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Advice for operating without Kitchen (during remodel)

We are renovating our kitchen and we're going to be three weeks sans stove/oven/main sink. We're moving the refrigerator to the back room and have a trusty grill, but I'm waking up in a cold sweat wondering about daily operation. Obviously I'll keep cooking to a minimum and we have a bevy of plasticware & paper plates, but we'll still need water (hose = no good? bathrooms = less water pressure; also where to wash dishes?) and just general tips on operating without a kitchen. We also have an eight-month old infant, so there's that.

Any advice would be appreciated.

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  1. The first project SIL/BIL got into after moving into current house was a total gut of a dated kitchen. She was lucky that she had a nice sided laundry/utility room with a utility sink. She set up 2 long folding tables & put her temporary kitchen together... toaster oven, microwave, blender, food processor, crock pot(s), etc. She bought 1-2 individual electric burners and (I think) an electric skillet. They used the outdoor grill as much as possible. They moved fridge/freezer down stairs. Pretty sure she was sans kitchen for MORE than 3 weeks. Her biggest complaint was the height of the tables... not normal counter height so often had aching back after getting dinner together.

    Think with a few long STURDY tables, you'd have a good start. The water issue is probably gonna be the biggest problem?!?

    1 Reply
    1. re: kseiverd

      We have some folding tables we got at Costco that are height adjustable to counter top height and low for kids too. They are wonderful.

    2. For some reason, when this discussion got moved from General to Cookware, my response to the thread was deleted, so I will repeat the gist of it here.

      As suggested by Kseiverd, if you have a laundry room with a utility sink, this is the best place for dishwashing.

      Also, you may want to read this post, from earlier this Spring, which is chock full of suggestions on managing without a kitchen during a remodel, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9678...

      1. I made dishes ahead and froze them and just reheated them in the microwave. I also made lots of fresh salads and had grilled meats for lots of dinners.
        Washing pans and dishes that I did use, was done in my tub as bathroom sink is too small.
        I don't want to make you even more nervous, but I'd add a week to the time they say you will be up and running again.

        Good luck, it takes a bit of getting used to.


        1. Hi, MG:

          If you'll be getting your water from a hose, buy one that's rated for potable water, e.g., a blue one from an RV accessory supplier.

          It's also a good time to splurge on a large 'beverage' tub or cooler in which to do the dishes.


          1. Wish I has some answers for you. We're starting week 3 of our kitchen remodel and they're just getting to the point of putting sheet rock back up. We have a few weeks to go. I'm already tired of Subway.

            I tried cooking something other than burgers for the first time tonight. I used a gas grill with side burner. I'm in Texas so it's pretty hot outside. And the bugs... Turns out the side burner doesn't have a very low setting. Simmering doesn't work very well. Then I realized the usual short step from stove, to fridge, to sink (water) is now a trot between various rooms. Needless to say I'm not set up very well. We don't have room for a spare kitchen set up. We're remodeling the den at the same time. So all other rooms are full of kitchen and den stuff.

            My first attempt was a success, but not a very fun one. I may spring for a portable induction cooktop to help out.

            I will say I really enjoy doing the dishes. Paper plate into trash can. Done!

            I agree to add a week to the schedule. We've already bumped our finish date out two weeks.

            Also, if you have central air, keep an eye on it. All the dust from the remodel can cause problems. I change the AC filter out every couple of days during dusty work.

            1 Reply
            1. re: blackwing94

              wow great tip on the AC, thank you - we're looking forward to the remodel, but these three weeks will take clever tolerance. thanks again.

            2. If you can spend about 40 bucks on a utility sink -- the kind with legs -- and hook it up somewhere you will be so much better off.

              1. Our kids were 4 and 6 when we remodeled our kitchen. Since my ex and I were doing some of the work ourselves, we were without a kitchen for 6 months. The whole project took a year. We had the fridge and microwave set up in the dining room. Since we had a gas line to the grill out back, my husband tee'd off a line going into the garage so we could hook the gas stove up out there. That came in pretty handy, but washing pots and pans in the tub was a chore. Plus, I was used to having a disposal. Here I had noodles floating in my tub and had to scoop them out. Bleah. We had a big utility tub in the basement. Don't know why I didn't use that! Maybe to keep from carrying a pot of pasta water down a flight of stairs...
                My advice to you is eat whatever is easy to clean up, don't try and be a super chef through this. Don't fret about the dust in the house till it's all done.
                Keep changing that AC filter for the next several months.
                And plan on delays. There's always a bump in the road when you're remodeling the kitchen, so take a deep breath and make the best of it!

