Welcome back to our series about real life on the road! Several people have asked recently about meals on the road: how we make them, what our kitchen set-up is like, what our limitations are with meal prep while living in an RV, and simply what we eat. We’ll tackle the first few questions here and write a separate post about our typical meals on the road. Enjoy and stay tuned!
The other day I was talking to a friend and colleague about some “real-world-reentry-ideas” (yes, we are starting to consider what happens when we get back to NC in December) and she mentioned that she really likes our blog posts about our everyday life on the road.
So with this in mind let’s talk cooking. If it were up to me we’d subsist on a steady diet of Panda Express, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and Five Guys Burgers & Fries. But it isn’t up to me, we are on a tight budget, and I would like to live to see my 42nd birthday so we tend to make the vast majority of our own meals.
Our refrigerator/freezer is about 1/3 the size of a normal household refrigerator which means we can’t go too crazy grocery shopping. But if we are efficient in our packing of said refrigerator we can fit a lot in there. Think of all the empty space in your home refer, subtract that out and you’ve got something about the size of ours. It runs off electricity when we are plugged into shore power at a “fancy” campground (a rarity for us) and propane when we are not plugged in. Don’t ask me how it works; it has something to do with boiling ammonia.
It’s a simple three burner stove that runs off our propane supply. It basically has three settings (1) the sun, (2) slightly less hot than the sun, and (3) off. It works well if you want things hot in a hurry. Not as well if you want to simmer something. There is no simmer; just various states of boil. That said, we’ve learned our stove and have become pretty good at cooking on it.
It’s about the size of an easy bake oven but doesn’t work quite as well. It too is powered by propane. It doesn’t heat evenly and its temperature control is very much a game of culinary roulette. We did add a pizza stone above the heating element that has helped a great deal. We don’t really bake with it but we do use it from time-to-time to “prepare” frozen or cold items such as a take-and-bake-cookies or frozen biscuits. It is also a bit of a propane hog so it just isn’t very efficient to make small portions. As an aside, on cold mornings it is nice to leave the oven door open and let the pizza stone radiate heat for 30 minutes or so as you enjoy a hot biscuit (once the propane is turned off, obviously). For the most part our oven gets used for bakeware and dishware storage.
We have one! But unless we are plugged into shore power (again, rarely) we can’t use it. So, it typically serves as a very nice extra cabinet. When we are plugged in, it works quite well.
We really like our sink. It’s a double-basin model with big, deep bowls. It also has a tall, pull-down faucet. This combination makes preparing meals and washing dishes quick and easy.
Perhaps the best purchase we made before leaving home was our Char-Broil Grill2Go Tru Infrared grill. We generally use the grill several times a week. It fits neatly into our “basement” (the storage space under our RV) and runs off small, 16oz propane bottles (think small green cylinders you can pick up at any big box store). I’ve owned my fair share of grills and this is by far my favorite. It’s easy to cook on, clean, and works extraordinarily well. Best of all, it’s small enough to go just about anywhere. Simply put, we love this thing!
We use our individual-size blender for smoothies somewhat frequently. We can use the inverter (i.e. battery power) to run this just about anytime we want. Our toaster requires shore power, as does the crock pot we still haven’t used and should have left at home. Jessie’s tiny coffee maker that also requires shore power has all but been replaced by her Melitta pour-over, meaning that the coffee maker should have been left at home as well. You can imagine that when we pay for shore power we go a little bit crazy using the toaster and microwave. It’s a bit like Christmas and we feel like kings as we eat toast (TOAST!) and reheat leftover food in the microwave (after we empty its contents).
Cabinet and Counter Space:
For an RV/Travel Trailer of our size (roughly 25 feet), we have a ton of cabinet and counter space. Most RVs our size are designed for weekenders and vacationers, and the kitchens reflect this reality in a lack of storage space. Our unit and its spacious storage can easily store 1-3 weeks of “dry” food and 1-2 weeks of fresh food and allows ample counter prep space. This was a priority for us when we were RV shopping as we knew that due to our limited budget we wouldn’t be eating out very often.
Stocking the Kitchen:
For the most part we simply brought a limited supply of pots, pans, and utensils we’d been using daily since we got married five years ago, supplemented by the occasional $.75 item from a thrift store. Certainly there are times when we’ve thought “we should have brought the _________” but those are infrequent. In fact, we find ourselves saying “we should have left that at home” more frequently. For the most part we did a fantastic job bringing just enough of everything to make life in the kitchen quite functional.
It took us a few weeks on the road to really learn to use our kitchen, pay attention to water and propane use, and figure out a good storage plan. We are now quite comfortable with our kitchen. In fact, all three components of the infamous “kitchen triangle” (cooktop, sink, refrigerator) are all accessible within one step. It is the most efficient kitchen we’ve ever used. I guess that’s what you get when you live in 168 sqft. We’ve just got to be sure there aren’t too many cooks in the kitchen.
PS – Read our previous post in this series here; for a tour of our RV check this out; for other lessons learned visit us here; and for our story of finally figuring out our energy vampire in the fridge, click here.