At this time last year, we were right on the verge of kicking off our kitchen renovation! I can’t believe it’s been that long already. It feels like we just finished it. But at the same time, I can’t remember what the old kitchen was like… which is such a great feeling!
One question that gets asked a lot is “what did you eat while you had no kitchen?” “Did you eat out all the time?” I was curious about this as well before we started our renovation. So well in advance I went looking for content from others on how they coped. And guys… it really wasn’t that terrible! I’m not sure if I was just a little more prepared from my time living in an RV, but it was pretty easy for us. It just takes some extra planning.
During the renovations, we basically lived downstairs in our unfinished basement instead since our materials took over the kitchen and living room. We have a tiny sofa section down there (a gift from my parents’ RV), and set up our TV for evening lounging. Behind that, we put our long island (also originally from my parents) and set up our makeshift kitchen. When we moved our stuff out of the kitchen, we boxed up a good bit of it, but filled the drawers in the island with essentials. This included basic utensils, knives, dish towels, can opener and so much more. On the shelves below we had our cookware, the crockpot, toaster, mixing bowls, colander, cutting boards and kettle. Our Keurig sat on the top along with our crock of cooking utensils, olive oil, salt, pepper and paper towels.
On a shelf next to that, we put our microwave, cleaners for easy reach, coffee and tea, our dishes and cups, some bigger food items that didn’t need to be refrigerated such as cereal boxes, oatmeal, granola bars, rice and chip bags, along with some canned food we would be using soon. Everything else went in two rubber maid bins next to the shelf with lids on so the dogs couldn’t get into them. We filled the dresser next to the sofa with our tupperware, and also had a basket full of spices so they were still accessible and easy to carry wherever we needed them at the moment.
For cold storage, we chose to buy a mini fridge, which fit perfectly within the frame of our shelf. We spent a little extra getting a nice drink fridge with a glass front door because we knew we wanted something like that for one day when we semi-finish the basement with a dry bar. We kept our water filter pitcher in there, one dozen eggs at all times, a half gallon each of regular milk and chocolate milk, and rotated out our cold storage food for whatever was needed for the next couple days.
First rule of smaller living: Planning is key! We only kept enough ingredients needed for the next couple meals, salsa for our chips and some fresh fruit to snack on. This kept everything pared down so it could all fit in the fridge. I would plan about three days at a time, head to the grocery store more often for fresh food, and didn’t buy value packs of anything. My general process would be to make something in the crockpot that would be versatile for a few different meals, then make something simple, like spaghetti, another day. If I made something with Mexican flavors, everything was going to be in that same palate. If I made Italian, we were having Italian inspired dishes for the next couple nights.
Planning on the short term also allowed us to be flexible on evenings when we would have to go get materials for our contractor. On those nights it was easier to just grab something while we were out. Even easier when we had to go back to IKEA! I think we tried everything on the IKEA menu at the time and became friendly with one of the cashiers, hehe!
To clean up our little basement kitchen, we had the wash basin right there and would dry everything as we washed it. We made sure to clean every evening so it wouldn’t get crazy out of control down there. For cooking, we had the crockpot indoors, and the grill outdoors with one burner. I would suggest getting yourself one induction burner so you can cook indoors. It’s something I regret not getting for ourselves for days when it would rain, and are actually pretty inexpensive. But as the air got crisper as the renovation was finishing up, it was so enjoyable being outside together with the dogs cooking dinner on a regular basis.
Even while living more simply, we didn’t give up any flavor. On the contrary, I was trying so many new recipes I’d been looking forward to!
Here are some of the recipes that we loved during this time:
- Sausage, Potato, Spinach Soup by Damn Delicious (pretty sure that’s what I’m making in the photo above)
- Curried Butternut Squash Soup by Little Spice Jar
- Slow Cooker Three Bean Chili by Aberdeen’s Kitchen (was great over pasta for the second night)
- Slow Cooker Jambalaya by Creme de la Crumb
- Slow Cooker Barbacoa by Gimme Some Oven (great in tacos or over salad or rice)
- Slow Cooker Korean Beef by Damn Delicious (great in tacos or over salad or rice)
But our all time favorite was this Spicy Chicken Sweet Potato Corn Chowder by Slow Cooker Gourmet! And since it’s oh so perfectly Fall right now, I thought I would share the full recipe here for you.
We just love the combo of sweet and spicy flavors, and I even kick it up a notch by adding a little touch of sriracha. You can make it dairy free by subbing coconut milk instead of heavy cream and vegan by leaving out the chicken without any loss of flavor in my opinion.
Even Finn gets in on this action! Always hopefully for that chance I’ll drop a crumb.
Slow Cooker Spicy Chicken Sweet Potato Corn Chowder
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 pound sweet potato peeled and diced
- 2 1/2 cups frozen sweet corn kernels
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Add all ingredients except cream to slow cooker.
Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8.
Remove chicken once fully cooked and shred.
Return to slow cooker along with cream and let heat through for 15 more minutes.
I add a hint of sriracha for extra spice
This can be made with a pre-roasted chicken. Just wait to add the already shredded chicken till the end and heat through.
This can be made dairy free by subbing coconut milk for the heavy cream.
I hope you can see we certainly were not lacking in the flavor department during this time. And outside of eating out a little more than usual, we didn’t really spend more. It was so nice not wasting food and money, that I carried this habit over even after our kitchen was finished and we got a full fridge again. Most days, our fridge looks pretty empty, even though there is enough food in it for us! We were quite comfortable with our minimal lifestyle in the basement, and to be totally honest, we liked being down there more than the original kitchen in this house! When our new kitchen was done though, it of course just didn’t even compare. But we really did enjoy our little adventure in the basement and being cozied up with each other during that time. It took us back to what’s really important in life, and that’s something I’m always thankful for.
Last modified: October 4, 2018