Although having a functional kitchen along for the ride is one of the most attractive aspects of traveling by RV, there may still be times in your journeys when you can’t count on refrigeration.
For instance, you might be in a tiny camper van or Class B sleeper, many of which are too small to include a refrigerator in their limited space. Or maybe you’ve got a big Class A motorhome with a full-sized fridge, but you’re heading out on an extended, off-grid boondocking adventure and don’t want to rely on your LP gas supply or generator.
Heck, maybe your RV’s refrigerator is simply broken. I mean, it happens, right?
But no matter what’s separating you from twenty-first century food storage, you don’t have to resort to Slim Jims and potato chips for the duration of your stay… although you might have some junk food. It is a camping trip, after all!
You can actually whip up some surprisingly delicious, healthy, affordable and easy meals with no refrigeration, all from shelf-stable, nonperishable items. In fact, many no-refrigeration meals are even appropriate for various specialty diets, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free.
Here are some ideas and guidelines to help get you started crafting delicious camping meals with no refrigeration.
No Refrigeration Cooking
These are a few items you’ll want to make sure to include on your no fridge grocery list:
- Canned tuna, chicken, or ham for an easy protein source
- Beef or other jerkies and dehydrated meats
- Energy, protein, or granola bars
- Pasta, lentils, beans, and other dry, boilable grains and legumes
- Boxed chicken or vegetable broth
- Easy, non-refrigerated hand snacks like nuts, dried fruit, and trail mix
- Canned produce (green beans, corn, tomato sauce for pasta dishes, etc.)
- Cooking oil
- Fresh produce — believe it or not, many fruits and vegetables actually do better outside of the refrigerator, granted you use them up quickly enough. Consider squash, potatoes, onions, corn on the cob, apples, bananas, and oranges for a start.
While these goods will do well to provide you a solid basis for your camping diet, you can get even more creative with your menu if you want to. For instance, if you bring along some shelf-stable powdered, nut, or soy milk, you can easily have good old cereal for breakfast. Otherwise, oatmeal or granola bars are great standbys. And unlike sliced bread, tortillas are impossible to crush, and they can make any set of ingredients into a (literally) handy snack or lunchtime nosh.
If you’re not opposed to processed foods, you can also look into dry, packaged meals that require no refrigeration, or box mixed breads, cakes, and other goodies that come together on your stovetop. You can find tons of relatively healthy, well-constructed packaged meals that require you only to add water or pop them in the microwave. Not only are they convenient, but they can also be surprisingly delicious!
Many of the items on our checklist are super easy to whip into a meal — think one-pot pasta with some canned veggies and chicken, or maybe gourmet oatmeal with dried fruit, sliced nuts and a sprinkle of brown sugar.
Plus, you can never go wrong with a simple handful or three of freshly roasted nuts or trail mix.
See? You’re doing better than gas station goodies already.
No Refrigeration Meals for Camping
When it comes to camping, there are certain dishes that simply must be represented. I mean, if you don’t make s’mores around the fire, did you even go camping at all?
But fortunately, most of the best food to bring camping doesn’t need a fridge. (After all, most tent- and car-campers don’t have one with them!) For instance, every single s’mores ingredient is 100% fridge-free… so long as you’re not camping somewhere hot enough to melt your chocolate!
Keep in mind that bringing a cooler is also an option, and that doing so can allow you to bring along some perishable or semi-perishable items to be used as early as possible in the journey. Or, you can snack solely on dry goods and microwave meals while using the ice chest to keep your beer supply chilly. Life is all about priorities, you know?
And psst — don’t forget the coffee! Your morning joe requires zero refrigeration, and, of course, is 100% necessary.
Healthy Meals: No Refrigeration Needed
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have to ditch your carefully-crafted eating plan. There are tons of healthy, non-refrigerated dinner ideas, no matter what diet you follow.
For instance, consider a delicious, homemade lentil soup — it’ll pack a punch of protein while helping you get warm and cozy after a long day of hiking. As long as you use pre-packaged, cooked meat (or go vegetarian or vegan by skipping it entirely) and add relatively hardy vegetables, like carrots and onions, it’s super simple to boil up, and totally fridge (and gluten!) free.
You can also rely on your grill to turn those sturdy veggies, like squash, corn, and potatoes, into a scrumptious feast. Just drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and either slap them directly on the grill or wrap ’em up in tin foil. You’ll be shocked at how much flavor just a little bit of heat brings to the table!
Travel Meals No Refrigeration
We hope this article has shown you that eating healthy without a refrigerator is totally possible, and that meals that don’t need refrigeration — or even cooking — don’t have to be boring or unhealthily salt-laden.
In fact, many meals that need no refrigeration are both completely yummy and body-friendly, not to mention easy to make. In fact, some of these camping meals are so simple but satisfying, you may just find yourself making them even after you’re back home with a fully-equipped kitchen at your disposal.
But do yourself a favor: Don’t try to recreate your trip by making s’mores at home in the microwave. Fire up your oven instead.
Trust us on this one.