                1. For the little one, take advantage of the variety of jarred/prepared baby food options. While it's pretty easy to make your own, now isn't a time for "extras" and take advantage of her young age to help with meal prep

                  1. We used our formal dining room as our temporary kitchen. We moved the fridge in there, & we pushed the table against one wall, where we had an inexpensive 2 burner hot plate, & a microwave, toaster, & coffee maker.

                    Dishes were done in the bathroom sink or tub, depending on the size of the items. This was an old 1 bathroom house so there was no laundry sink, no double vanity, etc.

                    We used paper plates, plastic utensils, & plastic cups when possible.

                    We made a lot of 1 or 2 pot pasta meals & we used the outdoor grill.

                    I think we were without a kitchen for 8-10 weeks, & it was done just as the weather was turning cold in the fall.

                    My husband, who must've temporarily lost his senses, was certain the fridge should be in the garage, which was detached & in the back. Since the only back door was in the kitchen & inaccessible during the remodel, his idea would have required us to go out the front door, down the side driveway, & into the backyard every time we needed anything from the fridge. Luckily he was persuaded that was a bad idea, but he didn't understand how bad it was until we were without a kitchen & using the dining room. It still makes me shake my head because he is usually very sensible.

                    We didn't have kids then, but we now have another old house that needs a kitchen remodel & I think we will probably do it the same way when the time comes.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: browndogs2

                      Good advise here. Another note on using the bathroom to do your dishes. the toilet makes a great garbage disposal. You are going to have plenty of trash to deal with between all the disposable plates and take out.

                      1. re: mike0989

                        Using the toilet as a garbage disposal depends on the age of your plumbing -- it an old house, don't do it! It will be bad enough to be without a kitchen without also having a non-functional toilet.

                        1. re: masha

                          Good point. Though it did work out like a shot for us.

                    2. If you can do any cook-ahead stuff now, do it--we had the fridge moved to the office and I had the freezer stuffed with pre-made meals that just needed to be nuked.

                      In addition to your paper/plastic products, buy some paper bowls (we got a sleeve at CostCo) for cereal, that pre-made chili, etc., and lots of paper cups. I usually bemoan the environmental waste, but not during a remodel.

                      If the grill option doesn't work out (our patio ended up being where the remodelers dumped a lot of our waste & stored their tools), consider a George Foreman grill or something similar--I also rediscovered using an electric skillet.

                      We used the laundry room utility sink for wash-up--at least I didn't break my back trying to wash dishes in the bathtub.

                      Good luck! Hope it ends up being *only* 3 weeks. Keep the goal in mind--it's worth the hassle!

                      1. i just got finished with a two month reno. i set up a makeshift kitchen in an office with a fridge, crock, toaster oven, micro, coffee pot, electric kettle, and electric griddle. i had a giant stainless prep table in there, too. most meals were on disposable products and all cleaning and water took place in the bathroom. which always felt gross to me. tap water from sink. dishes in tub. toilet as a garbage disposal if need be. i also made a lot ahead and froze in individual portions.

                        1. I was without an oven/stove for a week (old house, wiring issue, over-booked electrician...).

                          A discount store $9 hot plate and a 30cm cast aluminum caldero was my substitute. For one week I used it as a smoker & oven. I baked chicken, quiche, carrot cake, cornbread & more on my back step. Just insert a small wire rack - I found one for 50ยข at thrift shop, heat on highest heat for ten and finish baking on medium.

                          I don't think my carrot cake or cornbread was ever as moist. The quiche turned out just the same as in my regular oven.

                          Aluminum ring pans worked beautifully for cornbread and cake. It was my makeshift version of an Israeli "Wonder Pot".

