How to survive during a kitchen remodel

Surviving without a kitchen starts long before the contractors show up with their sledgehammers. The more you prepare in advance, the easier things will be for you during construction and after.

Having been through a kitchen renovation before, I decided to do things different the second time around: mainly, no cooking and no washing of dishes. The only exception was for the coffee pot. Ah, there’s nothing like a fresh cup of hot coffee to make everything seem okay for just a little while.

I didn’t want to use dishes because I didn’t want to wash them in my small bathroom sink. Nor did I want to wash them outside with the hose because the water that comes out of it isn’t potable, so why would I want that on my dishes? It’s just very inconvenient washing dishes without a kitchen.

And I didn’t want to cook either because that makes dishes.

I also didn’t want to eat out because I normally cook for myself all the time and only eat out maybe two or three times a month.

I had about three weeks to prepare for my remodel in which time I had to pack and prepare meals to last a few weeks.

Packing up the kitchen

First off, I got rid of a bunch of things I wasn’t using. Some of it I gave away and some of it I sold.

The next thing I did was to pack up all the small appliances and things I wasn’t going to need for a while. I put like things together and labeled every box.

Now here’s a tip that saves time after the kitchen is finished. In order to avoid having to wash everything after unpacking, I wrapped almost everything in clean plastic bags.

Then I put all that stuff into an empty hall closet, packing it like I was putting a 3D puzzle together, filling every last inch of space.

Hall closet stuffed full of kitchen items

Hall closet stuffed full of kitchen items

list of kitchen items

Inventory of packed kitchen items

I also wrote up a list and taped it to the door so I wouldn’t forget what was in there.

Other things like my dishes, spices and packaged food went into my new temporary kitchen.

Here’s another tip. My refrigerator had space in it so I filled it up with pantry items. Canned goods can be kept in there with no problem.

Setting up a temporary kitchen during a remodel

I used the middle bedroom as my temporary kitchen. I set up a card table with a microwave, coffee pot, disposable plates, cups and silverware, napkins and snacks.

Temporary kitchen during remodel

Temporary kitchen during remodel

Boxes with my dishes and canned food were stored under the card table. Then I had another large box in the middle of the room filled with all the last minute stuff I packed. And on top of that I had a dish drainer, soap, windex, paper towels, etc.

The refrigerator stayed in the demoed kitchen for a while then got moved into the living room.

Meals prepared in advance

Want to know what I planned to eat? I had food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I put individual servings into plastic bags. The sandwiches were individually wrapped and stored back in the original bread wrappers. Everything got frozen except for the cheese and nuts. Here’s the list of what I made:

  • Peanut butter half sandwiches, 20
  • Bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, 24
  • Chicken parmesan, 4 servings
  • Inside out ravioli casserole, 9 servings
  • Tamale pie casserole, 8 servings
  • Hamburger pie casserole, 8 servings
  • Pot roast, 6 servings
  • Almonds, 30 snack bags
  • Individually wrapped cheese sticks, 12 pc

I also had individual servings of mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables. And I bought several boxes of protein bars.

Breakfast and lunch

I alternated between the sandwiches and protein bars for breakfast and lunch.


For dinner I chose one of the casseroles and a side of vegetables.


I relied on nuts, cheese sticks and sometimes a peanut butter sandwich between meals.

frozen meals for kitchen remodel

Freezer full of home cooked meals to eat during kitchen remodel

Every night I would defrost food for the next day. At mealtime, all I had to do was open a plastic bag, put the food on a paper plate and microwave.

Even the dog ate off of paper plates!

I began with about five weeks worth of food that I hoped would be enough. Right around week four my patience and my food were running out due to a couple of unforeseen delays.

So I had to make an emergency trip to Costco for prepared food which I don’t normally buy. I got cheeseburgers, cooked hamburger patties, tequila lime chicken wings and a bag of lettuce. I think I heard angels singing when I feasted on those wings!

Living with a kitchen reno: noise, dust and delays

My kitchen remodel took seven weeks. The contractors were there on 23 of those 49 days. There was a lot of time when nothing was happening.

