Stocking the pantry: ketchup, coffee and beyond

    stocking your vacation rental kitchenWe may equip our homes with relatively expensive furnishings and amenities, yet many of us are left scratching our heads when it comes to the pantry items. What should we be responsible for? What should our guests buy themselves? How much of each item is reasonable?

    What to provide?

    The rule of thumb we use when advising owners which items to purchase is: If the renters will only use a small portion during their stay, then you should probably provide it. For example, it would be inconvenient for your guests to have to buy an entire box of salt only to use a few tablespoons during their visit.

    Your selection of pantry items may be dictated by your budget. If you're not able to provide some of the suggested items, just be sure to let your guests know what they may have to purchase on their own ahead of time. For example, if you only supply the first morning's coffee, let them know that they may want to stop at the grocery store on their way to your home.

    Many of the essentials are easy and inexpensive to provide and will last a pretty long time. On average, stocking a pantry with basic cooking necessities should only cost you about $50 for each season. You can save money by purchasing items in bulk, but try not to buy a large supply of something that might go bad before your guests use it.

    When it comes to restocking, have your housekeeper check your supplies periodically or ask guests to notify you when you're low on certain items. For items that come in smaller sizes, just ask your guests to replace them if they use it all. It doesn't hurt to also ask your housekeeper to confirm that the honor system is, in fact, working.

    No matter what you choose to provide, be sure to check on any potential regulations with the Department of Health regarding open food items for public consumption. For example, ice cube trays are supposed to be emptied after each guest (even if you have an automatic ice maker) because you can't confirm that your previous guests or housekeepers washed their hands before refilling.

    What about “Grossed Out” guests?

    Of course, some guests might not be comfortable using opened items in your pantry, whether they're concerned about expiration dates or possible contamination. The best way to ease any concerns is always with full disclosure.

    Remind your guests that these items were left in the refrigerator for their convenience – not because the housekeeper forgot to clean out the fridge. It is also helpful to ask your housekeeper to write the date on any opened bottles to let your guests know they were opened recently, which also helps when it comes time to replace.
    Another option is to buy individual packets when you can, similar to what fast food chains provide for ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper.

    Despite your efforts, there are some guests that might still prefer to buy their own condiments anyway, and that's fine. If they choose to leave their purchases behind when they leave, that's more for your future guests to use.  However, it is probably best to toss any perishable items or items that someone could feasibly stick their fingers in, even if you think it's unlikely that it happened.

    Pantry stocking 101

    To eliminate some of the gray area in terms of what pantry items to provide, we've outlined some basic necessities for stocking your kitchen. It never hurts to go the extra mile, especially if you live near your vacation home, so we've also included some “extras” to add to your guests' convenience during their stay. For a complete list of our suggestions, see our grocery list below.
    • Coffee A starter pack of coffee (regular and decaffeinated) will be greatly appreciated by most guests, especially those arriving late at night and won't have time to get to a store before their morning cup of joe. You don't necessarily have to keep the coffee canister full as long as you provide enough for the first morning. Coffee filters, on the other hand, last virtually forever and are very inexpensive (a pack of 500 is around $3). Don't forget the sugar and powdered creamer – for many guests, your ground coffee won't do much good without the fixins.
    • Other beverages For the non-coffee drinkers, a selection of teas and hot chocolate could be greatly appreciated. You might also want to stock some powdered drink mixes, like lemonade or fruit punch, and pitchers for your guests to use. Plastic water bottles are also helpful.
    • Cooking Supplies Some guests will cook every meal, and others won't even touch your oven. Either way, we encourage you to stock basic spices like salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, chili powder and bouillon cubes. Ground spices typically last 2-3 years, so you shouldn't have to replace them too often. Additionally, consider supplying other cooking essentials like butter or margarine, oil, vinegar and cooking spray.
    • Baking Supplies For guests who plan to celebrate an occasion or simply whip up a layer cake for the fun of it, consider the baking necessities like Crisco, baking soda, baking powder, yeast, vanilla extract, honey, sugar, cinnamon and flour. You can also throw in some cupcake liners for those guests that prefer handheld treats.
    • Condiments Ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce are just a few of those items that your guests usually need but will only use only in small amounts. These condiments are available in large quantities at discount wholesale stores, or you could try to purchase small packets of each, similar to what fast food chains provide. Some homeowners also provide jellies, jams, soy sauce, Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire sauce, since these are typically harder to find in smaller sizes.
    • Snacks When it comes to actual food, some owners like to up the ante. Although not required, providing snacks like microwave popcorn or bags of chips can be greatly appreciated by your guests. You can even offer your guests their first morning's breakfast by providing pancake mix and syrup. And while frozen items may not actually go in your pantry, you could easily stock frozen juice for breakfast and ice pops for an easy snack.


    In general, the more items and services you provide for your guests, the more they will appreciate both your home and your efforts. Although pantry items may seem pretty inconsequential, providing a stocked pantry will improve your guests' experience and could result in an increased likelihood of your guests returning.

    □ Coffee filters
    □ Sugar
    □ Powdered creamer
    □ Salt
    □ Pepper
    □ Garlic powder
    □ Italian seasoning
    □ Chili powder
    □ Bouillon cubes
    Nice to Have
    □ Regular coffee
    □ Decaf coffee
    □ Tea
    □ Hot chocolate
    □ Cooking oil
    □ Vinegar
    □ Cooking spray
    □ Vanilla extract
    □ Flour
    □ Honey
    □ Ketchup
    □ Mustard
    □ Barbecue sauce
    □ Cinnamon
    Above and Beyond
    □ Drink mixes
    □ Water bottles
    □ Crisco
    □ Butter/margarine
    □ Baking soda
    □ Baking powder
    □ Yeast
    □ Cupcake liners
    □ Jelly/jam
    □ Soy sauce
    □ Tabasco sauce
    □ Worcestershire sauce
    □ Pancake mix
    □ Maple syrup
    □ Frozen juice
    □ Ice pops
    □ Microwave popcorn



    *Please familiarize yourself with your local laws/regulations regarding providing any food items in your rental as you are required to abide by those laws/regulations.



    Last Updated April 11, 2018

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