Author: Gretchen Carter

Tips for a Stress-Free Trip to the Beach for the Holidays

Looking for a great place to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas this year?  Come on down to the beautiful Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida (specifically Navarre Beach or Pensacola Beach).

Trade in the white snow and gray skies for white sand, and aquamarine waters! 

Even if you don’t go swimming in the Gulf during your visit you can walk on the beach and search for shells.  Bring blankets and some hot coffee down to the beach and watch as God paints the skies (the picture above is a sunrise from the Navarre Pier) or take a sunset stroll with your sweetheart before dinner and be thankful for the time with each other.  Sunrise is around 6 am and sunset is around 5 pm.  Both are beautiful!

Rental Units:

There are lots of properties available and the prices are very affordable.  Check out the list of Property Management companies at the bottom of our website (under Local Resources).  You will always get the best price when you book directly.

These and other companies offer the option to use Grocery Concierge to deliver your groceries BEFORE you arrive so that you don’t have to spend time shopping.  Doesn’t that sound great?!  No need to shop for supplies, especially during some of the busiest times of the year at the grocery stores.

Holiday Meals & Menus:

While you are here, I recommend checking out some of our local options and incorporating them into your menu.  Add fresh seafood to your appetizers from Navarre Seafood Market, or custard from Culver’s (they offer a new flavor every day, and pre-packed quarts) to add to cakes and pies. 

Holiday Meats:  You can order a smoked turkey and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving from Ye Olde Brother’s https://yeoldebrothersbrewery.com/turkey/?fbclid=IwAR1iQQ4l7NIR0E5kReDAHTuChbiB_uNW5xVrXTgC4ZB6mxj42lrrVJ1_hEg

Dickey’s BBQ in Gulf Breeze offers smoked meats during the holidays—and Publix offers full meals.  I have added a pdf with details on these and other local options. 

***This will also save you the necessary defrost time (days) for a frozen turkey and the space in the refrigerator.

As wonderful as the rental properties are, they may not have all the kitchen equipment you typically use to prepare a large holiday meal.  Let’s simplify the menu so that you still get all your favorites, but you can prepare it in a smaller space with fewer pots and pans.  Also, instead of having multiple types of meat and multiple sides at one BIG MEAL, create multiple smaller meals.

Here’s what I suggest for your HOLIDAY MEAL: https://grocery-concierge.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Holiday-Meal-Ideas.pdf

Basic Menu:

  • 1 Meat Item: Turkey, Ham, or Roast (Prime Rib, Beef Tenderloin or Pork Roast)
    • Gravy or Condiment for the meat (horseradish, au jus)
  • 1 to 2 Starch items:  Cornbread Dressing, Potatoes (Sweet or White), Rice, Corn, Squash
  • 1 Green Veggies:  Green Beans, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts,
  • 1 Salad: Fruit or Vegetable
  • 1 Bread
  • 1-2 Desserts (It’s the holidays!)

Disposable Pans:

The rental units are typically not going to have large roasting pans for Turkeys or Roasts so you will need to buy disposable pans.  Disposable pans come in lots of different sizes (approximate sizes below):

  • Cake Pan: 9 x 13 inches
  • Loaf Pan:  8 x 4 inches and Mini Loaf Pan:  5 ½ x 3 x 2 inches
  • Round Cake Pan: 8 inches
  • Square Cake Pan:  8 x 8 inches
  • Casserole Pan:  11 ¾ inch x 9 ¼ inch x 1 ½ inch
  • All Purpose/Lasagna Pan:  13 ¼ x 9 ½  x 2 ¾ inches
  • Oval Roaster:  13 x 16 x 3
  • Roaster: 12 inches x 9 inches
  • Deep Roaster:  16 inches x 11 ¾ inches x 3 inches (20 lbs.)
  • Super Roaster:  16 inches x 12 ½ inches x 3 ¼ inches (25 lbs.)

These will also make clean-up EASY breezy, so you can enjoy the sea breeze more! 

Baked Goods: Breads and Sweets

If you plan to bake you should plan that the units won’t have cake pans, muffin pans or pie plates.  Disposable cake pans with lids are a great option since you can bake and store all in the same container.  Pick recipes that bake in a single 9 x 13-inch pan like Chocolate Sheet Cake, Gingerbread, and Honeybun Cake. 

As for pies, I suggest buying frozen pies and then adding fresh whipped topping or ice cream.  My suggestion on frozen pies is to buy Marie Callender’s Pumpkin and Pecan.  These taste the most like homemade and for many families, these are the “homemade pies” they know.  I have not been able to find a frozen traditional 2 crust Apple pie that I like.   Marie Callender’s offers a streusel-topped apple pie that’s a good option, or you could buy a bakery pie (Publix and Walmart both offer these).

Other sweets and treats like fudge, rum or bourbon balls, Christmas cookies should be baked at home and brought with you.  TSA allows cookies, candies on planes.  Here’s an article:  https://www.tripsavvy.com/tsa-rules-for-food-468226  Be sure that the items can be “inspected” without having to be completely unwrapped.  Place cookies in Ziplocs, or small plastic containers like Rubbermaid TakeAlongs.  If the items are to be a gift, pack your gift wrap and tape so you can wrap them after you arrive in Florida. 

Biscuits, Bread, and Cornbread.  Seems like every family has their favorites—Hawaiian rolls-Brown and Serve-Pillsbury Crescent Rolls-Canned or Frozen Biscuits. Buy what you like and be sure to get extra butter!  Also, Publix offers a Bread of the Month if you want to try something new!!!

And of course, Cornbread for Southern Dressing.  I suggest using a mix (Martha White Yellow is a good mix for dressing because it is NOT sweet) to keep it simple and again, you may want to buy some disposable pans to first bake the cornbread and then use for mixing up the dressing and an even larger one for baking the dressing.  But remember to not get it so thick that it takes FOREVER to bake and get done in the middle. 

If you want to order Cakes, Cupcakes, or Cheesecakes, please add a note on your Grocery Delivery List and we will work with one of our local bakers/bakeries for you. 

Seasoning and Spices: 

Having a lot of different spices can be a challenge when traveling.  At home, you have a spice rack full of different spices and spice blends, but here you are going to want to try and keep it simple.  We provide all of our customers with a complimentary set of Salt & Pepper shakers!

If your recipes call for things like poultry seasoning, dried sage, ground mustard, etc I suggest bringing those from home so that you don’t have to buy an entire container and only use a couple of teaspoons.  You can pre-measure the spices for your recipes and label each in a small Ziplock so you know which is which and place them all in one larger Ziplock and toss in your suitcase or carry on.

Fresh Produce:

Fresh Veggies and Fruit are now available in many pre-cut containers and combinations.  Publix Grocery has several different fresh-cut items in steamable bags that will not only reduce the number of pots and pans you need to use and then clean but these may be just the right amount for one meal depending on the size of your family/group.  Small bags of “baby potatoes” are great for roasting with olive oil or for boiling and mashing.  

For an easy fruit salad, the kids will love, start with a container of fresh fruit like melons and grapes and add an apple or a can of peaches (no syrup), or pineapple chunks. Quick and easy to prepare!

Adult Beverages:

Some quantities to know before buying wine and liquors:

Wine Bottle (750 ml) = 5 servings (about 5 oz each) or 3 servings (about 8 oz each)

Liquor Bottle (750 ml) = 15 servings (1.5 oz) or if using larger bottles (1.75L) = 39 servings (1.5 oz)

You can purchase beer and wine in all the grocery stores and convenience stores.  There is a small wine shop in Navarre, The Vine,  and in Pensacola, The Wine Bar has opened at World of Wine which is also very nice.  There are several local craft breweries in Navarre and Pensacola.

Liquor is sold in “separate stores”—they have different entrances and hours are typically 9 am to 9 pm every day of the week. 

One of our OFFERINGS is to bring the wine country or the brewery to you at your vacation rental.  More details can be found on our website. 

Additional Resources:

Check out my other blog articles:  Vacation Menu Ideas that Work at Home and Menu Planning for Vacations for more ideas and helpful tips.  Call with any questions about items to order, or quantities.

Place your order, and enjoy your holidays more!

Grocery-Conceirge.com 

Start Your Holiday Vacation Sooner!

Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping: A SIMPLIFIED SYSTEM

For many people, grocery shopping is Decision Overload. Here are just a few of the decisions:

  • Where to Shop?  Online?  Store?  Which Brand—National Chains (Walmart, Target), Local Chains (Kroger, Publix, Trader Joes) or Discount Chain (Aldi’s, Win-Co)?
  • How frequent?  Daily? Weekly? Monthly? As Needed?
  • Fresh or Frozen?  Organic? Non-GMO?  Brown or White Eggs?  Fat-Free or Whole Milk?  Low Carb? High Protein? Processed? Whole Grain? Kosher?

And the average grocery store has over 50,000 products on its shelves today (compared to only 7000 in the 90s)!   That’s a lot of choices!  It is easy to see why FOOD has become the 3rd largest expenditure of a family’s budget, just behind shelter and transportation. 

The USDA has 4 Food Plans with estimated per month spending.  These totals are for a Family of 4 (male, female, 2 children under age 11).  Updated for Sept 2021

Thrifty (SNAP program recipients)$ 849
Low$ 930
Moderate$ 1153
Liberal$ 1399

How does this compare to your family’s monthly grocery bill? 

Some things to consider if you want to cut back on your spending…

Waste Less and Less Waist:

Store Better 

Meat and Fresh Produce are the most common food products tossed out.  Keep produce in bins (high humidity for more veggies and low humidity for most fruits).  Put meat on the bottom shelf to stay colder (heat rises even in a refrigerator and the door is the warmest). Tupperware Fridgesmart containers are amazing!

Prepare Less  

Portion sizes have almost doubled in the last 30 years.  What we now think of as a “kids burger” was the only size in the ’70s and there was no such thing as “supersize” anything. An easy way to reduce food waste and your waistline is to prepare less. For tips on portion size, check out this visual aid from Shape  https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/diet-tips/simple-tricks-estimate-serving-size

Simplify Meals 

Michael Pollan points out in his book “Omnivore’s Dilemma” that we have become a nation obsessed with Cooking Competition Shows while at the same time, spending less time in the kitchen actually cooking.  A HEALTHY EATING PLATE is ½ plate of Fruit & Veggies, ¼ plate of Whole Grain, and ¼ plate of Healthy Protein.  

Sorry, but we don’t need bread and butter, or biscuit and gravy at dinner like Grandpa always had.  He did a lot more physical labor than most of us do today! 

Tip:  Start with Family Favorites! Most families have between 7 and 10 regular meals they make.  These are the easy Go-To meals.  You will typically have the ingredients on hand or at least can shop quickly for the ingredients.  

Portion Control AT the STORE  

Buy chips in small single servings—they will be fresh when you open, you can get more variety, and you won’t have a ¼ bag that goes stale and must be tossed out.  Other portion control items are small single-serving sodas or juices, smaller frozen vegetables, even Boil in a Bag Rice limits how much you make at one time. 

Cook for Double Duty  

Grill both Chicken and Steak.  Immediately put grilled Chicken in the refrigerator to use the next night.  Brown both ground beef and ground turkey and put ½ of the mixture in the freezer to use later.

Check your Inventory–Pantry, Freezer, and Refrigerator 

Take an inventory before heading to the store.

 Check your calendar  

If you have a dinner date or an after-hours event you may not need to cook.  And remember that most restaurant servings are LARGE, so get a “To Go Box” and take some home to brown-bag for lunch the next day.  

If you are hosting a get-together at your house, you may need to add a few items to your shopping list.  And be creative with any leftovers or extra ingredients!  Just make sure items did not sit out too long and reach an unsafe temperature. 

Fresh items FIRST 

Produce like Avocados, Pears, even Bananas are often too “green” when you first bring them home, but in just a few days they are “perfect” and in a few more they are “past ripe”.   These items need to be used first and frozen items later. 

Additional Resources: https://grocery-concierge.com/meal-planning/

Interested in personalized Nutritional Coaching Sessions?

Submit the form: https://grocery-concierge.com/meal-planning-form/

Or contact me to discuss your goals, order Tupperware items, organize your pantry, and discuss meal planning tools and options.

GCarter@Organized-Occasions.com

Call or Text:  817-797-0870

 

Traveling with Toddlers during a Pandemic

In previous posts, I shared ideas for Road Tripping to Navarre and steps you can take to protect your family during Covid.  But I have never before investigated the process with small children (under the age of 5).  To help prepare this article, I enlisted the help of a young family from Arkansas.  They are both working parents with a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. The 3 yr old’s first trip to Navarre Beach was pre-pandemic when she was less than 3- months old, and this was the 1 yr old’s first vacation and beach trip. 

Traveling during a pandemic has been challenging with everyone making major adjustments.  But traveling with small children requires some additional planning and preparations. I suggest doing an online search for helpful articles.  Be specific if needing tips for traveling by plane or by car.  I found a couple that I’ll share links to at the end of this article. 

Toddler Time:

Gone are the days when you could load up the car and head out knowing that a fast-food restaurant and a convenience store would always be available for food and bathroom stops.  This young family has been dealing with the pandemic for most of the time they have been parents.  The 1-year-old has only been inside a Target store twice!  The 3-year-old is now capable of keeping her mask on but they still want to limit time indoors with non-family, and non-vaccinated.  Instead, these parents are thinking about when and where is the safest place for the kids.  And their feeling is that the safest places are outside where they can maintain distance from others.  Parks, Rest-Stops, even just a nice shady spot are the best options.  But these additional stops (notice no gasoline available at parks or rest-stops) add time to the trip. 

The first thing to prepare for is the trip is going to take longer than your GPS tells you!  If you looked up Little Rock, AR to Navarre, FL on Google Maps it will tell you the distance is 540 miles and just under 9 hours of drive time.  The recommendation is to allow kids to be out of their car seats every 2 hours (a good reminder for adults also).  When you add in stops every 2 hours and estimate the stop will take at least 30 minutes, you can see how a 9-hour road trip becomes 12 hours on Toddler Time! 

Research the trip for the best places to stop from both directions.  You may be able to leave your home super early and get a couple of hours down the road before you stop on your way to the beach. But when you leave the beach, you may not leave as early or you may have extra traffic depending on the day of the week you are traveling so knowing the different places to stop is just good planning. 

Stops:

Rest-Stops are a great option for both restroom breaks and food.  (more ideas on what foods to pack later in the article).  Typically, you’ll find clean restrooms with large trash cans for you to dispose of any items you may need to as well as long sidewalks to allow for stretching your legs.  Some stops even have large maps outside or other interesting sites to explore during your break.  If you are lucky and find one with picnic tables, you may want to take advantage and have a light meal during your stop. 

Parks are great but may not have restroom facilities.

Gas Stations or Convenience Stores:  If possible, make these stops quick and only put gas in the car.  There’s so much opportunity for contact with others in small spaces.  If you can pay at the pump and get the gas quickly without going into the store, you’ll be better off.  If you must go in, be sure to use hand sanitizer when you return to the car.

TIP:  Buy several plastic table cloths ($1) and cut them in half (Most cloths are 104 inches long. Unroll and find the middle, cut into 2 pieces. You don’t need it hanging down the sides as the picture shows).

Spread one out on the picnic table—no worries about bird droppings, dead bugs, or sticky, spilled unknown substances.  Also if you have a small child that is still crawling, you can spread out on the ground to let crawl around a bit or at least to just change from being on back in the car seat. 

TIP:  Buy doggie poop bags (cheaper than diaper disposal bags) to tie up any dirty diapers in before putting them in wastebaskets.  Your fellow travelers will appreciate this!

TIP: Get the Wiggles Out for 10 to 15 minutes—walk around and look at trees, flowers even clouds.  Run, skip, or play a game of tag or chase.  Take pictures of everything (you can delete any you don’t want later).  Move. Stretch.  Change drivers if needed. 

Travel Games/Entertainment Ideas:

Many parents think they can pop in a CD or turn on their Ipad and drive without stopping.  But 8 hours of screen time is much too long for toddlers.  They will get restless and want some other activity to keep them happy and entertained.  This young mother had some great tips:

  • Create different activity bags (use the large gallon Ziplocks).  This way you can pull out one at a time and put items back before getting out another. 
  • Purchase a 9×13 metal cake pan to use as the table or tray top.  Kids can play with magnetic shapes and letters while the sides of the pan keep things like colors, stickers, or legos from falling out and getting stuck under the seat. After a quick wipe, and the pan can be used for snacks. 

