Spice me up!
April 8, 2009 7:21 PM   Subscribe

How do you deal with cooking while traveling? I specifically want to cut down on buying spices/condiments we've already bought at home. By bringing them with us. How?

Going on vacation soon (two people) and our hotel room will have a mini-kitchen. We plan on doing a fair amount of cooking to cut expenses. We'll be there for a week and we've done similar travel before; I find I always spend too much on spices/condiments we have at home, so I'd like to figure out a way to bring basics with us rather than buy when there.

Any recs on how to do this? I'm thinking maybe putting spices/salt/pepper in pill boxes or other travel size things? What about ketchup and mustard?

You're a creative bunch, so I'd love your input!
posted by cestmoi15 to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
For camping, I just put spices in little ziplocks, and put them all into one bigger ziplock to keep them all together. Film canisters work too, but they're not as plentiful around my house anymore. Sure, pillboxes would work too. Condiments - little dip-sized gladware containers work well. Don't forget a bit of olive oil and balsamic!

Are you driving or flying?
posted by barnone at 7:26 PM on April 8, 2009

ziploc bags work pretty well.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 7:26 PM on April 8, 2009

Also, this is a sweet little package of travel spice tins! You could make the same by getting those tiny tin jars at bulk places (or online) and filling/labeling them yourself. And I like these spice kits on Etsy. She'll make packs with whatever spices you want -- a cute gift too!

Oh and hot sauce and soy sauce!
posted by barnone at 7:30 PM on April 8, 2009

I just put the spice jars in shoebox, but I can be pretty low tech.

But defiantly pack: your chef's knife, bread knife and paring knife. The knives in the hotel are going to suck.
posted by shothotbot at 7:37 PM on April 8, 2009

Best answer: Well, "stealing" condiment packets--catsup, mustard, mayonnaise, relish, etc. from various fast food joints is a time-honored camping thing. Film canisters are great, but we have lately started using the weekly pill cases to hold our herbs and spices. Labeling is easy with a sharpie.

Oh! And the little hot pepper packets from pizza places are economical, but also can be quite potent--don't be cavalier with them
posted by thebrokedown at 8:05 PM on April 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, generally we drive and I throw everything in the car, but this trip will involve a plane, so I'm worried about pressure.

Great ideas so far, thanks! And I'll raid my local to go places, that should have been a "duh";)

I like the ziplock and the travel spice/etsy -- any idea what I google to just get the the holders? That is what I need, not soo much the spices.
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:10 PM on April 8, 2009

If you live in NYC you can buy little, plastic screw top containers at any Rickys.
posted by shothotbot at 8:12 PM on April 8, 2009

The hotel should have salt and pepper at the front desk, and other things like jam/ketchup/mustard/butter if it serves any sort of coffee break/continental breakfast. If it doesn't, seconding raiding a fast food place for salt/pepper/ketchup/mustard/etc packets. After that, all you need are spices -- get a cheap $4 pill box at the local drugstore and put your own spices in. Airtight, sterile.

BUT -- if you're going somewhere new where the cuisine is different, and the prices aren't that high, then I'd say that you should pack light and buy spices/food there. There's nothing like trying out the local stuff, and traveling is always more fun if you're working with unfamiliar brands and labels. Plus, if there's anything left over, you can always bring it back to use home as both groceries and a souvenir at the same time. That's why I have a tube of caviar that I'm still happily eating my way through...
posted by suedehead at 8:18 PM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Spices in little baggies or whatever might look like something totally different to an airport security person (or customs agent, if you're flying internationally).
posted by txvtchick at 9:16 PM on April 8, 2009

Hit World Market and pick up a couple of their small bottle of things like olive oil and vinegar. Pack a few spices, like above. Try and think about what you'll cook and make them be all the Same sorta family. Salt, pepper, garlic, onion, evoo, and some rosemary and oregano and a couple of lemons and I'd be happy for a week.
posted by purenitrous at 9:17 PM on April 8, 2009

This fellow I met camping had a plastic case almost like a brief case(hot wheels?) that opened to reveal every imaginable type of condiment packet neatly occupying all the compartments.
posted by hortense at 10:48 PM on April 8, 2009

Nalgene makes some durable one and two ounce bottles and jars that are less likely to leak than the average drugstore travel bottles. (That's the company's website, but you can buy these from camping stores or The Container Store.) Although the Nalgene website says that the rigid, straight-sided jars are not held to as high a leakproof standard as the bottles, my experience suggests that the jars are more leak-resistant than the bottles when filled with viscous liquids and subjected to the pressure fluctuations of flying. The jars are a little harder to use at your destination because you can't squeeze the contents out of them, but just bring a couple plastic knives and they'll work fine for ketchup and mustard.

