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Healthy Eating Amidst the Mess of Remodeling Our Kitchen

By Marcia Mangum Cronin

Created: 09/16/2014
Last Updated: 09/16/2014

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Anyone who's survived a kitchen remodeling knows it can feel like a war zone. And right now, I'm right in the middle of battle.

Since moving into our 1920s American four-square house more than two decades ago, my husband and I have dreamed of remodeling our modest, outdated kitchen. Now that we're empty nesters, we took the plunge and tore out our kitchen down to the studs. In an old house like ours, that involves removing layers and layers of messy lathe and plaster, tiles and wallboard. So it's a long project, which means I'm without a kitchen for a long time.

How do we cook and eat tasty and healthy meals amid the rubble? Here are some tips I've found helpful.

Stock up on paper products. Throw any environmental sensibilities out with the first load of construction debris and use all the paper products you could possibly imagine. Personally, I think wine tastes odd in paper cups, so I use stemless wine glasses and clean those in the bathroom sink.

Create a makeshift kitchen. Pack up the old kitchen and establish a temporary work station. Our dining room now houses our large refrigerator, a microwave and microwave cart and a baker's rack with a toaster oven, bread box and assorted staples. The dining room sideboard serves as makeshift cabinet and countertop. And the corner hutch holds a few necessary dishes instead of the good china.

Make good use of your small kitchen appliances. We discovered the AeroPress coffee maker just weeks before demolition began. Using a little water heated in the microwave, it makes a very strong, very good single serving of coffee or espresso—and cleanup is super easy. We've also cooked complete meals in the microwave—everything from scrambled eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast to nachos for lunch and steamed vegetables and orange chicken for dinner. Our toaster oven has worked overtime, too. We've roasted potatoes and tomatoes and cooked things like chicken thighs, fish and chops on the handy little oven tray. The slow cooker will be great for fall soups and stews.

Cook in big batches. It takes effort to make even a simple meal when you don't have a countertop and your usual equipment. If we go to the trouble of preparing dinner, we make enough for leftovers.

Eat out—judiciously. When it's too much effort to cook and clean up after a long day, we go out—and order enough to bring home leftovers. But we can't do that too often. A recent study showed that when adults eat out, they consume about 200 more calories per day. Not good for our waistlines—or our wallets.

Always say "yes!" to dinner invitations. Several friends have brought us food or invited us to dinner. And that's really what it's all about: sharing good food with good friends, no matter what the kitchen looks like—or even if you don't have one at all!

Have you remodeled a kitchen? Tell us about your adventures—or misadventures!


I make these microwave asparagus very frequently when they're in season:

prep asparagus (I recently learned that you can snap off the tough ends instead of cutting them), put into microwave safe dish, season with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss, cover and cook for 5 mins. so good that we almost never have leftovers, even my 2 yr old eats them

Thanks, jleff. Sounds great and easy! We'll try that.

Oh yes, I've been through it and remember it well. In the end, you will be thrilled with your new kitchen. Even though you feel like you're in a war zone, you sound like you have it all under control!

Thanks for the encouragement, Sheryl. The cooking aspect is pretty well under control. It's all the remodeling decisions and details that are totally NOT under control. That's why it's nice to control the things I can control, like a good meal eaten on a nicely set table with a tablecloth and fresh flowers (amidst the rubble)! Last night we had leftover pork tenderloin (prepared in bulk on the grill) topped with homemade peach chutney (made in the microwave), grilled zucchini and whole-wheat couscous (cooked in the toaster oven, believe or not). It worked!


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