Before you start that long-awaited kitchen remodel in your Portland home, spend some time drawing up a battle plan to help you deal with the months-long loss of this most important of spaces. And lest you despair when you realize how much disruption is about to occur, remember that the end product will be worth the pain!
When your kitchen becomes a construction zone, you could try to take the easy way out — leave town for the duration, eat most of your meals at restaurants, or impose on friends and family members for home-cooked meals. But for most people, those solutions are limited, and you’re going to have to set up a makeshift kitchen where you can prepare food for yourself and your family. Here are some suggestions to make the process easier.
Create a Temporary Kitchen
Find a place that is out of the way of construction traffic that you can convert to a kitchen. Your temporary kitchen will need to provide a place to cook, a way to wash dishes, and room to store food and kitchen implements. It might be the dining or living room, utility room, spare bedroom, or basement space. Don’t count on the garage, though, because it often becomes a staging area, storage space, and workroom for the many contractors who will be involved in your remodeling project.
Before you pack up your kitchen, think through the essential things you’ll need. Organize them for easy access. If you decide to pack them in a box, label the box (or type up a list of the contents and tape it to the outside of the box). This will make it so much easier to find the can opener or a spatula—instead of having to rummage through all your kitchen boxes to find what you really need.
First off, lower your expectations. You can get by with simpler meals for a few months. Salads and fresh fruits are easy to prepare. So are sandwiches, toast, cereal, and yogurt. Instant coffee packets dispense with the need for a coffeemaker and the messy used grounds. If you’re organized, you can cook ahead and freeze single-meal portions to be heated in the microwave — same idea as TV dinners, but healthier and tastier!
You will be simplifying your menu, but you still will be able to prepare meals during the construction disruption, albeit with a little more effort. If you can, equip the makeshift kitchen with as many appliances as is practicable, such as a microwave, toaster oven, refrigerator (maybe a mini), crockpot, electric kettle, hot plate, electric skillet, or electric grill.
Lean on the BBQ
If the weather cooperates, you can shift a majority of your cooking to your barbecue grill. Homeowners who already have outdoor kitchens will be in good shape, but even a simple propane grill can do a lot — roast meats and vegetables, bake pizza, cook foil-packet meals, and bake pans of biscuits and pies.
Plan ahead. Before your kitchen remodel begins, go online and find half a dozen (or more) recipes for meals you can fix on the grill. You may be surprised what you can find on the sites of grill manufacturers! For instance, the site for Weber grills has a whole section devoted to recipes created specifically for grilling. And they don’t just have recipes for hamburgers or steaks. They have ideas for pork, poultry, seafood, veggies, appetizers, and even desserts! Check out the recipes here.
You’ll need a work surface. A table can double as a kitchen counter, or you can save one of the lower cabinets from your old kitchen. If the countertop is gone, put a piece of plywood over the top.
Clear plastic bins work well for food storage. You can see what’s inside, and the lids keep out the dust. A shallow under-bed box with a hinged lid can hold your silverware and pared-down supply of dishes. To keep your dishwashing to a minimum, buy paper plates and cups and disposable flatware.
You’ll still need to have a way to wash some dishes and pots and pans. Be creative: People displaced from their kitchens have reported success with utility sinks (the best scenario), bathroom sinks, bathtubs, garden hoses, and large pots or tubs of heated water.
Rethink Your Grocery Shopping List
You may want to rethink the way you go grocery shopping. We’ve trained ourselves to get everything we need for the next week or so all at once. However, if you don’t have access to your refrigerator or freezer (or are using smaller appliances) you may have to adjust your buying habits. That means buying smaller quantities at a time—maybe even only enough to get you through the next day or two. While it takes some getting used to, it’s not impossible. People in countries all over the world do their shopping that way because they simply don’t have the space for storing huge quantities of food. And besides, once your new kitchen is done, you’ll have plenty of space for storage . . . right?
Pardon Our Dust
There is no way around it: Remodeling is sometimes a dirty, dusty business. Even the most conscientious of contractors can’t completely control the dust that goes with a remodeling project. Of course, the closer in proximity things are to where the dust is generated, the more likely it is they will be affected. That's why it's a good idea to cover furniture (especially fabric sofas and chairs) or anything else you can't dust. It takes a little bit of time upfront, but it will save you dusting and vacuuming time later. And remember: It’s only for a little while!
Use the time of your remodeling to get out of the house a bit. Explore a few new restaurants. Maybe even expose your kids (and yourself) to food trucks! They’re generally not expensive. You don’t have to clean up afterward. And you may just discover a few new kinds of food that you’ve never tried before. And don’t just limit your time away to mealtime. There may be times when you just want to get away from the (apparent) chaos of what used to be your kitchen. Put it out of your mind for a while. Go see a play or a movie together. Check out a local art gallery. Or just take an evening hike together as a family. Your kitchen will still be there when you get back—and eventually, it will be better than ever (and worth the wait).
Your contractor can help ease the pain during the remodel. Before any work begins, get a solid estimate of how long the project will take, keeping in mind that such projects usually last longer that anyone expects. Figure out if you’ll need to be at home to let workers in. Establish work and storage areas for the contractors and subcontractors and come to an understanding about workers’ traffic patterns inside your house. To limit the amount of time you will be displaced from your kitchen, don’t let the demo start until every new cabinet, sink, light fixture, and box of tile is delivered. The countertops will be a different story, because the measuring is done after the cabinets are installed. Communicate often — even every day — with your contractor.