Having the convenience of an entire kitchen while traveling is one of the best features of traveling the RV way. Eating home-cooked meals can be very budget-friendly while on a vacation, especially while traveling with children. And for some, the thought of cooking while on vacation can sound very daunting, but by meal planning and prepping, it’s very possible and not that time consuming at all. Here are some of my favorite must-have staple pantry items and meal recipes that I found myself making time and time again over the course of our RV travels.
Easy Go-To Meals when Traveling in your RV & Staple Pantry Items
Having the convenience of an entire kitchen while traveling is one of the best features of traveling the RV way.
Meat variation and recipes
Ground Beef - Ground beef is very versatile, and I make a ton of different dishes with it. I typically buy a 5-pound pack from Costco and split it into 5, 1 pound slabs and freeze them individually. They freeze nice and flat in quart size freezer Ziplocs. For meals, I typically make mini cheeseburger sliders, spaghetti, hamburger steak, Salisbury steak, hamburger curry with mixed vegetables, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, chili, hamburger helpers, and minestrone soup.
If you make tacos for lunch or dinner and find that you have a little meat and toppings leftover, you can make nachos for an appetizer the following day. Just be sure to keep a bag of tortilla chips or Doritos around or be adventurous and fry the flour tortillas you used to make tacos with and make chips. To make the nachos, simply spread a single layer of chips on a baking sheet or in a cast iron pan, sprinkle the leftover taco meat and cheese, bake at 375 for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted, then take it out and sprinkle over the remaining leftover toppings such as tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, jalapeno, avocado, etc. and enjoy. Two meals with one prepared meat.
If you want to opt for a healthier version, you can swap ground beef for ground turkey, too. This can also be made using shredded chicken, flaked fish such as cod or shrimp - depending on what type of tacos you want.
Rotisserie Chicken - I love Costco’s rotisserie chicken and make so many different meals from one chicken. I make easy grab and go meals like chicken Cesar salad wraps, pesto chicken wraps, chicken salad sandwiches to savory chicken enchiladas, chicken noodle soups, and tacos. The key here is to shred the chicken. It may be a little time consuming at first, but once you break down the chicken into shredded pieces and store them in a container, it’s uses are endless. You can also make delicious chicken quesadillas with this as well.
For chicken Caesar salad wraps, simply throw some shredded chicken in a bowl and toss it with your favorite Caesar salad dressing, lay a tortilla wrap down, and layer a piece of your favorite white cheese, I typically use mozzarella or provolone, then add some chopped lettuce, then the chicken. To roll, fold one of the vertical ends in about a quarter of the way, then roll the bottom piece up so that one of the ends are closed and the chicken won’t drop out from the bottom end.
This can be repeated with a pesto version. Costco sells a jar of delicious pre-made pesto so it’s great to keep on hand. To make a pesto version, toss chicken with pesto instead of Caesar salad dressing and repeat steps similar to the chicken Caesar salad version. You can also do a version of either of these with any deli-style ham or turkey and use spinach instead of lettuce. Use what you have on hand.
I typically make these the night before we go skiing. I pack them in a Tupperware and when we are ready, I throw them in my backpack (be sure to make enough or use the right sized container so that when you pack it, it’s snug and it doesn't roll around. It’s a perfect protein-packed meal that is easy to just grab and refuel while on the slopes. The best part is that you don't have to worry about refrigeration because the chilly weather will take care of that for you.
Chicken - Besides recipes made with rotisserie chicken, you can also make these recipes with either thighs or breasts -- shoyu chicken, chicken casserole with stuffing, and chicken katsu.
Pork/Beef - Other meat variation recipes I love are pork chops with mushroom gravy, pork adobo (can be made with chicken as well), sweet and sour pork spareribs, beef stew, beef kabobs, a plain and simple seared steak, and some good ol’ bacon for breakfast.
Sausages - Sausages are good to have for grilling, for hot dogs, or for breakfast.
Swapping seafood for meat is a great way to switch things up a bit. Some of my favorite seafood recipes are shrimp scampi, shrimp pad Thai noodles, Chinese-style steamed fish, fish tacos, and a really easy fish stew.
Sandwich items - Sandwiches are an easy go-to meal option for lunch so always have some of your favorite deli-style meats on hand as well as cheese and bread. Eggs, tuna, and chicken are also great sandwiches.
Curly fries /French fries - I always like to carry a bag of fries in the freezer with us when we travel. It’s a great item to have on hand to pair it with burgers, sliders, sandwiches, or to make loaded baked potato fries.
Charcuterie board - This is a fancy name but I always think of this as a tray or serving board of what you have on hand, turned fancy in a presentable way. From deli meats to nuts, crackers, cheese, sausages, and fruits, this board makes a great appetizer (or meal) for serving hungry kids (or guests).
Ice - If you have an ice maker at home, fill a fairly large square sized Tupperware without the cover and take it along with you in your freezer instead of buying a bag of ice every time you camp. Depending on how many beverages you have with ice, you may find that you don't need to buy a bag of ice when on the road. And if you do, you can pour the ice in the container to keep things pretty organized in your freezer.
Staple Pantry Must-Haves
- Beef (ground/stewing pieces/steak/sausages)
- Pork (bacon/pork chops/spareribs)
- Chicken (rotisserie/thighs)
- Sour cream
- Bell pepper
- An assortment of your favorite fruits in season
You can either keep these in your RV or add them to small containers and keep them all together in one small box/container for easy transport between home and RV.
- Canola oil/olive oil
- Ranch or caesar dressing
- Peanut butter
- Oyster sauce
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Fish sauce
- Chicken bouillon
- Sugar/brown sugar
- Johnny’s seasoning
- Garlic salt
- Italian herbs mix/herbs de Provence
- Curry sauce mix
These items, except for the breads, have great shelf life so they can be easily kept in your RV.
- Hawaiian Sweet Rolls/dinner rolls
- Powdered juices
- Tortilla wraps
- Canned tomato paste/sauce
- Canned mixed vegetables
- Canned beans
- Canned Tuna/chicken
- Canned cream of mushroom
- Canned mushrooms
- Canned coconut milk
- Canned pineapple
- Canned green chilies
- Chilli spice seasoning
- Taco spice seasoning
- Enchilada sauce (canned or packet)
- Variety of dried pasta (elbow/penne/egg noodle)
- Asian vermicelli noodles (pad thai noodles)
- Panko bread crumbs
- Box Hamburger Helper
- Box Stove Top stuffing
- Tortilla chips
- Bag of frozen fries
This past summer my family and I took an 18-day fly-fishing road trip and was able to pack 18 days’ worth of three daily meals in our travel trailer and rarely stopped for any groceries. We stopped for gas, an occasional bag of ice, and some fruits when we ran out, but other than that, we were good. It was a summer of uncertainty and stopping in small towns to load up on food in a time during the pandemic was something we didn't want to do, so we made sure we headed out prepared with food stocked from our own home town and found that it was very easy to do with some proper meal planning for each day.
I hope these recipes inspire you to get creative and try new meals. Remember, you don't have to have every ingredient listed in the recipes. If you have the items I list above, you can make each and every recipe I mentioned and leave out what is not listed and it will turn out just as good. Or be adventurous and play around with them according to your taste. Many of the meals can also be pre-made and kept in the fridge or in the freezer to save time. Just take it out the day before you plan to eat and defrost in the fridge. Happy travels!