Top Tips to Update Your Kitchen on a Tight Budget

Top 5 tips for a budget-friendly DIY kitchen update – in about a week. Plus favorite no-cook recipes for while your kitchen is under construction, to help avoid take-out…most nights.

Planning a DIY kitchen update? Don't miss these: TOP TIPS TO UPDATE YOUR KITCHEN ON A TIGHT BUDGET | @tspcurry

My kitchen looked like it was straight from the 1990s. (I’m not knocking the ’90s as I have happy high school memories from that era.) But it was time for an update.

I’ve had a Kitchen Dreams Pinterest Board for the entire three years we’ve been in this house. So after seeing several totally inspirational ideas for DIY kitchen updates, I thought “How hard can it be?” So about a month ago, I decided to just go for it…

My budget was $500. And my time-frame was ONE week. That’s how long my mother-in-law offered to stay in town to help. (Thanks Clara!)

Here are my Top 5 Budget-Friendly Tips for a DIY Kitchen Update:

1) Pick a kitchen ‘theme’ or color scheme and stick with it. This keeps you from veering off into big spending. Choose one or two kitchen design pins or an idea from a magazine. This also helps avoid indecision/decision-fatigue.

Because my house was built in the 1950’s and already has some great 1950’s-style built-in cabinets and I adore vintage cookbooks and kitchenware, this pin was my ‘theme.’

2) Find a local independent hardware store. If you’re a newbie in the DIY department (as I was!) these hardware folks will be your new best friends. (Thanks RP Lumber!) They’re happy to help when you visit daily to ask silly questions. And they will share lots of great tips like this one – which I demonstrated on my DIY Kitchen Update Facebook Live video last week:

Tip to Decrease Paint Fumes in ANY Room:

==> Use 1 tablespoon of vanilla in 1 gallon of any type of paint to help neutralize the odor and make a painted room smell fresher. This even works for strong-smelling counter-top refinisher. (Use 1 teaspoon per 1 quart of paint.)

Avoid Take-Out During Kitchen Remodel - Make one of these 40 NO-COOK MEALS | @tspcurry

3) Pick a start date and a very solid end date. It will save your sanity. And family disruption. And you’ll save money by avoiding tempting take-out while your kitchen is non-functioning. My kitchen took about eight days. #Dontjudgethemess

Weather is key too: Dry spring or fall days are perfect. If you refinish your counters, try to leave the windows open for three days to dissipate fumes – and to fully dry paint.

4) Shop around online. This is obvious. But I found two independent retailers that specialized in fun and unique products. They also had awesome budget-friendly options – and speedy shipping. (See below for a list.)

DIY kitchen remodel on a budget | @tspcurry

5) Grab a friend to help – and your kids too. Working with a friend gets the job done faster and is way more fun. And here’s my philosophy with kids: I’d rather look at uneven painted brushstrokes on cabinets as a daily reminder of how we worked together on our DIY kitchen project – than worry about brush stroke perfection. And here’s the news flash:

Give a kid a paint brush and she’s enthusiastic to paint…for about 10 minutes. Then she leaves and stays out of your way for about 2 hours.Top Tips to Update Your Kitchen on a Tight Budget + 49 No-Cook Recipes for when the kitchen chaos via @tspcurry Click To Tweet

Now…here’s my list of budget-friendly kitchen remodel products: – Name says it all. Any knob or drawer pull you could dream of…in every price range. I got these sweet “Candy-Red Insert in Polished Chrome” drawer handles.(See below) These “Retro Pulls” for my cabinet doors exactly match the house’s original 1950’s built-in’s in my office.

Price: $9.41/9 handles + $2.25/25 pulls
Shipping: FREE over $50. Pulls arrived in 3 days; handles arrive in 1 week.

DIY kitchen remodel on a budget | @tspcurry – Hundreds of super fun styles of wallpaper, with matching fabric (and wrapping paper.) You can even design your own. I loved their wall covering calculator so I could order only the amount I needed. Note: If I’d had more time, I’d have ordered the sample for $5…as my delivery wasn’t exactly what I expected; but I still love it. (More 1970’s tiki than 1950’s – but what’s 20 years when I got these cool pineapples?)

Price: Wallpaper $50
Shipping: $6. Arrived in 2 weeks.

DIY kitchen remodel on a budget | @tspcurry

Rust-Oleum® Countertop Coating – My hardware store friend said her Rust-Oleum coated counters have lasted 5 years and still look great. I loved how well the Light Ash color covered my lovely evergreen-green laminate counters in two coats; I gave it a third coat because my counters get A LOT of use.

Price: $19.49 x 2 cans + $6.79 foam roller

Valspar Chalky Finish Paint –  My mother-in-law swears by this brand and says it covers better and has an easier consistency to work with than other brands. We put two coats on my cabinets (and three coats in some spots.) The color was ‘Aggie’s Shawl’ which is a darker aqua than my original 1950’s pin – but I really wanted color pop – and it still goes great with red accents.

Price: $29.99 x 3 cans + $48.96 Minwax® Fast-Drying Polyurethane + $32.84 painting supplies

DIY kitchen UPDATE ON A BUDGET | @tspcurry

Behr Satin Paint – in the lightest grey-white for kitchen/dining area walls

Price: $42.96 x 2 cans

Two final notes: 1) Have fun with it! Half the fun of planning a kitchen update is pinning your inspirations. 2) I have no #disclosures to report. This was financed by my savings account

Now, to help avoid opting for take-out during your kitchen construction, check out these 49 No-Cook Recipes – including Deanna’s Cucumber Avocado Soup with Moroccan Chickpeas – and The Recipe ReDux recipes at the end of this post.

Cucumber Avocado Soup with Moroccan Chickpeas | @tspbasil

Do you have kitchen update inspirations? What are they? Please share. (:


We’re Serena & Deanna, two dietitians who love food as much as you do!  

We're also moms and business owners who share our family recipes, healthy kitchen hacks and nutrition adventures while keeping it real in the kitchen with you.

We’re so glad you’ve stopped by!

Hungry for More?

Don’t miss a single delicious, nutritious, food-lovers recipe! For exclusive Healthy Kitchen Hacks and incentives provided only to our subscribers, sign up here to receive our weekly e-newsletter.


Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates.
Type your custom success message here...