4 simple steps to pack your kitchen for PCS success

Fast food and takeout can be tempting enough in “normal” times. But when you’re moving, the ease of grabbing a meal on-the-go can be even more tempting—and sometimes necessary. One way to keep your nutrition and performance goals on track is by cooking most meals at home—before, during, and after your move. Set yourself up for nutrition success by following these 4 steps to pack your kitchen for your PCS.

  1. Purge your pantry

Plan to eat as much of the food in your fridge, freezer, and pantry as you can before moving day. Unless you’re going to a remote location, you can’t take your food with you. Learn how to purge your pantry before your PCS and you’ll be one step closer to PCS success. It might help you save some money too. (Hint: Depending on how much food you have on hand, you might want to start this process about a month before you leave.)

  1. Identify your kitchen essentials

Once you have a plan to use up your food, turn your attention to your kitchen equipment. Which equipment do you need to pack for the movers, and what can you leave behind? Is there anything you’ll need in the first days or weeks at your new station you want to set aside and pack separately to take with you, in case the movers are delayed?

Make a list of all your kitchen equipment and mark down what you’ll need to keep for your new kitchen. A typical kitchen setup includes mixing bowls, measuring spoons, knives, a can opener, baking dishes, pots and pans, a coffee maker, and a toaster. If you’re unsure about taking something, ask yourself how often you used it. Anything that didn’t see regular use probably isn’t worth moving, so mark it as “sell or donate.” (Packing unused equipment uses up pounds of your moving allowance that can be used for other items.) Take note of any equipment that’s old or easily replaced. Maybe you want to treat yourself to a new set of pots and pans in your new kitchen…

  1. Create a basic “kitchen in a box”

Now that you’ve identified your kitchen essentials, it’s time to make a packing plan. The majority of your kitchen essentials can probably get packed with your household goods; mark these on your list as “pack now.”

Some items, however, you’ll probably want in those first few days or weeks between when the movers pack up your household and when they unload it at your new home. Mark these on your list as “pack later.” Based on your cooking needs, use your “pack later” items to create a basic “kitchen in a box”—a pared-down version of your kitchen essentials. Keep these separate from the items you intend to send with the movers. People typically include the following items:

  • Saucepan or sauté pan (include one of each if there’s room)
  • Kitchen towel or potholder
  • A couple mixing bowls
  • Wooden spoon or spatula
  • A good knife and a cutting board
  • Can opener
  • A set of measuring spoons and cups
  • Kitchen sponge and dish soap
  • Small set of dishes or paper products
  • Microwave-safe containers

If possible, keep your “kitchen in a box” with you during the move or ship it separately via unaccompanied baggage to ensure it arrives at your new location when you do.

  1. Prepare to live with limited equipment

Sometimes being without a kitchen or all your favorite dishes and equipment is unavoidable. (Sometimes a PCS can land you in temporary housing.) Luckily, there are still ways to assemble healthy meals with access to only a fridge and a microwave.

If you find yourself in this situation, the commissary should be stocked with ready-to-eat, microwavable, and shelf-stable foods that can be used to make semi-homemade meals with just a microwave. And who knows—you might meet some other people in the same boat while you’re there.

For more ideas to help you with your eating plan before, during, and after PCS, check out the HPRC podcast, PCS tips blog, and HPRC’s other nutrition resources.

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U.S. Department of Defense. (2019). Entitlements. Retrieved from https://move.mil/entitlements#consumable-items

U.S. Department of Defense. (2019). Moving tips. Retrieved from https://move.mil/moving-guide/tips#prepping-the-move

U.S. Department of Defense. (2019). Moving with the military overview. Retrieved from https://move.mil/moving-guide#choose-how-to-ship-your-household-goods-move-types