4 Food Hacks for the Urban Dweller

Urban living has its perks. A gourmet cooking environment isn’t one of them. I would know (yes, that really is my kitchen in the photo above!)kitchen-emergency-cooking

I recently had my first night in a new (to me) studio apartment in the Washington DC metro area, and I was joined by a firetruck and a crew of firemen. What happened, you ask? I cooked a frozen pizza for dinner, and the oven wouldn’t shut off.  The oven kept getting hotter and hotter! Fearing a potentially dangerous situation, I had to call for help.

Don’t worry. Everything turned out fine. The firemen shut off the appliance, and no one was hurt. However, I’ve been without a working stove/oven for days, so I’ve had to get creative with cooking healthful, nutritious meals. Here are some pro-tips for when urban living throws you a curve ball.


1. Become a pro at microwave mug meals.

Without a dishwasher, it can be tempting to skip the kitchen and order take-out just to avoid cleanup. Did you know that you can use a mug and microwave to cook simple, nutritious meals? For a simple breakfast scramble with protein and fresh veggies, give this recipe a try:


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbs. or milk or water
  • Leftover ingredients from your fridge, such as onions, greens or peppers
  • Your choice of protein such as sliced ham, bacon, or tofu
  1. Mix eggs and milk in microwavable mug for 1 minute.
  2. Add other desired ingredients to mug.
  3. Cook for an additional 30 seconds.


2. Use an indoor grill.

Living in an apartment in the city might mean you don’t have outdoor space to grill. Don’t let that stop you from getting a grilled and toasted taste you love. Indoor grills are inexpensive and easy to store, even in tiny kitchens. For a simple meal, use packaged fish or chicken with fresh veggies to create a healthful and convenient meal. Here is a sample recipe:


  • ½ cup of Italian dressing
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 frozen tilapia fillets
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
    1. Combine Italian dressing and crushed pepper in small bowl.
    2. Chop peppers into thin slices.
    3.  Combine dressing mixture, peppers and fillets into gallon-sized plastic bag. Shake it up and then place in the refrigerator for 25-30 minutes so food can marinate.
    4. Place the peppers and fillets onto the grill and cook until the fillets are flaky.
    5. Enjoy!


3. Make more frequent trips to the grocery store.

When storage space is limited in a shared or small kitchen, make a few trips to the store per week. Find a few favorite shops near work, school, and/or home, and plan what you want to buy for the next few meals. You will save money and space by only buying foods you need, and you’ll cut down on your own food waste.


4. Cook one-pot meals.

I am looking forward to trying more one-pot recipes once my stove/oven gets fixed. Cook one-pot meals to make the best use of available space in a cramped kitchen. Using a single skillet or heating up the crock pot to make chili will save space and cut down on cleaning time. Look for packaged foods, such as canned beans and frozen veggies and meats to save yourself a step.


Sure, when you keep colliding with your roommate (or when the firetruck shows up!), urban living can feel like a drag. But, it doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying nutritious meals you make yourself with a few easy workarounds!