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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Buying Food for Vacation Kitchens

Frugal Kitchens 101

Last week's Frugal Kitchens 101 discussed Vacation Kitchens.  When shopping for food at home I tend to frequent farmer's markets, farm stands and orchards.  Foods bought at grocery stores are usually in the largest size possible depending on the unit price.  During the growing season fresh produce from my garden supplements food purchases.  I have a very well stocked pantry with filled freezers and plenty of home canned foods to rely on.  A lot of the frugal practices do not work well for vacation homes.  Three key things need to be considered when purchasing food for a vacation home:  ownership, mode of transportation, and duration of the vacation.  Obviously if you are renting a vacation home you will not be able to store any left-over food and depending on your mode of transportation may not be able to bring left-over food home.  If vacationing outside of your own country there will likely be restrictions on what you can bring back into the country.

We own our vacation home in the sunny southern United States.  We are restricted as to what we can store when not there because we rent out home out so keeping anything in the freezer or fridge is not an option unless we are certain the home will not be rented out before our next visit.  The duration of our stays range from a week to a month so that affects the way I shop.  We travel by plane on shorter trips and car for longer trips.  There is very little I can bring back when traveling by plane as we have devised a system where we can completely avoid checked bags since we have clothes, toiletries and all other necessary items in our vacation home.  When traveling by car I have more leeway for bringing food from home to our vacation home.  On these trips I bring home canned foods and foods that are only available in Canada.

Each trip to our vacation home, I learn a few more ways of buying food as frugally as possible given the restrictions.  We always stop before getting to our vacation home to pick up the basics.  This includes: milk, coffee, pork loin, cheese, small plain yogurt, bread, lunch meat, condiments, fruit and vegetables for a couple of days and meat for the following day.  We tend to shop for groceries a couple of times for a week long visit but once a week for a month long trip.  We also eat out more for dinner when at our vacation home however the price of any food that has to be tossed is more than offset by what we save by not eating every meal out.  Here's a few things I do:

  • starters - Within minutes of opening up our vacation home and unpacking the groceries I have the pork loin in a zipper bag curing for peameal bacon and quart of yogurt on the go.  Peameal bacon is less expensive and lower in calories than regular bacon.  It can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner as well.  The yogurt can be used for breakfast or as the base for dips and salad dressing.
  • condiments - Condiments are expensive especially if you end up having to discard the left-overs. I buy the very smallest size that I can.  While it is higher priced per unit there is considerably less that will have to be discarded.  A limited variety of individual sized tubs (Heinz) and packets are available in the deli section.  We very seldom eat at fast food restaurants so I don't have any extra condiment packets from that source but I have found when ordering Chinese food where our vacation home is they send extra plum sauce and soy sauce so I keep those for home cooking.  I also save the condiment packages at home to bring down.  I don't get many but they fit in my purse which is handy when flying.
  • cheese - I keep the cheese selection to small packages and limit the variety.   
  • seasonings - This is a hard one because the smaller jars are expensive.  I found small .5 oz zipper packs of several dried herbs and seasonings in the ethnic section for under a dollar a package.  The brand name is Badia.  Aldi proved to be an inexpensive source for some seasonings.  I bought larger containers Spice Club of sea salt and pepper with built-in grinder for our use and the small salt & pepper shaker sets for the renters at Sam's Club.  
  • herbs - I am used to cooking with fresh herbs.  A bundle of cut fresh herbs cost about $2 or more in the grocery stores but I found potted herbs for $1.29.  The nice thing about the potted herbs is I have the fresh I want and I pass along the plants to our neighbours before leaving.  They are very much into gardening so appreciate the free plants.
  • flours/sugars/oils - I buy the smallest size possible or bring from home when driving down.  I have found it is less expensive to buy mixes for the limited amount of baking I do at the vacation home rather than individual ingredients for short trips.  However, all of these store well in our locked closet that isn't accessible to renters.  I put them into glass jars for storage when we aren't there to protect from any insects or humidity.
  • sundry items - We keep a good supply of sundry items (eg. dish soap, dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, etc) on hand for our personal use.  I tend to buy larger containers of those.  We also keep a small supply of sundry items for the renters.  This is a courtesy to the renters so they don't have to rush out to shop but rather can get settled then shop the next day.  The dollar stores are excellent for the small sized containers needed for the renters.

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