It’s a little hard for me to come to terms with this, but the trip we’d been dreaming of for years is over! In case you missed it, we just spent five of the last six weeks out west exploring our beautiful continent, and four of those weeks were in an RV rental. And boy, was it an adventure!
I had no idea what to expect, and it turned out to be a great way to travel, aside from all that driving of course—my poor husband (although I did get behind the wheel three times myself)! There really was no better way to explore our country, though, and we feel so incredibly fortunate to have had the experience!
And after all that fun, I am here to report on our adventure in eating real food on the road.
What We Ate
A month is a long time to be tracking your meals, but I took as many pictures as I could. I would like to say upfront that creativity and variety were not exactly my goal on this trip.
I was honestly just going for simple, easy, and “no real recipe required” kind of meals. So this is what we got (starting at the top left and going across).
- Snacky lunch with fruit, cheese, cashews, caprese salad, and some good whole grain bread we stocked up on in San Francisco
- BLTs – a family favorite
- Camping eggs (which is what we call eggs that we fry in bacon grease) with fruit and bacon, of course
- Kale and mushroom pasta
- Grill packets (I got the guy at Whole Foods to go ahead and dice the organic meat for me, which was a life saver at the time!)
- Pimento cheese sandwich, deviled eggs, fruit, organic potato chips, and whole grain pretzels (from Trader Joe’s when we found one)
- Another grill packet with just potatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper (super easy and tasty)
- Baked tostada with slow cooker refried beans, cheese, and sour cream, along with watermelon
- Fried egg, crispy prosciutto (that I also fried in the pan), cantaloupe, and simple yogurt crunch in the cup
- Pimento cheese with whole-wheat pitas and watermelon
- Hummus, cheese, and tomato sandwiches
- Spaghetti and salad (we had spaghetti twice with a jar of organic sauce and some good grass-fed beef we stocked up on when we found it)
- Whole-wheat banana pancakes
- Grilled sausages, peppers, and onions
- 4th of July BBQ: The best pulled pork in the Crock Pot, potato salad, cole slaw, watermelon, and garlic toast
- Grill packets – again! :)
- The best whole chicken in the Crock Pot with salad and boiled corn on the cob
- Potato skins made with leftover baked potatoes (I baked them in the oven while we were driving back to our campsite!)
- Refried beans topped with cheese and sour cream, and a salad
- Chicken salad (with the leftover slow cooker chicken) on lettuce with cheese, avocado, and fruit
- Granola – don’t look too closely, my first batch was burnt on the bottom!
- Sautéed fish, mashed sweet potatoes, and steamed green beans
- Another BLT with random leftovers and fruit
- Guacamole with a rare treat—fried tortilla chips
- Simple yogurt crunch, scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit
- Quiche, salad, and bacon – This was one of the few times I used the oven, and for some reason that quiche really hit the spot (for all of us)!
- Tacos and fruit
That’s a lot of food! :)
The Pantry, Fridge and Freezer on the RV
My apologies in advance for not spending too much time making the cabinets and such pretty for the picture. This is just how it looked in a vehicle that throws stuff all around when you’re driving! We learned the hard way to open the fridge slowly (after losing a dozen eggs)!
One thing we learned quickly—it was super nice traveling around with a fully equipped kitchen wherever we went! If we were out exploring Glacier National Park later than expected (true story), well then we just pulled over in a parking lot and made dinner there before we were on our way again!
We could even have the girls go ahead and get in their pajamas and brush their teeth before we kept driving. It was so incredibly convenient.
I will say though, that shopping in unfamiliar stores without a solid plan wasn’t exactly easy, but I did know that some exceptions would have to be made. For example, at home, we don’t do boxed cereal for the girls, but that’s what they ate the entire trip.
I didn’t have a lot of time to bake granola, so when I did, there just wasn’t enough to share with the whole family (and trust me, they were fine with that). I also didn’t make my tortillas from scratch like I do at home, but I was able to find whole-grain corn tortillas by Food for Life. And I think that’s the next best option.
