Just because we live in a small RV with a tiny kitchen doesn’t mean we don’t put out some delicious gourmet meals. Since downsizing to our tiny Class C motorhome, I’ve figured out a whole new way of cooking, storing ingredients and reassessing my kitchen gadgets. Now that I have that all down, we’re back on track to creating amazing meals; just on a much smaller scale.
There are several reasons why we choose to eat in. It can get quite costly eating out when figuring in meals, drinks, taxes and tips. But also, eating healthy is a huge concern. By dining in, it allows us to save money and our health.
Welcome to our meal planning and RV cooking tips!
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Meal Planning and RV Cooking Tips for Tiny Kitchens
Before we get started, ask yourself the following questions:
- How long you’ll be on the road vs. parked?
- How often will you be eating in?
- How many will you be feeding?
- Anyone with diet restrictions and food allergies?
- Will you have ample refrigeration space for longer excursions?
- Are there grocery stores along the say and at your destinations?
- Availability of getting specialty food items?
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 knowing exactly what you and your family will be eating on specified days. It’s also figuring out how many portions you’ll be serving (and storing) and the ingredients you’re going to need.
Don’t think you have to slave over a hot stove for every meal. We typically plan one heavy meal per day; either lunch or dinner. Then, throughout the day, we will munch on lighter healthy snacks (more on those later in the article).
But for you and your family, it may require more extensive meal planning. Whichever the case, sit down and coordinate your menu. Plan fun themes like Taco Tuesday, Pasta Wednesday or Fish Friday.
Oh, and keep track of your meal plan by journaling it in a meal planner. That way, you have everything in front of you from your shopping list to actual meal ideas.
Consider diet restrictions
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.
Or, specialty or diet-restrictive menu items may be very expensive than what you’re accustomed to. So plan accordingly. You may have to stock up on your favorite natural sweeteners, almond flour or rice milk before hooking up and hauling out.
Inventory your ingredients and supplies
Once your menu planning is complete, it’s time to open your pantry and refrigerator to take an inventory of 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. In my opinion, if you’re not RVing full-time or your RV is a small motorhome or camper, buy smaller sizes of condiments, herbs and spices. And, don’t go crazy buying a bunch of them. Buy only what you need for your menu.
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, then you’re most likely not going to shop in advance more than a couple days. But 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, we always find out the best places to eat regional foods, sightseeing recommendations and where the best roads to traverse.
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 pick those ingredients up along the way. Oh and those bottles, jars and cans create bulky and heavy trash which may make it difficult to find proper 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 in your RV, tow vehicle or toad.
Have the right RV kitchen gadgets and cooking utensils
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, then your stock of kitchen utensils won’t require much. However, if you love to chef it up, you’ll want to make certain you have all the right tools 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. However, you need to have a place to store them. Again, it bears repeating, depending on the size of your RV, weight is critical. So having everything plus the kitchen sink may not work for your smaller motorhome, camper or van.
You may want to not want to store a kitchen gadget or appliance you’re only going to use once. Asking a neighbor at the campground or RV park to borrow a kitchen gadget is always an option.
That said, there are the basic cooking supplies you may will need in your RV kitchen depending on your menu. Here’s a few we recommend:
Planning a spaghetti night or pulled pork sandwiches for lunch one day? You can pre-cook some of your meals and freeze them for later. When our RV is parked in a campground with full hookups, I will do a massive batch cooking. That way, I have enough electricity to simultaneously use my instant pot, air fryer and convection oven.
For example, I’ll throw in a large Boston butt pork roast and slow cook it 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 or bike ride.
Some people may call that ‘eating leftovers’ but I call it preparing smartly!
Some 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 cut raw veggies with throw-away dressing packs, fresh fruit, 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. We also love to keep a variety of nut packs and healthy low-carb high-protein bars.
Check out these amazing RV Cooking Tips and Camping Cookbooks:
So, there’s a plethora of meal planning and RV cooking tips that will have you rolling stress-free down the road to amazing adventures without worrying about where you’re going to score your next meal!
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