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Renting a Vacation House for a Week, What to Bring for the Kitchen?

  • r

We'll be renting a vacation house for a week in New England and plan on making breakfast and sometimes dinner at the house. We'll likely stick with whatever fresh seafood we can find for dinner, just two of us. The kitchen is equipped with pots, pans, utensils etc. but none of the basic food stuffs. I want to buy all perishable once there, but really would rather bring along things like salt, pepper, olive oil etc. to avoid buying it there. We will be driving so bringing things along won't be an issue. RIght now I'll be bringing salt, pepper grinder, olive oil, balsamic, probably throw in a bag of lemons just so we have them, some dried oats, cornmeal, and flour. What else would you bring along?


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  1. I like to bring enough food so I can make our first two meals before you have to hit a market. For example, sandwich stuff, a lasagne, whatever you might like to eat for lunch/dinner, and something for breakfast. That unburdens you from running out after a long day in the car.

    Oh, and don't forget the coffee!

    1 Reply
    1. re: susan1353

      Coffee! I did forget, thank you!

    2. Your favorite knife, plastic wrap, microplane. adam

      4 Replies
      1. re: adamshoe

        I'd actually bring 3 knives: chef's, paring and tomato. Also good tongs and a good frying pan. Depending on what you like for breakfast, some jam or maple syrup. Garlic, onions, shallots. Hot sauce if you like it with seafood.

        1. re: GretchenS

          So would I, Gretchen. By tomato, do you mean serrated, like a bread knife? Those ar e great at cutting tomatoes, bagels and bread, of course. Can't live without my tongs. And I also use those cutting mats alanbarnes describes. Ziplocs & my own TP, too.

          When we go rving, I raid the stores for the small size condiments so you don't have to buy big sizes. And if you're planning on a few meals in, season & freeze your steaks or chicken now, they will keep other stuff cold in your cooler. Then you can just thaw when you get there.

          1. re: Phurstluv

            Agree with all plus throw in a basting brush, a couple of pot holders and kitchen towels.

          2. re: GretchenS

            Yes, yes, yes. The knives. Doesn't it drive you crazy when you help at a friend or family member's house, and they've got all these dull, super-cheap knives that will cut your finger faster than a carrot?

            I would also check the area for bakeries, fish, cheese, or meat shops, farmer's markets, to pare down what I bring and make use of the special things the area has to offer, if any. Then, go from there.

        2. granola, a spice mix / rub for grilling, nuts / trail mix, salad dressing, mayo, mustard.
          Have a great time!

            1. re: Uncle Bob

              We never go anywhere like that without at least a six pack and 2 bottles of white!!

            2. We've brought our favorite knife/knives, a few odd spices, a fave cookbook, and the little Weber Smoky Joe w/woodchips. Like Susan 1353, we bring something for the first evening's meal and simple breakfast makings for the next morning......don't forget the cream & sugar. Then it's off to scour the area for local stuff. Have a wonderful time!

              1. These spice packets from Asian Home Gourmet are very handy and all you do is add a protein (tofu, chicken, shrimp, etc.)--made from good ingredients, too.


                1. I will usually bring some of my basic tooks, especially knives, peeler and kitchen scissors, the kind of dishcloth I prefer to use and a couple of kitchen towels, potholders..

                  for food - some bread, rice or pasta maybe. Your regular breakfast stuff, other condiments you are likely to use (mustard?), sugar, coffee or tea, some wine or beer. There are usually some supplies/leftover stuff in vacation houses but going out and buying a small container of say, sugar, can be annoying. Paper towels or napkins if you use.

                  1. Will you be grilling? I like to bring a good pair of grill tongs or a strong spatula for flipping in case they aren't there. Likewise, I'd bring some simple marinade or rub ingredients--and my own basting brush...sometimes those are nasty!!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mom22tots

                      If you'll be grilling, bring a chimney and some good lump coal. I would imagine any coals left at a rental have seen their share of rainy days this season.
                      Don't forget bug spray!

                    2. I've never found a decent cutting board in a rental kitchen, so I usually toss a couple of silicone cutting mats in with the other stuff.

