Living in an RV automatically leads to kitchen conservation. When you have a limited amount of water, waste storage, and heat sources, you can’t take anything for granted. Usage and replenishment take center stage.
When I live in my regular home, I have no idea how much water I use, how many weeks of food are in the pantry, or how high my gas bill will be until I receive it. I am lucky. I have the luxury of not worrying about those things.
Now that Cooking2Thrive is on a road trip, I’m living in an RV. That’s a whole different ballgame. I know exactly how much water I use. I can easily gauge with a quick glance how many days of food I have. And I know how often I must empty my waste tanks.
I’m learning how to anticipate the lead time needed to replenish supplies without having to create new storage areas in seats and leg spaces. And I recognize how little laundry I can generate and groceries I need when I’m thoughtful.
That’s the key. When you have less space, you have to be more thoughtful about every choice.
While I’m not limited to my two-burner propane cooktop and microwave, to keep in the mindset, it’s sometimes fun to plan meals as if I am. Small amounts, fewer pots, and simple prep are principles to guide the planning.
For example, single serving microwavable brown rice makes more sense in this environment than a bag. Frozen vegetables are fine but must be used right away because I don’t have a freezer. One pot dishes containing protein, vegetables, and starch are winners every time. They allow me to conserve dishwater and can be stored in a single container.
I currently have a container of ham, potatoes, and asparagus in my refrigerator. These flavors pair well together seasoned with just salt, pepper, and garlic powder. To keep the prep simple, I buy ham that’s already diced. Potatoes can be microwaved until almost done, then easily peeled and diced. And asparagus can be steamed in a skillet or the microwave, then chopped. I combine all three in a microwave-safe storage container so I can reheat and eat for several meals.
For even less waste, I can leave the peeling on the potatoes. Or I can make this a pantry generated meal by using canned, diced potatoes, and canned asparagus.
My RV pantry always contains salt, pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil spray; canisters of coffee and almonds mixed with raisins; coconut milk; single serving peanut butter, gluten-free instant oatmeal, microwavable brown rice, gluten-free pretzels or crackers, canned black beans, canned potatoes, and a canned green vegetable. There’s usually a sweet potato or potato in the cabinet, and some kind of fresh fruit and plain unsweetened yogurt in the refrigerator.
When there’s room, I add a jar of salsa or my favorite jam to the pantry selections. I also like having a stash of mini Kind bars handy. Single serve containers of mandarin oranges, olives, and condiments can be useful. The goal is to keep it as simple as possible while having enough to throw a tasty meal together in a pinch.
Last week, I ate brown rice and black beans plus mandarin oranges for dinner on a night my original plan was not workable. The remaining beans and rice became a side dish when groceries arrived.
Once a meal is finished, I wipe down all of the dishes so no crumbs, bits, or film remain on the surface. This means I can conserve soap and water when I wash them. When it’s just me eating two to three meals, I can wash dishes in 32 – 48 oz of water per day. I’d call that decent conservation.
I find it makes the most sense to buy salads from restaurants. All of the ingredients are there in a single container and they’re already clean. That means the only waste is the container in which they arrive (and sometimes that is reusable). Most entrée salads will last several meals when used as a side salad.
If I were preparing salad in the RV myself, I’d use triple washed spinach as the base and most likely include raisins and almonds from the pantry in the toppings. The spinach can be easily wilted to eat alone or added to an entrée if I get tired of salad.
Using portable cotton hypoallergenic washcloths creates some waste, but means less laundry and fewer wet things cluttering my space. I use these to wash dishes, prevent coffee grounds from going down the drain, and to wash my face. I’ve also used them to wipe down countertops and dust TVs.
Right now, I’m drinking coffee I rewarmed from yesterday’s batch. I’d like a little more, but I’m considering whether it’s better to conserve water and time by drinking a cup once I arrive at the office. Conservation will most likely win out. It usually does when living in 100 sq ft.
Will I carry any of my new kitchen conservation habits home?
I can’t really predict whether they’ll stick, but I’ve added a whole level of awareness that I believe will serve me well in many environments. That’s a real benefit of shaking things up. Your point-of-view changes with each increase in knowledge.
Kitchen conservation and simplicity increasingly seem intertwined and I love both.