Making Your Home Away Feel Like Home: Extended Stay Hotel Cooking

Extended stay hotels can vary greatly in their offerings. I have now stayed in two different extended-stay hotels in the last four months. The first had a beautiful kitchenette that due to the circumstances, I didn’t need or use much. The second was very minimal, in that it only had a microwave, a fridge, a sink, and some paper plates and plastic utensils. Since my stay there was short and I wasn’t feeling very proactive we ate out and had left overs.

However, as those who’ve spent time living away from a convenient cooking space know, eating out can seem quite glamorous and convenient at first, but the excitement quickly dims as you realize how much you are spending between meals and tips and how much weight you are gaining. So if you know you will be traveling for over a week I would highly recommend finding accommodations with the best kitchen you can get for your money.

I am currently staying at the Home 2Suites by Hilton. It is comfortable and clean, but I have to admit I had assumed it would be more well-stocked with kitchen appliances and cookware.

When I arrived my cookware included:

  • a set of small, medium, and large corning ware bowls and lids
  • a glass cutting board
  • a serrated knife
  • A slotted spoon
  • A large plastic spoon
  • A spatula (yes!)
  • plates, cups, and utensils


  • Medium sized fridge
  • Microwave

I also found out I could check out the following items:

  • an induction stove top hot plate
  • a small 4-6” frying pan and lid

Not bad, but in order to be able to cook a variety of food I would need some spices and more cooking utensils. Thanks to globalization nearly every store I am used to frequenting in Utah is also here in Ridgeland so I decided to invest in a few things.

At Dollar Tree I purchased:

  • foil and plastic wrap
  • an italian seasoning spice mix with four different kinds of spices in one container
  • ground salt shaker
  • ground pepper shaker (way to be posh dollar store!)
  • a chef’s knife (it hasn’t been great, but it gets the job done)
  • cheap tupperware bowls for left-overs and to use as mixing bowls

All for less than $10!

Since the Dollar Tree didn’t have everything I needed I also purchased these items at Wal-Mart:

  • A pasta strainer for .98
  • A small laundry basket for $1 (There is a coin operated laundry here too)
  • Diced garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Other groceries including pasta, flour, sugar, canned goods, fresh and frozen fruit and veggies, meat, etc.

I was elated with how much I could cook with a few staple ingredients and seasonings. I made the following meals with just a small frying pan and the microwave:

  • Sloppy Joes with ground turkey, zucchini, Ragu sauce and italian seasonings and a spinach and strawberry salad with raspberry vinaigrette.
  • Penne with parmesan cheese, minced garlic, zucchini, onions, and kale. (I’m trying to learn to like such a healthy veggie.)
  • Red Potato Salad with carrots and pickles in it. Cooking the potatoes and boiling the eggs in the microwave was an educational experience. Did you know boiling potatoes in the microwave actually takes longer than boiling them on the stove? I didn’t! My eggs were not quite all the way boiled through in the microwave, but they were close enough that I made the salad with the parts of the egg that came out completely cooked through.
  • Brown rice  with sweet chili sauce purchased from the store (with such few spices I thought I better purchase some sauce for more variety!).

Cooking this way for a week helped me appreciate what students trying to cook in dorm rooms must feel like. It was challenging enough that I decided to buy an Instant Pot and that has been a life saver.  I’ll keep you updated on how my Instant Pot adventures go but at least with some cooking supplies our extended stay hotel is feeling more like home.

Staying in a long-term stay hotel?

  • Buy a few things to make cooking and laundry easier including: spices, a few cooking utensils, and a laundry basket.
  • Don’t have a stove or oven in your room? Order an Instant Pot (we ordered ours using Amazon Prime) or pack a small one with you in your suitcase as you travel. You can cook healthy and inxpensive foods like brown rice, lentils, beans, eggs, and use it like you would a stove to saute veggies. You could purchase a 3 quart Instant Pot which weighs 12 pounds. Mine is the 6 quart instant pot and weighs 15 pounds, but it is larger than two people need. I know it seems like a heavy thing to pack around but isn’t packing a useful  12-15 pound gadget better than packing on an extra 12-15 pounds around your waist during your stay? I’ve used mine almost daily since I bought it a month ago. I was leary at first, but now I really do love it. It does things a microwave can’t like working as a stove to saute and boiling eggs perfectly without the dangers of explosion.

