What To Cook Before A Vacation

The more frequently I travel, the more I stress about having enough time to prepare to be away from home for a week or two, and avoid coming home to a refrigerator full of rotten food or leaving a sink full of dishes. Through trial and error, I’ve discovered the best food to cook before a vacation is a simple roast chicken (sorry, vegetarians). The Department of Health suggests you can keep cooked chicken in the fridge 3-4 days, while I’d say you are good for up to a week, but you don’t want to take a chance on getting food poisoning before you leave on a trip. So let’s say four days to be safe. Now, how to minimize your cooking and cleaning time, and mix it up so you aren’t eating the same leftovers every night? Let’s say you are leaving on Friday: here’s your timeline.

Sunday – Roast a chicken
Buy your last groceries for the week and if you are feeling really pressed for time, pick up a supermarket rotisserie chicken, but it’s easy enough to bung a chicken in the oven with some seasonings in the early evening and feel like you’ve accomplished something. Serve with a hearty salad leaf like kale, and some good grains like buckwheat or wild rice.Monday – Strip the bird
Depending on your preferences, you can use the chicken to top a salad (use more of that kale!) or on some pasta with some store-bought sauce (put leftover sauce in a freezer container for later use). Try to strip the chicken of meat so you can wash out the roasting pan, but keep the carcass and bones.

Tuesday – Make broth and sandwiches
Take that leftover carcass and simmer in water to make broth. You won’t need it tonight, so you can do after work and refrigerate before you go to bed. Use up a loaf of bread and make sandwiches, maybe melt some cheese on them if you have anything open and are feeling fancy. Make kale chips with a little olive oil and salt (I like to use garlic salt); line the baking sheet with foil so you have less to wash.

Wednesday – Simmer soup
If you have a slow cooker, you could put it on in the morning set on low for the day, but you can throw together chicken soup at dinnertime too. Strain the broth you made last night, add the leftover chicken bits, and toss in any remaining vegetables (goodbye kale!) and grains from the first night. A can of beans is a good addition too; fiber is important before traveling! Any left? Put it in the freezer for an easy meal post-vacation.

Thursday – Get delivery
Sick of chicken (or don’t want to be sick from chicken)? Play it safe and order something in that doesn’t require many dishes, like pizza or noodles (sushi is always a gamble before a trip, but a good light option). Try to keep it a little healthy and make/order a side salad. Pack, take out your trash, and finish doing dishes.

Friday – Departure
Leave on your trip, feeling good that you didn’t waste any food, and you ate a heck of a lot of kale. Eat anything other than chicken.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Mark Turnauckas]