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Without appliances!

Hello all I am seeking your advice!
Two days ago, my boyfriend and I moved into a new apartment. It's larger, nicer, and much cheaper than our former apartment (not to mention without black mold!), but there is a catch: we have no refrigerator and we have no stove! At the time being, we have a microwave, a crockpot, and a George Foreman grill. It's cold enough outside for us to keep our cold groceries out on the back step without worrying too much about spoilage.
Needless to say, we need to save up for these appliances (or somehow find them for free? HA!), but that will take some time. Until then, what do you guys suggest for good food to eat without having to resort to preservative-filled, shelf-stable, instant, microwavable. . . gross.
I'm definitely up for getting creative with the appliances I have on hand. Today I am making miso-honey chicken with grilled sweet potato slices on the George Foreman grill.

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  1. Reading this was interesting because you actually have a few good cooking mediums but the one that gives me trouble is the crock pot . . . . mostly because it is great for soups, stews, beans, slow cook things that you could actually have cooking all day long (without having to worry about refrigeration) but I always make a large batch when I do that and that would leave you with leftovers that WOULD need to be refrigeration. . . . .

    Sounds like you will be doing a lot of day to day shopping until you can at least get a small "college dorm" type refrigerator at least for leftovers.

    The george foreman grill is great for panini type sandwiches and the crockpot for soups. One of my favorite combinations.

    George Forman for grilled veggies and you could still use the crockpot for braised meats (just don't make a lot of leftovers) -

    or rice in the crockpot (never tried it but I bet it would work) and veggies and chicken for a quasi stir fry on the george forman

    I bet you could even do a calzone in the george forman if you wanted to get a little creative and pizza sauce in the crockpot.

    1. Wow, that is challenging. I recommend scouring Craigslist for appliances as there are often freebies if you don't mind ugly colors/older models.

      Thimes' suggestions are great - you can really do alot with a Foreman. Quesadillas are easy. For breakfast, toast works great. You can also do overnight oatmeal in the crockpot.

      1. there are usually free appliances on freecycle.

        1 Reply
        1. re: magiesmom

          freecycle or craigslist; find a temporary refrigerator that works or switch to camping mode and fill the ice chest with ice every day. Do you have a camp stove or outdoor grill? electric skillet? You can boil water and steam vegetables in the microwave - and, poach fish fillets.
          Check the crock pot threads for baking breads and cakes.
          With your miso-honey chicken with grilled sweet potato slices on the GF grill, you're doing fine.
          Meet your neighbors... maybe one will 'share' refrigerator space with you?

        2. I second the motion for checking out freecycle. To me the cooking isn't the issue, its the refrigeration. Or second hand perhaps, although those seem to be electricity hogs. You might find a bar fridge for cheap, too. Just SOMETHING to keep your food safe...
          As for cooking, well, you can do almost anything in a crockpot this day and age. That plus the grill means you'll be in for a ton of soups and stews and cooked chicken I think! My friend makes Paula Deen's Mac and Cheese in her crockpot and swears by the technique. She particularly loves that crusty semiburned cheese crust she gets on the bottom of the crockpot. The other thing you could do is buy a 2 burner coil portable cooktop. They cost around 20 dollars, and would give you some more options. :)

          1. You might consider a single-burner countertop induction unit. There are several relatively inexpensive ($60-$80) brands available. Even one of those would increase your ability to cook different foods. I have a ceramic cooktop, but I still use the induction burner more than the cooktop. You'll likely find many uses for it even after you buy your stove or cooktop.

            1. Even though I have a full kitchen, I have a $30 Presto "multi-cooker" and I use it regularly for steaming, deep-frying, boiling...


              I also take it with me on vacations.

              If you can afford the $30, I'd recommend it...

              1. Freecycle was my first thought. The board in my area will occasionally have postings offering free appliances from people who are moving or upgrading, but you can also post requests for items.

