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Apartment meal ideas

Any suggestions for simple meals for apartment stays?

I’m planning a 3 week trip for next year that will include several apartment stays. We’ll be in Italy, Switzerland and France, and I’m thinking of making a few dinners to save some money. There will be 4 adults and one teen. We really enjoy eating out, but an easy meal at home is welcome now and then (especially on a night when you want to get some laundry done). Any suggestions?

Posted by
919 posts

What time of year? Pasta bakes with tossed salad are easy and enjoyable anytime of year. If vegetables are in season, Ratatouille or a casserole with tomato, eggplant, squash and zucchini is tasty served with baked or roasted chicken. I like dishes that I can prep and bake in one or two casserole dishes. Plus makes for good leftovers!

Posted by
5570 posts

I have cooked in rental apartments, but keep in mind you won’t have a stocked pantry. That could mean you need to buy staples like salt, spices, olive oil, etc. to make a meal which largely negates the cost savings. The other issue is that many kitchens in vacation rentals are poorly equipped. You need to keep those things in mind when menu planning. What has worked better for me is buying items at the market or at bakeries that require little preparation (roast chicken, quiche, etc.) or veggies to make a salad. A baguette, an assortment of cheese, charcuterie, and some fresh fruit also makes a great meal and gives you an opportunity to sample local specialties.

Posted by
1330 posts

How about getting a chicken that has already been roasted from a deli type market and use it for multiple meals: serve with potatoes and a green veggie, cut up and make a chicken salad sandwich, even tacos are easy (so long as you can find tortillas or crispy tacos). Another very simple meal is pasta and a bunch of vegetables tossed in.

Posted by
6563 posts

In Paris we'd get takeout some nights at a nearby "Traitteur Asiatique" and heat in the microwave. The roast chicken idea sounds good too. All kinds of possibilities at least in bigger towns and cities without having to cook from scratch.

Posted by
2332 posts

Our trip will be June-July. We’ll probably do most of the cooking in Wengen, Switzerland. Restaurants appear to be very expensive and options are limited.

I know there is a Coop in town. It’ll be fun to see what’s available and in season locally. My husband makes wonderful chicken Marsala, and after giving me the stink-eye when I suggested we cook on vacation (food is a big priority for him, not so much for me), he offered to make it. Especially after I showed him some menu prices!

I love the idea of charcuterie on our terrace!

Posted by
11363 posts

We do a lot of cooking when we travel both for economy and because we get tired of eating in restaurants especially in places where every meal seems overwhelmingly heavy, Coming up with limited ingredient meals so you don’t have to stock a pantry is challenging but here are a few that work for us.

Sometimes we eat a good lunch out then have big salads in the evening as getting enough fresh produce is hard when eating out. Bagged salad, cooked chicken, diced apple, dried cranberries, blue cheese, olive oil and balsamic crema has been one go to, or substitute avocado for the apple, corn for the cranberries, and chunks of Parmesan for the blue cheese. Good local bread and wine round it out.

Another favorite is what I call Quick Chicken Curry. Chicken breast pieces sautéed with a sprinkle of curry powder. Make a sauce of coconut milk, Thai red curry paste, and peanut sauce or peanut butter. Add diced red peppers, shredded carrots, frozen peas, and simmer with the chicken pieces for half-an-hour while you make a make a pot of rice.

Pasta with fresh veggies. I especially like one with burst cherry tomatoes and mint that I found on the New York Times cooking site. Sometimes I add sautéed scallops to it. Or my Italian fave, Pasta Al’Amatriciana for which you will find endless variations online.

Posted by
4162 posts

I've rented apartments either with my husband or by myself in Lisbon, Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Florence, Rome, Venice, London, Bruges, Zandvoort, Amsterdam and Athens. I stay in apartments for comfort and to be on my own timetable. If I save a little money over staying in a hotel, that's a bonus.

The shortest stay I've ever had in an apartment is 5 nights. The longest is 8. As a single or couple, I'd never rent one for less than 4 nights. But for the 5 of you, it might be okay, keeping in mind that the shorter the stay, the more expensive the staples or food you buy might be if you can't take it with you on to your next lodging.

Every apartment I've rented had some kind of kitchen staples already in it. Those that I needed to buy, either for me or for us, certainly did not come close to obliterating any savings realized by sometimes eating at home.

I can't imagine that 4 adults and a teen could possibly eat out every lunch and dinner (assuming breakfast is provided by a hotel) more cheaply than preparing most breakfasts and some lunches and dinners at home.

Kitchen preparation and dining equipment will vary from place to place. I certainly wouldn't go grocery shopping before checking what's already in the apartment in the way of staples and what kind of cooking equipment there is. That will have a big influence on what you bring home.

