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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Motorhome Kitchen Organization 101: My Top 10 RV Kitchen must haves

So you may have heard that we bought a Motorhome...and I am quickly learning what that means. Like any new home you move into...setting up the kitchen becomes one of the first priorities. It's no different with a motorhome.

First rules first...when it comes to motorhome kitchen space...

You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit!

Seriously.

I should never again complain about my home kitchen being too small.

Ever.

Because after dealing with an RV kitchen, your perspective changes immediately!

You must use every square inch of space judiciously. Think cubic inches here...find a way to use all of them.

So these last few weeks, when the kids get home from school; we have been setting things up together; to make our new home-on-wheels, a home-y functional place to be. They love helping! It's been such a great way to spend time together. Plus, they've been able to offer input on some of the fun and simple decisions. Seeing some of their suggestions implemented, makes them feel great. They truly have been a part of making this space a home, and they are proud of that.

I think it's cute that when we are working in the motorhome, they think we are already on vacation. I can't say I feel quite that way yet, but I do feel the magic once I walk inside. I see it as a place where memories are on the brink of being made. I can't wait to see where our adventures will take us!

As we've been setting up, I found a few do's and don'ts for my space already. I thought it might be helpful to share a few of those things we are learning along the way...
So here's my ultimate top 10 list of "must-haves" to make your RV kitchen a sweet place to live and cook!

But, before I start my list...
You've got to note, there is only one large cupboard in the kitchen of my motorhome. It must house both pots and pans, baking pans, plates bowls and cups, all my spices and some food. The other spaces are the little drawers (emphasis on the word little), the under the sink cabinet, and the really cool pull out (albeit narrow) pantry. So you want to be very wise about how you use the space and what are kitchen must haves.

When we got the motorhome, there wasn't a shelf in this main cupboard. No problem...just add one right? Not quite. The thin walls of this particular cupboard didn't seem like the were built to support the brackets of a second shelf.

So...
In light of that...
the "must have" items on my "Setting up an RV Kitchen" list, may not be what you would think of as must have items.
...here we go.

Must Have item #1
So what's a girl to do to get maximum use out of a single no shelf cupboard. Get inspiration from shoes...yup...that's right! Do you see that 3-shelf metal rack below? It's a shoe rack. I got it from Amazon. And it fits!

Here's the caveat to making it fit. You must build it inside the cupboard. It won't fit if you build it first, then try to put it in. I know, because I tried. Luckily, this particular shelf, is a hinged unit, that is all attached. To assemble it, you must open up the sides, then work your way sliding the shelves down into locking position on the side. No tools or screws necessary...unless you count screwing in the leveling feet with your hands.

Must Have item #2 (might as well be items 3 , 4,  5 and 6 as well!  You will find so many uses for these!)
Now if you know anything about RV's and traveling down the road with loaded shelves, you MUST keep things in place somehow, or everything will be off the shelf when you arrive at your destination.
I'll let you in on my favorite grippy little secret.

So before I built the shelf, I cut up a yoga mat to the exact sizes of each shelf to make a grippy shelf. It's made out of the exact same stuff as the grippy shelf liner, only it's slightly thicker (but still under 1/4 inch.) Some of the thinner cheaper shelf liners bunch up. I had to remove a bunch of it from the motorhome as it was a mess. (You can see it on the shelf above...mine is blue.)

Must Have item #3  (This goes with item 2...you can't have enough. Keep an extra roll on board in case any of your grippy mats ever come loose.)
The best part about using a yoga mat instead of regular grippy cupboard lining, is your color selection is fabulous! You aren't limited to the browns and blacks of regular shelf liner...plus yoga mats seem to be thicker and grippier than the stuff I was finding at my local super market. After cutting the mat down to size, I used some of my favorite super sticky double sided craft tape, and attached the pieces of mat to each shelf. Voila! Super grippy shelves where I don't have to worry about anything moving. Yeah! (by the way...this super sticky double sided tape is clear...the liner is just red...and it comes in multiple widths...including full sheets when you really want to keep something down--that can be often in a motorhome.) Use yoga mats inside all your cupboards and drawers to ensure everything stays put!
After setting up the shelf, I was able to store the lids to my pots and pans on the top shelf, the other shelves hold a pot or a pan or two, neatly stacking bowls (I chose square stacking bowls so they would be even more compact), measuring cups, stacked ziplock containers, a stack of glasses, and a stack of disposable plastic cups...and a some food. Really, it's quite amazing how much I packed in there! Best part...it stays put...it really does when we are chugging down the road.

