Airbnb has been around since 2008, and as usual, I’m a late adopter—this summer’s trip to Scotland was my first time taking advantage of it.
From Edinburgh to Inverness to Glasgow, then back through Edinburgh to London, we’ve stayed at five different Airbnb flats and had five Airbnb “experiences.” They’ve all been unique, and they’ve all been wonderful.
Part of what I love about staying in an apartment is the ability to prepare our own meals—yes, I did complain some about having to cook until my favorite travel companion pointed out that I’m usually the first to start complaining about eating every meal out….
We ate breakfast in every morning, which resulted in what I call “The Porridge Series,” and we normally ate at least one other meal in—usually a combination of some sort of salad or sautéed veggies (with or without meat) or packed it to go (normally some raw veggies and crackers and hummus).
Discoveries along the way:
- Scottish grocery stores—even the convenience variety—have plenty of fresh, seasonal produce, much of it locally grown.
- Scottish eggs (the ingredient, NOT the dish) are by default pastured, not the anemic battery-cage variety we get in the states.
- Gluten-free baked goods are infinitely better (in taste and texture) to what I’ve seen in the States. We were not completely GF on this trip, allowing ourselves one “cheat” a day (because Scottish savory pies), but it would not have been difficult.
- I’ve missed “real” coffee, the flats mostly being stocked with instant coffee and “skinny” milk—and I’ve gotten used to it. I’m also really looking forward to French press coffee with raw whole milk again!
- None of our meals required too many ingredients, we were able to repurpose leftovers, and we were more or less a zero-waste operation.
- We saved a considerable amount of money doing this, easily getting two meals for two for about $15—the average price of one reasonably healthy meal out was in the range of $13.
- The kitchens are for the most part well-stocked with the basics, both in terms of dishes and pots/pans and staples such as butter, oil, salt, pepper—some hosts even provide oats, honey, coffee, tea, etc.
- The downside? One Airbnb experience that may need to be created is one where Airbnb hosts attend a basic knife skills and care class—I’ve never feared more for my fingers than when using the dull knives I came across on this trip…. (Hmmm. Maybe I should add this to my menu of services?) And I did turn a blind eye to the number of scratched non-stick pots.
I thought I’d share some tips and ideas for cooking in your apartment for those of you who are (or are attempting to be) on a whole, SOLE food diet and are finding the prospect of eating this way while traveling daunting. If you have my cookbook, Fl!p Your K!tchen, or have done the accompanying online course, Meal Planning Made Simple, you’ll quickly realize how useful the techniques of pre-prep and creating intentional leftovers is on the road.
- Release yourself from the idea that you will be able to buy everything seasonal, organic, local, and ethical—and do purchase those items when you can. In the UK, at least, they are very well labeled and not prohibitively expensive.
- Plan two to three meals in advance, depending on how long you’ll be in one place, especially if you’re traveling by public transport. The fridges are quite small, and the groceries generally plentiful, so shopping on the way home from a day of sightseeing is usually not a problem.
- If you end up with leftovers when it’s time to check out, leave the dry goods behind (unless you’re traveling by car)—you probably benefited from a previous visitor, and what goes around comes around!
- Stock up on sturdy fruits (apples, clementines) for travel; save the more delicate ones (berries, stone fruits) for the apartments.
- Fill your plate with vegetables—raw or cooked—and opt for eggs if you eat animal protein.
Focus on simple cooking that combines ingredients in one pot, because who wants to do extra dishes on vacation?
- Cooking on the stoves (er, hobs) was much easier than in the ovens once we figured out how to turn them on! Um, there may have been a smoke alarm incident in one flat when we tried to roast vegetables….
Our simple meal plan included the following—the first three recipes can be found in Fl!p Your K!tchen and are easily memorized before you go, or you can take a snapshot of the recipes with your phone.
- Whole Grain Porridge for breakfast daily, with additions that varied by what looked good in the local produce section.
- Veggies for Breakfast (we used indiscriminately for breakfast, lunch, or dinner)—generally any veggies will do although I always like to include some dark leafy greens such as spinach, and we occasionally added some cooked ham or sausages for variety. You can scramble or fry the eggs separately the first day and serve them with the veggies; the second day, use some veggies you didn’t cook the first time (but may have pre-prepped?) or reheat leftover cooked ones and scramble the eggs right in with the hot veggies.
- Thanksgiving Salad—you can often find pre-cooked beans, chicken, meat, or fish if you want to add some to the top for extra protein.
- I use this recipe from Food + Wine as the basis of a very simple vegan stew. Feel free to add a variety of veggies—we had plenty of eggplants and zucchini (er, aubergine and courgettes) as well as bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. You can leave out the fennel seed, chili flakes, and herbs (unless you can find small bunches of them fresh)—salt and pepper are usually in the apartments.
- If you are a carb fan, there are lots of small packages of pasta and rice available, or there’s always the local bread, which is my downfall wherever I go….
Drop me a comment and let me know whether/how you’ve taken advantage of having a kitchen in an Airbnb flat and what tips you have to add!