Pantry from scratch, but only for a! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 05-24-2009, 12:46 PM - Thread Starter
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We are taking a family vacation to a house for a week that has a fully stocked kitchen with a stove, refrig, microwave, toaster oven, barbecue grill and small freezer, but there is NO food there, and we are only going to be there for a week. I can bring some things from my own kitchen since we're driving there, but it's going to be a 1000 mile trip in a minivan with 2 adults, a 14,12,6 and 2 year old and a medium sized dog, so space is limited.

So here's my question: What should I bring from home, and what should I plan to buy there for a one week menu? We go here every year and what usually happens is I end up buying things like the smallest bottle of worcestershire sauce, ketchup, etc from the local overpriced grocery and spending $300 for a weeks worth of food, which is silly because part of the point of taking this kind of vacation is to be a little frugal.

Here is a sample of what kind of meals I'd like to eat:

cheerios, fruit and milk for breakfasts
sandwiches (cold cuts/grilled cheese/pbj) for lunch
simple grilled items, veggies, starch for dinner

I like to have on hand for snacking: fruit and veggies ready to eat with a dip like pb & cream cheese, ranch dressing; oatmeal muffins, cheese sticks, turkey jerky

Some kind of dessert item like popsicles or ice cream cones
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#2 of 10 Old 05-24-2009, 03:50 PM
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When we had a week rental this winter the things I found we needed were condiments. We ended up buying them and having to throw them away since we were flying out.
Can you make a meal plan for the week and go from there? If you plan it out right you can be frugal. Make room for a cooler and a box for dry goods, that shouldn't take up too much space.
Is there a less expensive supermarket on the way where you can pick up what you need but you do not have to drive it too far so you dont have to shop at the overpriced store?
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#3 of 10 Old 05-24-2009, 04:28 PM
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Take condiments, spices, bread (consider flatbreads if squishing will be an issue), cereal, and peanut butter and jelly. I wouldn't try to bring bagged snacks- potato chips, cheetos, popcorn- unless you have room to box them. Otherwise, they'll just end up as crumbs.

You may need to put condiments into smaller containers for the road to save space in a cooler, unless you know you can get small, unopened bottles cheaper at your local grocery than you can at the vacation grocery- in which case buy them and keep them at room temp.

If you have room in the cooler, include snacks for the road and a couple bricks of hard cheese- ie, sharp cheddar.

None of this stuff (including storebought mayo) is going to die over a couple of days in a cooler with ice (or insulated bag with coldpacks).

Condiments and spices are budget killers, *especially* at touristy type store.

Plan on buying fruit, veg, milk, eggs, and meats when you get there. This stuff will still be overpriced, no doubt, but chances are much greater that you will eat all of it and not waste, say, 3/4 of a bottle of ketchup, yk?

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#4 of 10 Old 05-24-2009, 04:34 PM
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Some things I find helpful (and that will fit in a small box/bag/tote):

salt and pepper
limited spices--I use Montreal steak seasoning & a taco mix I make up
decent knife or two
small flexible cutting board
salad dressing
small thing of mayo, mustard (whatever you like on sandwiches)
peanut butter (infitely useful, from lunch to snacks)
premeasured dry ingredients for muffins, pancakes, cornbread, whatever
brownie mix (for a treat)
cereal (cause it's easier to find a sale at home)
spaghetti sauce
oil for cooking
dishwasher soap (I buy those single use ones, then take a few in a ziploc bag)
dishwashing detergent
laundry detergent (try to find the 3x concentrated for a smaller bottle)

What we usually eat:
spaghetti, salad (if you don't eat salad, this has the added benefit of being ready to go right when you get to your vacation spot--such an easy meal)
grilled whatever, baked potatoes, salad
grilled whatever, buttered spaghetti noodles, salad
grilled hamburgers, baked fries
out one night
vegetable soup (the easiest for me is ground beef, frozen veg, can of tomatoes). Get cornbread mix that uses egg and milk only (those you have from breakfasts).

chips and salsa for snack (eaten after tacos to eat up the end of the salsa)
quesadillas (uses up any taco stuff left over)
baked potatoes with chopped, grilled meat, cheese, sour cream
sandwiches (meat, peanut butter, egg salad, cheese)

Once there, you can buy most of your perishable groceries: tortillas, bread, hamburger buns, meat, eggs, milk, fruit, lettuce, chips (so they don't get squished), ice cream, potatoes. We always seem to forget butter, too.
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#5 of 10 Old 05-24-2009, 04:39 PM
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Anything you really use very little of, like condiments.... is there a way you can get them from fast food places before you go? I mean, I don't advocate swiping them, but if you're going somewhere that has them, you can take a couple at a time and not use them (take a bit more than you use, or use the full bottles at home and save them). Alternatively, if you do this a lot, can you buy little travel bottles that are food safe? Container store near me has them pretty cheap. Fill them from home and take them with you. And take your own spices too, either 1-2 mixes of the stuff you use most often--I camp with an "italian" spice mix and an "indian" one.

Other than that, I would probably not take much on the road, and would maybe make 1 bigger trip farther away to a cheaper store after you arrive. No kids, just you or your partner, and get everything you'll need and will really use.

Again, if you do this annually, you might also want to find out from the hosts if you can leave stuff for the next guests, if they might leave something for you (we do this for a family summer place), or if they can recommend a cheaper way/place to shop?

