Living in a van doesn’t mean you need to eat out all the time. Even without a fancy heater/stove you can eat well. Van life is the perfect opportunity to dramatically improve your diet.
One of the main reasons I wanted to try van life was to heal my gut. I’m allergic to dairy and a few other things. Even if I’m careful, I’ll get hit with cross contamination in restaurants. With the van, no matter where I go, I have access to my healthy food and kitchen.
Most of my meals are raw and vegan now. I was lucky enough to score a low power DC fridge on Craigslist so I can pre-make Overnight Oats and store other refrigerated foods. Without a fridge, many use a cooler (but changing the ice can be a pain and expensive), or make lots of trips to the store. I go 3-4 times a week to various stores and farmer’s markets to find the best prices at each one. Plus, since I can’t store much food in my small fridge, this is a good way to get fresh things to eat.
I highly suggest starting a mostly raw diet. Read up on the web about nutrition your body needs, and raw recipes. No one has ever complained about food I’ve served them. There are so many ways to make tasty things (Look forward to more mobile friendly recipes from me!)
You may think you can just eat out all the time, after all, you’re not allergic to dairy (probably), but there are many other reasons to prepare your own food the majority of the time.
Cost: Eating out is incredibly expensive. Part of van life is SAVING money.
Health: Most restaurants use the lowest quality ingredients they can find to cut costs. Even if they use quality ingredients, most try serve the tastiest thing they can, without considering what that type of diet would do to someone who ate it the majority of the time. There are healthy options, but often even more expensive (see cost above).
Personal Growth: Learning to prepare your own food feels GOOD.
Impressiveness: It also feels good to lay out a spread of delicious foods for any companions. At events you get to be the savior with a healthy snack plate
Community: By shopping at farmer’s markets (or people’s gardens that have produce for sale!) you are directly benefiting the ones creating food. You also get to avoid Factory Farming and the harm it does.
Taste: Fruit and vegetables bought directly from farms while traveling are much tastier than big box store produce. Meals you control will be exactly to your tastes.
These are the things I regularly buy to eat raw:
Fresh vegetables – Sugar snap peas, zucchini, Daikon Radish (with balsamic vinegar)
Fruit – Apples & good nut butter is a staple, Peaches, Citrus, Bananas, etc. Very convenient natural packaging!
Dips – salsa, hummus, guacamole, Bean dip
I wish I could bring myself to prepare more salads. They can be really tasty with a bunch of add-ins.
Fresh vegetables, for example: Broccoli, cauliflower, Onions, Mushrooms, Brussels Sprouts, Peppers
Fully cooked chicken sausages (last while, no need to worry about raw meat and washing everything)
Sweet Potatoes (cube, then steam, then pan fry)
I don’t have a sink. That was a fine decision for what I wanted out of a van. For me, it would just take up space, use too much water, and make me have to empty/store a large increasingly gross gray water tank.
The solution? Use disposable dishes and silverware. I know this grates on your desire to live clean and minimalist, however you will be using far less resources than a person living the “normal” lifestyle.
The only dishes I have to wash are my mason jars for overnight oats. It’s a little weird carting in a bag of clanking glass to a public restroom, but you do what you have to. I’ve found that after I’m done, if I put in a 4th cup of water and shake it around, then dump it out, it gets most of the residue off. This means the eventual sink cleaning is MUCH faster and easier.
A quick note on washing produce without a sink: I use a mini-mist spray bottle full of water from the dollar store, spray things down, and wipe them off. Repeat until you’re comfortable.