CAUTION:  Be sure that any games or pieces are not choking hazards (typically the kids are behind you in the car). You don’t want the smallest child to accidentally get something that an older sibling was playing with. 

  • Introduce 1 NEW item at a time but always have a favorite handy!  This also works while on vacation—plan 1 special activity for the day so that can fully enjoy it without rushing to the next activity.  If your child really likes to swim in the pool, you may want to offer that every day you will swim in the pool and that you will also play at the beach on a specific day or go to the turtle center. 
  • A couple of this 3 year old’s favorites include:  Magna Tiles, Sculpting Sticks, and Stickers/Dots (different colored ones and different sizes for matching games.  More ideas at Busy Toddler)

Items to pack in the car:

Sturdy Laundry Basket:  Use to carry paper towels, toilet paper, Kleenex, Baby Wipes (for hands, faces, and diaper changes), and Lysol Wipes (to wipe off changing station, metal pan after meals/snacks, carts at beach condo for unloading car).  When stopped for meals, you can toss in food or drinks and carry it all to the picnic area.  At your vacation rental unit, the basket can be a toy box or a drop spot for beach toys to keep sand from getting everywhere in the house or condo. 

Beach towels for blankets:  I saw this idea in one of the articles and thought it was a great idea.  You are going to need beach towels anyway unless your child has a favorite/security blanket, plan to use the towels if you need a little extra warmth in the car or even to block the light under doors or as a black-out curtain in your vacation rental unit.

First Aid Kit:  Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  Bandaids, Neosporin, Tylenol—all the typical things you have at home, bring with you just in case. 

Cooler:  Drinks—water is the best option (doesn’t spoil, doesn’t stain, isn’t sticky).  Food—the less messy the better.  Small snack size Ziplocks might be a good way to portion out snacks.  Pack them ahead of time instead of trying to pour cereal into a bag while riding in the car. 

I recently found this updated article Master List of Healthy Snack Ideas and love it (for kids of all ages)

Some items you may want to consider packing:  cooked pasta (kids love pasta even cold).  Small pieces of meat and cheese—again, think about choking hazards. Fruit and Vegetables—fresh, frozen, dried and canned.  Dry Cereal like Cheerios or Corn Pops (avoid super high sugar ones). Rice cakes or Breakfast Bars. 

                Snacks to pack: (easy, not too messy, don’t turn brown)

  • Berries and Grapes (wash, cut if necessary and remove stems/tops)
  • Clementines (leave whole, peel as needed-place any leftover in a small snack size ziplock)
  •                                 Dried fruit (raisins, dried apples, mango, apricots, cranberries)
  •                                 Frozen/Thawed peas or edamame
  •                                 Cucumbers (sliced or diced)
  •                                 Carrots (thinly sliced or shredded)
  •                                 Small pieces Meat (ham, turkey, chicken)
  •                                 Cheese sticks, cubes
  •                                 Cereal (Cheerios, Chex, Puffs)
  •                                 NutriGrain Bars

Change of Clothes (for everyone):  Easy to get to—not have to unpack the entire car if you need to change.  Travel day clothes need to be comfortable and something that you don’t mind if it gets stained because it probably will. 

Arrival:

When you arrive, unpack the car (use wipes to wipe down carts just like you do at the grocery store).  Once you have everything inside your vacation rental unit, I suggest everyone get a bath and change clothes.  Place all the dirty clothes and used beach towels in the washing machine.  If not a full load, can wait until the next day but keep from clean clothes.  Allow the kids to explore their new surroundings.  Tip:  Painters Tape is great for covering electrical outlets, or taping cabinet doors closed (after you have placed anything breakable inside and away from children).  You can remove it when you are checking out and know it will not cause any damage. 

Depending on the time you arrive, it may be bedtime soon.  Follow your normal routine with the kids—brush teeth, read a book, say your prayers. A travel day is hard, and everyone needs to recoup a little. 

The last thing you are going to want to do at this point is to go grocery shopping—and with Grocery Concierge you don’t have to if staying on Navarre Beach or Pensacola Beach.  Send us your list at least 3 days in advance, including diapers, or other baby needs, and we will shop, deliver and stock everything for you so that you can finally start your vacation Grocery-Concierge.com/grocery-delivery

For more tips on what to do to keep your family safe, check out my article Travel Tips-Covid 19.

And check out these articles written by other young mothers:

https://www.parents.com/fun/vacation/traveling-with-kids/traveling-with-toddlers-10-expert-tips-from-a-globetrotting-mom/

Holiday Planning and Entertaining-2021

One of my first blog articles (November  2018)  was titled Holiday Planning:  Menus, Rooms, and Entertainment Ideas.  It came from a week of Facebook posts in 2017 where I broke down each area and provided tips for each day leading up to Thanksgiving.  Another post was about Social Gatherings in a Physically Distant World (2020).  This article is a merging of ideas from both of those articles. 

I’ve written several blog articles about event planning, holiday planning, meal planning, and travel tips, yet due to the continuing pandemic of COVID-19, I feel I need to share some ideas you can use to entertain family, friends, co-workers all while preventing the spread of the virus.  The reason I think we still need to take extra precautions is no one plans to infect another person and since we are seeing breakthrough cases, why not take a few easy steps to prevent or limit the spread? 

We have learned that Sanitation, Ventilation, Individualization, and Communication are most effective to stop the spread.  And like in my article about Restaurant tips for your home kitchen I will share ideas for how you can adjust your home entertaining from lessons learned at restaurants, hotels, airlines, and classrooms.

Communication may be the most important aspect of the planning process this year.  Let’s use the airline industry as an example.  Airlines and other travel industry companies are looking at how they can build consumer confidence so they can get their bookings and revenue back up.  Much of what they are doing is informing and communicating the steps they are taking to clean and sanitize their planes, their rooms, and their parks.  (Each airline and hotel chain has published their new cleaning protocol on their websites.  Please visit before booking your rooms or flights.)

Honestly, some of these steps probably needed to be done before (like wiping off tray tables between flights) yet when the consumer did not require it, the airlines did not spend the time or resources to do it.  Now to build consumer confidence back, the airlines are not only taking the time to wipe down every tray table and to sanitize restrooms, overhead bins, and other high touch areas but they are making sure that you know about these extra steps. 

In my article about traveling after COVID-19, I said to do a HEALTH CHECK before traveling.  Just like you make a disaster preparedness plan, make a travel plan, and let your family know your plans.  Communicate your expectations to anyone coming into your home and ask about preparations for anywhere you are traveling to.  If you are protecting your elderly mother or little children, you need to know that everyone is practicing steps that also protect them. 

SANITATION of surfaces frequently and especially in the kitchen area.  The first stop when anyone comes into the kitchen for anything should be the SINK to wash hands or a least a quick squirt of sanitizer.  Before opening a refrigerator for milk or juice, before pouring a cup of coffee, before grabbing a muffin or cinnamon roll, wash your hands.  And then after eating, wash your hands again.  If in doubt, WASH YOUR HANDS AGAIN. This also helps with other viruses like the flu!

If you have been to a doctor’s office or school classroom you see frequent wiping of surfaces.  Practice the same steps at home.  Buy extra Lysol wipes and use them frequently on countertops, light switches, faucets, and handles, charging stations/plugs and remotes, or game controllers. Wipe off things you bring inside after trips to the store. Set up a “drop area”, preferably not the kitchen counter or dining table.

Anything that is touched by several people.  Wipe it off at the end of every day. 

Ventilation of rooms is going to be determined by the weather.  If you can move some of your activities outside or at least to the patio, garage, or carport, the better the ventilation will be.  More ideas about this later in the article.

Individualization is being practiced by more and more businesses in everything from disposable items to changes in packaging.   Sanitation and Individualization are co-dependent.  If everyone washes their hands before coming to the table then touching the same serving spoon isn’t as much of a concern!  But if everyone is eating chips and salsa or popcorn from the same bag or bowl, then you have hands and mouth close by and the chances for the spread of germs (FLU, Colds, Pink eye) and diseases are much greater.

Taking the 2018 article apart by sections I will make specific suggestions for adjustments to today’s new normal.

Food & Beverages

Meals:  Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.  Instead of one GIANT meal, plan for 2 or 3 smaller meals.  You can still fix all the items you normally do, but just don’t fix them all at the same time. 

