There’s a lot to consider when you are cooking in an RV, since you may be limited by factors like storage space, cooking fuel, electricity, water, and equipment. However, that’s not to say that you can’t make delicious and nutritious meals while you’re on the road. Here are seven helpful tips—from a veteran RVer—for cooking at your RV campsite.
1. Plan simple meals
Whether you are heading out for a weekend adventure or you live on the road full-time in your RV, it’s essential to plan your meals ahead of time. That way, you can buy exactly what you need to avoid overstuffing your RV’s fridge and storage compartments, wasting food, and getting to your campsite only to realize that you forgot the cheese for quesadilla night. There’s nothing more annoying than having to fire up your RV immediately after you got all settled in just to run to the store—that is, if there’s even a store nearby!
Additionally, unless cooking is your passion, opt for simple meals that won’t take hours to prepare or use dozens of pots and pans. Going RVing is generally meant to be a way to unwind and relax, so choosing simple meals can help reduce time spent on chores and maximize time spent having fun. Think one-pan meals or even no-cook foods like wraps, sandwiches, or salads.
2. Prep ingredients and meals at home
If you prefer to have a bit more luxurious meals but don’t relish the hassle of preparing everything in an RV without all of your home kitchen accouterments, consider prepping ingredients or even full meals at home ahead of time. You can freeze or refrigerate pre-made items like lasagna or other casserole-type foods and simply pop them in your RV oven. You can even prepare it in a disposable baking pan for a true no-prep, no-cleanup experience at the campground.
Alternatively, you can prep meal components ahead of time to save time and space. For example, you can wash and chop broccoli at home so it’ll take up less space in your fridge than full heads, or trim and cut down any meat that you’ll be using to avoid having to clean a cutting board and knife with raw meat germs on them in a tiny RV sink. Also consider portioning ingredients out ahead of time so you can simply throw everything together at your destination for a quick and easy meal.
3. Shop before you hit the road
Depending on where you’ll be camping, you may not have access to your favorite grocery store—or any grocery store, for that matter. This goes hand-in-hand with planning your meals ahead of time. Once you’ve planned, shop for everything that you’ll need. Or, at the very least, be sure to grab any specialty ingredients or things that you absolutely can’t live without while you’re traveling.
4. Know the campground’s policy on outdoor cooking
If you plan to grill outside at your campground, check to make sure the park allows outdoor cooking. Some areas do not, especially during the summer season when wildfires are a serious risk. Also check whether the campground has fireplace grills at each campsite or full-on BBQs in a communal area, or whether you’ll need to bring your own grill. And, of course, be sure to bring plenty of propane or charcoal if necessary. You can also ask the campground hosts whether they have a store on site that sells fuel and firewood. If you’ll be grilling on a fireplace grill, remember that you’ll need to purchase firewood, or bring it with you from a local source—burn it where you buy it to help prevent the spread of invasive insects that can ravage forests.
5. Bring only the essentials
Since you’ve planned simple meals and prepped things ahead of time, you should only need the absolute essentials in terms of kitchen tools and dining equipment. Think through your meal plan and make a list of exactly what you’ll need for each meal. This will probably include things like:
Pots and pans and their lids
Trivets (to protect your countertop from hot pots and pans)
A mixing spoon
A mixing bowl
Knives and a cutting board
Plates, bowls, cups, silverware, napkins
A bottle opener and wine corkscrew
Dish soap, a sponge or scrubber, and a dish towel
Containers for leftovers
Basic ingredients like olive oil, butter, salt and pepper, spices, etc.
With these essentials, you can certainly get by for many types of meals. However, you can of course add specialty items to your list if you want to get more creative, like a drink shaker set, a griddle for bacon and pancakes, a steamer for vegetables, and so forth. And, if you have plenty of storage space and will have unlimited electricity and water at a campground with full hookups, you can bring things like an Instant Pot, Crockpot, toaster oven, and blender.
6. Rely on non-perishables for some meals
You may not want to cook and wash dishes for every meal, or maybe you’re going on an extended trip and don’t have room to bring fresh food for every meal. Either way, it’s always a good idea to have some non-perishables on hand. Think canned soups or chilis, packaged ramen, boxed pasta mixes or pasta and sauce, granola or cereal bars, trail mix, etc. These types of foods can be perfect for lowkey meals as well as snacks to enjoy around the campsite or on the go.
7. Experiment with campfire cooking
Finally, if your campground does allow campfires and outdoor cooking, consider experimenting with campfire cooking. This can be as simple as s’mores—sure, we’ll count that as cooking—or you can create a whole meal with things like foil-wrapped campfire potatoes, kebabs cooked over the fire, or even campfire pizza cooked in a dutch oven. However, if you’ve never cooked over a campfire before, be aware that the variable heat can be tricky to manage. It’s always a good idea to have some backup food available just in case things go wrong. Good thing you’re prepared for disaster with those non-perishables!
While an RV kitchen will never be as luxurious as your home kitchen, you can still whip up some tasty meals on the road. With these seven simple tips for cooking at your RV campsite, you can help ensure a low-stress, enjoyable trip with plenty of delicious food. Shop Basic Survival Gear for Camping. Bon appetit!