RV cooking has it’s own set of challenges because of time, space and weight restraints. But, living in an RV with a tiny kitchen doesn’t mean we sacrifice healthy meals or cost us a pretty penny. So, with a few RV cooking tips and menu planning strategies, you too, can create some amazing meals!
One of the reasons why we don’t dine out more than once or twice a week are two-fold.
Firstly, it get quite costly eating out. By the time we figure in meals, drinks, taxes and tips, we could eat for several days in our RV.
Second, eating in allows us to monitor our food, ingredients and health. Dining in allows us to save money and eat healthier.
So, we wanted to share our tips on meal planning, preparing and our RV cooking tips to help you have the same success on the road.
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Meal Planning and RV Cooking Tips for Tiny Kitchens
First, ask yourself the following questions:
- How long you’ll be on the road vs. parked?
- Anyone with diet restrictions and food allergies?
- How many will you be feeding?
- Will you have ample refrigeration space for longer excursions?
- How often will you be eating in?
- Are there grocery stores along the say and at your destinations?
- Availability of getting specialty food items?
Answering those questions will give you better perspective in planning your menu and buying your groceries.
“If you stick with a menu, you’ll be more-prepared and less-stressed; spending less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your RV adventures!”
Menu planning is scheduling exactly what you and your family will be eating on specified days. It’s also figuring out how many portions and ingredients you’re going to need to prepare your meals.
But here’s the thing. Don’t think you have to slave over a hot stove for every meal. That will take all the fun out of the reason you’re RVing.
We typically plan one heavy meal per day; either lunch or dinner. Then, throughout the day, we will munch on light healthy snacks (more on those later in the article).
For you and your family, it may require more extensive menu planning because you have more mouths to feed with different tastes. Whichever the case, sit down and coordinate your menu. Planning meal themes like Taco Tuesday, Pasta Wednesday or Fish Friday will add excitement and fun to your meals.
Oh, and it’s easier if you keep track of your meals using a menu planner journal. That way, you have everything in front of you from your shopping list to actual meal ideas. And, you can refer back to your menu planner often.
If you’re going to travel through or to more rural regions, know that some specialty food items may not be available. So, accommodating diet restrictions (gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, high-fat, vegan, vegetarian, etc.) on the road may present challenges if you don’t plan.
Also, specialty foods and diet-restrictive ingredients may be very expensive in different parts of the country. But also, availability of those ingredients may present more challenges. So plan accordingly.
You may have to stock up on natural and organic foods, almond flour or rice milk before hooking up and hauling out to your next destination
Inventory your ingredients and supplies
Now, it’s time to open your pantry and refrigerator to take an inventory of the provisions you already have. Looking at your menu, list any ingredients you need to shop for.
Also, considering how long your RV trip is, consider how much space you’ll need to store the ingredients for each meal.
You’ll want to buy smaller sizes of condiments, herbs and spices. Buy only what you need for your menu. Sometimes, I’ll even plan some meals around those ingredients that I have left over as to not waste them.
Shopping for provisions
When shopping for ingredients, know the difference between perishables and nonperishables. Perishables are fresh foods that expire quickly (fresh meats, fish, produce and dairy products). Nonperishables are foods or ingredients that have been preserved to have longer shelf-life such as items that are canned, bottled or vacuum-packed.
So, if you’re planning meals that are going to require perishable foods, you’re most likely not going to shop in advance more than a couple days.
You can alleviate that by shopping at local farmer’s markets. Personally, we love buying our produce at farmer’s markets because it’s locally grown, fresher and supports the local economy.
Additionally, these are oftentimes the best places to find regional foods, talk to the locals about sightseeing recommendations and the best roads to drive.
If you know you’re going to be where grocery stores are plenty, don’t bog down your RV with unnecessary weight with heavy bottles, jars and cans. You can certainly pick those ingredients up along the way. But also, think about all those bottles, jars and cans that create bulky and heavy trash. That in itself can present challenges of finding recycling or trash disposals.
