How to Stock Your Vacation Pantry

Hello Friends! Welcome to Djalali Cooks. I don’t know about y’all out there, but the majority of our vacations take place in houses, rather than hotels. For us, this means we will be doing some cooking. Not only is it more economical, but I think it’s a liberating vacation experience if you’re not beholden to finding a restaurant for every meal time – especially if your stay is a week or more. One doesn’t have to go crazy with two shopping carts full of groceries though…with some list making, and thinking ahead to plan a loose menu for your stay, you can be enjoying your vacation before the grocery store clerk says “have a nice day.” So here is: How to Stock Your Vacation Pantry.

Menu Planning

I don’t really want to have to make two trips to the grocery store, unless I have to. I also don’t want to waste food at the end of the trip because I had leftover ingredients. So I like to be strategic about planning meals that involve using one ingredient more than once. For instance: I bought one pound of shrimp to make two different dishes, Blackened Shrimp Tacos and Shrimp Pizza; I knew the shrimp pizza would have ricotta cheese, but what the heck am I going to do with half a tub of ricotta? Panzanella Salad with Ricotta. An entire bunch of cilantro? About half goes in the Thai-Inspired Chicken Salad, most of the other half is destined for those same Shrimp Tacos I mentioned above. The little extra leftover cilantro is great for adding to sandwiches or scrambled eggs.

See what I mean? Most packaged ingredients do not come in travel-sized portions, so be strategic about incorporating those ingredients into more than one dish. Also consider when you plan to cook certain things; plan to cook the shorter shelf life veggies first and store them in the crisper drawers, out of the plastic bags to minimize wilting and damage from moisture. Things like bell peppers can last for two weeks this way. Try to buy Living Lettuce if you can find it, it can last two weeks too. If you have to buy bagged lettuce, spread the leaves over several paper towels and roll them up in the paper towels, then slide the roll into a dry plastic bag, leaving the bag open in the crisper drawer.

I store fresh herbs the same way I do at home: wash the herbs, gently pat them dry with paper towels. Trim the stems and put them in a glass of water, as you would with fresh flowers. Then place the glass of herbs in the refrigerator.


Simplify, simplify, simplify. I am sure you don’t want to pack or take home a spice cabinet’s worth of spices. Neither do I. So try not to plan a menu that requires either hard-to-find or super-specific spices that you will only use a dash of for one recipe. I try to stick to the basics. That said, this trip I did go outside the box a little for Red Curry Powder and Turmeric for the Thai-Inspired Red Curry Chicken Salad.

Ultimately, I like to stick to Salt, Pepper, Oregano, Red Pepper Flakes and one or two spice blends. The spice blends I reach for on vacation are Montreal Steak Seasoning (because we always do at least one night of steak), and Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. We use the creole seasoning a lot while we’re in Tybee; from eggs, to shrimp, dressings and marinades, it’s a great seasoning blend to have on hand.

You may wonder “why Oregano?” Well, we do a lot of marinades and dressings for salads and sandwiches so I like to have it on hand for whipping up a quick Italian dressing. If I am making a Mexican dish like chorizo and eggs, or tacos, I like to have the oregano on hand for that too.

Oil and Vinegar

If you’re doing any grilling, or high heat cooking you will need to have some vegetable oil. For any dressings, marinades and lower-heat sautéing, you should have some olive oil. I am partial to the California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil because it’s great in recipes and it has a good, grassy flavor for dipping bread as part of a charcuterie board.

I keep the vinegar part simple and opt for Red Wine vinegar; it’s pretty multi-purpose and it gets the job done.


Most vacation home rentals come equipped with basic cookware, serve ware and often, paper towels. Additionally, I like to have aluminum foil, gallon-size zipper lock bags and a set of three food storage containers. I just buy Rubbermaid food storage containers in an average size. We inevitably have leftovers of one thing or another so it’s handy to have a secure, stackable way to store stuff. It’s also handy to bring veggies and dip to the beach, or out and about, in a lightweight, secure container. Aluminum foil is a good all-purpose item for lining sheet trays, tenting resting meats, covering leftovers and making foil packet-style meals.

  • Kitchen Shears. Most vacation rentals will not have this piece of equipment and it’s so good to have them for snipping herbs, trimming chicken, cutting through lobster tails, or even cutting open bags.
  • Chip Clips. I am a compulsive chip clipper. A ripped-open, nearly full bag of stale chips drives me crazy. In a pinch you can slide the open bag of chips into a zipper lock bag, but I hate to use up a bag for that – so don’t forget a few chip clips!
  • Disinfecting Wipes. They are great for kitchen clean up and they’re good for the bathroom, too.
  • Meat Thermometer. If you plan to cook and grill, definitely bring a meat thermometer. I really like this multi-purpose ThermoPro thermometer.

Have Fun Cooking on Vacation!

If you’re like us, you will definitely go out to eat at least a couple times while on vacation. If you have restaurant leftovers, consider how you might incorporate them into a larger meal – to mix things up a bit. Leftover steak makes a great steak and egg omelet; leftover seafood boil can become breakfast hash, or maybe even find its way to a pizza!

Just because you have shopped for a planned menu, keep things loose, get creative and keep your eye out for ingredients local to your vacation location, you never know what new things you might be able to whip up! Thanks so much stopping by today; I hope you found How to Stock Your Vacation Pantry helpful and informative. Take care and be well everyone! xo Kelly

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  • Mari
    August 25, 2021 at 9:46 am

    These are all great tips for vacation, and for staying home too. I don’t know about anyone else, but my pantry should have a sign that says, “Abandon Ye All Hope Who Enter Here”. It needs a serious clearing out from all those things I bought for a specific recipe and then never got around to making said recipe. Or all the fallout from those buy two get one free sales. I fall for that every time. I don’t use one jar of cinnamon a year, let alone three. Instead of rushing out to buy a specialty item, I need to think about what I have that would work. Most things can be made using something else, unless it’s a very specific herb or spice that isn’t quite like anything else. One thing I am using a lot more often is nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice. Those work great to punch up otherwise bland dishes, especially something like chicken and pasta with broccoli. It adds a nice subtle flavor that everyone likes, but almost no one guesses what it is. Now more than ever, with prices rising, I need to shop smart.

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 25, 2021 at 10:14 am

      You are so right, Mari. Plus, spices can lose their flavor a lot quicker than we might think. Buying bulk spices in small quantities is a good way to go, or buying the small size jars of things we don’t use as often is a good bet, even if the price per ounce is cheaper for the larger jar. An annual clearing out of the spice cabinet is one of my favorite “spring cleaning” activities. It gives me an opportunity to make more space and take note of what I never use – so as not to buy it unless I absolutely need it! To determine whether a spice has lost its oomph, just smell it; if it doesn’t smell as pungent, or if it just smells dull, it’s time to toss it. Thanks so much for leaving a note today, I think your experience in the spice cabinet is similar for us all! xo Kelly

  • Deanna
    August 25, 2021 at 10:43 am

    What great tips. We like to stay in cabins/houses if we’re not camping. During the pandemic, I cleaned out our spices, and threw out all the REALLY expired ones. Surprised at some of the things I found in there. LOL. Now they are all alphabetized and organized. You make a good point to make spice organization part of the spring cleaning routine. BTW—made the Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches last week. Served them on Keto Buns so my husband could enjoy them too. They were a hit!!!

    • Kelly Djalali
      August 25, 2021 at 3:07 pm

      It does feel good to have an organized spice cabinet, Deanna. I am so happy you made the Hawaiian Chicken Sandwich and that they were a hit! Thanks so much for stopping by today, have a wonderful Wednesday! xo Kelly