How do you cook (more than Cup o’ Noodles) when you live in a van?
Let us begin by saying that Googling “camping meals” and related search terms is a waste of time. Because everyone will suggest either a) cooking a grand feast in your full kitchen, freezing it, and reheating at your campsite, or b) making something in a Dutch oven over the fire that takes six hours. Neither of those are practical for van life.
Our first meals started out pretty, well, sad:
Is it cheese…or poo?
For those of you on our email list, you’ve already come to know and loathe this photo. We made it somewhat healthier by adding broccoli, but come on. Now that we’ve been on the road for a few weeks, we’ve figured some things out.
A Typical Breakfast
We usually make breakfast at camp; it’s nice to take your time in the morning rather than rush to leave. When we used to go camping on weekends, we loved making bacon and eggs — they were the perfect accompaniment to fresh air and forest. But we can’t eat that every day. Instead, our typical breakfast looks like this:
Black coffee, hard-boiled eggs with salt and pepper, toast with jam, and fresh fruit
We hard boil the eggs so we don’t have to be too obsessive about ice in the cooler. For the toast, we fry up the bread in the frying pan with some butter (like when you’re making a grilled cheese). And coffee is made by French press, so all we need is boiling water. Simple, filling, and tasty.
A Typical Lunch
We usually eat lunch out. Why? Lunch at restaurants is cheaper than dinner, and trying local food is the hands-down best way to get to know a place.
The sauce was mustard-based. YUM. Thanks for recommending, Ben and Chuck!
When looking for restaurants, we usually go for inexpensive to moderately priced, as in $7-12/person. Looking on Yelp usually helps, as does driving around to see where everyone else is.
A Typical Dinner
Because we’re usually eating big for lunch, we tend to keep dinners simple yet fresh. This has been the hardest to get right: the balance between things that are fresh AND easy. The key is knowing:
- You’ll need to stop by the grocery store at least every other day, and
- It’s OK to get pre-made things, like pizza crusts or sausages, if you pair them with fresh things.
Some of the meals we’ve enjoyed most so far:
When the weather’s good, a meat and cheese “board” with wine makes for a tasty meal.
Spinach and kale caesar with avocado and pre-cooked (then reheated) jalapeño sausages. Usually we top the sausages with sauteed onions and sweet peppers, but, as you can see, it was raining and we were in a hurry.
Bagged salad is actually a real lifesaver for getting some fresh greens. The all-in-one packs that already include dressing are great because then you don’t end up with extras of everything.
We’ve even made fajitas! There’s lots of chopping involved, but the actual cooking is simple. Don’t forget to buy a spicy chile to add to the meat and veggies, as well as the guacamole. And heating the tortillas in a pan makes a big difference.
Stovetop pizza with pre-made crust, tomato sauce, Italian-blend cheese, sausage, red onion, corn, and tomato. Cook it slowly, and cover it briefly to help melt the cheese.
Don’t Forget a Nightcap
Lastly, there’s nothing better than sitting under the stars with a hot apple cider spiked with bourbon or whiskey. We buy the just-add-water packets and add liquor.
In line at our very first drive-thru liquor store in Louisiana
To make all of these things, we have a fairly basic kitchen that includes the essentials. Here’s everything we have, along with links to the exact items (or reasonably similar ones) if you want to stock up:
Hope you all found this useful and inspirational for your camp cooking! To close us out, here are some fun photos from the remainder of our time in Texas and our first day in Louisiana.
Texas State Capitol in Austin
One of Austin’s many, many, many food truck stands — and Chris pretending not to know me as I embarrassingly take a photo of the scene
This is not Texas — it’s New York! I spent a few days there for work and was very happy to come back to…
…the beautiful weather in Austin
Wandering around Zilker Park in Austin
Barton Springs Pool — a pool in the middle of a spring
An old amphitheater in Zilker Park, given back to the spring
A super fun reunion with my friend Courtney from high school who’d just moved to Austin the previous week; Chris and her husband David played golf together too
Courtney’s two boys love adventuring
A demonstration of Courtney’s already excellent southern hospitality!
Wandering around East Austin
The best advice we’ve ever received from a concrete pole
A live show with Matt the Electrician, who graces our Spotify playlist
Free beer at the bike shop! A guy flagged us down as we rode by on our bikes
Our last campfire in Texas
Nighttime work by firelight…and laptop light
Welcome to Louisiana! This is Sabine National Wildlife Refuge
Holly, code name “Gator Bait,” looking apprehensive
More Sabine National Wildlife Refuge
We looked and looked but didn’t see any alligators
The Gulf of Mexico from Holly Beach, LA
Beach houses, prepared for possible flooding
On the car ferry on LA-82, the highway hugging the Gulf