When they were there, the builders were really good about sealing off the kitchen and cleaning up at the end of the day, so dust wasn’t a big problem. Noise was a problem at times so I would sometimes take the dog for a walk. The rest of the time I tried to work on the computer, but it was really hard to concentrate.

I also had to keep my dog on a leash in the house so he wouldn’t accidentally get let out.

With a kitchen reno you should always count on the fact that it won’t be finished on time. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when unexpected things pop up.

My breaking point came around the fourth week when they had to level the kitchen floor. I wasn’t allowed in that room for three days and that was the last straw because I couldn’t use the door to the backyard. I had to walk around the front yard to the backyard every time the dog wanted to go out.

It’s amazing how much little things matter at a time like that when your house is in chaos.

After that things gradually got better as the new kitchen came together.

Moving back into the kitchen

Before I moved all my stuff back into the kitchen, I had to clean the cabinets inside and out.

Then I took my time unpacking and trying to figure out where things would go. But at least I didn’t have too many dishes to wash having protected them during storage.

If you want to see my new kitchen, then check this out.

And please share your best tip for surviving a kitchen remodel.

My galley kitchen upgrade

Two years ago I did a complete renovation of my small galley kitchen. The house was built in ‘44 and my parents bought it in in the early 50s. Bits and pieces were updated a few times over the years with the end result being a hodgepodge of awfulness (sorry Mom and Dad). So in 2013 when it became my house, I decided it was time for a total teardown and upgrade which I documented in a time lapse video near the end of this article.

Every inch counts in a small kitchen, and I’ll show you what I did to make the most of this challenging layout while keeping the cost as low as possible.

Right now, before I get into the details, I’m going to give you the goods—a couple of before and after shots.

Galley kitchen before and after photos

And now on to the backstory. Read on to learn:

  • How I saved money
  • How I made the kitchen look bigger
  • How I changed the layout to improve appearance and function
  • What I splurged on
  • My design choices

Things that saved me money

Did not enlarge the kitchen

I decided not to put an addition onto the kitchen. Not only is there the cost of construction to consider, but also the taxes that are added along with new square footage.

Reused the nearly new appliances

the same refrigerator in the upgraded kitchen

Kept the same refrigerator in the upgraded kitchen

Even though this was a total teardown, there were four things worth saving: almost new stove, refrigerator, garbage disposal and sink. Everything else was ripped out: the cabinets, flooring and lights.

Originally I didn’t want to keep the white appliances because I prefer the look of black or stainless. But it just didn’t make sense to replace perfectly good appliances. This was a really good decision in the end.

I’ve discovered stainless is really hard to keep spot-free. White appliances have the advantage in not showing every little water drop.

Kept the same white paint color

I also kept the white paint job. White is about my least favorite color for walls, but the kitchen had been recently painted and I didn’t want to have to repaint everything all over again.

I actually ended up having to repaint most of it anyway once construction was done on the ceiling and walls. But as it turns out, white paint was a good color choice to minimize and coordinate with the white appliances.

Made the kitchen look bigger by taking out a wall

Today everyone wants open concept which is the exact opposite of what people wanted in the 40s and 50s. I didn’t even have to take down a whole wall. I just widened the doorway from the living room to the kitchen. Removing that three foot section of wall made both the living room and kitchen look bigger.

Rearranged the layout to better utilize the space

The kitchen itself is kind of a T-shape, with the galley kitchen in the center, a pantry at one end of the T and a small dining area at the other end. Connected to the dining area is a small laundry room.

There were two things that really bothered me about the layout:

  1. The refrigerator was on the wrong side. It extended past the countertop and blocked the view of the kitchen window. I had it relocated to the opposite side, recessed into the wall by about four inches.
  2. There was no dishwasher. To make room for one, I moved the stove down as far as possible to create a longer section of countertop. And that made room for a dishwasher next to the sink.

Gave my small galley kitchen the Wow Factor

These were all things I splurged on:

Dramatic black granite countertops

The whole kitchen makeover was designed around one thing I’d been dreaming about for a few years: sparkly black countertops. I was going to use a quartz composite but that was actually more expensive than real granite. So, real granite it was. Black galaxy granite. Even the name is dramatic.

galley kitchen upgrade granite

Dramatic black granite countertop

Full backsplash

I have a real pet peeve about skimpy backsplashes. A four inch backsplash is useless. I insisted on having a full one.

