Survival of the Kitchenless

Over six weeks. 

That’s how long I lived without a kitchen.  Crazy how it dragged on and fly by at the same time.  Jeremy looked like this most of the time…

And our living room transformed into a real ‘do-everything-to-maintain-life’ room.  I did everything in here…work, eat, cook, relax, play with Will, craft….everything.  And please excuse all the clutter….remember, this post is all about keeping it real.

So with the kitchen completely sealed off (trying to keep paint fumes at bay with Frog Tape and plastic sheets), we had rolled the fridge into this space as well as our kitchen table and bench, Will’s high chair and other necessities.

I got so many people asking about how we survived during our ‘kitchen-vacation’ that I decided to tell ya my favorite tips on how to keep going sans a proper kitchen space or a range or oven.  So here goes…

  • create a pantry.  we actually stored food supplies on top of the fridge and the microwave (not pictured).  I kept it fairly simple and tried to buy variety packs of items whenever possible (like a variety box of chips so that we weren’t storing full sized chip bags but still had choices).  The pantry also made it easy to still eat at home which is a big deal because eating out = money suck.  

  • keep function the top priority – On the first day we had our trash out of direct reach of the table.  We were attempting to make things look good vs. keeping the function as easy as possible.  Big mistake.  When you are living kitchenless, function is numero uno on the priority list.  If you don’t use it, put it in storage.  If you do use it, keep it close because chaos is knocking on your living room door.  For us, that meant the trash and recycling cans needed to be directly next to our table.  The toaster also needed to be as close to that end of the table too since the outlet was there.  And yes, my son is very into stacking things…any things.   

  • Utilize the tray method – On our table lived the ‘do-everything’ tray.  It held all the necessities…everything from the salt & pepper shaker to a pair of kitchen scissors to ziploc baggies to our daily gummy vitamins.  That tray kept me from looking in every box in the house.  The most important things were in that tray…and they were neatly corraled so I could find them easily.

  • get a bucket – I have to admit, we used a lot of paper bowls and plates.  But we also still used quite a lot of ‘real’ dishes too.  So that meant that we had to wash dishes every day.  I stashed a bucket near the table to put all the dirty dishes into and then at the end of each day, I would shuffle my little bootie to the bathroom and wash them all by hand.  My little bucket kept me from constantly having dirty dishes mixed in with the clean ones and meant I only had to do the bathroom shuffle once a day vs. every meal time. 

  • get to know your microwave – last but not least, we have the how-we-cooked-at-home tip.  It’s called the microwave.  Yup.  Every day we ate at home and tried to have as many hot meals as possible.  That meant that we got to know our microwave-friendly dishes.  It’s amazing how much you can do in that single appliance…so here are our favorites:

 

 1.  Frozen Snacks – Taquitos, jumbo pretzels, even corndogs are available for really cheap and can be quickly cooked for a hot snack.

2.  Bread – Will loves bread and needs carbs at meal times…so we found that bread sticks and toast were super easy options for him.  Plus, we could make these easily enough and pretend we were at Olive Garden eating a fancy chef-made meal.

3.  Carby sidedishes – When it comes to side dishes, carbs were really easy…we could readily find macaroni, rice and faux mashed potatoes that could easily be prepared in the microwave.  We also found that real potatoes were super fast and could be served in a pinch.

4.  Frozen veggies – It was really hard to prepare fresh produce in the microwave.  We did corn on the cob quite a bit but the rest of our veggies were of the frozen variety…it was easy to find single packs that steamed in the microwave and were ready in less than five minutes.

5.  Soups – Will and I would grab a few of these ready-to-heat-and-eat soups at the grocery store and they always were a crowd pleaser.  Not only were they a great hot meal but there was practically no cleanup.

6.  Mixed sides – Green Giant makes a variety of steamed-in-the-microwave options for mixed sides.  Since there was no way for me to mix up a creamy sauce or serve items with more seasoning than salt & pepper, some of these thrown into the mix shook up the norm.

7.  Frozen meals – Marie and I are like BFF’s now.  Yup.  I would google coupons for Marie Calendar’s frozen meals and for about $5 I would have a hot dinner ready for Jeremy.  Throw in a few breadsticks and you are practically eating gourmet :)  Seriously though – these frozen dinners are really easy and can be made in a pinch…our favorites were the lasagna (Jer) and the creamy chicken alfredo (mine).