Kitchen Tools We Brought
I made my best guess on what to bring along with us on the trip. We did rent a kitchen kit from El Monte RV, which included pots, pans, plates, utensils, etc. So I was only trying to fill in some gaps. Here’s what I brought:
- My slow cooker: This is one of my most used appliances at home, but I ended up using it only three times on the trip. So I am on the fence about whether it was worthwhile to pack! The problem was that most days we were on the go, and I wasn’t so sure about where I could put it while the RV was moving all around. I did use it twice at night and quickly learned that it was a rather small space in which to be smelling food all night. The second time I set it up in the bathroom, opened the vent, and shut the door, and that helped tremendously! I was super happy to have those meals (including the plentiful leftovers) once it was all said and done.
- Cheese grater: We didn’t actually bring this with us. We bought it at Target after picking up the RV! I guess that was an oops, but we could use an extra one at home, so it worked out in the end.
- Hand immersion blender: I did use this one, but not exactly for what I was picturing. I thought I’d be making smoothies (never did), emulsifying salad dressings (our salads were not nearly that fancy!), and blending up homemade soups (not sure what I was thinking there), but instead I found myself needing a way to puree the slow cooked refried beans and mash the sweet potatoes I boiled. While it was not an ideal appliance for these jobs, it totally did the trick without taking up a lot of space!
- High quality frying pan: This one really came in handy. I used it almost every time I cooked!
- Silicone muffin cups (these allow you to bake muffins without a muffin pan): Looking back, it’s funny I thought I’d be sitting around baking muffins. Let’s just say I didn’t even come close to using these! Luckily, they didn’t take up much space.
- Percolator: This is what my husband used to make espresso on the gas stove (we did not pay the extra fee to rent a coffee maker). I drink maple mochas at home (not regular coffee), so I just skipped having my daily dose of that, unless we happened to see a coffee shop.
- Other tools: Tongs, pot holders (the white and red things), cutting board (note we’ve since replaced the pictured one with a better option), a good knife, a few measuring cups and measuring spoons, a meat thermometer (that we didn’t use), a small silicone spatula (not pictured), and one good stainless steel spatula.
My Biggest Mistake
A couple days into the trip, I was kicking myself for not bringing along a single dried spice! So for every meal that needed a 1/4 teaspoon of this or a 1/2 teaspoon of that, I had to buy a whole new spice bottle, and those added up fast.
We did manage to bring all the new bottles home, but it still would have been so much better and easier if I would have been smart enough to pack myself some homemade taco seasoning mix or The Best Whole Chicken in the Crock Pot seasoning mix to really make things easy in the RV.
I also wish I would’ve purchased a jar of minced garlic instead of fresh garlic. We’re in the habit of using fresh garlic at home, but when clean dishes are hard to come by (see below), it would have been wonderful to be able to spare a clean cutting board and knife whenever possible!
Live and learn, and in the end—not a huge deal :)
What Happens When Your Gray Water Tank is Full
As you can see above, I used a lot of paper plates on this trip. At home, we don’t even use paper napkins, so that’s definitely not the norm for us! But once again, we learned the hard way that if you’re staying in a campsite without hookups, and people actually want to shower, your gray water tank (i.e. dirty water that’s from anywhere except the toilet) fills up fast.
So our kitchen sink in the RV, unfortunately, looked like this more often than not. With only 4 place settings, that meant the plates weren’t clean very often, and when they were clean, we hesitated to get them dirty!
Please don’t judge. I promise this is not a regular occurrence at home!
In case you missed it, I shared a map of our route a couple of weeks ago. But since many have asked, here are the places we stopped (and the duration) in a list format:
- Portland, OR: 3 Nights (We lived there many years ago after college and couldn’t wait to go back to visit.)
- Crater Lake National Park, OR: 1 Night
- Northern California (Redwood National Forest Area): 1 Night
- San Francisco, CA: 3 Nights (We picked up the RV just outside of San Fran on the last day there.)
- Yosemite National Park, CA: 3 Nights
- Big Sur, CA: 3 Nights (One of our favorite stops!)
- Ventura, CA: 1 Night (Simply because this was halfway to our next stop.)
