The Best Way to Stock Your Kitchen Before You Go on Vacation
If you're anything like me, the last thing you want after a day of traveling is to come home to a completely empty fridge. Sure, you can order takeout, but that's not really what you want. I usually crave a fresh, home-cooked meal to compensate for overindulging —and overspending— on vacation.
The best way to avoid the post-vacation food slump is to prepare your kitchen in advance. Obviously you have to toss everything that may go bad while you're away, but there are tons of shelf- and freezer-stable foods you can buy to help you put off the supermarket a little bit longer.
Be sure to keep in mind how long you'll be gone when buying ingredients. Always double check expiration dates, and don't open anything that may expire before you return. Here's our guide to all the food you need to make your return home seamless and simple.
A simple jar of sauce and box of pasta will do the trick, but add some freshness with our One-Pot Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes. Simply use frozen spinach and a can of diced tomatoes to make this delicious back-home meal. You'll also need to stock up on an onion, garlic, chicken stock, and oregano before you head out the door.
One of the easiest breakfast dishes you can throw together is oatmeal. Measure a half cup of oatmeal and follow package directions, then mix in a teaspoon of nut butter and some honey for extra sweetness. If you're set on cold cereal and milk for the morning, skip the gallon of milk and go for boxed nut milk or shelf-stable milk. Keep a fresh box of unopened cereal in the closet for your return and store the boxed milk in the fridge for a better taste.
Salad from a Can
No, not really from a can, but you can make a truly tasty, fresh feast with canned ingredients. This Niçoise Gnocchi Salad takes jarred olives, artichokes, roasted red bell pepper, tuna, beans, frozen green beans, and a package of gnocchi and turns them into a super quick meal. Mix up ingredients you know you'll like, and if you're only gone for a few days, stash a dozen eggs to hard boil when you return.
Purchase a bag of frozen chicken thighs before you head out so you'll have endless options upon your return. Try the One-Pot Chicken Farro with farro, frozen pepper and onion, a can of diced tomatoes, and a bag of frozen peas to complete the meal. Frozen ground meat is also a great option for making hamburgers, meatballs, or this Korean-Style Pork and Rice. Simply add pantry flavors like soy sauce and rice vinegar for a home-cooked feast.
Baked potatoes are a quick fix when you want something fresh and filling. Large baking potatoes can stay on your countertop for a few weeks; you'll just need to jazz them up a bit. This recipe for Black Bean and Corn Topped Potatoes makes for a throw together dinner. You'll need to open a can of black beans, jar of salsa, bag of frozen corn, chop an onion and garlic, and add some yummy spices for the perfect plate.
Beans make for a quick protein that can be mixed into rice, made into a chili, or used to top a grain bowl. Check out our tips on How To Turn a Can of Beans Into a Meal to mix and match whatever you have on hand. A personal favorite is the Smashed Chickpea Salad on Toast, which just requires some pantry items and a slice of bread you can pop in the freezer before your flight.
If you simply don't think you'll be able to cook when you get home, your freezer is a great tool for preparing a meal or two for your return. You can whip up one of our Best Freezer Meals for grab and go lunches or quick-heat dinners to get you through the day. We also love preparing one of our Super Simple Soups before vacation, and freezing them in zip-top freezer bags. They're a snap to defrost, and perfect for families.