When we PCS, everything gets packed up.
Sometimes, weeks, or even more than a month in advance of our actual move.
Our options are to stay in our current housing situation with air mattresses or borrowed furnishings or move into temporary housing which is like an extended-stay hotel.
It’s never convenient, and we don’t want to eat out or buy junk food.
So, how do we still cook real food during PCS season?
We get creative.
We make it fun.
Usually, we clear out the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry as much as we can the weeks before a PCS. Then, we pack up the remains of the pantry, fridge, and freezer to eat in our TLF before our final out.
Another handy tip is to bake breads, muffins, cakes, and cookies ahead of time to have on hand before all that cookware is packed. Store the items in the freezer or even a freezer at church or a friend’s until TLF is ready.
We try not to cut too many corners, but obviously, our cookware is packed up and on a boat and we’re ready to travel, so making smoothies or homemade bread aren’t usually an option. The facilities in temporary lodging aren’t ideal – with few amenities for cooking well.
Sometimes, we can borrow essential kitchen items from friends or the Airmen’s Closet until our household goods show up.
Thankfully, most TLF apartments have decent coffee makers, toasters, mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, a colander, utensils, and pots and pans.
We usually miss good tongs, clean baking pans with silpats, good knives, and some other items we deem “necessities.” I miss my sourdough and kombucha and options for healthy cooking fats.
I pack my favorite cooking utensil, one or two good knives, tongs, and several spices (like garlic, salt, pepper, Italian herbs) inside a plastic zip bag in my checked luggage. We’ve even packed up melamine plates and bowls before to make life easier.
I don’t even play. I need these things handy with a hungry family.
While staying at TLF or hotels, we often purchase simple and easy to prepare foods at local grocery stores that can be grilled at a nearby park grill hut or a disposable hibachi grill. It’s not much different than what we do when we’re camping. We even eat outside if the weather’s agreeable.
When we have kitchen facilities, we make simple side dishes like rice, pasta, couscous, quinoa, potatoes, steamed veggies, or boil frozen beans. If ovens are available, casseroles are easy for any meal. We just buy disposable aluminum pans. We don’t ordinarily use aluminum for cooking, but it’s ok for occasional use. We simplify and cut corners where it’s not a big deal.
We don’t eat much differently in TLF than at home during summer: grilled meats, veggies either steamed or sauteed, a grain side like cous cous, potatoes, quinoa, rice.
We try to use up everything so there’s no waste.
We’ve even baked chocolate chip cookie bars and quick breads in TLF in disposable aluminum pans.
Picnics are easy and frugal for road trips or easy for lunches at any point during the PCS.
We packed up sandwiches, chips, and juice for our road trip from Utah to Georgia and stopped at rest stops to eat and play.
My Top 12 Easy Dinners for PCS or Travel:
- Pizza. We love to make our own pizza.
- Hamburgers. These are always a favorite!
- Casseroles. Turkey Divan and Tuna Casserole are favorites.
- Grilled or Roasted Meat and easy sides. We love couscous or quinoa with a marinated meat and a veggie.
- Tacos. See our homemade taco seasoning.
- Stews. Beef stew and chili are easy stovetop or slow cooker meals.
- Roasts. I like to roast a beef chuck or pork loin or whole chicken and have leftovers the next day! I often throw some root veggies alongside.
- Slow cooker meals. We love Asian pork ribs and salsa chicken.
- Breakfast for dinner. My husband usually is in charge of this.
- Sandwiches. This is fun for picnics.
- Salads. We like to use leftovers for creative salads. See our fave salads.
- Soups. Here are a few of our favorite soups!
We have to make sure we use up leftovers creatively.
It’s stressful not having our kitchenware and having to eat on the run with little planning.
We stay flexible and look forward to learning our way around a new kitchen and organizing it the way we like it.