Split up the GIANT meal into smaller meals like:

Turkey and Dressing with Gravy, Green Beans, Cranberry Sauce

Ham, Mashed Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli, Jello Salad, or Fruit Salad

Why?  LEFTOVERS

Large meals like this are hard to INDIVIDUALIZE—you can put some of the side items in small bowls or ramekins, and you can have one person serve or dish the food onto clean plates.  But once you put leftovers back in the refrigerator, you increase the chance of multiple persons touching and contaminating the dish and possibly spreading germs.  There is less risk if all of the food is consumed at one time. And also less risk if everyone is washing hands before opening the fridge!!!

Snack items:  INDIVIDUAL SERVINGS.  Here you can get creative and even use holiday decorating ideas to make these items more fun.  Check out Pinterest for ideas—that’s where I always go for inspiration/ideas. 

Mixed Nuts, Snack Mix, Chips:  Buy large bags and then put in small bags with colorful ribbons and tags.  Put small bags in a large basket and set out for “self-serve”. 

Beverages:  Again think smaller sized, individual servings.  Instead of “handles” 1.5L of liquors and 2 L sodas, you want to go to “minis”.

I know these can be more expensive and more waste, but when the priority is to stop the spread of germs, you must reduce the number of times a container is touched

For example, a 2 L bottle of coke.  You will get 4 – 8 oz servings or if using for cocktails, you could get as many as 8 – 4 oz servings out of each bottle.  That could be 8 different people picking up the bottle.  Whereas, if you get the small cans, they are a “one and done” solution! 

Other beverages like beer are easy—they are already single-serving cans or bottles.

I know that many restaurants were selling small bottles of liquor during the pandemic (375 ml) as part of their To Go Menus.  This may be an option for your holidays or even purchasing the airplane minis.  Again, get creative and decorate the bottles with name tags or use colorful ribbons. As crazy as it may sound, why not buy each person their own bottle, and label it. Or have them BYOB, and no sharing!

Wine is going to have 4 to 5 servings per bottle depending on the size of glass, and FYI-a 12 oz can of wine is 2 servings (6 oz = 1 serving) or there is the option of the 4 pack minis (not a good tasting option, but an option). 

If you can’t go to single servings, then have sanitizer wipes available to wipe bottles and countertops often.  And it never hurts to, WASH YOUR HANDS AGAIN. 

Rooms in the Home

If you have traveled during the past 18 months you have noticed that hotels and vacation rentals have all removed “extra” bedding.  No more do you have comforters and throw pillows on beds.  You also will not find pens, paper pads, or magazines in the rooms.  Whether or not you choose to remove these from your guest room is up to you.  You could make a “care pack” for your family with a small water bottle, notepad, pen, toiletries, and even a phone charger and put it all in a gift bag with a note tag that has the WIFI password on it.  They will think you are very thoughtful, and you can rest easy knowing that will have what they need and not be rummaging around in your “junk drawer” or grabbing one of the chargers from the hall table. 

As I mentioned in the post in 2018, if you are converting a kid’s room to a guest room you have to deal with the kid’s STINK factor.  Every piece of bedding down to the mattress pad and pillow covers needs to get a washing.  If your washer has an extra rinse option when using fabric softener, I encourage you to use it. If your guest room hasn’t been used in a while, it is also a nice idea to freshen up the sheets with a wash or at least a spray of Fabreze.   

Do you have small quilts, blankets, and throws?  Be sure all of them are washed before your family and friends arrive and then have each person pick one that is theirs to keep for the entire visit.  I know cuddling up with one on the couch is a great way to spend the afternoon, and again we don’t know how long the virus can survive outside of the body so try and keep each person’s blanket to themselves and wash them all again when the family leaves. 

Table Setting

Plan to use extras.  Just like at a buffet, food can only be placed on clean plates.  If you are going back for second servings, then get a fresh plate.  Why?  You’ve just eaten off that plate. You have transferred saliva to the plate.  And now if a serving spoon touches it, then your saliva is now on the serving spoon and in contact with the serving dish and any remaining servings of food (YUCK!)

Many restaurants have gone to plastic ware during the pandemic.  If you are recycling everything you can, a few extra plastic spoons are not going to overflow the trash can, truck, or landfill.  Again, taking the lead from restaurants, space your seating out whenever possible,  and move outside if possible. 

If you are going to use “real” plates, glasses, silverware, be sure that your food preparation area is separate from your cleaning area.  Restaurants never have the dish room by the food prep.  You don’t want dirty dishes stacked up in the sink when you get ready to wash fruits and vegetables. 

Here’s a tip from my “catering manager” days—set up an area just off the kitchen/dining room where dirty dishes can be taken, food scraped off, and the dishes stacked in tubs.  Then once the meal is complete and all food items have been stored properly, you can bring the dirty dishes into the kitchen to wash.

Entertainment

A trend that started with the pandemic was more outside activities to enjoy.  I hope the trend continues because it is a more healthy option in many ways. Take walks around the block or find a new neighborhood to walk around.  Have a campfire and roast marshmallows for s’ mores.  Find a new hiking trail or visit a local zoo, botanical garden, historical site, or state or national park.  You can even set up games to play in the garage with the door open—Charades, Pictionary, Texas Hold Em, Dominos.  Or do crafts and puzzles in the garage or on the patio. Everyone doesn’t have to be inside all the time with the TV on or their eyes on their phone. Get outside and move!

Manners

In the original post, I discouraged talking about POLITICS, SEX, MONEY, AND JOBS.  And although these may still be difficult conversations, I hope that we can start to talk more about politics.  Not argue, not demonize, not criticize but actually TALK.  We don’t need more bullies or mean girls we have plenty of those on the national level. 

In our families and with our friends we need to start listening with the intent to understand, not to defend our views.  Everyone deserves to have their opinion considered.  Because we stopped talking to people with different opinions, we have become more and more polarized and now only get more of the same from social media.  Challenge yourself to listen to a different opinion.  You may not change your opinion on an issue, but you may have a better understanding of why they feel the way they do. 

All of these ideas and suggestions are shared with the hope of keeping all our families and friends healthy this holiday season.  If you would like help planning your holiday menus or gatherings, please contact us. And of course, we can shop, deliver and stock all your food and beverages to enjoy the holidays at the beach.

Happy Holidays!  Stay Well!  Eat Well! Wash your Hands! Be Kind!

Going Beyond the Grocery Store

To bring you the best in Local Products!

I am excited to introduce a couple of LOCAL—TOP QUALITY products that you can’t find at grocery stores (they all have retail locations but are not convenient to the beach).  However, Grocery Concierge can get these products along with your typical grocery items and stock your vacation beach rental with everything you need! 

Beverages:

Looking for the best WATEREmerald Coast Ultra-Pure Water is perfect for the beach because the bottles are different! 

2 types of bottles:  BPA Free (with a waterproof label that doesn’t peel off and go into the ocean) and Aluminum (not just for beer; keeps the water colder longer).  Both are great for long days at the beach or nights listening to the bands’ play.  Both bottles are intended for multiple uses (not single-use like most brands) and are recyclable.  This water is not readily available for retail, but we can get cases when requested. 

Are you looking forward to enjoying an ICED COFFEE as you walk along the beach in the morning?  Or maybe you prefer an afternoon coffee BUZZ—Let me introduce Mrs. Jones Cold Brew Coffee.  While writing the article, I stopped, went to the kitchen, mixed 2 oz Elixir Coffee Concentrate with 1 packet of Stevia, 2 oz Soy Milk, and 4 oz filtered water.  I poured it over crushed ice, and I have my perfect afternoon Sweet & Creamy treat.  The best part, all the ingredients were in my kitchen already.  No driving or waiting is required.  Could I get extra FANCY and add flavored syrups and even some whipped topping? SURE!  If you have those ingredients, you can practice your Barista skills anytime, and impress your friends and family. 

Coffee Exlixir Concentrate

Spending a week at the beach and want Iced Coffees—order the following items:

  • Mrs. Jones Coffee Elixir (1 bottle = 16 oz or 8 servings)
  • Milk or Non-Dairy Beverage (Soy, Almond, Coconut, combination, ½ & ½)
  • Sweetener (packets or simple syrup (sugar water) or flavored syrups)
  • Toppings:  Whipped Topping, Chocolate Syrup, Caramel Syrup, Sprinkles, spices (Cinnamon, Clove, Nutmeg)
  • 18 oz plastic cups (cold) or 16 oz hot cups with lids—be sure to dispose of all cups properly! 