- Las Vegas, NV: 2 Nights
- Grand Canyon National Park, AZ: 1 Night (We went by Hoover Dam on our way here.)
- Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Park, AZ/UT: 2 Nights (We rented a houseboat with a water slide, and it was awesome!)
- Moab/Arches National Park, UT: 1 Night (My husband went mountain biking here.)
- Park City, UT: 2 Nights (Mountain biking was our attraction to this stop as well.)
- Yellowstone National Park, WY: 2 Nights
- Lewis and Clark Caverns Stat Park, MT: 1 Night (This was on the way to our next stop.)
- Glacier National Park, MT: 3 Nights (Our favorite US National Park by far!)
- Canmore, Canada (Just outside of Banff): 1 Night
- Banff National Park, Canada: 2 Nights (Backpacking)
- Lake Louise National Park, Canada: 1 Night (Absolutely breathtaking!)
- Just south of Kamploops, Canada: 1 Night (Because this was the halfway point to Seattle.)
- Seattle, WA: 2 Nights (This is where we returned the RV, and then we rented an apartment) 36 Nights Total
I will add that even though I tried to work in extra nights (2 to 3 nights minimum at most places), there still was very little downtime on this trip. It just didn’t feel right to sit around and relax when you could be exploring the next amazing destination!
I told my husband we could do nothing when we got home (which sounded good at the time, but in reality isn’t actually true, as most busy families know).
What if you don’t have that much time?
I know some have told me how they’d love to go on a trip like this, but would never have five weeks in a row to do it. So if this sounds like you, I just want to say that a shorter version of this trip would still totally be awesome.
If you could swing two weeks, I would recommend to either start in Salt Lake City (and go a tad south to start at the Arches Park) or Phoenix (if you don’t want to miss the Grand Canyon). And then I would suggest driving north and finishing up at either Glacier National Park (our favorite in the US) or go six or seven hours further and make your last stop in Banff/Lake Louise (another amazingly gorgeous place).
This itinerary would allow you to see a really nice variety of landscapes. My husband and I both feel that week after week of snow-capped mountains and streams would, of course, be super nice, but it would be even better to squeeze in a little bit of time in the desert, just for more variety.
A Few Trip Highlights
We had a feeling this would be the trip of a lifetime, and it did not disappoint! Here’s a little recap of some of the highlights. I had trouble narrowing things down, if you can’t tell. :)
93 thoughts on “Real Food on the Road: What We Ate in the RV”
Couple of suggestions: Buy a Bead/Paint container that holds 24 to 30 small plastic jars in a plastic case. They are about $10. They hold up to 3 oz of dried spices and herbs that you fill from your home pantry. (I originally started with a 20 ct 1 oz bead jar set with twist tops, but they dont really hold enough,). These are small space saving kits you bring out when youre cooking in our out of an RV. I pre-prep a few necessities in advance: Purees, sauces, broths I make or decant from jars and cans into 1 qt ziploc freezer bags, squeezing out at all the air I can and freeze on baking sheets. When frozen I stack them like books in our freezer. Some I freeze in ice trays and bag them, so If I need a little tomato sauce, lemon juice, etc. they are available in an instant.
How did the fridge and freezer work for you? Did you have to use a cooler also? We are taking an RV trip soon and read that the fridge and freezer don’t work while driving. The pictures show your fridge and freezer fully packed which makes me optimistic we won’t be living out of a cooler!
They worked just fine! No extra cooler needed.
Thanks so much for your informative blog! We’re about to embark on a three-week trip, and, as a total foodie, your recipes and advice will be helpful. We will pack more paper products – even though we don’t like using them. And, on the advice or experienced camper friends, bought grill mats to cover grills that may be dirty from other peoples’ use. We won’t have a crockpot or oven, but we are looking forward to bagels warmed on a skillet with olive oil. I make granola and so will be taking a good supply.
What dishes do you use for RV? Can you recommend me some? I don’t know which one is suitable for RV. Many thanks
Hi, when Lisa and her family rented this RV they actually rented a kitchen kit that included some plates and utensils, but they used a lot of paper plates during this trip. But you could check out some melamine, break-resistant plastic settings. – Nicole
I don’t recommend melamine because you can’t use them in the microwave. Corelle or Luminarc are better for long-time use in an RV.
