Staying in a vacation rental can help save you money, especially if you choose to cook most of your meals yourself. But doing so can sometimes present a challenge since you don’t know what will be available to you in the kitchen when you get there.
We have stayed in rentals with perfectly stocked kitchens with all of the essentials and some extras. We have also stayed in rentals that claimed to have a stocked kitchen that didn’t even have so much as a single knife or salt. So planning your meals before you get to your destination may be difficult. Another unknown is the availability of ingredients at the local grocery store, especially if you are travelling internationally.
Since we have had our fair share of experiences cooking a wide variety of meals in our Airbnb rentals, we thought we would help you be prepared and make the most out of your temporary kitchen.
Simplify your meals
Depending on your rental, you may have limited space to work with. You also may have more limited ingredients (especially when it comes to spices) than in your own home. Which tools are available in your rental kitchen may also vary. So it is important to keep your recipes and meal plans simple so you don’t overwhelm yourself and have to buy everything under the sun at the grocery store.
If you are working with limited space or limited pots and pans, stick to recipes that require one or two pans at a maximum. If you are cooking multiple components but don’t have the space or appropriate pans for everything, think of how you can improvise and either cook them together or cook one at a time in the same pan.
Stick to recipes with simple seasonings. Making a homemade curry from scratch is probably not the best idea (unless the kitchen is already stocked with all those spices!). Depending on what is available in the kitchen, you may need to buy a few. If we have to buy our own when we get there, we generally stick to salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. But it’s up to you what you need and what you like.
Check with the owner and bring your must-haves
Sometimes we have things we just can’t live without, and it’s a toss-up whether it will be available at your destination. The best way to prepare is to contact the owner of the vacation rental and check with them to see what they provide in the kitchen and what they don't.
If you have a must-have item, such as your favourite tea, a good whisk, or a special seasoning, make room in your luggage for it! We always bring our own coffee and coffee-making accessories, our favourite herbal teas, and this travel-friendly knife.
Take inventory before you head to the store
Since the stock in your rental kitchen can vary a lot, we recommend taking inventory before you head to the grocery store. Check the fridge and all the drawers and cupboards to see what food items and seasonings you already have.
Check what types of pots and pans and cooking utensils are available so you know what you will be working with. You don’t want to buy ingredients to make a cake and then get back to realise you don’t have a pan to bake it in!
Have a backup plan or alternatives
Depending on your destination, some ingredients may not be available or may be different than you are used to. If you planned your meals before you left, keep in mind some alternate meals you can make if you aren’t able to find the ingredients you need.
You can also keep in mind alternate ingredients that you can substitute if you can’t find them. One of the ingredients we find that varies the most in its availability internationally is pre-made broth. For some reason, in some countries we just can’t find broth in the grocery store. Everyone either makes it at home or uses bouillon cubes, which we refuse to use.
Be prepared to be a little unorthodox
You know how you have go-to dishes you always make and can prepare in your own kitchen blindfolded? Well, put yourself in someone else's kitchen and it can be a whole other story. Given the limited tools available in some rentals, we have had to improvise with HOW we actually prepare the food.
We've had to crush whole tomatoes with a fork to make pasta sauce, fry up a Spanish tortilla in a small saucepan, and before we started bringing our own coffee grinder, we once had to grind coffee beans between two cutting boards! Just because your tools are limited doesn’t mean you have to give up on your recipe, sometimes you just have to get a little creative.
Keep it local
One of the big reasons people travel around the world is to sample the local foods. Just because you aren’t eating at restaurants for every meal doesn’t mean you can’t try out the local specialities. You can always find the ingredients for local dishes at the grocery store and try your hand at making them.
If the local cooking is too daunting, at least buy some local ingredients to use in your own recipes to change them up a bit, and hit up the local market to try out local fruits and veggies that are in season. Bonus points if it’s something you’ve never had before!
Check back for recipes!
We will be posting travel meal ideas and recipes as we make them, so check back frequently to get meal ideas for your next trip!
Have you had any interesting experiences cooking on vacation? What are your favourite things to make? Share your thoughts or recipes in the comments!
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