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Stressed Out By RV Meal Planning? (10 Helpful Tips)

| Updated Jan 6, 2024

RV meal planning is one of the biggest challenges of camping. Here are some practical tips to make it SO MUCH EASIER…

One of the most common questions we receive at RV Lifestyle is what food to bring on a camping trip. RVers are constantly looking for easy recipes that make RV life that much more enjoyable.

That's actually why we just launched a spinoff website of RV Lifestyle called Camping Food Recipes. It's a site dedicated to easy camping meals, recipes, and tips that help make RV meal planning (and cooking) as stress-free as possible. 

We hope you check out the new camping recipe site, but we also wanted to give you some helpful tips right here on RV Lifestyle. 

If you buy something through our links, we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps keep our lights on so we can continue to provide helpful resources for RVers. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.

10 RV Meal Planning Tips to Make Your Life Easier

Stressed Out By RV Meal Planning? (10 Helpful Tips)

A great camping menu is the best way to avoid too much fast food and ensure a stress-free trip! The following tips will help you design the perfect camping menu for you and your family.

Tip #1: Plan Meals at Least a Week in Advance

When it comes to meal planning for your RV trip, the key is to start early. Planning your meals at least a week in advance allows you to create a well-thought-out menu, gather necessary ingredients, and do some meal prepping ahead of time. 

It'll also save you money! By planning ahead, you can avoid last-minute grocery store runs when you tend to just grab whatever catches your eye.

Tip #2: Factor in Planned Activities

Consider the activities and adventures you have planned during your RV trip. If you're going hiking or spending the day on the lake, you may opt for portable quick meals like sandwiches, wraps, or salads. 

On days when you have more leisure time at the campsite, you can plan for more elaborate meals that require longer cooking or prep times. Adapting your meal plan to your travel plans ensures that you have the right kind of meals for each day.

Plus, considering your planned activities may spare you from making too many meals! If, for instance, you plan to visit a small town, then you may opt to skip cooking and have lunch at a local diner.

Tip # 3: Make Sure Your First Meal is an Easy Meal

Stressed Out By RV Meal Planning? (10 Helpful Tips)

After a long day of traveling and setting up camp, the last thing you want is to spend a lot of time cooking. You don't want to be HANGRY when settling into camp. Instead, plan for an easy and quick meal for your first night in the RV and any other travel days. 

This could be something as simple as pasta with pre-made sauce, grilled sandwiches, or a hearty salad with pre-made rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. By starting with an easy meal, you can settle into your RV and enjoy a relaxed evening without stressing over cooking.

By the way, if you always find yourself exhausted when you arrive at camp, we highly recommend adopting the 330 rule!

Tip #4: Choose Easy RV Meals with Overlapping Ingredients

Maximize the efficiency of your meal planning by selecting recipes that share common ingredients. For example, if one recipe calls for bell peppers, consider including another recipe that uses bell peppers as well. 

This approach helps reduce food waste, ensures you use ingredients before they spoil, and simplifies your grocery shopping list. Look for versatile ingredients that can be used in multiple meals, such as onions, garlic, or canned beans.

You don't want to have to purchase separate ingredients for every single meal. Plus, you'll quickly run out of space in your RV's small kitchen!

Mike and Jennifer's Summer T-Shirts for your next adventure

Stressed Out By RV Meal Planning? (10 Helpful Tips) 1
Your Adventure Awaits! New colors and designs are waiting for you.

Tip #5: Factor in Leftovers

Cooking in an RV often means working with limited kitchen space and equipment. Embrace the beauty of leftovers by planning meals that can be repurposed for the following day. 

For instance, if you roast a chicken one evening, you can use the leftovers for sandwiches or salads the next day. Or leftover burgers can be used in a leftover hamburger casserole. Leftovers are not only convenient for subsequent meals but also save you space, time and effort in the kitchen.

But don't forget to bring food storage containers! You'll want to keep any leftovers in airtight containers to make the most of them the next day.

