How To Cook A Full Meal In An RV

Tiny home living has made national news, and with all the downsizing that has happened, the kitchen seems to be one of the hardest areas for us. I love to cook big meals, but trying to cook a full meal in an RV can be a little tricky.

The oven is really small, you only have 3 eyes and your “counter” space is all but non-existent. It can really get to me sometimes. Some RV’s have really good counter space, but ours is so tiny. Which is why we have to improvise in our RV and use other areas besides the counter space we don’t have.

Image of a skillet on a stove

Cooking does require a little planning, but taking into account everything else it balances out. I’m going to go over how we balance making home cooked meals in an RV without compromising on anything.

How To Cook A Full Meal In An RV

We’re really horrible at meal planning honestly. My husband typically eats what is supposed to be leftovers and then a week’s worth of meals turns into 3 days of meals. Thankfully, we’re pretty simple folks when it comes to meals anyway and I make it work with what we have and we spitball most of our meal ideas. If you keep it simple you’ll never feel stressed over meals.

Rather than planning to have meat and 3+ sides, we typically have meat and 2 sides. It doesn’t matter if we’re cooking inside or outside, we stick to about 2 sides (we don’t salad if we have a salad).

Related Post: How To Live In An RV Without Feeling Cramped

1 Keep Meals Simple

image of a pot of chili

In a big kitchen, it’s easy to make lovely, big meals, but in a tiny kitchen, it’s a little bit more difficult. You have to get strategic and figure out what needs to be started first and go from there.

For instance, if you’re making baked chicken in a cast iron pan with some veggies you can use the stove and oven simultaneously. We prep our chicken first and get the cast iron pan hot before putting the chicken in the oven. After we get that in the oven we wash up whatever dishes need to be washed and move on to the sides.

Most of our sides are made on the stove top, so we’re actually not that cramped while cooking.

2 Plan Your Meals (Week By Week)

I’ll admit that this is a step we’re still working on ourselves. Mainly because I get fed up trying to meal plan when it always get’s botched by my husband eating the leftovers. That’s why #1 is so important for us. Simple meals really do make a difference.

We’re not elaborate cooks anyway, so I guess that is really good for us.

If you’re not a great meal planner (like us) here’s a simple spreadsheet we’ve been using. I try to look at it as suggestions. So, if we don’t want chicken tonight and tomorrow is steak I’ll swap them and then my grocery haul doesn’t change.

Along with keeping meals simple, meal planning also helps us stick to our budget rather than defaulting to going out to eat.

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3 Use Space Wisely (I.E. Know What’s Cooking/Needing to Be Prepped When)

image of an RV kitchen

Sometimes I still FUBAR (f***ed up beyond all repair – thanks grandpa for that one all those years ago) this one. There will be times where I’ll think one thing will take x minutes when it really took way more or less time. This has happened because we’re still getting used to how our tiny oven cooks (read: I doubt we’ll ever “get” it).

But, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Figure out what will take the longest to make and start that first. This is one of the reasons we bought an InstaPot honestly. It has so many settings and if it’s a slow cooked meal I can set it and forget it. However, it’s also good for making a big batch of rice for the week.

Related Post: 30+ Must Have Items for Homestead Beginners

4 Have Your Ingredients Ready

image of an rv table

We use our kitchen table a lot of the times for chopping and prepping foods. If it’s meat we usually put the wood cutting board over the sink so that any blood/juices can just drop in the sink.

I love, love separating things out and putting them in bowls so that I have everything ready to go. It’s so easy to chop and toss in the bowl so that it’s ready to toss in while cooking. Sometimes I can skirt by with one bowl, but other times I’m not so lucky.

These are the bowls I use and love. There are various sizes that I can choose from that make it easy to decide whether I want to combine foods or keep them separate. Another big plus is that they stack! That’s a definite plus in an RV!

In any case, have your ingredients out and ready so that when you need them you’re not rushing.

5 Keep Dishes Washed Accordingly

Nothing is worse than having tons of dishes in the sink while you’re trying to cook in a small RV. What we do is wash dishes as we cook lunch or supper. By washing while cooking we also cut down on what we have to wash after we eat.

Having everything washed also cuts down on how claustrophobic I get. It isn’t often that I feel that way, but a cluttered camper and kitchen area can make me feel really crazy.

Washing as I go is one thing my husband grandmother taught me even living in a 1000 sq. ft. house. It makes clean-up easier when everything is all said and done.