Corelle dishes are light weight and chip resistant. We keep one per person in the RV. They are thin and take up little space.
Thanks for the helpful tips!! I’m getting ready to go on a 4 week cross country trip myself (from VA to the west cost and back). We will be hitting many of the sites you visited.
Using your slow cooker on the road: I used to plug in and lower filled pot into sink. I still had an extra sink and it cooked away. Incidentally, I would fill pot with (organic) tomatoes, fresh or canned, eggplant, onion, celery, green pepper, garlic…whatever and cook. Once sauce was HOT I would add my own ground beef mix. But it’s delicious plain, with beef or leftover…chicken.
Wow. What a totally amazing trip. I am envious!! I have been to many places you traveled. Thanks for sharing everything. Great information. I am glad you all had the trip of a lifetime.
I’m early retired – brain tumor (but doing very well). My husband is retiring this year and I REALLY have been trying to convince him to be a gypsy. We ARE selling our farm and have invites to live with 4 different family members around the country – which we will do.
BUT! You have inspired me to try a 2 month, RV rental vacation with the hubby. I’ll get my ‘gypsy’ fix and maybe convince him to try this longer term.
I love REAL FOOD! and must eat carefully because of my brain dis-function and propensity to gain a few pounds.
QUESTION: Is making this site your job and income?
Hi there. We wish you the best with your health and gypsy dream! :) Here is a link to what inspired Lisa and yes, this blog has become their livelihood: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/start-here/.
Just a little note about the washing dishes problem. Most (I agree not all, but for most) campgrounds that don’t have full hookups, if they have a restroom/shower building there is usually a large sink on the side or around back for washing dishes. I travel with a plastic dishpan so I can use these sinks.
Thank you for such valuable tips!!! We are planning a trip from California to Florida and then back through Georgia via Highway 40. We have only done short beach trips so far, so this really helps with my planning!
This was very helpful! We’re taking our first RV vacation this summer.
I’m still in the “what do I need” stage. I LOVE to cook and this will pose questions, but now I’ve narrowed down some things.
Thanks for your valuable tips. My family has food allergies, and we just bought a 5th wheel to begin more extensive travels across North America.
We have camped with a pop up trailer for 20 years. I grab a spare canvas wine bag from the grocery store with 6 slots, and I just throw my favorite full size spice containers (plastic) into it before we leave. It keeps everything upright and I can easily move it wherever I happen to be cooking (inside or out). It’s now a portable spice rack and stores upright in a small cabinet. And when we get home, it’s easy to put everything back in it’s place. Lightweight, no waste, no added cost. Happy travels!
I have followed your 100 days of real food for awhile now… and just stumbled across this post as I was searching for “easy rv meals” for our very similar upcoming trip! We hail from KY but just bought an RV to take an epic 6 week trip out west, visiting many of those same places this coming summer. I am definitely bookmarking this post to share with my hub.
And I would highly recommend the “magic pot”… can cook a whole chicken from frozen to falling off the bone in an hour or less. My favorite kitchen appliance (right behind the coffee pot!) ;)
We are heading out west for 5 weeks in 23 days!!! we are leaving from indy, going all the way to san fran and home. It is getting real. It is interesting reading your info on what to take and meals.
I know most of you have already completed your travels but I wanted to comment on the crockpot. We traveled from Alaska through Canada down to the lower 48 and I absolutely loved my crockpot! I made meals ahead of time and froze them in gallon bags defrosted overnight in the frig then dumped into the crockpot in the morning. I’d put the crockpot in the kitchen sink and let it cook all day while we drove and had a great meal ready when we stopped at night only having to make a salad or side after set up.
Hey really awesome tips! Just got a small RV with pretty much the amenities for cooking! I went on a similar trip with my now husband a few years ago coming from Philadelphia. We actually stopped in Ventura as well just as a holdover spot, but turns out it was one of the coolest stops. If you didn’t venture out to the Channel Islands and you ever go back to Cali it is 100% so cool. In a 45 min each way boat trip to the island and back we saw multiple pods of dolphins right along the boat and three whales. But love some of your trip tips because we are planning a second cross country trip next year!
