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How to Pack and Secure the Food in Your RV

I am an avid RV enthusiast who understands that my life and my safety depend on the condition of my coach's equipment.

When traveling in a recreational vehicle, it is extremely important to pack the right foods as well as organize and store them properly.

Doing this will assure safety, protect against insect and pest infestations, avoid spillage and provide easy access.

To achieve these goals, you will need to carry products that are the least likely to create problems while at the same time providing tasty, nutritious meals and snacks such as those that

  • travel well,
  • taste good,
  • store easily and
  • are not prone to spoilage.

This means that you may have to eliminate some items or enjoy them in restaurants rather than in your coach, but this is a small price to pay to avoid sickness and other issues.

The best and safest ways to pack, organize and store the food you take with you on RV trips.

The best and safest ways to pack, organize and store the food you take with you on RV trips.

Think Simple and Small When Planning

The two reasons why you need to plan carefully are geographical locations and space limitations.

Always think “simple and small” when deciding about RV travel meal and snack planning.

Remember that there will be grocery stores in most places that will allow you to replenish supplies, so you only need to carry a limited amount of the items you think you will need for your trip.

The tips that follow are those that I have found to be most helpful when it comes to packing and securing food when I travel in my own RV.

Pack Dehydrated and Dry Foods

If you have hot water on hand you can always mix it with powdered or dry foods such as

  • dry soup mixes,
  • instant oatmeal,
  • instant potatoes,
  • teabags,
  • instant coffee,
  • powdered hot chocolate and
  • nonfat dry milk

to produce simple side dishes or meal bases while still preserving space in your coach.

For example, since milk takes up a lot of room in an RV's refrigerator and also has a short shelf life, it’s much better to use nonfat dry milk products.

I always keep a box available because it is so easy to use and serves so many purposes.

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Limit Canned Goods

Canned foods store well and have long shelf lives, but they are heavy and bulky.

Therefore, you should only carry a dozen or so with you, and keep them very basic by choosing items such as

  • baked beans,
  • potatoes,
  • fruits and
  • vegetables

to use as side dishes or desserts.

I have found that the best way to store them is to place them in medium sized plastic baskets so that they won't slide around.

By doing this, you can also group them for easy access and also distribute their weight more evenly.

Nicesh sells perfectly sized ones for this use that also come in colors, so using them makes finding the foods you need even easier because you can color code them!

Using baskets made of plastic for this purpose is more sanitary, and if you buy ones like those I show below, you can also easily stack and store them when not in use.

Limit Condiments

Since you may be making simpler meals when traveling you will only need the simplest condiments such as mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, pepper, vinegar, and sugar.

Carry Healthy Snacks

Keep packaged snacks to a minimum because most take up a great deal of storage space and are unhealthy to eat.

If you limit what you carry with you, you also avoid weight gain, bloat and intestinal upset.

Instead, keep items such as

  • popcorn,
  • pretzels,
  • cut up veggies and fruits,
  • crackers,
  • cheese and
  • peanut butter

on hand because these items store well, fill stomachs and fulfill the need for quick, satisfying food.

Pack fresh foods as often as possible.

Pack fresh foods as often as possible.

Multiple Use Foods Are A Good Choice

Meat, eggs, cereal, potatoes and onions are examples of healthy, filling and versatile foods.

For example,

  1. frosted mini shredded wheat can be served with cold milk, hot milk or eaten dry as a snack food.
  2. Eggs can be used to flavor other foods or be eaten hard boiled, scrambled, fried or as a base for a dinner.
  3. Meats can be served at any meal depending on how you choose to cook them. They are also great as leftovers and can even be used as snacks along with crackers.

Below is a chart that gives you an overview of the best kinds of food to pack for RV Trips.

A sample chart showing foods that are good to keep on board when you go on RV road trips.

A sample chart showing foods that are good to keep on board when you go on RV road trips.

Protect What You Eat

Since recreational vehicles are not built as solidly as homes, it easier for vermin and animals to get into provisions.

Believe it or not, ants actually can nest in your refrigerator when your unit is parked for long periods of time. When your vehicle starts to move, they become active and what would have become your dinner becomes theirs!

There are a number of things you can do to keep pests and vermin away from your food supply which include but are not limited to

  • hiding ant and roach traps in closets,
  • spraying RV tires, hoses and front panels with Pam and
  • make sure RV screens do not have any holes in them.

