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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 16, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Vacation Kitchens

Frugal Kitchens 101

Over the years I have operated several styles of vacation home kitchens ranging from the bare basics camp kitchen to the somewhat small but adequately equipped RV kitchen to the fully functional, fully equipped vacation home.  Vacation kitchens all have a few things in common.  First they are generally but not always small with limited cabinet space.  Second, unless it is your own vacation home and even then equipment is limited to the basics especially with respect to kitchen equipment.  In most cases a dishwasher is not even going to be an option.  Despite the limitations of even an outdoor, bare basics camp kitchen there are very few foods that can't be prepared and that included home canning if the opportunity presents itself.  Today's Frugal Kitchen 101 gives a few tips on making the most of vacation kitchens.

  • less is more - We've camped and RVed in many areas where electric appliances would not go because electricity simply was not available.  We learned a long time ago that manual appliances would get the job done without electricity.  A manual egg beater performs just as nicely as an electric one but with a bit more effort.  Kids are always a great asset too especially when making fresh butter.  I'd pour the cold heavy cream into a jar then let the kids shake it until it separated into butter and buttermilk.  They thought it was fun and I got the butter I wanted.  I did the same thing with ice cream, turning it into a game with kick-the-can-ice cream.  Rather than use the electric yogurt maker I use at home I devised a make-shift cooler method to make yogurt.  
  • canning - Canning is possible even on a wood fire so if you are into home canning as I am don't let that stop you.  I have canned on the open fire, on a camp stove, on the RV stove and in the vacation home.  I have a fully functional kitchen at our vacation home and what is really nice is fruits and vegetables I might not be able to bring across the border, I can simply can then take home in the jars.  Canning while on vacation is a great way to take advantage of local produce in season where you are as well so don't discount it.
  • equipment - In most cases even with your own camping equipment, RV or vacation home you are going to be dealing with equipment you likely discarded from your permanent residence or it will be of a bit lesser quality than what you are used to dealing with as well as specialty equipment.  After all, your primary kitchen is going to get all of the best equipment.  The real trick with vacation kitchens is to learn to use the equipment you have available.  If it is equipment you have not used before (eg. you are used to cooking on electric burners but the RV has propane burners) do a trial run!
Vacation cooking differs from home cooking in that there are some convenience food items that while you don't normally use them at home, they make good sense when on vacation.  At the same time you still want to keep your food dollars in check.  Part of running any frugal kitchen, vacation kitchens included means you always get the best value for your dollar.  Here's a few tips:
  • condiments - Unless you are at your own cottage, vacation home or RV where you can bring home any extras, buy the smallest container possible.  In normal cases this does not sound frugal but if you can't bring it home or it will spoil if you leave it there the frugal choice is to by the very smallest container possible that will meet your needs while you are there.  Extra individual packets from fast food work nicely here too if you have them.
  • buy day to day - In many cases buying only the foods you will use that day is a better choice than doing a large grocery shopping and ending up tossing food out.  In the end it actually will save you money.  Buy only the foods that can be used up within a day or two.
  • simplify - I am used to an extremely well stocked pantry at home.  Every vacation kitchen I have had has had to be simplified to the basics out of necessity.  It's simply not feasible for me to have 50 or more seasonings that I have a home at my disposal in a vacation kitchen.  Simplifying to the basics just makes thinks easier and less expensive.
  • think fresh - Go with in season fresh fruits and vegetables as they usually are least expensive but think outside the box.  Most grocery stores have a small plant section.  I absolutely love fresh basil and grow many varieties.  During a recent vacation I bought a small sweet basil potted plant for $2.  I was able to harvest from that for the time we were at the vacation home then give the plant to a neighbour


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