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#6 of 10 Old 05-24-2009, 06:37 PM
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When we've done that we've sort of tried to get away from condiments through our meal planning - for example, for whatever reason we tend to want condiments on hamburgers, but not on kebobs. So we pack dry herbs/spices for the kebobs/grilled chicken/grilled fish/steak and don't eat burgers/veggie dogs/sausages.

I usually bring from home: kabob sticks, oatmeal, couscous &/or rice in smaller bags, a can or two of chickpeas, olives, artichokes for salads, olive oil, vinegar, herbs for dressings and marinades, salt and pepper, a box of cereal (if you don't have much room I'd probably buy that there), a box of granola bars, and dinner for the first night just-in-case, usually pasta + pesto (leftover pesto becomes a fabulous rub; extra pasta becomes pasta salad). Some years I've brought tuna or salmon and a small jar of mayo, since we like that with our tuna/salmon salad. Sometimes a small jar of peanut butter and a jar of barbeque sauce. Our family is lots smaller than yours though!

I also bring some containers for leftovers, and pack into them.

We buy there: meat, fruit, eggs, bread, veggies, cheese (but from a local cheese factory), milk, treats (within our budget).

We usually have grilled veggie sandwiches, with or without cheese, for one or two lunches. Leftover grilled meat on greens for salads too.

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#7 of 10 Old 05-24-2009, 07:43 PM
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I agree with planning a menu to avoid messy sauces and condiments. I'd focus on things you can easily enjoy with salt, pepper and herbs. You can also get some of those dry packets of soup mix, taco seasonings, chicken seasonings, gravy mix...etc. They're probably not any cheaper than the bottled stuff, but they'll be small and flat and easy to pack.

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#8 of 10 Old 05-26-2009, 12:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for the ideas! Here is what I'm thinking now:

All breakfasts: Cheerios, fruit and milk (everyone loves this) So, 42 servings of cheerios, fruit and milk.

All dinners: Boiled pasta or baked potato for starch, some kind of steamed veggie, and either grilled hot dogs, burgers, chicken, pork chop/steak depending on what's priced well at the store. We eat 1 lb pasta at a meal or 4 baked potatos (teen daughter and middle daughter share one, toddler and I share one, the guys each eat a whole one) So, 42 servings veggies, 3lbs pasta, 3 jars sauce, 12 baking potatos, 1.5lbs burger, 6 buns, 20 hot dogs, 20 buns (2 each for adults and 14 and 12, 1 each for 6 and 2), 3lb chicken, 3lb other meat.

All lunches will be sandwiches. (Let's say hot dogs 2x for this, grilled cheese 3x, pb&j 2x) 20 hot dogs, 20 buns, jar pb, jar jelly, 18 slices havarti or other good melty cheese, 5 loaves bread.

Desserts will be popsicles or ice cream sandwiches. 2 boxes ice cream sandwiches, 2 boxes popsicles.

Drinks will be water or crystal light. We make one pitcher crystal light a day and then it's water. 1 canister crystal light.

Snacks will be corn chips with salsa, baby carrots and cucumbers with ranch dip, or apples with peanut butter. 2 bags corn chips, 1 large jar fresh salsa, 3lb bag baby carrots, 1 jar ranch dressing, 5lb bag apples.

Condiments: ketchup for all the hot dogs and hamburgers, butter for the potatos and to cook the grilled cheese sandwiches, green onions for potatos, barbecue sauce to grill the chicken, montreal steak seasoning for other grilling needs, salt/pepper for veggies, grated cheese for potatos and pasta topping.

Here's the shopping list for that menu:

3 boxes cheerios
3 gallons milk
2lbs strawberries
2 cans peaches
large bunch bananas
40 hot dogs
40 hot dog buns
1.5 lb hamburger
6 hamburger buns
16 potatos
3# pasta
3 jars pasta sauce
grated cheddar cheese
3lb chicken
3lb steak/porkchops
2 heads broccoli
2 heads cauliflower
4lb whole carrots
5 loaves bread
3lb melting cheese
jar pb
jar jelly
2 boxes ice cream sandwiches
2 boxes popsicles
2 bags tortilla chips
large jar fresh salsa
2lb baby carrots
3pk seedless cucumbers
jar ranch dressing
5lb apples
1lb butter
bottle ketchup
bottle bbq sauce
green onions
montreal steak seasoning
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#9 of 10 Old 05-26-2009, 01:24 PM
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Is there a store closer to your destination that would be cheaper? Because I would try to buy all the bread there since it will take up so much space in your van. That is a LOT of bread that you will need.

Do you have a storage box for the top of your van? That would hold quite a bit of food, and you can find one on craigs list )if you have a decent one in your area). Otherwise I think they are only around $100 new, and if you make this trip every year it might be worth the investment if it will save you $$ on food each trip.

hth sounds like a fun trip!! I am jealous!
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#10 of 10 Old 05-26-2009, 01:31 PM
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You mentioned that the store there where you are vacationing is expensive. Is there another market say the town before you get to your destination. We have found that grocery stores or markets tend to be a littel more expensive at our destinations especially if they are *touristy* spots. If you able to buy say the little you need prior to get there it might be a little less expensive plus you wouldnt have to worry about storage in the car for too long. I often mix spice mixes in those tiny sandwich bags and label them.
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