8 Very Simple 5-Ingredient Family Meals to Cook in a Rental House

published May 25, 2021
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A young boy and girl sit at a picnic table eating hot dogs and watermelon from the hot dog snack board.
Credit: Meghan Splawn

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Yay, vacation! It’s been too long for many of us and we are so ready to hit the road and experience life in a new place. When I travel with my husband and three kids, we almost always choose a rental house over a hotel because we love having a kitchen to prepare our own meals — but that doesn’t mean I want to spend the entire time cooking. (I really, really do not!)

Enter: 5-ingredient meals to help us all eat well without needing to pack the entire pantry in the minivan. 

Each of these recipes has a streamlined ingredient list and a simple cooking method to ensure that you can actually pull them off with whatever gear you find in the rental house kitchen. They’re also easy enough to make if you’ve been hanging out by the lake all day, and can’t expend any extra energy on anything but post-lake relaxation. And these recipes are family-friendly, too, so you only have to make one meal to feed everyone at the table. 

(Pro tip: Just add a side of fresh fruit to round out the meal and ensure there’s always something yummy for kids to eat.)

So pack your salt, pepper, olive oil, and your best knife (because you just never know what you’ll find at the rental), and enjoy the heck out of that trip.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

Teriyaki Chicken Foil Packets

Rely on bottled sauce for all of the flavor and let the foil trap in the moisture for the most tender teriyaki chicken yet. Serve with flatbread or rice (this is a good time to buy it fully cooked!).

Get the recipe: Teriyaki Chicken Foil Packets

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Creamy Garlic Shrimp

This recipe cooks in one pan and feels so fancy — which is exactly what you want for vacation. Add a side of crusty bread, fresh corn on the cob or salad, and your preferred beverage and dinner is ready.

Get the recipe: Creamy Garlic Shrimp

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Pesto Tortellini with Roasted Vegetables

Roast the veggies at any point during the day, then toss with jarred pesto and store-bought tortellini. Bonus points if you pick up fresh veggies from a local farm stand.

Get the recipe: Pesto Tortellini with Roasted Vegetables

Credit: Joe Lingeman


Loaded Tater Tots with all of our favorite nacho toppings are always a good idea. Skip the bacon if it seems like too much work and try a drained and rinsed can of black beans. (Can you imagine how happy the kids will be if you follow this dinner up with S’mores?! So fun!)

Get the recipe: Tot-Chos

Lemony Broccoli Pasta

I make this recipe all year round, rental house or not, and it’s super easy and seriously delish. You can top your serving with crushed red pepper for a bit of heat too.

Get the recipe: Lemony Broccoli Pasta

Huevos Rancheros Tacos

Scrambled eggs and roasted bell peppers combine with tortillas for simple, yet delicious, tacos. We love these for dinner, but they’re great for breakfast too. You could top with a favorite salsa, guac, or sour cream.

Get the recipe: Huevos Rancheros Tacos

2-Ingredient Banana Pancakes

Learn to combine eggs and ripe bananas for seriously yummy pancakes. Top with maple syrup and a little cinnamon and linger over a second cup of coffee. You’re on vacation after all!

Get the recipe: 2-Ingredient Banana Pancakes

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Snack Dinner

A giant platter of cheese, crackers, bread, veggies, fruits, and whatever else you have on hand is always an excellent idea. It might be 5 ingredients or 10 — but the magic is that you don’t have to cook and it’s a perfect way to use up leftovers you might have lingering before you head home.

Get the recipe: Snack Dinner at Yummy Toddler Food