Now that our kitchen is fully demo’d, we are officially living life in a construction zone. The whole first floor is ground zero—even the dining room is out of order as we install some bright new flooring throughout the house! It’s all very exciting… if a little dusty. But in the midst of a big kitchen reno, my family still has to eat! Here’s how we’re tackling the weeks without our appliances.
Where the Magic Happens
We have a currently set up in our Desert Den. You remember this room?
Well. It doesn’t exactly look like this right now. 😂 Even when it’s not instagram-ready, I feel so grateful for this room, which has transitioned gracefully over the years to accommodate all our needs. Guest bedroom? You got it. Kids sleepover? No problem. Extra wfh space? Desert Den to the rescue. Bonus bathroom? Let’s do it! And now: renovation mess hall.
It’s especially nice to be up off the ground floor. Demolition dust can really get everywhere, so it’s not always convenient to co-opt the dining room when it’s right next to the demo-zone. And upstairs, our little pop-up kitchen has everything we need to keep us fed and functional.
Keep in mind, “functional” is the key word, here. I am NOT trying to kill myself cooking when we’re already running around the house juggling, like, six different projects. So my number one tip for the mid-renovation household?
1. Prepare the space for self-service.
Seriously, this sets everyone up for success. If the kids know where they can grab a snack or get a cup, you’ve cut the number of “Mom!” calls in half, easily. I set up the basics: filtered water, peanut butter and jelly, fruit. Maintaining quasi-healthy make-it-yourself options keeps everything from completely devolving, since you can bet we’re eating out more.
Which brings me to number two:
2. Set a budget for take out.
After crazy days spent with contractors and putting out fires, Trav and I are both really tired. Cooking sounds like literally the WORST idea, but nightly take-out can really rack up the dollar signs. Knowing how much you’re willing to spend on pizza nights and Thai food each week will help you make the right call when you’re desperate to get out of chef duty.
Also: know thyself, and maybe consider reallocating some grocery money toward restaurants for the months of the renovation.
3. Have the right tools.
Upgrade from the hotplate, and your whole experience will go a lot more smoothly. 😉 I feel especially lucky to have a mini-fridge already up here in the Desert Den. But we’ve also pulled our most helpful appliances upstairs:
- The Microwave (but only after a heavy-duty deep clean. Ours was originally above the range, and it showed.)
- Toaster oven
- Coffee maker
- Rice cooker
- Instant pot
Funny story, Travis totally broke the griddle. BUT I had a moment of brilliance, and have been using our old Fondue Pot as a substitute ever since. They do basically the same thing!
I also keep a bucket of plastic cups and plates, which I can tote up and downstairs in order to wash in our garage’s laundry sink. The Desert Bathroom is not quite there yet, though I’m not sure I’d wash dishes in a vessel sink anyway. (omg, imagine…) This whole experience has officially absolved me of feeling guilty for spending 800 bucks on the garage sink and 400 on the faucet. Worth every penny.
4. When you DO cook, keep it super-simple!
My biggest surprise is how much I love the instant pot, which I only picked up recently. I grew up on the pressure cooker with it’s ominous steam hissing, and this is definitely an upgrade. We keep it super-simple with stir fry, fried rice, and an ultra easy one-pot spaghetti recipe I found on pinterest.
The goal for renovation-cooking is NOT gourmet perfection. It is to do the easiest thing that creates the least amount of dishes. Our family favorite is fried rice, and I use my mom’s old recipe. She always made the best fried rice, and my dad loved it with cut up hot dogs as a midnight snack. Trav loves spam, so it’s become our own thing.
First we crisp up the spam in garlic and oil, then add 1/2 bag of frozen corn, peas, and carrots. Using day-old rice is an ancient Chinese secret! Finish with a scrambled egg and a yummy sauce. My fave easy grocery store stir fry sauce is this one! I like it even better than the Asian market ones.
Oh, and I have a secret number five tip to surviving the kitchen reno. (Think of it like a cool, bonus track.) Let go of the mommy guilt. There is ZERO shame in a healthy frozen dinner. In fact, it might just be what separates us from going full tilt on nights when we’ve maxed out our dine-out budget and our patience. As long as you live to fight another day, you’re getting one step closer to a beautiful new kitchen. Just remember the light at the end of a tunnel.