15 Things You Need to Survive a Kitchen Remodel
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If you've been following along on Instagram, you'll know that we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, as we enter our fifth (!?!) month of kitchen remodeling.
No, we did not anticipate it would take this long. If we had, we probably would have decided to move out.
Yes, we are a bit frustrated. But COVID threw a wrench in the global supply chain and decimated a lot of contracting teams. So at some point you have to be grateful that work is still getting done, and just roll with it.
As I've spoken with friends and neighbors about the process, some of whom are about to embark on their own kitchen remodels, the first question that I get is, "But how are you making it work with two young kids and a dog?!"
Most have assumed that we eat out or order in takeout with disposable plates each night. Had this been pre-COVID and we were only having one true sit down meal a day at home, we might have. But since we live in a post-COVID world and we are all at home most of the time, we have to plan three meals a day, plus snacks for two preschool bottomless pits (also known as children).
Daily takeout wasn't feasible logistically or all that cost-effective. And we didn't like the long term environmental impacts of relying on more plastic and disposable items.
So instead we worked out a way to minimize the headaches associated with a remodel by converting our dining room into a temporary, makeshift kitchen.
Here's our tried and true list of what we needed, what we didn't, and all the things we *wish* we'd known before the remodel started:
Kitchen Remodel Must Haves
Temporary Kitchen Appliances and Electronics
1. Instant Pot
This 8-quart model was really the All Star of the makeshift kitchen. It could handle one-pot meals, boiling water for pasta (because who likes the texture of mushy pressure cooked pasta, ick), making eggs, and cooking any kind of rice. And boy did we rely more on easy dishes like pasta, eggs and rice during this remodel. With table space at a premium, we appreciated its relatively small footprint and locking lid. We were able to plug this into an outlet on a separate wall and leave it on the floor, without worrying about the dog getting into it.
Need recipe inspiration? Everything from Half Baked Harvest is spectacular. And 1c. water and 3 minutes on high pressure cook makes the absolute best "boiled" eggs. Just remember to set the eggs on the circular insert.
2. Induction Hot Plate, One Deep Pan and One Skillet
We picked up the Duxtop hot plate secondhand on Facebook Marketplace, and it was well worth the $25. The fan is a bit loud and the temperature is a bit imprecise (level 6 of 10 would be considered high on my old gas Whirlpool range), but it gave us the ability to crank out bacon and eggs on a weekend or quesadillas as a weeknight standby fairly easily.
Having one larger "essential" pan and one cast iron skillet to cook with were enough to get us through.
If we had done this kitchen remodel during the summer, it's possible that we could have gotten by with either the Instant Pot or the hot plate, and relied more heavily on a grill. But with cold temps and snow most of the winter, I'm thankful to have had a second indoor cooking surface.
3. Electric Tea Kettle
I purchased this Kitchen Aid tea kettle years ago, and it even spent time at a startup office downtown before making its way back home. But like the Instant Pot, it was a crucial item for making French Press coffee (easier to make / clean up) and cooking oatmeal. And it freed up the microwave and other pots from simply heating up water.
You could maybe get away without one if your family orders in or cooks exact proportions every night, but in our family we love leftovers. And heating up leftovers is a heck of a lot easier if you have a microwave. The kids' art desk, which was previously in the corner of the dining room, provides a stable base.
Since the dining room is adjacent to the kitchen being remodeled, it was easy to roll the old fridge in to a corner of the room. This helped us save money and gave us access to the same amount of food that my kids had become accustomed to having on hand during COVID.
You could definitely survive with a mini fridge if you were willing to shop daily or every other day, but for a family of four, those delivery fees and the mental load would add up!
6. Google Home Mini
This sounds silly, but having a Google Home Mini (or Echo Dot with Alexa, etc.) was great for adding to grocery lists on the fly, reading the kids stories over breakfast, or staving off arguments after school with a dance party.
7. Power Strip
It was only after we moved all of the appliances into the kitchen that we realized we only had three outlets (six plugs) in the entirety of the dining room. A power strip was necessary to accommodate all of the appliances. The fridge and microwave went on one outlet. A power strip near the "cook table" went on another to support the tea kettle, the hot plate, a toaster (eh, take it or leave it), and our Google Home Mini. The third outlet which was really inaccessible behind the piano / pantry was used for the floor Instant Pot.
We made the mistake of trying to put all of the cooking appliances on a single the power strip at first. If we ran more than two at any one time it would overload the strip and cause it to turn off. With the final setup, we were able to run up to three cooking appliances at the same time -- any more than that and we tripped the breaker.
Running the microwave, induction hot plate, and toaster at the same time were the biggest current hogs and most likely to cause issues. Oh, old houses. :)
Cleaning Up During a Kitchen Remodel
8. Water Jugs
The most challenging part of a kitchen remodel is the lack of access to water and a drain. You don't realize how much water you use -- water for drinking, water for cooking, water for rinsing off hands -- until you don't have it easily accessible. We solved this problem by always keeping two 1-gallon glass brew jugs full of water. They were light enough to easily schlep them upstairs to refill in the bathtub, as needed.