                1. My cooktop was doa, and while waiting for a new one to be installed, I bought an electric fry pan. It was cheaper than the induction burner. I think there is even a recipe on the Chow part of this website as to how to make spaghetti in it. I used it extensively to stir fry veggies, and fry fish.
                  Trader Joe's has a lot of great foods to prepare in a microwave or in an electric fry pan. We like the Indian food that comes in pouches. Just empty the contents of the pouch in a bowl, cover, and heat up in the microwave. They have a lot of frozen meals you can saute, like Mandarin chicken. Until you get a fridge, you will need to shop more often, and not have leftovers.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: CookieLee

                    I second looking into a electric skillet. Target/Walmart carry them cheaply (I think the most recent was under $15). I stirfry, fry, pancakes, grilled cheese, poach fish, scramble eggs, reduce sauces/stocks, hamburgers, sausage, rice, etc. I have cooked pasta in it also; great for searing meats/sauteing veg before tossing into crockpot.

                    Hope you have a solid cooler/ice chest. We've lived similarly before a fridge purchase but temp control is always a question mark with these.

                  2. While I'm sure all these equipment recommendations are well-intentioned and appreciated, I think the question was about what dishes to make with the gear on hand without resorting to prepared and shelf-stable and packaged stuff. The choices are virtually endless and the GF grill and crockpot are all you need.

                    There are many crockpot recipes on the web and all you have to do is prep the night before if both of you work all day. Get everything in the crockpot and leave the insert out on the porch overnight if it really is cold enough (below 40) outside. In the morning as you leave for work, just put the insert in the unit and turn it on low. When you get home, dinner awaits. Pot Roast, Chicken, chili, Stews, Cassoulet (a favorite of mine) anything you like. On other days the GF grill will be all you need -- grilled meats and veg, or use the Microwave to steam veg. You don't really need any more hardware until you can afford a proper stove. It's only limited by your creativity. Each day on the way home from work, pick up the next night's dinner to prep ahead. Alton Brown has an overnight crockpot oatmeal you can do for breakfast on the weekends, and you can also use the grill for elaborate weekend brunches (pancakes, omelets, french toast, etc -- I think.. it has flat plates as well, doesn't it?). You can use the crockpot as a dry-roaster as well. Stews, soups, the only limit is your imagination. Hard to be more specific without knowing what you like.

                    If you just Google Crock Pot or Slow Cooker or George Foreman Grill you'll get more ideas than you know what to do with.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: acgold7

                      True, but the part of the post that concerns me is the "its cool enough to put consumables on the back porch" idea...sometimes you can do alot more with a few pieces of equipment that are quite versatile, and I think this is all the posters were saying. The OP talked about getting appliances for free, some suggestions were made. And recipes can be googled, but sometimes it takes another POV to say HEY I can expand what I eat and eat much healthier if I have 20 bucks for X...
                      All advice I think was meant with a good intent?

                    2. You can make a decent scrambled egg in the microwave. Just beat a couple eggs in a bowl or mug, microwave on medium-power for a min, then add some shredded cheese and/or ham, beat again, and microwave in 30 sec bursts until done to your liking.

                      I've also made (and this pains me to admit) chicken wings in the microwave. It's been ages, but I think it took on the order of 8-10 mins for about 8 wings? I tossed them first in a couple TBS of Thai-style sweet chili sauce, a bit of soy sauce, a drizzle of sesame oil. (You could use just about any flavouring you want.) Then just nuked them (cover the bowl/plate because it will splatter). Drain off as much grease as you can, then "enjoy". (No, really, I did think it tasted ok for the amount of effort involved, it's just the utter low-browness of it.) Alternatively, my mom makes wings on the George Foreman and she says it works great. (That's probably a way better idea, but I don't have a grill.)

