We are losing our kitchen, help me with meal ideas
October 6, 2020 2:22 PM   Subscribe

We are losing our kitchen for a month. All we will have is a refrigerator, a toaster, a microwave, and a blender. I am looking at takeout and frozen dinners! Any ideas?
posted by ebesan to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You can cook pasta in a microwave. Add a variety of jarred sauces, some pre-cooked meat that can be heated in the microwave, some steamed veggies in the microwave, and that gives you a bunch of easy options.
posted by sillysally at 2:26 PM on October 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

my family did this for several months. It was totally fine. I actually really liked having no pressure to cook.

A standard meal would be a protein-central prepared entree that got heated in the microwave (usually Trader Joe's, either meatloaf or meatballs;) cut up fresh fruit; and cherry tomatoes and/or bagged salads. There was a Greek chicken & orzo entree at Trader Joe's that we liked.

Costco is also a good source for all kinds of prepared stuff that lasts a long time in the fridge, both frozen and not: rotisserie chickens; prepared Caesar salads; a million different entrees and sides that just need to be nuked. It's more expensive than Trader Joe's and arguably higher quality. The servings are larger.

I was having to wash dishes in the bathroom sink, so I liked to keep prep to a hard minimum.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:33 PM on October 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

If it's at all an option, get an Instant Pot, an induction cooktop, and maybe a toaster oven. We do all our cooking on those three, and the stove/oven is really just for storing pots and pans.

Look at what you eat day to day and identify what you consider to be a satisfying meal. Is it the sizzle of onions and meat? A nice creamy sauce like bechamel? Melted cheeze on a pizza? Ramen? Salad? It helps in planning to know what hits the spot for you and yours.

A big factor is going to be if you have a sink to do dishes.
posted by dum spiro spero at 2:34 PM on October 6, 2020 [15 favorites]

Response by poster: We'll have a bathtub!
posted by ebesan at 2:38 PM on October 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

For what it's worth, Barilla have these precooked pastas in pouches, and they're not bad. You could use them as a base for pasta dishes--you only have to tear the pouch open and heat in microwave. I've been using them in things that don't require I use pasta water or something where I have to boil the pasta in a different liquid, and they work great.

What drove me nuts when I was doing this was simply the space--I had barely any room in my tiny house as it was, but got squeezed out into a foyer area, and a little cart next to the fridge. And I'm seconding things like the Costco (or your local store if they offer stuff like that) prepared meals and chickens, they're way more affordable and if space is a premium, doable. Good luck!
posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:06 PM on October 6, 2020

No sink - that's going to be tricky.

Rather than the induction cooktop, I would get this very retro 70's style electric skillet.

Our family used to vacation in a cottage with barely a kitchen and no stove/oven. The skillet was more stable and safer than juggling pots on a small hot plate burner. The temperature control was kind of nice actually - easier to not burn food than using pans, and allows for slow cooking things like pasta dishes that would normally be baked. Nowhere near as cool as an instant pot or computer-controlled rice cooker, but you can crank it up and fry bacon or cook onions or do pancakes like a real stove pan.

I'd also suggest getting good at using cooking percentage power on your microwave.

Use paper plates and compostable disposable cutlery - sign up with a composting service.

Get a foam mat for when you get tired of kneeling to wash dishes in the bathtub.
posted by sol at 3:35 PM on October 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you're willing to add in either a toaster oven or air fryer (I like the multi-rack type over the bullet, for family cooking), you can easily roast proteins and vegetables. In an air fryer with mesh racks like mine, putting parchment down under your protein/vegetables will net you racks that just barely need a sponge and soapy water to clean, though you will need to empty the drip tray into trash and give it a quick wash periodically. With some silicone baking supplies, you can also bake and make egg dishes.

While I love my electric skillet, an induction burner will let you many of your existing pans, which may give you a bit more flexibility. A rice cooker - even the bog-standard $20 at Target with no fancy features - will also give you more range and free up your primary heat source for cooking the rest of the meal. There are also very good microwave rice and pasta-cookers, vegetable steamers, etc out there.

I use furniture risers and a folding table to make counter-height workspace for portable kitchens.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:49 PM on October 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

In this Ask from early last year, the poster loses their kitchen for a time, and there are 'DIY kitchenette' type ideas and planning tips in the thread.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:50 PM on October 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Do you drink a lot of coffee or tea? If so, how do you make it? In your shoes, I would badly want an electric kettle.
posted by yarntheory at 3:54 PM on October 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

Ooh, there's Meat Market/ M&M Meatlocker in North Carolina (Hendersonville).

iirc, they were originally based in Quebec but these days specialize in frozen meals that can be cooked in a microwave or toaster (or oven).