If you like those clear-lidded tins used by the Etsy seller, try "spice tins" as a search term. I'm not so sure about the glass vials; those might come from a scientific supply place.

Stop me if this is too obvious; I mention it since you say you generally drive: If you're flying in the U.S., make sure your liquids are packed in a TSA-approved manner. If you take knives (I'll second that suggestion from shothotbot) put them in checked luggage with good, secure blade guards.
posted by Orinda at 12:04 AM on April 9, 2009

What you want is a spice wheel! Can't recommend it highly enough for packing spices and small sundries for camping/travel. (I found mine at REI some years back, but you can buy them directly on the linked page as well.) Pair that with, say, a combination salt shaker/pepper grinder, and you're well on your way to gourmet road food.
posted by Vervain at 12:25 AM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Two mesh bags, one with film cans full of spices, and the other with Nalgene squeeze bottles of oil, vinegar, soy, hot sauce, maple syrup, etc.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:54 AM on April 9, 2009

Best answer: I put dry spices in little snack size ziplock bags. I also pre-mix the dry ingredients for muffins, pancakes, etc. and stick a note in the bag with the rest of the recipe. I always just suck it up and by perishables like mayo, ketchup, mustard and oil ... a dollar store is a great place for that stuff if you can find one.
posted by robinpME at 6:55 AM on April 9, 2009

The thing to look out for -- and this might not apply to a one-week vacation -- is that storing spices in ziplocks in a larger plastic bag, particularly if they don't always get sealed perfectly, means that over time they all start to taste like red pepper curry garlic powder. So, you might split up the subtle spices from the more powerful spices.
posted by salvia at 9:57 AM on April 9, 2009

Best answer: I like the ziplock and the travel spice/etsy -- any idea what I google to just get the the holders? That is what I need, not soo much the spices.

Watchmaker Cases / Watchmaker Tins

I have that exactl Lee Valley set, and I use them for spice storage. If you squeeze the tops very firmly the tin warps and they know longer close securely, but if you're careful with them they fit very tightly and work perfect. they even come in a case to store the tins in. Super cheap.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:25 AM on April 9, 2009

I/we are doing exactly this - travelling around and staying mostly at places (gites) with kitchens. We have actuallly been travelling around like this for coming on six weeks. We're traveling in a rather big car, with no air travel involved.

So, when we started out, I packed a whole bunch of spices and condiments thinking that 1. it was wasteful to have to buy them again, and 2. so that I was sure to have my favorites on hand. Truthfully, I regret packing about 90% of it. Unless you are going to a very rural and isolated place, you can buy just about everything you need anyway, cheaply, and bring it home or leave it behind. The bother and weight of it all far outweighs any cost savings.

The only things I don't regret bringing along are the things that are unique to my home cuisine (Japanese) that aren't that easy to buy in say, rural France (dashi, good soy sauce). The salt, chili pepper, curry spices, etc etc etc....i'm thinking of just dumping it all before this journey is over.

YMMV of course.
posted by thread_makimaki at 10:26 AM on April 9, 2009

(if you do decide to pack, I recommend plastic zip bags - the lightest, most compact, and easiest to replace. Do not use anything glass/breakable.)
posted by thread_makimaki at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2009

Best answer: Oh! And the little hot pepper packets from pizza places are economical, but also can be quite potent--don't be cavalier with them

Note to self: do not pre-spice food for thebrokedown. You may inadvertently kill him.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:40 AM on April 9, 2009

The little drug-sized baggies are great for spices - they are light and take up no room in the bag. You can buy a bottle of ketchup and a jar of mayo for a total of about five bucks, so why not just do that instead of worry about breakage and spilling?
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:13 PM on April 9, 2009

Don't worry too much about the ziplocs looking suspicious in the luggage - even if they see it, it's not going to get confiscated. And usually they use dogs or those puff things to find drugs.
posted by barnone at 5:45 PM on April 15, 2009

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