The collective desire — desperation? — to get away has risen, as have the prices of food and travel, so you should spend each moment of vacation exactly as you’d like. While eating out is its own form of sightseeing, cooking some or all meals in a vacation rental can be as enjoyable as it is convenient, flexible and economical.
You might look forward to spending time in a new kitchen with seasonal ingredients. Or you might want to do anything but cook — hike, bike, go to the beach, do nothing at all. For both camps and everyone in between, a loose plan for shopping, preparing meals and using up 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 the anticipation of travel brings more happiness than the trip itself, so you’ll be doubly rewarded by sketching out a plan for meals beforehand.
Start by noting what everyone is excited to eat on vacation, as well as any food allergies. Then consider how you and your tripmates like to eat. Are you big on breakfast? Snackers until dinnertime? Having a general sense of appetites can give a sense 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 the rental kitchen’s equipment — though 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 hallmarks of vacation rental kitchens. A familiar knife will make chopping much smoother. (Just don’t try to fly with it in your carry-on luggage.)
Lean on ingredients you like and know how to cook multiple ways, and buy more of fewer ingredients. By focusing on say one kind of herb instead of four, you have fewer items to figure out how to use up. (This approach also streamlines shopping and cuts down on food waste.)
Buy what looks good and is in season, but one cannot live on tomatoes and corn alone. Basics like bread, grains and eggs are essential and can upgrade leftovers. Shop, too, for a couple of kitchen-sink meals to use up lingering ingredients at the trip’s end (see below).
Depending on where you’re staying, you might want to explore local shops throughout your trip. Wherever you’re shopping — supermarkets, seafood shops, butchers, farm stands or bakeries — be sure to get snacks, treats and drinks. You’re on vacation!
Plan an end-of-trip meal or two devoted to using up whatever you have left. Good “everything but the kitchen sink” recipe formats include chopped or composed salads, omelets, frittatas, fried rice or other grains, warm or cold pastas, grain salads or bowls, stir fries, tofu scrambles, hand rolls, summer rolls, quesadillas, tacos, melts, flatbreads or pizza.
Before you head home, shoulders burned and unclenched, make notes on your meal plan. It’ll make next year’s vacation cooking even breezier.