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Van Life Without a Fridge – knowing your non-perishables

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Vanlife Eatshttps://vanlifeeats.com
Two passionate Vanlife cooks and the creators of Vanlife Eats.

Life on the road can be tiresome at times and finding the time to prep a good hearty meal can become challenging. Van life without a fridge is a common occurrence and having the right foods stocked up in your campervan cupboards can make eating on the road a lot more nutritious and just simply a whole lot easier.

With much of daily life generally revolving around long drives, you do not have to sacrifice great food or eating well just because you are in a van.

The best foods to store when you are living Van Life without a fridge are long life and non-perishable foods such as freeze-dried, tinned and sealed food. Without fresh food, you can still eat tasty and nutritious food without a fridge.

Whilst fridges are great for extending the life of things like butter and milk, not having one can actually encourage you to eat a lot healthier as you do not have an option of preserving fresh foods.

When selecting food for your van, it is important to pre-plan your weekly meals, and no doubt you will still require fresh ingredients from time to time, so plan your meals and shop visits wisely. There are a few key factors to consider when picking out food supplies.

Longevity

As mentioned before, van life without a fridge can really impact the number of days you can safely keep food for consumption without it going bad.

Try to buy foods that can last a week, or at least several days, without being in a fridge.

This will give you enough time to eat them before they spoil, which helps to save money – nobody wants to be throwing food away or making unnecessary waste.

Freeze-dried and tinned foods are great options in terms of longevity as they can notoriously keep for several years.

Be Mindful of Your Health

Now obviously this should always be the case, but when you are living a van life adventure, it can seem like a good idea to just stock up on junk food, live off service station food and take out food. But stop!

Try and make sure your store cupboards have some healthy snacks on board for when you are feeling like picking at food.

Whilst planning your shopping list, make sure there are vegetables involved somewhere. Fresh vegetables will usually keep for 3 or 4 days in a mild climate, but if its really hot and you really cant store vegetables then the tinned ones can be nutritious too so include those instead.

Keeping your nutrition up will help you enjoy your travels and give you more energy to keep the pace fast.

Flavourful

This is pretty self-explanatory, but the food you buy should be the food you enjoy eating.

To avoid tasteless bowls of nothingness, invest in some dried spices and herbs. They keep for several months, usually in glass bottles, and can pack punches of flavours into all sorts of dishes.

Aside from the obvious salt and pepper, things like garlic granules, onion granules, chilli flakes and dried paprika can add delicious flavours to otherwise bland dinners. They can also substitute perishable food that you are unable to store like onions, garlic or fresh chilli.

Having some long-life staples to hand is always a great idea too as they can be supplemented with some more perishable, fresh foods that can be picked up as and when they are needed.

Van life cooking can be challenging, but it can also be lots of fun, and it is easier than you might think to maintain a tasty and somewhat balanced diet whilst on the road.

Grains

One of the easiest foods to keep when you are living in your van, grains last absolutely ages and are often super filling, and warming, depending on how you have them.

Oats and cereal can be super long-lasting staple for the cupboard. Try spicing up your oats with spices such as cinnamon and or adding some dried fruit and nuts for a hearty breakfast.

Rice, pasta and couscous are filling options for a range of meals. Whether you buy the quick cook kind or the sort that you only have to heat up, both types last several months. Add some seasoning along with some tinned veggies, meat or fish for a delicious, balanced meal on the move.

Be sure to dispose of your boxes and store within Tupperware boxes to avoid any unwanted guests such as mice or ants, as well as to save on space in your van.

Living van life without a fridge, tupperware boxes will be an essential way of storing your long lasting campervan food.

Fruit

Whilst most fruit tends to have a shockingly small window of opportunity where it is ripe enough to eat, before going soft of horrifyingly black (yes, bananas, we are looking at you), a great option for fruit in your van is the dried kind.

A great way to get the feel for fresh fruit without buying it fresh is through picking up the tinned kind. From pear segments and kiwi chunks to wedges of apple prunes, you can get a huge variety of fruit in a tin these days so be sure to buy your favourites.

Tinned fruit can also be a substitute for fresh friut and make amazing and nutritious smoothies.

Try and avoid tinned fruit in syrup as this can be a very unhealthy sugar overload!

Dont forget that there are a lot of fruits that do not need to be refridgated such as apples, bananas and oranges so be sure to include these in your shop and store them in a cool spot within your van.

Vegetables

Root vegetables are great long lasting vegetables and will survive a week out of the fridge providing you have a cool shaded place to store them.

Onions, carrots, kale, potatoes and parsnips are some of the best ones to buy as they do not require a refrigerator.

Vegetables certainly arent off the menu when you are living van life without a fridge!