8.  Grilled meats – When it came to meats, it was really important to us to also utilize the grill.  We could make a lot in the microwave but the grill helped us feel like we had a really fresh meal.  Whenever we threw on chicken or keilbasa or brats or hamburgers, we would also make sure to grill some fresh veggies and toast some thickly sliced bread (waste not the gas!).  We never felt deprived after a grilled-to-order meal :)

We would also make sure to stock up on fruit for Will and just kept it in the fridge…and we visited the grocery store more frequently but bought smaller amounts (we did eat out a little more than usual so we didn’t want food to be going bad if we decided to hit the BBQ place vs. eating at home). 

So that’s how we did it.  We survived and it was surprisingly more easy than I hoped.  The only thing that could have made it better would have been if we were able to reach the fridge while still seated on the couch :) 

Have you lived kitchenless before?  Any tips for how you made it work?       

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    I’m all about sandwiches for their speed and lack of needing to cook anything. I found that at the grocery store you can find giant pre-made subs that make several meals. Just cut into serving portions, plop on a plate, and voila! Dinner/lunch/bedtime snack.

  2. says

    I have been living kitchen-less for about 1 year and a half now. My husband and I share a house with his sister and her husband, and we only have one “proper” kitchen (meaning it has gas, running water and cabinets). I hated her “never cleaning anything” habits and was tired of cleaning up after them, so I set up my own “kitchenette” in a hallway next to the living room. I have a fridge, an electric oven (mini size), a microwave, an electric hot plate, extremely little counter space and storage. We eat in the living room and wash the dishes in the bathroom sink. Until now it worked for me and my husband (with major amounts of daily frustration on my part) because we mostly at work during the day, but I cook much less than I would like, and keep the image of the “dream kitchen” very vivid in my mind (and on Pinterest). But I can’t wait for the sister in law to move out so that we can make ourselves a proper kitchen. The dishwasher is the first thing on my purchase list. However, this experience reassures me that in case of a natural disaster or war or other bad situations we could survive on much less than the average person.
    Love your blog, congratulations on the new baby and your beautiful family and house!

  3. says

    I lived without a fully fuctioning kitchen for nearly 5 weeks. My solution…move in with my parents! Yes it kinda sucked the life out of me, there are only so many eavenings you can watch your father sleep in the chair from 7pm onwards…Seriously, I really appreciated it and was lucky to have that option otherwise it would have been the same situation for me.

  4. Paula says

    We were kitchenless for 2 months, but because we had no children to worry about (nutritionally) we were lazy and ate out most of the time. We did a few frozen/microwave meals, but mostly ate out. The only problem is even now, 2 months later, I feel like we still eat out more often than we did pre-kitchen reno because it became such a habit – so I think you were smart to try to limit that! (Not to mention how expensive it is – but I always had the “we are spending thousands on a kitchen, what’s $20 on a meal?” attitude – don’t tell my husband all those $20s added up!)

  5. says

    From the end of June til the end of August 2011 we lived like this. I hated not having my kitchen and I was so sick of eating stuff out of boxes by the time it was over I said I wasnt cooking from boxes ever again! I’ve done a pretty good job of cooking from scratch/fresh since I got my kitchen back. I’ve posted some of the work we did on my blog.

  6. Rachel says

    Great job making it work!

    I lived kitchenless when renovating my condo (2 bdrm, 1 bath) so the only sink I could use for the week my countertops were being installed was in the one lonely bathroom. I set up a little nightstand in the bathroom where I could stack clean dishes and mugs, and used a lot of plastic silverware. Oh yah, and my coffee pot lived on the back of the toilet. Got to have the necessities readily available!

  7. says

    We went kitchenless for a week and it was a nightmare so well done surviving for so long, especially with a wee one.

    What made ours even worse was we live in a one bedroom flat, and as well as everything from our kitchen being in the livingroom we also had all the new kitchen in boxes waiting to be installed in there. It actually felt like we were living in that TV show hoarders!!

    xox

  8. Alyssa says

    You’re a trooper, I’m such a everything-has-its-place/neat freak type person that I would not have survived a day kitchenless let alone a SIX WEEKS!!!!! All in the name of love though right? , and I’m sure you love to cook up your bacon in your amazing new kitchen!

