Temp housing, at least the hotel apartment types I have stayed in, are not very well stocked for intensive food prep–of course, I get it, it is temporary housing. However, if you are in temp housing for 1-2 months, you can’t very well put off eating decently for that long, especially if you are a neurotic mom like me. So, here is a meal plan that requires minimal pots/pans/tools, along with a pack list. It balances healthy-enough eating with sanity preservation, because moving is hard. The meal plan avoids needing an oven or microwave, because you may not have one, and it also limits your need for cookware.
You can of course just buy whatever you don’t have while in temp housing, but:
- Shopping trips can be hard in a new country
- Having things from home gives you instant comfort in a new country
- I’m a frugal noodle and an eco-friendly gal, so I don’t want to re-purchase things I have or use paper plates all the time
- This lets you hit the ground running right away
Please see my complete guide to temporary housing when moving internationally (will help when moving to another city nationally as well) for all other packing and moving information.
- Hand Towels/Kitchen Towels (you rarely get these in temp housing, and they are needed for drying dishes, hands, for holding onto a hot pot handle, etc)
- Reusable cloths for wiping dirty hands and faces (paper towel is useless against the messes my kids make)
- Kids plastic plates, bowls, and cups, because I was always stressed my little kiddos were going to break the hotel stuff
- Vegetable peeler
- A couple good knives for chopping (obviously don’t pack these in your carry on, and check current rules for baggage permissions just in case)
- Folding dish drying rack thing (super helpful with limited dish drying space, I use this pot lid organizer)
- Bottle opener
- Big pot (like for pasta or a stew/stir-fry/one-pot dish)
- Smaller pot for sauces, curries, soups.
- A couple stirring/serving spoons, a ladle, and a spatula (the ones I have found in temp housing tend to be slightly melted plastic ones…I prefer my own)
- Cork trivets are handy for hot pots.
- Ice bricks/cold bags/lunch boxes for bringing food out with you or packing lunches for day camp.
- Water bottles for you and the kiddos
- Necessary Tupperware type items (order in food delivery to try to get more reusable plastic containers, and clean out and re-use big yogurt tubs, etc).
- Paper thin cutting boards/mats (or use old kids plates)
- Clips, you know, for closing everything, or maybe buy some masking tape or something
- Salad Spinner Bowl (if planning to use it daily and eat out of it too…temp housing bowls are not all that big, it works as an all purpose large bowl too)
I will add more items as I think of them…Feel free to comment with what you would bring! Double duty items get bonus points. :D
Whatever meals you create, you may want to limit spice variety due to limited counter/shelf space in temp housing. I generally only do 5 days of meal planning because when the hubs is off work, we go out running errands, exploring the malls, sightseeing, etc. and end up eating out. This plan does get boring for the kids, but I am the type of mom who says, “Eat it or go hungry,” so we managed. Though none of us can really enjoy trail mix anymore after having had it daily for sixty days, LOL. They will survive.
For the days I was emotionally wrecked and needed to sleep in, I would put granola bars and water bottles on the table for the kids to get themselves in the AM. Thank goodness temp housing comes with TV; train your oldest kiddo to turn it on themselves and not accidentally purchase pay-per-view movies.
This menu is pork free so you should be able to easily find the items in Dubai. All these items are available in Singapore though the dairy items and berries are not cheap. I cook my scrambled eggs in the smaller pot. I often made enough dinner to have some leftovers for lunch the next day, or we would eat out if we were off exploring or running errands. This was the same lunch I would pack for the kiddos when they went off to a day camp program.
Breakfast: I usually rotate through these three while in temp housing, reserving cereal for days that the hubs lets me sleep in. I will also sometimes pick up doughnuts or random baked goods that look tasty at the supermarket or bakery
- Scrambled eggs with toast/bread, butter, jam
- Plain yogurt w/honey, topped with granola, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and berries
- Oatmeal with peanut butter and banana slices mixed in, or instant oatmeal
AM Snack: Trail mix of dried fruit, nuts, M&M’s. If the kiddos were going to day camp, I gave the PM snack in their lunch boxes so they would be nut free at the program.
Lunch: Sliced cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, baby tomatoes sliced lengthwise, a boiled egg/canned beans and granola bar/plain pasta or a sandwich, black olives, fruit for dessert or an occasional cookie/treat. For myself, I usually just make a salad. That Ikea salad spinner thing was always perfect for this, as I could spin the salad dry-ish, then dump it into the outer spinner bowl, drizzle in some lemon juice and olive oil, pepper (and when in Dubai, Zaatar spice blend), mushrooms, red onions, and anything else I felt like adding, then put the spinner top back on, and shake like crazy. The top can be hard to clean when you do this with no dishwasher, so you can also just mix with your hands for easier clean up. :D
PM Snack: Fruit and cheese
Dinners: By doing the same foods every week, I can make a nearly permanent shopping list and either have the groceries delivered or make easy work of it each week, limiting the stress of the whole temp housing experience. :D This is a 5 day only plan because
- Lentil soup and Baguette/Bread
- Steamed Chicken Rice with a side of frozen mixed vegetables
- Spaghetti (with spinach and quinoa/canned kidney beans/ground beef)
- Paneer Chili with steamed broccoli or cauliflower on the side
- Stir fried pumpkin or other veg as a side, and some kind of taco/wrap thing
To make the Steamed Chicken Rice, you add however many cups of rice you want for your family, I do 2 cups for the four of us, or 3 if I want leftovers. Rinse rice and add the appropriate amount of water for the rice you are using (I always have to Google this). Then mix in a spice packet of your choosing from the store, or try your own with boullion cubes that match the amount of water you put in, or ginger, garlic, and onion along with chicken boullion cubes to approximate the taste of Singaporean Chicken Rice. Try to find pre-chopped onions and a jar of blended ginger and garlic to cut down on your prep work. Add salt too.