I freely admit there is a bit of a learning curve when using the Instant Pot but you can invest in learning how to cook healthy foods with the Instant Pot instead of watching hours of free cable tv. It’s an investment that will pay dividends as you save money and eat healthier while you’re traveling.

Do you have any tips for people traveling and living in extended-stay hotels? Please leave a comment below!

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Living in a Hotel

I live in an extended stay hotel. There are quite a few perks to this way of life but there are some interesting challenges as well.  I know what you must be thinking, #firstworld problems but consider that for someone who loves cooking and crafting this new minimalistic way of life has been a huge change.

Why do I live in a hotel?

My husband works for Fast Enterprises a computer software company that designs software for government entities. So, since Mississippi badly needed to update their Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) software here we are! I quit my job as a high school Biology teacher in Salt Lake City for a chance to travel across the United States and possibly abroad. Because the project in Mississipi is coming to a close we’re only here for 2 1/2 months while my husband helps with roll out of the software. Then we’ll be moving to Salem, Oregon where they will begin to assist with the development and implementation of new software in counties throughout the state.

Do I like living in a hotel?

Yes and no.

Perks of Living in a Hotel:

  • Cleaning- Not having to clean my own bathroom is pretty heavenly
  • Free breakfast
  • Free cable and WiFi
  • A comfy king-sized bed our last bed was a queen
  • It is a suite, so it feels more like a traditional apartment
  • Free use of exercise equipment
  • Free newspapers to read

Challenges of Living in a Hotel:

No access to most of your stuff– Things like cooking ingredients and tools, clothes, documents, etc. Need scissors to open your frozen broccoli? Better go get some but don’t pay too much for them because you’ll only be using them for two months!

Cleaning- While the occasional clean-up from housekeeping is great,  if you forget to put the do not disturb sign on your door hotel workers are in your home within seconds. I live in a little bit of fear that I’ll step out of the shower and run into a maid coming in to remove the towels from our bathroom.Yikes!

Free Breakfast- Being a frugal person I feel like I should take advantage of it every day, but when much of the food is not healthy I can be tempted to make poor food choices, like choosing the Texas-shaped belgium waffles (delicious) or the powdered donuts for breakfast.

Free Cable– I get addicted to HGTV shows or occasionally get sucked in by horrendous reality shows like Below Deck and waste valuable time.

Lack of Space- We can only take so much with us when we move to Oregon at the end of October. We only brought two bags and a carry on and with the accumulation of a 15 pound instant pot we bought for cooking in our room, we’ll be a lot closer to approaching our weight limits.

Plus, with stores like Dirt Cheap around, it can be tempting to want to stock up on more clothes or shoes. For those of you who love the NPS stores you understand the allure of Dirt Cheap. It is a little junky and you have to do some digging, but when you find a diamond among the piles of junk you are hooked. Like these brand new Cherokee boat shoes I found for $5:

$5 brand new shoes!

They look a bit worn now that I’ve been wearing them almost daily, but they were new when I bought them.

But between being a teacher and being sentimental it may be good for me to take a more minimalistic approach to living for a while . . .

No stove or oven- Honestly, the hardest thing for me about not having a traditional living space is not having a stove or oven. Eating out sounds glamorous at first, until you eat a lot of fried food and start to put on the pounds.

But in case you are curious here are some pictures of the hotel we are staying in:

Home 2Suites Hotel in Ridgeland Mississippi 


Hotel living has a few down sides, but for the time being I am enjoying this temporary adventure! After all, it sure beats our last basement apartment. Although I confess I do miss the chickens sometimes . . .

chickens crowded in a window
The view from the first basement apartment Matt and I rented after marriage to save money.


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