Wednesday, November 29, 2023


11 ways to upcycle tin cans while RVing

I like to pack food along for our RV trips. And I prefer to use those foods that come packaged in cans. Why? Because in the rare instance that the pantry door pops open during travel, glass containers will break. Tin cans won’t. My problem is what to do with the empty cans after I’m done with them. I hate adding them to the local landfill. So, I’ve discovered several ways to upcycle tin cans while RVing.

In the kitchen

  • Utensil storage. I use larger tin cans for utensils near the stove. I put spatulas, tongs, a slotted spoon, and other cooking utensils inside a tin can. Museum putty holds the can to the countertop. This way it’s one less thing to secure for traveling days.
  • Flatware caddy. My husband screwed three tin cans to a small board. He also secured a rope to the board for a handle. Now we put spoons, forks, and knives inside the cans. When it’s time to eat, I can grab the flatware bin and easily take it to the picnic table outside.
  • Wine storage. Friends who enjoy wine have used a series of tin cans for a wine rack in their RV. They superglued and tied several cans together. Then they fastened the cans to the underside of a kitchen cupboard. (I’m sure they secure the wine bottles for any travel days.)
  • Tin can dinner. As a child, my sisters and I often begged to make “Hobo Dinners.” Inside a greased coffee can, we placed slices of onion, layer of sliced carrots, potato chunks, and a hamburger patty. We seasoned everything with salt and pepper. Then the food series was repeated until the can was ¾ full. Aluminum foil went over the top of the can. Then we placed the “Hobo Dinner” into the hot coals of an outdoor fireplace. It took about a half-hour to cook (depending on how thick the veggies are sliced). Yum! You can find an entire tin can recipe cookbook here.
  • Bag keeper. I cut an “x” in the top of a tin can’s plastic lid. I poke plastic grocery bags inside the can, leaving just a little outside the can for access later. Bags stay neatly contained until one is needed.

Living Room

  • Planters. I have several house plants potted inside upcycled tin cans. (Our grandkids helped me decorate the cans with yarn, paint, and contact paper.) I’ve also started seeds inside our tin can planters. I like to use tin cans for planters outside the RV, as well. If they blow over in the wind the cans obviously don’t break.
  • Reading glasses holder. Line the sides and bottom of a tin can with felt strips. Use museum putty to hold the can to a side table. Place reading glasses inside and you’ll always know where to find them. Note: Use the same felt lining technique to make a holder for remote controls, desk accessories, and more.
  • Hobby holder. I like to store paint brushes, tubes of paint, and other hobby supplies inside tin cans. It keeps everything in one contained place. Another tin can stores my sewing needles, some thread, and a thimble.


  • T.P. container. Use a large-size tin can with a lid to keep an extra roll of toilet tissue dry and ready when needed.
  • Cosmetics holder. Full-time RVers can store cosmetic brushes, mascara tubes, lipsticks, and more inside a tin can. It will keep all of your makeup together. Hint: If you keep a plastic lid on the bottom of the can, you’ll prevent rust from marking the RV sink top.


  • Nightlight. Our grandchildren love this nightlight. First, I froze water inside a tin can. Then I used a hammer and nail to pound holes in the sides of the can. (The ice kept the can from denting.) I put a small LED candle inside the can. It makes a great nightlight.

Have you upcycled tin cans while RVing? I’d love to hear about it.


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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Ellen (@guest_186168)
1 year ago

Simple way to recycle plastic bags. Use an empty tissue box. Shove them in then when you need one, just pull it out.

Tom (@guest_186137)
1 year ago

We recycle them both at home and on the road

DW/ND (@guest_186093)
1 year ago

When on the road, if we have cans, we wash them out, and if the park doesn’t have a recycle program I put them in a plastic bag and take them home to the recycling center. We recycle just about everything we can at home.

For plastic bag storage, I cut a round hole in a gallon plastic milk jug and stuff the bags in there – easy to retrieve and no sharp edges. Light weight too!

Tom (@guest_186056)
1 year ago

There have been a number of notes about computer-generated posts in this newsletter recently. Oddly, this has that flavor. Some of these things don’t even really make good sense. For example, how many times do you have to pick up the flatware, after it has fallen out of the cans, since hubby “secured a rope to the board for a handle”. Sounds like it’s going to be quite top-heavy. Then there is the “Use a large-size tin can with a lid to keep an extra roll of toilet tissue dry and ready when needed” idea. What do you do with the can? Put it in a cabinet or on a shelf? Why not just put the roll there in the first place? How much water do you splash around your bathroom? Mine stays very dry, as we close the door to the shower when we are using it.

Lastly, “I cut an “x” in the top of a tin can’s plastic lid. I poke plastic grocery bags inside the can, leaving just a little outside the can for access later.” Why even cut an X? You’ll need to take the lid off to get the next bag out.

Last edited 1 year ago by Tom
Gary G (@guest_186060)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom

Agree, most didn’t make any sense at all.

Nigel (@guest_186067)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom

Agree. Re the storage of plastic bags, one is either going to shred the bag pulling it out or hurt one’s fingers on the sharp points of the X if having to reach in to retrieve a bag.

Gary W. (@guest_186084)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom

Click bait article for sure.

Bob p (@guest_186141)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom

Well, Gail Marsh’s name is on the article, but I’ll have to agree, most don’t make a lot of sense.

TIM MCRAE (@guest_186020)
1 year ago

Now that you”ve done all those neto things, what to do with the next can ..?

Bob p (@guest_186019)
1 year ago

When cooking in the can what about the coating inside the can, won’t that get into the food?

Tommy Molnar (@guest_186014)
1 year ago

I usually just put them in the trash. Unless we happen to be staying someplace that has a recycle bin (a rarity). Then I’ll make the effort.

Bob (@guest_186029)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

One thing about metal, steel, cans. They dissolve rapidly in a landfill compared to plastic and glass which last for thousands of years.
Also, you can flatten them and then carry them until you do find a recycling container. We have recycling for cans, glass and plastics in our community. It’s amazing how many people will NOT take the time to separate them.
Most state and national parks have recycling containers for cans.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_186040)
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob

We recycle at home. Our recycle can is as big as our garbage can, and is usually ‘fuller’ than our garbage can. But on the road, I don’t worry about it.

bill (@guest_186602)
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob

In Oregon State Parks there is only aluminum recycling .. I urge them to include tin cans also..

Seann Fox (@guest_186006)
1 year ago

I just crush them flat and when I find a place that will accept them I drop them off

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