When it comes to the dog days of summer, all we want is a little R&R at the cottage. And, of course, we want to eat well while we’re there, but who has time to slave over a hot stove when that gorgeous lakeside dock and campfire are calling? Take the hassle out of hustling to the cabin with these easy ideas for cottage meal planning that will have you relaxing and enjoying delicious dishes, from morning to night, in no time at all.
Map Out Your Staples
Some people are all about breakfasts and brunch, while others like to nibble in the morning and then enjoy a heartier lunch. Figure out your group’s style of eating and plan around that. Maybe it’s easier to let everyone fend for themselves with some toast or cereal at breakfast, and then throw some burgers on the grill at lunch. Or if your group is a big mid-morning brunch type, plan some easy but delicious brunches that don’t require a lot of heavy lifting, like this Italian Sausage and Egg Bake, or this Blueberries and Cream French Toast Bake that only takes 10 minutes to assemble and you can do it the night before.
Figure Out Your Star Recipes
Once you’ve got your staples out of the way, then it’s time to focus on a few cottage-worthy recipes that make you salivate. Not every meal has to be a big affair, but if you can find a couple of star courses to spatter into your overall menu, you’ll definitely feel like you’re eating like royalty. Just don’t confuse slaving over a hot stove with a great meal; when looking for your star recipes, go with elevated classics that are simple to prepare, like Giada’s herb-infused Pasta Primavera, or opt for a drool-worthy, no-cook salad like the Ina Garten’s Arugula with Prosciutto and Burrata salad.
Make Friends with Make-Ahead Meals
After a breezy morning on the lake or a lazy afternoon spent dockside, what’s better than heading inside and pulling out a meal that’s already prepared? Try to plan for a few of these delicious timesaver options, especially for a quick lunch or snack. Whip up some of this one-pot Broccoli with Bow Ties and Peas or Giada’s Orzo Salad to keep in the fridge for when your hunger strikes. For dessert, it doesn’t get much cozier than this Make-Ahead Apple Crisp.
Use Up Freezer Meals
We’re always looking for easy weeknight dinners at home, which means we like to prep lots of delicious freezer meals in advance. If that sounds like you, why not just bring one or two of those freezer meals up with you to the cottage? If you have a short drive, you can just pop them in the freezer when you get there, or if it’s a long haul the meal could make an easy opening-night entrée to enjoy after you’re done unpacking. No freezer meals on hand? Consider making some in advance – that way, your freezer will be stocked for when you get home too, making this one a double win!
Bring Your Slow Cooker or Instant Pot
At home, you love programming your Instant Pot or slow cooker so that you just throw a bunch of ingredients together in the morning, and then by dinner you have an awesome meal. So, what’s to stop you from doing that at the cottage? There are myriad ideas for great cottage-friendly slow cooker recipes, recipes that will have you eating well with very little actual cooking at all.
Befriend the BBQ
Who wants to spend time at the stove when you can hang out by the grill with a cold drink in your hand and good company? Barbecued meals are the essence of cottage living! Burgers and sausages are always easy options, but there’s a whole world of grilling recipes out there that take your meal to the next level, most of which are quick to whip up.
Stick to the Basics
If you’re a foodie, odds are you love tinkering around in the kitchen. But, you probably also stress over creating the perfect dish. Some of the best dishes around feature simple ingredients with bold flavours, which is the perfect mandate for cottage living. If it sounds like an easy weeknight dinner you’d try at home, odds are it’s perfect cottage fare too. For something elegant yet simple, this Garlicky Grilled Chicken, Portobello and Radicchio Salad from Tyler Florence boasts that leftovers make great sandwiches for lunch tomorrow, too.
Stock Up on Snacks
One of our favourite things about the cottage is sitting back and enjoying tons of food! That means snacks, snacks and more snacks. And while we love reaching for a bag of chips or digging into an array of pre-cut veggies, don’t underestimate the power of a delicious but simple dip. This Honey Yogurt Dip is always a winner. Or, if you want something with a little more oomph, try Michael Smith’s Avocado Corn Guacamole. Feeling something a little sweeter? Whip up some Power Squares or some (healthy!) No-Bake Chocolate Crunch Brownies if you need a boost before climbing in the canoe, or stir up this addictive, easy, Canadiana-inspired Saltine Cracker Toffee with a Butter Tart Twist.
Don’t Forget the Drinks
If you’re eating well, you might as well be drinking well. When it comes to staples, you’re going to want to bring water, wine, beer and juice. But why not add some cottage-inspired beverages for a treat? We’re fans of Bobby Flay’s Watermelon-Strawberry Sangria and this thirst-quenching pitcher of Spiced Maple Iced Tea.
Make a Grocery List
Once you’ve decided on all of the great food you’re going to nosh on during your cottage week or weekend away, then it’s time to put together a grocery list. No one wants to have to make a trip to town when you run out of an ingredient, especially not when there’s a beautiful lake waiting for you.
Co-ordinate Meal Planning with Guests
Want to make meal planning even simpler? Get everyone involved. If you’re heading to the cottage with friends or other families, split up that grocery list or have certain people in charge of different meals – just make sure someone is on duty to make these Peanut S’mores Magic Bars. Sharing is caring, especially when it comes to everyone enjoying some time away together with good views and good food.
So what are you waiting for? Get planning already! Here are 40 cottage-friendly make-ahead dishes to get you going.