This is so awesome, my husband and I are just getting into the “camper life” and this will help me out a lot!
Great article! We have been RVING since 2014. Larger vehicle with what I call a full kitchen. You hit the nail on the head with convenience of traveling with amenities. I now bring frozen packets of food for meal starters. Very aggressive travel schedule, but loved your sight picks!
WOW! What an awesome trip! Thank you so much for your great ideas! As we prepare our new RV—your honest article helped me to pack things I would have forgot!
Thanks for this article and your honesty. We are kind of experienced RVers but are always looking for new ways to do things and with just 2 of us it’s seems easier. We tent camped for 30 years with our 4 kids and did the mass camp cooking, so the motorhome is a real nice reprieve for me. Because we RV more frequently I tire of paper, so just purchased new dishware that is more flexible including some acrylic wine glasses to give any beverage a little flare. I have a good system down for dishwashing – dry wash first so all food is removed (yes, paper towel is used) and then do a hot soapy wash and rinse. The dishpan option that can be emptied out of the RV is a good idea for no-hook-up rving, too. I appreciated your comments on the crockpot, something we’ve debated. I am still looking for good pots and pans for the RV that aren’t so large and heavy. Your schedule was aggressive – a lot of one night stays. Those don’t allow for much set-up/take down time. Good nights for leftovers. We try to premake a few options before we take off to give us a head start. Our biggest challenge is adhering to low sodium needs and food allergies. The desire to indulge in those crunchy, salty snack options is hard to resist, but we don’t want to return 5 lbs heavier. Thanks for your shopping suggestions. Congratulations on planning and completing a wonderful trip!
Instead of a crock pot, try a “fast pot” or electric pressure cooker. My fabulous hubby bought me one for Christmas. It is a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and you can even braise meat before slow cooking. We are planning a trip soon and I am bringing mine. For those coffee drinkers. I take my mini kerig. Takes up less space and other than washing cup, nothing else to wash.
Awesome Trip, but too fast paced for this retiree, who also loves Glacier National Park. One indispensible RV galley cooking appliance is the NuWave PIC (Precision Induction Cooktop). If you have a generator set in the RV, it saves time and propane gas. Heats water VERY rapidly, and also cooks food to perfection without burning it. Only downside is you must have stainless steel or iron pots to cook in. I pack a 10″ SS skillet and a 2 quart SS pot. I never use the gas range anymore. Like you, I pack a mini-keurig coffee maker. If you have a “Food Saver” machine, you can seal up fresh “anything”, put the sealed food into either the fridge or ice filled cooler with no danger of spilling or leaking. Food stays edible longer. Put eggs into an RV egg carrier and then seal it inside a food saver sealed bag. These are the 3 kitchen tools I always travel with dry campnig or boondocking.
Oh Lisa, I have followed you for years but with this post, I could literally reach through the computer and kiss you!
My family is heading out on a 7 week epic cross country RV trip. My biggest hurdle and fear is eating well, trying to imagine preparing, cooking in the RV, storage space, lack of appliances, etc.! I don’t want us eating processed nor falling back on day after day of eating out. But, I know after hours on end of driving or hours and hours out exploring, I’m not going to feel like coming back in and spending the time required for us to eat homemade like we do at home nor will my ravenous family be willing to wait.. The only thing I have looked forward to in the food area is all the different farmer’s markets we’ll encounter.
This is my dream come true post.! Thank you for sharing.
Are you kidding me? Have you never heard of a plastic dishpan to wash dishes in? Every site I have ever camped at has a fresh water supply and an outhouse. Boil water on the stove, put in dishpan, add soap, wash dishes, rinse in a big pot, and throw dish water down the outhouse. Not a big deal! How do you think the pioneers did it?
I’m thrilled that you did this!! We are planning for a 2 week adventure pulling our camper from IA to SD, WY, MT, AND CO. I’ve been panicked about what food to pack and make , and your recap and food ideas are simply wonderful! Thank you so much. I will do my best to document how we do! 3 kids, and F350, camper and 10 days before Wine Camp in downtown Denver! This is going to be an adventure!
