Article by Guest Blogger, Deb Panos, first published September 16, 2016 here
As I sit here, working on a menu and developing a shopping list for our next beach vacation, it dawned on me. Someone really needs to develop a comprehensive guide for planning meals at a beach (or anywhere really) vacation house or condo. Maybe someone has already done it but I couldn’t find it so I nominated myself. Keep in mind, this guide is really for those people that drive to their destination. If you fly, it is a little harder to prepare to this degree.
“At this point in the day, we are not much interested in showering and getting dressed to go out to dinner…”
“Planning ahead is crucial”
However, we are not a “box of pasta and jar of sauce” family. I love to cook and my entire family loves to eat and appreciates good food. Plus, when at the beach, we have access to fresh seafood (caught that morning) that we simply cannot resist. Eating well on vacation, to us, enhances the experience tremendously. I do realize that this approach is not for everyone. Many people consider cooking a chore and really want to avoid cooking on vacation as much as possible. I get that. Maybe I can change your mind. Just a little.
Planning ahead is crucial if you want to prepare fast, delicious meals at the beach. I am excited about spending a week at the beach so it doesn’t really seem like work. More like vacation prep. Kind of like packing.
It is also helpful to plan your menu for the week and be sure to include dinners out. You want to be prepared but you don’t want to bring a ton of food back with you or even worse throw it away. Also, be sure and find out if you’ll have access to a grill. Gas or charcoal? If it is charcoal, I wouldn’t haul charcoal from home. For two reasons. One, a bag of charcoal takes up a lot of valuable car space. Two, there is a good chance that the previous renters left behind their charcoal. Use that. If no grill is available, consider heading to the local Walmart and buying an inexpensive charcoal grill. You can leave it for the next renters.
Casseroles (like lasagna) can be prepared ahead and frozen. Meats can be placed in plastic bags along with marinade and frozen. Baked good, like cakes and cookies, can be made ahead and frozen. Or, if you like your cookies fresh from the oven, prepare the dough and freeze that. I like to review each recipe and make sure I take whatever spices and staples I need. Otherwise, be prepared for sticker shock when you go to the local grocery store for your favorite spice. Assuming they even have it. I even go so far as to measure out the exact amount I need and put it in a resealable plastic bag. If a recipe calls for multiple spices, by all means, combine them into one bag or plastic storage container.
I try and take small sizes of Dijon, olive oil, vinegar (you’ll probably need that if you steam seafood anyway), mayo, ketchup etc. Partly because I know I can buy it for less at home but also I like to keep my local shopping list as short as possible. I also buy one of those disposable salt and pepper sets. Don’t assume your rental has a Keurig. Bring ground coffee.
“You’ll want to keep it ultra-simple”
Since the first dinner will likely be on a travel day, you’ll want to keep it ultra-simple. Last trip, I premade crab cakes (did not form them, just mixed the ingredients together) and brought along a boxed rice mix (not something I normally use but it is vacation after all) and a box of salad greens. I also premade the dressing. Alternatively, I could have made a rice pilaf and just reheated in the microwave. Maybe next time. Anyway, after unpacking, checking out the beach and toasting the beginning of a wonderful vacation we were not interested in getting back in the car to go out to dinner or spending a lot of time preparing. I formed the crab cakes and broiled them (parchment paper comes in really handy here – just bring one sheet, not the whole roll), made the rice and added dressing to the salad. Super fast. Super tasty. If you have access to a Costco, their pasteurized crab meat (in the refrigerated section) is excellent. It isn’t cheap but it is less that you’d pay at a fish market. And it is less than eating out.
I’m excited to share how we prepare for and enjoy great meals on our beach vacations.
Deb Panos and her family own a vacation rental in scenic Fort Morgan, Alabama.