And Woodford was happy to have extra "drained off" veggie or pasta water in his bowl.
9. Large Tub for Dirty Dishes
No matter how judicious you are, it's impossible to avoid dishes entirely when cooking at home. We tried to limit the kids to one cup a day each and encouraged them to reuse recently used bowls for the next round of breakfast.
(Oh, your kids don't eat second and third breakfasts?! Lucky you.)
A large tub that we kept under the microwave table served as a dedicated "drop" area for the meal's dishes. For the first week, we were diligent and took up the dishes to wash after every meal. By the second week, we were doing them once at the end of the day.
10. Trash and Recycling Station
We had a Simple Human trash and recycling center from our old kitchen that we put near the fridge. It was great to have a container that the kids were already used to so they continued to throw things away on their own.
What we didn't anticipate was just how often our dog would get into the trash. We tried to remember to put it in a coat closet before leaving to run errands, but we definitely forgot a few times and came home to trash strewn about. So if you have the space to put the trash in a dedicated closet, do that. And remember to have more trash bags on hand than you think you will need. Destructo dog finally forced us to take out the trash every day, necessitating the use of more bags. At least they are compostable.
11. Roll-up Drying Mat for a Bathtub or Utility Sink
It would have been impossible to wash pots and all of the dishes in a bathroom sink. Thankfully we installed an antique Crane utility sink last summer, so that gave us a dedicated spot to wash. But with all of those dishes, we still needed a place to dry them.
Enter this handy roll up drying rack. When used in combination with a bath caddy (get creative folks!) it provided the perfect place to dry dishes after bath time.
12. A Good Vacuum and Wet Mop
We haven't had a cleaning person in to clean since COVID started, and it's definitely beginning to show. Add in the extra dust and debris from a kitchen remodel, and it occasionally sends me over the edge.
Thankfully midway through the remodel, we invested in a high quality, handheld vacuum, a nice broom set, and a wringable (Is that a word?) wet mop. By using them daily, they've helped keep on top of dust tracked through the house and crumbs from the kids. Not to mention, any other accidents from our elderly dog who flat out refused to use his industrial strength, window doggie door.
Improving Quality of Life During a Renovation
13. Up High Storage
Don't know what I mean? You must not have young kids or a dog. Ha!
I made the mistake of leaving some fruit down on the edge of the piano, which became our primary pantry and dry goods area, and poof, $20 was gone. That quickly convinced me to rearrange the space so that food was either in a Woodford-proof plastic box, up higher than he could jump, or behind closed doors.
If you don't have a piano or bookshelf in your makeshift kitchen, consider buying a step stool and making better use of the area above your fridge. Things like tiered plant stands, kids' tables, and other furniture borrowed from other rooms can serve as lower storage for non-edible items.
14. Air Purifier
We didn't realize we needed one of these until demo got started in earnest. The contractors had done their best at sealing up the doorway, but plaster dust is insidious and goes everywhere. And don't get me started on paint fumes.
Do yourself a favor and get a good quality air purifier from the outset. It helps you breathe a bit easier, and provides some calming white noise, even if there's hammering in the other room.
15. Meal Kits
For the first month or two, I planned most of our meals from scratch. It was fun for awhile, but eventually meal planning with no oven drained me emotionally, and left my kids complaining and wanting pasta for every meal. I am so thankful that a friend recommended meal kits from a local vendor, Prefare.
They use much less packaging than boxes shipped nationally (Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, I'm looking at you!) and they specifically call out Instant Pot, Skillet, and Family Friendly options that I know I can replicate without an oven.
And as with any list, there was also a slew of stuff we didn't end up needing:
So much tupperware! You can see the collection of storage containers on the window sill. Takeout Indian containers from our favorite local place still continued to accumulate, so we really didn't need to have others set aside. Maybe plan on 2-3 containers at the outset as your stash may continue to grow.
The entire pantry. When we packed up the kitchen supplies and the pantry prior to demo, I immediately moved everything from the pantry into the dining room. Big mistake! Five months later I'm still staring at a partially used package of ramen noodles, extra jars of capers and dill pickle relish, and three kinds of breadcrumbs. Only bring out the items that you use on a regular basis, and donate or pack up the rest.
Extra cookware. Because my kids would willingly live on pasta and quesadillas, I thought we'd need a pasta pot and non-stick skillet for the hot plate. Nope! We boil water in the Instant Pot (use the saute setting on high with the lid offset so it doesn't actually latch and prompt an error), and the cast iron works just fine for heating up tortillas.
Occasionally used appliances. Since I packed up the food processor, I thought we HAD to keep out the blender, since it could chop smaller batches or whip up a dressing. While it was nice to have it, I have used it all of twice -- once for a vinaigrette and once to make smoothies. Similarly, I also kept out my stand mixer. Prior to the kitchen remodel, I baked and used it daily. Since the remodel, I have used it weekly when I just HAVE to bake (and schlep my half prepped baked goods to Auntie's house a block away), but if you don't have the space, a mixer is by no means necessary.
I hope this lists helps you know that it IS possible to survive a kitchen remodel with young kids. With the right planning and materials, you will be set up for success!