Just because we live in a small RV with a tiny kitchen doesn’t mean putting out delicious gourmet meals isn’t just a pipe dream. Since downsizing to our tiny Class C motorhome, I’ve formulated a whole new way of meal planning and some RV cooking tips. From storing provisions and ingredients to my much-needed kitchen gadgets, we simply don’t have the storage we were accustomed to before which affected the way I cooked. But now that I have that all down. While we are enjoying our even more nomadic RV lifestyle, I can still chef it up in the kitchen! Just on a much smaller scale.
There are several reasons why we choose to eat in. First, it can get quite costly eating out when figuring in meals, drinks, taxes and tips. But secondly, our meals are healthier because we know exactly what’s in them (sodium, carbohydrates, fat, etc.).
So, knowing how to meal plan and cook in such a small kitchen makes all the difference in the world; for our health and for our wallet. Welcome to our meal planning and RV cooking tips tutorial!
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Meal Planning and RV Cooking Tips for Tiny Kitchens
Before even thinking of stuffing your RV refrigerator and pantry full of provisions and supplies, you’ll need to determine a few important points:
- 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?
1. Menu planning
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 every meal. 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) as we’re on the go.
But for you and your family, it may require more extensive meal planning. Whichever the case, sit down and decide what you’ll be feasting on each day. Do something fun like 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.
If you stick with a menu plan, you’ll be more-prepared and less-stressed so you can truly enjoy your RV adventures.
2. Consider diet restrictions
Accommodating diet restrictions (gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, high-fat, vegan, vegetarian, etc.) on the road can present challenges. Be aware! If you’re going to travel through or to more rural regions, know that some specialty food items may not be available. Or, they may be very expensive that what you’re accustomed to. So plan accordingly. You may have to stock up on your favorite extra natural sweetener, almond flour or rice milk before hooking up your toad or your RV camper.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Having 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.
Such 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. could be essential to a preparing and cooking your meals. Be aware though, you need to have a place to store them. And 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 particular motorhome, fifth wheel, travel trailer or even camper van.
You may want to curtail taking a kitchen gadget or appliance you’re only going to use once. Asking a neighbor at the campground or RV park to borrow something you don’t have is always an option.
That said, there are basic cooking gadgets you may will need in your RV kitchen depending on your menu. Here’s a few we recommend:
6. Batch Cooking
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.
Some 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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