A few simple meals I’ve put together while on vacation

My guy and I have been travelling together for almost nine years now. We’ve figured out that our best trips are always the ones where we’ve stayed in homes or apartments instead of hotels. It’s a fun way to experience a new place and having a place that really feels like home at the end of a long day exploring makes me feel more relaxed. And then there’s having access to a kitchen – I love to cook whether it’s at home or when we’re away.

Over the years I’ve made a lot of mistakes when it came to self-catering in rented apartments. Now I’ve got it down to a fine art and I wanted to share my secrets with you to encourage you to try out cooking a few meals on your next vacation.

#1. Have a plan 

I’m not talking about a rigid meal plan for your entire time away — this is vacation after all, but you do want to be clear on your approach before you hit the road. Think about how many meals you want to cook, what they are and what kinds of activities you’ll be doing while away. This is helpful for shopping and planning your days. When we were in California we mostly cooked breakfasts and dinners in, eating lunch out most days (thanks nap schedule!). Other times we’ve planned for just breakfast at home and on trips when we’ve been more active we made sure to have provisions for packing lunches at the beach or on a hike.

#2. Get inspired 

In the weeks leading up to our trip I kept some meal ideas in a note on my phone. A few years ago when we spent a week on a farm in Vermont I packed one cookbook that I used exclusively for the entire trip (Gwyneth Paltrow’s masterpiece It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great, of course). Having a few simple ideas makes shopping and planning that much easier.

#3. Take inventory 

Having said all that, plans are great but sometimes reality does not reflect our expectations. Before you hit the grocery store make sure to look around and take note of what equipment you have available. In LA we were just about to bring home a loaf of bread from Gjusta Bakery when we realized we didn’t know if we even had a bread knife in the apartment (we didn’t).

Many airbnb’s that we’ve stayed in also have a few basic provisions like olive oil, salt and pepper or other spices — but just as many have had nothing at all. We’ve also stayed in a few places where our hosts have provided things like fruit, yogurt or eggs saving us from needing to pick up these things for ourselves.

#4. Make grocery shopping part of your trip experience 

Visiting local grocery stores, health food shops and farmer’s markets is one of my favourite things to do when I’m in a new city. I love to see what kind of different things are available, especially at the farmer’s market. When I’m in California I will never tire of buying avocados and lemons fresh off the tree from a local farmer! Some of my favourite travel memories have been at markets; it’s a great way to really experience a place like a local.

#5. Less is more

Stocking a vacation pantry is not the time to load up on Costco-sized bottles of olive oil or multi-packs of humus, unless you are travelling with a large group or staying awhile!

Buy enough to get you through your time away but not so much you are letting large amounts of food go to waste or getting bogged down in overwhelm. I find I am much more creative in the kitchen when I have fewer options and stick to basics that can be used in different ways to build out meals. A roast chicken (pre-made from the deli counter, this is a vacation after all) makes a fine main meal of meat and two veg, but can also be used to top a green salad or stuff a sandwich.

Do you cook while you’re on vacation or do you prefer to have someone do it all for you? I would love to know!