabinet space.

25. Bring in some knickknacks you love.

Have a few treasures from your recent vacation? Find a place to display them in your kitchen! While we don’t want you to go overboard, you can certainly bring in a couple of things and put them some place that’s out of the way. Steal some small trinkets from other rooms, because this is the room you probably spend the most time in anyway.

How many of these will you try this weekend?

Credit: Kitchn