Cooking without a kitchen: A reno survival guide

Kitchen renovations are disruptive, so it's easy to fall into a diet of instant ramen, microwavable meals and takeout. This can leave you feeling drained and likely craving more.

Having strategies for working around temporarily-limited space and equipment will help you produce tasty, nutritious meals, and hopefully, alleviate stress during the remodel. Read our tips below for a happier, healthier and more organized kitchen renovation.  

1. Bulk prep in advance

Prepare, individually portion and freeze meals in large quantities before the renovation starts. Things like lasagna, chili, stews, soups and curries are easy to scale up and have ingredients in common—so you can create different meals by making slight changes to ingredients bought in bulk (for example, adding corn, beans and spices to meat sauce makes chili).

A pot of simmering kidney beans

With all the prep work taken care of, thawed and reheated portions make for quick, easy meals.

2. Set aside essentials

Before packing away your kitchen, collect the items from this list that make sense for you:

  • Eating utensils
  • Set of reusable dishware
  • Cutting board(s)
  • Large knife
  • Paring knives (one serrated)
  • Cooking utensils (spatulas, stirring spoons, tongs, vegetable peeler)
  • Large and small metal mixing bowls
  • Pot
  • Pan
  • Measuring cup
  • Strainer
  • Small appliances (toaster oven, microwave, kettle, slow cooker, blender, cooktop)

Don't forget: you'll need a sink or basin to wash dishes, produce and your hands.

3. Stock for versatility, plan for success

The ingredients below are building blocks for a wide variety of simple, nutritious dishes—and should be considered essential for eating well during your renovation:

Pantry Salt, pepper, oil, salad vinegar, sugar, flour, soy sauce, dried 
or canned legumes, potatoes, onions, canned tomatoes, peanut butter, garlic, spices, pasta, rice or quinoa, bread, nuts
Salad Vegetables Lettuce/salad greens, kale, cucumber, tomato, cabbage, carrots
Grilling Vegetables Zucchini, long eggplants, broccoli, peppers
Dairy/Meats Milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, cold cuts or cured meat to slice yourself for sandwiches
Fruits Apples, oranges, bananas

Grocery shop once for the whole week and plan your meals around what's on sale. If you shop on the weekend, you can prepare ahead of time to make the week easier. Make a schedule of meals at the beginning of each week to help eliminate guesswork.

Someone is chopping leafy greens on a cutting board

Cover meat and vegetables with stock in your slow cooker in the morning and you'll have stew waiting for you when you get home. Make dip (hummus, bean dip, tzatziki) at the beginning of the week to supplement snacks and lunches. Cut and wash veggies for a few days' worth of salads at a time. BBQ if the weather is warm enough—marinade in resealable bags or storage containers in the fridge overnight and grill the next day.

This planning means you won't have to decide what to make for dinner, each night; you'll just have to deal with assembly.

4. Buy dinner, make salad

Takeout will happen—and that's OK—but know that restaurants often use more fat and salt in their food. Making a salad or vegetable side as an accompaniment will help stave off renovation scurvy. And, if renovation life feels too busy to fathom going grocery shopping, consider one of the many meal delivery services. Simply register online, pick meals based on your preferences and available appliances, and have pre-prepped and measured ingredients delivered to your home with clear assembly instructions included.

You'll want to keep your strength up to survive any long-term renovation project. With a little planning and prep work, you'll be able to eat like a chef … even without your chef's kitchen.

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