Kitchen reno cuisine: How to eat when you can’t cook

By: Elaine Vitone , Contributing Writer
In: Uncategorized, Home Improvement Tips, Old House Musings

Updating your old kitchen? Heaven help you. As if the cost of new, era-appropriate flooring weren’t enough to completely floor you, six weeks’ worth of takeout will surely send your remaining savings swirling down your shiny, newly updated drain. Here are a few strategies to get you through (from someone who has so been there):

Spice of life

Above all, remember: There is no one answer to the kitchenless conundrum. I’m offering several strategies here and highly recommend alternating between them. Too many consecutive nights of any kind of food—be it defrosted, toasted, grilled, or what have you—will bore you, and you’ll be running to your stack of takeout menus before you know it.

Plan ahead

For the last several weeks before Hubby and I bought our fixer upper, I cooked up a boatload of huge, one-dish meals, portioned them out into baggies, then froze them. Our favorites were:

Hot plate special
Explore the range of your little electric range. For example: Heat a can of black beans with a dash of chili powder and some lime juice. Scoop the beans into a taco shell, and top with goat cheese, sliced radishes, and romaine lettuce. (This is one of 50 no-recipe meals from this fantastic Everyday Food magazine article. Read it and love it.)

Lovin’ the toaster oven

  • Tuna melts
  • Pita pizzas
  • Quesadillas
  • Panini
  • Mini fritatas (in greased ramekins)

Au contraire, Frigidaire
Don’t be too cool for cold cuts. Sandwiches and hummus dips are your friends.

What a Crock-Pot

  • Chilli
  • Brisket
  • Pulled Pork
  • Beef stew
  • Chicken Vegetable Soup

Cheap grills

  • Burgers and dogs
  • BBQ
  • Fish
  • Steak (okay, so maybe that’s not so cheap…)
  • Potatoes and veggies (corn on the cob is a cinch)

Supermarket superhero

A few easy meals you can pick up on your way home from work:

  • A rotissierie chicken and a bag of baby spinach
  • Caesar salad mix and some pre-cooked chicken strips
  • Anything Trader Joes. Most of their frozen foods are amenable to the microwave or the grill.
  • Anything COSTCO. They’re lousy with prepared foods and ready-to-nuke lasagna, quiche, pizza, shepherd’s pie, TV dinners, etc…

Call in a flavor
Last but not least, don’t forget to drop some hints to your friends–especially to the ones who have been through a kitchen reno themselves. You might be surprised how many would be happy to host you for a home-cooked meal in their updated kitchen. An evening like that can be a much-needed battery recharge, a way to remind yourself how totally worth it all those weeks of chaos will be in the end.

Okay, stick a fork in me. Hope y’all find this helpful, dear readers. And if you have any additional suggestions, please post them here.


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  1. 6 Responses  to “Kitchen reno cuisine: How to eat when you can’t cook”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    Elaine, planning ahead is sage advice for anyone renovating a kitchen. You can create a temporary kitchen in any room that isn’t affected by the renovation, but its helpful to stick as close as possible to a sink. A laundry room sink is best, but a bathroom will do. If you are using a remodeling contractor, ask the workmen for some help. They can move the fridge and set up some of your old cabinets for temporary storage. You can use a piece of plywood for a counter top. If the room’s floor is carpeted, cover it to avoid stains. Stock your temporary location with those pots, dishes, and flatware you’ll need as well.
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    I hear that, Gary. And when you're doing all the work yourself, the last thing you want to deal with every night is cooking. It's brutal!
  4. Gary
    Aug 29, 2011
    Redoing your kitchen is the worst, I know I resorted to eating out almost every night. The only thing I used my kitchen for was to throw away the boxes of food that I got from take out. Good thing I was doing the remodeling myself so I got exercise as well, or take out would have destroyed me!
  5. Aug 29, 2011
    Never again is right, Jayne! Once is enough.
  6. Aug 29, 2011
    Man, I wish I had read this before we redid our kitchen...I would have done it in summer instead of fall. Jayne, setting up shop outside with the grill sounds like the way to go!
  7. JAYNE
    Aug 29, 2011
    When we redid our kitchen floors, we basically moved the kitchen to the outside. We set up a picnic bench, a dorm frig on an extension cord, and ate grilled meat for 3 weeks. It was fun, but never again.......