because I refuse to go through this alone…

I’m renovating my kitchen, and today was day one. No sink for 10 days — and thus no cooking, and many gross pre-packaged sandwiches from the grocery store. And since I work from home, there’s no escaping my non-kitchen.

Now is the time for you to pay me back for all this career advice with some ideas for making this more bearable.  (Or, alternately, you can bring me meals.)

Posted in me

{ 97 comments… read them below }

  1. Tex*

    Gazpacho and a lot of grilling. If you don’t have a grill, then a small portable hibachi is totally worth the money spent.

    Also, in a pinch, frisbees can substitute as plates.

    Good luck :)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Mmm, gazpacho. Speaking of which, am I the only one who thinks that there could be an alcoholic version of gazpacho, sort of like a bloody mary?

      1. K*

        Try the great Canadian Ceasar! It’s like a bloody mary but uses Clamato instead of tomato juice and no horseradish. Look it up online. I think it often resembles watery soup and pickled vegetables when done right.

  2. Anonymous*

    You have neither a sink nor a stove? Ouch. I know remodeling is expensive, but getting yourself nicer meals (be that Thai food, Subway, pizza, or whatever’s a step up from “gross prepackaged sandwiches”) as a reward for putting up with the situation would probably boost your morale a great deal.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m definitely looking at it as an excuse to be totally indulgent for meals … the Thai place down the street is about to see a lot of me.

  3. a.b.*

    Just do NOT feel bad about being an little bit wasteful right now. If you’re feeling bad that you have to throw out a lot of take-out packaging, remind yourself that you’re probably very conscientious the other 99.999% of the time, and give yourself a break. That being said, I agree with better take-out and gazpacho.

  4. Anonymous*

    Grill!!! When we were w/o power for the weeks after the hurricane, we just grilled, kept dishes to a minimum, and one pot meals. We used the bathroom tub for dishes (the pressure went out in the kitchen).

    Also, invest in a lot of booze!!!!

      1. Anon y. mouse*

        Sure. It’s the same tap water that you’d get from the kitchen sink, and it hasn’t had anything worse than cosmetics and toothpaste go down the drain. It’s probably more sterile than a sink used for food or dirty dishes, to be honest. Just scrub it down really well.

        When camping, my family uses a portable water jug that holds a few gallons (the kind with a bottom spigot, you’ll sometimes see them at picnics). We put the water jug up on a couple of blocks and put an appropriately sized plastic bin underneath the spigot. Instant running water! Just dump the waste water down the shower drain when you’re done.

      2. Natalie*

        The only time I’ve clogged by kitchen sink badly enough to need a plumber (improperly installed garbage disposal) we ended up washing dishes in the bathroom sink. There’s no disposal or drain trap, though, so be careful about scraping plates.

  5. SME*

    It’s going to be so worth it once your shiny newness is all…shiny and new! Watch some design shows on TLC or HGTV in the meantime to get a little accelerated before/after satisfaction!

  6. A.L. Burns*

    Crock pots are good to make meals w/out a kitchen —all sorts of hot meals, and it cooks while you work! Baked potatoes can be done in the nuker. Go out for breakfast!

  7. Anonymous*

    When my parents did this to our kitchen one summer, they just embraced being as hill billy as possible- as in, there are photos of my baby brother being bathed in a bucked on the deck. My point? This can be a time of fun and trashy exhuberence, as well as an excuse for barbecue all the time.

    and really, who doesn’t like barbecue?

  8. Julie*

    A lot of things you might not expect can be made in the microwave. You might want to check out JumpStart Cooking (http://www.jumpstartcooking.com/) for ideas. The host is kind of loud and it’s kind of gimicky, but some of the ideas are good.

    Looking back on my college days, it’s amazing what can be done with a microwave, a hot plate, and an electric kettle. Throw a crock pot or toaster oven into the mix, and the options expand dramatically.

    I know you said you don’t have a sink, but could you put a decent drain on your bathroom sink and use that? I’d recommend going with disposable plates and cutlery — it’s not really any more wasteful than buying take-out, and it’s only for 10 days. Get the paper and not the Styrofoam if you can.

    Instead of taking breaks in the kitchen, try taking a break by walking around your backyard or around the block. It’ll be a nice change of scenery AND you get a bit of exercise while you’re at it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s something about washing dishes in the bathroom sink that’s giving me a seizure. I don’t know why — just something about old food particles down that drain seems ill-advised.

