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Cooking ideas for 6 people in a rental apartment at the beach

So, we will be going to the beach for a week in an apartment rental and I am starting to plan things. We are trying to keep our budget tight, but still have some nice family dinners. I don't believe the rental has a BBQ. Looking for delicious but easy, quick suggestions as we will be preparing meals for 6 people (B, L, D) and don't want to be slaves to the kitchen on vacation.

We need food that will be accessible at a Piggly Wiggly(?) or other non-gourmet store. Some of the items we need to take in consideration: 1) red meat only once during the week, 2) hopefully we can take advantage of good seafood, 3) one person does not eat fish (eats seafood), 4) Mediterranean diet as much as possible, 5) no pork.

The beach is a 1.5 day drive each way for us, so we are not planning to bring any perishables from home - but will bring spices and decent knives. Thanks!

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  1. What time of year?

    Definitely suggest stopping at a major grocer outside of the resort town to pick up your main items. The Pig in a resort/beach town is going to be uber expensive and have limited selections.

    1. What Scoutmaster asked, and what beach? East coast, right?

      1. Take a cooler and blue ice with you; stop at the Costco or Trader Joes (nearest to your rental) and purchase some of your basic foods for the week. Suggest you buy there: cheese and crackers and grapes; nuts for snacking; dolmas; potato salad, and one of their roasted chickens (for the first night)

        1 Reply
        1. re: honu2

          I'm with honu, fill a cooler (surely someone in the family has one to lend). Do a thrifty shop at home, freeze one night's worth of beef, some chicken, ground turkey, etc. Wrap all well and double-ziploc; then fill the cooler with other cold goods and overfill with ice. Unpack immediately on arrival.

          Small disposable grills can be had for less than $10. I don't generally like these but it's nice to have as a backup. They can be used several times; some even come preloaded with briquets.

        2. Since you mentioned Piggly Wiggly, I am assuming it's somewhere in the Southeast. If so, you should also look for Harris Teeter, which is a more upscale supermarket, which may also have some prepared items for takeout that would be appealing.

          As to particular menu suggestions, no great ideas here. Perhaps one dinner of assorted skewered/ kabobs with chicken, fish chunks, and/or shrimp, and vegetables. If no barbecue is available, cooked in the broiler.

          2 Replies
          1. re: masha

            Not many HT's at the beach, although it really does depend on which beach you're at, though there are enough smaller local stores that you surely won't lack for shopping options.

            I try to buy as much as I can from the local seafood markets. You can buy what you need as you need it and the food will be fresh. You can simply grill, broil, or saute, add a squeeze of lemon, a green salad, and some pasta or a quinoa salad, and you have a great meal.

            I'm not a big breakfast person, so I'm happy with a box of cereal or some English muffins.

            I'd be lost without olive oil and garlic. Everything else is optional. :-)

            1. re: rockycat

              Local seafood markets are where to go! I mean they have the best prices, and the best stuff.

          2. 12 of us spent a week at a big house in Duck, OBX also a day and a half travel. We did bring a few frozen entrees like lasagna and they stayed frozen until our arrival. We did our shopping at the local Harris Teeter which is a VERY nice supermarket and ate out about half the time. Invest in a large, top-quality cooler and bring some frozen home-made entrees. Saves money and relieves stress. Don't have time for that! Good luck.

            6 Replies
            1. re: grampart

              We were in Duck last year, too. (So much nicer than Nag's Head!) The folks we were staying with brought most of their stuff from home, but we were only about a 5-6 hour drive away. What they didn't bring we picked up at the Harris Teeter.

              I read downthread that you are going to be on HH Island, which I think is at the tail end of the OBX. You should have access to fresh shrimp on the cheap. There should be lots of produce stands around, too. We dined on shrimp (our house came stocked with a steamer, and another night it was pan-fried), cobia, and a lot of salads.

              1. re: Kontxesi

                We loved Duck, but how about that Saturday traffic?!

                1. re: grampart

                  2 mph crawl! That was bad. Not bad enough for me to not go back, though. I'd rather deal with the traffic up there than have to see the ugly strip down through Nag's Head every day.