Another local beverage company, Big Jerk Soda, offers a variety of natural sodas and cocktail mixers that are great for a beach vacation!  Recipes like Gin & Flowers sound complicated—but all you need is Gin (your favorite brand) and Big Jerk Lavender Lemonade with a garnish of lemon twist!  Delicious and Easy!  Or the ever-popular Moscow Mule—Big Jerk has a delicious Ginger Beer (nothing artificial). Combine Vodka (or try with Tequila for a Mexican Mule) and fresh lime juice (roll the limes on the counter for better juicing).    

Spending a week at the beach make some tasty cocktails—order the following items and check out the recipes below:

  • Alcohol: Vodka, Gin, Tequila, Whiskey
  • Big Jerk Sodas:  4 bottles/$10—
    • Flavors include Ginger Beer, Lavender Lemonade, Cherry Limeade, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Blueberry Peach, and Key Lime Seltzer water (not sweet). 
  • Garnish:  Lemon, Limes, Oranges (twists and wedges, and fresh juice)

Food Items:

Have you heard of Frios Gourmet Pops (as in popsicles)?  The production facility is in Mobile, AL but locally we have a franchise that covers Navarre and Pensacola Beach.  Frios pops are delicious, and they offer options for nut-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, with seasonal flavors as well as their signature flavors.  We love sharing a few pops as a gift to our visitors and letting them know where they can buy more of these amazing desserts on a stick!

Check out the list Flavors

Retail Locations: 

Navarre—Ace Hardware  

Pensacola—Apple Market, Palafax Market on Saturdays,  Bailey’s Produce. 

The Frios Truck can often be seen at select events in both Navarre and Pensacola. 

Are you looking for an artisan charcuterie experience?  The Board Chef is a partner of ours for Sunset Beach Picnics and she prepares boards of all sizes.  Request a board, and we will deliver it along with your other grocery items and beverages.  There’s nothing better than arriving to a fresh board of meats and cheeses to help you start relaxing and feeling the island vibe. 

Artisan Cheese Board-The Boat Board

Do you know of local companies that offer top-quality food or beverage?  Please reach out to us.  We want to help our fellow small business owners be successful and we want to help our visitors have the very best experience possible on our beautiful beaches. 

Grocery Delivery Order Form

Questions: Email us at Shopper@Grocery-Concierge.com

COVID 2021: Travel Tips

Planning to travel to the beach or other favorite vacation spot?  What are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from Covid-19?

Visitors are returning to the Emerald Coast of Florida in record numbers!  Some are getting in their cars, turning on a favorite playlist, and driving down.  Others are catching one of the new flight routes to Pensacola and Destin.  Everyone should plan on purchasing more groceries and supplies and expect to cook more because there are limited restaurant and bar options. 

Many of the families bring their outdoor equipment so they can spend time on the beach swimming, snorkeling, collecting seashells, and soaking up lots and lots of “Vitamin Sea“!  Or they may rent items to use during their visit.  Feeling like they have spent plenty of time in front of screens, they want to be outside and free from technology to explore and experience nature.  

Visitors should feel confident they are just as safe in their vacation rental as they are at home.  Property management companies and hotels have updated their procedures and policies for cleaning and sanitizing units (more details about these procedures found below).  Responsible companies and owners will post information about their cleaning procedures on their booking sites along with a door hanger or signage in the units.

The goal of this article is to help families identify steps they can take to keep their families safe.  I am not a disease expert or have any medical training, I am sharing the steps I will take so that I can confidently travel again.  You can choose to do nothing when you arrive, or you may feel even more steps are necessary—personal choice and personal responsibility.   

Pre-travel

Health evaluation:
CDC Travelers Health


Conduct daily temperature checks for family members 2 weeks before leaving for vacation. Check for headaches and body aches as well.
Be sure all vaccines are up to date.
Stock up on over-the-counter meds and be sure your prescriptions are up to date before traveling.

Packing:


Pack only washable items, no items requiring dry cleaning.
Bring extra towels (minimum of 2 per person) for pool/beach.
Create a disinfecting basket or bag with supplies (disposable gloves, antibacterial wipes or spray and paper towels, hand sanitizer, hand soap, and Lysol or similar spray for soft surfaces) to use during travel (road trip) and for initial wipe down of the unit.
Also, include dishwashing detergent for machines and to wash by hand, as well as laundry detergent (or include in grocery delivery order so items are in the unit and available upon arrival).
A Household Set Up package is available on our order form that includes all these plus more.

Pre Order Groceries–no contact delivery:

We are committed to helping our customers START THEIR VACATION SOONER! 

Grocery Concierge

With the need for additional precautions and the typical travel day challenges, having your unit stocked with supplies is even more valuable than before. 
During the entire process of shopping and delivery, we follow the guidelines of OHSA to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. Some of these steps including wearing a mask while shopping, packing, and delivering.  Cleaning and disinfecting vehicles’ interior before loading.  Packing and transporting your items in bins and carts during delivery.  Keeping bins on the cart or placing them on the floor, never on the countertops inside units.   Countertops will be wiped with antibacterial wipes before items being unloaded.
As a licensed and insured Concierge Service, we gain access to the unit from the property management company allowing us to deliver your order BEFORE you arrive reducing the contact you have at stores not only with staff but also with other travelers and residents.  This step alone may be one of the most important to minimize your exposure!   

UPON ARRIVAL–STEPS TO TAKE

*** THE VACATION RENTAL MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION (VRMA) AND THE VACATION RENTAL HOUSEKEEPING PROFESSIONALS (VRHP) HAVE PUBLISHED THEIR CLEANING GUIDELINES FOR COVID-19.  THE GUIDELINES CAN BE FOUND AT:  https://www.vrma.org/page/covid19

Unloading Car:  If using a community or property cart, treat it like a grocery cart and wipe it down before loading items onto the cart. 
Elevators: Most companies intend to have wipes available by the elevators in the lobbies.  However, if you are staying in a large complex with multiple elevators you may want to bring your own just in case the ones in the elevators run out.  Also, try to use elbows or something other than your hands to touch buttons and hold doors when possible.
Front door locks:  Wipe both the lock keypad and the knob or handle with an antibacterial wipe before using.
Unit Interior:  Wipe/Spray as soon as arrive and daily after returning from outside areas. 
  • Focus on High Touch areas:
  • Light and lamp switches
  • Doorknobs (including the exterior handles—front door, balconies and patios; bathroom doorknobs, and closet door pulls)
  • Bathroom and Kitchen sink handles
  • Shower handles
  • Toilet lid and flush handle
  • Remotes (television remote, any smart remotes for closing drapes, adjusting fans, or turning off lights)
  • Nightstands
  • Alarm clocks
Kitchen:  Run all dishes through the dishwasher and wash and dry pots and pans. Or use paper products and single-serve items like beverages, chips, and snacks. Wipe cabinets and pantry shelves before putting groceries and paper products away.  Also, wipe the top of the fridge if you intend to put items there.
Travel Clothing:  Once everything is unloaded and, in the unit, remove travel clothes and wash them immediately. Wash all dish towels used in the kitchen.
BeddingMost units have removed decorative pillows and bedspreads.  Option for kids–bring your sleeping bags and pillow to place over the bedding.  For adults, spray sheets with Lysol before use.  Lightweight blankets might also be good to pack since you will not have spreads or comforters on the beds.  Wash and dry sleeping bags and blankets before leaving the unit and immediately place them in the car, or pack and plan to wash along with all items in the suitcase upon arrival home. 

Inside Unit–Set up areas for:

  • Shoes
  • Outdoor Gear (Chairs, Pool Toys, Floats, Umbrellas)
  • Dirty Clothes, Swimsuits, Wet Towels
Place items in these areas when returning to the unit to keep away from the furniture and other clean items

Community or Resort Common Areas–Pools/Playgrounds/Gyms/BBQ Grills:

Although in the past you may have enjoyed “borrowing” board games or movies from the resort office, you will need to bring your games, cards, and DVDs as most of the properties will no longer provide these items for guests.  Although sunshine is a natural disinfectant, outdoor toys may not be available in units with many owners opting to remove items as a precaution. 
Check with the management company to see if Playgrounds, Gyms, and Game Rooms are open and if they have added sanitation stations in these areas.  If not, you may want to skip or take extra precautions (wash hands, wash clothes, don’t touch your face), and avoid the area if you feel too many other guests are using.
Outdoor Grills should be treated like any other high-touch surface (Wipe the handles or tray areas before use).  The heat from gas or charcoal will destroy any viruses on the grill surface so your food will be safe.  I have always recommended using foil pouches or disposable grill trays for cooking and easy clean-up and encourage you to continue at this time.  Also, consider purchasing several disposable table clothes ($1 at Dollar Tree) to place on outdoor tables if you plan to eat outside.  