                      You can find "fresh" asian style noodles pretty easily at the bigger grocery stores. Things like udon or ramen or thin yellow egg noodles. Heat up some water really hot in the microwave, add noodles, heat for another few minutes until done. Drain, then add to some hot chicken broth, add some baby spinach to wilt in the hot liquid, garnish with some sliced meat that you've grilled on the George Forman. Add an egg if you're feeling hungry -- it looks like you can hard boil eggs in a slow cooker (http://thepauperedchef.com/2008/04/ha...), or poach one in the microwave (http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandfor...).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: CuriousCat

                        Scrambled egg in the MW is so easy, watch it carefully and do not let it overcook or it will be a rubbery mass. MW on medium, in short spurts, and stir it in between since the egg will cook on the outer edge of the bowl first - less than one minute.
                        I've made a quicker-than-quick chili in the MW with a package of Farmer John chorizo, chopped onion, chicken broth, a bag of frozen black-eyed peas - garnish with grated cheese and olives. To extend it and make it just a tad healthier, add soy chorizo to the mix. We ate the leftovers mixed into mac 'n cheese.
                        Poaching fillets of fish: in glass pie plate, place fillets pointing towards the center with the thicker portions on the outer edge of the pie plate, cover with plastic wrap, poke a hole or two in the plastic for a steam vent; season with salt and pepper, lemon juice, fresh chopped parsley, ; ; MW time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish.
                        Now that you've added a rice cooker, you can add chopped meats and veggies to to the rice as it's cooking.
                        Serve pickles with your steamed veggies and rice to bump up the flavor quotient: my mom slices okra on the diagonal and marinates in soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, and chili flakes - for crunchy-spicy goodness - overnight if you can wait.
                        With your table top burner you can stir fry. Make sukiyaki with thinly sliced beef or mizutaki with chicken. Cook egg noodles in the skillet or in the MW if you're saving gas, watch the Chow video - then add thinly sliced cabbage with butter, salt and pepper, a dash of sugar, cook until tender-soft. Garnish with sliced green onions.

                      2. I would go to a chinese grocery store and buy a portable stove, then go to home depot for a portable propane burner.
                        that or an individual (or double) induction plate that's also portable.

                        1. I would probably go for stew, not following any specific recipe, but leaving the liquid and leftovers in the crockpot on warm and adding new ingredients each day, starting over whenever I want to switch from chicken to beef.

                          It is possible to cook rice in a microwave, so I would probably be eating a lot of that. Cooked rice will also keep for a few days unrefrigerated.

                          I might be eating things like cheesy rice with stewed beef or rice with (tinned) smoked oysters and a bit of grated parmesan cheese.

                          I would also be eating a lot of bread and fruit.

                          Personally, I'd suck it up and make the sacrifice of eating cheaper, mediocre, less interesting food in order to save money to buy those appliances more quickly, but it's your palate. and pocketbook

                          1. Congrats on the move! Cooking without appliances sounds like a cool adventure.

                            I think you're probably okay leaving out stuff like beef, ultrapasturized milk, and cultured dairy (yogurt, sour cream. . . ) for a little while. For chicken and seafood, I'd probably buy it right before I cooked it and not plan to have leftovers. It sounds like it's soup weather where you are, which lends itself to the crockpot. Does your local library have any books on grilling? That might give you some ideas for the Foreman. Maybe they even have a microwave cooking book. Nuked potatoes and sweet potatoes are really very good, as is nuked squash and pumpkin (need to put a dish of water in the micro for pumpkin and firm-fleshed squash). Corn is great, too, but it sounds like you're past corn season. I keep reading about microwaved fish en papillote, but haven't tried it yet. You can poach eggs in the microwave, and you can probably poach chicken in there too, although I haven't tried. This might be a good way to handle larger cuts of meat, and then you could throw them on the Foreman afterwards for color. You can make surprisingly decent pasta in a thermos. If it's a good thermos and you preheat it, it takes hardly any longer than on the stovetop. Seems like grilled sandwiches are a must, too. Identifying somewhere you can buy small bits of produce would help (Asian grocery? Farmer's market?).

                            If you want more feedback, it would be helpful to know your favorite foods and your cooking situation (grocery shopping in the morning or evening? is someone home to throw noodles into the crockpot two hours before dinner?)

