The Cheap & Easy Dinner Tradition I Brought Home from Portugal

The Cheap & Easy Dinner Tradition I Brought Home from Portugal

(Image credit: Geraldine Campbell)

We've written before about the ingenious practice of Abendbrot — it's German for "evening bread" and is the very simple but lovely idea of having bread with butter, sliced meat, cheese, and vegetables for dinner. I was recently reminded of this tradition on my recent trip — not to Germany but to Portugal.

At the end of August, I spent 11 days living like a Lisboan in an apart-hotel called (aptly) The Lisboans. Besides having serious good looks and morning and afternoon light that made it difficult to even leave my apartment, my two-week residence came with a tiny but well-stocked refrigerator.

In that fridge were perfect little pots of yogurt, good European butter, homemade strawberry preserves, and two glass boxes filled with meat and cheese. And every morning, a little tote, filled with fresh-squeezed orange juice and assorted bread, would arrive.

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These things made for a wonderful breakfast — but they also made for a wonderful dinner on many nights. I would pick up a bottle of cheap wine, pull out the boxes of ham and cheese, butter up the last of the day's bread, and dig in, often with my guidebook and a map handy so I could plot the next day's adventures.

This might seem a little bit like sad hotel dinner, but I promise it wasn't! Traveling by myself, I didn't always want to go out for lunch and dinner (and I couldn't always afford to go out for lunch and dinner, either). I found that I really loved my nights in, when I could turn on the radio and enjoy my apartment's evening views over a simple supper of bread, butter, cold cuts, and wine.

(Image credit: Geraldine Campbell)

I enjoyed these evenings so much that when I got back from my trip, I promptly went out and bought myself a pair of glass boxes for my own fridge. The ones in my fridge are the IKEA FORTROLIG containers and I love everything about them — size, sturdiness, transparency, seal-tight lids. For $5 I'm not sure you could find much better.

As it turns out, they're good for much more than storing your meats and cheeses; they're oven-, microwave- and freezer-safe, and they come in a range of sizes. Want to make a half-pan of baked ziti instead of a full? These glass containers are perfect. Leftover Chinese takeout? Put it in here and then pop it straight into the microwave tomorrow night.

But I'm stocking up on the 20-ounce containers, which are just right for those nights when I don't need much besides some cold cuts and a glass of wine.

Buy It: FORTROLIG Food container, $5 at IKEA

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