Van Life

My Van Kitchen – How I Eat While Living In A Van

I haven’t done much exploring lately because I’ve been hanging out with my daughter, Nikki, who lives in south Florida.

Typically, I only spend a few weeks with Nikki. In this part of Florida there’s a small window of time where the weather isn’t hot n humid.

I don’t do humid.

I detest trying to sleep when I stick to the flippin’ sheets! When it gets too humid… I hit the road.

Thankfully, this year, the south Florida weather is cooler than usual so I’ve decided to stick around and enjoy more time with Nikki.

In this post I’d like to respond to a common question I get…

“Don’t you get tired of eating out all the time?!?”

I find it funny that many people assume all I do is eat out just because I live in a van. But that’s not the case and I’m here to set the record straight!

The fact is… I rarely eat out.

  • Eating out can get real expensive, real fast.
  • My food allergies, food sensitivities and chemical sensitivities make it challenging to eat out.
  • Eating out or dining in is not impossible but it’s the exception, not the rule.

Being allergic to beef, lamb, cow’s milk and pineapple limits my options. 

Fast-food is mostly beef and cow’s milk and, even if I order something I’m not allergic to, the potential for cross-contamination is high.

Needless to say, I have to be careful when it comes to eating anything I haven’t made myself.  

My Van Refrigerator

My van refrigerator is a 12-volt Dometic CF-018DC Portable Freezer/Refrigerator. There are bigger sizes and smaller sizes but the size I have works well for me and fits in my van.

My Van Kitchen Portable Dometic Refrigerator

The portable Dometic fridge is not the same as an RV fridge. Most RV refrigerators have to be fairly level in order to work. The Dometic fridge works no matter how level or unlevel the van is.

The Dometic is a compressor refrigerator and is powered by my house battery (a Goal Zero Yeti 1250).

Freezer vs Refrigerator

The Dometic can be used as a freezer OR a refrigerator but not both. I use mine as a fridge.

My fridge has plenty of space to keep water, veggies, eggs, meat and anything else I need to keep cool.

Disclaimer: My fridge is a little empty at the moment!

A Word About Egg Storage

I used to use a camping egg container but I don’t have good luck with them. My eggs ALWAYS ended up cracked so I donated the container to someone who wanted it.

I’ve been leaving the eggs in their original container and I’ve never had one crack (other than when I dropped the egg carton full of eggs on the floor!).

My Van Stove

I use a Coleman one burner propane stove to do my cooking. One burner is plenty for me!

Coleman One Burner Propane Stove

Where I Cook

When I first began my nomadic lifestyle I cooked outside the van – when weather permitted.

I didn’t like hauling everything outside and I always forgot something. Making trips back and forth for forgotten items while the food cooked unattended outside quickly became a nuisance.

Now, I simply do all my cooking in the van because everything is handy and within reach.

Chemical Sensitivities To Propane

The stove is fueled by propane.

I’m chemically sensitive to propane but as long as I have the windows open and the roof fan on I don’t have any problem using the stove.

Having the windows open when cooking in a van is a necessity whether you have chemical sensitivities or not!

The biggest risk is when I take the connector off of the propane bottle. A little poof of propane spews out and I need to be very careful of when and where I disconnect the bottle.

If I’m not able to have the windows open and the fan running I simply don’t cook. I’ve always got other options in the event that I can’t use the stove.

Green Propane Bottles vs Larger Propane Tanks

The stove uses the small green propane tanks.

I buy the 2-pack of green propane bottles for approximately $6 (depending on what part of the country I get them in). These two bottles last me 2 or 3 months.

There are larger capacity propane tanks (like the tanks used on BBQ grills). I could buy a special connector and use a larger tank that would last longer but, for now, I prefer the small green bottles.

My Van Kitchen Sink

I have two ways to do my dishes.

When I set up my van I did not install a permanent sink nor do I have a grey water tank.

Difference between fresh, grey, black water tanks. Van life.

I have fresh water tanks but I didn’t want to mess with a grey water tank.

Since I don’t have a grey water storage tank, any grey water is dumped immediately.

FYI: The grey water usually contains soap and the soap I use (KD Gold) is not harmful to the environment.

Garden Sprayer Method

Instead of a sink, I use a dish pan and a 2-gallon garden sprayer that’s stored in the back of the van.

I just open the back doors and it’s ready to use.

Kitchen through my back door. Van life.

I modified the garden sprayer by taking the original hose off and replacing it with a kitchen sink sprayer.

Since I need to be outside (with the back doors open) I can only do my dishes this way if the weather is cooperating.

Spray Bottle Method

My other method of doing dishes consists of 2 spray bottles.

  • One bottle contains water (I use distilled).
  • The other bottle contains a KD Gold mixture that I use for dishes and other cleaning needs.
No Plumbing - No Worries - Van Life

Most of the time my dishes aren’t very dirty so I use the spray bottle method.

  • First, I spray the dishes with the KD Gold mixture. KD Gold also washes away bacteria and viruses.
  • Then, I use a paper towel to scrub the food off.
  • Lastly, I spray the dishes with water to rinse them.

To rinse the dishes I hold them over my waste basket and the small amount of excess water is contained in the trash.

My Van Kitchen Appliances

The main items I cook with are a 2-quart pan, a frying pan and a lid (the lid is used on both pans even though it’s too big for the 2-quart pan).

  • I don’t use 12 volt kitchen appliances.
  • There is no oven or microwave.
  • I don’t use a tea kettle (I boil water in the 2 quart pan).
  • My dishes and utensils are few.
  • I eat from a collapsible bowl or a plate.

I don’t have food storage containers. Plastic bags work better and, if it’s something that goes in the fridge, a plastic bag fits better in the small fridge.

Typically, I cook only what I’ll eat in one sitting. It’s rare that I need to use a plastic bag to store items in the fridge.

When needed, I keep dried goods in plastic bags (to protect them from the elements and critters). I’m often able to reuse the bags.

I don’t have an electric can opener or electric coffee maker. Instead, I use a hand cranked can opener and make my coffee using a Melitta coffee brewer.

Adding Items To My Kitchen Arsenal

I rarely add anything to my arsenal but I recently added a ProPur Water Filter Pitcher. It was ordered a couple days ago and I’m anxiously waiting for it to arrive so I can test it out.

The ProPur is more expensive than a Brita water filter (or similar models) but the cheaper models don’t take enough toxins out of the water and I can end up very sick.

I was almost hospitalized once because I drank too much tap water. Fortunately, I convinced them to let me go home to recover (they probably agreed because I was also a hospital employee).

I need a heavy duty water filter that doesn’t require electricity. After much research I chose ProPur.

There are bigger options available but, for now, I’m starting with the ProPur pitcher.

I’m currently buying bottled spring water and, if the ProPur works well for me, the ProPur will pay for itself in less than two months.

Parting Thoughts

My van kitchen is simple but it works for me. All of my basic needs are met.

I don’t have many modern conveniences but I’m not opposed to them either. Modern conveniences are always an option for me.

Living simple doesn’t mean doing without…. it’s about physically and mentally stripping away what weighs you down so you can live the best life possible.

It’s different for each of us.

I just happen to be more of an oddball than most 😊

Van Life Kitchen Update – 2022

I updated my kitchen in 2022. Here’s the post: My New Simple Easy Van Life Kitchen

Keep It Simple - Van Life

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Related Article: Non-Perishable Foods For Van Life and How To Store Them


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