As with fruit, tinned vegetables are a useful alternative to fresh ones as they last a long time. These days you can get so many vegetables in a can – from mashed potatoes, peas and sweetcorn to beans, carrots and ratatouille.

Protein

Whilst proteins are generally a little harder to store, things like eggs can easily be kept outside of the fridge, despite what your mum might tell you. American eggs sometimes require refrigeration, but the majority of eggs in Europe do not need to be kept in a fridge. If you think about it, they would be in the fridges in the grocery store if they needed to be kept there, wouldn’t they?

Canned goods like peas, beans, pulses and lentils are all terrific sources of plant based protein and easy to keep on the road. The base of some great van life recipes, some legumes such as chickpeas or cannellini beans, can be mixed with some rice and a tin of tomatoes for a filling dinner full of flavour.

An easy to store, simple to prepare option that can often be eaten by itself or stirred into another dish is tinned fish.

Fish such as tuna or salmon can be drained and mixed into a range of dishes, or mixed with something like mayonnaise for a sandwich filling.

There is always the smellier fish, such as sardines and mackerel that you could also pick up, although you may want to avoid eating something so stinky in such a small space. (More on that later).

Dairy

One of the trickier foods to store, especially without refrigeration, there are a handful of nifty alternatives you might want to consider.

Powdered milk is an option and long-life milk, which does not need to be kept cold, can last months.

Though many cheeses should be kept cool, some of the harder ones, such as Parmesan, do not need to be refrigerated.

Van life without a fridge doesnt mean van life without cheese!

Starch

Whilst it might not be the longest lasting food to have around, having a good old fashioned loaf of bread can provide you with a whole host of breakfasts, lunches and dinners on your travels. Be it in the form of baguettes, bagels or a plain loaf, investing in some bread can make even the most meger of meals seem filling, with it being a great addition to a can of soup.

For a sweet take on the sandwich, opt for a chocolate spread filling or maybe peanut butter. Both of these are good options as they do not need to be kept in the fridge and last several weeks.  

Freeze Dried

Freeze dried food can be a good way to get your carbohydrates for the day. Pasta mixes that you tear the top off of and fill with hot water, stir and leave for a few minutes are quick and warming meals.

There are similar things available involving rice and noodles too. Adding your own seasoning to any of these can make them flavourful and filling dishes.

Sweet Treats and Desserts

While they maybe a little more unconventional than a humble slice of cake, desserts can come in a range of forms, some of which are perfect for van life. If it’s on the shelf in a packet, chances are it has a long best before date on it!

From golden syrup sponges and sticky toffee puds, to lemon cake and gooey chocolate puddings all of these can easily be found in grocery stores and are super convenient treats that are easy to store and have reasonably good best before dates.

Whilst some can be heated, many can be consumed by removing the lid and tucking in your spoon.

Snacks

The good news here is that the majority of snack food, unless you only snack on fruit, is actually pretty good to take on the road with you.

Things such as popcorn and crisps can be good snacks to pick up as they do last a while and can satisfy many cravings, though of course be mindful of how much of these you consume, as they are not the healthiest options.

Granola bars are also a great snack to have around as they can provide you with energy throughout a busy day.

A simple bar of chocolate is also good to have to hand as who doesn’t love a treat every now and again?

General Tips

As we referenced earlier, be very careful what you cook in your van. You essentially need to sleep just a few feet away from where you have cooked your food and will not want to go to bed smelling like dinner or worse wake up smelling of your dinner!

Plan your meals in advance. As space is somewhat limited in your van, if you buy a packet of pasta or rice for example, plan a few dishes around that and buy things that will compliment each dish, that can be reused. If you pick up some bread, plan perhaps lighter meals that can be fleshed out by the addition of a slice of bread.

Always make sure you have a few staples in your cupboards, just in case you are not able to get to a grocery store as soon as you might need.

Long life foods that work in a multitude of dishes are the best picks; think along the lines of tinned tomatoes, tinned vegetables and rice.

Get bottles of your favourite herbs and spices, plus some salt and pepper – you won’t regret it.

Finally, meals that can be cooked all together in one pan are your new best friend.

They’re some great options for rice box meals that come packaged together with sauces and seasoning. All you need to add is some water and some meat or vegetables if you so wish. These boxes are useful, super quick to cook and easily store for several months.

Conclusion

Not having a fridge doesnt have to mean boring tasteless tinned food all the time. With careful planning of your meals it can be delicious and nutritious!

Think ahead of your meals and avoid living out of service station fast food!

If you are still set on installing a fridge and want to know the best fridge for a campervan then check out this article.

We will be including some no fridge long-lasting ingredient meal tutorials on our YouTube channel. Subscribe to not miss these when they are broadcasted.

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