                          1. This is interesting to me since I just contracted to reface all my kitchen cabinets and install a new countertop. It is supposed to be done in 1 week, but I figure it could take another day or so. I have an extra fridge in my garage (down 15 steps from my kitchen & dining room) so will move essential items (food/beverages, and toaster oven) down there for the duration. My microwave is built in and I don't know if or when it will be operational, so I can't count on using that. I don't have a utility sink so everything (plates, utensils) has to go into the garbage pail. I figure I can have breakfast in the garage (I have a folding table and chair), eat lunch at work and then do take-out for dinner or just go out straight from work. That would be about 7-8 dinners and 2 lunches, I hope. It's just me at home now and I have timed it so my son won't be home visiting.

                            The worst part of the whole process will be emptying all the cabinets....and then reconfiguring how I will use them after they are done. Some are being reconfigured to put in turntables, which will eliminate what I call "the black holes" in my kitchen, corner cabinets that are difficult to access. My back hurts just thinking about it...

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: alwayshungrygal

                              I looked at turntables (lazy susan's) and other lower corner cabinet access designs. Then after I emptied out those cabinets in preparation for the remodel, I decided I will NEVER get on the floor to twirl around one of those things so we ended up blocking out the corners. There will be no cabinet space in the lower corners.

                              The only living thing that ever got back there, was our cat (who can open cabinets). I haven't told her yet that we decided not to remodel her hiding place. :-)

                              1. re: blackwing94

                                I agree, stooping down isn't going to be a thrill for me but I really am tired of "losing" things in the black holes. The bottom ones are really inaccessible as they are so it can't get any worse. I can get on a stepstool to look into the top ones but I'd rather not do that if possible. I don't see how they can be done any other way, so I'll make the best of it.

                                1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                  When we remodeled, I asked for a price quote for those very nice pull out shelves. Ouch--we're blessed (or cursed) w/ mucho cabinets, and the cost was out of our league.

                                  Cheapo me: I saved boxes from CostCo (with the sides already cut down) and slid them into some of the bottom cabinets. Voila--my own "drawer" for chips, etc that's easier to keep track of than the prior black holes.

                                  1. re: pine time

                                    Great idea but the black holes are literally unaccessible unless I crawl into them. They are corners, and walled off by the cabinet next to them. The turntable will combine the 2 cabinets into one space, with the turntable on one end. One existing cabinet will now be narrower to allow for the space that the turntable will occupy.

                            2. Had to live without a fridge for 3 weeks. Ended up having lots of fresh salads (picked up daily either pre-made or DIY), bakery breads, and bottled water (gallons are reasonably priced for drinking - you can wash in the outside hose for a short period like this).

                              For milk or infant food - you should be fine with whatever you keep on hand in the fridge.

                              Ironically - barely used the microwave but more to do with not having fridge/freezer.

                              1. Think about how you can use small appliances you already own. Slow cookers can make more than stew - I know of people who cook crumbles, oatmeal, and cake in them. For that matter, rice cookers can be used for a lot of things as well - soup, stews, porridge, cakes. If you can, a single-burner induction stove can be useful in all sorts of ways - we actually bought one when our radiant-heat stovetop didn't work properly and I ended up so happy with the induction cooker that I never used the radiant heat burners ever again. A toaster oven can be used to bake bread, roast chicken or meat, bake cake or cookies, and so on.

                                1. I found that cleanup was a worse problem than cooking. If you have no place but the bathroom sink, buy one of those cheap shampoo hoses so you can direct the water better. Then invest in a nice deep plastic dishpan/tub so you can put things to soak for half an hour in hot sudsy water. They will wash off easily then and you can rinse one piece at a time under the bathroom sink tap. Obviously, use disposables where possible. RE cooking, buy a cheap small microwave ($50).

                                  1. When we had out kitchen renovated (which was supposed to take 4 weeks but ended up taking 4 months) we were able to get by with a hot plate, toaster oven and microwave. We tried to used disposable as much as possible, but the laundry room utility sink worked pretty well for cleaning pots/pans/dishes/flatware as long as we made sure to minimize the amount of food going down the drain. You could also go the Kramer route and install a garbage disposal on your bathtub!