Cooking in an RV | 15 Useful Tips for Vanlife

Tips for cooking in an RV -

Things to do, to know, to avoid, and unavoidable.

Learn the truth about what it is like to cook in Van/RV,

and Get Ready for your Life on the Road!

With these 15 Useful Tips for Cooking in an RV!


Cooking in an RV in many ways is like cooking at home, while then in reality for many others it is not.

Assuming that the more one travels in an RV, the more surely everyone finds his or her own routines, accouterments, and the most appropriate ways to cook his or her meals on his or her vehicle; in this article, I decided to collect so many little secrets to make the kitchen in the RV more practical, convenient, clean, organized and pleasant.

I hope that at least some of our experiences and little tips will be helpful to you in improving your cooking experience in your van or RV ๐Ÿ˜‰

Of course, at the end of the article, if you have other ideas in your head on how to improve the RV cooking experience, and you feel like sharing them with all the other readers, you are as always welcome to write in the comments section ๐Ÿ™‚

Let’s begin!

1. Think about What You Can Cook:

Plan Smart Spending

what to buy for camper kitchen - Cooking in an RV - VALUABLE TIPS #1

To make your life easier later (when you find yourself cooking in the RV), it is helpful to think beforehand: when shopping!

Shopping for an RV kitchen is not the same as shopping for home: the refrigerator is smaller, cooking space is reduced, no dishwasher will come to your aid when it comes time to wash, and you don’t know exactly when the next time you stop at a supermarket will be.

For all these reasons, when grocery shopping, it is advisable to prefer foods that are easy to prepare and have a long shelf life.

Pre-prepared foods for example can be a great stress-free and time-saving solution, and there are so many kinds: ready-made sauces (making pasta sauce in an RV smells a lot and take a lot of time too), vegetables in oil, cold meats, and cheeses, salads, shelf-stable bread, stable products, etc.

My advice is to already have a plan in your head, before you go to the supermarket, how many meals you will need to have in the RV over the next few days and until the next stop at the supermarket.

Planning a 6-7 day menu idea (or for the duration of your travel leg anyway), will help you buy everything you need, but without overdoing it (remember space is limited!).

Also, always remember to have some spare food with you: when you are on the road in new places, you never know exactly where you will end up, how long you will want to stop, and what stores will be around. If you want to go for the savings (every euro counts!), a final tip is to plan where to do your shopping early, ideally in a large supermarket (normally with the best prices) so you can avoid emergency spending in remote little stores with higher prices and less choice).

2. If something can Tilt It Will:

Learn to Stow Food with Care

cooking cooking in an RV - 15 tips - stow food with care

There is always a first time.

If you have never traveled in Van or in a Camper, on your first outing you will notice: while on the road, anything that is not securely fastened (both on the outside and especially inside the cabinets) you will hear it (banging, rattling) and eventually fall out.

On our first trip, the beers were swinging in the fridge with each brake (we learned to take more so they get stuck together ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), the water canister flew out of our closet (we have now secured it with a strap), and the curry jar fell off the spice rack and covered our floor with curry!

To prevent this from happening to you too (we have now learned our lesson!), it is therefore important to think about the arrangement of your food so that it stays firmly in place while walking.

For liquids, it is ideal to use the refrigerator and always keep the bottles tightly sealed with their caps.

In the cabinets, it is advisable to wedge foods so that they have no play either longitudinally (they would move at every acceleration or braking) or laterally (they would move at every turn). Also, it is good to consider inserting “soft” foods (e.g., packets of pasta, bread, tea, coffee, snacks etc.) between the various glass/aluminum containers so that they do not produce annoying rattling at each hole.

We, for example, always keep a few small packages of noodles in our cupboard, both for those days when just “the urge to cook jumps out at me” and just to “plug” the holes between foods and keep everything firmly in place ๐Ÿ˜‰

3. Remember that You Cook Where You Sleep:

Avoid Overly Spicy Foods!

vanlife camper van kitchen by the bed - tips for cooking in the camper van

The RV is essentially a small apartment on wheels: there is a bed, there may be a living room, a bathroom, and of course the kitchen. Unlike an apartment, however, everything is creatively jammed into about ten (or less!) square meters.

Therefore, especially if you are not traveling alone, it is important to make sure you keep your living area clean, tidy, and most importantly pleasant and livable in terms of humidity, and air quality.

That being said, one piece of dispassionate advice I can give you for when you are thinking about what to cook on your RV is this: avoid foods that are too spicy!

