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Cooking in an RV is a bit different than preparing a meal in your everyday kitchen. The limited prep area, small cooking appliances, and limited storage space are a few things that make it more challenging.
After three years of making delicious meals in an RV and on our boat, here are five tips we’ve found helpful to ensure cooking in a small space is manageable. With a bit of practice, it can be enjoyable as well!
1. Maximize RV Kitchen Storage
So much of living and cooking in an RV is about utilizing your space. Kitchen storage is high on the list of areas to focus on. The small fridge, compact drawers and cabinets, and limited pantry space will make you stop and consider ways to maximize storage space.
My number one tip for small kitchens is to store ingredients you regularly use in smaller amounts that are easily accessible.
For example, I like to use 5 oz. containers to keep baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, and tomato powder. You can do the same with larger containers for items you buy in bulk, such as rice, oatmeal, or flour.
Store the reserves under a bench or other storage area that isn’t in high demand, and replenish the stocks as needed.
3 Reasons to Store Ingredients in Small Containers
- You can store small stackable containers in a cabinet, and they’ll occupy a fraction of the space of the original containers.
- It’s quicker to get out your ingredients to cook since smaller containers are easier to manage.
- You’ll save a ton of room in precious counter space during the cooking process. There’s nothing like getting your ingredients out and realizing you have no space to actually cook!
NOTE: Make sure to find containers that stack and fit your kitchen space. I’ve found that the largest storage containers are too large for an RV kitchen. You’ll have better luck with something in the 2-quart range.
Kitchen Storage Items
Now that we’ve covered the number one storage tip, here are a few items that can continue to help you maximize kitchen space.
- OPEN BASKETS WITH HANDLES. We are huge fans of this storage item. Containers with handles are great in the fridge for organizing small food items, fruit, snacks, and more. You can also use them in the pantry to organize spices and condiments. The open-top design gives you easy access to your food, and the handles make it easy to grab them off a shelf.
- KNIFE RACK. A mounted magnetic knife rack allows you to store knives and other metal utensils on the wall. This will open up more drawer space for other items.
- VERTICAL STORAGE CONTAINERS. These containers will ensure you get the most out of your pantry storage. Great for flour, baking goods, noodles, rice, oatmeal, snacks, and more. Just make sure to measure before you buy!
- BEESWAX WRAPS. This eco-friendly option takes up little space in the fridge. Wrap cheeses, fruit, veggies, a head of lettuce, and more without using single-use storage items. These are great for covering the top of a serving dish as well.
- COMMAND HOOKS. Use this popular RV storage hack to hang items on the wall and on the backside of cabinet doors. You can hang utensils, a small cutting board, pot holders, and more. If it has a hanging loop, you can find a spot to hang it!
READ NEXT: For more RV storage ideas, check out our 11 Tips for Organizing an RV Kitchen.
2. Get Creative with RV Counter Space
In your camper kitchen, you will likely have a smaller amount of counter space than what you are accustomed to. Learning to use it wisely and being creative with this space is crucial to figuring out the best way to cook in a camper.
To help with the lack of area for meal prep, here are our favorite RV cooking hacks and kitchen adjustments to maximize counter space.
3. Find Your Staple RVing Meals
When we started RVing, how we cooked food and what we ate changed a bit.
There are a few types of dishes that became weekly staples on the road. These RV cooking recipes are usually either one-pot meals, cold dishes, or food that’s just good for camping and cooking outdoors.
When looking for meal ideas, think about things you like to eat that fit into some of the categories above.
Here are six examples of full-time RV meals that work on the road.
- TACOS – These are great because you can put just about anything in a taco! Plus, you can do a lot of the prepping ahead of time. There’s something about tacos that just feels like camping!
- BUDDHA OR HUMMUS BOWLS – These are great on hotter days when you want to keep the RV oven off. You can buy hummus or make it ahead of time, chop your veggies and salad, and you’re good to go. Throw in some naan bread on the side!
- HOMEMADE RAMEN – Ramen is excellent for warming you up during cooler RV travel months. You can make ramen broth easily and add your own veggies and toppings of your choosing.
- PIZZA – Pizza is my favorite weekly camper dinner. Prep your dough and toppings ahead of time, and it’s a quick meal. You can cook pizza in your oven, on a griddle, or on the grill. No time for the dough? Use Naan bread, flat bread, or tortillas as your base and cook in a pan or on a griddle.
- SUSHI – We love having sushi night in the RV, and it doesn’t have to be as intimating as it sounds. You can make delicious sushi with just a few veggies, a couple of sauces, sushi rice, and a protein. Sushi is a fun meal that allows you to be creative!
