Enjoy Healthy, Home-Cooked Meals at Your ‘Home Away from Home’ at The Cottages

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Enjoy more family time and save money on your vacation budget by preparing one, two or all three daily meals in the privacy of your own kitchen and dining area. Use the savings to go out to breakfast, lunch or dinner a few times to give the chef a break, as there are plenty of excellent restaurants only a short distance from The Cottages at North Beach Plantation.

The dine-at-home approach not only saves time and money, it's also the ideal arrangement for guests who are looking to eat healthy or have special dietary restrictions (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.). Going out for three meals a day can be devastating to your diet, and healthy snacks are hard to find (and even harder to order) amid a sea of pizzerias and ice cream parlors. There's less temptation “at home.”

The best game plan is to make a comprehensive shopping list at the start of your vacation, ensuring you have what you need for a few breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. You can make a quick run to the corner market for a few things if you need to, but a good grocery list will keep you from spending valuable vacation time and dollars.

For folks who are watching their diets, there are several area grocery stores, seafood markets, health food stores and farmers markets where you can stock up on foods that are both nutritious and delicious. Be sure to bring a cooler or a refrigerated bag if you are buying perishable goods in bulk, and don't forget to pick up extra ice. Here are a few nearby stores you may want to visit to find the best, freshest foods in town:

* Grocery Stores: Guests at The Cottages at North Beach Plantation can head south down Highway 17 and find an assortment of big-box stores and national grocery chains, like Walmart and Kroger. But go a few extra miles and you will come to Northwoods Plaza — a one-stop shop for healthy eaters. Food Lion and Publix have the widest selections, but regional chain Fresh Market is a hit with healthy eaters. Featuring a top-of-the-line meat and produce department, Fresh Market has a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood. Nearby, Lowes Foods has a large deli department with pre-made meals for one or one dozen, and the meat and produce departments also offer a broad selection. In a rush to get back to the beach? Send them your grocery list online and they will have your bags waiting on you at the drive-up lane.

* Health Food Stores: There are two popular health food stores located at Northwoods Plaza. Clean Eatz serves low-calorie meals and ready-to-eat dishes that can be microwaved throughout the week, and Bay Naturals operates as a health food store with a side grill that serves tasty lunch items and smoothies.

* Farmers Markets: The Carolinas are famous for agriculture, and sometimes the best place to get the freshest locally grown fruits and vegetables available is to cut out the middleman and go straight to the folks who harvested them. The closest place to The Cottages at North Beach Plantation is the North Myrtle Beach Farmers Market in the downtown district, but if you want to go straight to the source, Indigo Farms just over the Carolina border is situated on the same land where the produce magic happens.

* Seafood Markets: No beach vacation is complete without some fresh local seafood on the grill. You can gamble on catching one big enough to feed the family at one of the nearby fishing piers, or play it safe at one of the local seafood markets. In North Myrtle Beach, Boulineau's and Platt's Seafood offer fresh catches of fish, shrimp, crabs and more, along with all the ingredients you need for a good, old-fashioned Lowcountry Boil. In Myrtle Beach, the famed Mr. Fish seafood restaurant is next door to the Mr. Fish seafood market. If you can't find it here, it ain't biting.

Until your next vacation at The Cottages at North Beach Plantation, here in North Myrtle Beach, have a happy and healthy new year.