Always take care with the products you use for eliminating bugs and pests because you definitely do not want to be feeding any toxins to your family!

Pack Fresh For Each Trip

It is never a good idea to leave food, even canned goods and seasonings, in a travel unit because you can forget how old they are and can never be certain that they are safe to eat.

To assure safety and quality, every time you load food into your RV do so from scratch. This is the only way to make sure that you will be eating safely.

Use Sealable, Stackable Plastic Containers

There is always a temptation to leave dry items in their original boxes, which is OK to do as long as the boxes have not already been opened. Otherwise, you should transfer their contents to clear plastic, lidded and stackable containers that become air tight when properly sealed.

Doing this

  • protects everything from mildew, water damage, bugs and vermin,
  • keeps the food fresh and
  • allows you to see and thus access the contents easily.

It also eliminates odors, thus avoiding potential problems with bears and other wild animals that live around more primitive and forested camping areas.

To expand storage space, use containers that are the same size and group them by type.

For instance, place snacks into one cabinet, and cereals, crackers, pasta and other dry foods into another or at least into different sections of the same cabinet.

Because they don't weigh much, you can place them in upper cabinets safely because

  • they will not cause problems with weight distribution,
  • will eliminate spillage problems and
  • will not break if they should happen to fall out of the cabinets.

(How to Load and Pack Your RV for Safety and Comfort explains the importance of load balancing, and you should be sure to read it.).

I have tried a variety of different brands of containers but have found that the ones marketed by Glad are sturdier, seal better and last longer. Many of mine have lasted for years!

I use several sizes in a variety of ways, but when it comes to food, the soups and salads seem to work best for storing food.

Pack Canned Goods With an Eye to Safety

You need to be careful about how you pack canned goods.

These guidelines will help you to avoid problems:

  • Store canned goods as low as possible in your travel unit to keep it from becoming too top heavy.
  • Carry as few of them as necessary.
  • Never store them in drawers because their weight can break the small wheels and pulls or cause them to fly open during travel.
  • Avoid keeping them in RV basement areas because this makes them more vulnerable to weather conditions.
  • Do put them in a pull out pantry, or in plastic baskets on solid closet shelves. This way they can be grouped, will be easily accessible and will not slide around during travel.
  • Place your canned goods inside your motor home or camper a few days before you plan to travel, but never leave them in it for long periods of time.

Use Items Packaged in Glass With Great Care

Many products come in glass containers, but it is best to either transfer them to plastic ones whenever possible or buy what you can that is already packaged in plastic.

If you must use glass,

  1. place the items in plastic baskets using the same methods as those used for cans,
  2. pack them close together to avoid spillage and breakage or
  3. store them on shelves in lower cabinets or in slide out pantries to avoid weight distribution problems.

Broken glass containers in an RV make the food in them dangerous to eat and can cause other nasty problems, so be very careful when using them.

RV Refrigerator Food Storage and Use Tips

Best uses for storing and using foods in your refrigerator are listed here:

  • Pack refrigerated food products as tightly as possible.
  • Smell milk for spoilage before using.
  • Keep leftovers for the shortest amount of time possible.
  • Make sure your temperatures are cold enough to protect food.
  • If there is no ice maker, make new cubes at least once each week and store them in zip lock plastic bags.
  • Always make sure to close and lock the doors.
  • Make sure your RV is level every time you park it so that the refrigerator will keep working.
  • Change the settings as needed to account for differences in external temperatures.
  • Defrost the freezer regularly.

Using RV refrigerator bars is a "must" if you want to avoid spillage and breakage problems because road vibration and movement will cause food to shift such that when you open the door, items easily fall out.

These bars are adjustable and are made specifically for RVs. I have not seen brands other than those made by Camco, but even if I did, I'd stick to this brand because the product is so dependable and easy to use.

I suggest purchasing two sets (they come in packages of three) because sometimes you need to use more than one per shelf for added security.

They will pay for themselves, and once you purchase a set or two, you'll never need to buy more because they last quite a long time.

Protect Your Food and Keep It Safe to Eat

Always make sure to pack and secure your food supply according to the guidelines I have given you here so that you and your fellow travelers will eat better and stay healthier.

Enjoying delicious, healthy foods is one of the best things about RV traveling, so make eating a pleasure, rather than a problem.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Are canned goods left in an RV during the summer heat dangerous to eat?

Answer: Possibly, but I would not suggest doing this just to be safe.

© 2014 Sondra Rochelle

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