  9. MistyK says

    Ive only been kitchen less four days but with some preplanning I was able to make a few crockpot meals from pinterest.

  10. Lisa D. says

    We are currently kitchenless. The barbecue is our friend, you can cook whole chicken on a beer or pop can that is really delicious. Toaster oven works really great for frozen pizzas. The best thing i have is a vegetable steamer for the microwave, it works great to cook fresh vegetables.

  11. says

    The only kitchen reno I’ve yet to live through was when my parent’s had our kitchen renovated when I was 8 – and I remember it being quite similar to this post! What a pain (or fun adventure?). Looks like you found a way to survive! You must be glad to have your kitchen back.

  12. Keeks says

    I don’t really understand. Cooking fresh veggies is VERY easy in a microwave. Add a small amount of water in a bowl, add veggies, cover with a plate, and steam for, like, 3 minutes. Done. Also, you said that “… real potatoes were super fast and could be served in a pinch.” Ummm…I will take a microwaved baked potato over “faux mashed potatoes” any day of the week. Takes just as long and is twice as healthy.

  13. Gillian says

    Five years ago my family renovated the main level in our old house. For a year and a half the six of us lived in our upstairs consisting of two small bedrooms and a half bath. The living room, dining room, kitchen and my parents bedroom was in the room my sisters and I lived in, and we were put into our brother’s 12×12 bedroom. We used the microwave, crock pot and electric skillet for cooking. We learned to make cakes, egg bakes, pizza and a bunch of other things in these few items. We had a lot of fun coming up with different ways to cook healthy hot meals. For baths we used the hose outside or a big bucket that a few of us could fit in. While we were up there another baby came! We then had baby items all over. What an experience it was to live in such small quarters and survive the craziness of it all.

  14. Corrie Utorka says

    I love Will’s highchair, do you know where I can find one like this? (Also, Is it the same one as Clara P’s?)

  15. says

    Sounds like you guys faired pretty well while ‘kitchenless’. Good work!

    When I was younger, my parents were in the middle of having our new house built. Our old home sold faster than expected, so that left my mom and dad, and us four kids without a place to live for about 3 months. My grandparents were sweet enough to offer us their basement for the interim. My mom became the queen of cooking for six with a microwave and washing dishes in the bathroom sink. It wasn’t ideal, but she made it work. And I only have fond memories of that time. Do what you gotta do, right? :)

  16. says

    I have to say I’ve never lived kitchenless but would totally consider it so that I had an excuse to eat taquitos every day. Those things are so freakin’ delicious!!

    Shannon

  17. Mary says

    During my kitchen reno, I only was kitchen-less for the day it took to replace the countertops, if I recall right. I brushed on the paint and primer on the cabinets and walls so there was no reason to close off the room or the cabinet contents.

    It amazes me that you went that long. I would never have stood it. Not without restaurant food nightly. I would be in there painting in the middle of the night, not that you could really do that.

  18. says

    When we were kitchenless a few years ago, my mom used our electric skillet almost every night. It’s super easy for making casserole like dishes with lots of easy ingredients, including protein and veggies and carbs, all in one pan that plugs into the wall! It also makes for easy cleanup since it’s only one piece to cook in! She’s always been a fan of her electric skillet, but loved using it every night so much that it’s now become her go to wedding gift, along with a little recipe book of all recipes she used!

  19. Shamaira says

    I always say if I could have one super power it would be to have elastic limbs so I could sit on the couch and stretch my arm to reach something in the kitchen. I am so lazy.

    • says

      Oh – that is awesome. I always say that if I could have one super power it would be to be able to touch an item and change it’s molecular makeup….so I could turn a piece of trash into a candy bar. Elastic limbs would be awesome too :)
      xo – kb

  20. Caren says

    After Hurricane Sandy, a friend of my neighbor’s cooked all of our meals in the fireplace until the power came back. She told me that she went about 5 years without a kitchen so she learned to cook over the fire. She could make anything, including homemade bread!

    • says

      That’s amazing. I saw a show one time about how people with wood burning stoves had conquered cooking by moving things closer and farther away from the flame to cook it correctly. It made me wanna strap on a prarie dress and live in the olden times :)
      xo – kb

  21. Sarah says

    We bought a house a few months before our wedding and ripped out the entire kitchen on a whim so when we came home from our honeymoon we had stud walls and concrete floors! We lived off of crockpot meals and those crockpot liners to avoid washing too many dishes in the tub. There’s nothing like getting a dishdrainer for your bath tub as a one-month wedding anniversary gift!

