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Cooking without a kitchen

This guide can help you or your workplace or organization plan and prepare meals and snacks with a variety of nutrients even when there is no access to a kitchen. We've created food lists for several situations, based on the food preparing equipment you may have available.


Use the lists to gather ingredients for meals and snacks based on the food available to you. Whether you’re using food from your pantry, receiving delivered food, or going to the grocery store, you can vary the foods you eat to make sure you and your family are getting the nutrients you need.

You also can use the lists to help you put together an emergency kit to have on hand in the event of a power outage or other shelter-in-place event.

Hotel or guesthouse managers

Copy the guide that best fits the equipment available in your rooms and distribute it to your guests. If possible, consider providing the suggested utensil kit for guests who will be preparing food in their rooms. If you provide a utensil kit, run all items, including the box and lid, through the dishwasher to clean for another use.

Food shelves and food pantries

Distribute lists with food packages to individuals and families who are in temporary housing. Use the guides to make lists of suggested donations for supplies, equipment and food.


Use the lists to assemble meal kits for your local hotels and guesthouses that provide temporary housing. Kits could range from providing utensil kits to complete food and utensil kits for each resident.

Food safety

Follow these safe food-handling practices to prevent food-borne illness.

Preparing food

  • Wash hands with soap under running water for 20 seconds before preparing food. If water isn’t available, rub hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Wash hands after touching raw meat or eggs, after handling non-food items such as a cell phone, and after using the toilet.
  • Rinse produce under running water (do not use soap, bleach or cleaning products) before peeling, cutting or preparing.
  • Clean up spills with soapy water.
  • Wash dishes and utensils in soapy water, rinse with clean water, air dry.
  • Empty garbage daily.

Storing food

  • Keep cold foods cold. Use a refrigerator or cooler with ice (drain water and add fresh ice daily or as needed).
  • Refrigerate promptly. Do not eat prepared food left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
  • Keep cool and dry. Do not store food and dishes near heat, in the bathroom, under sinks, or near chemicals or garbage.
  • Store food in closed containers and packages to prevent insects and contamination.
  • Use or discard leftover food within 7 days of refrigeration.

Food that is safe at room temperature

These foods stay fresher longer if refrigerated but do not require refrigeration for food safety.

  • Firm or aged cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, aged gouda and Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Processed American cheese
  • Jerky, dry sausages, snack sticks, summer sausage, hard salami and freeze-dried meat
  • Butter and margarine; discard if rancid odors develop
  • Fresh whole fruit
  • Fruit juice; discard if moldy, cloudy, bubbling, or has an off-odor
  • Fresh unpeeled vegetables
  • Condiments like ketchup, mustard, relishes, salad dressing, olives, pickles, jams, jellies, syrup

Food lists and utensil kit

These lists are based on the equipment available to you if you are staying in a temporary shelter, such as a hotel, camping or otherwise without access to a working kitchen.


Linda Erdahl, University of Minnesota Extension educator

Betsy Johnson, University of Minnesota Extension educator

For more information contact Betsy Johnson, john3064@umn.edu

Reviewed in 2020

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