                  1. re: grampart

                    We stay just north of Duck, in Whalehead. We arrive Friday evening, stay in Kitty Hawk overnight, and make our way up to Corolla Sat am. We are on 12 North by 9 or 9:30, and we miss all the bridge traffic, and the traffic thru Duck is not bad at all. To keep on topic, there is a great Veg/Fruit stand in corolla across from the Food Lion- Seaside MArket. Great peaches (we go in July), boiled peanuts, fudge, steamed shrimp, pies, and all the produce you will need.

                    1. re: macca

                      That's the one we went to. Tons of shrimp, and all of the produce I looked at looked pretty high-quality. Plus, their fudge is superb.

                      1. re: Kontxesi

                        I am from MA, and our peaches are not great. The peaches there were beyond good! THe day before we leave, I stop by and get at least a bushel to take home with me. Tried my first boiled peanut there a few years ago.

              2. What seafood that's not fish will be available to you?

                Eggs are quick and easy to make - Scrambled with (jar) salsa in tortillas makes a satisfying meal for B/L or D.

                Top fresh aspargus on a toasted English Muffin with an over-easy egg. Hollandaise sauce, too, if you're up for it (can be made in microwave in 3 minutes with Better Homes & Gardens recipe).

                Bring a jar of great pesto sauce with you. It's an easy way to add flavor to simple broiled chicken breasts or pasta.

                This large-quantity refrigerated vegetable salad - starts with 32 oz. of frozen mixed vegetables - is easy to make, keeps well, and mixes/matches with sandwiches, hot main dishes, or chilled rotini pasta w/ fresh-grated Parmesean.

                Mixed Vegetable Salad

                32 oz. frozen mixed vegetables
                1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, rinsed & drained
                2 C. chopped celery (I use 8oz can sliced water chestnuts, chopped)
                1/2 C. chopped green pepper, or red pepper
                1 small (2 1/4 oz) can sliced ripe olives, drained, optional

                3/4 C. sugar/splenda
                1/2 C. vinegar
                1 T. cornstarch

                Cook the mixed vegetables only until tender crisp, rinse with cool water & drain. Add kidney beans, chopped celery & green pepper & black olives (if using).

                In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegar & cornstarch & bring to a boil. Cook until thickened (about 8 - 10 min). Cool slightly and pour over vegetables. Cool as long as possible (salad is best when chilled overnight, and tasty even if only chilled 15 min). Keeps well in refrigerator .

                1. WE vacation with 20+ every year on the OBX. We bring our crock pots for easy meals. I see you said no pork- but maybe some pulled chicken in the crock pot. Can always make sauce- with or without meat- in the crockpot for a pasta night. We have lots of kids, so we do a taco bar night . We also do fried turkeys one night- but my brother has a fryer, so it is easy to do. Depending on where you go, there may be places nearby that rent gas grills. We rent one every year, and it is delivered to our house on our check in day, and picked up the next Saturday. We make potato, ckicken and garden salads. Good for lunch or dinner. "I agree with other posters if there is a Harris Teeter nearby, I would go with them. have fun.

                  1. I think we might give you a little more help if you tell us where you are going to be and when.

                    1. Four of us stayed in a rental on the Big Island of Hawaii. Here's the dinner plan.

                      What the rental had: pancake mix, salt, pepper, cooking oil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, barbecue sauce, ketchup, steak seasoning, Lee and Perrins, cumin, soy sauce, sugar, maple syrup, flour and long grain rice.

                      What I bought - ground beef, fish fillets, shrimp, teriyaki sauce, lettuce, panko, unsweetened flaked coconut, lemon, garlic, scallions, onions, eggs, sugar snap peas, coconut milk and canned corn, Hawaiian bread buns, pineapple.

                      Meal 1
                      Coconut shrimp - shrimp dipped in flour, then egg and then the mixture of panko and flaked coconut and deep fried.

                      Coconut rice - Cook rice (we had a rice cooker) as you like but substitute half the can of coconut milk for the water. Once done, top with sliced scallions.

                      Sauteed sugar snap peas - Sautee garlic and snap peas with some of the teriyaki sauce.