Once, my Isabella (a cooking enthusiast) came up with the idea of cooking an Asian recipe: chicken curry!

Well, I can tell you that ourMaxxfan Ventand open window still did little good: the smell of chicken curry has been with us for almost a week!!! It was basically like traveling in 3: me, Isa and the chicken curry! ๐Ÿ˜‰

In fact, strong odors can stick to clothes, fabrics and walls, and eliminating them can be more complicated than you think. Therefore, I advise you to go easy on fried and very spicy foods.


4. Don’t put it off until Later,

What you can Wash Now!

vanlife camper cooking tips - wash dishes as soon as you can - tips for cooking in an rv

In a small space, in order not to get overwhelmed with clutter, the best thing to do is to clean one thing as soon as you are done using it. Getting into this good habit will surely help you live better, cleaner and tidier lives.

A second good reason to do this, is that by leaving dirty things for later, perhaps these will become encrusted and washing them will be much more complicated and require more (always precious!) water.

If you only have one sink like us then (we use it for both cooking and personal hygiene), surely you understand that having to brush your teeth on top of a pile of dirty dishes (and maybe with the smell of chicken curry in your nostrils! xD) is not the best.

If you really want to put it off until later, at least remember to put the pans in the sink with a little water so they don’t get crusty.

When washing finally, I recommend that you scrub all your dirty accessories thoroughly and rinse at the end, again to save water.

On our first trips, most of our water was used for washing dishes; then over time we figured out how to safeguard it and how to do all the washing military style.

5. When Cooking, think about Tomorrow too:

Tupperware is your Friend!

tupperwear in camper - tips for cooking in camper van RV hacks

As will probably happen to you more or less often at home, the same thing can happen in the RV: sometimes, you just don’t feel like putting in the effort to cook!

For these occasions, a good solution may be to equip yourself with Tupperwear (there are even ingenious ones space-saving models!) and learn how to recycle food from previous days.

Those times you do cook after all, why not cook a little more and put it in the refrigerator for when you are hungry again and have little desire to cook? That way, you’ll soil fewer pots and pans, you’ll have to wash fewer of them, and you’ll have food ready on hand for those times you don’t feel like cooking.

Also, the less worlds you produce on an RV the better (in the end, you have to carry them around until you find a place to dump them!) and damp especially. Be sure, however, when recycling leftover food that has been cooked for multiple days, remember to keep an eye on the expiration date of all ingredients.

6. What You Dirty You Must Wash:

Choose All-in-One-Pot Recipes!

recipes all in one pot - camper cooking vanlife tips - cooking in an RV tips

On our DIY camper van, we installed a two-burner induction plate. Do you know how many times we used the two fires in a year? Probably yes and no 2-3 times ๐Ÿ˜‰

Everything that is used then needs to be washed (by hand and no dishwasher) and put back. Water is limited, and being fans of boondocking, the water tank directly affects our off-grid range before we have to switch to refuel.

The need to save-water, soon led us to find recipes where we cook everything in one pan (e.g., chili with meat, chicken and peppers, stuffed piadinas, tortellini, pasta with ready-made sauces etc. etc.).

Of course, the matter changes if you are fond of cooking, or if you are often in organized rest areas or campings where you have plenty of water ๐Ÿ˜‰ In these cases, you will probably have more opportunity to indulge and get a little dirtier ๐Ÿ™‚

7. Remember the Basics of Cooking:

Oil, Salt and Spices must never be lacking!

spice rack in a camper van - lost on the route - tips for cooking in an rv

Have you ever wondered why in so many videos of camper vans and RVs you see garish spice pantries, often well in view as well?

Well, the answer to this question is that when you are limited to cooking in a small space and only with some apparatus, spices in the end are a small space compromise (they take up very little) that can lead to a big difference in taste!

Sprinkling a little pepper, a little chili, oregano, or rosemary (etc.) on your dish takes only a few seconds, and can certainly give it a more intense, distinctive, and different taste. Be sure, as mentioned above, not to overdo the spices when cooking (the spirit of chicken curry is still with us! hahaha).

Similarly, oil and salt are things that should never be lacking in any RV, because they really can save any meal: I suggest you check them from time to time, better to have two packs than to risk running out! ;D

8. Life on the Road brings Hunger in the Weirdest Moments:

May the Snacks always be with you!

travel snacks - vanlife tips - cooking in an RV tips

Whether you are planning very long roadtrips or short trips, an important tip is to always have travel snacks with you (can they be sweet, salty, vegetable, energy or various junk ? ).