      1. Jamie*

        Dishpan. You can use the water from the bathroom and wash in the dishpan – then you’re just rinsing off the soap into the bathroom sink and toss the grungy water outside (or flush it).

        I would have a hard time getting past bringing a dish into the bathroom, psychologically, but it is workable for pots/pans while you use disposable for plates and cutlery.

      2. Julie*

        Could you do your washing in a bucket or something outside? So long as you get a biodegradable/hydro-degradable soap, you can use the dish-water to water your plants or something.

        Be sure to get two buckets: one for washing (wish soap) and one for rinsing (without).

          1. Jamie*

            Seriously, I thought the same thing. You’ll have your wash buckets and can hang the dishtowels out on the line.

            I need to talk my husband into a kitchen remodel so I can stay home like Ma and bake mock-apple pie out of green pumpkins over the fire….

            Never mind – I have a feeling that’s a lot more amusing in theory than in practice.

  9. Anonymous*

    Invite yourself over to a friend’s house. Offer to cook for them. I’ve had friends do this to me when they were remodeling. They came over and cooked and cleaned up the kitchen and we hung out and watched movies.

    1. Lynda*

      Ooooo, genius! I’ve also used an indoor grill from Hamilton Beach, and in college I used the bottom of a non-stick popcorn popper to cook everything. It works just like an electric skillet. It’s summer, so maybe you could wash dishes outside and let them air dry in the sun. If I could figure out a way to e-mail my paella, I’d do it, but pot roast works great in a crock pot – just throw in beef, onions, carrots, celery, onion soup mix, and red wine instead of water and cook for 8 hours on low. You can also add fresh thyme tied up in a paper coffee filter to make it taste really good.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What’s killing me is the lack of sink. With no sink, I feel like I can’t cook because I can’t clean up. And I am not down with this bathroom recommendation you guys are trying to push.

      1. Jamie*

        LOL – I was serious about the Pop-Tart idea I just thought I should try to be helpful since you seem like a regular grown-up who wants real food.

        Personally I would LOVE an excuse to completely avoid my kitchen for the next ten days. (To which my husband would point out would be no different than how I avoid it now.)

        Just absolve yourself of any guilt over take out and indulge for the next couple of weeks. That sounds fabulous.

      2. Erica B*

        what if you just hose everything down when you’re done? set up a table outside with your dishpans and dish drainer and your hose nearby, when you are done dump the dirty water in the toilet. don’t worry it won’t over flow, they have a feature that if there is about an gallon or 2 added to the bowl it will automatically swallow it up.. and then you can hose out your dishpan to get the bathroom cooties out of it… wait. is there a dishwasher there or has it been removed? because if it were still in the kitchen all this potty talk is just silly.

        And just think after you get your nice new kitchen you can host a pampered chef party and get all sorts of awesome new kitchen things go go along with your awesome new kitchen!

  10. KellyK*

    How about seeing if you can eat with friends or family members a few days? Not in the “tacky, mooching, invite yourself over for dinner” sort of way, but if you have friends who have a kitchen but don’t like to cook, they might be thrilled if you said “I will make you dinner if it gets me away from my scary kitchen and gives me the opportunity to eat something not microwaved.”

    I also like the idea of treating yourself to better take-out/restaurant meals. Or maybe your grocery store or another one nearby has pre-made food options that don’t suck. (My “slacker meal” of choice is grocery store fried chicken and potato salad–both of which my local chain does a pretty good job with.) Some stores actually have nice salad bars with lots of fruit, veggies, cheeses, meats, and eggs. That might be a nicer lunch than a pre-made sandwich.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is a seriously good idea. And speaking of salad bars, when planning the renovation, I had dreams about somehow installing one in my own kitchen. Not feasible, sadly.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I once had a coworker try a raw diet. We all had to put up with huge bags of apples and oatmeal all around his desk. He got extremely cranky by about day 3.

    2. Anonymous*

      Yeah. I was just thinking about Whole Foods. And Subway sandwhiches. I lived on these two when I was without a kitchen for a while.

  11. Rachel*

    If you have a rice cooker, a lot of interesting things can be cooked in one (not just rice–google around).

    But seriously, if ever there were a time to splurge and go out and work at a nice coffee shop, this would be it. We also just redid part of our kitchen and were only out of commission for about 4 days, but it drove me CRAZY.

    I don’t know what part of DC you’re in but Pound on Capitol Hill has great lunches and is very friendly about letting people hang out all day. Or at least they were in the old location – don’t quote me on that.