  22. says

    I am super impressed! I think the last time I was kitchenless it involved a college dorm room and a microfridge. Sure, I had my fair share of tiny NYC apartment kitchens, but I was too busy at the time to really notice or care. Now I would feel completely lost and confused without my kitchen. I think we would probably end up just eating pb&j sandwiches and leftover pizza…..college dorm style!

  23. Heather Petersen says

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time! We start our kitchen remodeling project on January 2nd. Thanks for the great tips on how to survive the chaos.

  24. says

    We went for nearly 8 months without a functioning kitchen. We learned a LOT and we ordered in a LOT in that time… I think if we did it again we’d definitely do several things differently and I’d use my toaster oven and crockpot more, but after long days at work the last thing I felt like doing was trying to be inventive with cooking out of a toaster oven. (We didn’t have a microwave!)

  25. says

    Yes, I’ve lived without a kitchen before and it’s miserable! When I moved in my house, we redid a bunch of stuff and the kitchen was part of what we had to redo since the cabinets were a filthy disgusting mess. I had all my belongings in boxes spread between the closet in my dining room, the garage, and the kitchen. I had no oven, so I cooked using my toaster oven and microwave that were sitting on the dryer in my laundry room. I had to reach over the dryer to switch the plug when I wanted to use the other appliance. The fridge was in the dining room. It was horrible. I cooked a lot of food in my crock pot! And ate a whole lot of Stouffers lasagna cooked in the microwave. I don’t even remember how long I was without a kitchen, but it was at least a month and a half! Yuck. I never want to do that again!

  26. EJ says

    We went 26 days without a fully functioning kitchen earlier this year. We became very well acquainted with our microwave and toaster oven, which were set up on their own TV tables in the living room, next to the coffee pot. Kept lots of single serving stuff like fruit, string cheese, granola bars, and yogurt. I also snuck a Weber Genesis into our kitchen reno budget, so we were grilling up a storm. :D

  27. says

    What an extensive post, full of good advice! I really like your bucket of dishes idea, how great to not have to look at those dirty dishes all day during your renovation! Nice to see that you were able to cook at home this much, without actually having a kitchen to cook in!

  28. says

    I wish I’d had this post three years ago! I decided to paint our kitchen cabinets the weekend before our first Christmas in our house, and needless to say I hadn’t really planned ahead. We made our “pantry” on top of our dryer, our “sink” in the bathtub, and everything from our cabinets went into the guest bedroom. Not the best experience, particularly since I only allowed three days to do it all. These days, my hubby and I have a deal that if I ever suggest anything that hair-brained again, he should back me down gently. The only reason he went along with it the first time was that we were newlyweds. :-)

  29. says

    My husband and I were kitchenless for about 6 weeks once. We were re-doing the floors, and it took several steps (including the dreaded curing phase). It was also a time when we learned that my man and I work very differently. ;-) Anyway, we survived with lots of sandwiches, toaster, and microwave meals, but I also used my crockpot quite a bit. Nothing like homemade pulled pork sandwiches, or a hearty pot of chili to make being kitchenless a bit easier!

  30. says

    OMG, we are going through this exact thing right now! We’re almost 4 weeks into what I think will be a 6-month kitchen renovation (no money=DIY *everything* and taking time to shop sales and bargains). Before we tore out the kitchen, I spent a week stocking our freezers with pre-assembled, homemade food that could be fully cooked in the toaster oven: http://www.sarahsbigidea.com/2012/11/stockpiling/
    I think we might actually eat dinner at home more now than we did when we had a kitchen! It’s nice to be able to come home from work and not think about preparing food–just throw it in the toaster oven and go about your business!
    -Sarah

  31. says

    6 weeks without a kitchen is pretty rough. We’ve gone about a month and that was long enough.

    I love your doors in your living room, especially the wood work above them. Beautiful!

  32. says

    Thank you so much for posting this!! We are embarking on our kitchenless journey (we’re having a company come in and do it, but still!) starting tomorrow – eek! This is really helpful. Think of us over the next 3-4 weeks! Glad you all survived. :)

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