HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Vacation cooking - need suggestions

OK, Family of 5 (grandma, parents, 2 teenagers), all diverse tastes, ages, etc. going to vacation condo for a week. We are hoping NOT to do much cooking, but can't afford too many $200 meals out. Other than boring steak and roasted chicken, what suggestions do you have? We will probably cook dinner about 3-4 times, all breakfasts and lunches where people can "graze" as they move from beach to pool. Remember, we are renting a condo, so have no idea what kitchen set up will be like and probably won't be too many spices, seasonings around. We will be at the beach, so fresh seafood will be a novelty. Perhaps some Chowhound recipes a la Sandra Lee's semi homemade cooking line? Please include recipes & ingredients. Don't eat pork, sweet potatoes, green peppers Thai or Indian food (very picky children!), TIA.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Diane... I've made these stromboli several times, I usually make them at the beginning of the week and then take them for my lunch throughout the week. http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip... They are really easy, and you could actually make them ahead of time and then warm them up or eat at room temperature once you got there. I do all kinds of different fillings, usually whatever I have in the fridge. I'm sure the kids would love them, especially if you geared some of the fillings toward them!

    1. We just got back from the beach, and we did most of our cooking at home, mainly because it's too much work to get off the beach, get cleaned up, and then go out. We've used this system a bunch of times: Make a list and stop at the nearest grocery store, either on the way or take a short foray out once you've scoped out the lay of the land. We get the meat for however long we'll be there for B.L, and D., i.e. bacon, sausages, lunch stuff, hot dogs, brats, steaks, chix, hamburger; in short, whatever your family wants. We also get in the cheese, produce, eggs, butter and so forth. We rely on seafood markets and farm stands for the local stuff and try to eat as much local produce and fish as we can, depending on where we're going. We grill as much as possible. I bring with me an iron skillet, steak knives, my good knives, garlic salt, EVOO and balsamic. I also bring staples from home: tuna, coffee, marinara, pasta, wine, liquor whatever I think we might use. I love to cook and pride myself on doing it well, but this is vacation, so we try to keep it simple. Most meals are grilled, with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Hope this helps.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sudiepav

        sudiepav- We do the same thing. I posted before I saw your reply, but good fresh food, and keeping it simple works great to feed a crowd on vacation. We usually make a trip to BJ's before we leave, and buy the rice, pasta, snacks, p aper products, etc. Then we do a big order when we get there- this year our first trip to the store cost os $612.00! WE are lucky that the place we rent are well ewuipped with cooking utensils, so we only need to bring our oils and spices.
        I too, find it fun to cook for everyone, and this year the kids got involved. On our taco night, the teens prepared all the fixings for chicken and beef tacos. Great fun.

      2. Baked pasta was a Tahoe favorite. Make pasta, and either make marinara or buy your favorite sauce in a jar. Pick two kinds of cheese (cheddar and mozarella work well, Sargento's is fine for this) and start layering as you would a lasagna. Top off with cheese, and put in the fridge until you're ready to bake. Somehow, it's easier than lasagna and fancier than spaghetti out of a can. It's an easy dish for anyone to help with, and it can be kept warm in the oven if people are coming and going. Add vegetables to make it a more complete meal, and eat cold leftovers for breakfast (or mix a spoonful into two beaten eggs and make an omelet).

        1. Just got back from a trip myself. Two big hits: Kitchen Clam bake from The Barefoot Contessa cookbook. If you want to cut down on costs you can skip the lobster and go with mussels, clams and shrimp.

          Soft tacos - for the adults (and seafood kids) grilled snapper(any mild whitefish will do) with a little lime and pepper, pulled chicken (leftover from another nights roast) shredded cabbage, lettuce,grilled peppers and onions as 'toppings'. Salsa, Guacamole and chipotle aoili on the side.

          1. Just got back from a week long vaction on the Outer BAnks with the family. There were 18 of us in our house, and cousins had another house with 8.
            We ate all of our meals at home, just easier logistically. Some items we cooked:
            One night we had make your own tacos, with rice and corn
            One night we had grilled steak, chicken and fish
            Hot dogs and burgers for the first night.
            Pasta, with homemade meat sauce, garlic bread ans salad
            WE always had fresh vegatables on hand to throw on the grill. And each day, after we came back from the beach, we made a vegatable/dip platter for the kids to much on by the pool while dinner was prepared.
            When we first arrived, made potato salad, chicken salad, pasta salad and egg salad. Bought cold cuts, rolls and bread for lunches.
            I am an early riser, so I would get up in the am, nake scrambled eggs, pancakes and bacon. WE brought lots of disposable aluminum pans, and I would throw the cooked food in the pans, and pop in the oven. Nice hot breakfast as people woke up.
            We also had special treats- one of the SIL made her meatballs on night, and another made clam chowder.
            WIth a little planning, it is fun. We usually started cooking at around 5, and had dinner on the table by six most nights. And boy, the food tastes great after enjoying the beach/pool all day.
            We brought our own spices, but the kitchen we had was VERY well equipped- we had three dishwashers, two ovens, 5 cook tops, micowave and two refrigerators- along with lots of pots and pans. The only thing we had to but was a basting brush for the BBQ sauce.
            Enjoy- we do this vacation every two years, and always have a great time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: macca

              Great thread. Thanks for the tips!