                      1. I do the vacation rental usually twice a year and have come to the conclusion that it is a time for simplicity and innovation. I bring my pepper mill, Kosher salt and one knife. The rest is a free for all. I like the challenge. The town I usually go to has one big market and plenty of produce at farm stands as well as a nice deli with fresh sausages and decent meats. It is on the shore so the fish is good as well. Oh! - I bring my own lemons as they can be horrifically overpriced. Many rentals have some odd leftover condiments from prior renters. I found the serendipidous joy of fennel seed for poaching shrimp that way.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: torty

                          Some good advice from everyone. Definitely the kitchen scissors, maybe the metal 'crackers' if you're planning lobster. I always plan a few sides, such as a pasta salad, so I bring the pantry ingredients and recipes. This is a great time of year to visit the local farmers market and/or farmstands. I would be tempted to bring my favorite colander so I could wash blueberries, etc. (Easiest blueberry dessert is blueberries and vanilla yogurt.) We always do at least one picnic so I bring a small insulated bag, freezer pack, etc. On our last vacation I planned an Asian grilled chicken recipe so I made the marinade and dipping sauce at home and brought along in plastic containers. Thinking ahead to the kind of fish/seafood you might cook, I would bring along the appropriate spices, herbs, condiments.
                          I love to cook while on vacation.

                          1. re: torty

                            I'm with torty here. Except I don't bother with the salt. When renting, I travel with a 4" serrated knife and a 2 tablespoon pepper mill. Previous guests often leave behind things like salt, oil and coffee. And I leave behind any pantry items I have remaining at the end of my visit. Of course, I also bring a printout of restaurant and shop recommendations from the local Chows!

                            1. re: GilbyEast

                              Oh, yes, re recs for shopping and dining. I did that on Cape Cod a couple of months ago and then left it for the next people.

                            2. re: torty

                              I'm with you -- this is an adventure. I will take a good knife, kosher salt and a small pepper mill.

                            3. I whole-heartedly agree w/Susan re bringing stuff for dinner/breakfast and maybe lunch for day 1 at the rental. If you're starting on whatever day is typically "turnover day," the markets will be mobbed on the first night.

                              We do this every year for at least two weeks, and I have a strategy - it's outlined here:


                              along with some ideas for spices/condiments you might want to include.

                              Have a good time!

                              1. This thread has great timing for me. We have an apt. in Rio and are heading there for three weeks. Since it's ours, I have it pretty well outfitted as far as hardward. But this is a reminder to take certain spices, especially fennel seed which I can't live without. But no chilies as we can go to the weekly markets and get more varieties, whole fresh and dried, than you can shake a stick at. We also generally take a few loaves of sourdough bread from a local bakery. They have bakeries on every corner there but even their baguettes are quite soft. Thanks for the reminder.

                                1. Salt, pepper, sugar, garlic, flour, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, oils, spices, vinegars, tomato paste, chile sauces, mustard, mayo (if you don't make your own), ketchup, bouillon cubes, olives, capers, tea, coffee, ...

                                  And if you're Asian, add chopsticks, soy sauce, fish sauce, packets of pickled vegetables, good rice, nori, wakame, dashi, sesame oil, black beans, dried noodles, water chestnuts, bamboo sprouts, fresh ginger and ginger grater, ...

                                  Then again: MasaHarina, corn husks, tortilla press, lard, dried chiles of choice, ...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    Sam, If I'm ever stranded on a desert island, you're my Man Friday.

                                  2. Zip lock bags--for marinating, storing leftovers, preparing and storing food, wet swimsuits, etc. If you plan on baking, I love MMRuth's idea on another thread of having dry ingredients for a batch of whatever you might want to bake (eg muffins, quick breads) in one bag to mix up once you get there. And, coffee beans. Always have to bring coffee beans and tea bags.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: chowser

                                      I love the idea of pre-measured dry ingredients in a bag!


                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        One year, we decided to make hushpuppies to have at the beach with our fresh fish. I measured all the ingredients into a zippy bag (as we call them at our house), and taped on a list of the wet ingredients with a few cursory instructions. They were sensational.

                                        1. re: jmckee

                                          What a great tip (to tape on the listing of the wet ingredients) on top of an already great tip!

                                          The OP is getting a lot of great input, so, I don't have much to chime in except to say these things (which have already been mentioned), "a cookbook" you love if you need it for dinner. Maybe some Pam spray if you use it for eggs, foil and ziplock baggies. Soy sauce; red pepper flakes, if you're like me and use them in everything.

                                          Otherwise, I agree with the spirit of enjoying what's fresh and local in the place you're visiting. You might consider bringing a cooler with you in case you discover anything amazing there that you want to bring home with you!

                                          Have fun!


                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            One year we took a cookbook called "Beach Cooking" or some such my wife had given me. The crab avocado omelet was not a success with the family.

                                            One year I took "Julia's Kitchen Wisdom" just as a touchstone for techniques and sauces.

                                    2. When we drive down to the Keys I take a good knife, cutting board and cast iron skillet as well as a few pantry items. I buy fresh vegetables/seafood/meats at the markets. I know most condos have pots and pans but for the most part they are pretty poor. I bring the cast iron so I can do high heat sear stove top or roast in the oven and the clean up is minimal. The biggest components for me are the knife and cutting board. Finding a good knife and cutting board in a condo is a rarity and to me they are essential to all the cooking to come.

