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Vacation Menu Planning and Grocery List

Hi all - I'm planning a beach vacay to the Cape for my family, and we rented a house- so we have a kitchen to take advantage of. I know we will save a ton of money if we eat in, and I
am wondering if anyone can point me to any vacation menu planning places on the web -- and or - can offer your best vacation cooking/eating tips.
There are four of us - but our kiddos are three and one -- so not what you would call huge eaters- although - they're both good eaters.

anyhoo- any tips you are willing to pass on would be appreciated.

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  1. How long are you staying in the house? Are you travelling from really far away? Will you have a bbq?

    Assuming that you'll be going in the summer... you probably won't want to cook tons of labor intensive meals. What do you normally eat for meals and snacks? You can freeze chicken, steaks, hamburgurs, hot dogs, sausages to grill for a quick meal with baked potatoes. Pasta and tossed salads usually work well because you can make them in advance and add the dressing before you want to eat.

    You can also prepare meals at home and bring them frozen to heat up in the rented house.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cheesecake17

      I agree - you need to know about the BBQ. MY DH and I go to the beach often and depending on weather, we eat in or out. I like to make quick and easy things - BBQ chicken w/pasta salad, grill steaks and make baked loaded potatoes, usually plan one night with spaghetti (everybody likes that), then maybe a couple of relief nights - local fish & chips, maybe some pizza (after all - it is a vacation!).

      1. re: cheesecake17

        That's exactly what I've been doing. Every year since my boys were 3 & 1 we rented an RV and drove about 12 hours up the california coast, to my father in law's place north of SF. We usually take about 4 days to get there. So I would prep our favorite easy meals, steaks, marinated flanks, seasoned hamburgers, marinated chicken breasts for fajitas, etc, about a week ahead and freeze them already to go in ziplocs. They act as ice packs in the cooler, and you can just take out whatever you want to make in the am and it's defrosted by dinner time. It helps to have a grill, but a full kitchen is even better. Either way, it's easy to fix in either ovens or stovetops, if you don't have a grill.

        Have a wonderful time and take advantage of the wonderful fish and shellfish and summer produce you can find on the Cape!

      2. Don't forget the cheese and sliced meats for when you don't feel like cooking. Oh, and lots of wine. Well, you do need cheese even if you ARE cooking.

        1. We live in NY and we rented a house in Cape Cod 2 summers ago. My kids at the time were approaching 4 years old and 2 years old.

          I did not cook anything ahead of time. What I did was bring things like cereal, a few boxes of pasta, a few jars of sauce, many, many snacks, maybe even a loaf of bread or some rolls for sandwiches (I can't remember if I brought bread or rolls or bought it there) plus some bagels. I also brought juice boxes, a few gallons of bottled water and small bottles too, and some larger bottles of apple juice to keep in the refrigerator. Oh, and lots of bottles and/or cans of Diet Coke for me and my husband. I also brought things like plastic cups and ziploc bags. I can't remember what else I brought, but as you can see, it was basically "dry goods".

          The day after we arrived, we went to the supermarket and bought things like yogurt, milk, some cold cuts for sandwiches and fruit, and a box of frozen waffles to mix it up for my kids.

          Our basic m.o. was to eat breakfast in the house each day. Then when we were on the go, I would bring snacks/fruit in the ziploc bags and some water or juice boxes. Some days we went back to the house for lunch, other days we just ate out depending on what our plan was for that day. Same thing for dinner. I love my kids to no end, but at almost 4 and 2, it was not exactly fun for me to eat every dinner out with them. So on some of the days we ate at home. We did not use the grill at our place (can't remember why), so I made pasta some nights, we picked up a rotisserie chicken another night and I made potatoes and salad, can't remember what else but you get the idea.

          As boyzoma said, it is a vacation, and to me, being in the kitchen for every meal is not a vacation. On the other hand, eating out with young kids for every meal is stressful too, so having the option of a kitchen and going out was a nice mix for us.

          1. I like to bring frozen casserole meals for ease in this case (esp for breakfast). The rest of the meals are eaten out and/or take out food brought home to enjoy.

            1. Lots of good ideas already. First, I have to bring my favorite basic kitchen utensils and since I like a fried egg in the morning, that would include a small no stick skillet. I wouldn't trust that the kitchen would have decent cookware etc. Baggies and a few plastic storage containers included.
              I pre-plan our menus. We have a habit of usually eating lunch out and cooking dinner since we like a quiet end of the day. I might make one or two salads that travel well. We have a camping trailer so we usually have lunch on the road at a rest area. That lunch is usually a sandwich, small salad or fruit. It's a special treat to also have homemade cookies and muffins for the first couple of days.
              If I plan to have a salad that is better made fresh, I will make the dressing ahead of time and bring it in a plastic storage container. I also might put sauce or marinade ingredients together to use later. We like seared scallops so I would put the flour and seasoning in a bag and then buy fresh scallops at our destination. We have had good luck finding a local farmers market where we buy fresh vegetables. If we are in Maine during blueberry season a simple dessert is fresh berries with vanilla yogurt.
              When our son spent a week at the beach with another family, he was dumbfounded that they just ate burgers and hot dogs all the time. He was used to regular meals, even when we camped. There is nothing wrong with burgers and hot dogs just not every day.

              I think the hard part for me is not taking too much so I need to think ahead about what seasonings and condiments are necessary. We prefer homemade ice tea so tea bags and our favorite plastic pitcher would get packed.

              3 Replies
              1. re: dfrostnh

                Yep. For me it's about utensils and spices because those are things that are cost prohibitive to buy on vacation. Here's my must bring list -

                Utensils - whisk (great for vinaigrette), tongs, spatula
                Spices/seasonings - salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, sugar, honey, soy sauce, olive oil, canola oil

                Everything else you can buy at a grocery store and use up for the time you are there.

                1. re: Dcfoodblog

                  Yep, and a sharp knife-- another rarity in a rental!
                  For spices, I always try to find a local food co-op nearby. They usually carry bulk spices so I can scoop out just exactly the amount I need (and forgot to bring from home).

                  1. re: icicle

                    Right on. Totally forgot about that and it's definitely something I bring without fail.