help me eat v. 234348093843029823
August 2, 2018 8:43 AM   Subscribe

No kitchen. No sink. No washing stuff. Only microwave, fridge/freezer, and paper plates/cutlery/cups. Please help us eat.

Rules for the next couple of months:

-No kitchen. We do have a large fridge/freezer, a microwave, disposable plates/cups/cutlery

-No sink. We do have access to water to add to things because we have large 10 gallon bottles of water. That means anything that would involve washing a knife or cutting board is out. No slow cookers. Etc. Nothing involving disposal of dirty water (no draining tuna cans, for instance).

What we've been eating so far and getting bored of: sandwiches, precut and washed fruits and vegetables, olives, cheese, hummus, and frozen microwave meals.

Anything else we can eat? Oh and we've already been eating like this for several months, but we indulged in a lot of eating out to get through it. My waist, health, and bank account are revolting though.

Grateful for any delicious ideas :-)
posted by cacao to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you like Indian-spiced foods, there's a world of foil pouches. Some are better than others. Experiment to find what you like. You can dump them into a bowl and microwave about 1-2 minutes until warm. Nothing needs to be added.

I pair mine with rice and/or naan usually. You can make rice in the microwave. Naan can be found fresh or frozen.
posted by hydra77 at 8:48 AM on August 2, 2018 [5 favorites]

Do you have access to a kitchen nearby? I'd ask a friend or relative to take over their kitchen and batch cook every couple weeks or so.
posted by IndigoOnTheGo at 8:49 AM on August 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

I just did this! I did have water in another room, though, that I could use to rinse off a knife, etc, so that gave me a little more flexibility.

The discovery that saved us was finding out the grocery store has fresh, prepared meals in the deli that you only have to microwave. It's real food, not frozen with preservatives and god knows what, and everything I tried was great. Lasagna, various pastas with sauce and meat, etc. This, combined with salad made from prechopped lettuce and shredded carrots and cabbage, etc., made me feel in the end like I was eating better than I did when I had cooking. They also have cooked seasoned chicken that I added to salads. Trader Joe's has a lot of stuff like this too. In general, pairing something microwaved + raw prechopped vegetables or salads is the way to go.
posted by something something at 8:50 AM on August 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

There's a lot of costco / other grocery stores that have microwavable pulled pork, lamb chops, etc
posted by bbqturtle at 9:04 AM on August 2, 2018

A few random possibilities that all involve other no-water cooking devices:

Get a small plastic tub with lid and a sous vide device of some sort, like this. Keep the tub filled with water and cover when not using, and get some solid freezer bags. Even without a vacuum sealer you can make all sorts of things with nothing to wash and minimal trash. You don't even need bags for some things like soft boiled eggs - just pop them in and done. The cooking water can be re-used indefinitely as long as you keep it covered, and when done it is still clean and can be used as any clean water would be.

You can get as fancy as you want with this - smoked salmon from the store + sous vide poached eggs + home-made countertop creme fraiche (just cream and buttermilk left on a counter) + pre-washed bagged arugula would be a zero water meal.

Cheap toaster oven - french bread pizza. Cut in half, pizza sauce, shredded cheese, toppings.
posted by true at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

- Get a large tub of salad and eat it with disposable chopsticks.

- Dried fruit

- Nuts

- Interesting/delicious cheese. You can break it off, or cut it with a:

- Knife kept in the refrigerator and used for one thing only.
posted by amtho at 9:39 AM on August 2, 2018

There are online companies that ship much more healthful and better-tasting frozen meals. I got my daughter a gift certificate for Veestro, and she loved it. That one is vegan, but there are others.

Also, the frozen meals at Trader Joe's tend to be much better than those at regular grocery stores.
posted by FencingGal at 10:06 AM on August 2, 2018

Cereal and microwave oatmeal? Both made better with copious amounts of fresh fruit.
posted by cgg at 10:11 AM on August 2, 2018

Do you have a large bowl? If so, boil water in microwave (add a bouillion cube and some olive oil if you like) and add to dry couscous in large bowl. Chop up veggies, herbs, canned beans, nuts, add, and eat. Could also make single-size portions in paper bowls.

How about tostadas? Canned beans (refried, black, or pinto) microwaved with some cheese on top, add to a tortilla that's been warmed in the microwave for a few seconds. Top with avocado, cilantro, sour cream, etc.

You might also want to see if you can get a copy of this book for more microwave options:
posted by stillmoving at 10:42 AM on August 2, 2018

- greek yogurt or cottage cheese + cereal + frozen fruit + ground flax seed
- frozen burrito + avocado + salsa in a jar
- occasional hot/cold food bar at the market to supplement as needed
- roasted chicken from the market
- hearty cookies or baked goods high on protein and low on sugar
- almond butter + apple slices or walnut raisin toast or bananas
- focaccia bread + prepared hot soups
- canned sardines
- caprese sandwich
- I like to make my own avocado toast using avocados, a little salt, a little lemon, a little red pepper flakes. Sometimes add a tomato on the side and a handful of roasted almonds.
- access to an electric water heater/boiler like the Zojirushi models can open up a few more options for you, like instant ramen.

