With more of us holidaying in the UK this year, we ask our recipe editors and in-house chefs for their must-have foods and cooking advice for a self-catering break 

 Whether the more relaxed tempo of a week or two off work sees you upping your kitchen game or reaching for the oven-ready pizzas, there’s no doubt that some advance planning can help to take the stress out of holiday meal prep. First things first: book an online delivery to your rental cottage, campsite or cabin to arrive shortly after you do. If no slots are available, we offer a Click & Collect service for groceries in selected branches including several tourist hotspots. Use the branch finder for details of the nearest store to where you’re staying. 

For most of us, holidays call for a more simplified style of cooking – think lazy, help-yourself lunches; easy barbecues; cook-ahead dinners; throw-together salads and minimal washing up. An unfamiliar kitchen, especially one that’s nothing more than a camping stove and a folding table, is probably not the place to finally master hollandaise. We asked our food editors, cookery school tutors and development chefs what’s on their holiday food shopping list – those essential items that you’ll be so grateful to have to hand. 



“It’s something you may well find in a kitchen cupboard at your holiday let but you have no idea how long it’s been there” says Kendall Zaluski, chef tutor at the Waitrose Cookery school at Finchley Road, who recommends buying a good olive oil to use in dressings and marinades as well as for drizzling on finished dishes.

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A pack of coffee is next on the list for our experts. Food writer Katie Bishop had this nugget of advice: “I always check the type of coffee maker at a holiday home before we go as life can't start each day without it.” If you need your morning caffeine fix, you’ll save time if you arrive armed with the right sort, whether it’s a bag of espresso grind or a box of capsules or pods. And if the only equipment on offer is a kettle or cooker, follow the lead of food editor Alison Oakervee and pack a cafetière or hob espresso pot.

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“I’m never without a bag of dried pasta,” says Kendall. “Options are endless and dinner is only ever 11 minutes away.” Pasta is a good option for your first evening, especially after a long drive; pair it with a jar of pesto and you’ve got a store cupboard meal that requires zero prep. 

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Food editor Silvana Franco swears by pouches of ready-cooked rice, lentils or quinoa. They can be reheated in a microwave or on the hob in minutes so they’re handy for campers or the time-pressed. Try the Puy lentils in a Mediterranean salad; use brown basmati rice in a one-pot peshwari lamb; or fry a mix of rice and quinoa with eggs and harissa butter for a hearty brunch.

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Always one for an ingenious shortcut, Silvana loves the convenience of part-baked baguettes and rolls which have a long shelf life, so you needn’t go in search of your daily bread. After ten minutes in the oven, they’re ready to be spread, topped or filled with whatever you fancy, or tear off a chunk to serve with a warming bowl of soup or chilli.

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"Try to be realistic about how much cooking you're actually going to do on holiday. I like to take ambient products and then supplement them with fresh ingredients I can pick up locally – there's less waste that way." 

Silvana Franco, Partner and food editor



“A herb or spice mix can be used to add dimension to your cooking without the need for a bunch of different pots” suggests Kendall. “Zaatar or baharat make an easy marinade for grilled meats or veg; otherwise sprinkle on flatbreads or through a grain salad or add to a Sunday morning hash.” Paul Gamble, senior brand development chef uses dukkah to beef up barbecued cauliflower and chaat masala to transform potatoes. If you like to dial up the heat, follow food editor Silvana Franco’s lead and reach for the chilli flakes.

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“I miss the staples of a store cupboard when we’re away from home: finishing touches that transform a meal from good to great,” says Paul Gamble, senior brand development chef. He recommends including a jar of a flavour-packed paste such as chilli-spiked zhoug to pep up anything from salads and pilafs to grilled fish or chicken. Harissa, chermoula or tagine paste would also work well here and remember that a little goes a long way.

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“Wherever I am in the world, I take Maldon salt” says Helen Carey, chef tutor at the Waitrose Cookery School in King’s Cross. The rest of our panel were equally enthusiastic about flaky sea salt: “Just a little added at the end of cooking enhances flavour beautifully” advises food editor Alison. 

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Cracked black pepper gives a lovely warm bite to a host of dishes from breakfast eggs and spaghetti cacio e pepe to grilled meat and vegetables and even a bowl of summer strawberries. No wonder our panel agreed they’d be lost without it. Perfect for a self-catering holiday, the Bart peppercorn mill can be adjusted to allow a coarse or fine grind.

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“We always take a bottle of gin as a holiday treat,” says Katie, who's ordered the Roku Japanese craft gin to arrive at her rented cottage in Kent this year. With so many British regional gins available these days, Silvana likes to buy one that’s local to the area she’s staying in. And don't forget the tonic water: Fevertree is always a favourite. 

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This humble citrus fruit is incredibly versatile: grate the zest into dressings, risottos and pasta dishes; squeeze the juice into marinades or spritz over grilled veg or pancakes; serve a wedge with a fillet of pan-fried fish or a slice with your evening sundowner. A bag of unwaxed lemons can help to elevate your holiday cooking to something a little bit special. 

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Our summer shop makes finding holiday essentials even simpler, with shortcuts to picnic and barbecue ranges, suncare and ice cream

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