Living in a motorhome full time is just like having a mini house, but on wheels. So what equipment do you need in your mini kitchen? I love to cook, I mostly cook from scratch and we are lucky to have an oven, hob and grill in our motorhome. If you are in a smaller van, maybe with just a gas camping stove, or looking for general camping cooking tips, don’t run away just yet, you might still find some useful tips. *Contains affiliate links. If purchased using these links it won’t cost you any more but we may get a small %*
I have to start by saying that Callum & I will eat nearly everything, we’re not fussy, which is great for me as the cook, because I can pretty much cook whatever I want to eat and Callum is happy with that. If you’re travelling or camping with children or people who have specific food needs, dislikes or allergies, of course your repertoire may be a little more limited. We spend about €50-70 a week on food shopping (our total monthly budget is about €1,000 for everything- food, fuel, accommodation etc). Which country we’re in will often dictate how much groceries are, what we can get and also how much we cook ourselves vs how much we eat out. If we’re wild camping we use the budget we would have paid for site accommodation to eat at cafes & restaurants (putting that money back into the local economy). We really enjoy trying local dishes and generally the people serving us or cooking like to tell us about them. Food is so much a part of people’s culture, language and heritage. It forms who we are and is a huge base for our lifetime of memories. Some of our fondest travel memories are of eating with people; the food, the conversation and time spent making new friends.
I generally like to cook from scratch. I was brought up on homemade food, my Mum is an excellent cook. She’s pretty much great at everything; cooking, sewing, gardening, art etc. My sister sews well and I cook. Growing up in a family of 4 children, from a farming background we learned how to make something from very little & to waste NOTHING! Zero waste was important in our house before it became mainstream and it is a huge part of how I cook. I write a list to go to the supermarket/market, I keep an eye on what we’ve got in the pantry and the fridge. I know when things need to be used by and have tricks for using them when they’ve gone a little bit past that. Warning- This is not backed by environmental health! Use by dates & best before dates are very much a vague guideline to us. Feel it, look at it, smell it & if all else fails, taste it. If it makes you feel bad looking, smelling it or tasting it probably don’t use it. If not and it’s just a bit soft, hard or bruised, it can probably be used in a soup, smoothie or sauce (banana bread or pancakes are great too). The edges can be trimmed, it can be mixed with something else or blended. My biggest travel kitchen luxury is a nutribullet. Not likely a piece of equipment you’d take on a camping weekend but for full time motorhome life it is perfect. It’s compact & powerful, easy to clean & store and can be used with our inverter when we are wild camping.
I’ve already written a bit about zero waste storage and left overs in a previous blog- What do you really need for full time van life– but it’s worth repeating. I have lots of zero waste storage items that mean less litter and less waste, which also saves us money and helps us live more sustainable lives- two important factors in our decision to live in a motorhome full time. My favourite items are the silicone resealable pouches (perfect for half an avocado/pepper) which can be used in the fridge, freezer or microwave and also for liquids such as left over sauces or soups. I have an assortment of left over takeaway containers that I brought away with us (that all have lids!) that are great when I do batch cooking (1 pack of mince makes us 8 meals! Bolognese, savoury mince & chilli) or again, for leftovers. Glass jars are also a great option but we have to be careful how we store them so they don’t rattle around when we drive. At home I had a huge assortment of glass jars and bottles, but we just don’t have that room in the motorhome. The salsa sized short, fatter jars are just the right size for half an onion or pepper, I keep 3 of them. I also use wax wraps instead of cling film or aluminium foil; they’re washable, reusable and great for covering larger things, like half a melon or open packets of food. Nothing goes to waste in my kitchen but I do miss my compost bin. As you travel make note of who recycles what, where and how. Each country, area and even campsite has their own rules for rubbish and recycling. I have reusable (& washable) tote bags for grocery shopping and net bags for fruit & vegetables. Different supermarkets/markets have different ways or weighing & paying for your fruit and veg. Take a moment to watch the locals & see what they do or ask the staff.
