Easy RV Cooking
Even in cramped quarters and an incomplete kitchen, you can eat like royalty on the road.
One of the secrets of good eating on an RV adventure is simplicity. The other advance preparation.
Before You Go
Plan your menus. Get out a calendar and figure out a meal plan for each day you'll be away from home. Photocopy your calendar or daily planner and mark up the photocopy with the meals you have in mind, taking into consideration a kickoff dinner, a special breakfast or brunch, a cookout if you plan to have one (ditto on a fish fry), a final dinner celebration, a potluck with new friends in the camp, and so forth. As you mentally prepare your food plan, note special diets in the group and picky eaters.
Incorporate one-dish meals. Whenever possible, choose one-dish or easy-to-prepare crockery cooker meals. If you don't have favorite tried-and-true recipes that deliver maximum taste with minimum fuss, check out the BHG.com Food channel for delicious low-hassle options. Spaghetti (good noodles, a good jar of sauce, Parmesan cheese grated in advance), garlic bread, and a simple salad make a fabulous meal after a busy day. A pot of chili with plenty of fun condiments makes a festive dinner. Lasagna and casseroles baked ahead of time and frozen never fail. If it's going to be chilly or cold, a bowl of hearty soup and some crusty bread go down perfectly. As you sketch out ideas for meals on your calendar, keep in mind that you'll also want drinks and snacks for in-the-meantime munching.
Make friends with mixes. Check the aisles of a health-food store for ideas on prepared foods that will pack and store well. You can come up with a wonderful light vegetarian meal from mixes that often require only the addition of fresh veggies (tabouli and couscous, for instance). Instead of hamburgers, why not try a vegetarian counterpart like Nature's Burgers. They come in a dry mix that just requires adding water, shaping into patties, and frying -- easy and delicious. (As with anything new, check ingredients to make sure no one in the family is allergic to any part of this product.)
Take advantage of leftovers and double-duty food. As you plan, get the most mileage you can out of ingredients or leftovers you might have on-hand or that you'll create on your RV adventure. Dinner's leftover Nature's Burgers can be crumbled into pita bread with feta cheese and easy yogurt sauce (yogurt, lemon, and dill will do it) for lunch the following day. The eggs you don't use by the last day can make a lovely frittata with leftover vegetables and meats for a final breakfast or brunch. Make sure biscuit mix is on your list -- it is amazingly versatile at breakfast as pancakes, waffles, or biscuits (with honey, jam, or gravy). And cook up some chicken breasts before you go -- they can be the centerpiece of chicken parmesan one night and chicken salad for lunch the next day.
MREs give Mom a break. These vacuum-sealed military rations -- "meals ready to eat" -- come complete. If you don't feel like cooking every night, MREs offer an option that's different and full of the spirit of camping. Kids love them. You can find MREs at Army-Navy surplus and some camping/backpacking stores.
Make your shopping lists. Once you have your menus planned, pull out any recipes you'll be taking along and make copies, from cookbooks, Web sites or recipe cards you have on-hand. Make several lists:
- Items you already have and need to bring from home.
- Items you prefer to pick up when you get to your destination (assuming there is adequate shopping at your destination -- freshness and storage are the considerations here).
- Items you'll want to get at the store before you go.
Don't forget salt and pepper and a few good spices. (Instead of buying expensive new bottles of spices, just measure out the amount you will need into a mini Ziplock Baggie and identify it with a permanent marker on masking tape.)
At the store. Buy only what you can reasonably fit in the space you've got; travel size is more practical than good deals on economy sizes. It won't do you any good to have absolutely everything you need and nowhere to put it.
Set aside all the food you intend to bring from home, along with the recipes you need, your menus, and your lists (especially the list of what you need to purchase when you get there).
Premix and measure what you can. If any of your meals lend themselves to mixing ahead of time, measure out dry goods into Baggies and ID them with a permanent marker. As with spices, there is no need to bring a whole bag of flour or sugar if you'll only be needing several cups.
Check our RV Necessities list for a basic checklist of food, utensils, and cleanup items. A simple set of pots and pans, spatula, serving utensils, openers, plates and bowls (paper or Styrofoam if that suits your lifestyle), mixing and serving bowls, disposable storage containers and Baggies in all sizes all are top essentials. You know what you need, and you'll feel good about getting it all on a checklist for easy reference before you're in the crunch of leaving.
Check out online resources like Funroads.com -- under the "Get Outta Town" tab, hit the "Cooking on the Go" tab -- for recipes and tips on food preparation and storage written by RVers who've lived within the cramped quarters of a camp kitchen.
To fully experience your destination, consider having a meal of a special local dish. Some Internet or bookstore research ahead of time will turn up a specialty of the region you're visiting. If the dish requires buying special ingredients only available in the region, so much the better -- just plan for it by calling ahead to make sure where you can get what you need. Then build the shopping stop into your road trip. It will be worth the effort. You haven't really experienced a locale until you've eaten what the locals eat. Cooking it as a family in your RV can be great culinary fun that gives you togetherness and an opportunity to learn more about the culture of an exciting new place. Don't be surprised if these special meals become family favorites that evoke marvelous open-road memories in years to come.