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Condo Cooking 101

One of the advantages of renting a Gulf Shores or Orange Beach condo is that you can save money by making your own meals. The disadvantage is that you may spend a large chunk of your vacation time cooking instead of relaxing or sightseeing. But it doesn't have to be that way. With a little creativity and imagination, condo cooking during your vacation can be as memorable as any other part of your holiday. Browse our tips for saving money and having fun by cooking on your next vacation to Gulf Shores.

1. Make meals an event. Approach dinner with joy and involve everyone, especially kids. Have fun with it - spread newspapers across the table, forget the plates and dump out the contents of a low-country boil for everyone to share. You save on cleanup and everyone has a ball eating with their fingers!

2. Keep it simple. Don't make meals stressful when you are taking time to relax. Rely on recipes that don't require a lot of extra work or expense. Avoid food processing and recipes that require many spices (unless you bring the spices with you).

3. Plan ahead. Give some thought to the number of meals you plan to eat out and what your family will enjoy. For example, if you plan to make meals to take with you, be sure to choose food that will keep well.

4. Make ahead. Meals that can be prepared the night before make it easier for the cook and allow you to be more flexible with your time.

5. Freeze ahead. If possible, make a few meals that can be frozen and take them with you. Then, when you are exhausted from parasailing, you can pop a lasagna in the oven while you get a massage.

6. Savor the local flavor. Instead of passing that local produce stand on the way in, stop and load up with fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only will you have quick, delicious sides with almost no effort, produce stands can be a great place to get the skinny on things to do and see during your visit. Try the specialty of the region and ask locals how to prepare it. It will enrich your experience in a new place and make for a memorable feast.

7. Read the fine print. Does your condo include a blender? Gulf Shores vacation rentals are equipped with a variety of kitchen appliances and electronics. Know exactly what you have to work with before you leave to avoid frustration later. If you have a favorite knife or other utensil, take it with you.

8. Take advantage of timesavers. Don't be so cost-conscious that you have a miserable time. Fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried. Look for fresh, prepared sauce at the local grocery store as well as the produce stand, to enjoy the most flavor with the least effort.

9. Take turns. Especially if you are traveling with more than one family, cooking for each other fosters healthy competition, a nice occasional break, and a great opportunity to come together after a day of activity.

10. Super sides. Once you've been to the produce stand, you may want to put together a few high-quantity sides that you can eat with a number of meals throughout the week. This will save you time in preparing your individual meals. A large batch of potato salad or cole slaw can last most of the week and will keep well in the fridge.

Also, you can save money and time by bringing a few key cooking items from home. If you plan to make seafood, almost any recipe can benefit from Creole seasoning or Old Bay's. Olive oil and minced garlic can make a quick pasta toss or a marinade for grilling. Lemon juice can enhance seafood, make lemonade or serve as a salad dressing. Bottled salad dressing can double as a grilling marinade. Plus, don't forget sugar, salt and pepper ? you are sure to need them, but they probably don't come with the condo.

Above all, enjoy yourself. Savor every bite of your vacation cooking feasts - even if it's only peanut butter. After all, life is short and vacations are even shorter! Book a Gulf Shores or Orange Beach rental today and make the most of the time you spend in your little corner of paradise.