One year ago, Amanda and I bought our vintage RV and immediately began renovations. As I write this, we’ve been living in our tiny home full-time for 4 months. Our kitchen, one of the most complex parts of our renovation (and a source of frequent profanity during that renovation process- dealing with water and propane is hard!) has become the central hub of our RV.
Whether you’re still planning your home-on-wheels or are already living the vanlife, we’re guessing that your kitchen is going to be a focal point of your home. You’ll use it to prepare your food and as a work surface for other, non-cooking tasks.
To help you achieve kitchen happiness (and avoid a few of the headaches we’ve had to deal with) here is a list of eight things no van-dwellers kitchen should be without.
8 Things EVERY Vanlife Kitchen Needs
1. A full-sized chef knife
We know that on your quest to downsize your life and cram it into a vehicle, you’ve probably ditched full-size versions of things in favor of compact replacements. One thing is for sure, when it comes to prepping food in your mobile kitchen, a full-sized knife is totally worth bringing along. Moving into a van may mean that you shower less and do laundry less frequently, but you’re still going to need to eat the same amount of food (maybe even more). Don’t waste your time trying to cut veggies, cheese, bread, etc. with some tiny travel-sized blade. A proper-sized knife for food prep will speed things up.
2. Cutting board
This is pretty straightforward. You need it for food prep. One thing to consider though is to get a cutting board that is big enough to fit over your sink. This will effectively give you more usable counter space.
3. Cast iron cookware
Have you ever noticed that when you cook stuff on a properly seasoned cast iron pan, clean up is a breeze? Well, having cookware that cleans up easily when you are living in a vehicle is an AWESOME convenience and cast iron is a great solution. Not to mention the fact that it’s versatile – you can use it on your stove top as well as a camp fire. You can even bake in them (takes some skill). When you are done all you need is a little water and one of these awesome chainmail scrubbers and you’re ready to go. Make sure you have a pot holder or cover for the handle, it gets got! (This is one we have, which comes in a set of two with a red and black one, or you can opt for a silicon-style one, or a leather one if you’re feeling real fancy.)
4. A trivet
If you are like us, you probably end up eating most of your meals right out of the pot or pan that you cook them in. It’s not laziness, it’s a way to avoid doing additional dishes (am I right?). When you are done cooking and it’s time to eat, a cork trivet like this one from Ikea is a great way to protect your table or counter top (or lap) from a hot pot or pan.
5. Enamel plates, bowls, mugs
So maybe you roll your eyes every time you see a #vanlife photo (or outdoor photo, in general) with yet another enamel mug, but vanlifers use them for good reason…unlike ceramics, they don’t break! They’re more robust than plastic (and more pleasant to eat off of).
6. Re-usable plastic containers for bulk goods
One of the most affordable ways to buy staples (at least grains and the like) is at grocery stores that sell in bulk. Bonus: you’ll save money and avoid unnecessary packaging. But, you’ll want to have a robust storage method for your bulk goodies. We found some inexpensive, functional containers at Ikea that work great for rice, grits, sugar, etc. They can stack and don’t tear like the thin plastic bags that you usually use when purchasing bulk. If you don’t already have these you may be lucky thrift stores, and places like Bed, Bath and Beyond (they often have 20% off coupons floating around online), or The Container Store.
7. A dish drying mat
You don’t need to dry your dishes with a rag. Just wash and place on this absorbent mat where they’ll air-dry. I also put our cutting board on top of this mat when I’m prepping food and it prevents the cutting board from sliding around on the counter.
8. Loose item organization
You’ll need to tailor these to your space: baskets and plastic totes are great for organizing loose kitchen items and preventing them from sliding around. Ikea, Pier 1, thrift store. Find what works in your space.
This list is really just a starting point. Everyone will have additional items that they consider absolutely necessary (like our Hario coffee grinder, Aeropress, and gooseneck kettle). Figuring out what YOU need will take time living in and using your space – it’s impossible to anticipate ALL of your needs up front.
What did we miss? If you have additional suggestions, share them with us in the comments section of this post! If we neglected anything REALLY important, we’ll add it to the list!
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