Easy and Nutritious Van Life Meal Idea

Dee | Lady Bugout
by Dee | Lady Bugout

Today, we have to shop for a few things to show you how we cook without refrigeration.

Van life cooking isn’t the same as cooking in a home, but it’s certainly possible to create healthy and nutritious van life meals when you set your mind to it.


We are in Walmart about 10 minutes from the campground that we're staying at tonight, and we are getting some produce right now. All right, this is a good avocado because you can squeeze it a little bit. Shake, shake, shake.


Next, an onion. Good. It’s a little one; that's all I need.


Maybe some fresh spinach too. All right. We're good to go.


So, I have gotten my stove out.


I usually put it in this cabinet to travel, and it just kind of comes out easily.


I'm going to start by cooking with some ghee, which is just clarified butter for those of you who don't know.

Kitchen utensils

So this little thing is also very cool because look at this. It has a little drawer that keeps little utensils in it. So I love it because I can just, I'm going to need this to cut, and it's a cutting board.

Cooking with ghee

So I will put a little bit of clarified butter on the stove here and keep that butter going around.

Cooking veg

I have mushrooms already chopped and some pre-washed spinach.

Cooking rice

Then, I just get out my little package of rice.

Slicing avocado

So while that's cooking a little bit, I'll get my little avocados out.

Plastic drawers

Oh, this is another little thing that I love about my setup here. I have little plastic drawers. They literally just stick on the top. There's a piece of a self-adhesive strip, and they're about 11 inches deep and four inches wide.

Plastic drawers

I have my little bamboo forks and spoons and stuff in there, and they fit perfectly.

Serving up easy van meal

My delicious, nutritious meal that I literally cooked in less than 10 minutes is done. And it has everything that I need to keep my body healthy. And it's yummy, too.

Van life food storage

Van life food storage

So, that is what I do to cook easy van life meals on the road.

Usually, I have a bigger, insulated, soft cooler that I put in the front passenger side on the ground. Because my daughter is with me on this trip, I just bought a smaller one. And it's a shorter trip as well, so we'll be gone for about five days. And so this is what I bring, just a little igloo soft cooler.

Van life food storage

We already have some snacks in it that we were using for driving. But we brought some cheese too. As long as it has a package or they're the individually wrapped ones, they will stay good until you open them. A

nd then, you usually eat them right away when you open them.

Van life food storage

We're also kind of testing to see how long this stays. And so, I will put the produce that I have left over in it, like some of the spinach. This is probably bigger than I would have normally had.

If I would have had my Trader Joe's, I would have just put it in there. And it will stay for a little while without refrigeration.

So I have an onion. and a little Ziploc bag. And I'll put it in there, and we'll be good. And on these cooler nights, especially, we shouldn't have much trouble at all.


So it has been about 10 days, and I totally forgot about the items that were in my thermal cooler in my van. I've been home for 2 days now. And I was just restocking my van and realized that I had left things in my little cooler.

I wanted to see how they are after that many days. So I have the bag, and the first item I have is an onion. And it actually does not smell bad, which is surprising. It has dried up a little bit, but I could just cut that part off and then use the rest of the onion.


I will get out the cheese next. It's actually pretty good. There's maybe some mold growing here.

But again, the best thing for cheese usually is to keep it with a cheesecloth. It will still mold on the outside, which cheese does, but it keeps it from getting soggy. And then you'll have dry cheese, and then you just cut the outside.


So, here's the thing I was worried about: the spinach. And surprisingly, it's only a little bit wilty and watery. And so if I would have kept ahead of that and taken those bits out, or maybe even added a paper towel to the bag, it might have even fared better.

But I would say that's pretty good after 9 days without even looking at it. But you can see that even after all of that, they stayed very well.

I hope that this is helpful for those of you who are wondering whether they need a refrigerator or not to make the best van life food possible.


Van life meals

If you have a tiny space, what can you do? Sometimes a cooler is all you need. It works for us, both on longer trips and on shorter ones.

Plus, shopping frequently for food, especially produce, goes a long way toward creating van life meals that are both tasty and nutritious.

What meals would you like to cook on the road? Let me know in the comments down below.

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 1 comment
  • Vicki Vicki on Oct 15, 2023
    We camped coast to coast & back with 2 little kids ( & a dog) several times, in a minivan & tent. We'd "live on the road" for up to 30 days. We carried our "stuff" in a clamshell on the car roof. The biggest propane grill we used was a one-pot 3-legged small "grill." To cook things on it, we carried an old camp stove coffee pot. WE also carried an immersible "electric" wand that used the cigarette lighter as a plug in. We could boil water for tea or instant soups on the road in the same pot. We carried a yard-sale electric skillet with a large dome lid. Any time we camped where there was electricity ( found also in many park picnic pavilions back East for a quick lunch), we used it for any kind of meal cooking you can imagine...even baking. We never carried more than a small lunch-sized picnic cooler, to keep things like a quart of milk or some cheeses...a supply of hard-boiled eggs & cold apples for snacking. We bought fresh along the road trip....a few times stopping in to "fishing hole camp grounds" to allow the kids to catch our dinner! Good memories.