My fancy baking apparatus- jet burner, Coleman camp oven, and reflective Dutch oven cover.

RV Cooking on the Road – Menus and Food Prep

Last time I covered which food items I carry in my Roadtrek while we roam the country, following the good weather and seeing the sights. Now I’d like to let you know how I prepare it and what we do to keep the menu interesting. It’s very similar to the way I shopped and cooked before we started fulltiming, but with a few important modifications.

First step of meal preparation- get the cat off the kitchen counter and wipe it down with a disinfectant. Honestly, I'm going to have to be more firm with her.

First step of meal preparation – get the cat off the kitchen counter and wipe it down with disinfectant.  Honestly, I’m going to have to be more firm with her.

The first modification for RV cooking on the road is very precise stock levels for all food items. I can remember once when the five pound bag of potatoes was the same price as the ten pound bag, and I got the five pound bag. You’d have to be crazy to do that if you lived in a sticks and bricks house, but I just don’t have space or weight capacity to store more than the standard amount I have arrived at when stocking my pantry. Once you hit the road, all those ways of saving by stocking up on specials are just a distant memory.

The second difference is… no regular oven. Ovens are wonderful things for great winter meals, but what I have is a microwave and a Coleman folding metal camp oven that I use with my jet burner outside. Newer Roadtreks have convection ovens, which help somewhat, but it’s not the same as having a big oven like I used to have.  Pies, cookies, and other winter treats just aren’t available anymore, as well as roasts and other baked dishes.   It’s not as big a burden as it would be for someone used to cold weather, since in Florida we rarely used the oven during the hot season (April through October), but we still get cravings for baked favorites.

My fancy baking apparatus- jet burner, Coleman camp oven, and reflective Dutch oven cover.

My fancy baking apparatus – jet burner, Coleman camp oven, and reflective Dutch oven cover.

The third difference is limited refrigerator space. In our sticks and bricks house, I could cook huge quantities of lasagna, macaroni and cheese, turkey and dressing, etc. and freeze two or three future meals to be enjoyed in the coming weeks. None of that can happen when your freezer is less than a cubic foot.  I had to learn to cook only what we would eat that meal, forget about frozen meals for the future, and to minimize refrigerated leftovers.

Let’s take it meal by meal and see how our menu has changed since we started fulltiming.  It’s amazing how much we have retained from our old repertoire (we are creatures of habit, especially with food) considering the very different cooking facilities available.

Breakfast is virtually unchanged. Eggs,  toast, bacon and sausage, pancakes, french toast, fruit and oatmeal, it’s all there except the Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream I used to treat Sharon to. The Belgian waffle iron has a happy home with my sister now- it’s too big, heavy, and electricity hungry to use in the Roadtrek.  Besides, I shudder to think what the tiny Roadtrek galley would look like after such an elaborate production.

Lunch is also pretty much the same – sandwiches and soup, maybe potato salad or chips on the side, and similar easy-to-prepare, paper plate food.  I LOVE paper plates because they cut way down on dirty dishes, which saves water.   What’s missing from our pre-fulltiming lunch menu is the leftovers – no more baked hams or turkeys to whittle away at for days.

Mmmm - banana bread. This was the one I baked in Mike Wendland's honor when he was imprisoned in a fat farm.  We finished it without him ;-)

Mmmm – banana bread. This was the one I baked in Mike Wendland’s honor when he was imprisoned at a fat farm. We finished it without him ;-)

Dinner is the meal that has changed the most. If it’s warm, we stick to our pre-fulltiming summer menu of steaks or chops, maybe fresh fish if we’re near the ocean, accompanied by a salad and bread. If it’s cooler, we switch to mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables as side dishes. Sometimes I make chicken or beef stew if it’s a cold, rainy day, which is seldom.

Losing our ability to roast meats and poultry has sent me in search of similar tastes using pan-roasting, and I’ve become an expert at searing steaks and chops to give them a good flavor. Chicken is also good if you sear it and then cook slowly for another 20 minutes or so.   We don’t carry a grill, so all this is done on the stovetop inside or the jet burner outside, the bear situation permitting.  The propane stovetops in Roadtreks are relatively anemic BTU-wise, as you would expect in an appliance inside such a small space, so preheating the pan is necessary to get a good sear on your meat or poultry entree.

When we get a wild hair for a change of pace, I whip out the Coleman oven and make biscuits or banana bread for breakfast, macaroni and cheese for dinner, or homemade bread for whatever meal it is (a loaf never lasts more than about 12 hours).  It’s the baked goods which have figured less prominently in our menu since we became unemployed and homeless, and out waistlines have benefited. We do hit the doughnut shop on our way back into town, and have been known to carry a few with us on our way back out, so it’s not exactly a life of deprivation. I occasionally make french fries during extended forays away from civilization as a treat for Sharon, but it’s messy and a waste of oil. It’s also an outside cooking activity.

