How to Eat Healthy Without a Kitchen

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on November 16, 2010

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We are on day 11 without a working kitchen.   We moved into our new place over a week ago and the kitchen renovations are taking longer than we planned.

While the end is near, I wanted to share lessons learned from this experience.  I’m sure there are some of you who will go without a kitchen at one point or another, or already have.  And there may even be some of you who prefer not to use your kitchen much.

Either way, here are some strategies for eating well even when you can’t cook.

1. Look at it as an adventure: I had a really bad attitude last week.  At the end of each day my 4 year old would ask “Why are you so grumpy mama?”  I’d always answer, “This is a tough transition sweetie.”

This week, instead of fighting the situation, I’m looking at it as a nice diversion from routine.  I’m making a point to try new restaurants in our neighborhood, have fun with the kids and even enjoy the break from cooking.

2. Stock up on healthy staples: We do have a fridge so that allows for lots of healthy fare including fruits, veggies, cheese, simple sandwiches and milk.  We have whole grain crackers, cereals and some bars in the one spare cabinet we have.  So we are covered for snacks, some lunches and can always have cereal and fruit for breakfast. 

If I was going to be in this situation for a longer period of time I would do what my friend Sarah did — buy an electric hot burner. She was out of a kitchen for a few months and was able to steam greens and veggies to go with her simple dinners.  

3.  Visit with family and friends: Last week we didn’t even bother eating breakfast at home.  We went to my mom’s or mother-in-law’s where they had real dishes and a sink.  And one night this week we are going to a friend’s house to eat with their family.

Bottom line:  Not having a kitchen is a great excuse to visit with friends and lean on family if they are around.  When people offer to help take them up on it. 

4. Do more detective work when eating out: I’m not a big stickler with nutrition when eating out because we only do it once a week if that.  But now that we are eating out more frequently I’m on the lookout for healthier options.

A really good resource is Healthy Dining Finder.  When you go to the site you punch in your zip code and get a list of restaurants in your area.  Their staff of registered dietitians work with popular dining establishments to identify healthy items and make changes to current options in order to meet their nutrition criteria.  And if you are in San Diego, a non-profit called Healthy Kids Choice works with restaurants to develop healthier kids’ meals. 

5. Let the lessons learned linger after the kitchen is up and running: The biggest lesson I learned is that I really don’t like eating out all the time.   For me it’s a nice break when it’s once a week but nothing beats a meal made at home.  I’ll try to remember that the next time I complain about planning meals and cooking all week.

And the next time I hear a friend say they are going through a kitchen remodel, I’ll be sure to ask them over and make a big pot of something.  I know they’ll appreciate it.

Have you ever gone without a kitchen for a significant period of time? How did it go?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Meal Plan Mom (Brenda) November 16, 2010 at 5:56 pm

This time last year we did a mini-kitchen renovation–new countertops and a cooktop. We ended up having to get a new oven too (poor me–LOL!) because of the way things were not fitting. Then we had some problems with the digital computer (I think?) not working on the oven. I was without a working oven the entire holiday season–a total of seven weeks. After three different repair attempts I was finally back up and running in January.

The biggest bummer for me was that I could not do my usual holiday baking, but preparing meals was not as tough as I had expected. Thankfully we visit family for the holidays (rather than us hosting here). I learned to love my slowcooker and microwave and we actually ate out far less than I expected. The toaster oven came in handy many times too for mini-baking efforts.! It was a good lesson that I also blogged about it and now we have a good list of non-baked holiday treats to add to our list of goodies!

I hope your project is wrapped up soon!

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD November 16, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Brenda — I’m sorry that happened over the holidays but sounds like you made the best of it. The hard part with our renovation is we don’t have a sink so we can’t wash pots and pans (or the slow cooker). But 2 weeks is not much time…it just feels like it when you’re in it!

Angi November 16, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Another suggestion is using a toaster oven.

Jill Castle November 16, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I’ve always heard that renovations take twice as long as they say…and I agree, after about 3 meals out, I am desperate for home-cooked meals!

EA Stewart November 16, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Hi! I think we were at SDSU together (Food and Nutrition). You have a fabulous blog! My husband and i did a major remodel when I was pregnant with my first child. The counter tops were being installed when I was going in to labor. Hang in there…it will be totally worth it when it’s all done! Hope to catch up with you sometime! All the best, EA

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD November 17, 2010 at 11:31 am

Thanks Angi. We don’t have counterops or a sink making food prep difficult. But we get our countertops today and the toaster will be the first thing I set up!

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD November 17, 2010 at 11:32 am

I know everyone told us that…we just didn’t want to believe it ; )

April December 3, 2010 at 5:20 pm

What great advice! My husband and I just moved and we’re without a kitchen now for almost 2 weeks in the new home. (Had Thanksgiving with friends!) Our moving date was twice pushed back due to ongoing renovations outside of the kitchen, so we pretty much had limited cooking in the old home too, since a lot had been packed away. The kitchen reno is going strong, but we hope to have it complete before Christmas Eve. We’re on track to make the deadline. Thanks for these tips. It’s been grueling going to the market so often and keeping to our healthy lifestyle, but worth it in the long run!

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