Eight years ago we started an extensive kitchen renovation. It started with a wall of cabinets we tore down ourselves and progressed to where the kitchen was down to the studs–walls, floors and ceiling. Then the kitchen renovation started to come together as we installed dry wall, laid down a new hardwood floor and hung new kitchen cabinets.
We kept the project affordable by doing all the heavy lifting ourselves. But by doing it ourselves, it also meant that our kitchen was going to be out of commission for a lot longer than if we’d brought in a contractor.
Meal Planning During a Kitchen Renovation
One of my biggest concerns during this kitchen renovation? How I could continue to cook dinner for my family and save money. I didn’t want to fall back on our spendthrift ways of ordering in food, but at the same time, I needed to accept that without a working stove, I would be limited in what I could cook for dinner.
Thankfully, my husband had set up a working mini-kitchen in another part of the house, where we have a sink, dishwasher, cabinets and mini fridge, plus the microwave. But even so, I would need more to keep putting dinner on the table each night.
Kitchen Renovation Dinner Ideas
At the time here’s what I believed would help me succeed on the meal-planning front while we were under construction:
Make more meals in the slow cooker
The great thing about a Crock-Pot is you can set it up on a countertop, tabletop or on the floor, and let it simmer all day so dinner’s ready when you need it. I have only a handful of slow cooker recipes I’m comfortable with and know that my kids will like, so I’m thinking that I’ll treat myself to Stephanie O’Dea’s new book Make It Fast, Cook It Slow to help me get over the kitchen renovation-cooking hump. Her book is all about using your slow cooker to make all kinds of meals. That’s how I learned to make slow cooker French toast, perfect for Christmas morning. It was quite yummy.
Use our grill, even if it’s freezing outside
Since my pans are going into storage when the stove/oven goes offline, we’re going to have to cook all of our meats outside on the grill. Not a great option when it’s single-digit weather like it is today, but it is for sure less expensive than ordering in Chinese. I also plan on using my countertop George Forman grill whenever necessary.
Accept that we’ll have more cold meals for dinner.
I’m thinking sandwiches, cereal and things like cheese and crackers. Who says dinner has to be hot every night anyway?
Best Cooking Equipment During a Kitchen Renovation
So during this kitchen renovation I ended up writing a series of blog posts called “Cooking Without a Kitchen.” In these blog posts I did a round up of the best cooking equipment you can use if you need to cook dinner but are living through a kitchen renovation like we were.
Since those posts were some of the most popular at the time, I’ve decided to combine all of those kitchen renovation related reviews and suggestions into one post–this post.
George Foreman Grill
Though the George Foreman Grill was first introduced as a, well, indoor grill, I rarely use it that way.
But having this countertop appliance has been wonderful during this period of cooking with out a kitchen because of a kitchen renovation. Because my George Foreman Grill came with 5 Plates, I can use it to do everything from grill meat to make omelets to cook up waffles. But I think my favorite use for it has been to make grilled cheese.
You’d think that without a stove or a griddle, it would be impossible to make grilled cheese. But this handy contraption not only makes grilled cheese that my kids are always asking for seconds for, but it does it in, like, three minutes. This is a quick, easy and cheap dinner for us.
If you’d like to try your hand at making grilled cheese this way, you’ll need the “steak grill” plate on the top and the “bake” plate on the bottom.
Heat up the grill until it’s ready to go, and then you simply make grilled cheeses like you would in a traditional pan.
Place slices of cheese between bread, put a pat of butter on each side of the sandwich, then place in the George Foreman grill and close the top.
About a minute later, flip the sandwich so you can get nice “grill” marks on both sides of the sandwich.
In less than three minutes, dinner is ready.
With regular-sized, square pieces of bread, I find that I can make three grilled cheese sandwiches at once.
And while this notion of making pasta this non-traditional way gives my Sicilian stepmother pause, I just had to share with you how easy this was.
- 1 1-lb box of pasta (we used penne)
- 1 26-ounce jar of sauce
- 26 ounces of water
I dumped it all in the rice cooker, put the top on and “cooked” it for 20 minutes. Enough of the water boiled off as steam so that by the time the pasta was al dente, the sauce had thickened and we had delicious penne. My kids don’t usually eat pasta with sauce by choice but they asked for seconds.
You can bet I’ll be trying this recipe again. Next time I might add frozen meatballs.
Crock Pot Slow Cooker
Perhaps the cooking equipment I used the most during our kitchen renovation was my Crock Pot slow cooker. I used it to make so many different dishes. In addition to using this cooking equipment for making dinners, I also found a way to use it to make breakfasts.
Some of the meals you might not think were possible to make in a slow cooker that I did, in fact, make include:
- stir fry chicken
- French toast
- fried chicken
Right now I own four different Crock Pots. If I’m having a party or cooking a holiday meal, those multiple slow cookers come in handy. That said, I think it’s best to have at least one Crock Pot with a timer. That way you can set it and forget it before work, and come home to dinner already cooked!
Click through to this post on how you can use your Crock Pot slow cooker to save money, where you’ll find all of these recipes and more!