Other efforts:

Cleaning:

While on vacation the last thing you want to think about is cleaning, but in the current pandemic, maintaining a clean environment is one of the most effective steps you can take to keep your family members healthy.
Wash towels daily. 
Wash hands frequently–Don’t touch your face (except to apply sunscreen)
Take hand sanitizer to the beach/pool to use if sharing chairs, umbrellas, toys, or other equipment.
Wipe down coolers with anti-bacterial wipes/spray before loading and after unloading each day. 

Social Distancing: 

Check with local authorities (Lifeguards, County governments) on regulations for party size
Maintain proper distance in common areas (elevators, pool decks, lobbies)
Practice social distancing guidelines when inside restaurants and stores. 

Support Local Businesses

Order take-out to support local restaurants.
A list of restaurants offering takeout and delivery is available on chamber websites and social media posts.
Shop online with local stores if possible, for souvenirs, and follow occupancy guidelines at the stores.

Get out and enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine with sunscreen applied, and the saltwater!  These may be the secret “ingredients” to destroying the virus! 

If you would like to use Grocery Concierge to deliver your items to Navarre Beach, Pensacola Beach, or any of the areas in south Santa Rosa County, please contact us by email shopper@Grocery-Concierge.com or visit our website to complete an online order form.  Orders are needed 3 days before check-in. 

Please check out my other blog articles about healthy and relaxing travel-

Road Tripping to Navarre

Relaxing during Holidays

Staying Healthy

Start your vacation sooner with Grocery Concierge

Imagine having your groceries, beverages, paper items, even sunscreen already in your unit and ready to enjoy.  Grocery Concierge can make this happen so that your vacation rental is fully stocked and ready for your arrival.
Grocery Concierge provides meal planning and grocery delivery services for visitors on Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Tell us about your trip and what services and products you need at least 3 days before check-in.
  2. Receive phone call to review details.
  3. Pay invoice.
  4. Relax.

Partners Gretchen Carter, Andy Epstein and Judy Epstein contribute unique experiences and skillsets gained from previous occupations. Gretchen has over 30 years of experience in food-related industries while Andy offers more than 30 years of experience from the home products industry. Judy, a lifelong resident of the area, brings knowledge of local attractions for families.

As a concierge service, they are committed to helping you not only shop for groceries and supplies but also providing guidance on quantities needed, introducing local merchants and products, suggesting easy-to-prepare recipes, and providing removal and donation of any unused items to a local food pantry as needed. Their goal is for you to start your vacation as soon as you reach the beach.

Carter said she started Grocery Concierge in 2019 because of her personal experiences on Navarre Beach. There is no grocery store on the island, so Carter thought she could make it easier for tourists and bring the groceries to them.

“We realized once you got to the island, you didn’t really want to leave,” she said.

Their service maximizes visitors’ relaxation time and allows them to start their vacation sooner.

“In many ways they actually get an extra day of vacation,” Carter said. “They don’t have to spend that first day shopping for groceries in a store they’re unfamiliar with.”

Make sure to check out their blog at www.grocery-concierge.com  for fun vacation ideas, rundowns on local business and meal planning tips.

Additionally, the partners provide home organizing and event planning services through Organized Occasions.
Their goal is to help you embrace and celebrate every occasion in life. Whether that occasion is to move into a new house, finally get the garage organized, celebrate a special occasion, or take the grandkids to the beach for vacation, they can help you make those occasions more than just dates on the calendar. They can transform them into celebrations. Visit Organized-Occasions.com to see how they can help.

Organized Occasions also provides packing and unpacking services for moving.

“I use a color coded system so that boxes can be placed in the proper room at the new home, and each box has a label listing contents so if you need to find something like the coffee pot quickly when you get to your new house, you know exactly which box to open,” Carter said.

Beach Home Concierge services provides people that own second homes on Navarre Beach with a service that will prepare their home for their arrival, including stocking it with groceries, beverages, etc. They will also pull out the patio furniture that’s been stored since last year, refresh the house a bit, and again, maximize beach time.

And that’s not all that this team offers. They can bring a wine or beer tasting experience right to the comfort of your beach vacation home.

“I love that visitors have been coming here for years and now they’ll be able to add to their experience,” Carter said. “Maybe they’ve had these experiences in Destin, but now they’ll be able to have these upper-scale experiences in Navarre.”

They also offer romantic beach picnics complete with throw pillows, blankets, low custom-made tables, décor and dinner ware.

“I feel like what we’re going to provide is an experience that Navarre Beach visitors have never seen before,” Carter said.

Rainy Day Activities on Navarre Beach

According to BestPlaces.net, Navarre has 228 sunny days per year (23 more sunny days than the US average) and, we get 66 inches of rain each year (the average US is 38 inches).  So YES, we have many sunny days, and there’s also a very good chance that you will have some rain during your annual trip to the beach. 

So what can you do when it rains?  Start by reading these blog articles and below, I will give some local suggestions and tips:

Traveling Mom:

Be sure to download and print their ULTIMATE Beach Packing list (free).  I love a good checklist and, this one is good!

Parents.com

I felt these articles were a good place to start and, now we can adjust for older-aged kids and an all-adults trip.  Let’s begin with Fun Things to Do:

Spa Day

Mani/Pedis:  Unfortunately, many of the local nail salons are not as easy to “just pop in” as they were pre-pandemic.  So whether you are on a Girl’s Trip or you have teenage girls (and guys often want to participate), with a little imagination you can create an “at home” spa day with items you can find at the local dollar store or drug store. 

Here’s what you’ll need for your home pedicure kit: (pack extras to take home)

  • Nail polish remover (to remove and clean up any smudges)
  • Nail clipper
  • Nail file
  • Nail buffer
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Nail nipper
  • Q-tips and cotton balls
  • Cuticle oil and eraser
  • Exfoliating scrub (can also use sand—there’s plenty at the beach)
  • Foot file or pumice stone
  • Foot lotion
  • Toe separator
  • Base & top coat
  • Nail polish (pick out a fun color that reminds you of sunshine, seashells, or aquamarine water)

Makeup Session:  Use the time inside to “play” in your makeup.  Watch a YouTube video about creating a Cat Eye and then try it yourself.  Ever wondered how you would look with long dark eyelashes?  Try applying false eyelashes.  Bonus:  If you get “all made up” and the rain stops, find a nearby outdoor concert and go dancing! 

Rainy days are also good times to wash and clean your makeup brushes (baby shampoo or dawn liquid dish soap works well) and to restock basics from the drug store.  Spend some time just looking at all the options available today at the local store or place an order with your favorite cosmetics company. 

Cook Up Some Fun

Depending on what you have in your vacation beach home, this may require a trip to the store.  If you have placed an order with Grocery Concierge, you may already have all your food items and, we thank you for allowing us to serve you.  Take the time while it’s raining to prep fruits and veggies for snacks or meals so that when the sun comes back out, you can stay on the beach longer! 

If you decide to go to the store, make the cooking into a “Top Chef” competition to add extra fun.  Categories could include—secret ingredients (each person gets to pick a secret ingredient the other person has to use in their recipe), plant-based options, or all local ingredients. The point is to have fun cooking and eating together.

Board Games, Cards, Puzzles,and Books

Hopefully, you packed a few of these anyway, but if not, locally in Navarre, the Good Neighbor Thrift Store (Open M, W, F 9-4 and Sat 12-4) has a good selection of books for all ages, puzzles of different sizes and various board games.  You can pick up decks of cards at the drug store, including waterproof ones! 

For larger groups, a personal favorite card game is called 99.  We use $1 bills (each player must have 3), but you could use seashells.  Here are the rules: 

Souvenirs and Scrapbooks

Rainy days are the best days to check out local souvenir shops!  And why wait until you get back home to start creating your memory book.  Clean out your photos and start sorting into albums now while the memories are fresh. 

