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Kitchen Renovation Survival

Temporary Kitchens and Easy Meal Solutions

It is a cruel irony that while remodeling to create your dream kitchen, you need to live through the stress and turmoil of not having a kitchen at all. A major kitchen renovation usually means you will be "kitchenless" for at least of few weeks – or even months. "Creating a dream kitchen is an exciting time for the homeowner and will take some time – but it is well worth the wait," says Linda Efstratoudakis of Stefco Builders in Needham, Mass.

Some thought to meal preparation before construction can mean the difference between bearable inconvenience or renovation disaster. Here are some ideas for organizing a temporary kitchen and some tips for mealtime options to help you and your family survive your own kitchen renovation.

The Temporary Kitchen
Move out? "The ideal option is to temporarily move out during a major renovation," Efstratoudakis says. "If you can't, which is the case for most people, it is critical that you be prepared for what is to come. A good contractor will work closely with their client to guide them through the process of setting up a temporary kitchen."

A well-equipped temporary kitchen includes a microwave, coffee maker, toaster or toaster oven. Don't forget a manual can-opener, cutting board, knives, salt, pepper and your favorite spices. Also think about a hot plate that can be used for boiling tea water and cooking pasta, rice or vegetables.

Try to locate your temporary kitchen near a water source for cooking and cleaning. If that's not possible, buy lots of bottled water. It's easier to use water from a gallon jug than to walk to the basement laundry room or upstairs bathroom every time you want to make coffee.

Utilize your current refrigerator during construction. Appliances are among the last items to be installed in a kitchen renovation. Dispose of your old refrigerator when your new one is delivered.

Recycle an outgoing kitchen cabinet as a storage unit for groceries and supplies. Bonnie Barber, a mother of a 9-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl, recently went through a whole house renovation. She used a piece of plywood on a pair of sawhorses as a countertop and open plastic utility shelves for storage.

Stock Up!
Buy bulk paper goods at a warehouse store. Paper plates, bowls, hot and cold cups and plastic cutlery minimize the need to wash dishes. The new plastic disposable "oven to freezer to microwave" containers make it possible to precook your favorite one-dish lasagna, quiche or casserole meals in your oven before construction. After cooking, cover with the provided lid and place in your freezer. Reheat the casserole in the microwave direct from the freezer for a homemade meal, and throw out the container when it's empty.

Easy Meal Solutions
Fresh convenience foods are not an oxymoron. Besides pre-washed bagged lettuce for salads and packages of baby carrots, you'll find pre-washed broccoli crowns, shredded cabbage and even packaged peeled-and-cut potatoes in your grocer's produce aisle. Heat and eat ribs, pre-cooked ground beef for tacos and rotisserie chickens are available in the meat section. Here's a few more ideas to get you through mealtime:

  • Crock-pot Cuisine: There's nothing like the savory aroma of a pot roast, stew or soup slow-cooking all day. You'll almost remember what it's like to have a working kitchen.
  • Grill It: Use your barbecue to grill corn and roast potatoes, or use aluminum foil bags to make mixed grilled vegetables. Did anyone mention hamburgers and hotdogs?
  • Almost Take-out: Buy a quart of wonton or sweet and sour soup at your local Chinese restaurant for dinner. Pre-cooked shrimp from the deli, a Caesar salad kit and a loaf of French bread is another healthy and inexpensive "no-cook" dinner option.
  • Lunch or Breakfast for Supper: Tuna fish sandwiches, bagels or oatmeal are easy-to-prepare, nutritious dinner alternatives.

Final Tips
Renovating your kitchen is a good time to check out that newly opened Indian restaurant or the Tuesday night "all-you-can-eat" special at your local Italian place. Make a list of untried restaurants in your area.

Have your school-age kids buy lunch at school during the renovation. Not preparing lunchboxes is worth the extra expense. This goes for Mom and Dad, too.

Tell your friends and acquaintances that you are renovating your kitchen. Chances are good you will find yourself on the receiving end of an invitation to dinner or the recipient of a basket of muffins.

Mentally gear-up. "Even though remodeling was stressful, we tried to keep a positive, upbeat attitude and make it an adventure for the kids," Barber says. "Our temporary kitchen was in our basement. We called it the "clubhouse." And on days when it seemed more like a cave, I would buy fresh flowers for the table."

Don't forget the workers. A happy crew is a productive crew. Although it may be hard enough to provide meals for your own family during a kitchen renovation, the wise homeowner buys a couple of dozen doughnuts and a thermos box of coffee for the morning crew.

And above all, be flexible. Contrary to what your general contractor says, you will be without electricity and water. Plumbing lines need to be cut; circuits need to be shut down. On those days, the pizza delivery man will be your best friend!

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