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post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone!


I've got a bit of a puzzle on my hands. In about a month, I'm leaving the comforts of a grounded home to more or less drift the continent in a van (this is by choice. I know many live in vehicles out of desperation, but that is not the situation). The first obstacle aside from limited space is the lack of a refrigerator, or the ability to run a refrigerator at all times. So, storing cold food/ingredients is out of the picture. This also means I can't really store leftovers; so unless I'm cooking for company, I'll usually need to be cooking for one unless the dish can be stored at room temperature. Furthermore, I'm not one of those people who can eat nothing but twinkies and fast food burgers and maintain a healthy/able body. I have been pretty heavy in the past, and coming back from that was what triggered my interest in cooking in the first place. That being said, I need to be able to balance my nutrients. Most recipes I find or am able to create within my criteria would have me eating salt and carbohydrates in pretty massive abundance, which is no surprise. Lastly, although I do well enough as a freelance graphic designer to support this lifestyle (I hope!), I do still want to eat as frugally as possible.


Now, I know full well that there are plenty of recipes that fit through one or two of these filters; but I'm sure you all can understand it's been a bit tough to find any good number of recipes which satisfy all of these points. That's why I sought out a culinary community! If any of you are anything like myself, you love a good challenge. Most of you also probably know a great deal more about food than I do though, so I'd really love to hear what you would do in my circumstances. What equipment do you think you'd bring or buy? What kinds of food would you prepare on a hot summer day in the desert? A cold night in the mountain regions? What food or ingredients would you always have on hand?


Going over those criteria again briefly: You have limited space, no cold storage, you're cooking for one, you want balanced nutrition, and you want to stay on the cheap. I think the one criterion I don't share with many is that I don't care if it's easy to prepare. Still, I know those are hardly favorable conditions to cook under so treat these points more as guidelines.


I DO have a very capable electric system in my van, and will have at my disposal a large toaster oven, a propane grill with an additional burner built in, a set of cast iron cookware and some number of other pots and pans, and no shortage of utensils. I might pick up an electric burner or double burner so I don't need to use propane every time I boil water. I'm not asking you to cram your ideas entirely into a box so if you'd use something that I don't have (but could feasibly own/operate in a van), no problem!

post #2 of 8

A small cooler would be good to at least store a few things. Ice isn't difficult to get.


When I travelled and slept in the back of the pickup I always made morning coffee and had some granola in the morning.


Not sure where your traveling or even what continent, but while traveling it's always good try local foods. I found all regions have something good.


As for what you choose to cook, I would aim for one pot meals like chili.


Sandwiches of course are always good. 

post #3 of 8

I would build a small pantry of butter, eggs, sugar, flour maybe?    Then tiny bits of flavor explosion like cooked bacon, cook it all, then store it. Carrots, turnip, beets, or other root vegetables.  Rice, beans, pasta, canned tomatoes.

post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Great thoughts guys, thanks! It had never occurred to me that one could cook bacon and keep it on hand that way.
post #5 of 8

They actually sell a canned bacon for long term food storage. Once cooked it will not keep out of a fridge, that is asking to get sick. Get one of those 12 volt mini fridges and put a couple solar panels on the roof of the van to run it. Its own deep cycle battery for overnight use or disconnect it every day to keep from draining the van batteries. If interested in solar I could calculate how big of  a battery and panels needed.

post #6 of 8
Before you discount being able to keep perishables do a search and study coolers.
Coleman is just one of several brands that make sturdy compact products that do a great job keeping things cold.
Some even plug into the cell phone socket (used to be a cigarette lighter lol).
We recently bought one that keeps ice frozen for 4-5 days even while sitting in the sun on the deck of the boat.
Good luck.....kinda jealous lol.

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
I've looked into 12v coolers, but it just won't be practical for me to run them at all times. I could keep a cooler with ice but having traveled before and used one, it was more trouble than it was worth to me. That may change, as I was much less interested in cooking in the past. Thanks again everyone!
post #8 of 8

There's been a rise in expedition grade coolers on the market as well. They're expensive, but keep ice about 2x as long as traditional coolers. Costco has a good deal on the Pelican brand heavy duty cooler right now, $250 for 65 quarts where it's usually $360 on-line. 


I added one to my camping kit this year. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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