So….you’re going on vacation! Let’s chat menu ideas! Maybe you’ve got a group of friends or a few families or in a rental with minimal tools, and lots of mouths to feed, and everyone is hungry! I’ll guess you’ve got take out and some fun dinners out and some basic grilling nights covered.
Aim for some balance, anything customizable is good for a crowd, and don’t go crazy serving too many things. These meals don’t have to feel like Thanksgiving! Hit the grocery store salad bar/hot bar if you just need a little of an ingredient and don’t want leftovers – or for great side options without the stress! Here’s some starting points when it is your turn:
Crispy Fish Tacos with Lemonade Slaw
Sides: Grab a can of seasoned black beans, chips & guac to go with the tacos and you’re set! A few cheese quesadillas and avocados might help fill any gaps or please more palates. Street corn is one of my favs.
Alternatives: Offer shredded rotisserie chicken as a filling option then everything else could stay the same.
Hack: throw a lemonade drink mix packet into your bag and add to deli cole slaw- Poof, quick lemonade slaw! The fish is from the freezer section.
I loooove fish tacos and this are so so easy, have minimal clean up, and not lots of fish smell for anyone not eating it. Even our not-into-fish eater likes them and the kids do too. I “glue” the fish into the kids’ tacos with some shredded cheese and they most often eat the slaw on the side.
Sesame Noodles & Edamame
Sides: serve with some edamame (freezer section of the grocery store) or some Trader Joe’s Potstickers could go alongside too. Broccoli is good on the side (just roast in the oven with olive oil) or steam some green beans.
Alternatives: enjoy warm warm, room temp or cold. Teriyaki chicken/beef/shrimp on the grill would be good if the crowd wants a protein.
Hack: I’ve mixed up the sauce at home and brought it in a cooler and then just cooked pasta and mixed it when serving.
The kids crack up popping edamame out of the pods. This one is great variety to lots of grilled dinners and easily the fastest meal (also great for a vegetarian/meatless meal).
Chicken/Pork/Kielbasa with Coconut Rice & Pineapple
Sides: cucumber salad goes well on the side or the pineapple could be on the side.
Alternatives: Kielbasa and Pineapple can go on kebobs to grill for a really summery format of the same dish.
Hack: Grab a microwave packet of coconut rice! Done! Sometimes there’s pulled pork already cooked at Trader Joe’s or in the regular grocery store. I would bring the pulled pork versus cooking a pork shoulder in a crockpot while away but go for whatever works for you!
Peach, Mozzarella, Cucumber Salad with Grilled Chicken
Sides: Serve this salad with few other cold salads, some grilled chicken and some corn would be a fun meal!
Alternatives: Add some bake-at-home rolls or a tube of biscuits if you’re fulfill a starch need for some of your eaters too.
Hack: A bottle of balsamic reduction lasts forever and might be useful for a caprese salad another night!
The kids were super into peaches and loved this one. We do tomato/mozz salad often so this wasn’t a reach for us. Or if some of the crowd would be into this a tomato/mozz/basil one alongside it would fit in well.
Mediterranean Night – Naan flatbreads, a chopped Greek Salad or Greek Pasta Salad and some dips
Sides: chopped greek salad or veggies with hummus & tzatziki to dip
Alternatives: The flatbreads can be topped with anything – these have hummus (or jarred tapenade) and cheese, some feta, some chicken sausage or grilled eggplant/zucchini. Maybe make half the flatbreads chicken sausage, half vegetarian. Serve everything separate with some orzo or rice to be a bowl for a custom option!
Hack: Chicken sausages are fully cooked (plan on ~1/2 or 1/3 link per flatbread) and you’re not messing with dough so these can go in the oven or the grill just to melt the cheese and warm through! Sticking to 1 kind of hummus and not all the same veggies in the salad AND on top of the flatbreads will make them seem different.
Unused flatbreads can dip into any leftover hummus for your next snack!
Top Your Own Pasta Bar
Sides: a tossed salad plus the pasta “toppings” might fit well for a lighter meal if anyone opts for no pasta
Alternatives: 1 pasta, 2 sauce options – tomato & a pesto/alfredo/brown butter?, some add ins like grilled veggies (bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus, tomatoes, etc) and capers or olives or parmesan.
Hack: Go for jarred sauce when on vacay and meatballs from the freezer section! Any un-grilled veggies can be veggies & dip another time!
This would be such a hit with my crowd. Also easy for any one to put together. Again – don’t go crazy. The possibilities are endless but plan on a few!
Snacky Dinner might help if people are coming & going and you have dessert planned. Kids love unusual dinners like these. Serve a few dips, crackers & cheese, and some salads and call it a meal. Then go for ice cream. 🙂
Plan on hitting a few categories: vegetarian, a cooked one, a cold one, one they can build/customize, and span a few food groups. This is also helpful if there’s a day of a big lunch or late lunch! Some could be a picnic on the beach, by a playground, on a boat – however you vacation!
Watermelon & Cuke “salsa” is delicious and can be out awhile
Cheeseburger Potato Skins could warm on the grill
Meatball Sliders could be assembled by the eater
Deviled Eggs get swooped up at parties- though they can’t sit out a long time so serve in smaller quantities and refill
Wings on the grill are good
Soft pretzels from the freezer are a treat for us – bake/toast oven bake for 4 minutes and are for lunch sometimes too.
A pre-dinner snack helps if the group is eating later than some are used to (kids!) – just don’t make it better than dinner or don’t let it take too long to then delay dinner! Veggies & salad dressing dip or a string cheese or a deviled egg or some trail mix right after a day at the beach helped tide us over to make it to dinner time while we took turns showering and getting ready and somebody cooking.
Our 3ish families typically plan a few dinners at the rental, takeout, and a few dinners out when we’re away for a week. We bring some things or ingredients we definitely need, then get remaining groceries once we’re there- based on our meal plan (also since we’re not flying to the beach). Covid messed with us a bit but we liked takeout the night we got there so we didn’t HAVE to grocery shop upon arrival.