Cooking in your Campervan: The Essentials

Sydney and Melbourne have some of the finest dining establishments and are meccas for foodies. Outside of the metropolitan cities, however, the choices tend to be limited. You might only come across one roadhouse in a hundred kilometres for a hearty dinner amongst the characters of the outback. While that is a must-do for the experience, one cannot rely on always eating out on the road. 

A perk about traveling Australia in a campervan is having the ability to cook on your own. Shopping where the locals do and preparing meals at your campsite can be freeing and satisfying. Instead of eating in front of a TV, you can be viewing the ocean waves with a sunset backdrop, a wide-open field with grazing kangaroos, or a starry night sky with your meal. Plus, cooking saves heaps of money!

Read more tips on saving money on your campervan travels through Australia. 

Preparing your Campervan Kitchen

What you can keep and prepare depends on your setup, space availability, length of travel, and dietary restrictions. The following are some recommended items to prepare for your road trip, but customise to best fit your needs. 

Essential Equipment

If you hire a campervan, most of these items will be included with the vehicle. If not, you can easily acquire them at op shops, department stores, and on GumTree. • Camping stove and propane  • Pot • Fry pan • Slotted spoon • Serving spoon or ladle • Flipper spatula • A good knife • Cutting board • Vegetable peeler • Strainer • Tupperware • Can opener • Aluminum foil • Cleaning supplies • Dishes and cups • Utensils Optional: Steamer (cook veggies while you boil pasta), mixing bowl with lids (can also serve as storage containers), measuring cup & spoons, coffee plunger, kettle, tongs, barbecue tools

Pantry Staples

Pasta • Lentils • Rice • Oats • Your favourite spreads (peanut butter, jam, Nutella, Vegemite) • Your favourite condiments and hot sauce  • Honey • Pasta sauce • Stock cubes • Tinned food (beans, corn, tomatoes, tuna) • Nuts & seeds • Dried fruit • Plenty of water • Spices  • Olive oil 

Perishable foods with long shelf life

Apples • Oranges • Carrots • Potatoes • Onions • Garlic • Cabbage • Pumpkin • Tortillas instead of bread

If you have a fridge or esky

Butter • Eggs • Milk • Frozen veggies Tip: You are not allowed to bring certain produce between some states due to pests. Some borders are stricter than others. Crossing into South Australia is particularly strict, so be sure to eat your fruit and veg before crossing over to avoid fines and food waste. Check out this interstate quarantine map to find the checkpoints. 

Where to Shop

There’s always the main supermarkets to get nearly anything you need, and you can find them on the CamperMate app. We also recommend looking up farmers markets in the area. Such markets are especially popular on the weekends during the warmer months. Not only can you score fresh and affordable produce, you get to engage with the local community and maybe even pick up an artisan craft! Additionally, keep an eye out on the roads in rural areas; small scale and hobby farmers may have excess produce and free range eggs for sale. What’s more local than that?   Before heading into the bush or outback, stock up on some non-perishable staples because groceries become more and more expensive the further away from big cities you are. 

Storing your Food in your Campervan

Those strong Aussie sunrays can turn your car into an incubator in the summertime, so keep food away from the windows in a dark contained area. Containers and little boxes to separate food into categories are useful in staying organised.  Try to avoid keeping food that will spoil quickly or melt. That is, unless you have a fridge or an esky. Then load up on all the Tim Tams your heart desires! Ice can melt quickly even in the esky, so keep food in containers or ziplock bags for items like cheese and meats. Mice and ants also get hungry; your pantry can attract some unwanted visitors in your campervan, so store food in containers to ward them off. Not only is it inconvenient for mice to eat your bread, they could also chew wires and potentially do some serious damage on your vehicle. 

Campervan Cooking Tips

Cooking your own meals and eating on the great open road is one of the best parts of a campervan adventure. Who knew there were so many memories awaiting in such a humble space? Keep on adventuring!