You can get inspired by the combination of the cooking and serving equipment in the apartment and what you see while grocery shopping.

Part of the fun for me is grocery shopping in indoor supermarkets, in open air markets, in cheese shops, in delis and in bakeries. I like having a fridge where I can keep cold drinks, milk, eggs, meat, veggies, fruit, you name it.

One of my favorite things to do when staying in an apartment is to bring a prepared meal from the grocery store or takeaway from a restaurant home to heat in the microwave and supplement it with something I already have there.

I'm not a big foodie. Especially as a solo traveler, I tend to have breakfast at home, a nice lunch out and dinner back at home. That's my style and one way to save money on food. I like being able to have a simple sandwich from time to time and will sometimes bring one home even if home is a hotel room.

With 5 mouths to feed, I expect that your meal planning will be much more robust than mine is and that you're unlikely to have many leftovers.

Remember that in Italy you're never far away from great pizza and gelato, in France you're always close to mouth-watering croissants, baguettes and pastries and in Switzerland you'll be easily tempted by cheesy and chocolate fondues. Your inclinations and kitchen setups will determine where you choose to eat those.

Posted by
7580 posts

I would echo Laura's comments. Think easy, basic boiling, baking (if you have an oven and not just a cooktop), maybe saute.

Plan on starting a staples supply...salt, pepper, olive oil, maybe some herbs, but we buy fresh when we can. Even saving a few sugar packets from coffee is handy.

In addition to the chicken idea, in Italy you will find "Tavola Caldo" places, or "hot Table" literally, basically a deli type place serving hot food by the kilo for take away. Good way to add a more complicated meat dish to vegggies, salad, or pasta done in the apartment. Similar places can be found in France and probably Switzerland.

Probably would not apply in your case, but if I were to park myself for a month in one place, I would pack an "apartment bag", that had dry staples, some dishcloths, a couple boxes of ziploc bags, a good knife (apartments always have knives as dull as a butter knife), and a few other select items. That you would have to check of course.

Posted by
5697 posts

Another vote for roasted chicken ... and for bringing your own sharp knife in your checked bag! Department stores often have prepared-food sections with selections of local favorites. Grocery stores have an array of tasty if unfamiliar candy, cookies, chips. And fresh-baked bread, croissants, pastries for breakfast.
Just make sure you know how your cooker works before the landlord/ rental agent gets out the door -- appliances are not necessarily just like at home.

Posted by
2768 posts

Eggs! Eggs are available most everywhere and flexible with what you put with them. As long as you have eggs, butter or oil, and whatever vegetable/meat/cheese you can access, you are set with a decent meal. Omelette, scrambled, frittata, any other preparation. I love shaksuka and you can be flexible on the spices so you don’t need a full pantry.

In general the key is things that you can expect to find at most stores and that don’t require a lot of ingredients you won’t use up. So you don’t end up buying a whole large jar of something to use only a tablespoon.
Also things that are easily prepped with basic equipment.

I agree with the other ideas, too. Pasta, simple roast chicken or other meat. Also “picnic style” - buy deli meat, cheese, fruit, bread, other goodies that appeal to you and call it dinner! Finally, consider foil packet cooking. Look it up - generally you put a meat, vegetable and flavoring in aluminum foil and bake it. Saves on the clean up and gets around potential lack of baking pans.

Posted by
2528 posts

We were just in Northern Italy for two weeks and cooked in for about half of our dinners. It started out because we were up on a hill and everyone was tired from traveling and we had a table outside with a fabulous view. But it just was easier sometimes. We had a group of seven so it was also cheaper. It made our dinners out more of an occasion.

I brought garlic salt, sea salt, and a pepper grinder from home. The last two were to have salt and pepper that I didn't have to worry about leaking all over like the picnic ones you can buy. I bought olive oil and red wine vinegar at our first stop and took it on the train to the others. Some of the places had olive oil too.

Then, I must admit, every time we cooked we had pasta of some sort. I bought small jars of red sauce and pesto. I also bought cooked spinach from the deli and threw that in at the end. We liked that so much that in a different place, we bought spinach to cook with the pasta. And tomatoes. We also bought zucchini and eggplant, cut it up, put olive oil on it and baked it. We made fish in Venice that we bought at the fish market. Another day we found gourmet ravioli in the deli of a Coop larger than the one near us. This store actually had quite a bit of ready to cook food in the deli that would have worked too. I think a roasted chicken would have been a great idea but I never saw any in Italy.

We had dishwashers in every place which made cooking not much of a chore. We were able to figure out the stoves and the ovens. The knives were good enough to work. Sometimes you do have to get creative with pans. In Venice the apartment had no pan to boil pasta in. I found that a large frying pan worked just fine.

