10+ Tips to Set Up a Temporary Kitchen (and enjoy it)

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We’re in the middle of a kitchen renovation and living without a functioning kitchen. Somehow none of us feel inconvenienced and actually each person has individually commented that they’re enjoying the current kitchen set up.  Maybe it’s because with over 20 moves, we’re used to setting up and living in temporary situations until our belongings arrive (which can be months later if you’re moving overseas), so I thought I’d share more than 10 tips to set up a temporary kitchen and enjoy the temporary set up.

red and white checked table cloth with 2 green plates and red cup with 2 tables and miscellaneous kitchen items in the background

Planning is key for setting up a functioning temporary kitchen.  Take time to sit down and plan out what will work best for your family’s needs and your situation.  Organizing each different area is also critical. You don’t have the luxury of throwing stuff just anywhere.  You’ll need to keep each category of items organized so that you can find them easily in the middle of the mayhem.

1.  Plan for your refrigerator

Your refrigerator will be the key to your survival in your temporary kitchen.  Find a spot near an outlet to place your refrigerator.  We placed ours just inside the doorway to the kitchen. You can see that this doorway was closed off with plastic so it functioned as a wall and we simply used the other doorway into the dinning room.  

stainless steel refrigerator sitting in doorway with black arrow overlay pointing to corner of doorway

2.  Plan for your cooking appliances

Determine which other appliances you’ll use.  Consider:



Hot plate

Electric skillet

Slow cooker -Per our reader Debi’s suggestion (in the comments below), use slow cooker liners to make clean up easier.

Coffee maker

Rice Cooker

Grill – indoor or out

I chose to only use a toaster oven and microwave in our temporary kitchen because I have limited sink space for washing dishes. I couldn’t fit a slow cooker into the bathroom sink or the wet bar sink and didn’t want to have to wash it in the bathtub.  We also chose to place our new under-cabinet microwave up on supports so that it can vent while we’re using it right now.  The old microwave was part of an oven combo so we couldn’t use that and didn’t see a reason to buy a tabletop microwave for just 3 weeks use. A bit of planning made it easy to have a microwave for our meal preparation.

3.  Plan a prep and work space

Plan for at least a small open space that can be used for food preparation (even if only for a peanut butter sandwich) and is easily wiped up.

microwave sitting on 2 by 4 wood pieces and toaster oven set up on table

4.  Use a vinyl tablecloth

I generally only use a vinyl tablecloth for crafting, but you’ll want a table top that’s easy to clean up.  Since we used our easy-to-wipe-up kitchen table as our work space, our formal dining table became our daily use table.  Luckily, I had a festive vinyl tablecloth left over from a summer party last year.

5.  Use paper and plastic

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This one hurts the green, earth-friendly mama in me. But realistically, I can’t easily wash dishes for a family of 5 in a bathroom or wet bar sink. When we move and do have access to a kitchen-sized sink, then I use plastic plates. But for this reno, disposable cups, paper plates and some plastic cutlery is the only thing that made sense.

2 trays and 2 purple baskets with plastic cups, napkins, paper plates and plastic cutlery

6. Put names on cups

I’m adamant that everyone writes their name on their cup and reuse it.  I keep a Sharpie easily available so there are no excuses.

7.  Use some glass bowls and silverware

We use some smaller glass bowls to heat soup and such in the microwave.  We also use silverware for everything except super sticky foods like macaroni and cheese.

crowded tale top with silverware trat, measuring cups, utensils in canister and miscellaneous décor in background

8.  Organize your temporary kitchen into zones

To be able to easily find things in the chaos of a temporary kitchen, organize items into zones.

The bags and wrap zone and cleaning zone

wire rack with kitchen bags and wraps and folded cloths next to box of cleaning supplies and white step stool

The school lunch zone

2 insulate lunch bags next to 2 baskets filled with lunch items, bread, bags of chips and packages of crackers

The dog zone

tub with metal dog food bowls under table with towel nearing by

 9.  Use sturdy boxes

I like to use small but sturdy boxes like these document boxes to organize my temporary kitchen.  They’re strong and have handles so it’s easy to move the box around.  You can also find boxes for free at your local warehouse store.

several boxes with boxes of crackers adn food, kitchen wrap and bags and cereals stacked in corner of room by window

 10.  Keep everything visible

Put your items in open boxes so that you (and all your family) can easily see what you’re looking for. This reduces the frustration just a bit among the chaos of temporary living.

11. Put everything back in its place immediately

Because you’re living in such a small space, it’s important to put everything back where it belongs immediately.  Enlist the help of all your family to keep your temporary kitchen neat and functioning.

12.  Have fun

Think of it as indoor camping out and use this inconvenient time to have fun together as a family. Use leftover party napkins, plates and cups.  Bend a few nutrition rules and have dessert for dinner one night.  Use the chaos to make family memories and bring your family closer.

What tips to set up a temporary kitchen have worked for you? 

red and white checked table cloth with 2 green plates and red cup with 2 tables and miscellaneous kitchen items in the background

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  1. I know that I would have kept my crockpot out and wouldn’t have realized my mistake until I tried to wash it in the bathroom sink. So glad I found your post before I face a kitchen renovation! This will definitely save me a lot of frustration if we ever decide to tackle it.

  2. Kitchen renovations are a nightmare but hopefully it will be amazing when done. We did this when kids were younger, thinking back all I needed to cook were chicken nuggets was a breeze.

  3. I have never gone through a kitchen renovation, but I have moved many times. We would always take a two burner table top stove with us when we moved. We also have plastic tubs with plastic plate, cups and thrift store cutlery. Those and a few of our pots and pans came with us too! We didn’t always get home cooking, but we did always eat together! These tips are so useful!

  4. I have lived through renovations, and I am not a huge fan, haha… but it does payoff. These are great tips! I am actually hoping to re-do my cabinets and counter tops soon (the only part of our house we haven’t renovated), so I will pin this list to reference!

    1. Andrea, sounds like you’re a reno veteran. Best wishes with the cabinets and countertop (can’t wait to see it).

  5. It reminds when we planned our apartment (before we got married ) but the problem was that back then – 7 years ago, I had no idea that soon I’d start baking so much 🙂
    At least I was smart enough to have all the electric appliances. Now I want a new and bigger fridge

  6. If you like to use your crock pot, but don’t have a place to clean it, get some crock pot liners. The new pressure cookers can also do double duty for baking and slow cooking.

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