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I'm under lockdown in an apartment that doesn't have a kitchen, but making food isn't as difficult as you'd think

Ariana DiValentino   

I'm under lockdown in an apartment that doesn't have a kitchen, but making food isn't as difficult as you'd think
  • I live in Los Angeles in a bachelor apartment, which is one room with an attached bathroom, and a kitchenette rather than a full kitchen.
  • Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, I've been in lockdown with the rest of California for over a month.
  • I've had to attempt to cook at home more than usual since I can't visit friends and use their kitchens or dine out.
  • I've been using a plug-in range to make stovetop meals, stretching my pantry ingredients to make basic dishes more interesting, and fully utilizing all of the fresh produce I acquire.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

When I signed the lease for my tiny, kitchen-less apartment, I certainly didn't foresee a scenario in which I'd be inside it for weeks on end without leaving.

And although I am missing many basics, like an oven or a real freezer, preparing meals hasn't been as tough as you might expect.

Before the pandemic, life without a kitchen wasn't much of an issue

When I moved from New York City to Los Angeles in September, my biggest goal in apartment hunting was to find a place where I could live alone.

After having at least two roommates in all of my New York apartments, I really wanted to have my own space. I wasn't able to afford a studio in NYC but, in LA, I could afford a bachelor apartment, which is a very small studio that generally has a kitchenette instead of a true kitchen.

Though I like to cook, I was willing to forego a kitchen in order to have a place of my own — and I settled on a bachelor studio in the Koreatown neighborhood of LA.

The apartment has a small counter space, a few cabinets, a microwave, and a mini-fridge. Considering that I probably wouldn't be cooking any elaborate meals for just myself anyway, this seemed like a workable situation.

Socializing was a pretty important part of my diet, and the global pandemic has made my simple routine nearly impossible

As many can relate to, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced me to make some adjustments over the past few weeks.

In an attempt to slow down and stop the spread of the coronavirus, California shut down dine-in restaurant service in March and issued a stay-at-home order in April. Californians should only be leaving their homes to get essentials, and this order is set to be in place until at least mid-May.

Before the lockdown, I didn't have to eat in my home often. When I did, I ordered food, made a microwave meal, or whipped up a salad. But I am no longer able to hang out with friends and take advantage of their full kitchens, nor can I occasionally grab lunch at a local eatery.

I've quickly adapted, and I'm cooking more than I thought I ever would in my apartment

Currently, eating pantry staples at home is more or less my only option

I haven't been ordering delivery as much as you might expect.

It's not a practical option in terms of my budget since I've faced the same dip in work that many other freelancers have as of late. It's also not ideal for my health since many of my local ordering-out options are meals laden with oil and salt.

I've been limiting myself to one order every two weeks, and only from places that serve large portions (a rarity in LA) that I can stretch out for meals over the course of a few days.

Above all, pantry items have become a staple of my diet and fresh produce has been a blessing.

When the gravity of the situation was first coming to light in mid-March, I bought a bunch of shelf-stable groceries like pasta, boxed meals, and boxed and canned soups. I've continued to have them shipped to me, too.

I'm also cooking more than I ever thought I would in this apartment. Fortunately, months ago, my mom sent me a plug-in range as a housewarming gift, and it's quickly become a lifesaver for preparing stovetop meals.

Many of my meals have been pretty carb-heavy, like pasta or rice and beans, but I make health-conscious swaps when I can by using low-sugar tomato sauce, cooking chickpea-based pasta, and trying to consume meals with vegetables.

It's not ideal, but I'm trying to worry less about my weight and more about nourishing my body and satisfying my taste buds.

I've also found that getting creative with nonperishables has been key in keeping my limited range of ingredients from getting boring.

For starters, I've been using a splash of Ripple protein shakes as creamer in my coffee every morning as a bit of plant protein that makes my cup of joe a little more indulgent. I've also made salad dressings out of basics, like vegan mayonnaise, and other staples, like apple cider vinegar.

When I'm lucky enough to have fresh produce delivered to me, I make every effort to use it up before it goes bad. Some of my go-to, produce-heavy meals are Waldorf-inspired salads made with romaine and apples I've had on hand, plus nuts and dried cranberries I had in the cabinet.

The challenges of kitchenless living have been present, but not insurmountable

Since I don't have an oven, I can't do any baking — but I am curious to test out some microwave hacks, like mug cakes and microwaved "baked" potatoes. Fortunately, most of the cooking I do is stovetop anyway.

I also have to be really careful to eat my produce and leftovers in a timely manner since my mini-fridge has a tiny freezer section that doesn't actually get cold enough to properly freeze things. I can't exactly preserve any food to save for later.

The other minor inconvenience of this style of apartment is that the only sink is in the bathroom, so I can't really let dishes pile up. This might be for the best, though. I wash my dishes as I use them, and don't even have the option to put it off until later.

Overall, I'm just making my situation work and I'm excited to eventually use a real kitchen again

My "quarantine cooking" is far from Instagrammable, but I haven't found myself in much of a "Master Chef" mood anyway.

I'm looking forward to cooking something a little more elaborate when this pandemic passes and I can visit friends again — or when I move into an apartment with a real kitchen.

But for now, my simple meals are sustaining me just fine.

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