I love cooking, and making good-tasting, healthy vegetarian food on the road in my minivan was important to me.
I’m well-equipped to start with. I have a small 12 volt fridge and a two-burner propane stove, so in many ways I have all the conveniences of home. On the other hand, my fridge is bar-sized, I have little prep area, no oven, my storage space is minimal and I cook outside. I’m also most often in very rural areas where access to fresh food is sometimes limited. So, there are some challenges.
I have a canopy that goes off the back of my van to cover the kitchen area in rain, which is super helpful. I don’t have a photo of it yet in this configuaration, because I have only used it in the desert as a stand-alone sun shade but here is a link to the product. I’m pretty happy with it! http://a.co/8QsJdA7
I’m typically a plant-eater, so beans, tofu and lentils feature prominently day—to-day. Fruit and vegetables are essential for me. I’m a fan of one-pot meals like soups and stews and I eat dairy products in moderation. I rarely drink prepared drinks, opting mostly for water, coffee and tea but occasionally buy pure juices to add to my water.
I tend to binge-eat sugar and other carbohydrates, so eat bread, potatoes, rice, noodles and sweets cuatiously. I use tortilla wraps more often than bread, as they don’t go stale as quickly and are less filling.
I enjoy ice cream “out” when I want a treat, but I usually wait until there is local, small batch ice-cream to be found. For whatever reason, I don’t really struggle with junk food per se, as long as it’s not in my immediate environment. I’ve been blessed with other addictions that keep me real. 😉
I absolutely never eat when I drive. This has been an essential new habit for me on the road. If I drive and eat, I sometimes don’t even register that I have eaten and this can lead to over-eating. Plus, who can really enjoy food while concentrating on something else? I like to find local little parks or scenic look-outs for meals on-the-go.
My food storage includes fridge space for fresh fruits, veggies, soy products and dairy. I have two drawers for dry goods. My actual “kitchen” is a drawer that pulls out of a cabinet at the back of the van, where my sink, stove, propane, cast-iron pot & frying pan, coffee purculator and dishes live.
Cooking Supplies Include:
Cast iron pot and frying pan – one lid that works for both
I used to have a tea kettle and a Bodum French-press coffee maker but swapped for a coffee percolator (takes up less space and does more, including boiling water)
Miniature spatula, flipper and ladle
Two cooking knives & a built in cutting board (that lifts out, to replace or access propane)
Cutlery, bowls and plates (metal) for two people
Two dish cloths and two tea towels
Dish soap (biodegradable)
Oh, and I use the wax cloth food wrappers, rather than Tupperware or other disposable wraps for leftovers.
Below is the storage in the pull out drawer. The little propane tank is behind the white bins. It’s a one gallon tank that can be refilled. I only have to refill every two or three months and it costs about $3! Very economical.
Travelling with propane demands care – it must always be stored upright, it should have a regulator on it, it should be turned off after each use and proper ventilation is essential. I never sleep with my windows fully closed EVER and I also have a propane/ carbon monoxicide alarm wired into the van. I believe you can also run them on battery.
The stove is the black rectangle on top. Water for the sink comes from a 6 gallon tank in the floor of the van powered and pumped by my battery. I carry an additional 6 gallons of water in the front passenger seat for times that getting water into the other tank isn’t possible or convenient (I need to use a hose to fill it).
Pantry Items Include:
Quinoa, couscous, rice and pasta
Dry lentils and canned beans
Rice noodles & udon noodles (both cook quickly)
Coffee/ tea (in one of the white bins)
Peanut, cashew &almond butters
Trail mix ( I make a mix I like)
Canned diced tomatoes, corn and retried beans
Fridge usually has:
Hard cheese (Parmesan or asiago)
Tofu, veggie ground beef and veggie dogs
Canned fruit (I like it cold)
Fresh fruit & Veggies apples, oranges, grapes, mushrooms, brocolli etc)
Onion, Potato, Sweet potato
Yogurt or cottage cheese
Cream for my coffee
Flat bread/ tortillas
I don’t deviate a lot from these ingredients. The fresh fruit and vegetables change with availability. I love to buy local and in season when I can and never miss a farmer’s market if I can help it. Farmer’s markets are a great place to learn a lot about a local community and meet great folks.
Oh, and I have an awesome spice rack I bought off Amazon. Since youre going to ask me for the link, here it is! Spice Rack
Here are some breakfasts I regularly enjoy:
– yogurt, granola and fruit
-oatmeal and fruit
-retried bean wraps with cheese
-banana and nut butter on a tortilla wrap
-fresh fruit and a handful of nuts
-leftover stew or soup from the night before
Here are some lunches I frequently make:
-hummus, cucumber and avocado on tortilla wrap
-cheese and vegetable quesadilla with corn or flour tortilla
-raw carrots, cauliflower, broccoli dipped in hummus
-curry -coconut lentil stew
-vegetable stew with tofu or beans
-oriental noodles or Tempeh with vegetables
Rice and bean casseroles
Noodles and vegetables
Veggie and tofu stir fry
a veggie wrap
Rice and veggies
Sweet potatoes with cinnamon and butter
Things I’ve learned:
98% of what I had in my home kitchen is unecessary. “Convenient” …but unecessary to make a good meal!
One good knife is better than 10 so-so knives. I don’t need dishes for anyone but me and sometimes one other person. Others will bring their own dishes if we eat together. I started with large size bowls and plates and quickly moved to smaller ones. There are small utensils (ladles, serving spoons) available and they are great for a van.
When I make a one pot meal, I always make enough for 2-3 meals. I prefer to eat a larger meal mid-day so that I am not cooking or cleaning up in the dark.
I eat much better with other people (like when I travelled with my daughter or was camping next to a friend and sharing meals) Many of my one-pot meals take less than ten minutes to prepare. I keep most of my dry food in Tupperware-type containers to ward off mice and insects and to make finding things easier.
I don’t need to carry nearly as much food with me as I do. I have to keep reminding myself that there is usually food available in the next town and I’m only one person!
I traded in my tea kettle and glass French-press coffee maker for one enamel coffee percolator that I use on my propane stove. I LOVE IT. It makes great coffee, takes up half the space as two things, and can also be used to boil water, which I don’t like to do in my cast iron pot. I chose cast iron because it retains heat well in cool weather and it can be used over a fire as well as on the stove.
In short, the simpler the better, and the LESS the better. One doesn’t need a stocked kitchen to enjoy good food on the road at all! Just a bit of creativity and a desire to enjoy the rewards.
As a side note, the rewards have been tremendous. I have shed 30 pounds on this nine month adventure, which I attribute to increased exercise – walking, hiking and swimming- being in an environment where i am not constantly inundated with fast food options and simply making time to enjoy cooking and eating in a ritualistic way.
Additionally, I rarely eat out of “boredom” anymore, because I am never bored! I am living a rich, rewarding and active life that engages me on every level. No need to numb-out with food either, as was sometimes the case at home.
I want to be wide awake for this journey.