Originally I was going to do it in a different color, like silver or gray, but there would have been an extra charge to fulfill the minimum order requirement. So I just went with the black galaxy granite on that too. And I’m very glad I did because the countertops and blacksplash look like a sculptural piece of art.

New funky chandelier in the dining area

new kitchen chandelier

My Supernova mini chandelier

My fabulous chandelier practically steals the show from the granite countertops. I love it so much I wrote a post about it.

Other design choices

My taste favors clean lines, somewhere in between modern and contemporary. With this kitchen renovation, I was leaning a bit towards retro modern.

As for the colors, there needs to be contrast between the cabinets, countertops and floors. Since the counters are black, I chose a medium brown for the cabinets and a slightly darker taupey brown for the floor.

Shaker cabinets

galley kitchen upgrade

Shaker cabinets with simple silver pulls

I wanted cabinets that didn’t have to be painted so I opted for wood cabinets in a shaker style. Then I chose very simple and inexpensive polished silver drawer pulls for them.

As for the cost, these are medium grade stock cabinets. They’re fine and much better than what I had before, but I wish I’d spent a little more and gotten custom cabinets. There would have been more storage space and less dead space than with stock cabinets.

Porcelain tile floors

kitchen upgrade tile floor

Porcelain tile floor in the kitchen

This was my second choice as I had originally ordered black and brown granite tiles online. The samples looked nice but on installation day my contractor discovered they were not perfectly flat.

They had to go back and I had to scramble to pick out new flooring locally. But I think the porcelain tile was a better choice. It has a very interesting texture and does not show the dirt. Very important.

Blanco sink

I reused the sink as it was still in good shape. It’s nice and deep. I had it mounted underneath the granite for a smooth look.

Simple kitchen faucet

I’m a bit of an oddball in that I don’t like single-handle faucets. The one I chose has a high curved faucet with two handles and a sprayer on the side.

kitchen upgrade faucet

Simple kitchen faucet

Stainless steel dishwasher

Notice I did not get a white dishwasher to match the stove and refrigerator. I think stainless blends in better with the cabinets and the other silver accessories. White would have been too jarring.

galley kitchen upgrade

Stainless steel dishwasher blends in well with the wood cabinets and tile floor

Modern silver track lights

kitchen upgrade lighting

New modern track light

These were inexpensive and a little bit funky with that curved bar. The polished silver goes with the cabinet pulls and faucet. And they provide lots of light.

Black outlet covers

Another one of my pet peeves is outlet covers that don’t match the walls. I usually end up painting them but fortunately black ones were available.

galley kitchen upgrade

Black oulet covers blend into the granite backsplash

More after photos of my galley kitchen upgrade

Let’s take another look around my new kitchen.


kitchen upgrade pantry

New pantry in galley kitchen

This is a case when less is more. The new pantry is slightly smaller (length and width) than the old one. It fits better in that narrow passageway.


galley kitchen upgrade stove

White stove against black countertops

The new kitchen has a black and white theme which is carried on as accents throughout the rest of the house.

Longest stretch of countertop

galley kitchen upgrade counter

Long countertop in new galley kitchen

The counter next to the stove measures seven feet long. The only things allowed to live there are the coffee pot, potholders, salt and pepper. That leaves plenty of room for me to cook.


galley kitchen upgrade sink

Sink in front of the kitchen window

I love how the sink is underneath the granite.

Short countertop

galley kitchen upgrade counter2

Counter to the right of the sink

The counter in between the sink and refrigerator is just over three feet long. There’s just enough room for the microwave and toaster oven. They’re mostly hidden from view by the refrigerator.


galley kitchen upgrade refrigerator

Refrigerator hides microwave and toaster oven

The refrigerator, being recessed into the wall, barely sticks out beyond the countertop, leaving more room in the middle of the floor.

Dining area

galley kitchen upgrade dining aea

Dining area with new chandelier, curtains and chairs

Time lapse video of my kitchen renovation

Watch this short video to see my new kitchen being built.

And that brings us to the end of this small kitchen makeover

Thank you for visiting today and please leave me your comments or questions.

Related article

How to survive during a kitchen remodel