And I always pack some zip loc bags (even if not planning to cook) which were handy for left overs.

Posted by
32921 posts

Especially in Wengen, it will be worth you while being very sure exactly what will be in the kitchen, if there is a kitchen and not a counter with a few plug in appliances. I ran into that in Vernazza and once in Rome. And know how to work a Mokka. You probably won't have anything fancier for coffee.

Some staples that are left behind can be used easily and happily. I have found that I never use left behind coffee or oil. With both you never know how they have been treated or really how old they are (one exception was our apartment in Vicenza where the host brought in all the fresh perishables the morning guests arrived).

While the Coop in Wengen is undoubtedly bigger than its brother in Mürren, and the one in Lauterbrunnen is similar, for decent stocking up I use either the large MMMigros at Interlaken West station, or the the large Coop at Interlaken Ost station. They are both huge and very well stocked with just about anything (food or anything else) you can imagine.

My two suggestions for meals are take home pizza and toss in the oven (if you have an oven and it is large enough and you can figure how to use it - voice of experience) or macaroni and cheese home made or take in.

Posted by
7580 posts

I commented earlier, but since, we are preparing to make a meal at an apartment we are in just outside the Agrigento, Sicily area.

Whats on the menu?

Wine of course, then Bruschetta for an antipasti, Busiate pasta with a Pistachio Pesto as a primi, Clams steamed in wine as a secondo, then eggplant and tomatoes sauteed as a contorno. We sort of missed on dessert, but we have some cheese, and some fantastic peaches.

All of the above is basically boil, steam, and saute on a cooktop, not too many other ingredients required (salt, pepper, Olive oil and some Parsley)

Posted by
16401 posts

The good news is that food prices in the Coop stores in the Lauterbrunnen area are not as high, proportionately, as restaurant prices. We stay in an apartment in Muerren and cook all our dinners “in”; lunch may be at a mountain restaurant on a hike, but Rösti is fairly economical—-and really good! I have found chicken “supremes” (boneless, skinless chicken breast halves) are fairly close in price by weight to what they cost in the US, especially if you compare US organic chicken which is most comparable. And vegetables and fruit are similar. Bread is often less expensive; pasta, rice, etc. may be also. And wine is cheaper (if you buy the local Swiss wines).

I carry spices like curry powder, ancho chili powder, smoky paprika, etc. from home. Maybe dried herbs, although sometimes I like to buy these there. I also carry pickling spice, which is essential (along with fresh garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce I purchase there) for a family favorite—-chicken adobo Filipino style. Other “regulars” on the list are a simple curry like Laurel’s, Asian stir-fry with chicken and lots of veggies, risotto of various types, and simple pasta dishes.

When we were in Venice for a month we bought a grill pan at the local Ratti store and used that for grilled fish 2 or 3 times a week. But I don’t know that fish is available (or affordable) at the Wengen Coop.

Posted by
11363 posts

Lola, great point about bringing spices. I have packed along a couple of tablespoons each of things I expect to use: chili powder, cumin, oregano, etc. Just put them in little snack-size zip bags. Sometimes I make a pot of chili or chicken soup that will last a couple of days.

Also, I pack along extra zip bags and some Bees Wrap for leftovers or to carry sandwiches along.

Be sure to get paprika chips in Switzerland. Addictive!

Posted by
1700 posts

I wouldn't count on an apartment with too many cooking pots, pans or baking dishes. Also, refrigerators are quite small and freezers may be non-existent. Cooking in most apartments I have stayed in are more conducive to breakfast/light lunch than dinners. Also, there has never been more than two of us traveling. I hope all five enjoy the same foods! Good luck.

Posted by
11218 posts

We bought fresh salmon in a Coop in Switzerland. Easy to cook, delicious. We were tired of all the brats and cheese we were eating in restaurants, cafes. It was a welcome break.

Posted by
2477 posts

I just came home from Venice and a couple times we shopped at our local Coop store for fresh fruit and other sundries. I loved browsing in the store aisles to see what was on offer. One day we needed a quick sandwich for lunch as we had timed tickets for something so we headed to Coop for wonderful bread, prosciutto and cheese and a fresh tomato! A divine meal that hit the spot. We were in line with the locals who were shopping for their meals. What fun.

Posted by
989 posts

Pre-roasted and rotisserie chicken is normally made with a solution containing salt and sodium phosphate. It is too high in sodium. My great-grandfather with my same last name had a heart attack and died just before he turned 50.

Posted by
27225 posts

The EU has some rather strict food-handling restrictions, and cultural practices may well be different. I would not assume European roast chickens have been subjected to saline injections, though it is possible some have been. In any case, there's likely to be considerable salt in many prepared foods, so I wouldn't be especially concerned about roast chicken.