                                      1. I always bring my best non-stick frying pan, chef's knife, paring knife, etc. Coffee filter and paper towels, scrubbies and sos pads. Dish soap. Zip lock bags for leftovers, and a roll of foil. Crab hammers and specialty things like that, too.

                                        1. Just wanted to add to this - I'm making similar plans for our annual trip to my stepmother's family's lake house - pretty well equipped though I always bring a knife. The bigger part of planning involves the ingredients, as the place is pretty far from everything. For certain spices that aren't at the house, and that I don't want to have to buy a bottle of locally, I'm using these tiny little round lidded plastic containers that I bought over the weekend at a discount store for $1.99. They are meant for toiletries, and that's why I bought them, but it just occured to me yesterday that they'll be perfect for this purpose. May use the larger bottles for some special oils. Who needs toiletries? (grin)

                                          For things that I'm baking, I'm putting together the dry ingredients in ziplock bags, and shipping them along with a bunch of other stuff in a box so that it will be there before we get there. Also, this year we ordered half a dozen wine glasses - cheap - from Crate & Barrell (sp?) and had them sent there - got tired of the tiny wine glasses.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                            Great thinking, MMRuth!! Oh, you gotta have the big wineglasses! ;)) And yeah, who needs toiletries, it's a vacation on a lake!!

                                            My mom always ships stuff here and back from FLA, hates flying with some much stuff!

                                          2. The only thing I would add to this list, is coffee. I bring a melita drip cone, filters and coffee [sadly, already ground.] Now, we are a bit nuts about our coffee. Folgers just isn't an option.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: smtucker

                                              yes I forgot about that. We always bring a big container of freshly ground coffee to US rentals, and our baby espresso pot.

                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                I've taken a small electric blade grinder with me on most trips, as far away as Hawaii, along with fresh home roasted coffee. Filters to go into hotel or condo drip makers or an AeroPress if I know that a hotel only has those hot water pod machines.

                                              2. did anyone mention butter? corkscrew?

                                                1. My wife bought me a Rubbermaid container for my "travelling kitchen", as she calls it, which I pack every year for our week in the Outer Banks. It includes the following:

                                                  Nonstick skillet (the ones at the houses always seem to have been abused)
                                                  Saute pan with lid (for paella-like concoctions, or multiple-seafood-pasta dishes)
                                                  One good "big enough" knife (I use my 8-inch santoku)
                                                  My "skeleton" knife (serrated with cutouts on the blade to prevent food from sticking)
                                                  One medium whisk
                                                  Coarse sea salt
                                                  Pepper mill (usually the white pepper one....I tend to use that with fresh seafood)
                                                  Plenty of Old Bay
                                                  One vegetable peeler
                                                  Wooden lemon reamer
                                                  Sauce cups (for melted butter, cocktail sauce, whatever)
                                                  An old bib apron, to protect my sloppy beach attire
                                                  Luzianne family sized tea bags
                                                  Dishwasher tablets
                                                  Dishwashing liquid (a small bottle)
                                                  Sponge and dishtowels

                                                  That's what I've taken every year. I'm assuming you've already stopped on the way to buy lovely fresh local produce.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jmckee

                                                    Yes, can't forget the small dish soap, and hand soap. But hopefully, OP doesn't have to outfit the bath, but who wants to use a bar of someone else's soap??? EEEEWWWW!!

                                                  2. I usually like to bring along a chef's knife, a board, and a large skillet, and I figure I can survive. I may also bring other items like spices, olive oil, a paring knife, boning knife, and vegetable peeler, and a soft cooler bag, but the knife, board and skillet are the minimum, if I'm bringing stuff. If it involves travel by plane, I may just bring a knife.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                                      Thanks for the 'reminder' - I need to toss a vegetable peeler into the box I'm sending. Every year I buy a new one up there and every year it's crappy. I have to take a photo and post it w/ the little containers that I'm using for spices - I'm so excited about them and, of course, wish I had more of them now.

                                                    2. I packed my French press when we rented a house. Made good use of it too.
                                                      Also, home-made pancake mix to which I added egg, butter, milk/yogurt (in lieu of buttermilk).
                                                      Wish I had packed my chef's knife... nixed it at the last minute. IMO1 knife is enough - 8" chef is a good size for small to large tasks. Can't think of too many tasks that you can't do with an 8".

