RV meal planning is tough. When you’re thinking of hitting the open road, you’re probably thinking adventure, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and hearty meals cooked around a fire. What you might not be thinking of, is the less-glamorous, day-to-day task of cooking your daily meals in your RV.
Once the glitz and glamour of life on the road wears off and the reality sets in, having some systems in place to keep you well-fed are crucial. The last thing you want to be doing is relying on gas station snacks and whatever meals you can find on the road. Not only will this get expensive and time consuming, but your health will eventually suffer for it as well.
Keep in mind some of the following RV meal planning tips to eat in style, no matter what state you’re in or what campsite or driveway you’re waking up in!
Using Your Kitchen on Wheels
One of the main perks to having an RV is that you have your home on wheels. And since the kitchen is the heart of the home, use it!
Most RVs these days, even older ones, will have a moderately sized fridge, stove and oven, microwave, and ample counter space. Perhaps the most obvious but most helpful tip we can give is to simply think of your RV kitchen as a miniature version of your one at home, and stock it accordingly. Odds are, whatever your eating habits are at home, they can more or less be taken with you on the road, with of course a few exception and tweaks as shared below.
Stocking Your Shelves
Before hitting the open road, stock up on any staples of yours that you know you eat often. Think for all three meals a day and snacks, and start with the pantry. Dry goods, canned foods, grains, beans, starches like bread, potatoes, and pasta all travel well and withstand a lack of refrigeration and the bumps and bruises of travel. Bring with you your best loved food items you’d normally eat at home, to make sure you’re bringing some of the comforts of home along with you. You never know what your grocery store options will be on the road, so we suggest you stock up before leaving on your adventure.
Keeping Temperature in Mind
Since RVs require an electrical plug in or LP generator to run the fridge and freezer, as you travel, you’ll most likely be using neither, meaning foods in the fridge will definitely start to lose their cool. So you’ll want to think 80% in terms of foods that don’t need refrigeration.
A helpful tip is to get a large refreezable ice pack to toss into the fridge once you unplug. This will stretch your window of coolness out considerably. Even so, it’s best to learn to eat on the road with minimal perishable food items.
What does this mean? Things like meats, cheeses, yogurt, and ice cream are going to be the toughest to keep around, and the last thing you want to be doing is tossing out spoiled food. Purchase these items when you get stationary and know you’ll have an electrical supply, or be sure to at least keep minimal amounts on hand (and have a cooler and ice packs ready!)
Reach for heartier veggies and fruits that can withstand a lapse in refrigeration, such as cabbage, romaine instead of a more delicate spring mix of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, apples, oranges, avocados, squashes, onions, and melons, to name a few. Steer clear of more fragile choices like berries, grapes, mush rooms, or asparagus.
Two other options for keeping your food cold / frozen at times when power is unavailable is to invest in a high quality and quite generator such as the Honda EU series or a high end cooler that can keep your food frozen for 5+ days (check out our Yeti vs Coleman Extreme comparison here).
The Basics of RV Meal Planning
You’ve probably heard the saying, failing to plan is planning to fail, and nowhere is this truer than in meal prepping, whether you’re stationary or on the road.
If you leave your eating up to chance, you’ll find yourself more often than not eating whatever’s in sight, healthy or not. Luckily, there’s a better way.
Your meal prep schedule will of course depend on your schedule and how stationary you’ll be, but regardless, you can always have things like oatmeal or cereal on hand for breakfast. You can make ahead overnight oats in small mason jars and keep refrigerated, or divvy up portions of dry, old-fashioned oats into Ziploc baggies, with toppings like cinnamon and raisins and a little coconut sugar, so they’re ready to microwave in the morning. Making pots of grains ahead of time to use as a bed for bowls or as a side will save you time too. Pre-cook proteins like tofu or meats, and keep them in the fridge to have around for the week, or stock up canned beans for another quick protein option. Pre-cook veggies or nuke potatoes and keep them in your fridge or cooler for quick, on the go energy supplies.
Since RV life tends to be unpredictable and you might find yourself unplugging and hitting the road if plans change, consider prepping only for a few days instead of a whole week, so as not to waste what you don’t eat or can’t keep cold.
Here are a few things to make ahead so you can have them on hand for those pangs of hunger moments when you don’t want to pull over but need something healthy and filling to get you to your next destination.
Beans and Rice: A tried-and-true staple for a reason. Pots of rice, or any grain you prefer such as millet or quinoa, can be made ahead of time, and eaten all week. Pots of beans can also be pre-cooked, or you can always just pop open a can of them as needed. Both store well even with minimal refrigeration and give you plenty of protein and healthy fiber. You can add toppings of your choice like sliced avocado, hot sauce, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, garlic powder, or salsa.
Salads: By making big salads ahead of time and keeping them in the fridge or cooler, you’ll ensure you’re getting your veggie fix and will always have a healthy option to grab. Again, opting for heartier produce options (not delicate spring or butter lettuce) is best, and save the dressing until you’re ready to eat.
Avocado Toast or Simple Tacos: One cheap and lightning-fast option for on-the-go eating is taking either bread or corn tortillas, nuking them in the microwave until warm, and slathering with fresh avocado slices, Himalayan salt, and maybe a squeeze of lemon or dash of sriracha for some zest. Easy to eat on the go if you’re driving or in the passenger seat, and way healthier than a sugary granola bar or bag of chips.
For snacks, you can’t beat fruit, trail mix, or a healthy smoothie or protein shake for convenience and portability. Any can be eaten on the go and you can keep a small, portable blender in your RV kitchen to whip up quick, filling smoothies and shakes.
Traveling doesn’t’ need to spell the end of your healthy routines. While it might take some initial getting used to to choose hearty options that won’t spoil, and adjusting to slightly cramped cooking quarters, an RV kitchen is more than enough to whip up healthy, filling options that will travel well, keep for days, and keep you feeling your best.