An Organized Vacation: Meal Planning
A couple weeks ago, my family went to the shore for a week. One of the things I love most about renting a house or condo, rather than staying at a resort or hotel, is that we have a kitchen to prepare our own meals. My husband and I have always enjoyed preparing dinner together but do not have the opportunity to do so often now with two little guys and irregular work hours. Weekday dinners are typically either take out or meals that do not require a lot of preparation time, many of which are fabulous but made by one person in a hurry to feed the kids and keep the night time routine moving. The fun of cooking together and enjoying a leisurely meal is a thing of the past during the week, and often difficult on weekends. (Those little guys are not very patient and really hate to sit still.) So the idea of cooking dinner on vacation is one we really love and we always plan on at least 3-4 home cooked meals, which allows for a couple nights at restaurants or getting take out. The organizer in me plans our menus in advance and brings as many of the ingredients as possible with us in order to avoid having to go grocery shopping on vacation. (I kind of hate grocery shopping, so doing it on vacation is particularly distasteful to me.) There are some items that are just too annoying to travel with (meat, for example), especially if you are traveling far. But if you pick the right meals you can bring much of what you need with you, making home cooked meals on vacation more convenient and potentially cheaper.
With that goal in mind, here are my rules for organized vacation meal planning:
First, keep it simple. The less ingredients the easier it is to plan ahead and transport them. This summer we made scallop sandwiches and roasted brussels sprouts one night. Other than the obvious main ingredients, the only additional ingredients needed for both was olive oil, salt, and pepper. Only three additional items for the entire meal. That is a perfectly simple meal choice. And it is delicious!
Second, pick meals with ingredients you will use more than once. The scallop sandwiches and roasted brussels sprouts is another perfect example of this. All three of the additional ingredients are ones we would easily use for other meals. In fact, they are all items we would have brought with us anyway as everyday staples.
Third, pack only what you need, when you can. For example, if only one meal requires balsamic vinegar, pour only the amount you need into a small bottle or jar and bring that instead of the large pantry bottle you have at home. And pre-measure and mix any dry spices. This summer we made bean, corn, and spinach egg rolls (a favorite at our house) and I measured out the spices needed into a small tupperware container and brought that one small container instead of 4-5 spice bottles. I’ve done this previously for a chili rubbed skirt steak (another favorite) and the batter for fish and chips. With the rub pre-measured and mixed we eliminated having to bring or buy a number of spices on vacation while also making meal prep both easier and quicker.
Fourth, look into grocery delivery at your destination. You will need to do this well in advance, at least a week, in order to get a preferred delivery slot. The slots late Saturday and early Sunday are the first to go for areas with Saturday to Saturday rentals. Some delivery services (like Fresh Direct) allow you to make reservations a week in advance but have a deadline closer to the delivery by which you must place your order. We used Fresh Direct at the shore this summer and it was amazing. We brought what we could, including the ingredients discussed above as well as coffee, snacks, cereal, and bread to name a few. Then first thing Sunday morning the delivery came with our seafood, produce, and dairy. It could not have been more convenient. And it was all possible because we planned in advance!