RV Food Storage – Elusive Freezer Space

IMAG0134 (640x480)There’s so much I love about my new (old) motor home. The wood floor in the kitchen. The wood paneling on all the walls. The plaid upholstery. And the super-cool, totally retro tinted sidelight next to the bathroom door.

But I’ll confess, I’m a little worried about my RV food storage space. In particular, the freezer. I have a smallish fridge with a mini freezer compartment on top. That’s it. And that’s gotta cover my needs for both me and my 90-pound dog Molly while we full-time RV.

I cook all my dog’s meals—which translates into 10 pounds of meat every week. I’m used to the deep freezer at home! In addition, I keep frozen veggies, frozen organ meats (again for Molly), frozen chicken broth and beef broth cubes (also for Molly) and the occasional frozen leftovers. And we haven’t even discussed the possibility of ice cream.

Soon after I bought the RV, I tested out a five-pound package of hamburger. Just fit inside the freezer. Not a heck of a lot of room for anything else, though. So I started looking at my options. Here’s what I found.

 

New RV Fridge

Lots of newer RVs have more spacious refrigerators—with more spacious freezer space. (Hmm … testament to popularity of easy frozen dinners?) That would have been my ideal—a brand new, two-door fridge and freezer model.

So I talked to the people at the RV stores. Here’s what I found out:

New Fridge: ………………………………………… $1,560

Cabinet remodel and installation: …………….$1,650

Total: …………. $3,210

Aside from the shocking price tag on the fridge, installation would have involved ripping out the old cabinetry around and above it. And at $110 per hour, that gets expensive. (Never knew RV repair people made such good money. Good for them.)

 

New RV Freezer

Okay, next plan. How about adding just a small RV freezer? The helpful RV guys flipped through their catalogs and found a really sweet unit that could function as either a freezer of a fridge. Best price I found?

Mini RV Freezer ……………………………………….$650

AC adaptor ……………………………………………… $ 70

Total: ……………..$720

The AC adapter was so I could plug the unit into one of my wall outlets … instead of plugging into the cigarette lighter and eating all my engine’s battery juice.

$720 was better. But still not good.

 

Appliance Store Mini Freezer

The ever-helpful RV people suggested I try the appliance stores. So I looked and called around. My ideal would have been a freezer about the size of a microwave that would fit just above my fridge. Otherwise, I had some space for a top-opening floor model.

Unfortunately, the microwave-sized freezer does not appear to exist. The best I found was super-cute and super-compact, but just barely too big. Plus the reviews on Amazon.com warned that it was poorly packaged and likely to arrive damaged. (Sob.)

Mini Front-Opening Freezer …………………………$150 – $250

What about top-opening floor models? By and large, the smallest floor models were still about 36 inches tall—way more storage space than I needed, and the sort of thing that would have dominated my RV living space. I can see my guests walking in: “Wow! Nice … freezer.”

Small Top-Opening Freezer …………………………..$170

 

Cooler and Dry Ice

Okay, I was getting desperate. But I was determined to explore all options. I already had a cooler, so …

Dry Ice ………………………………………………………..$1.00/lb

Variable, depending on the brand and how much you buy. Not bad—until you look at how much dry ice you need. A table at DryIceInfo.com suggested I would need 15 pounds of dry ice to keep 5 pounds of meat frozen for two days. Wow.

The stats at ContinentalCarbonic.com were a little friendlier. They noted that if you store your dry ice in the middle of your package, you can get by with a lot less. With this arrangement, six pounds of food would only require one pound of dry ice. If placing the dry ice in the middle doesn’t work, you can place it on the bottom and use 3 pounds.

And both these calculations assume that you’re merely shipping your frozen food … not that you’re keeping it in an insulated cooler.

 

Conclusion to RV Food Storage Dilemma

Be content with such things as you have … and get creative.

I grabbed a five-pound tray of chicken breasts, an egg carton, and a bunch of my storage containers and carried them all out to the camper. The chicken just fit in the freezer with enough room for two squatty storage containers on top and maybe a couple flattened-out bags of frozen veggies in front. Ideal? No. Workable? Maybe.

My strategy:

  • Re-package bulky items (like meat on Styrofoam trays) into space-fitting plastic zip-top baggies (discard space-eating Styrofoam tray)
  • Cook meat as soon as possible (meat can store in the fridge longer when it’s cooked than when it’s raw)
  • In case of emergency, resort to dry ice

And as to the ice cream … I guess there’s DQ.

Meet the RV

The vehicle to new adventures! Um ... other way, Molly.

The vehicle to new adventures! Um … other way, Molly.

Molly's favorite "room"--the kitchen!

Molly’s favorite “room”–the kitchen

Molly's favorite part of her favorite room. What's for dinner?

Molly’s favorite part of her favorite room. What’s for dinner?

 

 

 

Minnesota: Campfire Cooking for the Canine

Feed the Dog - Campfire Style

Feed the Dog – Campfire Style

So, you love preparing your dog’s food yourself.

Check.

And you love camping with your dog.

Check.

So how can you make sure your dog eats well in camp, hundreds of miles from home? This was the dilemma I faced during our recent trip to Minnesota, and plan to face lots of times down the trail. Our four-day trip provided ample opportunity to try things, take notes, and plan for the future. What did I find out? Everything that can go wrong did go wrong!

I started on the right foot by thinking everything through ahead of time (or so I thought). I wrote Molly’s meal plan on a sheet of paper (which I brought with me), everything from her meat to her veggies to her supplements. This was also a handy grocery and packing list.

I pre-packaged her regular supplements in zip-top bags and froze her meat ahead of time so it would stay chilled longer in the cooler.

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Molly’s usual supplements – zip-top baggies in front for travel

I also had the opportunity to try the dehydrator a friend loaned me. Five pounds of chicken … twelve hours … presto! The ultimate travel food for dogs. This, too, was frozen ahead of time and packed into the cooler. 

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Once in camp, it didn’t take long for things to go wrong. First, the campfire …

It looks so simple ...

It looks so simple …

While I’m an old pro with the wood-burning stove at home, turns out a campfire is a whole ‘nother can of beans. One night, it took me an hour to build the fire, and only ten minutes to warm up Molly’s meal. I could have invested in a portable propane grill, but why do that when the fire ring and the wood are right there at the park? Right?

My three take-away values:

  1. Lots of fire starters
  2. Lots of air circulating around the logs
  3. Maybe break down and get the propane grill 

While fighting the campfire was my biggest problem, a host of other annoyances popped up.

  • The melting ice in my cooler flooded the plastic baggie holding the dehydrated chicken. Keeping the chicken in the cooler was now a necessity to keep it fresh, and it ate up a lot of space. 
  • The baggie with the powdered supplements tore. Thankfully I’d foreseen such a possibility and stored it inside the bag with the pill supplements. 
  • The supplements in softgel form turned squishy in the heat and attracted the spilled powdered supplements. I could have stored all the supplements in my cooler, but I’m glad I didn’t, or they would have been swimming in melted ice water, just like the dehydrated chicken. 
  • I let a pan handle get too hot and accidentally melted a nylon hot pot holder and burned my hand. (Grrr.) At least I didn’t spill Molly’s dinner when I dropped it on the ground.

Solutions for the future: 

  • Improve campfire skills OR invest in a propane grill OR look into commercial dehydrated pet foods
  • Package foods and supplements in tear-proof, water-proof containers
  • Don’t store dehydrated meat in the cooler
  • Remember not to let pan handles sit right over the fire!

My goal for the next camping trip is to spend less time fussing over the fire and more time enjoying the outdoors with my dog.

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