Desserts are another area where we’ve changed our ways. Gone are the homemade cakes, pies, and cookies we used to make at home, replaced by store-bought cookies and pints of Hagen-Daaz ice cream.   I end each day with an after-dinner ritual of tea and cookies, And Sharon has a small cup of ice cream.  Again, our waistlines thank us.

The view out our kitchen window - subject to change without notice.

The view out our kitchen window – subject to change without notice. This was St. George Island in Florida.

I would love to have a four-burner stove with a big oven again, but then the view out my kitchen window would be the same every day of the year, and I think that’s too high a price to pay. I’ll put up with the reduced convenience and enjoy the ever-changing scenery, thank you very much.

 

 

 


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35 comments

  1. Laura H Postema

    Great post. It sounds like eat pretty normal foods…and that’s a good thing. I have yet to try baking bread. We have a conviction oven that I have yet to use…that’s on my “learn list.”

    Thank you for another great post. You sure encourage the rest of us to get out there and join you!

    • Morninhg Star

      Convection ovens cook bread great!! Of course every one is a little different so just figure out its perfect setting and you’ll have bread!!! AND…. travel on!!! /*

  2. Bigfoot Dave

    Dr Campskunk, (heavy on the “Dr”)where did you find the reflector cover for the Coleman oven? We have a little “Bake Packer” rig that uses steam to cook the greatest muffins without crust you could ever eat at anchor in Lake Superior or in the bush around it. We have a Coleman oven but no cover and that would help. Over the years we have used our Pyromid stainless steel collapable charcoal grill to roast and bake in too plus it is very compact. Thanks for the great articles, Dave

  3. Nancy

    Love your articles Camp. Well written and with a touch of humor.

    I carry a 2qt crock pot, which works well for cooking a roast with potatoes and carrots, meatloaf, pork loin (for BBQ pulled pork) and chicken breasts. And you can use it while you are driving between point A&B. But if storage is an issue . . . this wouIdn’t work. I also make Bisquick biscuits in a covered frying pan on low heat.

  4. David Kelly

    Mike:
    Really enjoying your reports. Raised in Detroit, building a radio station in the UP in 1965, now station owner in Nebraska – all familiar geography. RVing since 1977. C then A then B+, now back to a small C. Watching your experience with the e-trek with interest. We gave up on charcoal and propane years ago. Now carry a small electric fry pan. Keeps it simple. Please update us on your experience with the e-trek – batteries, wear/tear, etc.

  5. Ann

    Thanks for the cooking tips. My husband and I are not full timers, just 4-7 day trips and we are mostly vegan. I am amazed that I can successfully pack our RT with enough fresh farmers’ market veggies to last for a week! (onions, carrots, bok choy, lettuce, tomatoes, green onion, radishes, cukes, celery, broccoli, pea pods, cabbage, and tofu) The trick is to do the veggie prep before you leave. Truly, I can’t believe how much that tiny fridge can hold – all those veggies plus condiments, jam, margarine, syrup, ‘milk’… as I said, it’s amaizing!! We eat stir fries, vegan chile with beans, vegan spaghetti sauce (with soy curls for protein), big salads with grated almond jack cheese, veg patties. For sandwiches we often have almond jack cheese, lettuce, pickle, and tomato and a side of fresh fruit. Yum! We supplement the veggies with pasta, dried beans, nuts and nut butters, and other snacks. We always feels like we are eating like royalty. However, the comments have inspired me to try fry pan biscuits or cornbread!

  6. We just returned from a four week trip out west. It was very warm, upper 90’s to 100 plus. We were having great difficulty keeping the refrigerator cool. The thermometer we have was registering 50 degrees and up. Any ideas on how to keep the refrigerator unit cooler?
    Thanks Kathy

    • Mary Kay

      We’re new at the Roadtrek thing . . . but my dad told us to put a block of ice in a pan in the fridge (if you have the room) and that will help keep itcool. We did this and it worked great!

    • Stephanie

      We installed the “Snyder kit” in our fridge. It us a little fan that attaches to the back and constantly blows thru the inside to circulate the cold sir. Temp now ranges between 32-45 on even the hottest days. Not too difficult to install and worth the $50 price.
      Go to his website for more info.

      • Campskunk
        Author

        i have one of those too, and also a fan on the inside to circulate the cool air inside the fridge. both work off the 12 volt power supply for the refrigerator so there are no batteries etc. to mess with. our refrigerator is on for months at a time as we fulltime around the country, and it works great. milk lasts 10 days or so, veggies stay fresh without freezing, and the only work involved is defrosting the thing. i have no complaints.