Movies – Inside and Out

Windjammer’s on the Pier is hosting movies on the beach on Tuesday nights.  But if it’s raining, they cancel the showing.  Hopefully, the vacation rental unit you booked has a nice big TV for everyone to watch a movie together inside.  Need some ideas of what’s available on Netflix in the Beach Movie Category– https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/movies/g33297746/best-beach-movies/

Don’t forget to set up a Popcorn Bar for all to enjoy!  PDF available on Grocery-Concierge website under Meal Planning—Free Resources

Museums and Art Galleries

While we don’t have an art gallery in Navarre, there are plenty of gift shops with local artist’s work for sale!  Check out Saltwater Cottage, The Turtles Nest, PikItz, and Pak N Fax (find them all on Facebook).   No trip to Navarre is complete without a tour through the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center or the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge.  Be sure to call and check the hours of operation. 

Check Out the Local Coffee Shop or Ice Cream Parlor

Ice cream, custard, snowballs—we’ve got them all in Navarre.  The Twist Ice Cream.  Culver’s Custard.  Tommy’s Snoballs.  You can find them all on Facebook for more information. 

Escape Room

These have become very popular and, we have one right here in Navarre.  Check out the EscapeZone60 for an indoor activity on a rainy day. 

Get Wet and Do Good

If it’s not raining hard, you can pick up a bag, walk along the beach, and fill it with any trash left from previous visitors or washed up or blown out.  Once the bag is full, take it to the Visitor’s Center and get a bag of free souvenirs!  A new program on Navarre Beach this year is the Do Good, Feel Good volunteer opportunity. 

Most vacations are not ruined by the rain and, with a little planning and creative adjustments you can still enjoy your time with family and friends.  And always look for the rainbows after the rain stops! 

Grocery Store Items for Restaurant Meals

Overcoming the current Restaurant Challenge???  How can you eat out when all the restaurants are short-staffed and you know you are going to have to wait an extra-long time for a table?  And take-out doesn’t always work either because it’s not as good by the time you get home. 

My goal for this article is to give you some ideas of how you can make and enjoy Restaurant Quality Meals in your home using restaurant products you can buy at the grocery store or put on your Grocery Delivery Form and let Grocery Concierge deliver to your vacation beach home!  

You may not have noticed, but there are lots of items in the grocery stores now with Restaurant names on them?   Everything from Chick Fil A’s Polynesian sauce to Olive Garden’s Italian Dressing, plus lots of frozen products to reheat are now available for you to create some of your favorites. 

So where would you like to go to dinner?

Olive Garden

Famous House Salad and Bread Sticks.  This is easy to replicate at home. 

Items needed:  Iceberg garden salad mix (in a bag), sliced Red Onion, whole Black Olives, Mild Pepperoncini, sliced Roma Tomatoes, Croutons, and Olive Garden’s Italian Dressing.  Toss all items together and sprinkle freshly grated parmesan cheese and black pepper on top!  Ta-dah Olive Garden’s House Salad is served. 

*I like to add a few extra items like more grated carrots and sliced radishes and sliced cucumber, but if you want to make it feel just like you are at Olive Garden, stick to their list of items. 

Garlic Bread Sticks-several varieties can be found in the freezer section and there are several good Marinara sauces available for dipping. 

Looking for a soup to add to that salad?  Most stores now carry fresh soups from Panera Bread.  I know it’s a little like sneaking food in from another restaurant, but I promise not to tell.  😊

For an entrée, you could make an easy Fettuccine Alfredo (multiple canned sauce options) and use either Rotisserie Chicken breast (pull off and slice) or fresh sautéed shrimp.  If you do not want to spend time over the stove checking if the pasta is done, cook a frozen lasagna in the oven. 

*One reason I like frozen lasagna on vacation is that the hour-plus time it takes to cook is plenty of time for everyone to get showers after being at the beach all day or out hiking, kayaking, fishing, or any other favorite activity. 

PF Chang’s

I immediately think of Lettuce Wraps (the best use of Iceberg lettuce ever!).  A few years ago, I found a really good recipe for these online—and easy.  The flavor comes from the sesame oil and hoisin sauce. 

PF Chang’s also has a salad dressing for sale at the grocery store.  Sesame Dressing with a recipe right on the label.  And of course, there are frozen appetizers and entrees from PF Chang’s available to purchase and cook at home. 

Another option would be to stop by the fresh sushi counter (most grocery stores have these now) and pick up fresh sushi or fresh dumplings to enjoy!  And fresh egg rolls are also available in the deli or salad area of the store (check out ones from Van’s kitchen—made in Dallas, TX and sold across the country, a family business, and personal friend)

Broussard’s Bayou

Navarre and Pensacola Beach have the pleasure of enjoying authentic Cajun cuisine at their 2 restaurants.  And many more products are available on their Bayou to Table items.  Items like Andouille sausage, Boudin, Boil in Bag entrees, Crawfish pies, and seafood gumbo base. 

The first night of vacation can be difficult to plan.  Not sure when you will arrive or how hungry you will be but ready to start your vacation. My suggestion…a couple of bags of seafood gumbo and minute maid white rice. All you need is a couple of pots to boil water—drop the bags in and within minutes you have what tastes like a restaurant meal.  Of course, the restaurant is going to serve toasted garlic bread with the gumbo, so be sure to purchase either a frozen garlic bread loaf to heat and enjoy or pick up a fresh loaf of French bread from the grocery bakery. 

Bar Food from TGI Friday’s or another Local Bar

Playing cards with friends and in the mood for “bar food”?  Bar food includes things like Chicken Wings, Potato Skins, Crispy Green Beans, Spinach & Artichoke Dip with pita bread triangles, and Chili’s famous Queso and Chips.  I promise you can duplicate these items right at home very easily. 

Winn Dixie has a Hot Wings bar with a variety of flavors.  Pick up a few of your favorite flavors—add blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing (buy the extra rich stuff in the fresh produce section), fresh carrots, and celery sticks. 

TGI Friday has potato skins in the freezer section to heat.  Add sour cream and chopped chives for a more authentic taste. 

PF Chang’s and Bird’s Eye both have Crispy Green Beans you can reheat in the oven.

You can find fresh Spinach & Artichoke Dip and Fresh Pita bread in the deli section.  Heat the dip in either the microwave or spoon into a baking dish to reheat in the oven and cut the pita bread in triangles and heat on a cookie sheet. 

Did you know that Chili’s famous Queso is nothing more than Velveeta Cheese with canned Chili (no beans) and a few spices (paprika, cayenne, chili powder, and cumin)?  Be sure to serve with thin and crispy tortilla chips or my personal favorite—Fritos Scoops. 

Arby’s

I don’t know about you, but the Arby’s Beef & Cheddar has always been a favorite sandwich of mine.  I didn’t realize how easy they are to make. 

Beef & Cheddar Sandwiches:  Warm Onion Rolls, Thin Sliced London Broil Roast Beef, Cheddar sauce (melted American Cheese slices with a little milk to thin and some garlic powder), and Arby Sauce (also known as Catalina Dressing)

Arby’s Curly Fries are available in the freezer section.  Without a convection oven, these will take longer to get crispy than the package instructions recommend. 

Chick Fil A

I know that you can’t duplicate the Chick Fil A chicken strips, but Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips are rated the best of the frozen products available and when you top them with CFA sauces (found with other condiments in the grocery store), you have something that is pretty close.  Of course, you will need, frozen Waffle Fries too from the freezer section.  Again, you may have to cook longer to get the really crispy fries like the ones you get from the restaurant.  Lightly spraying the fries with Pam or other cooking spray seems to help them get crispier and the salt to stick better. 

Pizza

Although you may just call and order delivery if you want to upgrade your frozen pizza, here are a few ideas.

Other ideas to make your “eat at home” lunch items feel more like eating out:

Use different breads and rolls—instead of typical sandwiches on sliced bread, pick up freshly baked rolls (onion rolls, Hawaiian rolls, or croissants) or try some flavored wraps.

Have lots of toppings—various condiments like spicy brown mustard, or different bottles of ketchup and BBQ sauces also, pick up an oil & vinegar dressing to make it taste just like the deli sandwich!  Purchase jars of sliced pepperoncini, and sliced olives, along with fresh pickles (sweet and dill). Enjoy lots of fresh vegetables like spinach, red or green leaf lettuce, red onion, sliced tomatoes, avocados, sprouts, cucumbers, and bell peppers. 

