One of the very first things I noticed in our “beginner camper” was the kitchen space—or, should I say, lack of kitchen space? It was tiny. I’m certainly not a gourmet cook or an award-winning baker (just ask my family). But still, I wondered, “How does one cook in an RV kitchen?”
While I stood stalled in the kitchen, everyone else in the family continued their maiden camper tour. They “oohed” and “aahed” at everything in the new-to-us RV. I stood openmouthed—at a loss about how I could make the Barbie-sized kitchen work for our family.
Yes, while the rest of my family marveled at how the camper toilet flushed by stepping on a pedal, I was panicking! We could eat hot dogs and burgers cooked over the outside fire, but what happens when it rains? I had to learn (and quickly) how to store, prepare, cook, and serve food in my minuscule camper kitchen.
After wrapping up their “Camper Wonder Tour,” the family found me with my head in my hands. I may have been whispering a calming mantra, but I could be mistaken. “We’ll help!” they all enthused.
I stopped mumbling long enough to gesture toward the kitchen, bumping my wrist on the corner of the single kitchen cupboard. (Did I mention that the kitchen was small?) “There’s no room for more than one body over there and it better be a small body, at that!” (Re-upping my diet program came to mind.)
That was several campers ago. I chuckle at the memory now. Once the shock wore off, I was determined to somehow make the very small space work for my family. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned that make the most out of a very small RV kitchen. (They’ll work in larger kitchens, too.)
Make the most of the horizontal space you have in your RV kitchen. Begin by looking for every available horizontal space.
- Stovetop. Put a cutting board over the stovetop for extra prepping space.
- Sink. If your RV didn’t come with sink covers, try this adjustable dish rack. Bonus: It rolls up for quick and easy storage. Not only can you put a solid cutting board on top of the rack to add workspace, you can also store eating utensils in the drying cups. (After a meal I wash spoons, forks, and knives and place them in the drying cups to dry. They stay there until it’s time to set the table for the next meal. This frees up space in the utensil drawer.)
- Countertop add-on. We added a homemade, hinged board to one end of our sink cabinet for more prep area. I could pull the board up to use it and fold it down and out of the way afterward. You can order a folding manufactured top here.
- Drawer hack. You may be one of the fortunate RVers who has a sturdy top drawer in your RV kitchen. Use it for extra prep space. Just pull out the drawer and place a solid cutting board on top. (First, be sure the drawer is strong enough to be used in this way.)
Wall storage in an RV kitchen
Look at the available wall space in your kitchen. Even the narrowest space can hold a hook.
- Spice rack. I love this spice rack because it’s magnetic and can hang on a wall. My husband helped cut the backing to fit on the inside of our kitchen cupboard and it works great! (See my article about other ways to use the inside cupboard doors for storage here.) Bonus: If your refrigerator holds a magnet, use it as the “base” to hold the magnetic spice containers. It will free up wall space for something else.
- Magazine holder. This set is my favorite. It comes with two separate shelves. They attach to the wall with hardware that’s included. I use one shelf to hold a pizza pan, a plastic cutting board, and my three-ring binder of recipes. I use the other shelf for a mail keeper, along with an address book, and checkbook. If you prefer, you could fasten the shelves on the side of a cupboard.
- Hooks. Wall-mounted hooks will hold a variety of things in your small RV kitchen. Think about hanging up the frying pan, dish towels, or potholders. Hint: Be sure to use a hook weight-rated to hold each object.
- Pegboards. The great thing about installing a pegboard is its versatility. You can configure containers in the way that works best for you. I’ve used these for craft supplies, but they would work well in the kitchen, too.
- Cutlery. A magnetic wall strip will hold kitchen knives. Just be sure little hands can’t reach them!
- Showerhead organizer. Hang a showerhead organizer like this one on the wall for additional kitchen storage. Hang the broom on one hook and the fly swatter on another. Or use the hooks for your cooking pots/lids. Place spice jars or small containers of flour and sugar or salt and pepper on the shelves.
Under or inside cabinets in the RV kitchen
- Nets. You may have seen the nets that hold fresh fruit. By storing fruit this way, the counter is freed up for prep work. I use eye hooks on the bottom of the kitchen cabinet to hold our fruit “hammock.” Bonus: If the fruit is visible and easily accessible, kids will often grab that for a snack instead of cookies or other sweet treats. (Me, too.)
- Paper towel and paper plate holders. These special under-cabinet space-savers are great. They get often-used items out of the cupboard and off the countertop. At the same time, these holders keep frequently used items handily within reach.
- Undershelf storage. Wire baskets add storage under your kitchen cabinets. No hardware is used for mounting. This enables you to move the basket around as needed. I currently use this under-cabinet wire basket to hold our weather radio. You could use it to store plastic wrap and aluminum foil, as well. Tip: Use this product to extend storage under individual shelves inside your kitchen cabinets.
- Hooks. If you’re hesitant about fastening hooks into your RV’s walls, consider mounting hooks under the kitchen cabinets. You can hang cookware and lids, coffee mugs, and more on the hooks. If you’re careful to position the hooks under the cabinet, back near the wall, you’ll preserve precious countertop space.
- Pull-down bin. The “Anything Keeper” mounts under your kitchen cabinet or kitchen table. It will hold silverware, medicine, pens and pencils or, well, almost anything. When not in use it slips back up into its place—and out of your way.
Baskets or bins
There are many different types of storage baskets and bins. I’ve found stackable ones work the best for me. I use them to store all kinds of items inside the kitchen cupboards. The ones I like are lightweight, see-through bins like these. I can retrieve the stored items without first having to open a drawer or lid.
Other considerations in an RV kitchen
Here are a few additional tips for making the most of your small RV kitchen.
- Plan before you pack. Make menus ahead of time and pack only the ingredients needed for the planned meals.
- Pre-make. Consider making meals ahead of time and freezing them. Reheating in a microwave requires no prep space.
- Pack fewer snacks. One way is to pack snacks that can do double duty. For example, graham crackers for s’mores can also be used to make a graham cracker pie crust. Tortilla chips can be a quick snack or crumbled as a topping for taco salad.
Longer camping trips
- Buy less more often. If you’ll be camping for several days or even weeks, buy groceries as you need them. As a result, you may make more trips to the store. But at least you won’t have to scramble finding places to store food items in your small RV kitchen.
- Prep once. Eat twice. Double favorite family recipes. Then freeze or refrigerate leftovers for another meal.
- Creative storage. It’s not against the law. You can store kitchen items outside of the kitchen area. My instant pot stays in the under-bed storage area until I need it. If you have a bigger appliance and no place to store it in your small RV kitchen, find storage someplace else.
What tips or hints about making the most of your tiny RV kitchen can you share?