Wednesday, August 1, 2012

No Kitchen? No Problem!

It's been one month since I last enjoyed a fully functioning kitchen. I have to say, it hasn't been as horrific as anticipated. Maybe it's because my husband is so dedicated and has worked hard to keep the project moving, I don't know, but the end is in sight, and I couldn't be happier!

When we decided to gut the kitchen, I worried about meals during the renovation. Eating out frequently would kill our budget, not to mention my waistline, so I knew I'd have to get creative about cooking.

We have a working refrigerator in our garage, and our new house has an upstairs laundry room with a wash tub. Two problems solved right there! Cold storage and a sink. :) We set up a temporary kitchenette in the formal dining room. Until last week, a microwave took up half of our table, and I stacked my small appliances (electric skillet, crock pot, and griddler) in a laundry basket on the floor.

Our coffee maker and toaster stay on a small folding table, and I keep the handful of dishes we use there too.

One choice we made based on the lack of sink on the main floor was to use plastic silverware and paper plates. I confiscated a few cheapie shelves from my kids' rooms to store a small assortment of dry goods and the paper plates and such.

I found it challenging to cook meals for a month without the use of an oven or stove. Thank goodness the refrigerated section offers such a wide variety of ready-made foods. Here is a sample of some of the meals we enjoyed:

- Crock pot roast beef with ready-made mashed potatoes (we all decided the ready-made mashed potatoes must be full of cream and butter because they are delicious!)
- Hot dogs or brats on the grill w/baked beans heated up in the microwave
- Grilled pork chops, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, deli pasta salad
- Grilled chicken tenders marinated in Italian dressing, large green salad
- Caeser salad with breadsticks
- Lasagna from the freezer section, salad, breadsticks
- Shrimp stir-fry with ready-made rice
- Chicken rice casserole (this was the only meal we all hated!)
- Grilled cheese sandwiches, chips
- Steak or Chicken tacos using frozen, cooked meat

Using ready-made products added to my overall food budget, but it still was a quarter of the price of eating out. Plus, we saved time, and we tend to eat less portion-wise when we dine at home.

Although our kitchen isn't 100% finished (next up--installing the sink, dishwasher, and stove!), I'll be unpacking our dishes this week. I'm so excited!

Have you ever had to live without a fully functioning kitchen? How did you do it? Any tricks you care to share?

Enjoy your Wednesday!


  1. I haven't had to live without a kitchen yet, but if I ever do I'll refer to this post for tips on how to survive it!

    Congrats on the new kitchen being close to finished, Jill!

    1. Two things that have helped tremendously--1. it's summer and 2. I know the kitchen will be awesome when it's done! Summer makes it easier since I can grill and we tend to eat lighte meals anyway. :)

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  3. Had to re-post this. Typos ruined the meaning.

    I've pretty much lived my entire life without a "fully functional kitchen."

    Though my situation isn't like yours.

    To me (A shamelessly ambitious home cook) a fully functional kitchen is-

    -Having full-sized appliances.

    -A big sink with built in garbage disposal.

    TONS of counter space.

    -*Walk in Pantry (*Optional, but helpful)

    -The best stove and double ovens you can afford under 100,000 USD total.

    -A Dishwasher (Some of us can't wash 100 dishes in 30 min or less! Trust me, I've tried...Sniffles)

    -Room for more than one person to work in said kitchen.

    Did I mention more room for MORE than 1 person? This is my down-to-earth kitchen plan.

    My dream kitchen's FAR more involved than that, but these are the non-negotiable musts for any kitchen to meet my basic standards.

    As it stands, I frankly dare ANYONE who's worked in fast food to make my current dysfunctional kitchen work for them.

    This is why I get annoyed when people tell me to "Do other things that don't involve books or writing."

    Because baking and cooking IS that "something else." But I don't do it much anymore, not because I love it any less than writing, but it's HARD to share a tiny kitchen with two other people (relatives) and keep it neat and somewhat organized.