Must Have item #4
I love to cook, so finding storage for my spices was imperative. I was so excited when I found this 27 spice-rack-drawer thing by YouCopia. I have one shelf on the bottom that I leave open for holding medication when we travel.
What I do wish, is that I had seen this one first...the bottom drawer houses measuring cups and spoons...now how cool is that! That's just the kind of thing you need to organize an RV.
Must Have item #5
Since I didn't want the space above my spice rack to be wasted, I found this great little plate rack to set on top of it. I had to cut another piece of my yoga mat and attach it to the top of my spice drawers to make sure it wouldn't slide off during travel, and it works like a charm. Those green things rolled up are PVC placemats to prevent cups and dishes from sliding while eating on the road. Cutting a yoga mat into placemats would work really well too! 

After putting these two things in the cupboard,  I was left with one other tall skinny space...perfect for those flimsy cutting mats and a few trivets and a collapsible bowl set. 
Must Have item #6
Here's my collapsible bowl set...and my collapsible colander/strainer...takes up way less space to store. Collapsible is really the only way to go on some of these bigger items. 
Must Have items #7 and 8
In addition to lack of cupboard space, counter space is at a minimum! Here are my thoughts on that...convert your sink and your oven to countertops (when not in use of course.) They make cutting board sink covers, and matching stove covers. Many of them are universal...meaning, they'll fit your sink or stove. I also found the PERFECT fitting dish drainer...and in a cute color no less! Wha Hoo! 
You don't want to have a dish drainer sitting on your counter when you are driving...might slip off around a bend, so this in-sink one, is ideal. I was so excited when I measured my sink and found that this one was going to sit in my sink perfectly! Yeah! (Please note...this may be the only time I have ever shouted "wha hoo, and yeah" when it had to do with hand-washing dishes.) 
Must Have item #9
Another handy little thing that is great when you are eating down the road...a table caddy so your salt and pepper and napkins don't go flying! I stock mine with lemon packets too because sometimes water just needs to taste a little better. There's also space for toothpicks, a pen and a pencil and a notepad. You will want to stick yoga mat to the bottom to keep it put. (You can also use the thinner liner that comes with some of these.)  

Must Have item #10
Get a Thermal Cooker! I can't stress this one enough. (I wish I got it before my IKEA pots and pans set...it replaces everything but the fry pan.) Even though you don't know what a Thermal Cooker is yet, yes...you need one. 
Trust me. You really really do...even if you don't have an RV or motorhome...this is something you can take on the run...think hot meal picnics, hot chili while tailgating...and so much more. 

From a practicality standpoint, think energy efficient, think crock pot without a plug, think money saver, and think time saver. It's all these things in one! Prep your food in the morning, bring it to a boil, seal it in the thermal cooker...forget about it while it cooks all day--without electricity. Then eat a hot meal when you are done for the day. You can take it anywhere you go. You don't need to run the generator or use electricity after you've done your initial boil...it cooks all day in there...vacuum sealed...on it's own. Read what other's are saying about it.

I like the Saratoga Jacks Thermal Cooker. It comes in two sizes, a 5.5 liter and a 7L size...get the one right for your family. What I like about the Saratoga Jacks thermal cooker is that it has two pots in it. You can cook your cornbread and chili at the same time. You can cook your pork roast and cook apples for applesauce at the same time...it's a really really cool concept. I'll share my menu plan from our trip in a future post! 


Okay...I mainly hit on some of my necessary finds for my little kitchen above. Now for a few of my selfishly indulgent kitchen finds...they aren't must-haves by any means...just fun things to have.
I've been wanting to get an Aluminum tumbler and pitcher sets ever since I found out they started making them again. I used to drink out of my Grandma's Aluminum tumblers when when I was a little girl. The colors were so bright and fun. There is nothing like sipping cold drinks on the back porch out of an aluminum cup on a hot summer day. I just couldn't justify getting the set because I had plenty of cups and glasses at home already. So when we got the RV...I knew I wanted to get this set to add a little splash of color and fun to our travels. Not only are these just the prettiest looking retro cups, but they stack super tight. Just what I need! I also thought it would be one of those things the kids could look forward to. They were so excited when they arrived...I might have prepped them a bit with over reminiscing about my memories of drinking from a cold aluminum cup. 