                            Further reading on microwave cooking: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/679406

                            1. I think a toaster oven would be your best friend along with the addition of an electric fry pan...you can do almost everything with the addition of those.

                              1. EDIT: We've added both a tabletop burner (gas powered) that we'd bought from an asian grocery as well as a 6 cup rice cooker! Both appliances are helping immensely and we are now working on acquiring a small fridge ($100 or so, shouldn't take long). I should have mentioned before that anything that needs immediate refrigeration such as meat or dairy products, we cook immediately. Other things, like fruits and veggies, we keep on the cold step outside. C: We're working on getting more to work with, but the aim of the original post was definitely looking for recipes rather than advice on appliances. Thank you all for your responses!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: antrophagus

                                  do either of you have a refrigerator/freezer at work that you could use? I store the "overflow" from my apartment refrigerator at work, and I justify that a full refrigerator/freezer is much more efficient than an empty one! :)

                                  Getting back to your original post, I think that with your latest additions you are covered pretty good.

                                  1. re: antrophagus

                                    Well it sounds like to me that you can cook a stew or mixed dish in the crock pot, and rice in the rice cooker. Serve the mixed dish over the rice.

                                    You can cook dried beans in the slow cooker on high, for about 3 hours. Lentils would take less time. Make sure there is liquid covering the beans at all times.

                                    In the microwave you can do many things. I steam veggies in mine: I use an old glass pie pan and loose plastic wrap. I put a little liquid in the bottom of the pan. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts do well with this method, as does cabbage. You can season to please yourself. You can cook a single egg in a small mis en place bowl or teacup. For that I use 3 minutes on power level 3. Prick holes with a fork in the yolk and white before placing the oven. You can cook the egg in a saucer, cutting it into pieces for a garnish, when done. If you eat it, bacon placed on a paper towel over a pad of newspaper will cook nicely. I'd use power level 5 for that, I think.

                                    You can bake potatoes in your crock pot, or your microwave. You can bake apples in the micro. For this, I'd find instructions online. In general, you core an apple leaving part of the flesh intact in the bottom of the cored out hollow, and you stuff the hollow with sugar, raisins, cinnamon, etc. You have to peel away part of the peel, as well.

                                    I think you are using good judgement with what you have bought so far. I'm glad that the fridge is the next purchase. It will things much easier.

                                  2. Any luck with the freecycle options in your area? That would be SWEET!

                                    1. I hate to recommend this but in your situation, I would go to one of those appliance rental centers. For about $25/ month per appliance, you can have the appliance while you are saving up to buy one. Not having those appliances cost money too... in take out food and such.

                                      That having been said, invest in an electric skillet and a roaster oven. They are about $40 each.

                                      1. I live on a boat in Florida with no refrigeration and a propane cook top, no oven.

                                        Many things do not require as much refrigeration as many think.

                                        Sealed cheese lasts for months. Opened for 1-2 weeks.

                                        Eggs for one to two weeks.

                                        Sealed sausages up to 2 weeks. Don't eat when the plastic starts to bulge.

                                        Ramen, noodles, pasta last forever.

                                        Non fruit condiments last up to 6 months. Soy, syrup, squeezable not butter seem to last forever.

                                        Hopefully, you can stop by a store daily and force yourself to only buy what you need immediately. I learned this trick when I lived with a 4 cubic foot fridge in Germany for 3 years.

                                        1. Here's dessert

                                          Microwave Chocolate Brownie in a Coffee Mug

                                          Check Craig's List. It's amazing what people give away for free.

                                          1. CL! I've not heard of freecycle before but it makes sense to check it out. Heck if you were local to me, I'd give you my old gas stove/oven. We can't use it since I can't get gas here for 3 more years.

                                            My electric stove is terrible so until we get done redoing the kitchen, I've been using two portable butane stoves - they are FANTASTIC. Any asian market will have these for $17-25, depending on the model. And for $5 you'll get 4 cans of gas - this will last you quite a while.

                                            You'll have full control from light simmer through full blasting heat.