    Outside counter space and only one person can work in the kitchen at any one time, the sink is often the biggest point of frustration, because we've never gotten around to replacing the sink the one and only bathroom, so we use it for non-food related stuff, and trust me, living with that for a DECADE gets to you, and some days no amount of counting one's blessings takes the frustration away.

    So Jill, enjoy the finished kitchen for me, since I may not have the luxury of knowing what one is like for a LONG, LONG time.

    I had to stop watching HGTV because I was getting too mad jealous of other people's bigger kitchens they either gutted and rebuilt, or in their newly moved in homes.

    I know bigger isn't always better, but when you have to share living space with someone other than your dog, not having to rush through cooking projects so someone can wash their hair in the sink (Remember, the ONLY bathroom where I live has had no sink for 10 years, don't ask me why, I'm not the head of the house...), or brush their teeth, or get their own meals cooked or reheated, and that gets annoying after awhile.

    Sorry if I sounded huffy. But this is a BIG DEAL for me. I can't be neutral about it.

    1. Bigger IS always better in a kitchen! We had an apartment 10 years ago with such little storage, I had to store food in our bathroom closet. It was the worst!

      I love to cook and bake too--to me the kitchen is the most important room in the house. Our last kitchen was physically bigger, but our new one utilizes the space better and has more storage.

      I am totally feeling your pain. I would lose it!! But on the flip side, it's really cool to hear your passion for cooking. I hope you can get that dream kitchen soon! (I know what you mean about HGTV. It's hard watching sometimes!!)

    2. Thanks for understanding, Jill. The relatives I live with aren't into cooking or food like I am, so that makes this even harder.

      If we're talking full on dream kitchen gear, I'm probably the only man under 50 who dreams of having a wood-burning oven in their kitchen.

      Seriously Jill, I'm as far from the "Men who can't boil water" you can get without being in culinary school or working in someone's restaurant.

  4. Yes, whenever we would move apartments, I'd pack up the kitchen about a week ahead of moving since it was such an extensive process! We definitely did the paper plate and utensil thing, and did lots of sandwiches! :)

    Can't wait to see pics of the new kitchen!

  5. Crock pot, coffee maker, and paper kitchen needed.

    It's so exciting to have a brand new kitchen. When it's all done, it will be worth the wait!

  6. I think I'd just be really stressed out the whole time. Err....wait. That's not the advice you were looking for, is it? Hope the fixin' goes fast!

  7. I'm truly impressed at how you took charge of the situation and made choices that worked (chicken casserole aside)! ;)

    You inspire me!

  8. new Internet has been very touchy, so I'm sorry I won't be able to respond to each comment. It physically won't let me! It also won't let me upload pictures or I would be sharing before/after pics!!

    Lindsay: I never felt "moved in" until my kitchen was unpacked! I know exactly what you're talking about!

    Loree: Right! We're so blessed to have these modern conviences. :) It will be worth the wait!

    Katie: It hasn't stressed me out too bad. We were unable to take a vacation this summer, and that, combined with the non-stop remodeling/moving work and my kids being home all the time has stressed me out more than not having a kitchen. :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. Wow, great job making do, Jill. You've been eating better meals without a fully functioning kitchen than what I do with a kitchen. Haha!! :)

  10. We lived above a barber shop for awhile. We shared a make shift kitchen with the barbers. All I can say is that dealing with the hair was pretty gross. We had a microwave, sink, and a toaster oven. I used the electric skillet a lot. The newspaper office where I worked as a reporter was next door, and they could always smell what I was cooking. It was tough, but we survived and have some fun memories of being young and married.

  11. Oh this brings back memories. Our simple 1 month kitchen reno turned into a 4 month disaster. All that said, the new kitchen was fabulous, and I am so excited for you as you make ready to get it all back in order! :)


  12. Great resourcefulness on your part, Jill. My husband and I move all the time, being in the Army. At first, we used to get takeout, but that was fattening and expensive. This time around, I plan on toting my crockpot, several pots and pans, coffeemaker, and disposable eating utensils. Your menu gave me some ideas. Thanks!


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