- STIR FRY – This comfort dish is an easy stovetop RV meal. Grab any leftover veggies and meat you have, chop them up, and toss them in. Add an Asian sauce and some Udon noodles, and you’re good to go!
4. Meal Plan for Easy RV Cooking
Whether you’re planning for a road trip, boondocking in a remote area, or just stocking up for a week, there’s a lot to consider and track.
To put together a meal plan for full-time RV cooking, here are a few things you’ll need to figure out:
Tips for Meal Planning in an RV
When selecting meals, try to pick dishes that have similar or flexible ingredients. If you run out of broccoli, you don’t want your whole meal plan to go off the rails.
If you have a small fridge, try to make dishes with a good mix of fresh and dry ingredients. This can help you stretch your fresh veggies and fridge space.
We also like to stock up on dry ingredients at big box stores. Once we have a good amount of dry and canned foods, we can supplement with quick trips to grocery stores or local farmers’ markets for fresh veggies and fruits.
Organizing Grocery Lists and Recipes
Tracking grocery lists, pantry inventory, and managing recipes takes time and organization. I recommend the Paprika app for all your food management, including saving recipes and making grocery lists.
Why You Need the Paprika App
- The recipe manager allows you to save online recipes in the app where they are available offline and easily searchable. Even when you don’t have cell service, you’ll have access to your recipes. Great for traveling in remote areas!
- The grocery list feature allows you to make lists for multiple stores and enter quantities and notes. You can add a list for Walmart, Costo, the grocery store, Amazon, and more.
- The meal planning feature integrates with your recipes so you can easily organize the RV dinners you are planning for the week.
- The pantry tracking feature allows you to keep a running inventory list of all stored food, including the quantity, when you bought it, and its expiration date. You’ll never forget items in the back of cabinets or depths of the freezer. You can also quickly get ideas for what to cook from your inventory list.
At the time of writing this, the Paprika app has a one-time cost of $4.99. I don’t get any kickback for promoting this app. I just love it!
5. Get the Right Equipment: RV Kitchen Must-Haves
You don’t need a ton of new equipment to cook in an RV efficiently, but there are a few things that will help in your tiny rolling kitchen.
First, here are a few things to consider when outfitting your RV kitchen space.
- Focus on getting rid of duplicates. Also, look at cutting down the number of plates, bowls, and utensils you have to save space.
- Consider how much storage a kitchen item will consume versus how often you use them. Also, think about where you will store items. If it’s too hard to get to, you probably won’t use it!
- Replace single-use items with something multi-purpose. The Instant Pot and slow cookers are popular in the RV community because they can cook many types of dishes and don’t require much attention. Cast iron skillets are also popular since they can be used in the oven, on the stovetop, and even over a fire!
Must-Haves for Your RV Kitchen
Here are our five things to get started in your RV kitchen.
- SMALL VERSIONS OF KITCHENWARE. A small cutting board, tiny storage containers, and a handheld cheese grater are a few examples of items that maximize space in the kitchen.
- NESTING POTS AND BOWLS. Items that nest are going to make storage a lot easier in your RV. We love the Magma nesting pots (shown above) because they are space-efficient and high quality! You can read more about why these nesting pots are perfect for RVs here.
- COLLAPSIBLE TUB. A collapsible tub is a must in the kitchen if you are going to do any dry camping. Insert it into your sink to catch greywater. Reuse the water to wash dishes, and dispose of it outside to save room in the grey tank. We like this 2.5-gallon tub.
- NON-SLIP SHELF LINER. Line your drawers and cabinets with a non-slip shelf liner. This will keep items from sliding around (and making noise) during travel.
- ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTH. Stinky, wet dishrags were something of an annoyance in the RV before finding a solution. Lunatec makes a nylon dishcloth that is odor-resistant, even in very humid areas. This seems like such a small thing, but it’s the little things in tiny living that make a big difference!
RV Life and Cooking
I hope these tips for RV cooking gave you some ideas for your tiny space and how to cook meals in an RV.
Depending on your kitchen space and layout, some things will work better than others. Your RV lifestyle will also affect how you cook – whether you’re stationary or traveling, stay at campgrounds, national parks, or boondock.
I recommend you get comfortable cooking in your space before investing too much in cooking equipment and changes to your layout. You may find the reality of your RV cooking style to be different than what you imagined.
Give yourself time to adjust and find your groove. Most of all, don’t forget to enjoy this journey and enjoy cooking in your RV kitchen!
Want to learn more about how to live in an RV?
For more on essential RV gear, the pros and cons of RVing living, and how to get out on the road, view our complete guide.
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