Cottage cooking made easy: A prep and pack guide to stress-free but delicious meals

From superfood salads to party pizza, here’s how to still eat well while you’re lounging lakeside.

From superfood salads to party pizza, here’s how to still eat well while you’re lounging lakeside

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Lazy summer days at the cottage sound idyllic, but let's face it, you're going to need to eat, so you are going to need to cook. Since grocery options can vary, it's smart to plan and pack accordingly. And the more prep you do before you leave, the more your time is freed up for lounging where it really counts.

Make it easy on yourself and whisk up a Mediterranean, Korean, or Middle Eastern marinade before you head out. Or transport this entire three-course feast in a muffin tin, if you're a guest at said cottage, and you'll have earned your keep by the time you arrive. Even your cocktails can be prepped ahead, leaving you with more time to focus on the rules for these lawn games, and something to sip on while you do.

Don't let the prep stop there. Here's how to get ahead on breakfast, lunch, dinner, salads — and those all-important snacks — so you'll eat well at the cottage or cabin all summer.


Big Breakfast Boat

A loaf of bread that has been scooped out to make a bowl. It's filled with baked eggs, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and topped with feta.
(Photo: David Bagosy, Styling: Melissa Direnzo)

Bake this stuffed breakfast boat the day before you leave so it's easy to transport. Package it up and bring it with you to reheat in the morning when everyone wakes.

Buttermilk Pancakes

(Photo: David Bagosy, Styling: Melissa Direnzo)

Make your own pancake mix to bring with you, by whisking the dry ingredients in this recipe together and storing them in a jar.

Chevron Rhubarb Almond Cake

overhead shot of a rhubarb cake on a white plate, sitting on a marble surface. pink stalks of rhubarb are arranged in a chevron pattern on the top of the cake.
(Photography by Marcella DiLonardo)

Cake is definitely a breakfast food when you're on vacation! This super summery one can be made two weeks ahead and kept frozen until you leave.

Fruit Salad, 3 Ways

Make the yogurt sauce ahead and pick up some store-bought granola for assembling these healthy parfaits.


Tuna and Fennel Salad Sandwich

(Photo credit: Jackson Roy)

When you're reading this recipe, think of the fennel and mayonnaise mixture as a dressing you can put together ahead. Add the tuna to it when you're at the cottage and don't forget to pack the bread.

Spice-Roasted Carrot Hummus

Make this hummus three days ahead or freeze it for up to two weeks. Load up the cooler with your choice of accompaniments and you'll be set for lunch.

Superfood Salad

(Credit, photography: Jack Roy; Prop styling: Nikole Rutherford; Food styling: Carol Dano)

Toast the pumpkin seeds and make the dressing before you go. If you're worried romaine and mung beans might wilt, stick with just the kale, radish, carrots and endive, all which travel well.

Broccoli Walnut Slaw with Ginger Lemon Tahini Dressing

(Photography by Debi Traub)

Turn pre-shredded broccoli slaw into a gorgeous salad with a lively dressing that you can transport in a mason jar.

Hot or Cold Beet-Fennel Soup

(Photography by Ellen Silverman)

Thank Dorie Greenspan for this cottage-ready soup that tastes just as good cold. Make it ahead and transfer it to a large mason jar which makes it easy to pour out into chilled bowls when the sun is high.

Kale Cobb Salad

Kale tends to stay fresh longer than lettuce, making this a reliable salad option for the end of your vacation. The red onion can be pickled a week ahead and the salad dressing transports well too.


Honey Roasted Asian Chicken

You don't need to do much to make this ahead because it comes together so fast. Look up a recipe for Chinese five spice if you don't have it on hand and be sure to pack it. Throw this chicken on the grill if you've got the option.

Tray-Baked Salmon Nicoise

(Photo credit: Jackson Roy)

Baking dinner on one tray translates into less dishes and more sunset watching. Whisk up the herby dressing before you leave home, and blanch the potatoes up to two days ahead.

Liv B's Curried Chickpea Burger

(CBC Life)

Looking for a meatless option? Cook these fully before you go and pack them tightly together in an air-tight container so they don't bump around too much. Reheat in a 350F degree oven or in a cast-iron on the oven or grill. And the vegan secret sauce in this recipe? You might want to make a double batch ahead and use it on everything.

Party Pizza with Fennel, Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

overhead shot of a pizza made on a baking sheet, sitting on a grey wooden surface. the pizza has black olives, fennel, and sundried tomatoes on it.
(Photo: David Bagosy, Styling: Melissa Direnzo)

Make the pizza dough the day before you leave to let it rise in the fridge, punching it down before you pack it into the cooler to continue its fermenting on the trip. Just make sure the container has space for it to rise -- the dough will continue to grow slowly and taste even better. The tomato sauce can be made ahead and even frozen. With pizza, there's always a way.

Chili-Topped Hotdog

(Source: Instagram/@fancy_franks)

Simmer up this simple chili now and freeze it. Pull it out as you set out on the road so you can dish out Coney-inspired dogs and take campfire food to the next level.

Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Fingers with Smashed Potatoes

Bake these chicken fingers before you go so you'll have kid-friendly meals that reheat quick. If your cottage has a freezer make a double batch and throw these in when you get there.


Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

(CBC Life)

Here's another recipe you can bake and freeze ahead. Sweetened with bananas, maple syrup and just enough chocolate, keep these on hand for a healthy snack the kids can grab between meals.

Powerhouse Granola Bars

(The Goods)

Keep these in the fridge up to a week or in the freezer up to three months so you can travel with a healthier option than store bought.

Carrot Cake Trail Mix

(Photo: David Bagosy, Styling: Melissa Direnzo)

No trip into the wilderness is complete without trail mix. Make the carrot cake clusters ahead and stock up on the rest of the ingredients when you hit a bulk section on your way out of town.

Jessica Brooks is a digital producer and pro-trained cook and baker. Follow her food stories on Instagram @brooks_cooks.