    Also Tryst, Busboys, pretty much any Caribou (their food is actually pretty good – especially when compared to yucky grocery takeout sandwiches), Northside Social in Arlington….can you tell I do this a lot?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is where I run into trouble. I know normal people can hang out in coffee shops for long stretches, but I’m so weirdly a homebody. I want to be here, on my couch! I am very ill-suited for this.

  12. Ask a Manager* Post author

    You guys are awesome with all these ideas! (And see how I manage to shoot almost all of them down? This has made me a total curmudgeon.)

  13. Reva*

    You can also get a panini-maker from Amazon for like $25, so you can make sandwiches as you like them for a portion of the cost.

  14. Blanche*

    Anyone else flashing to that plug-ins commercial where the contractor says it will take 30 days as the woman is plugging in the unit? And then it takes 60 days and she says something like “I thought it would.”? Sorry AAM – not trying to frighten you!

  15. happyinterviewer*

    you need a rice cooker with a built in steamer! they are cheap and you will love it. i promise. :) good luck!

  16. Emily*

    How about a Dutch oven? You can buy them pre-seasoned, and if you line it with heavy duty tinfoil, cleanup couldn’t be easier. You can do rolls and biscuits (Pilsbury work just fine), lasagna, cobbler– almost anything you can do in a regular oven, you can do in a Dutch one. And you don’t really need a lot of accessories– I’ve cooked on a tinfoil circle on concrete just as well as on some of the fancy-schmancy tables and stuff they sell. Recipes usually tell you how many brickettes to use and such, but there’s also tons of info on beginning Dutch oven cooking out there, if you’ve never done it before.

  17. Anonymous*

    Watch endless hours of TV and order one of every cooking item they advertise. Use them all, and you’ll be tired of them and can garage sale them next summer.

    1. Cruella*

      Have you ever seen “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks and Shelly Long? Contractors always say “two weeks” but they rarely ever mean it.

    2. arm2008*

      Thank you! I really needed that laugh today!

      I remodeled my parents’ kitchen instead of looking for a job. I explained to them that a contractor would TELL them that he could finish it in less time, but in the end my 2 month estimate would hold whether they hired him or me. We jury-rigged cooking and cleaning stations around the work-in-progress and complained freely about the contractor (me).

  18. majigail*

    Find a college junior and have them teach you the zen of college living because, essentially, that’s what you’re doing.

  19. Anonymous*

    Caprese sandwiches:
    Slice tomato, fresh mozzerella, and basil on a nice Italian bread. Drizzle balsamic. Destroy.

    It’s a go-to office lunch for me, executed with a plastic knife, paper plate, and no heat.

  20. Heather*

    Alison,

    I’m in DC and I’d so make you food. You’re what’s getting me through all these horrible resumes and cover letters being sent my way!

    Am I wrong for so harshly judging these cover letters that the resumes are hardly having an impact? At worst the cover letters are riddled with errors and have little to do with the posted position. At best they are generic cover letters with no tailoring to my organization. How hard is it to say you have some interest in what we do? Clearly it is very hard.

    Anyway, I agree with others that you should partner with friends and make food at their houses. Do you have anyone close who lives nearby where you can just have a set of keys and go over there during lunch?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You are not wrong to be judging them! (And this is exactly why I’m so passionate about my cover letter advice here — it really does stand out when you write a good one!)

  21. MillenniMedia*

    With a little tinfoil you can grill practically anything. Obviously meats can go right on the grill, but you can also steam veggies or shrimp by creating a little pouch with some tinfoil and a smidge of butter. Added bonus – no cleanup! Kebabs with chicken/beef/shrimp, cherry tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc are also super easy and involve no cleanup. Heck, most grocery stores sell prepared kebabs in the fresh meat section if you don’t even want to mess with dicing meat/veggies. If you do meats, make your marinade in a gallon ziploc bag – again, no cleanup.

    Alternately, if you’re just dying to cook with real pots and pans, either buy (for less than $50) or borrow a propane camping stove. Use your normal kitchen stuff to cook. Scrape leftover food into the garbage and use a hose & bucket to clean up.

    1. Dan Ruiz*

      Grocery store kababs! That’s exactly what I was thinking. You can have the butcher/kitchen staff customize them so you get your protein and veggie fix. Grill in the back yard, eat, no clean-up.

  22. Shamrocky*

    Alison, thank you so much for a chance to actually repay you in a very small way! Your advice has been priceless to me in finding the job I had never heard of, and therefore never knew I wanted. :) I have two words for you: RICE COOKER. Yes, I know a few other folks recommended it above, but to be truly convinced go to Roger Ebert’s site and do a search for “rice cooker”. You will find advice, recipes and fervent advocacy that will easily get you through the next several weeks. The rice cooker takes the cooking out of cooking.