Also...when I saw these nordic ware party trays (that are microwave safe) had to have them...no worries about going down the road and someone's food running into another food on their plate. These are great! This item got the kid's vote too! 
a dutch oven...something about camping and wanting to make a dump peach cobbler.  Yum! Okay...so this one is a space taker...that's why it is not on my must have list. It's more of a fun item that will come with me on certain trips.
Since we will use our microwave a lot, I got a a Nordic Ware microwave  grill and spatter cover. The spatter cover goes easily over their plates for warming things up too! 
And so you don't have to find a place to put a full sized muffin tin...get some of these reusable silicone muffin cups that you just put on a baking sheet, or in a cake pan. You can even put paper liners to reduce the mess in the silicone cups after baking. My 9x13 cake pan is my cookie sheet, and cake pan, and becomes my muffin pan when I put these on top--don't put one of each in your motorhome kitchen. One pan does triple duty! 

Other Stuff to Stock:
Grab what you can from your home kitchen--but remember to only grab things you will really use. Think, smaller is better when it comes to choosing items for the RV.

Do you have two can openers in your home kitchen? Put one in the RV (Choose the smaller of the two...if it works. Get a new one if it's that old one that's been sitting at the back of the drawer that only works half the time, but you feel too guilty to throw it away.)

Do you have a drawer in your home kitchen filled with an old mismatched compilation of flatware that still works, that you didn't want to replace yet? Well, move it to the RV, and get a new set for your home kitchen. That's what we did. We found a sweet set from Costco, at a great price. All the random ones went into the RV, and now our home kitchen is upgraded with the new set! Bonus!

Scour the cupboards in your home kitchen for doubles of anything, so you can take the extra one for your motor home. Do you have an extra set of measuring cups and spoons, a plate set that isn't being used, and other necessary items in your home? You might be surprised at what you already have so you don't have to buy something new. Blushing...but I rounded up 5 whisks from my the drawers in my kitchen. Really...I only need two at home. I snatched the smallest one for the RV, and the other two are going out for donation. Stocking up your RV is a great way to open up space in your home kitchen. Yeah!

Get some paper plates and cups and plasticware to stash somewhere in the RV, for times when you are trying to conserve the water in your tank...or when you just need a quick bite on the road and don't want to do dishes while you are trucking along. I still like eating off of regular dishes when I can, but paper certainly does come in handy in many situations. (This "pop a plate" thing-y could be a great way to keep a stack of paper plates in the RV.)

Paper towels are a must too! (I mounted a "pop a towel" right by the sink.)

A good way to know if you have what you need in the kitchen before you go on a trip...Possibly try to prepare a meal in your RV before you go...a dry run, if you will. You might be surprised at what you turn to look for and can't find, then know, "I've got to get one of those in the kitchen before we go." If not...there's often a Walmart along the way. (by the way...did you know you can stay in the parking lot overnight free at most Walmarts? You'll need to check each Walmart's policy before setting up camp. Don't set up your awnings or put out both slides... keep it simple, then move on when you are ready to go in the morning.)

I know I already said it, but it's worth mentioning again...do not forget to stock the RV with a good can opener. Just sayin' ;)

What you don't need:
Things I thought I needed for the kitchen but didn't. You don't need this stuff...and if you think you do...know exactly where you are going to put it before buying it. EXACTLY where. I thought I knew where I was putting these things, and it turns out I just didn't have the space to put them in.

Didn't need a magnetic knife bar. (simply not a safe idea...what if we got in a wreck and the knives went flying...what was I thinking on this purchase? Clearly, I wasn't.)

Didn't need a Cabinet Door lid rack. (where would I put it...there's only one cupboard door in the kitchen big enough for this...didn't want to waste it on lids as it would take up too much space on the inside of the cabinet.)

Didn't need a Saran Wrap/Tin foil/zip lock storage rack. (same reason as above.)

Okay...I'll have a few more lists for you in the future. My husband is starting one right now...everything you never knew you needed before you bought a motorhome. So many gadgets and gizmos...

6 comments:

  1. just bought our first large (not a pop up) camper! thanks for the ideas!!

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  2. Taking our new rv out soon. Thanks for the very helpful info! Didn't know what a thermal cooker is, now I'll have to pick one up!

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  3. Great article. We pick up our new RV, 25 foot class A only 2 of us, next week. Glad to see someone else does not want to use paper plates every day.

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  6. I agree with your ideas. I am lucky enough to have a lot of storage but one thing I couldn't live without is my can organizer. My cabinets are in the slide and are deep. I am short....you get the idea. I couldn't reach. My organizer can be adjusted to fit different size cans. It kind of works like a soda can dispenser in your fridge.

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