Summer is here. We all can’t wait to head out of town and kick back our feet for a little R&R. But eating out while traveling gets pricey. And it’s extra tricky if you have to accommodate a special diet (paleo peeps, holla).
Which brings us to the question: Is there a way to make meal planning work at your vacation rental?
As it turns out, renting a home is the perfect way to go for a holiday and still have the convenience of cooking your own meals.
Here are some tips to plan a vacation’s worth of meals so you can actually kick back your feet and relax.
What are your essentials?
Take stock of what you deem necessities in your daily life (hello caffeine).
If you turn into a grouch without your perfectly made coffee, you’ll want to pack your Aeropress with you. If smoothies are essential to start the day, see if the right equipment will be available.
Take stock of your vacation rental kitchen.
Before you leave, ask the owner what is included in the kitchen.
A two burner hot plate may dictate different meals than a six burner gas stove. A grill will make cooking much more simple. Is there a crock pot? Blender? Is the fridge big enough to hold a week’s worth of groceries or is it a little bar fridge? How big is the biggest pot and cutting board?
What can you bring?
What you can bring along will vary based on method of travel and how far you are traveling.
If traveling by plane, there isn’t much you can bring. Two suggestions are a knife sharpener – as rental kitchens often have dull knives – and spices in a pill organizer, so you don’t have to buy a bunch of packages to use one teaspoon.
If traveling by car, you could bring a cooler (with prepped frozen meals), a slow cooker, and pantry staples.
Scope out the local buying options.
What food you bring and what you cook will depend on your location.
Find out if there are local farmer’s markets and what the grocery store options are.
And keep in mind that if you are staying at a remote mountain cottage, you’ll have to bring all your groceries with you. If you are next to a seafood market, you can pick up fresh fish to grill every night.
How to plan meals for your vacation rental
Keep it simple.
While on vacation, the best meals are tried and true recipes, with simple ingredients that require minimum active cooking time.
If you see a new recipe that would be a good fit, try it at home before you leave so you aren’t surprised with a vital step that you don’t have the right kitchen tool for. Speaking of which, if you need an unusual kitchen tool, it’s better to leave the recipe for a meal at home.
Stick to common ingredients.
If you can, try and use similar ingredients for various meals that can be easily changed.
For example, chicken, rice, and veggies can make you both a tasty stir fry and a great curry. At the very least, don’t use recipes that call for one teaspoon of an unusual ingredient that you need to bring the whole bottle for.
Know your itinerary.
Is your vacation rental right on the beach or will you be gone all day?
If you’ll be close to home away from home, you can cook double for dinner and eat it again for lunch. If you’ll be out and about all day, plan lunches that you can pack, like sandwiches or wraps.
Plan for minimum work.
Certain types of dishes require minimum work for maximum tastiness.
If a slow cooker is possible, you can throw in some ingredients in the morning, go out all day, and come back to a ready meal. Grilling outside means no cooking in a hot kitchen; throw some meat or fish on the grill, put together a salad, and voila, an easy dinner. And one pot meals require less clean up.
Don’t forget to plan snacks.
Vacationing is hungry work.
If you’ve got a handful of hangry kids while out and about, the quick solution is probably going to be both expensive and unhealthy.
You don’t have to plan for variety, just be sure to have something in the bag that can be pulled out at a moment’s notice.
Ask yourself what you can prep beforehand.
If there is room in the car, you may be able to do quite a bit of prep work before you leave so that you can actually rest during your holiday.
Frozen prepped meals can travel in a cooler – just be sure there is a freezer available in the rental kitchen.
Dry ingredients for muffins, pancakes, or other baked goods can be pre-mixed.
The first meal can be cooked, cooled, and brought in a cooler so that you don’t have to scramble about for food your first evening in the new place.
Now that you’re armed with these tips, you’re ready to plan your meals for your stress-free vacation.