Hi. I’m considering doing a 2.5 RV trip with my three children in May. Where did you take yours rafting (I saw the pic above) & do you recommend it? Also, where was the picture taken with the red row boats & mountain backdrop? Gorgeous. Thanks for any other info about activities that your kids loved. I’d like to do activities rather than just look at a lot of scenery…more fun for us all. Thanks for your suggestions!
We went rafting around Glacier NP – so fun and our favorite national park so far! The red canoes were at Lake Louise, which was just breathtaking. Both of those spots were two of our favorites on the trip. We also loved chilling in Big Sur, CA. I hope that helps!
So you bought some convenience foods and used paper plates. Honey, you’re on holiday. You are supposed to relax. I don’t often get away for more than a weekend, but I don’t “cook”. Rotisserie chicken, home made potato or pasta salad, instant oatmeal or granola, hard boiled eggs, cheese and fruit, snacky stuff, sandwiches. The only reason the campstove comes along is for coffee and boil water for instant oatmeal. That being said, being on the road for a month is a bit more of a challenge to keep things easy yet reasonably healthy. You did have the advantage of electricity which is a help. Please don’t take the guilt train over conveniences
I used those heavy plastic bags sheets and linens come in to store spices see thru and travel well and are larger than kitchen baggies
This was an excellent article – thank you! My boyfriend and I are getting ready to retire and become full-timers while we’re still young enough to enjoy it, and I appreciate your practical tips. One of my concerns was how we were going to eat well and not get caught up in junk food, and your menu is great!
Dear Lisa, what an interesting young lady your are. Your site caught my eye instantly. Haven’t delved in all the way yet, but boy oh boy, your are an inspiration. I am sure I am going to apply many of your tips to my road trip(in a car). Lots of happiness sent your way to you and your family. Beautiful photos. Fond regards, Sherie
after many years of camping, spending weekends on a sailboat and cruising FlatHead Lake, living in an RV until our house was under roof, then camping again, then getting an RV again, I found how to fine tune my kitchen. First off, I took the mess gear we had for camping into the RV. All pots , plates, cups, needed were there. And if we camped, it was easy to transfer. I picked out a good cutting board, and some basics like can opener and veggie peeler. All these were in a Rubbermaid tub container. Plenty of left over space to stash a much loved grater, (4 sided kind) spatulas, and most treasured knife set that had one handle and 8 interchangeable blades. We also had two single serving coffee funnels for many years, but found just the plain old percolator on the camp stove or RV stove was fine. When it came to food, I would prep in advance, marinating and freezing meats, crockpot refried beans in freezer bags, and keep an open mind if passing a produce stand to add to whatever I already had. Rice and potatoes are always in the mix. We have a small BBQ that is similar to a Weber that attached to the railing of our sailboat. It was wonderful on the lake to have bbq. It now attaches to the ladder of our RV and is large enough to cook 4 chicken breasts or a couple steaks. I do a lot of kabob type meals utilizing fresh produce along the trip. So I usually have chicken breast already cubed, or pork or beef, marinated and frozen and can thaw one bag and put some on skewers (bamboo, also a staple – because sometimes you have to light a pilot light manually or pull something from the sink drain). I could go on and on, but took me a good 15 years to figure it all out, and another 15 to fine tune it.
Thanks for the tips! My husband and I are road tripping this summer (4 weeks, through Oregon from Idaho… where we are moving in 5 weeks…). We are excited and have been planning on it for ages! Looked like you guys were moving! Most of these places are 100% on my to do list, especially because we are moving to Idaho! Of the places above, where do you think just 1-3 nights were enough and which do you think really needed more time to properly explore?
You may have learn this already but the next time you hit the road, re-purpose a tic-tac container for your spices. They pack nicely in a draw and won’t need to take the whole tin or glass bottle.
Whenever I rent a vacation condo I bring my spices and dried herbs in large 7 day pill containers. Works great. I label each compartment and use one container for baking spices like ginger and cinnamon and another for things like thyme, rosemary, cumim etc.