I have a great silicone utensil set that my friend gave me before we left (see photo). I use this every day, especially the tongs & spatula. Tongs are an excellent investment in any kitchen, they are so useful for turning food, picking up individual items and just having a cleaner way of cooking. They were initially recommended to me a a friend who is a chef & now I have 3 x pairs of silicone ones and one metal pair for the BBQ. A good peeler & sharp knife is essential (I always tell Callum to stay away from my ‘good knife’ then cringe because I sound like my mother!) I always have at least one pair of kitchen scissors a tin opener and of course, a bottle opener! We have 2 saucepans, a small frying pan and 1 x baking tray and 2 x roasting pans (roasting is such a simple and delicious way to cook vegetables, all in the one pan so less washing up too) plus we have the tray that comes with the grill. We have a kettle that heats up on the hob but we don’t really drink tea or coffee so it mostly lives in the oven. Make sure you have enough plates, cups and cutlery for at least one each (if you meet people they can bring their stuff to join you). We have a couple extra because that’s what came in the set. We have bamboo crockery & cups but we brought proper pint glasses & mugs too which we carefully store so they don’t rattle around when we drive. A top tip here is to put a tea towel under the hob lid before you drive off too- they are notorious for rattling (obviously make sure the hob is cool first). We have a travel bamboo cutlery set each that we keep in our backpacks for when we are out exploring- no need to pick up plastic ones!
Remember to bring washing up things: detergent and whatever you prefer to use for washing up (Callum likes the dish brush but I prefer the scrubby sponge) & a couple of tea towels. We don’t use a washing up bowl as we just wash straight in the sink but we do have one stashed away in case we need it. It holds all our other cleaning supplies. We try to wash up straight after eating most meals so we can be ready to move if necessary, especially when wild camping & there’s just not enough room to have dishes lying around in the motorhome.
One of my travel gadgets was a posh Cadac Carri Chef 2 BBQ that attaches, via a hose to our gas bottles. Although, as we spend a lot of time wild camping and moving from place to place every few days, we’re not usually in one place long enough to set it up and use it much. However, it is a great BBQ. Easy to set up, use and clean. The legs come off and it folds down into a compact bag for storage. If you stay in one place for a week or more at a time I’d highly recommend one. They’d even be great for using at home. There is nothing quite like the taste of barbecued food and when we do get the opportunity we love to BBQ. We do sometimes cook over a camp fire too. Baked potatoes are an easy food to cook in the fire and anything that can be cooked in a pan.
There are a few foods that I like to keep in stock. Fresh foods alongside my pantry staples. Eggs, pasta and potatoes have to be the ultimate camping foods. They can be used in so many ways and are quick and easy to cook with just one pan on a hob, camping stove or even a camp fire. Most of the things I cook use onions, peppers and garlic in some combination. It means I know I always have them in stock and can vary what I cook according to what we want that day. We do eat meat, although not every day. Each week I usually buy beef mince, some kind of chicken and sausages. They can then be used in a multitude of ways, are great for batch cooking and you can buy the same ingredients each week but make a variety of different meals. We do like to have fresh fruit and vegetables each week too which we keep in the hanging net bags above the sink. Having them there stops them getting bashed around but also reminds me to use them rather than being hidden away in the fridge, depending how warm it gets in the van. This is where I get very ‘British’… In the pantry cupboard I like to keep dried pasta, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, various herbs & spices (cumin, paprika, oregano and garlic pepper are my most used), soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, bisto granules, breadcrumbs, cereal, oats, honey, couscous (easier to cook than rice), some nuts (usually pine nuts, cashews & peanuts), sultanas, soup (either canned or carton), canned goods: soup, chopped tomatoes, sweetcorn, some kind of canned fruit and always baked beans. In the fridge we try to have milk, juice, cheese, any soft seasonal fruit (berries, melon etc), cured meat/meat and probably some kind of alcohol, although we don’t drink too much. We don’t drink at all if we are wild camping as we might need to move on in the night. Also in the fridge is anything that’s been opened, sauces that need refrigerating and always some chocolate! We happened to have a microwave already installed in the motorhome. It is usually used as a bread & crisp bin 🙂
I keep a note of what I’ve cooked or what we eat when we’re out on my Instagram philyabelly along with the ingredients and any leftovers I’ve used from previous meals. Sometimes we just have crackers & cheese (with canned pineapple), beans on toast or cereal for dinner. All perfectly acceptable options 😉 Hopefully you’ve found something here helpful. A lot will depend on what you like to eat, who you’re cooking for and how you cook. I’d love to hear your comments and see what you’ve cooked.