Collective desire—desperation? – to get away from it all has gone up, and so have the prices of food and travel, so you should spend every vacation moment exactly how you want. While dining out is its own form of tourism, cooking some or all of the meals in a vacation rental can be as enjoyable as it is convenient, flexible, and economical.
You might be looking forward to spending time in a new kitchen with seasonal ingredients. Or you might want to do something other than cook — hike, bike, go to the beach, do nothing at all. For both sides and everyone else, a loose plan for shopping, preparing meals, and using end-of-trip ingredients allows for the kind of cooking that maximizes time, budget, and effort.
Plan ahead and stay flexible
Studies have shown that anticipating the trip brings more happiness than the trip itself, so you’ll be doubly rewarded by sketching out a meal plan ahead of time.
Start by writing down what everyone is happy to eat on vacation, as well as any food allergies. Then think about how you and your fellow travelers like to eat. Are you big on breakfast? Snackers until dinner time? Having a general sense of appetites can give an idea of how much you need to buy.
Keep lunch and dinner ideas simple and adaptable, and choose dishes that use basic tools and pantry ingredients. You’ll have to work with rental kitchen equipment – but if you can bring a large cast-iron skillet and a sharp knife with you, you’ll be glad you did. Dull (and dangerous!) knives are a hallmark of vacation rental kitchens. A familiar knife will make chopping much smoother. (Do not attempt to fly with it in your hand luggage.)
Lean on the ingredients you love and knowing how to cook in multiple ways and buying more or less ingredients. By focusing on, say, one type of grass instead of four, you have fewer things to figure out how to use them. (This approach also streamlines shopping and reduces food waste.)
Buy what looks good and is in season, but you can’t live on tomatoes and corn alone. Staples like bread, cereal, and eggs are essential and can enhance leftovers. Also buy some kitchen sink meals to use up leftover ingredients at the end of the trip (see below).
Depending on where you’re staying, you might want to explore local stores along your trip. Wherever you shop (supermarkets, seafood shops, butchers, farms, or bakeries), make sure you have snacks, treats, and drinks. You’re on vacation!
Plan one or two end-of-trip meals dedicated to exhausting all you have left. Good “everything but the kitchen sink” recipe formats include chopped or mixed salads, omelettes, frittatas, fried rice or other grains, hot or cold pasta, cereal salads or bowls, stir-fries, tofu scrambles, hand rolls, summer rolls, quesadillas, tacos, fudge, flatbreads or pizza.
Before you go home with burnt and loose shoulders, take notes on your meal plan. This will make next year’s holiday cooking even more enjoyable.