During a PCS move, you expect to spend some time on the road. You may stay in hotels or spend time in temporary lodging near your military base. You expect that you will spend time without your household goods and your typical kitchen supplies. It depends where you are moving to and how your things are being moved, but you should expect to be staying in hotels, temp lodging, or “house camping” for at least a week, and probably much longer. Everyone expects some disruption to their routines and usual diet during a PCS.

What most people don’t expect is that they will actually miss cooking when they PCS.

I don’t pretend to be a great cook. In fact, if you ask me what I’m making for dinner, I’ll respond with my usual “I don’t cook dinner.” Food is prepared in my house for my family to eat 6 out of the 7 nights in a week, but I usually didn’t cook it that evening. I’m a freezer cooker. I shop for 10-20 dinners at one time, prepare everything, and freeze it. Then the day we’re going to eat it (or the night before) I thaw it, put it in the crockpot, the Instant Pot, or on a very rare occasion, in the oven. Sometimes I get ahead of myself and I freeze more meals than we need for a month.

When we got orders 6 weeks before we packed out, I stopped buying dinner food and ate out of my freezer. It also meant that until I could get a good rotation going in my new freezer, I’d have to actually cook some meals.

So I came up with a short list of the kitchen utensils I just had to have in order to cook in our new place. I knew we likely wouldn’t have our stuff right away and I’d likely want to cook in temporary lodging if we are there for an extended period of time. When you are PCSing with kids, an easy way to save money is to cook simple meals for your family, rather than spending your full per diem allowance at restaurants. I knew that my family would need the occasional healthy meal, and that being able to cook in a basic hotel room would help us save money during our PCS.

I was right. By night number 11 in hotel number 5, I was done with take-out and delivery food. We needed fruits and vegetables and a home-cooked meal. I was so glad I brought that little kitchen pack with me, and that it was compact enough to bring with us in the car during our road trip! Here are some kitchen essentials I packed to help us make it through.

  • Instant Pot

    I’ve blogged and raved about this kitchen staple after I protested getting one for at least a year. At home, some people prefer a crock pot that slowly cooks food all day. But when you are traveling with a hungry family, you want a kitchen tool that will make meals, FAST. An Instant Pot is compact, easily fits in a basic hotel room, and can hold additional cooking tools inside. Tonight, I made chicken for taco salad in 15 minutes in one pot on the counter in my hotel room.

  • Paring Knife

    Never travel anywhere without a knife. It’s an essential cooking tool, for both preparing and serving food. Need to cut up portions to share between family members? Yeah, a plastic knife can’t handle that! I love traveling with a little knife. It’s sharp, mine has a sheath to keep it from cutting anyone, and it is small.

  • Collapsable measuring cups

    Space is always important when you are packing the car for a PCS. There are only so many things you can hand-carry and bring with you on the road! I packed my ¼ cup, 1/3 cup, and 1 cup measuring cups. I’m sure the set came with a ½ cup as well, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Now I can measure out wet or dry ingredients for cooking.

  • Favorite Seasonings

    For purely selfish reasons, I packed my favorite Himalayan pink sea salt. My bestie snagged this for me at Costco and I will never go back to regular sea salt. It feels like I’m cooking in my own kitchen when I can use it. Plus it reminds me of her. When you are cooking meals on the road, you won’t have the typical spice rack to flavor your meals. Selectively choose one or two essential bottles of your family’s favorite spice or seasoning that will work for multiple basic dishes.

  • Measuring Spoons

    I love my Pampered Chef measuring spoons, so I packed both the teaspoon and tablespoon versions. Again, they don’t take up much space, and they are multi-functional because one spoon measures multiple quantities. Now I can measure out wet or dry ingredients. We could even make a cake if we wanted!

  • Kitchen Shears

    I wonder why we refer to these at kitchen shears? Really, they are multipurpose scissors. They are perfect for trimming meat, chopping up spinach for a salad, or cutting the tags off new flip-flops for the beach. And if you’re serving a bag of salad or frozen veggies, this is the only tool you need to prepare it.

  • Can Opener

    I know that most temporary lodging comes with basic kitchen utensils, including a can opener, but I didn’t want to risk it. A can opener isn’t standard in a basic hotel room. Sometimes a home-cooked meal still involves opening cans.

  • Bee’s Wrap

    These are my new guilty pleasure, and they are a space-saving alternative to saran wrap! I received them as part of a monthly subscription box, and I am in love. As an alternative to plastic wrap, these are made of beeswax, organic cotton muslin, jojoba oil, and tree resin, and are washable, giving us many uses.

With these eight kitchen essentials, I made chicken taco salad, sausage and potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and pulled pork barbecue while in temporary lodging. The best part? Everything listed above fits inside the Instant Pot! I could unload all of these supplies from the car in one trip.

The views expressed are my own, the products suggested are my personal experiences, mine and mine alone.

alwineRebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Her writing experience includes military family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com.