I talk to a lot of people about food both formally through health coaching, and cooking classes, and also informally. Me, at your next party: "Hi, I'm Kelly. What do you eat for dinner?"
In doing so, I've learned that many of us value a home-cooked meal but struggle to get dinner on the table due to work, family, friends, kitchen renovations, etc.
Through these chats, I've also learned that many of you are pretty brilliant at devising strategies to make eating well possible despite the obstacles in your way.
Which got me wondering, why keep these cooking strategies to myself?
So starting today, I'll periodically share stories of people trying to eat real food, while keeping up with a career, family, friends, and while trying to save a minute at the end of the day for good wine and bad TV.
Let's get started.
Meet Jessica. Jess is a good friend and the owner of Found Home & Design where she helps people buy and sell real estate and offers custom design services to turn your house into a place you're excited to call home. She's also a wife and the mother of two young children and in the process of undergoing a major home renovation of her own. Which makes Jess the perfect candidate to share tips on how to live through a kitchen renovation and still cook from time to time as well.
Read on to learn about the one kitchen appliance you never knew you needed, what she wishes she'd done differently, and for some pro tips on how to survive your own kitchen renovation.
Interview with Jessica Hoenes of Found Home & Design
Tell me a little about your home renovation project?
I was tired of being confined to the back of my house in my beige ‘90s kitchen. We knew that to make the house function differently we’d need to do an overhaul of our main living space. We ended up doing a reconfiguration of our mudroom, kitchen, dining room, and den which was a “gut to the studs” job that included removing two load bearing walls. We also added some much needed central AC and replaced all of the windows & exterior doors. So, pretty much every room in the house ended up being touched in some capacity!
What tools or tricks did you use to make it through the renovation and still eat at home every so often?
We knew we couldn’t survive without some sort of dining space, food storage, and a surface to prep on so we reconfigured our playroom and office with a makeshift setup that ended up functioning really well.
We packed up most of our dishes and left out only what we'd need. Then we put all of our necessities into a single plastic tub for easy storage and day-to-day use.
The toaster, outdoor grill, and our air fryer became our most valuable appliances! If you’re not familiar with air fryers I’ll give a quick endorsement because I now love them. My husband bought one after getting sucked into an infomercial (geez!) but it allowed us to cook things like sweet potato fries, cinnamon rolls, and roasted veggies (the “fryer” part is misleading, it’s like a mini convection oven and doesn't require oil)!
We learned that our bathtub was the best place to do dishes so came up with a system to bring dishes up and back immediately after meals.
I also had to majorly adjust my cooking style. I typically write grocery lists from meal plans that I create on Sunday each week. I’d thankfully started to adopt some “capsule kitchen” concepts so I had some practice adapting on the fly when the day didn’t quite go my way. A few weeks into the renovation I went full blown, “just buy a bunch of stuff and figure it out later”. This approach really saved me from completely relying on (expensive and unhealthy) take out and I think I’ll continue with this more fluid approach indefinitely.
Is there anything you'd do differently in the future?
I wouldn’t start demo until custom materials are on site. We thought we ordered everything in plenty of time but there were substantial delays on our windows and tile which created a lot of down time (and every additional day you’re inconvenienced starts to wear on you at the end). I would also have packed up more of my house to keep things clean. We left spaces outside of the demo zone in tact but even with a temporary wall and air filter running 24/7 dust finds its way into every nook and cranny!
What advice would you give a friend or client about how to survive a kitchen renovation?
Keep perspective. Yes, it’s an annoying thing to go through. But it’s voluntary and temporary and a privilege to get to create a space custom to your needs and taste.
Get out of the house. It will be a source of stress so try not to be there! And make sure there’s at least one space that’s still enjoyable while you're at home, for us it was our master suite.
Try to take a vacation. We didn’t have any extra money to pour into a big getaway but were able to plan some time away visiting family and staying in a hotel while some of the more disturbing work (like refinishing the floors) was being done.
Take the shortcuts. Pre-cut fruit and veggies, takeout, and paper plates will help you survive! And when you do cook keep it simple and choose meals that can be made quickly with virtually no cleanup.
Expect a constant inconvenient mess. I’d prepared myself for not having a kitchen but didn’t quite fully understand how generally "messy" my life would be for three months. For example, our basement laundry wasn’t accessible from indoors for eight weeks so I’d have to walk down an unlit path around the back of my house to switch out a load. We had a lot of storms this summer so one night I was doing this while it was pouring and I startled a raccoon which caused me to drop my clothes in the mud…just expect some of these moments. Also, even with a partition from the work space, the dust was constant because of the foot traffic. I’d advise you to stock up on Swiffer dusters and create a nightly routine in between deeper cleanings to try and keep it manageable.
Understand that there will be a steady flow of people in your home. I had to wear actual pajamas and make sure my teeth were brushed to be a reasonably presentable human before coffee. Project managing this level of renovation is no joke! If you don’t love it, hire someone who does or you’ll go insane.
Make sure you have an open line of communication with your contractor. Also be aware of what they do and don’t have control over, showing respect to them and their crew goes a long way.
Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your kitchen renovation tips! I love the way you setup a makeshift kitchen in your playroom and I never would've thought about doing dishes in the bathtub which is obviously much deeper than the average bathroom sink. Now, please excuse me while I go buy an air fryer.
What do you think? Is it helpful to hear stories from real people? Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. Do you have cooking strategies to share? Email me - firstname.lastname@example.org, I'd love to hear about them!