                      Meal 2
                      Fish in foil packets - wrap each filet of fish in a foil packet with sliced garlic, slices of lemon and soy sauce and baked at 350 for 20 minutes.

                      Corn pancakes - mix pancake mix according to directions but add salt, pepper, ccanned corn and scallions. And then cook in silver dollar size.

                      Salad with a lemon vinaigrette

                      Coconut pancakes with seared pineapple - Mix pancake mix according to directions but add a tablespoon of sugar and 1 cup of flaked coconut. Sear pineapple in an oilless saute pan or nonstick griddle until caramelized on both sides. Serve on top of the coconut pancake.

                      Meal 3
                      Sliders with seared pineapple - Mix beef with a couple of eggs and 1/4 cup of teriyaki sauce. Brush pineapple with teriyaki sauce and sear on both sides. Make beef into slider patties and cook. Served with a slice of seared pineapple.

                      Salad with a soy-balsamic vinaigrette

                      1. I live in coastal South Carolina...less than 2 miles from the beach ...and we have tons of grocery stores. I find to compete with each other they have pretty good prices.
                        For lunches do as I do when we beach goers coming and going....pimento cheese, crackers, crab dip, chips, salsa, boiled peanuts, etc....snacky southern stuff...most of which have local versions sold at the PIG.
                        Lowcountry boil one night. A must.

                        1. Frozen shrimp is your friend.

                          Cheeses and olives, a decent selection, are available in most stores nowadays, as is basic salamis, pepperoni, etc. Add some almonds to the mix and you have a nice little snack tray or grab-and-go item.

                          Low carb pitas/tortillas for breakfast wraps/soft tacos with shrimp, chicken, etc.

                          Eggs for frittata, omelets, hard boiled/deviled/egg salad.

                          Note: if you're going to be doing stuff and be out and about, you may not want nor have time for a big lunch, esp if you eat a good breakfast.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: pinehurst

                            Pinehurst - they will have access to fresh shrimp - forget the frozen shrimp!!!!

                          2. We are going to South Forest Beach at Hilton Head Island in July. Don't laugh that I am planning this so far in advance, as I have the time now and will be extremely busy later.

                            I looked up HHI and there is a Sam's Club, but we belong to Costco. There is also a Harris Teeter at Sea Pines, which I believe should be close to us.

                            Do you really think I could freeze meat, stick in cooler and it would be OK for 1 1/2 days? First night we arrive is birthday for one member and he would LOVE a standing rib roast. As it would be 9-10 lbs., would it make it? this would solve a lot of stress, as throwing together a salad, some baked potatoes and a green veggie should be fairly easy.

                            Also, if anyone knows of a good bakery in the area - I would like to purchase a nice cake for him.

                            Any good delis in HHI? We like cold cuts for lunch and I will make potato salad, cole slaw and a few other things from scratch. How about your best salad recipes? Thanks!

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: Diane in Bexley

                              "Do you really think I could freeze meat, stick in cooler and it would be OK for 1 1/2 days? "

                              A really high quality cooler (we used a Yeti) would have no problem keeping stuff frozen for much longer than that, but even a cheaper one, if you keep it shut, would be fine for a day and a half.

                              1. re: grampart

                                You don't want to arrive with it frozen if it needs to be cooked for dinner.

                                1. re: sr44

                                  "You don't want to arrive with it frozen if it needs to be cooked for dinner."

                                  I suppose you could remove it from the cooler and set it on the dashboard when you're a couple of hours from arrival if you find that to be a problem.

                                2. re: grampart

                                  "Do you really think I could freeze meat, stick in cooler and it would be OK for 1 1/2 days? "

                                  Yes, absolutely as long as you are smart about it. Freeze everything well ahead of time, pack the cooler tight with frozen foods only and do not open it. Several times, we have taken frozen meats on 36+ hour door to door trips to the tropics with no thawing. I like Polar Bear Coolers, which are also handy for the beach.

