There are, admittedly, few less convenient situations than losing your kitchen, from renos and extended vacations to the all-too-infamous college dorm experience. It’s easy to feel like our healthy lifestyles must be put on hold until certain situations change. But with a little forethought and the right attitude, your own well-being never needs to take a back seat to your circumstances.
Step 1: Assess
No refrigerator access? No microwave? No problem.
But I highly recommend some kind of blender or food chopper. I keep a fairly compact and affordable one at work for food demos and am amazed by how much it can do. Also, invest in a good quality chef’s knife. You don’t need to spend a fortune; in college, I picked up a $14 knife and it still gives my $250 replacement a run for its money. Other useful pieces of equipment include: storage containers for the fridge, freezer, and pantry; bowls; and a can opener.
Seriously, that’s it.
Step 2: Stock
It’s important to have a small collection of staples that you can eat as-is or prepped with the available equipment. Here’s my list:
Produce (fresh, frozen, dried): avocados, broccoli, carrots, celery, greens, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. And basically any fruit.
Protein: beans (canned), cheese (small amounts) & no-salt-added cottage cheese, eggs, nuts and seeds, natural nut and seed butters, peanut flour, plain Greek yogurt, protein powder, soy (edamame, tempeh, tofu), tuna.
Fiber-rich carbohydrates: whole grain breads, crackers, pitas, old-fashioned oats, quinoa, rice cakes.
Condiments: herbs (dried) and spices (I recommend at least cinnamon, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and chili powder), hot sauce, hummus, salsa, vinegar.
Step 3: “Cook”
You could spend hours sifting through recipes online that don’t require any fancy kitchen equipment, but these ideas should get you started!
* Overnight Oats. I’m totally smitten by the chewier texture and make-ahead nature of overnight oats! If you don’t have a fridge, though, try making your own (microwaveable) oatmeal packets instead.
* Eggs. Once you realize you can cook eggs almost any way imaginable in the microwave, nothing will stand between you and a protein-packed morning! Pair your favorite method with this two-minute flourless English muffin and fresh veggies.
* Yogurt Bowls. Smoothie bowls shouldn’t get to have all the breakfast-bowl fun! A humble spoon is all you really need for a sensationally filling yogurt breakfast, sweet or savory!
Lunch & Dinner
* Salads. Hearty salads make formidable recipes for a kitchen-less cook. Two of my favorites are Edible Perspective’s Thai Kale Salad and Green Kitchen Stories’ Chestnut, Bean, and Tahini Salad (using pouches of pre-roasted chestnuts to keep it no-cook).
* Sandwiches. Think beyond PB&J or ham and cheese! I discovered a creamy avocado and white-bean wrap in my own college years, and it’s still one of my all-time favorites. Another option: take a whole grain or corn tortilla, add some salsa or red sauce, a mess of vegetables, and a touch of cheese, and you have yourself a microwaveable pizza or quesadilla!
* Hot Messes. Dump a whole bunch of nutritious ingredients in a bowl and dig in! Think microwavable stuffed potatoes; burrito bowls ready in minutes; and mac-n-cheese without any dubious cheese powder. (To make that last one extra-nutritious, add in as many fresh or frozen veggies as you can before microwaving!)
Snacks & Desserts
* Energy Bites. The key as a kitchen-less cook is a recipe that only requires a spoon, a bowl, and a little elbow grease to throw together, like hemp protein truffles or cranberry coconut balls.
* Mug Treats. I find the trick with most mug desserts is to err on the side of undercooking, pausing often to stir. My vote is for brownies or chocolate-chip cookies.
* Spoonable Sweets. Whip up some chocolate chia pudding (if you have a blender, use it here; it’s not required but does help with the texture), chocolate (or not!) avocado mousse, or even raw “cookie dough” and you won’t miss the stovetop/oven versions one bit.
As Julia Child said, “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients.” Keep it fresh. Keep it simple. And above all, just keep cooking.