Stir that up, then put the chicken breasts (or legs, thighs, whatever) on top. Cook as you would the rice without the chicken, by steaming it with a lid on until done.
To make Paneer Chili, you may need to find an Indian store, or modify the recipe as needed. Get a few cans of beans (I like kidney and pinto, but I will add black beans and chickpeas if I want leftovers), a bag of frozen paneer (or fresh if you can find it or want to try to make it) a can of chopped tomatoes, and a can/packet of tomato paste. Put some oil in your big pot and cook some garlic and onion, then add any spices you like (I typically do a heaping quarter teaspoon of cumin and a half teaspoon of coriander, maybe some mustard seeds, turmeric, chili, curry leaves, and a bay leaf when I am in permanent housing, but I go minimal in temp housing with just coriander, cumin, and curry leaves). Fry the spices for, like, a minute. Then add the tomatoes, the paste, some water (maybe a cup), and mix together. Then add the beans and cook for awhile. Add enough water to make it a “chili” kind of consistency. It’s already all “cooked” so however long you have to let the flavors develop. I add the paneer before I am ready to serve, just heating it until warmed through, then I add some frozen corn after I turn off the heat to help cool it quickly. I add frozen corn to nearly every hot dish to cool it off, LOL. Anyway. Add a bunch of salt, to taste.
For the taco/wrap thing, when I was in Singapore, I would do fried, seasoned tempeh, avocado, and tomato wrapped in lettuce or with lettuce in a “wrap.” In Dubai, I would do hummus with cut bell peppers, baby spinach, and avocado in a tortilla–they are pretty easy to find in Dubai. In both places, good avocados were freaking hard to find, but I tried my best. Below is a checklist you can use for shopping. I may have forgotten some items, I will update it this summer after I use it when in temp housing again (by choice, a long vacation in an AirBnB that I know won’t be well stocked). Some of the items in the weekly list won’t need to be replaced every week, but I like to have them all on the list to cross off, rather than forget.
Arrival Shop List
- Cleaning Supplies (for me, a spray bottle, white vinegar, baking soda, a scrubby sponge, baby wipes–for when I am too stressed to be eco-friendly–remember, moving is HARD) (I know the hotel is supposed to clean for you, but if you have kids, you know that messes occur 24/7)
- Pump Soap for Bathrooms (if not given)
- Dish Cleaning Soap and Sponge
- Laundry Soap (get low suds type if you have the all in one type washer-dryer-combo)
- Stain Remover
- Plastic Food Storage Bags (big and small)
- Chicken Boullion Cubes
- Garlic Powder (I prefer fresh, but again, moving is HARD)
- Ginger Powder (or jarred blended ginger/garlic mix) (or a spice mix packet, like Hainanese Chicken Rice if you are in Singapore)
- Italian Seasoning Mix
- Curry Leaves (can freeze)
- Red Pepper Flakes or Chile Powder
- Food from Weekly Shop List (below)
Weekly Shop List (organized by general grocery store location, not by meal)
- Sugar (buy the little packets if you can, especially in ant-prone places, or if you don’t want to know if you live in an ant-prone place haha)
- Olive Oil (or whatever oil you like)
- Black Olives
- Tomato Paste
- Can of Chopped Tomatoes
- Tomato Sauce for pasta dinner
- Bread (for toast)
- Baguette (for soup dinner)
- Granola Bars
- Rice Milk/Almond Milk
- Sunflower Seeds/Chia Seeds/Any Seeds
- Trail Mix Items (nuts, M&M’s, dried fruit, seeds)
- Peanut Butter
- Some Treats and General Snacks (salted peanuts and dark chocolate for me)
- Fruit for daily snack
- Lettuce for Salad
- Preferred Fresh Veg For Wraps Dinner
- Lemons (to flavor water and for lemon juice to combine with olive oil for easy salad dressing)
- Potato (for lentil soup)
- Bell Peppers (also called capsicum outside the US)
- Baby Tomatoes
- Pumpkin/Squash/Sweet Potato
- Beans for Paneer Chili, Spaghetti, or for lunches/snacks (get the canned ones for convenience)
- Orange Juice
- Frozen Mixed Vegetables
- Frozen Spinach
- Frozen Corn
- Frozen Pizzas (for emergencies LOL)
- Paneer (fresh or frozen)
- Plain Yoghurt
- Cheese for daily snack
- Parmesan Cheese (for spaghetti and for salads)
- Tempeh or Hummus
- Lunch Meat or Hot Dogs
- Ground Beef (unless using kidney beans)
- Chicken Breasts