                                  1. re: cleobeach

                                    I would not freeze the roast if you want to cook it on first day. If you have other frozen things in the cooler like frozen chicken, they will help keep it cold enough with bags of ice (or freeze plastic quart size containers of water, such as recycled orange juice jugs). A container of frozen meatballs and sauce is a great idea. Be smart about defrosting. I don't think a couple of hours on the dash board is a good idea. Outer surface can defrost and start to spoil while interior is still frozen.

                                    If I have a particular recipe I'm going to make, I put ingredients in zip loc bags to make prep work easier. I have a favorite pancake recipe so the dry ingredients are pre-mixed in a bag and then I just add the wet ingredients. For a salad I would put the herbs and spices in a bag to add to oil and vinegar when I'm ready to prepare.

                                    My favorite tossed salad recipe is romaine, sliced red onions, tomatoes, chopped broccoli for crunch with a simple EVO, red wine vinegar, and salt dressing. (I cut down on oil by adding a little orange juice.) I like to add cukes, kalamata olives and feta cheese but not everyone likes that, Maybe have on the side for those who do.

                                    I love cold, leftover cooked vegetables as a salad.
                                    Green beans, grape tomatoes and sliced red onions with a French dressing.
                                    Sliced beets (not canned!) with sliced red onions and an Italian dressing.

                                    Two bean and roasted red pepper salad
                                    In this case, I would roast the peppers at home and put in zip loc bag.

                                    I think renting a gas grill is a great idea. I hate to broil and mess up an oven in a rental cottage. With a gas grill you could grill boneless chicken breasts so remember to bring a meat mallet so you can pound them to an even thickness. They would also make great sandwiches the next day, sliced with pesto or whatever.

                                3. re: Diane in Bexley

                                  Here is one of my favorite salads to make in the summer, when corn & tomatoes are at their peak. You could make it before you leave home, if you were inclined to serve it during the early part of your stay. Or, just make the corn at home, cut the kernels off the cobs, freeze, and then bring that with you. I find that the most labor intensive part of the whole recipe is cutting the kernels from the corn. Or, if you are likely to serve corn on the cob fresh while on vacation, just make some extra ears then and use those leftovers to make the salad.

                                  Tomato-Corn Relish Salad

                                  Cooked Corn, cut off the cob from 3-4 ears of corn
                                  Grape tomatoes cut into quarters – so that ratio of corn: tomato is approximately 1:1
                                  a few slices of red onion, chopped (or 2-3 green onions, sliced thin)
                                  juice of 1 to 2 limes
                                  chopped cilantro – about ¼ to ½ cup
                                  chopped mint leaves – 3 to 5 leaves
                                  a splash or 2 of Rice Vinegar
                                  a few splashes of Olive Oil
                                  kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

                                  Combine all ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings. Bear in mind that, if you use red onion, the onion flavor will get stronger the longer that you wait to serve the salad, so adjust the amount of onion accordingly.

                                  Can be served immediately but tastes best if allowed to sit for a few hours. If refrigerated, bring back to room temperature before serving.

                                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                    Maybe you could call the good grocery store and order a standing rib roast. We spend Thanksgiving in Key West and I see people picking up pre-ordered turkeys at Publix Market. The reason I suggested upthread to freeze meatballs in sauce is that they're already cooked.

                                    1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                      No problem for 1½ days. We travel about 14 hours. We leave early Friday am and drive straight thru. We get a hotel room the night before we check into our rental on Saturday. i usually bring two frozen turkeys for our turkey fry, and they are fine 9 and still frozen) by the time we get to the rental.

                                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                        Freezing ahead and thawing as you drive is an old camping trick. I'd actually be more worried that a roast that size won't be thawed sufficiently for the first night; if you have a thawing routine at home you can anticipate using it. I might check every 6-8 hours to see how hard-frozen the roast feels in the cooler.

                                        And though I'm very jealous of grampart's Yeti, my large $45 Igloo does just fine. I agree with not opening it much (except for thaw checks) -- use another smaller cooler for cold drinks on the road.

                                        Also: can place chicken and marinade in double-ziplocs and freeze; thaw and cook. Pre-pattie some turkey burgers and freeze.

                                        (And I SOOOO get the months-ahead-planning. Almost my favorite part of any trip.)