  23. Kerry*

    When I lived in Alexandria, I had a period of time where I couldn’t cook because I’d had surgery and couldn’t walk (or stand up, or carry stuff around because I had to work the crutches…it sucked). I spent a fortune on Takeout Taxi. Do they still have that there?

  24. Dawn*

    Crockpot and grill. A couple of trips to the dinner for home-cooked-meal-type food (I did this almost every night when I remodled my kitchen).

  25. fposte*

    I’m a big fan of cooking, and but I don’t do it much in high summer anyway. Take the caprese salad and extend the theory to cheese and fresh fruit and veg generally–splash out on extravagant cheeses (not grating, since you want to slice ’em up with a plastic knife) and summer goodies like ripe tomatoes and fresh peaches, get some nice sliced deli meat (prosciutto or ham is nice), have the bakery cut you open a demibaguette, and configure as you choose on a paper plate. If you aim right, you can drizzle olive oil/balsamic, etc. Then you can alternate that with fancy takeout and feel rustic and virtuous.

  26. TheAssistant*

    Pete’s A-Pizza. Seriously. They don’t deliver on the weekends BUT they serve wine and beer at their restaurants. It’s a win.

  27. ImpassionedPlatypi*

    I would offer to bring you food, or have you over for food since we live in the same area, but I kind of feel like that might be a little creepy since we’ve never met face to face. I guess just let me know if you disagree about the creepy and want me to cook for you. I make a pretty tasty alfredo sauce as well as a really great pork chop meal involving cream sauce and cous cous.

    Also, as far as food at home- fruit. Just stock up on peaches and cherries and strawberries.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ha ha, not creepy, free food can never be creepy! (But I can’t let you do that; I would feel too selfish and greedy. Thank you though; that is incredibly nice of you!)

      1. ImpassionedPlatypi*

        Selfish and greedy? That’s just silly, but I understand… Just keep it in mind if you get to day 7 or 8 and you’re bored and running out of good ideas. I love to cook for people, and as long as you give me enough notice to thaw whatever meat I’ll need to use, I’m totally up for having you over for dinner. And I especially love baking, so you can expect pie or cookies or something ^_^.

  28. Rebecca*

    When camping, I hate washing dishes because the water is always freezing. In order to minimize dirty dishes, I wipe everything with a slightly damp paper towel immediately after using it. Example: cut up fresh veg for a salad and then wipe knife and cutting board with a damp paper towel. Is it perfectly clean? no. Is it clean enough? for me, yes, when camping or under unusual circumstances.

  29. clobbered*

    Okay, I don’t claim to understand the bathroom sink phobia, but is this a house or a condo? If the former, get the garden hose out and wash dishes outside. Use two drying racks, one for dirty one for clean, and use biodegradable soap. You are on the northern hemisphere, right, so at least it is summer out there. I second the suggestion to pretend you are camping.

    This is where Europeans come out ahead. No kitchen? A crusty baguette, a few slices of prosciutto, a nice goat cheese, a bunch of grapes and a bottle of red wine – et voila. No need for horrid pre-packaged sandwiches.

    Also good with just paper plates and plastic utensils: fresh bread and hummus with a drizzle of olive oil. Or, a (genuine) Greek yoghurt sprinkled with walnuts and drizzled with honey.

    Oh. Now I am hungry.

  30. Anonymous*

    As a European I agree. Good bread, good cheese, good sliced meat from the deli (they will probably even slice the cheese if you explain!) and decent fruit – you’ll probably eat better than usual. Yu could even get some bagged salad, it’s not as fresh as buying from the farm shop but will save the washing and cutting.

  31. Susan*

    Embrace the freedom of trashy exuberance (love that phrase!) And just rent a well equipped rv for the time being. It gives you a quiet place to work (in your pj’s), less prone to interuptions, and WA LA, instant kitchen! In fact, make a few professional road trip speaking engagements (of course to my state); being away does keep the stress level down. Like, in the off chance its day 42 and your workers are on their 3rd coffee break at 9:15 am…has the phrase “screaming banshee” been used on this site yet? :)

    Best of luck, it’ll be great. We do expect daily updates tho…and an after photo! You’ve trained us to be thorough ~

      1. Ask a Manager*

        Okay, you asked for it! Day 2: All electrical work has been completed. Kitchen looks worse than yesterday. But tomorrow might be when it all turns around — painting happens and cabinet installation begins!

