Published by Angie. Last Updated at March 31, 2023.
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If you're like us, the thought of eating out three meals a day during a kitchen renovation makes you want to cry. Constantly eating out is hard on your wallet and waistline, and if you like to cook as much as we do, it takes a toll mentally, too.
That's why before our kitchen renovation, we developed a strategy for cooking and eating during this disruptive time.
As we were fortunate enough to have a refrigerator and deep freezer at home during our renovation, we were able to prep a number of meals before demo day to make cooking in our temporary kitchen setup as easy as possible. So in this one, we wanted to break down some of our favorite meals we prepared ahead of time and meal components we made in advance to make cooking during our renovation easier!
Meals Prepared Ahead of Time
Before our renovation got started, we prepared some bulked, fully cooked meals ahead of time so that during busy (and, admittedly, stressful) renovation days all we had to do was pull out a serving from our refrigerator, pop it in the microwave, and have leftovers home-cooked meal ready to go in minutes.
The following were some of our favorites.
Casseroles are one of the best things to prepare ahead of time to have a substantial meal at the ready during a kitchen renovation. We made this amazing lasagna recipe before our reno, sliced it into individual portions, double-wrapped each slice in plastic wrap, then stuck all the pieces in a bigger zip-top bag before freezing.
Lasagna slices reheat beautifully in the microwave – defrost for a few minutes until the plastic wrap comes off easily, then reheat on a covered plate for several minutes (time will vary depending on the wattage of your microwave). Comfort food like this will make you feel better during such a stressful time!
Burritos are another great meal to prep ahead of time and freeze. We used the same strategy for freezing as for the lasagna above – double wrap each burrito in plastic wrap, then stuff all the burritos together in one storage container in the freezer.
One thing to note is that burritos can take a bit longer to cook from frozen in the microwave. We'd recommend defrosting completely in the microwave before switching to cook mode or, if you can plan ahead, defrost in the refrigerator for a day or so to make things easier.
We made vegetarian burritos similar to this recipe, but you could choose any recipe that suits you and your tastes- think ground meat, smoked meats, or even breakfast burritos.
If you've got a smoker or a grill, you may want to consider smoking a bunch of meats ahead of time before your kitchen reno. After cooking the meat, portion it out into individual or family serving sizes, then freeze in a zip-top bag or, ideally, a vacuum-sealed bag.
We can think of dozens of uses for already-smoked meat like this: sandwiches, omelets, salads, crepes, wraps, or served as the main event along side mashed potatoes or other sides.
You may not have ever thought of freezing pizza (because, let's be honest, who has leftover pizza for more than a day or two?), but if you follow a particular re-heating strategy, it can be a surprisingly excellent freezer meal to have on hand.
From takeout to homemade, and from thin crust to thick Detroit-style crust, it's all good if you follow a few guidelines.
First, make sure you wrap your slices individually before freezing. When you're reheating, defrost in the microwave until just warm. While it's defrosting, heat a cast iron pan on your temporary kitchen induction burner or camper stove. Then finish the slices in the piping hot cast iron for a few minutes to crisp up the crust.
Can you reheat pizza just using a microwave? Yes, and we did so plenty of times during our renovation. But, if you really want to win points for the best reheat, you'll use the cast iron strategy. It's so good!
Soups are another fantastic freezer meal, provided that you freeze them in individual portions to avoid taking forever to thaw. Anything from meaty chilis to comforting bean soups to healthy veggie soups is fair game.
One thing to think about is that dairy doesn't freezer particularly well, so if you're considering a cream-based soup, freeze it without cream and wait until you're reheating to add it.
One of our favorite chili recipes is this one – it's definitely an involved recipe with mind-blowing results, so we think busting this one out from your freezer during a kitchen renovation would be a hero move.
We thought a lot about freezer meals for lunches and dinners, but what about breakfasts? Muffins come to mind as a super easy, freezable breakfast meal that is quickly reheated in a microwave or toaster oven.
