Friday, June 2, 2023

The Soapbox: Summer Travel Guide: Condo Meal Starters

Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless

Have ice chest. Will travel.

When the awaited vacation destination comes into view, it seems like the final thirty steps to the condo are the longest stretch of earth on the entire planet.

Once the kids have pointed out their own bed by jumping in it and pointed out their parents’ bed by way of Doritos crumbs, a little vacation reality sets in.  And then comes the old familiar question we seemed to have back home, only now we seem to be a million miles from home in a foreign land with no known path or plan to find our next family meal without signing our lives away in blood.

What’s For Dinner?

The sickening part of it all is the recollection of how things went down last time you tried to save hundreds of dollars on the old family vacay by utilizing the “full-sized kitchenette” you read about online. Yes, but in the end, you spent hundreds of dollars on sandwich makings, eggs, and bacon. You tell yourself “never again”, because “we would have spent the same amount (probably less) eating out” and “I wouldn’t have had to cook” while on vacation.

It is because I have been this woman a thousand times and because it never fails that during our next trip to the beach, I am still a sucker for a $300 bologna sandwich with a side of chips and cold drink from the ice chest.

However, I have finally come up with a better plan for condo meals that is actually based on the word plan.  This year I mastered the perfect hybrid of being Bologna Sandwich Girl and Miss Condo Kitchenette!

So, without further ado, here are my condo “meal-starter” hacks from the freezer that brought a little bit of my home table to the family vacation and saved those hundreds of dollars I’ve failed at saving before.

  1. Frozen Grilled Burger Patties – Prior to the trip, fire up the grill and freeze cooked burger patties for the road. These babies don’t like to be zapped too much in the micro, but love to come back to life in the crock pot with a bit of water. They still taste like they are fresh from the grill!
  1. Italian Night – Bring frozen homemade chicken Alfredo sauce along with frozen spaghetti sauce that is second to none when it is prepared by Mama. Pack a little bow-tie pasta and bag of spaghetti and never think of chopping an onion while focusing on R & R!
  1. Chicken Noodle Soup – This soup will be so good, you will want to slap somebody when you give completely out on touristy restaurant gut bombs. Bring extra chicken broth in the event it needs a little love upon thawing. If it is a little too thin, send your man to the store and buy some heavy whipping cream. Nobody will be complaining about that.
  1. Sausage – Whether it is fresh or smoked, having several packages of sausage in the condo fridge is going to make everybody happy. I brought along a couple of boxes of Zatarain’s Jambalaya mix, and other than the fact that my Mama would be ashamed that I made it from a box, it hit the spot for condo life. If there is a grill, sausage sandwiches with chips are quick and easy. And don’t forget that sausage with eggs is the best way to get off on the right foot each morning.
  1. Purple Hull Peas – Any type of legume or pea that has been properly nursed at home with special seasonings like ham hocks and the Holy Trinity or mirepoix, well, bless my soul! Couple that with hot pepper relish and, oh, baby! The best I have found is tucked away at Lenny’s Sub Shop and sold by the jar! Take along a few packages of saffron rice and this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Now, that I am wise to winning with a condo kitchenette, this list could go on forever.  The trick is putting food away for a crowd in the weeks or months prior to hitting the road. I hope, Dear Reader, that I have inspired you enough not to succumb to the $300 bologna sandwich trap as I have so many times before. This time, I grabbed street food or lunch at a beachside pub while on the go, then enjoyed quick homemade meals from my freezer after a long day of sightseeing. I realized I not only saved dollars, but created more time for investments in my family’s memory bank, and to me, that is the earmark of the most memorable vacations.

Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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