                                        1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                          Broccoli Raisin Salad is a favorite here. If your "no pork" includes bacon, that can be omitted or substituted with crispy-cooked smoked turkey. Lots of variations, indicated by slashes, on the type of onion, type of nuts, raisins.

                                          1 bunch (1.5 lbs.) broccoli, broken into florets
                                          1 cup chopped onions / red onions / Vidalia onions
                                          1 cup raisins / golden raisins
                                          1 cup sunflower seeds / cashews/ walnuts/pecans
                                          10 strips bacon, crisply fried & cumbled
                                          8 oz can of sliced water chestnuts, drained & sliced in half again


                                          1 cup mayonnaise (I use fat free)
                                          1/4 cup sugar
                                          2-3 tablespoons cider vinegar

                                          Combine salad ingredients in large bowl. Combine dressing ingredients in small bowl. Just before serving (or up to 2 hours before), toss dressing with salad

                                          1. When we vacation w/ a bunch of people, we divvy up either the days (every couple picks a day when they are responsible for all of the food, meals and clean up) or divvy up the actual meals (we take breakfasts, you take lunches, somebody else gets the dinners and somebody else takes the snacks). Once the responsibilities are divvied up, you can compare notes so you're not having "chicken and pasta" or "scrambled eggs" every day.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: JerryMe

                                              We used to swap spouses and divy up the cooking that way. It is easy to get frustrated with your spouse in the kitchen but less easy when you have to work with someone else. That way only one night was your responsibility.

                                            2. I always bring a hard frozen container of meatballs and sauce for the first night for spaghetti or sub sandwiches. If you pack a cooler with those blue ice packs (the hard kind that rubbermaid sells) the food will stay hard frozen for a few days in a cooler. You'll want the ice packs and cooler for trips to the fish store or picnics. I always bring extra dish towels and pot holders as well as knives. Our newest vacation indulgence is to buy the pre chopped mirapoix or garlic and onions when we grocery shop. It simplifies life greatly when you're whipping up something in a rental kitchen. Have a blast!

                                              1. What about doing a couple roast chickens? That's pretty simple, but delicious with easy to find ingredients, and if the rental doesn't have an adequate roasting dish, you can buy a disposable foil one. Also, they'd likely provide leftovers for some delicious chicken sandwiches for lunch the next day.

                                                Also, for bringing your own food, get a block of ice instead of individual cubes. It takes a long time to melt. We go to a country music festival every summer where we camp, and the block of ice lasts close to 3 days, even in hot temperatures. If you put it in a garbage bag most of the water won't leak all over the cooler either.

                                                1. I don't really have menu ideas, but here are some shopping sources:

                                                  Hilton Head has a ton of grocery stores - Harris Teeter, Publix, Fresh Market. I know you could order a standing rib roast from FM and assume you could at HT or Publix as well.

                                                  For the cake my favorite place the French Bakery (also for morning pastries or quiche, OMG they are so good). http://www.frenchbakeryhiltonhead.com... - you will pass this (and everything else) on your drive down the island to South Forest Beach.

                                                  Seafood - Hudsons (this is not the restaurant, it is a place to buy fresh seafood - I like their homemade deviled crabs.

                                                  Deli: http://www.grubysnydeli.com/page11.html Gruby's Deli - same shopping center as Fresh Market. Located mid-island.

                                                  Have a great trip.

                                                  1. I am all for planning ahead for vacation. Vacation time shopping at a regular grocery store is a waste of my vacation time. (local markets are a different story)

                                                    We also tend to travel where there isn't easy access to a store. Our weekend cottage is far enough from any decent store that I always pack for days worth of food for those trips.

                                                    For breakfast, I either leave people fend for themselves with an assortment of bagels, english muffins, etc. or make some like the breakfast baked dishes linked below. Something like these are great for using up bits and pieces of leftovers and can be prepped the night before -



                                                    I cook ahead as much as possible. Ground beef and/or turkey can serve as a base for a taco bar (add beans as another protein option) I also like roasted chickens as the meat can be repurposed for chicken salad or snacks.

                                                    I posted under someone's response that a 1.5 day journey with frozen meats is definately doable.

