How to Feed Your Family During a Kitchen Remodel

Inside: Get been-there advice on how to survive a kitchen remodel–and feed your family during the process.

Nearly 20 years ago, we fell in love with a small, 100-year-old house on a pretty, tree-lined street.

Mostly, we fell in love with the bones of the house.

The kitchen, not as much.

The counters were blue, the stove was black, the refrigerator was off-white. It was functional but outdated. Clean but cramped.

We bought the house figuring we’d have the kitchen remodeled. Because how hard could that be?

Yeah, right!

The company we hired took the kitchen down to the studs, pushed the ceiling up, leveled the floors, dismantled an old coal chimney, opened up a wall, and found enough expensive surprises along the way to leave our original budget in the dust.

Did I mention I was also pregnant, sick with nausea and vomiting, and had a toddler?

Of course it was well worth it. Today I look back on the “before” photos and feel grateful for our bigger, more modern space.

But it wasn’t easy. And one of the hardest parts was keeping everyone fed without a working kitchen.

So I decided to walk down memory lane with our own kitchen makeover in case you’ve got a remodel in your future and need help surviving the process.

I also reached out to my for their best advice and got so many great tips, I had to share them here too.

Plus, I’m sharing before-and-after photos of our renovation and the little “kitchen glow-up” we recently did.

6 Tips for Surviving a Kitchen Remodel

One reader transformed her garage into a temporary kitchen

1. Make a Temporary Kitchen

Our contractor moved our old fridge into the living room, where we set up a temporary kitchen space with a small table, microwave, and toaster oven.

A folding table or card table is helpful for this. And before you pack everything away, set aside some items that can help you in your makeshift kitchen, such as:

  • Coffee maker
  • Cutting board
  • Pots/pans
  • Strainer
  • Can opener
  • Spatula and other cooking utensils/tools
  • Spices & cooking spray

Here’s some reader advice:

“Finding a dedicated spot to have zones for different things helped us. Cooking area, prep area, place for making lunches etc. luckily we have an enclosed side porch that worked perfectly.”

“We moved fridge & microwave to our walk out basement, bought a hot plate, toaster oven, and hubby built a kitchenette.”

Here’s another reader’s makeshift kitchen

“I had my makeshift kitchen set up in the garage with the fridge, an induction hot plate, toaster/convection oven and a microwave. Also had the crockpot and rice cooker handy.”

“We sealed off our dining room and made it a makeshift kitchen. We had our fridge in there, a table, instant pot, air fryer, etc all set up so we could access it. We used paper plates and cups, etc. we also purchased a few large, heavy duty plastic shelving units to use as temporary pantries. We packed everything in plastic tubs that we thought we might use (a cutting board, a few knives, etc) it was rough-but we made it!”

Our kitchen was a construction zone but at least we had our sink!

2. Keep your sink as long as possible

Everyone, including me, agrees that dealing with dirty dishes is the worst part of a kitchen remodel. So if you can, hang on to your kitchen sink as long as possible.

You may also have a sink you can use in a basement, bathroom, garage, or laundry room. But “do not do dishes in the bathtub,” one reader cautioned. “It will kill your back. I ended up in PT because of that.”

READER TIP: “I stocked my freezer with crock pot dinners before the work started and used slow cooker liners.”

We moved this old fridge into the living room during the renovation.

3. Lean on small appliances

While your oven’s out of commission, smaller appliances can save the day. Here are some to consider (ask a friend or neighbor to borrow if you don’t have one):

  • Instant Pot
  • Air fryer
  • George Foreman grill
  • Microwave
  • Toaster oven
  • Hot plate/induction burner
  • Electric skillet
  • Electric griddle
  • Camp stove to cook outside

READER TIP: “Be extra nice to neighbors and friends in the months/weeks leading up to the renovation so you can call in some favors & get invited to dinner.”

Behind that plastic sheeting was our makeshift kitchen in the living room

4. Time it right

If possible, schedule your renovation for warmer months when you can use your grill and eat outside.

Bonus: Summer is also when friends and neighbors will travel. One reader suggested a swap where you water their plants and fetch the mail in exchange for using their kitchen while they’re gone.

READER TIP: “Our Blackstone grill is savinnngg me right now. It basically does most of what you can do on a stovetop in a pan, it’s just a griddle: Stir fry style dishes, breakfast hash, etc. as well as burgers and whatnot.”

5. Meal plan & think E-A-S-Y

Having some kind of plan in place can help reduce stress (you’ll have enough of that already). if you’re a pen-and-paper person.

Here are some reader suggestions for lower-effort meals:

  • Costco pre-made dinners
  • Sandwiches
  • Salad kits
  • Trader Joe’s frozen/microwavable meals
  • Pre-prepped meal delivery service
  • Freezer meals you’ve made in advance that you can microwave
  • Pizza delivery once a week

Consider filling a plastic bin with shelf-stable items you can use for simple meals and snacks such as:

  • Peanut butter
  • Shelf-stable microwavable rice and pasta pouches
  • Canned foods such as canned beans, soup, veggies, and fruit
  • Energy bars
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Applesauce and fruit cups
  • Cereal and granola

Grab more ideas, plus 10 easy meals you can make without a stove, in my post

READER TIP: “Don’t think you have to cook – cold meals are fine, too. Treat it as an adventure.”

6. Let go of guilt

Give yourself grace while you’re going through a remodel. Instead of beating yourself up over disposable plates and frozen dinners, channel that energy into picking out new appliances and choosing between 500 styles of drawer pulls. Here’s what else Real Mom readers had to say:

“Don’t try to save the environment in 3 months (meaning you can use paper plates for a few weeks to save your sanity), and maintain your sense of humor.”

“Paper plates, cups and plastic cutlery. Shake off whatever guilt you think you should feel and call it ‘self-care.’ Make a list of carry-out/dine-in options you have wanted to try and work that expense into the budget if you can.”

“There were MANY times we just had sandwiches and cereal for all 3 meals.”

“Keep it simple because life is complicated when your whole kitchen is torn up.”

READER TIP: “You can always get compostable paper plates and bowls if you use a composting service.”

Our kitchen remodel

Here are some before-and-after shots of our kitchen space, which was renovated 16 years ago. What they did:

  • Removed an upper block of kitchen cabinets and a peninsula separating the kitchen and eating area to make one big room.
  • Removed part of an old coal chimney and turned it into one side of a decorative mantle over our stove (the side cabinets have shelves for spices, etc.).
  • Opened up a kitchen wall into the dining room.
  • Removed a drop ceiling.
  • Removed laminate flooring and wove the original floor from the dining room into matching hardwood in the kitchen.
  • Installed new perimeter cabinets and black granite counters, plus a kitchen island with a soapstone countertop.
  • Relocated the back door.

Our kitchen “glow-up”

Now that our kitchen is old enough to drive, it felt like a good time for a little refresh.

So we replaced the backsplash and the pendant lights to give the room a little boost without spending a whole lot of money.

Our kitchen in 2008
Our kitchen today with new backsplash and pendant lights

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