              We are planning our second big family vacation. Last year worked out okay, but we clearly had a lot to learn about stocking the kitchen.

              Thankfully, my sister did a great job stocking teen-friendly foods. Single serve mac'n cheese, granola bars, slim jims, popsicles, trail mix etc.

              For the adults, we need to make some improvements. The menu ended up being dominated by camping food, which wasn't really necessary since we had a full kitchen at our dispoal.

              (The main-kitchen planner is not a foodie, but the rest of the crew is.... )

              For next time.. I want to plan a balance of classic summer dishes, and interesting foodie meals.

              Making basics ahead of time and stocking the fridge with pre-made salads is a great idea. That way, there is always something available for fussy eaters.


            2. Take a crock pot...those are always good to make chicken and rice or soup for lunch or dinner.
              I heard people say they make casseroles before they leave and freeze them for the ride and then use then during the week.

              1. I'm going on vacation a week from Saturday. Wehn we go with groups, I'm usually in charge of the food. I stock up on simple things for lunch and snacks, like cheese, crackers, olives, pickles, bread, tuna, fruit, nuts and so on. Add a few special items, like a pate. For dinners, I use the grill a lot, and usually bring along pasta to make a very versatile dish - pasta with grilled vegetables and sausage. We go to the coast, so local seafood is a big part of the experience. I make sure that I have breadcrumbs for making crabcakes and fishcakes.

                I also bring spices, olive oil, vinegar, good mustard, and one or two good-quality marinades or barbecue sauces. This year, I'm bringing a fresh hamand a marinade for it, to be cooked on the grill on the second or third day, and picked out frmo there on out. I'm also going to bring some frozen crepes and pizza dough - the former can be used with fruit for breakfast or with leftovers for lunch/light dinner, and the latter is great for grilling with local vegetables. Pancake mix (either homemade or purchased) is useful as well. Oh, and for those with a sweettooth, I bring smoe frozen cookie dough.

                1. Not sure where you will be located, but it would be a shame to miss the local fresh seafood. I would find a local seafood market when you get there and see what is very fresh and enjoy -- have fin fish one night and shellfish another, be it crab (crabcakes are easy!), shrimp (basic cold shrimp cocktail, boiled and coated in Old Bay Seasoning like we do it here in Maryland, or garlicky scampi style – all are very easy). If your crew would be too difficult about eating whole fish (rub inside and out with a paste of garlic, lemon zest, fresh herbs, olive oil and stuff with slices of lemon/lime – grill or bake), then get some nice thick filets and treat with the same mixture and grill or broil. You can get fancier, but sometimes simple is best when you have great fresh ingredients. Easy accompaniments with seafood include boiled and buttered pink potatoes, potato salad (make extra to have for lunches), rice and good old French fries, plus something green and/or a salad.

                  Another thing you don’t mention is if you will have access to a grill. If you do, consider a kebab night – take along a package of wooden skewers and do lamb, beef or chicken kebabs (assemble the night before, place in a big Ziploc bag, pour over your favorite marinade and it is ready to cook. Consider making skewers of veggies to grill, too, and take along a box of couscous and a can of chicken broth to make it with (add chopped leftover grilled veggies to leftover couscous for salad to serve with lunches afterwards), and add a green salad or green beans and maybe some pita bread. Kebabs can also be broiled if there is no grill.

                  Frankly, I think a make-your-own taco night is the way to go one night if you have picky kids and you are tired. Upgrade this to a make your own fajita night if you feel like it and have a grill – everyone loves fajitas. Serve with coleslaw (again, make extra to serve with lunches) and rice and beans.

                  As you can see, I’m a proponent of making a big batch of side salads for dinners and serving them with lunches during the following days. Additional ideas along this line that keep well in the fridge for a few days include tomato, cucumber, red onion salad dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil (I often leave out the oil and add fresh basil and/or parsley); cucumber and onion salad dressed with sour cream and dill; chickpea salad dressed with lots of lemon juice, olive oil and parsley (mix in some tuna for a great lunch); and a mixed fruit salad is perfect for every meal of the day. If you are sandwich people, easy lunches are ready when anyone wants to fix their own with good bread/rolls and cold cuts plus these kinds of salads. Consider making gazpacho to keep in the fridge for lunches, as well.

                  For snacking, have hummus and pita bread, crudité and your favorite dips, cheese and crackers, fruit, nuts, yogurt, etc. on hand.

                  Make a batch of brownies and cookies before you leave, take hot fudge sauce, buy ice cream and whipped cream at the beach, and you have several desserts ready to go. If you are really organized, make up a batch of topping for a fruit crisp/crumble and take it with you to top whatever fruit you find (peach crisp is a personal favorite).