      1. Susan*

        Electrical was done on Day 2? Very impressive – I have great hope for your 10-day plan!

  32. Larissa*

    When my husband and I can’t be bothered cooking we quite often have an antipasto style dinner with some really good cheeses, proscuitto, olives, pickled veg and crunchy bread. Accomapnied by a glass (or two) of good aussie wine of course! I’m Australian, can you tell? :)
    Hmm.. I think I may have that for dinner tonight!

  33. What the?*

    Renovating a kitchen is like having a baby, once it’s over, you’ll love your kitchen so much, won’t remember the trauma of having no kitchen and you’ll probably start renovating your bathroom! When we renovated, we used recycled paper plates, disposable cups and cutlery, microwaved everything and stayed in hotels on the weekend just to have a chance to order room service and feel somewhat normal. After we had a baby, we would drop the kid off at the inlaws and stay at hotels every once in a while for a chance to order room service and feel somewhat normal again……see same thing! Good luck with your renovation – looking forward to seeing the after photo!

  34. Anonymous*

    Look. Accept you are just not going to cook. I agree the dishes in bathroom is yucky. I have the same phobia. Next, use all paper/plastic for meals you are attached to doing a certain way .. like breakfast. The rest is going to be take out or eat in restaurants. Even good restaurants will do take out in most situations. For the rest of the time get back into the joy of pb&j, pudding cups, fruit and nuts. It’s too hot to cook anyway!

  35. Anth*

    Do you have a hose outdoors? You could use that for water – or buy a lot of gallon containers of water (and could you fill them up at the neighbors?)… In terms of washing dishes, definitely would agree that paper is the way to go, but that may just be because I am lazy and would never survive without a dishwasher!

    Do you have any portable appliances? Can you plug in a microwave in your dining/living room or on the kitchen floor, and have at it. You can make just about anything with the micro, like, you can cook pasta in it. And of course, just about everything comes packaged microwaveable too, so you could do that.

  36. Melissa*

    I’m sure it’s been said before, but grilling is awesome. You can even grill pizza! We went through the same thing and at fortunately for me, I had a fridge at the office and so did my husband so we could store things there. Good luck and think of it as an adventure!

  37. Aga*

    My answer is: a microwave and a panini maker! Do you have them? They are life savers! Without them I would not have survived my college years…and that one plate and a knife you can wash in the bathroom.

    I don’t know that much about good microwavable food but I know it is out there. My husband, for example is addicted to microwavable burritos and other Mexican food we buy at our local grocery store.

    Oh, and if you live near Safeway they have plenty of freshly made lunches. They are quite tasty actually.

    Good luck and thank you for all your great advice!

  38. Candace*

    How about going raw (veggies) for a few days here are 3 meals I love. So nice and crisp with the summer heat.

    Make a pesto (basil, evo, parm, garlic, pine nuts) and toss with julien slices zucchini and some chopped tomatoes

    Giada makes a great salad with canalini beans, tuna, evo, red wine vinegar. I add cherry tomatoes and capers. Eat by itself, with crackers or on a bed of greens.

    Veggie sandwich. I like cream cheese, avocado, cucumber, tomato, mushrooms, sprouts.

    It’s all Delish and super healthy. Good luck with the renovation!

  39. Anonymous*

    Amy’s frozen meals – they are absolutely delicious. Try the Indian ones (mattar paneer is awesome) or the enchilada whole meals.

  40. Jennifer*

    Sticky Fingers Bakery at Columbia Heights. Seriously.

    I like the idea of using this as an excuse to eat out and explore what’s out there, food-wise.

    On a more practical, frugal level, do you have a friend or a neighbor who would maybe let you use their kitchen every few days (for cooking–keep the dirty dishes at home!)

    …But hey! NEW KITCHEN! :)

  41. Joe*

    I’m going to have to join the “eat out” crowd. Use it as an excuse to try all those new restaurants you’ve been meaning to. Catch up over dinner with friends you haven’t seen for a while. Go on a bunch of dates. Find an interesting dinner-time Meetup. Or just grab a book and read while you eat. Sure, restaurants are more expensive, but it’s only ten days (or so you think!). And you’re a manager, you must be raking in the big bucks, you can afford a little indulgence! ;-)

  42. violet*

    Alternately, you can make rice the way my Indian mother always does: in the microwave.

    (1:2 rice:water, 10 mins on high, then 20 on medium).

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