6 Use Correct Pot/Pan Sizes For The Item You’re Cooking

You wouldn’t believe how many times we would be making a dish and had to transfer it to a bigger pot/pan. Whether it was green beans or soup, I’ve underestimated a time or two. Heck, I’ve overestimated many times. That just means more dishwashing in the form of a bigger pot or extra pots/pans.

Related Post: How to Homestead in a Camper or Small Space

7 Store Food Wisely

We’ve been trying to kick plastic in our home for a while, but Ziploc bags still thwart us. Our cups are either stainless or glass, we’ve never been one to use plastic plates or utensils, and our coffee filter is wired mesh. For storing leftover foods we have glass food storage.

If we have a one-pot meal we typically put that in the fridge (if there’s room). If it’s multiple items we use the glass food storage containers. We’re hoping to get some that have compartments built in so we can store food for lunch the next day. I like these right here, but we haven’t fully committed yet.

With that being said, when it comes to storing things like meat, we’ve been looking at a foodsaver vacuum sealer. I’ve had my eye on this thing for… well, for about a year now. We just never bit the bullet.

After finally bringing our small deep freezer down to the RV from the house we have talked about buying meat in bulk to save money. So the foodsaver would save us lots of freezer burn and heartache

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5 Replies to “How To Cook A Full Meal In An RV”

  1. A tip about leftovers you are planning for a further meal….freeze them! Lol! Idk why, but my dh will browse the fridge, but never the freezer! OR, if things are in the fridge for another meal, I try to remember to say, hey, don’t eat such and such (or I put a note on it)! I also try to have good for us snacky foods available for when he or the kids get hungry between meals…hummus, cheese slices, fruit, popcorn, nuts, etc.

    I try to make double of meals, so I can freeze the extra for another day (so no cooking that day! Yah!), and it took me awhile, but now I portion out that second meal and freeze it before dinner….so my dh and kids don’t devour it on getting seconds! They ALWAYS want seconds! If they are still hungry after a full meal, they are told to get fruit or veggies to snack on!

    We don’t full time in our rv, but when we take it out, we do eat regular home cooked meals! Some I try to prep beforehand, so it’s not as much work for me while we are out on vacation, and some I just plan to make cause they are kinda easy and/or cause dh can do some of the cooking outside (to relieve some of the workload on me, since this is vacation). But honestly, we make mostly the same foods in our rv that we do at home! And we LOVE to eat! Lol! Esp on camping trips, I keep extra foods for snacking, cause all that outdoors time makes for hungry people! Plus, we tend to make friends while camping, so I am usually glad I have extras for us to share! Though once ….I forgot to bring ALL the meats for our weekend away, lol!!!! We probably had at least one frozen meal that we brought from home, but we had to make do with the rest! We still ate well, prolly cause I waaaaay overplan, food-wise! We just had veggie-based meals, lol! (Soup with all veggies, maybe some veggie chili, veggie pot p ie, maybe bfast for dinner? I don’t remember exactly! )

    1. That sounds amazing! Haha. Love that you can get away often and are able to make tasty meals. Thankfully we haven’t really had too bad of a time cooking in here. We try to get the kids involved at the table so it’s a family affair lol.

      I’ll have to remember that about freezing the leftovers or the sticky note! I should write “don’t eat this or you’ll starve tomorrow” haha. That might get his attention ;). My husband won’t look in the freezer either. He says it takes too long lol. So that’s probably the best place and then he can re-heat at work.

      That’s something I’ll definitely keep in mind now!

      Being tested with only veggies might either kill me or make me more creative lol. My husband is a huge meat eater, so I think he might get bored with only veggies… or start to complain. It sounds like a good way to challenge myself though!

  2. If I don’t freeze my leftovers, I put them in ZipLock bags and put them in the fridge. They take less place that a glass or tupperware containers.

  3. I keep a folded wooden tv table and keep it folded between the couch and the wall when not in use.

    I take it out when and place it under the cuttlery drawer when I need more room to prep my meals. My husband only had to shorten the wooden legs to clear the drawer.

  4. I think planning ahead is the key to RV happiness! 🙂 Simple is the way I like it. I try to stick to one pot meals or things that I can reheat easily or maybe even eat cold. Always looking for new ideas. I have such a small space, but learning to make use of it and adjust from a full size kitchen like I’m use to at the house. Left overs I also try to divvy up and spread out through the day or week. I need to get better at planning ahead. My issue is more when I have others to worry about no one want to same thing. IKE!

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