We love a good blueberry muffin like this recipe, or muffins that use alternative flours like emmer or spelt. You could also consider making other types of bread in muffin form for easy portioning- like our favorite cornbread recipe here.
Meal Components to Prepare Ahead of Time
The above items are all dishes that we could pull out of our freezer and enjoy as a meal of their own. But there are many other meal components that you may want to make ahead of time which will make cooking in a temporary space far easier. Some of our favorites are below!
I absolutely love making crepes, and they freeze so incredibly well. We always have crepes in our freezer, even during non-kitchen-renovation times.
Freezing is incredibly easy- once cool, stack them inside a zip-top bag with a square piece of parchment paper between them, then place the whole bag flat on a cookie sheet or plate in your freezer. Once frozen you can remove the cookie sheet or plate and store the bag however you like in the freezer. Because they're so thin, crepes are quick to reheat directly from the freezer in a crepe pan or other shallow-sided pan.
We make an earthy, hardy buckwheat crepe similar to this recipe that is fantastic topped with fried eggs or jam for breakfast or stuffed with ham and greens and topped with bechamel for dinner.
Stocks for Soup and Sauces
Stocks are another pantry item we absolutely always have on hand, and in the lead-up to our kitchen renovation, I was a stock-making machine. We save all kinds of bones in our freezer until we have enough to make stock- or sometimes we just make simple veggie stocks.
Once prepared, you can either pressure can the stocks (never water bath can stock – it's not safe!) or freeze them in zip-top bags. If freezing, place the bags of stock flat on a cookie sheet or tray in your freezer until completely frozen; then they'll be nice and flat so you can stack them easily in a freezer.
Another fun trick is to freeze stocks in king cube ice molds– once frozen, pop the cubes out and compile into a larger container. These are great for when you just need 1/4 c. or 1/2 c. of stock for a stir fry recipe or sauce, for example. The pressure-canned or frozen bulk stocks can be used to make quick and easy soups during your renovation.
Sauces can elevate your cooking, and doubly so when cooking from a temporary kitchen during a renovation. Pasta sauces, pesto, barbecue sauces, hot sauces, and salsas are just some examples of versatile sauces to prepare ahead of time.
If freezing in bulk, use the same trick mentioned above for freezing stocks. Some sauces can be water bath canned, provided you're using a safe, tested water bath canning recipe for them. When you're tossing your homemade pasta (see next section) with homemade sauce during the middle of a kitchen renovation, we promise you'll feel like a genius.
If you're used to making pasta from scratch, there's no reason to go without it during your reno! Make a double or triple batch and freeze the uncooked pasta- for noodles, twirl individual serving sizes into little nests, then freeze the nests on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or tray. For extruded pasta, freeze flat in a single layer on a parchment-lined tray.
Once frozen, you can chuck all the pasta into a larger airtight container or bag. Pasta is one of those things that doesn't take much more effort to make in bulk, so when you're cooking it before a reno, just double or trouble your batch and freeze the rest for an easy meal on the fly!
I'm a huge baker, and one of the things I missed most during our reno was baking bread. We had all the other accessories in our temporary setup, but no oven!
Luckily I had anticipated this problem and made a bunch of extra sourdough before the reno, allowing me a tiny spark of joy every time we popped some out of the freezer during construction. Sourdough freezes well, just be sure to slice it and freeze it in an airtight bag or container. Things like flatbreads, wraps, and naan also freeze well; for these, freeze flat with a layer of parchment between each piece to ensure they don't stick together (in our experience, sliced bread can pull apart a bit easier even when frozen).
Enjoying a quick avocado toast lunch or homemade bread and soup was a real life-saver during our renovation!
Overall, a kitchen renovation doesn't have to mean your home cooking is completely on hold. As long as you've planned out your temporary kitchen setup and prepped some of the meals and ingredients above, you'll have a solid foundation to keep on cooking delicious meals even through the chaos.
Now doing the dishes in a sink or bath tub on the other hand, well, that is a different story entirely.
What meals did you cook during a kitchen renovation that you loved? Comment below to share!