Combine all the above with assorted cheeses, various meats, and some bacon and you’ve got the makings of a delicious lunch without leaving home or the vacation home (if you are lucky enough to be enjoying a vacation).   

Restaurant items are also available for breakfast (coffees and iced coffees, Krispy Kreme donuts, Cinnabon cinnamon rolls).  And you can make yogurt parfaits with vanilla yogurt, fresh berries, and granola (use clear plastic cups for an easy clean-up and to look like the ones from McDonald’s).

In the bakery, you can also find different sliced sweet loaves like banana nut or lemon poppyseed and if you are lucky you may be able to find ready-to-bake quiche as well.  Don’t forget to check and see if the bakery is offering fresh bagels or loaves of bread that you can toast and enjoy! 

One of my favorite things to make for breakfast reminds me of a trip to San Francisco—a smoked salmon bagel.  A toasted plain bagel topped with cream cheese, thin-sliced smoked salmon, fresh chopped red onion, capers, and chopped hard-boiled egg.  And if I can enjoy with a glass of champagne, I am immediately transported back to the streets of San Fran! 

Finally, let’s talk about dessert!  Maybe you are traveling, or you don’t want to bake, but you want something more interesting than just ice cream or Oreo cookies. 

Go ahead and start with the best-refrigerated cookie dough:  Click Here

Everyone loves hot fresh cookies. 

Or you can use fresh items from the bakery in a whole new way—

Strawberry Shortcake is made from glazed donuts.  Slice the donut in half, spoon on fresh sliced strawberries (no need for more sugar with the glazed donut), and top with fresh whipped cream (even Reddi Whip will work). 

Fresh or Frozen Cheesecake topped with a chopped candy bar, and a drizzle of chocolate and caramel syrup can look just like a dessert from a restaurant (but cost a fraction of the amount!) 

If fresh pies are available and in local flavors, I suggest picking up one to enjoy.  Of course, Key Lime is always popular in Florida, and then locally the Bushwacker (it’s a very boozy frozen drink from nearby Pensacola) pie is a favorite. 

As I mentioned all these items are available in the grocery store—you just need to look for them (or have us look for them for you!).  And more items are being developed by the large chains to distribute into the supply chain to help retain customer loyalty as we continue to emerge from the epidemic and the current staffing situation. 

If you have a favorite restaurant salad, entrée, or dessert, you may be able to recreate with a little online research to find the recipe and some of the key ingredients at the grocery store. 

Bon Appetite Y’all! 

Menu Planning for Vacations

The concept for Grocery Concierge was based on our travel experiences.  I dreamed of checking into our vacation rental unit and seeing the food and beverages we were going to enjoy during the week already in the unit.  The idea that vacation could start IMMEDIATELY, not after hours of shopping and unloading, sounded like heaven or at least sounded like a vacation

As an organizing professional and event planner, I tend to plan EVERYTHING! I make a packing list for every trip-the clothes, the shoes, the jewelry, or accessories I will need. I research area attractions and plan which days to go based on current weather forecasts. And of course, I pre-plan meals and make a grocery shopping list.  I created this Vacation Meal Ideas document just for such occasions.  I hope you find it helpful as you begin to plan your next vacation.  

Having now operated Grocery Concierge in Navarre Beach since July 2019, I am familiar with most family’s grocery lists.  During the week most will have Taco Night, Pasta Night, and depending on the type of grill available to them either Burgers or Hot Dogs with Chips or Steaks with Baked Potatoes for Dinner.  Lunches are usually Sandwiches, and Frozen Pizzas and Breakfasts include Donuts, Cinnamon Rolls, Bacon & Eggs.   PLEASE VISIT MY WEBSITE AND CHECK OUT FREE RESOURCES (under Grocery Delivery).  Here are some pages that will help you plan better—Breakfast Ideas, Pasta Night, Taco Night,  even Drink Ideas.

We offer 2 options for you to create your Shopping List.  You can fill out our online Grocery Delivery Form or you can use our physical Grocery Delivery List Form and email it to shopper@grocery-concierge.com. Both allow you to add items and to include specific brands.  We want you to get exactly what you want for your vacation!

TIPS & TRICKS

       1) Consider any special diet needs (food allergies, or major dislikes) of your travel companions. Always be considerate of each other’s needs and be willing to try new foods and flavors.

           2) Pre-plan meals so that you can utilize ingredients multiple times. For example, Rotisserie Chicken can be purchased and used to make either Tex Mex entrees (fajitas, quesadilla, tortilla soup) or for Pasta Night (Carbonara, Alfredo).  Tortillas can be used for Tex Mex dinners and Breakfast Tacos or as a Sandwich Wrap.

3) If traveling with kids and teenagers, purchase snack foods in the LARGEST containers.  The amount of snack items needed on a vacation is often underestimated!  Kids get hungry playing on the beach all day and everyone enjoys snacks during games or movies in the evening.  COVID precaution:  Individually packaged treats are recommended.   Take any leftovers in the car for the drive home or put them in your carry-on bags for snacking on the plane.

4) Purchase condiments (mustard, mayo, ketchup, salad dressings) in the smallest size possible to avoid throwing away leftovers at the end of your trip. Sometimes it is hard to find smaller sizes as your personal shopper we are going to consider the number of guests as well as the number of days you are staying.  We will make an extra stop at the dollar store for a smaller size so that the couple staying for a long weekend doesn’t have to throw away an almost full bottle of laundry soap. 

5) Plan for easy clean-up (YOU’RE ON VACATION)!  Paper plates, plastic knives, forks, spoons, and cups mean no one is washing dishes.  Foil is great for lining baking sheets, steaming fish, and veggies on the grill or in the oven and you can even crumple some to make a grill cleaner for the public grill by the pool.  Plastic wrap or storage bags help to keep foods fresh in the refrigerator.  And if you are going to be using a crockpot, purchase the liners and just toss when you are done.

6) Don’t forget the nonperishable items.  Most vacation rentals only provide an initial amount and unlike hotels, you can’t just go to the front desk for more.   Nonperishables include paper products (TP, Kleenex, paper towels, paper plates, napkins, plastic cups/K, F, S) storage (plastic wrap, foil, ziplock), cleaning (dishwashing soap, laundry detergent) as well as personal care (sunscreen and after-sun lotion, hand soap, shampoo, etc.)

Some families that travel frequently have created a “bin” of these items.   Below is a picture of a laundry basket filled with items and you can use our Basic Set-Up List to shop at your local dollar store for small sizes or load with extra items from your home.

If you are flying into your vacation destination, be sure these items are on your shopping list.

           7) Check the type of grill available before making your list.  If the grill is charcoal, I suggest getting pre-soaked briquettes, plus matches or lighter. If you don’t have a grill you may have to adjust your cooking method (broiling or high heat in the oven) or your items (hot dogs and burgers instead of steaks or grilled chicken).

8) Once you arrive you can check out your unit’s cooking utensils.  Look at the size of pots and pans, as well as any baking pans you may need.  I mentioned in my last Blog post—Thrift Shopping on Vacation that you can pick up large glass casserole dishes and other kitchen essentials for just a couple of dollars if your vacation rental unit does not have what you need. 

       9) Vacation always ends too soon, but at least you gained the first day when you used Grocery Concierge.  Most rental units have a 10 am check out and your last morning can feel rushed.  Depending on your drive time, we’ve seen families leave as early as 5 am.  You don’t want to clean out food early in the morning.  Plan for this the day before.  Keep items that can be used for breakfast (milk, juices, fruit, bread items) or taken for snacks, but try to use up and clean out the rest of the food.  If you have unopened nonperishable items, you can request a Donation Pick Up and we return to the unit to remove the items and donate them to our local We Care Food Pantry.  

Our best advice is to take some time to review other Blog posts about Vacation Planning on our website. 

1 Month in advance:  Start researching local attractions and arrange for delivery BEFORE YOU ARRIVE with Grocery Concierge.   You’ll appreciate the hours saved as soon as you open the door!

1 Week in advance:  Submit your Shopping list and decide which local restaurants you want to support and see if you need to make reservations. While at the beach, I encourage you to visit local restaurants that serve FRESH & IN SEASON seafood and to order some for delivery (only Grocery Concierge can shop local specialty stores for you). 

Please support locally owned and operated businesses when you travel.  You are helping the local economy and experiencing the culture through the food. 

Mention this article and receive a free gift! 

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