How to stock a small RV pantry for long-term travel

Food and travel! Two of life’s greatest pleasures combined. In order to take full advantage of this magical pairing, I’ve compiled some tips for how to stock a small RV pantry for long-term travel or boondocking.

All it takes is a little planning and you will always have delicious meals at the ready, no matter where you travel and no matter how far from a grocery store you may roam.

Stocking up on food in an RV pantry is a bit different than stocking your bricks-and-sticks pantry.

There’s less room overall, and even less space than usual in the fridge and freezer. Likewise, the RV pantry needs to take on some of the duties you would otherwise delegate to the refrigerator and freezer.


Nonetheless, with some thought and planning, you can have everything you need for extended periods boondocking or on the road. Consider these points:

Have a plan

Have at least a rough meal plan before leaving and before shopping. At a minimum, make a list of some of the meals you intend to make while on your trip. Or for the next weeks if you are a full-timer. Be sure to plan some of your meals around recipes made with pantry ingredients and nonperishable proteins (see below).

Bring along a taste of home

What can’t you get at your destination? Stock up on any favorite local or regional foods your family enjoys as you may not be able to get these at your destination. Ditto any exotic or hard-to-find ingredients you regularly use.

Versatility is key

Think about multi-tasking foods that can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, if you buy a can of baked beans in sauce, you are limited in what you can do with it. Buy a can of plain beans and you can turn them into side dishes or dips, or use as soup, salad, or casserole ingredients.

Can it

tuna in a pouch
Many “canned” foods are now available in pouches

From a culinary perspective, fresh is usually better. However, canned fruits and vegetables are some of the RV pantry’s best friends. This is because they save lots of fridge space and canned foods last far longer than fresh produce. Don’t forget, “canned” foods don’t necessarily have to come in a can. More and more foods are being packaged in shelf-stable pouches, which weigh less and take up less space than cans.

All dried up

If you have a food dehydrator, put it to use before leaving home. Not only can you stock your RV pantry with delicious snacks like jerky and dried fruits, you can dry vegetables, soup mixes, dip mixes, and lots of other prepped foods that need no refrigeration. Find recipes and ideas here.

Grains and pastas

Grains and pastas need no refrigeration. They also make terrific versatile bases for lots of tasty meals that come largely out of the RV pantry (as opposed to the fridge). Have some favorite pasta and grain recipes handy and stock your pantry with ingredients to make them.

The staff of life

Breads can be challenging in that they don’t last long and take up substantial space. Tortillas and flatbreads take up less room. Storing in the fridge will extend the shelf life of tortillas and bread substantially. Another good idea is to pack small boxes of biscuit mix, cornbread mix, etc., for hot-from-the-oven breads that are quick and easy to make.

Non-perishable proteins

Cans of tuna, chicken, salmon, oysters, etc., can provide healthy proteins that don’t take up refrigerator space. Make vegetarian entrees by stocking some silken tofu, which comes in shelf-stable boxes ranging in consistencies from soft to extra firm. Don’t forget high protein nut butters like peanut butter or almond butter, too.

Shelf-stable dairy

Milk of all kinds, half and half, and even whipping cream are all available in shelf-stable packaging. The same is true of every type of plant-based vegan milk under the sun.  Depending on where you live, these items may be readily available in the supermarket.  Sometimes you may need to order online.

Condiments to go

A lot of restaurants regularly throw handfuls of condiment packets in with every order.  Instead of tossing them out, hold on to them and stock your RV pantry. Think about it.  How much mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, etc., do you really go through? Probably not all that much. You may be able to forgo a space-sucking jar or bottle and just pick up a few extra packets next time you are at a drive-through to stash in your RV pantry. Depending on where you dine, you can get lots of different condiments in packets: relish, malt vinegar, wasabi, hot sauces, etc.

Add some spice

spice blends like those by Penzey's make good sense in a RV pantry

At home, I have a whole cabinet devoted to spices. On the road, I don’t have that luxury.  My advice for spice-loving foodies is to get some quality spice blends that serve a variety of uses.

Penzeys’ “Mural of Flavor” is a great example of a versatile blend that works with plenty of foods. Other choices from this high-quality spice company include Italian Seasoning, Southwest Seasoning, Cajun seasoning, etc. These blends and others will give your foods lots of flavor without the need to cart around tons of different individual spices.

Don’t forget Fido and Fluffy

When it comes to pet food, pouches take up less space and weigh less than cans. Invest in a covered container for dry food as it will keep it from spilling and keep the food fresh.

The last step to stocking up on food in your RV

After you have a well-stocked RV pantry, filling the fridge and freezer should be your last step in stocking your RV with food.

If you’ve planned well and stocked your RV pantry, you should have enough room for the important ingredients that must be refrigerated.

Try to freeze foods solid before putting them in the RV freezer. I often will pack frozen meats in the fridge too. Not only does this help keep the RV refrigerator cooler, but it can also help me pack more perishable foods and make them last longer. Just eat these first as they thaw.

How long can you go?

If I plan well, I can go for three weeks or so without visiting a grocery store and still eat well. This allows me more time to enjoy life off-grid and saves money overall, too.

Do you have other tips for stocking a small RV pantry for long-term travel? Drop them in the comments below.

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