When traveling, you never know when your stomach (or that of those traveling with you) will wake up and beg you to fill it.

Sometimes a stop to cook is inconvenient, sometimes you want to pull straight to your destination, sometimes there are no supermarkets nearby and sometimes they are closed… etc. In all these cases, normally what happens is that you stop at a gas station and impulsively buy whatever happens, maybe paying twice as much Than what it would cost in a supermarket.

To avoid falling into this trap, simply think about it at the time of shopping: that way you can choose snacks that suit your taste, are healthier (if you so desire), cheaper and have them available already in your campervan during the trip.

Between us then: munching on something during long hours of travel is also very pleasant and helps to stay awake! ;D ๐Ÿ™‚

9. Be careful not to engorge the drain:

It may stink sooner than you think!

surprised by a hole in the van - cooking in an RV tips - don't engorge the sink

Your van’s drain does not go into the sewer as it does at home, but only a few inches below, down to your graywater tank. Which means, that any piece of food that might fall into it (sauce, pieces of eggs, oil etc.), might smell very soon and Thus creating a really unpleasant smell inside Of your apartment on wheels.

If then the hose should really become completely engorged at some point, there you would have nothing left to do but disassemble your drain hoses until you find the blocked part, and manually clean them (with the hoses normally used in RVs kitchens, it is not advisable to use aggressive products).

To avoid this, there are four easy things to keep in mind: pre-clean dishes, use a clog filter in the sink, avoid emptying greasy liquids (oil) into the sink, and install a siphon.

Pre-cleaning your dishes is very simple: before you throw your dirty dishes under the water, wipe them with napkins or a piece of paper towel, so that you already remove all the residue that could cause problems. The same goes for greasy fittings: by all means prevent any oil from getting into your pipes: greasy pipes are more likely to become clogged over time.

Then if you also use the sink as a personal hygiene sink (in our van for example we do), installing an anti-clog filter anyway surely can be a wise choice to prevent both bits of food and long hair from falling down the drains.

Lastly, against odors, an excellent solution is to install a siphon (a “U-shaped” pipe just below the sink) so that the water that stops at the bottom of the pipe’s bend (by gravity) obstructs the return of unpleasant odors from the graywater tank.


10. Space in a Campervan is Gold:

Choose Space-Saving Equipment and Tools!

camper space-saving tools - cooking tips - cooking in an RV tips

Space inside an RV or camper van is gold, and really every inch counts!

The normal equipment we use for cooking at home (e.g., pots, pans, pans, containers etc.) are often very bulky, rarely fit together well, and almost always take up much more space than we would be willing to sacrifice in our vehicles.

Fortunately for us, there are nowadays so many space-saving solutions to minimize the space consumption of kitchen materials: think for example of a Multifunctional Folding Chopping Board with Colander, or a Stackable Pots with Removable Handle or a Space-Saving Foldable Dish Drainer etc. etc. Really the list would be so long!

Stacking pots and pans one inside the other surely is the most space-saving solution of all (with removable handles); then come the multifunctional items, collapsible/collapsible accessories and, of course, organizers (which again, come in all shapes, materials and types).

Personally, I would advise you to spend some time when searching for kitchen accessories, so that you can find the ones that best suit YOUR vehicle, YOUR space and YOUR needs: you don’t need three thousand, but a few, essential and functional ones.

11. Water is not Infinite:

Learn to Make Military Use of it (or Drink Beer! ๐Ÿ˜‰

safeguard water in camper van DIY - drinking beer - tips cooking camper vanlife - cooking in an RV tips

Depending on the capacity of the clear water tank installed in your RV or van, you will have more or less water available, but in any case still limited.

Therefore, when cooking in your RV, it is always a good idea to think about the water consumption required for food preparation and for rinsing dirty dishes, so that you arrive with the water you need at least until your next topping-up stop.

To save water in an RV, you can, for example, pre-clean and scrub the dishes before rinsing them, install a foot pump to help you better dose the water flow, choose to cook dishes that do not require water, and above all, remember not to let the water run unnecessarily (open-use-close and repeat).

