Whether you are a natural born planner or happy just winging it, the idea of cooking and eating whilst on the road may seem slightly daunting or even a little stressful. Keeping everybody fed and happy (especially the driver) whilst out in the wilderness doesn’t have to be a chore, keep things simple.
You’ve just picked up the van and you can’t wait to hit the road and start your adventure. But first, grocery shopping for the week! Save yourself time in the grocery store by putting together a meal plan for your vacation, and having a shopping list ready to go. A meal plan will also allow you to focus on the important stuff, like connecting with nature and connecting with each other during your vacation. It’s great knowing that the “what’s for dinner” question has already been taken care of.
Three things to keep in mind when putting your meal plan together:
Will you be staying at campsites with potable water or boondocking with only the water you have in the van, or a combination of both? There’s nothing like living in a van for a few days to really bring awareness to how much water we can use in a day. Cooking and washing up can consume a lot of water if not careful. Tip: Plan for some one pan meals, or use the same pan for several elements of your meal to save on the washing up. Want to save even more water, eat straight from the pan, family style. No need for plates or bowls! Tip: “No cook” meals such as salads and sandwiches don’t require water to prepare, and need little to wash up.
2. Food Storage
Whatever your van set up, the fridge or cooler is going to be significantly smaller than your regular domestic fridge. Plan for meals that use both fresh and shelf stable ingredients. A combination of perishable items that can be refrigerated and shelf stable items that can be stowed in various nooks and crannies in the van work best. The longer the trip the more shelf stable options you may need. Tip: Snack packs are a great option when cooking for two and you don’t need large quantities of certain ingredients. Instead of buying a jar of olives, a snack pack will be easier to store and reduce food waste. Tip: Canned fruit & veggies are a great way of getting the good stuff into your meals especially towards the end of a longer road trip. They can be stored anywhere in the van, creating more space in the fridge for perishable items.
3. Cooking Fuel
Cook times at higher altitudes can take longer than at sea level and can consume a lot of gas. Certain vegetables like potatoes and onions can also use a lot of gas. There’s nothing worse than running out of fuel halfway through making dinner. I know, I’ve done it! Cooking on a gas stove should be simple and quick. Tip: If you’re planning on doing a lot of cooking, pick up an extra gas canister just in case. Tip: Some of my gas saving swaps are scallions for regular onions, roasted red peppers from a jar for regular bell peppers, and instant mashed potato from a packet for potatoes. They’re all quicker to prepare, and much quicker to cook.
About the Author: Emily is a Moterra client and discovered the joys of van rentals and van vacations a few years ago. She has explored National Parks across the US with her wife in a variety of different types of van with lots of different kitchen set ups. A self taught home cook and recipe creator, Emily shares her recipes and cooking tips for van vacations and outdoor adventures on Instagram. Follow @vangourmand for culinary inspiration for your next big adventure.