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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, June 11, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Prepping the Kitchen for a Vacation

Frugal Kitchens 101
  Summer is just around the corner and soon the kids will be out of school.  This is the time of year when many families turn their thoughts to summer vacation.  Years ago when our kids were young, we did a lot of camping.  We had a larger travel trailer (28') with microwave, oven, stove top, furnace, running water as well as outdoor cooking equipment (Coleman stove, fire pit tripod, propane grill, pie irons).  We very seldom hooked to hydro or water because we had batteries and large water holding tanks.  We could get about 11 days off of our batteries using power conservatively.  Back then the only planning I did was move foods from the house to the trailer.  I always made a dish for set-up day but really the cooking didn't change all that much from our home to our home away from home.  Fast forward to life as empty nesters and owning property in Florida.  We spend anywhere from three to five weeks at a time there.  There is only so much food I can feasibly bring with us when we go to our vacation home which means a good two to three weeks before we leave for our vacation home I need to do a bit of prep work.  At the same time I can't store a lot of food at our vacation home because we rent it out when we aren't there.  Here are some of the things that work for me:

  • stop buying all but the essentials - Unless it is something we absolutely need and some fresh fruits and vegetables are a need, we do not buy anything for the two week period before we leave.  We eat from the pantry and freezers letting our fresh food supplies diminish.   When I buy produce I buy only what we need for that time period.  For example, instead of a bag of onions, I will buy two.
  • freeze whatever fresh produce possible -  If I have an excess of things like onions, green peppers and any vegetable that will freeze nicely, I prepare it then vacuum seal and freeze.  Sometimes I will dehydrate or can them if I have enough.  We cannot take fresh fruit when traveling to our vacation home because we have to cross the border.  There are produce restrictions as to what can enter Canada and the US. 
  • dairy -  Dairy is a hard one to deal with.  We have meals based on eggs and dairy, bake and yet there is always a bit left over.  The only two options that really work for us is to stop buying and to give whatever we can't use but won't keep to family.   Eggs can be scrambled then froze but I haven't done it so can't tell you how well it works.  Some cheeses freeze nicely so I grate or pop as in to the freezer and unopened cheeses are generally fine until we return.  Unless they are close to the use by date, I leave them as is in the cheese keeper.   I stop making yogurt, buttermilk and sour cream about a week before our departure.  I'm usually able to use those types of things up fairly quickly so just plan meals that don't require them as an ingredient once they are gone.
  • meats -  I freeze any meat in the meat keeper including bacon unless it was previously frozen.  Unlike many, I seldom keep a lot of meat in the meat keeper to begin with as we tend to thaw what meat, poultry or fish as we need it.  Fresh meat, poultry or fish is usually used the same day of purchase.
  • refrigerator - I clean out the refrigerator, then clean it the day before leaving.  By then there is little left other than condiments and cheese.
  • dishes - We traditionally eat out the night before leaving but that is because our flights tend to be around the 6 AM mark meaning we are on the road about 2 AM aka don't want to deal with dirty dishes or cleaning the kitchen at that hour of the morning on a travel day and we want the dishwasher empty before leaving.  We do take homemade coffee in our travel mugs for the ride to the airport.  They are rinsed out, left empty and ready for on flight and we take refillable water bottles to fill at the airport once we clear security. 
  • bring what we reasonably can - When driving we are restricted as to what foods we can bring by available space and weather.  It really is a pain to have to unpack the trunk to bring in cases of home canned foods overnight to protect them from freezing during the trip. When we fly, we are restricted to basically what we can carry as there is no need for us to check bags.  Liquids must be 3 oz or less for carry-ons.  We do have the option of shipping some foods to our vacation home but that would mean a separate trip to the US within a day or two of our departure.  So I only bring what I reasonably can when flying which means no home canned foods.  Dried foods are great because they are lightweight and take up little room but be warned if going through security, certain dried foods should be in their original containers especially if they are a white power or crushed anything that would resemble wacky tabacky (just saying!) .  But this means I can still bring seasonings and some of my homemade mixes.  Even at the border, customs likes to have all containers sealed, preferably original but they will make a exceptions for some homemade blends and mixes.  Frozen foods are basically out even if driving.  Raw meat allowances depends on current restrictions but in general, raw meat doesn't travel well but cured meat is fine when we drive.  My work-a-round for cured meat was to take a package of Morton's Tender Quick to our vacation home then just buy the fresh meat and cure it there.  I did the same thing with Pomona's pectin so I can make jams and jellies there if the opportunity presents itself.
  • appliances - We unplug the coffee maker but not the microwave oven.  Our other small kitchen appliances are stored in the pantry and only plugged in when in use so I don't have to worry about unplugging anything else.
  • general cleaning - I run the self-cleaning cycle on the oven a day or two before leaving.  Other than that, I clean the kitchen as I normally would.
  • garbage/recyclables - Garbage is collected every week and recyclables every two weeks.  We generate a lot less garbage and recyclables than many families.  Still I like all the garbage and recyclables put into the garage before we leave.  One of our kids puts out the garbage for us but leaves the recyclables until we return.  

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