Posted by
16401 posts

Nigel mentioned the Mokka coffee maker up thread. This is a stovetop espresso maker that is ubiquitous in Italy, and makes very good espresso (my husband carries one on our camping trips and road trips).

But every apartment we have rented in Switzerland has provided a Nespresso machine, so you may also need to know how to use that. We first encountered one in 2007 in Zermatt, when we gathered as a family to celebrate one of my milestone birthdays. It took the combined language skills of my 2 adult sons (who had studied in Germany and Italy) and my husband’s rusty French to figure out the instructions—-which were actually very simple, but you have to follow the steps in order.

Posted by
11363 posts

Lola, Regarding Nespresso, we are so addicted (have had them at home for 9 years) that I look for apartments and hotel rooms that have a machine. Increasingly common even in the UK I am finding.

Posted by
989 posts

I guess you need to decide what your objectives are: do you want to eat like a "normal" person, and/or cook food in a manner you would do at home, or do you just want to buy whatever you can that doesn't need heating or elaborate preparation with knives or food gadgets, just to put the right amount of energy and nutrients in your body, if you are not a foodie and you don't have a high-class taste in food and you just want to get your meals over with so you can do activities, because you are actually taking a trip and not trying to live like you are at home: plain rice cakes, cereals that don't need cooking - if you look carefully you might see something that doesn't have salt or sugar or other sweeteners; canned tuna or canned sardines that hopefully don't have too much salt; possibly prepared recipes from a deli counter or sold already packed into trays in refrigerated cases; fruit, although I know it is possible eat too much fruit; pre-cut and washed lettuce; dates, raisins, dried figs, although I know too much isn't healthy; rolled oats or possibly something else that needs minimal cooking; possibly other packaged foods that don't have oil, sweeteners, or too much sodium.... 3 weeks isn't long enough to miss the food recipes you make at home.

Posted by
16401 posts

Laurel, so true! I do give bonus points to hotel rooms and apartments that offer a Nespresso machine. They are fairly easy to find, not just in Switzerland but also in the UK lately. We had a fun trip to the Nespresso store in London (near Piccadilly Circus, if I recall correctly) to stock up on pods when we were there for a month.

But US hotels seem stuck on Keurig machines, which he does not like at all. We just stayed 2 nights in a nice little cabin in Trinidad, CA, that had a Keurig and even provided his favorite Peet’s Major Dickison’s Blend in pods, but after one cup he pulled out his Mokka and the Peet’s ground coffee we brought along on the trip.

Mike L, with your interest in additive-free food, you might be interested in this article about additives and supplements that are legal in the US but banned in Europe:

Posted by
1466 posts

Tomatoes and burrata. Cheese and cold cuts with some local bread.

Posted by
440 posts

We spent 3 weeks in Italy in Switzerland in August and rented apartments (due to traveling with kids). Since we stayed for about 5 days in each spot, we would buy things like coffee, yogurt, cheese, bread (fresh), salami, fruit, etc. It was really nice to have basics on hand for when someone woke up hungry or needed a snack. We cooked dinner a few times--usually a simple pasta dish or I'd make a big cheese/salami plate with bread and fruit/vegetables. In Switzerland, we used the Coop a lot, especially for breakfasts and lunches. We were all happy with pastries, yogurt, and fruit to start the day, and would typically pack sandwiches, chips, fruit, and cookies for lunch to eat during a break from hiking. In Italy, it was especially easy and convenient to find takeaway meals if we didn't want to cook but also didn't want to go out. Happy travels!

Posted by
2084 posts

We were in Iceland for a couple of weeks in August with a family of 5. We were in a different place every night, but still cooked at every place that had a kitchen. We did fish and lamb and a lot of roasted veggies. Wander the grocery store, including the frozen areas. We found bags of frozen fish that worked great for our group. I would definitely bring spices from home in a ziplock bag, and a good knife is a great idea that was already mentioned. One place we stayed had the dullest knives I have ever come across. Definitely check and see just what you have to cook with in the apartment before you leave home so you can plan better.

Reading your post reminds me of one particular day. We bought take away soup and bread in a grocery store for dinner as we were anxious to just get to the house and do some laundry and relax. It was really nice to have that easy heat and serve meal and not have to do any prep or much cleanup.

Posted by
1417 posts

Jocelyn Wolters has a video sharing 5 dinners to make in your air B n B with 12 ingredients total
As best I can tell you need a skillet and a soup pan

Rotisserie chicken
Make chicken soup
Breakfast for dinner
Crepes stuffed w leftovers
Pasta carbanara

Posted by
734 posts

Enjoying ten days of self catering in Britanny and just cook like we do at home! That is why we take appartments, so we can enjoy going to the markets😁