                  Stop at the roadside produce stands on the way down for your fresh herbs, veggies and fruits. If you don’t have room to pack a cooler with perishables like meats, dairy, etc., just get them at the market at the beach and plan on having to adjust if you can’t get them.

                  Pack staples that you know you will need or might come in handy if you improvise: olive oil, pepper grinder, kosher/sea salt, mayo, mustard, cider and/or wine vinegar, flour, sugar, pancake/biscuit mix, syrup, cereal, wines, coffee, tea, a few favorite spices, jam, etc. I always take a blender for the all-important frozen drinks, plus dips, dressings, gazpacho, etc. I also take a couple of knives and my good corkscrew.

                  Ok, I’ll stop now. I would be happy to give you any specific recipes or buying ideas if you ask. Enjoy your trip.

                  1. We often stay at my family's cabin in the woods. Daytime activities are walking/hiking and canoeing/swimming. Although I admire lots of the ideas; we go a bit simpler. Perhaps because in the heat and humidity it's too much?

                    Breakfast -- coffee, juice, eggs , bacon and fresh fruits, pancakes (add blueberries/bananas/choc chips to jazz it up) 2 out of 7 days

                    Lunch: deli meats and cheeses on bakery bread, with fruit and cookies - all portable if necessary.

                    Dinners: Veggie/turkey breast stir fry with rice or noodles. BBQ chicken with corn on cob & roasted potatoes, pasta is a good option; burgers etc. Fish baked in a packet with herbs/veggies (many variations on this theme
                    deserts -- s'more's over the campfire; pudding; and more bakery cookies.

                    Whatever else you bring - make sure you bring your good chef's knife. Other ideas about what to bring were good (above)

                    Happy Vacation!

                    1. We always make a huge batch of pasta salad (some combination of corkscrew, cheese/spinach/garlic/whatever-tortellini, havarti, diced pepperoni & ham, finely chopped parmesean, broccoli, cauliflower and bottled marinated artichoke hearts with a vinagrette using the marinade from the chokes and more oil and vinegar) at home and toss it in gallon sized ziplocs for lunch or a side dish.

                      And for whatever reason, tuna salad is perfect after a while at the beach - again for lunch or a quick supper.

                      Those are the standards for our beach trips, from there we wing it - but the pasta and tuna salads are non-negotiable.

                      1. Thanks for all the great suggestions. Well, we arrived this afternoon. The condo is beautiful, but unfortunately there is no access to grilling. We found a Publix grocery store (we are just east of Destin, FL). It's always fun to see other parts of the country and how they shop. We loaded up on breakfast supplies (coffee cake, bagels, eggs, fruit, bacon, sausage) and lunch stuff (cold cuts, cheeses, chips, etc.). We are pretty impressed that this Publix has artisanal rye & wheat bread, however the cole slaw and potato salad was pretty yucky. We are tired from driving 2 days (from Cols OH) and just bought some rotisserie chicken and shrimp with big salad and fresh veggies. There was a produce stand we found with green beans, tomatoes and peaches. We are going to grill the peaches for dessert with some butter, brown sugar and a little rum. A big cesar salad will be welcome in the heat. I am sad about no grill because I saw a great looking boneless leg of lamb I would have loved to marinate and grill. The shrimp boats don't fish on Sundays, so we will look for something else. Want to do a big seafood pasta salad for dinner one night, I do a great one with shrimp, mussels, crab and scallop, farfalle pasta, petite peas, roasted peppers, sliced olives and a homemade cesar dressing with lots of anchovies. Keep the recipes coming, we are going out again Monday to forage for dinner. Thanks!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Diane in Bexley

                          THis is probably too late for your week- but call the association you rented from- there may be palces near by which rent gas grills. On our vacations to the Outer Banks, we always rent a gas grill- and they deliver it to our house, and pick it up at the end of the week ( along with our beach chairs and beach unbrellas). WOnderful convenience, and we are always assured of a clean grill with a full tank of propane. Hope you have a grat vacation.

                        2. we have been taking summer beach vacations with several families for seven years. this friday we leave for our first trip to the outerbanks. there are 15 of us going (7 kids < 8 years old). two of us do the majority of lunch and dinners for the week and one of the wives will do most of the breakfast duty. we will have a webber kettle so carolina pork shoulder and texas brisket (slow smoked) are planned. we will also be doing a pasta night and a surf and turf night (local fresh fish!). and i think someone is doing some sort of grilled chicken/burgers/dogs. the sixth night may be a night out. for lunch, we keep an open agenda but sometime midweek i will make some pizza dough and we will grill pizza with whatever leftovers we have on hand. breakfast is usually some combination of eggs, panckakes, french toast, sausage, bacon, fruit, cereal, etc.

                          i take rubs, spices, and a crate of oils, vinegars, honey, molasses, mustards, peppers, etc. -- things to make marinades, sauses, dressings, etc. i also pack my own knives, some cooking tools, a cast iron pan, a crueset pot, and a blender.