                                                    Some random make ahead things that travel well for us - lasagna, chili (serve over rice, which also freezes well) meatballs, meatloaf, (use ground turkey if red meat is not desirable).

                                                    My new "tastes better the next day" thing is wild rice. It would be easy to pack and I think is as tasty cold for lunch as it is hot as a meal side. Recently I added roasted butternut squash and nuts to leftover rice.

                                                    I am really obsessive about being organized prior to a trip. I go so far as to plan the menu and pack all dry spices/dry ingredients in ziplocs or disposable food containers. I buy all non-perishables at home and pack in boxes and a large canvas tote that doubles as my beach bag. I keep the destination shopping list on top (or in my purse) so as soon as I hit the store, I am off and running. Keeping my spouse and child out of the grocery store is the best way for me to save vacation dollars.

                                                    1. I live in NC so here are my comments -

                                                      Piggly Wiggly has really good beef - you said you wanted beef only 1 day but their ground chuck for burgers at lunch would be good. Or steaks, etc.

                                                      I think you will have access to a grill - even if it's an apartment I really do think one will be available for general use.

                                                      Bring your own spices - the rental is likely to have only salt & pepper.

                                                      Find the local seafood market - the seafood options will be fantastic!

                                                      Mediterranean dishes? Just make sure you bring your spices. And depending on your sides - maybe some boxed orzo? Don't know - I've never looked at The Pig for orzo.

                                                      Don't stress too much - you'll be fine - especially with the seafood options you'll find there.

                                                      1. Hi, Dianne:

                                                        My go-to dish for days on ke kai is Paul Prudhomme's chicken curry. A big pot can last a few days, and the flavors meld and improve over time. The hot+sweet is ideal after long walks on a blustery winter beach.


                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. Next time bring a Panini grill. My kids got me one for Fathers Day and could not live with out it. Try P.B.and J., or subs. Yummy!

                                                          1. I make frittatas quite often, and the best part is you can throw anything in them! Just have a pie pan or skillet or anything that will fit it all and can go in the oven! All it takes is...

                                                            any kind of cheese
                                                            any veggies
                                                            any meat
                                                            eggs, of course!

                                                            Just sautee or cook anything you have to (meat or veggies) scramble 6 or so eggs, mix in with the meat and/or veggies, along with some cheese (grated, crumbled, sliced, whatever) mix around (but don't cook the eggs) and pour in the pie tin. Cook at 350 for 15 minutes or so, just whenever the top isn't runny anymore. Slice like a pie and serve. So easy and good! Would be perfect for your last breakfast or lunch-that way you can get rid of all the odds and ends you have laying around.

                                                            1. So, we are back from HHI and had a blast. We stopped in Charleston on our way down and loaded up at Costco with perishables like big bags of salad, veggies, fruits, pastries, etc.

                                                              I had packed a small bag of spices/seasonings (big jar of Old Bay, salt, pepper, powdered garlic, dill, curry powder) and some other kitchen related items.

                                                              We shopped a HUGE amount at Harris Teeter as well from our meal planning list. We made breakast int he apartment every morning - coffee cake, fruit, sausage/bacon, eggs or yogurt. Had snacks to take to the beach like peanuts, almonds, granola bars, iced tea and Coke. We had an assortment of breads, cold cuts, salads for lunch every day.

                                                              Dinner was roasted chicken from Harris Teeter the first night and we made chicken salad with leftovers. We had several shrimp/seafood dinners - stir fry, BBQ with grits, and broiled with garlic lemon butter. Turns out one family member is gluten free, so we ate rice instead of pasta. Grilled steak one night for dinner. Grilled marinated chicken another night.

                                                              We had very little to throw away on our last day, as we had made a very tight shopping list. Thanks for all your help!

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                                Diane, thanks for reporting back. It's always fun to know how things turned out.

                                                              2. This pasta salad is absolutely delicious! It's a great light side to any dinner, or it would be a great lunch. All of the ingredients are easy to find, and it's simple to make. It's cherry tomatoes, soft mozzarella balls, fresh basil, pasta, and a homemade lemon dressing.


                                                                It's always a crowd pleaser when we make it, so hopefully your beach crowd will love it!