Stressed Out By RV Meal Planning? (10 Helpful Tips)

Tip #6: Include Nutritious Meals

Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is essential, even when you're on an RV trip and especially if you're full time or on a long trip. Incorporate nutritious meals into your planning to keep your energy levels high and support overall well-being. 

Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your meal options. Consider dishes like grilled chicken with roasted vegetables, healthy grilled turkey burgers, or homemade wraps loaded with veggies. 

Tip #7: Swap Snack Food for Fresh Fruit

Instead of stocking up on processed snacks, swap them for fresh fruit. Fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, and grapes are easy to pack, require no food preparation, and provide a refreshing treat. 

They are a healthier alternative to sugary or salty snacks and can be enjoyed on the go or at the campsite. Fruit you can grab is great, but we also recommend making a big fruit salad for every trip. It's the perfect snack and side dish for any meal.

Pro tip: Put grapes in the freezer for a cold and refreshing treat. They're great to snack on while driving down the road or while relaxing outside on a hot day.

fruit salad

Tip #8: Notate Everything You Can Make In Advance

When making your menu plan, note all the dishes you can make in advance, whether in its entirety or in part. This could include homemade pancake mix, chopped veggies, casseroles, simple burger patties, or sauces, like this homemade hot dog sauce recipe

By prepping these items ahead of time, you can save valuable time during meal preparation, especially when you have limited RV kitchen space or don't want to spend a lot of time cooking. Utilize airtight containers or resealable bags to store pre-made components, keeping them fresh until you're ready to use them.

Don't forget to factor in the size of your RV refrigerator and freezer! We've made the mistake of preparing food that ended up NOT FITTING in our fridge. We recommend using smaller containers you can more easily store and then stack when they're empty.

Tip #9: Create REUSABLE Menus & Shopping Lists

reusable shopping lists

Designing reusable menus and grocery lists is a game-changer for RV meal planning. Instead of starting from scratch each time, create reusable menus and make a comprehensive list of all the essential ingredients. 

Divide the list into sections like produce, proteins, pantry staples, and snacks to make your shopping more organized. Laminate the list or use a whiteboard to tick off items with a marker and wipe it clean for your next road trip.

Or, you can keep the lists in your phone's “Reminders” or “Notes.” In “Reminders,” you can usually toggle list items on and off, making it easy to check them off and restore them as needed.

You can alternate reusable menus on different camping trips, or if you don't camp that often, use the same menu every time. This saves SO MUCH time and ensures you never forget a crucial ingredient, not to mention the stress it saves you from coming up with a whole new list every time.

We currently have a Memorial Day Weekend Menu on Camping Food Recipes, and plan to add many more menus in the future to make this whole process even easier for you!

Tip #10: Always Try 1 New Recipe

RV trips are an opportunity for adventure, and that includes culinary exploration. Make it a habit to try at least one new recipe during your journey. It could be a regional dish from your destination or a recipe you've been eager to attempt. 

So, leave room on your reusable menus and grocery lists for at least one new recipe! Research RV-friendly recipes, gather the necessary ingredients, and embrace the joy of discovering new flavors while on the road. You just might discover your new favorite meal!

RV Pantry Staples: Beginner's Guide to Stocking an RV Kitchen

RV Pantry Staples: Beginner’s Guide to Stocking an RV Kitchen

In another article, we get you started on stocking your RV kitchen. We list out RV pantry staples in different categories. Plus, we recommend some tips, products, and other resources to help you organize your RV kitchen.

These items are must-haves or really-nice-to-have in an RV at all times, but don’t serve as a meal plan. You’ll have to add the ingredients for your favorite dishes and planned meals. But these are the go-to items for cooking and popular meals. 

Read more about RV pantry staples…

How We Pack Our RV for a 2-Day Trip

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You asked us to show you what and how we pack our rv for a short trip. So here it is, everything we took with us on a recent short trip in Florida. I know, it seems like an awful lot of stuff! What can I say… Jennifer says we need it.

Stressed Out By RV Meal Planning? (10 Helpful Tips) 2
Welcome to our blog about camping food recipes! We are passionate about the outdoors and believe that delicious, healthy meals are a key ingredient to any successful camping trip.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2023-05-18

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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