How to Stock Your Vacation Rental: A Week’s Worth of Meals on a Budget

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

When planning a vacation, one of the top reasons to opt for a house rental instead of a hotel is for access to a full kitchen while you’re away from home. It’s much less expensive (goodbye, 18 percent gratuity on every meal and drink!) and if you love to cook, it’s pretty fun.

That said, the post-arrival trip to the grocery store can quickly turn into a nightmarish spend fest without some advance planning. Here are tips on how to smartly stock your rental kitchen with a single trip to the grocery store that won’t break the bank.

Tip #1: Plan your meals.

I have found that some of my go-to meals at home just aren’t feasible on vacation. Making my family’s favorite meatballs, for example, would require me to purchase breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, fennel seed and several varieties of herbs — ingredients I always have at home, but might not use again during my vacation stay.

Try to stick to recipes that have relatively few ingredients, such as this Zucchini Panini and our other 5-Ingredient Summer Recipes.

Lemon with Half and Slice on White Background


Lemon with Half and Slice on White Background

Photo by: Bajinda


Lemon with Half and Slice on White Background

Tip #2: Stock up smartly.

Skip the spice aisle, where dollars can add up fast for ingredients you’ll never finish in a week. Instead, choose a few kitchen staples that can be used over and over again in many different ways. Lemons, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs are a must — use them to season roasted veggies, make vinaigrette for salad, or mix together a marinade for chicken, fish or steak. Leftovers are easy to use up too. Similarly, Greek yogurt makes a perfect breakfast or snack, but it also works in marinades, smoothies, dips and salad dressings.

Get the List: 20 Kitchen Staple Ingredients

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tip #3: Use that grill.

Grilling and summer vacations go hand in hand, but my favorite reason to reach for the charcoal and matches? There’s very little cleanup involved. Both the cooking and the mess happen outside, keeping the kitchen clean and me a little bit saner. Choose straightforward grilling recipes with just a few ingredients, like burgers or simple Grilled Chicken, and the whole family will be happy.

Almost Instant Pancake Mix

Almost Instant Pancake Mix

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Almost Instant Pancake Mix

Tip #4: Mixes are your friend.

While I rarely use baking mixes at home, on vacation they make perfect sense. Who wants to buy sugar, flour and baking powder just to make a batch of pancakes? I often pick up a bag of quality pancake mix — you can even use it to bread chicken cutlets, make muffins and whip together strawberry shortcake! Brownie, cake or cookie mixes that don’t require lots of extra ingredients are also great. (And if you’re averse to purchased baking mix, you can always make your own and take it along.)

Tip #5: Get creative.

Find new uses for surplus ingredients and avoid buying redundant items. An inside-out hamburger bun makes a great base for grilled cheese or PB&J, while hot dog buns make wonderful French toast— so why even bother buying sandwich bread? Similarly, use maple syrup to sweeten coffee or make a glaze for chicken or steak, instead of buying a bag of sugar; try Greek yogurt instead of sour cream on your tacos and quesadillas.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©Copyright 2015

Matt Armendariz, Copyright 2015

Tip #6: Make dessert.

Dessert is a must on vacation, so whip up something simple and homemade. For these 4-Ingredient Summer Pies, you’ll need only a few easy-to-find staples. Forget shopping for a laundry list of baking ingredients! Key Lime Pie is another one that’s easy to pull off on vacation — especially if you use a purchased graham cracker crust.

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