Last time I covered which food items I carry in my Roadtrek while we roam the country, following the good weather and seeing the sights. Now I'd like to let you know how I prepare it and what we do to keep the menu interesting. It's very similar to the way I shopped and cooked before we started fulltiming, but with a few important modifications.
The first modification for RV cooking on the road is very precise stock levels for all food items. I can remember once when the five pound bag of potatoes was the same price as the ten pound bag, and I got the five pound bag. You'd have to be crazy to do that if you lived in a sticks and bricks house, but I just don't have space or weight capacity to store more than the standard amount I have arrived at when stocking my pantry. Once you hit the road, all those ways of saving by stocking up on specials are just a distant memory.
The second difference is… no regular oven. Ovens are wonderful things for great winter meals, but what I have is a microwave and a Coleman folding metal camp oven that I use with my jet burner outside. Newer Roadtreks have convection ovens, which help somewhat, but it's not the same as having a big oven like I used to have. Pies, cookies, and other winter treats just aren't available anymore, as well as roasts and other baked dishes. It's not as big a burden as it would be for someone used to cold weather, since in Florida we rarely used the oven during the hot season (April through October), but we still get cravings for baked favorites.
The third difference is limited refrigerator space. In our sticks and bricks house, I could cook huge quantities of lasagna, macaroni and cheese, turkey and dressing, etc. and freeze two or three future meals to be enjoyed in the coming weeks. None of that can happen when your freezer is less than a cubic foot. I had to learn to cook only what we would eat that meal, forget about frozen meals for the future, and to minimize refrigerated leftovers.
Let's take it meal by meal and see how our menu has changed since we started fulltiming. It's amazing how much we have retained from our old repertoire (we are creatures of habit, especially with food) considering the very different cooking facilities available.
Breakfast is virtually unchanged. Eggs, toast, bacon and sausage, pancakes, french toast, fruit and oatmeal, it's all there except the Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream I used to treat Sharon to. The Belgian waffle iron has a happy home with my sister now- it's too big, heavy, and electricity hungry to use in the Roadtrek. Besides, I shudder to think what the tiny Roadtrek galley would look like after such an elaborate production.
Lunch is also pretty much the same – sandwiches and soup, maybe potato salad or chips on the side, and similar easy-to-prepare, paper plate food. I LOVE paper plates because they cut way down on dirty dishes, which saves water. What's missing from our pre-fulltiming lunch menu is the leftovers – no more baked hams or turkeys to whittle away at for days.
Dinner is the meal that has changed the most. If it's warm, we stick to our pre-fulltiming summer menu of steaks or chops, maybe fresh fish if we're near the ocean, accompanied by a salad and bread. If it's cooler, we switch to mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables as side dishes. Sometimes I make chicken or beef stew if it's a cold, rainy day, which is seldom.
Losing our ability to roast meats and poultry has sent me in search of similar tastes using pan-roasting, and I've become an expert at searing steaks and chops to give them a good flavor. Chicken is also good if you sear it and then cook slowly for another 20 minutes or so. We don't carry a grill, so all this is done on the stovetop inside or the jet burner outside, the bear situation permitting. The propane stovetops in Roadtreks are relatively anemic BTU-wise, as you would expect in an appliance inside such a small space, so preheating the pan is necessary to get a good sear on your meat or poultry entree.
When we get a wild hair for a change of pace, I whip out the Coleman oven and make biscuits or banana bread for breakfast, macaroni and cheese for dinner, or homemade bread for whatever meal it is (a loaf never lasts more than about 12 hours). It's the baked goods which have figured less prominently in our menu since we became unemployed and homeless, and out waistlines have benefited. We do hit the doughnut shop on our way back into town, and have been known to carry a few with us on our way back out, so it's not exactly a life of deprivation. I occasionally make french fries during extended forays away from civilization as a treat for Sharon, but it's messy and a waste of oil. It's also an outside cooking activity.
Desserts are another area where we've changed our ways. Gone are the homemade cakes, pies, and cookies we used to make at home, replaced by store-bought cookies and pints of Hagen-Daaz ice cream. I end each day with an after-dinner ritual of tea and cookies, And Sharon has a small cup of ice cream. Again, our waistlines thank us.
I would love to have a four-burner stove with a big oven again, but then the view out my kitchen window would be the same every day of the year, and I think that's too high a price to pay. I'll put up with the reduced convenience and enjoy the ever-changing scenery, thank you very much.