If you have access to it, you can take turns visiting a few different or new-to-you markets or grocery stores to check out their selection of more exotic (to you), unexpected, and off-the-wall food items that you wouldn't ordinarily try or consider. To the extent you can, make it an adventure and a fun challenge of discovering new stuff to try out that seems reasonably appetizing! Possibly more expensive than limiting yourself to your usual go-tos, but likely still cheaper than eating out all the time, and injects some of the desired variety you're currently missing.

posted by Goblin Barbarian at 1:49 PM on August 2, 2018

hydra77 is on a good track. I like TastyBite meals (they also have other ethnicities, and you can get them at Trader Joe's under a white label). Pair that with frozen rice in the microwave.

One of my go-to easy microwave meals is:

1. Heat frozen white rice in microwave
2. Heat canned beans (black, pinto, refried, veg refried, etc) in microwave
3. Combine 1 & 2 in bowl, add salt to taste
4. Top with sliced olives, sliced tomatoes, sour cream or Greek yogurt or shredded cheese, squeeze of lime, salsa
posted by radioamy at 1:59 PM on August 2, 2018

First, food suggestions:

- string cheese, toast (do you have a toaster?), grilled cheese made in the toaster
- cereal with fruit
- microwave easy mac
- Crockpot with liners!! NO cleanup, and you can dump all kinds of things in the Crockpot (chicken & salsa for tacos, pot roast, ground beef and cans of beans, tomatoes, corn for chili). I think this could be a big winner and game changer for you. There are tons of no-prep Crockpot meals out there that don't even involve a knife for prep, just maybe opening some cans or packages.

Second, suggestions as someone who is currently doing this -

- Do you really have NO access to water? We are using the bathroom for water even though it is super duper inconvenient (across the house). Or do you at least have somewhere you can refill 10 gallon bottles for free so you can use more water than you would if you are having to pay for it?
- Bathroom also provides a place for dumping dirty water/tuna cans. Toilet, tub, or sink. We've been dumping our French press dregs in the toilet.
- Again, super duper inconvenient, but we are minimizing dishes as much as possible (disposable everything, except we are using one pot and one pan, knife and cutting board, etc) and keeping them for a few days in a large rubbermaid tub, then washing in the backyard with the hose. Can you do this? Even at a friend's house?
- If so, get a hot plate!!! I cooked a delicious summer squash gnocchi meal and dirtied one pan, one pot, one spoon, a cutting board, and a knife. We ate the leftovers for 3 days.
posted by raspberrE at 3:29 PM on August 2, 2018

Once you empty one 10 gallon jug, put a funnel in the top and use it as a drain for dish washing/rinsing water and dump it when it gets full. I do believe there is such a thing as no-rinse dish-soap (I think it's a UK thing, but probably findable), and you can add a touch of bleach to the water for peace of mind. As long as you don't make messy food, you need very little water cleaning.

A hot plate and good non-stick skillet. You basically just have to wipe it out with a damp paper towel and heat it up to kill anything left. Burgers, omelets, quesadillas, grilled cheese...

Check out the bulk-ish section for frozen but ready to microwave bits and pieces. Meatballs, grilled chicken strips, pre-cooked sausage links, sausage biscuits! Make scrambled eggs in a cup, nuke a sausage biscuit, nuke some bacon, take the sausage out and put butter/jam on the biscuit... and egg, sausage, bacon, jelly biscuit breakfast.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:02 PM on August 2, 2018

Thanks for all the great suggestions!

Suggestions that revolutionized our situation: toaster oven, crock pot with liners. We have a toaster oven and a crock pot, and while I will have to find and unpack them, it never occurred to me to do so. Thanks!

I've also now ordered two large jars of hot pickled hard boiled eggs. Never tried them, but a little nervous (I mean, you only suggested packaged hard boiled eggs, but why stop there).

In case anyone else wants to comment, we really are not going to use our bathroom for kitchen related tasks. For way too many reasons, some specific to our situation, that I won't get into here.

I'm salivating over all of the crock pot potential...especially if I cut things up with a plastic knife on a paper plate...mmmmm
posted by cacao at 9:16 AM on August 3, 2018

Zengargoyle's suggestion of non-stick skillet reminds me... we've been using a cast iron skillet on a hot plate, and as long as you clean it when hot, you just need to wipe it out with a paper towel. You don't use soap on cast iron anyway and I've discovered that water isn't even really necessary.

So that may add a third cooking element to your arsenal! Good luck with the toaster oven and crock pot!
posted by raspberrE at 4:09 PM on August 3, 2018

With the toaster oven... get some teflon coated aluminum foil (and some plain aluminum foil). The non-stick is great for non-messy things, same sort of wipe it down while it's still hot and it's pretty much clean enough. Also make sure to make the foil long enough to go up the edges of the pan, and if it's too narrow, you can skooch it around to use the edges of the pan to form a shallow bowl like shape to keep any juices/mess from actually reaching the pan. (I haven't had to wash the pan in my toaster oven since forever).
posted by zengargoyle at 7:45 PM on August 3, 2018

So far we are alive and kicking!

Living off of bread, deli meat, olives, pickled eggs, fruits (especially ones that don't need to be washed, like oranges and bananas), prewashed vegetables, mini packets of organic guacamole and hummus, ready made yogurt smoothies, frozen meals, and mixed nuts.

I asked a question sometime ago about how to reduce our food bill and consensus was to eat more convenience foods. This experience has been a crash course in how to do that, and in some ways I feel like we are better off than when we had a kitchen!

I've been to overwhelmed/lazy to bother with finding and unpacking appliances, but knowing that we had that option made this an easier challenge to tackle. Thanks for all of your help!
posted by cacao at 9:58 AM on September 3, 2018

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