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While on the road, some people opt to eat out or like us many in van life choose to cook in the van. You will find that we cook almost every meal and only eat out maybe once a week or every few weeks. Eating in the van means you save money, feel healthier, and frankly, if you are vegan most times you can make a tastier meal than you can get eating out. To help you out below are our favorite van life kitchen essentials and must-haves that make cooking in your camper van kitchen easier.
Stove Options in Van Life
The first thing you will need is a stove. You have a few options when it comes to how you cook your meals. We opted for an induction stove as a propane or butane stove made us a bit nervous at first and we love how induction works.
Pros: The induction stove is great as you don’t have to worry about running out of propane or butane and once you are done the stove is pretty much cool to the touch.
Cons: The downside is that the Induction stove does take up precious battery and solar power. In the winter months or days when you simply don’t get that much sun to charge your solar, we found we were unable to cook unless we turned on our van. Since we do have a battery isolator we are able to turn on the van and it will charge the solar battery bank.
Propane or Butane Stove
The longer we travel and the more we cook we are finding that maybe a gas stove wouldn’t be such a bad option. It’s great for quick cooking, it doesn’t take up your battery power, and most importantly you can cook toast!!
Wondering where to shower on the road? Learn your options for a bathroom inside your van!
These are the three options that we suggest. One is a single burner that you can take out and use in tandem with your induction. It’s a small burner that can be used with propane or butane. This is an important distinction as many small places in the middle of nowhere rarely carry butane and propane.
Coleman Double Burner
The Coleman Double burner is a classic choice for Van lifers and campers alike. It is known for its longevity and brand name. It is larger than the single burner but it folds up nicely and stores in our lower pantry with ease. We love that we can pull it out and cook anytime without worrying about draining our solar batteries.
Double Burner inset
The next option is to have your gas burner inside the van. To do this you would have your gas in a sealed box that is vented to the outside of your van either underneath your counter or some have it mounted to the bottom of their van where it is safely tucked away.
When it comes to choosing your Van life refrigerator, you need to think about your layout, solar capability, and budget.
Although we haven’t seen a ton of these, we choose to go with a dorm refrigerator. Although it does take up more power we loved the price and size.
Dometic Chest Refrigerator with a freezer option
The Dometic chest is a fantastic option for those who don’t mind the cooler type refrigerator, plus if you opt for the dual-zone model you get a freezer. The downside is that it is a cooler style and I don’t love having to dig around and search for my food.
Similar to a dorm fridge you are able to have more space and it feels similar to a larger refrigerator you would have a home due to the layout (not space haha). The downside is the insane price coming in at right around $1000 it simply was out of our price range. However, it is super energy efficient and you won’t have to worry about using much solar power.
Are you an avid coffee lover? Shawn and I love love coffee and simply do not have the budget to drink coffee every single day at a coffee shop. The great news for me is that Shawn is great at making delicious coffee. One way he does this is with the Aeropress which allows you to make coffee in various ways. There is the traditional version, pour over, and even expresso. There are so many tutorials online teaching you how to use your Aeropress that even a novice can learn to make delicious Joe.
Speaking of coffee, it isn’t complete without some Soy milk to compliment it. In van life, the fewer dishes the better so a small milk pot makes for easy storage and easy cleanup. We opted for one that could be used on both induction and a gas cooktop.
Buying coffee whole bean allows you to keep your coffee fresh for longer periods of time. We use a porlex ceramic burr hand grinder because it doesn’t require power and it won’t burn the beans during grinding process like a stainless steel electric grinder.
Such a simple idea but you have to have a cutting board. Our favorite cutting board is a super cheap and lightweight plastic cutting board. Shawn made it more space friendly by adding velcro to the back so we can store it on the backside of our cabinet doors. It’s easy to grab and easy to clean!
Water Filter and Spout
When we decided to move into a van we knew there might be times when we weren’t able to get filtered water. Not to mention that the water would be sitting in plastic containers and going through plastic tubes. To make us feel better we took Eamon and Bec’s vlog advice and went with a water filter. It’s great because it is connected to the main water pump and the spout sets right next to our regular water faucet.
Judge me, I don’t even care. We love our Vitamix so much. It’s quiet and powerful plus we can use it with the solar system that we have. We were fortunate that Shawn’s super generous Mom and Stepdad purchased it for us at Christmas time. It may be our favorite item in the van.
If you aren’t up for spending that much on a blender then I recommend the Nutra Ninja which is a little less expensive. Don’t forget to scope out Facebook marketplace or Craigslist for used Vitamix blenders!
Cooking in the van can become tedious if you have to manually cook every.single.thing. Often we make meals with rice and our rice cooker makes it extremly easy and simple. The bonus is that the rice hardly sticks and it’s a simple cleanup! There are also some Youtubers that make meals in a rice cooker allowing for items you would normally have to bake, available in van life!
Magnetic Utensil Strip
This is becoming a super popular item for Van Lifers and for good reason. The magnetic strip saves a ton of space inside of your van kitchen and allows you to quickly grab your knives and silverware. We utilize it for both our knives and utensils.
“Are you even a van-lifer if you don’t have a fruit hammock?” ?
Another Van Life popular item is the fruit hammock. It’s budget friendly and space friendly. Make sure to hang it at an angle so your fruit and veggies aren’t bruised after going down a bumpy road!
What are your must-haves in your kitchen? Let me know in the comments below!
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