Unless you’re going to be RVing to a desolate or sparse location, grocery stores are typically within a 20-30 mile radius of your destinations. So, don’t think you need to pack everything into your pantry, fridge and freezer at the beginning of your trip. Just make sure you have your meal planner journal within arm’s reach at all times.
Having the right tool to do the job
RV kitchens are very small and don’t afford much storage space for excessive kitchen gadgets and cooking tools. If you’re a simple cook, you certainly won’t need many cooking tools, utensils or small kitchen appliances. However, if you love to chef it up, you’ll want to make certain you have all the right tools and appliances to make an absolutely fabulous meal.
Also, having small appliances like an Instant Pot (3-quart or 6-quart or 8-quart), cast iron dutch oven, grilling pan, wok, pasta pot, rice cooker, smoothie maker or food processor, etc. might be essential to a preparing and cooking your meals. But be careful; you have weight and space to think about before packing all those kitchen appliances into your RV.
It always bears repeating, keep in mind your RV GVWR. Depending on the size of your RV, weight is critical. So having everything plus the kitchen sink may not be feasible for smaller motorhomes, campers or vans.
Plus, it doesn’t make sense to store a kitchen gadget or appliance you’re only going to use once. So, asking a neighbor at the campground or RV park to borrow a kitchen gadget is always an option.
All of that said, there are the basic cooking supplies you may will need in your RV kitchen depending on your menu, how you prepare and cook your foods.
Here are our recommendations:
Batch cook a family pack of chicken breasts and freeze them individually for salads and snacks for later.
Planning a spaghetti night or pulled pork sandwiches for lunch one day? You can pre-cook a larger batch and freeze them for later. We call that batch cooking.
When we park our RV at a campground with full hookups, I will do a batch cook meats, soups and pasta dishes. I will simultaneously use my instant pot, air fryer and convection oven while also cooking on our gas cooktop.
For example, I’ll throw in a large Boston butt pork roast to slow cook all day in my Instant Pot. That will provide at least 5 or 6 meals!
Or, I’ll bake 6 or 7 chicken breasts at the same time, bag them individually and freeze. And sauces, soups and stews?? Yes!! By batch cooking prior to your RV trip will prove to be a huge time saver for those days coming back from an all-day paddle on the lake or bike ride at a National Park.
RV Cooking Tips
- Don’t cook a new recipe with ingredients or cooking methods you’re not familiar with on an RV trip. Or, at least have a backup plan if it doesn’t turn out.
- When cooking meat, always cook for more than one meal and freeze what’s left in individual packages. Then you can take a chicken breast or two out for tomorrow’s lunch Caesar salad or Chicken Salad sandwiches.
- Always have pre-cooked bacon and lots of it! It’s perfect to throw on salads or reheat for breakfast, in BLT sandwiches or a protein snack.
- Planning spaghetti sauce or soup dinner for tomorrow’s or the following day’s dinner? Empty all the can, bottle or jar ingredients into a large plastic zipper bag and store it in to the refrigerator. Once we get to our destination, I’ll just empty the whole bag into my Instant Pot to slow cook.
- Assign each crew member their own sealable cup and water bottle to save on dirty dishes.
If you’re adventurous like us, you don’t want to stay tethered to the kitchen counter or stovetop. So, we like to have healthy snacks on hand for grazing throughout the day. We also like to pack little snack packs or lunches for our outings. Not only does that enable us to save a little money but also entices us to eat healthier and sensibly.
Our go-to stash includes like fresh whole fruits, raw veggies with throw-away dressing packs, olive packs and individual size of almond butter or peanut butter packs we can keep in our pocket, hard-boiled eggs, quality lunchmeat, cheese sticks, hummus, guacamole, dips and dressings.
RV Cooking Tips and Camping Cookbooks:
Wrapping Up Meal Planning and RV Cooking Tips for Tiny Kitchens
We hope these meal planning and RV cooking tips that will have you rolling down the road to better health with more money in your pocket. But also,, less stress so you can concentrate more on your RV adventures without worrying about where your next meal is going to come from!
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