    • Campskunk
      Author

      on a good day, when the wind is right, mine will cool down 48 degrees below whatever the outside temperature is, and no more. the poor thing is pedaling as fast as it can, and that’s all it can do. you aren’t going to be able to hold 40 degree temperatures inside your refrigerator if the outside temperature is above 90, it’s just that simple. i would stick ice in there and move uphill or north as necessary to get out of that heat. as a fulltimer, i pack up and leave when it gets up to 80.

    • Check in the back of your refrigerator where the fins are. There is a little clip that slides up and down on fin. Moving it higher or lower will affect how well your fridge cools.

  7. Hi Campskunk!

    Thanks so much for sharing this information. Although I presently live in NH, I grew up in the south. I NEED my cornbread and biscuits which is impossible without a real oven (even though i have a micro/convection, my special grandmother’s iron skillet doesn’t fit and cornbread just isn’t the same made in anything other than an iron skillet!) I also do not like to run the generator while boon docking as it gets too hot inside while cooking.

    I did a little research and believe that there is a small amount of the Dutch Oven Covers left at Amazon. I just purchased the one with the item model number of DOCOVER. I found it by typing in “docover”.There are now 9 left in stock. It contains the dutch oven cover and a heat duffuser and is $29.97. There is another product number that i arrived at by searching with “dutch oven dome”. That looks like the same dome to me but without the diffuser and is $29.16 presently. The description is different than the one above but it is also from Camp Chef. The dimensions look wrong but when reading closely, these are the shipping box dimensions and it seems to be the logically right size when considering that it is folded for shipping. There are 18 of these left in stock.
    In the same “dutch oven dome” search is another similar product by Volcano that also looks like it will work.

    All of your other posts have been informative as well. We currently have a 35 foot MH and are seriously considering downsizing to a B-Van. All of your posts are helping us with the trade-offs. I love to cook and in the past few years have focused on cooking very healthful meals from scratch avoiding processed foods. One of the big considerations is being able to cook the way necessary for us with a more limited kitchen and while boon docking more. Thanks for taking the time to do these articles and thank-you Mike for all your articles as well as they really are helping in our decision making process as we will be part-timing for 6-8 months out of the year as I retire (early) in the next few months.
    Katy

  8. Judy

    We’re in the process of outfitting our 1998 Roadtrek 190V.
    What do you recommend for food storage containers? spices? etc.
    Love your posts too

    • Campskunk
      Author

      i just recycle some 16 ounce snap top salsa containers to store food in the fridge – i recommend smaller containers so you can stack them in the limited space in the refrigerator. the tupperware type storage containers are too big, and waste space because they’re bowl shaped. i keep my spices in their original containers in a rectangular plastic container on the top shelf of the pantry, but i only have a dozen or so. if you use a larger spice collection, i have heard of people storing small quantities in tic tac boxes.

  9. Nice article and reply’s : ) My wife and i camp exclusively in the Pacific Northwest and nearly always in undeveloped forestry areas. We have incorporated the folding camp stove into our camp-kitchen and will typically heat it with a Rocket Stove by StoveTec. For a typical meal, 6 standard charcoal briquettes will do the job for things like chicken kabobs or steaks in a ceramic skillet. After the main meal is finished we will often drop in 3 more briquettes, but on the folding oven, and bake some almond cookies : )

    For another idea on crock pots (as a poster mentioned) we incorporated what is called a “Saratoga Jacks” thermal/slow cooker. You basically do about ~20 minutes of “cooking” your crock-pot style meal over your preferred stove in the provided SS bot, then place inside the SJ and come back to camp ~4 to ~8 hours later and your meal is ready to eat without further fuel use after the initial short prep time.

    Happy Trails,
    Thom

  10. Pat Mesic

    I find that buying BBQ chicken is a great thing to have on hand. When I am on the road in the hot weather, I use a lot of ready made salads. I always carry a lot of canned goods, in case I am not near a store.

  11. Paul Konowalchuk Pogorzelski

    I’m gonna build one of these on a small trailer for future, out-of-state RT gatherings

  12. Marjorie Stewart

    That should be a solar oven that folds flat and is lighter and probably a little more even in the heat area to cook that cake. Just saying :D /*

  13. Grace Chura

    Check out the Micro Hearth pan. Rebecca Delaney introduced it to me when we were in FL. Absolutely love it for “grilled” foods all done in the micro.

  14. Tony King

    To grill with we use a “Son of Hibachi” which is small compact , good for 2 people and comes with a fireproof storage bag that helps you snuff and store in ten minutes. For other meals/baking we use a small Dutch oven and have a small galvanized bucket that we use put the DO in, this allows us to move it around, contains the ash for disposal etc. so even if we are parked in a asphalt parking lot I space it up and it doesn’t heat/burn the asphalt. There are literally 1000’s of things to cook in a DO.