The first time we used our van, probably all the water in our tank (135L) lasted us no more than 3 days. Now, with a little experience, we can easily get well over a week! Eventually, saving water will slowly become a habit with time ๐Ÿ™‚

Then of course, if you want to be really hardcore, you can also save water to drink and choose more “hoppy” alternatives, such as for example a cold beer;D

12. Hand Drying is often Mandatory:

Arm yourself with Fabric Towels, Spon,ges and Paper towels!

camper dishcloths - vanlife - tips for cooking in an RV - cooking in an RV tips

If you’ve never traveled in an RV or van before, maybe you don’t know yet; if not, you already know what I’m talking about: the paper towel in an RV kitchen is VITAL!

Wiping up food splashes, removing halos and stains, wiping surfaces, improvising napkins, dabbing accidental spills etc… really without paper towels I don’t know how we would do it! If you want to keep your RV clean, make sure you never run out of paper towels๐Ÿ˜‰

That said, of course it is a good idea to be resourceful so as not to waste more paper than necessary.

Therefore, it is a always a good idea to have in your RV both dishcloths (in fabric – for drying washed dishes and one’s own hands) and kitchen sponges (for washing and drying surfaces without always resorting to the well-loved paper towels).

13. Always have a Cold Plate Option ready,

Sometimes Cooking Might Not Be Possible!

cooking cold dishes in camper van - cooking in an RV tips

Did the gas bottle run out? Or is there not enough electricity in the batteries for the induction plate? Or do you really have little desire to cook or little time to do it?

For all these situations, which on the street can happen (and trust me they do!), the best solution may simply be to keep alternatives of cold dishes, which can be prepared without the use of the stove and consumed quickly .

There are an infinite number of cold dishes, and having some with you will surely come in handy: you never know what and where the road will take you ๐Ÿ˜‰

Some examples might be cold cuts, cheeses, salads, sandwiches, pickles–even a sushi! ;D Your imagination is the limit!

14. Cooking Outside is More Beautiful:

Consider a BBQ or portable stove!

camper cooking outside - cooking in a van rv vanlife tips for kitchen smart

Going out and cooking outside your van is always a new experience, as it allows you to relax in the fresh air and soak in the place around you while breathing deeply. In our opinion, wherever it is possible, convenient and peaceful to do so, cooking outside the van is worth doing.

Cooking inside the camper/van is cramped, you risk getting dirty around, and most importantly it is a bit like cooking in your home kitchen (always the same).

Cooking outside, on the other hand, always with a different landscape, is another experience every time, and if there are other campers or vanlifers parked nearby, it can quickly become a social situation to meet other people and make friends.

For outdoor cooking in all possible situations, we have equipped ourselves with Portable Cartridge Cooker (gas) and a removable and portableFennek Hexagonal Brazier with its Fennek Grill also removable and space-saving.

15. Not Everything Can Be Cooked Everywhere:

Adapt your Menu to the Place Where You Are!

DIY camper VAN kitchen - cooking in a van motorhome

In the mountains, fresh fish is hard to come by, and pasta water takes longer to boil.

In a place where it rains often, cooking outside is a problem, and planning your meals inside can be a wise choice.

In a windy place, a BBQ is not a good idea, and perhaps a gas stove with a pot and lid may work better.

In a place that is too hot, certain perishable foods may go bad. Etc. etc.

Unfortunately, as you see in these examples, it is important to keep in mind that not everything is always cookable everywhere.

Therefore, it is a good habit when traveling in an RV or van to predict the future a little, watch the weather forecast, and above all adapt to local conditions both in terms of food choice and food preparation.

By cultivating these small habits, you can be sure that every meal will be delicious and easy to prepare, wherever you are.

15 Useful Tips for Cooking in the Camper – Conclusion and Bonus

tips for cooking in an RV - pizza

And here we come to the end of this article. These were 15 Practical Tips for Cooking on a Camper, all directly extrapolated from our personal experience cooking in vans.

Before we say good-bye, I want to leave you with a bonus one: ric remember that from time to time, just as it is nice to spoil yourself at home, it is also nice and allowed to spoil yourself while traveling in an RV ๐Ÿ˜‰

For this reason, if sometimes you just don’t feel like it, if maybe you have guests and you don’t want to put yourself out to snack, or if you just feel the need, remember that you can always put down the chef’s hat for a day and indulge in a Take-Away or at a lunch out;D

That is all for the moment!

What about you, do you happen tohave any other mindfulness tips that you would like to share with other readers or that you think could be added to the list?

As always, I invite you to let us know in the comments below! ๐Ÿ™‚

Once again, thank you for reading,

and see you in the next articles!!!


Other Recommended Article:

DIY Camper Kitchen: The Complete Guide





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