How Do You: Cook?

kitchen emptyI get asked a LOT about the challenges I face in cooking. This is an area I struggle with tremendously for a variety of reasons. The reality is, my facilities simply are not adequate to do what I need to do for healthy, varied food for a family. My goal is to eat grain and sugar free as my family does so much better with that. Additionally, I shoot for low carb too since *I* do so much better that way. “From scratch” just doesn’t happen, unfortunately.

My cooking is done primarily in a toaster oven. I also have a crock pot but using that is more challenging because washing it is hard (which leads to another question – how do I do dishes? But that is another post for the future.) The photo above was taken prior to moving aboard. The space to the left of the sink is where my crock pot now lives and the spot to the very right is the diesel stove. I use that flat surface as a dish drainer when I wash dishes.

I do not have a microwave or a hot plate or a stove with a surface on which to use a frying pan.

Challenges I encounter are:
1. Limited food storage:

I have a dorm size fridge and a dorm size freezer. The freezer frosts up significantly and I am not really sure what to do about it. Things get lost in the hoarfrost and the door literally freezes shut. The obvious solution is to simply buy a new freezer. But that means money spent on a new one, the time spent taking out the old and installing the new and then disposing of the old. I get overwhelmed. No judgment, please. If any of you are in the area and want to take care of that for me, I’d love that. Otherwise, know this is simply information, not complaining. (Can you tell I get a lot of “helpful” “advice” from “well-meaning” folks? I’m a little sensitive. I admit.)

So, the size of the units makes keeping too much on hand difficult.

2. Limited counter/flat surface prep space:

Cooking takes a surface to cut meat and veggies, to put the bowls and pans and cutting boards, to put finished product to serve. I am very, very visual. I need to lay everything out that I’m going to use. I cannot do that on the boat. Consequently, I use an inordinate amount of brain space trying to keep track of what I’m doing. Also, many things require a bowl of something to be mixed while something else sautes in a pan, etc etc. If I can’t mix it all together, it just doesn’t happen. There are no side dishes! Ha!

My counter space is occupied by my crock pot and my toaster oven. What I’d REALLY like to do is install a small, propane cook stove in place of my Dickinson diesel stove. It would free up counter space AND I could do more than one thing at a time potentially. This is probably at least a $1000 proposition plus getting the right help to get gas lines properly installed, getting diesel lines properly uninstalled. Not out of the question, but very difficult for this already overwhelmed mama.

3. Small sink

I have a DOUBLE sink!! That is actually pretty awesome. Lots of boats don’t have a double sink. This allows me to hand wash on one side and rinse on the other. But, the sink is SMALL. My crock pot fills it up. And the faucet has to be wiggled to get it up over the lip of the crock. (That can’t be a good thing to do regularly, right?) Washing isn’t the real issue. Getting it RINSED is the issue. There just isn’t adequate clearance. I did go shopping for a new faucet that had more clearance as I figured that would be a good way to significantly ease things without a major overhaul. Faucets that will fit my sink are surprisingly hard to find!

Cooking real food means using actual dishes of a certain size and getting those washed and rinsed is challenging.


So, what do I actually cook? If I can slice it directly into my crock pot, I can cook it usually. If I can warm something in my toaster oven, say breaded chicken tenders from Costco, then I do that. I used to do a lot of alternative baking with coconut and other nut flours and I don’t do that anymore. I shop every couple of days. I go to Costco and think “Hmm. What is an actual MEAL. Oh, chicken tenders. We’ll eat those for dinner today, and lunch and dinner tomorrow. And apples. I’ll grab a flat of apples.” And that’s how it goes. Pretty romantic, no?

When I first bought my boat, I lived on it alone and it was MUCH easier to fix things. I have much simpler desires than my kids. Also, being just one person I didn’t need to cook the quantity that is needed for 3 kids, 2 of whom are teens and have adult appetites. Keeping up with quantity in the toaster oven is difficult. I think we lived a year on the boat before I was able to get the crock pot.

Honestly, cooking on the boat is a lot like camping. It takes a lot of planning and logistical work and is energy intensive.

Do you live in a small space? What challenges have you encountered? What creative solutions have you found? Please comment!



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