They're a little bit pricier, but I find the quality to generally be better than most frozen food/ meals and is very low on the sodium side (I sometimes need to add a pinch of salt).

They have a good selection (in Canada, at least) of ready-to-eat meals as well as meal components to mix and match.
posted by porpoise at 4:13 PM on October 6, 2020

We just did this for the summer. Almost every week we did each of these:

> something in the Instant pot - either a quick chili or something else that involves mostly opening cans. Good for 2 meals if you can freeze and then reheat.
> jarred prepared sauces/marinades. I like the ones from Target in the international section; stuff like tikka masala simmer sauces, Thai curry sauces, etc. You basically add a pound or so of chicken/tofu and warm it up and you're good to go
> we got a cheap induction burner off of Amazon; it was totally worth it (and useful for hotpot, fondue, entertaining, etc in the future)
posted by rossination at 4:56 PM on October 6, 2020

We spent a period of time, probably two months, living with a "field kitchen". We had much the same appliances available to us as you have, although we purchased a hot plate and also had our coffee maker available. In the weeks prior to losing our kitchen, we did a lot of cooking so we could freeze a number of ready-made meals that could be heated in the microwave. And we used a lot of disposable plates and bowls, but I drew the line at plastic cutlery. We also laid in a supply of prepared meals from Trader Joe's and Lean Cuisine. When all was said and done, we ate carryout/takeout/restaurant meals (ah, restaurant meals, how I miss thee!) more often than usual but it was certainly nice to have homecooked meals we could heat up in the microwave. One thing that helped a lot was, after the cabinets were installed but we were waiting for the countertops, the contractor laid down some plywood "countertops" that at least allowed us to spread out the prep work a little bit. That felt like a true luxury!
posted by DrGail at 4:57 PM on October 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

TastyBite offers Indian meals that are boil-in-pouch ready. Even rice. So good.
posted by eve harrington at 5:28 PM on October 6, 2020

Slices of bread in the toaster. Cheese on the toast in the microwave (add hamburger pickles). Basic grilled cheese.
This Telebrands Stone Wave Micro Cooker for scrambled eggs in the microwave. There are other recipes.
Nuke a potato or sweet potato in the microwave. Recipes are online.

Two-basin dishwashing: Use a paper towel or spatula to scrape/clean the items until they look clean. I do this even though I have a dishwasher.
Soak in soapy hot water for five minutes. I use a two-sided scrub sponge. Rinse in clean hot water. Towel off and put away.
Do glassware and utensils first, then bowls and plates, then greasy cookware. Be careful about pouring food particles down the bathtub drain.
posted by TrishaU at 5:37 PM on October 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Do you have an outdoor grill or access to one, maybe a neighbor's?
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:18 PM on October 6, 2020

My family ate like this for a bit during a kitchen remodel. We had a similar setup and we ate in the garage. Paper plates, real silverware and prep tools washed in a 2-3 bin set up as described above (third bin is dilute bleach water).

- lots of sandwiches. Lots of sandwiches.
- cheese and crackers
- Oatmeal or cold cereal for breakfast (you could do smoothies in the blender)
- Quesadilla in the microwave (not the best version, but edible)
- Sloppy joes or pulled pork with preseasoned and cooked meat (available at most larger grocery stores), serve on buns with veggie side
- Canned or pouch food such as chili, Indian foods, rice, lentils, soup
- Precooked meat like rotisserie chicken, frozen but precooked chicken or fish, etc. Defrost in microwave if needed.
- Microwave your veggies (fresh or frozen). Look up directions for how long and which power setting to use for each veggie. Add butter/oil and salt/pepper. For example, you can easily steam fresh broccoli or cauliflower in the microwave in only a few minutes.
- Fresh fruit
- we did takeout only about once a week, a treat like pizza or fried chicken
posted by Red Desk at 1:00 AM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sounds like a good excuse to get an imersion heater for sous vide. I've been happy with one from Monoprice. Frozen chicken breasts 2.5 hours @148 degrees come out perfectly.
posted by Sophont at 2:09 AM on October 7, 2020

This sounds like a good time to just subscribe to a prepared meal service.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:48 AM on October 11, 2020

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