                                                      1. We just returned from a week in the TX Hill Country. We took very little and made a quick grocery run post-arrival. We did take a couple of good knives, a couple of spatulas (one for the grill, one for eggs, etc.) We wound up buying a non-stick skillet, because there was nothing there that didn't cause everything to stick like mad. I took some good cheese and salumi, crackers, cheese straws. My sis brought a good nut/dried fruit mixture and a few condiments.

                                                        When we go to the beach (where it is much further to a grocery), we take a much bigger load of staples, etc.

                                                        1. I'd bring a bag of ice. Lots of rentals don'thave icemakers and plenty of them leave empty ice trays. Or the ice is so old it tastes bad. If you're bringing a cooler, it's easy to lay one in the bottom. Or stop close to destination and pick one up.

                                                          1. Wow, way more responses than I anticpated, thank you and keep them coming! i've about tripled my list so far!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Rick

                                                              you dont want to take TOO much - one of the charms of travel (for me at least) is living off the land and checking out the food shopping alternatives wherever we go and living more simply than we do at home.. Lots of times I just drag along whatever is ready to eat in my frig, parsley, lemons, etc, and Improvising with the local stuff I find so dont go too far!

                                                            2. A couple of ideas for packing things. You can buy those weekly pill boxes, you know the ones with S M T W T F S on them? Put your spices in them! Should be enough for a week.

                                                              I like to use the cardboard 6-pack holder you get with bottled beer or root beer to carry condiments and a small bottle of olive oil. That way things don’t tip over and spill!

                                                              We go to our cabin on the river which is at least an hour and a half drive to any grocery store – so we have to take absolutely everything! I make a lot of things ahead of time. I like to take some muffins, or banana bread. I also like to take jalepeno and cilantro hummus with pita bread, cream cheese spread with Italian seasonings and roasted garlic, homemade salsa, and curried chicken salad along with some croissants or bagels for a nice sandwich for a light lunch. We like cooking outdoors (you could marinate some chicken for kebabs) and usually take potato salad or pasta salad as side dishes. I cook up a pot of red beans, freeze them in ziplock bags and use for ice packs. For breakfast I make breakfast tacos (Jimmy Dean’s sausage, onions, peppers, eggs, tortillas, cheese, served with the salsa). It’s quick and you only dirty one skillet! Okay…just one more idea…I love to use a cast iron skillet when cooking outdoors - we use it to fry up potatoes with onions! Hope you have a fabulous time!!!

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: kasden

                                                                That's a great idea for the spices -thanks.

                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                  I agree with MMRuth. That is a TERRIFIC idea.

                                                                2. re: kasden

                                                                  That pill box idea makes me think of those stackable bead holders, acrylic that screw on top of each other, and would be perfect for traveling w/ spices. It's the fourth item down. I use them for inks so they'd work for anything liquid, too.


                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                    Those stackable bead boxes look just like some of the containers in my toiletry set - and I have both liquids and spices in them. And, thanks to you, now I know where to get more of them.

                                                                  2. re: kasden

                                                                    But what if I want to use oregano on Wednesday and I packed it for Thursday?!

                                                                  3. Just got back from a week on Kauai and the only thing I wish I brought was a pepper mill. At the beginning of the week I was really missing my kitchen, and all the tools and stuff mentioned here, but by the end of the week I was glad to have been forced into minimalism, especially in a place with such amazing fresh ingredients. It was a slight pain to use crap knives and pans, but if you bring all your own stuff, it won't be a true vacation from your everyday life.

                                                                    Edit: I did miss having ziploc bags or tupperware for next day leftovers, next time I'll bring those too.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: yamalam

                                                                      Lacking a peppermill or a mortar & pestle, I've used the handle of a knife to crush peppercorns or other whole spices in a bowl or a cup.

                                                                      1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                                                        I do that too - after putting the peppercorns in a ziplock bag so that they don't fly all over the place.

                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                          Not a bad idea. Somehow I always think that *this* time they won't ricochet all over the kitchen.

                                                                          1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                                                            Oh heavens, I can make them ricochet all over the kitchen just by filling the pepper mill!

                                                                    2. I take a smallish serrated knife (for bread) and a medium size ordinary (bit bigger than a paring). Everything else you can buy locally or get by - why carry.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                        I work about half time in DC and try to stay in suite hotels. It is a pain in the ass not having a pantry for short stays and a pain in the ass buying one and leaving so much behind on longer stays. If you're traveling by car, it is much easier taking a lot of essentials.

                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                          Unfortunately, at least where I'm going, there is very little in the way of decent ingredients that can be bought locally and therefore it's v. difficult to eat well by getting by! Each year I buy a new parer for the kitchen and each year it's terrible. So, this year I've sent one of mine.