RV Setup 101 - Kitchens #1

From the Lily Pad
RV Lifestyle
My Prime Years
Our Journey

    by Donna B. Yeaw

Okay, you've gone and done it. You've found your dream RV, purchased it and now it's sitting ready and waiting for you to set it up. Where in the world do you start? You have so much stuff - how do you decide what to keep and where to put it?

My preference is to sort through things slowly, moving the keepers into the RV as you make decisions. I know this is not always possible, but to me it takes the least amount of effort and reduces the confusion. Some things will go with you, some you will give to family and friends, others can be put into a storage facility like and what is left can be donations or yard sale items.

I started by taking a notebook and walked through the RV allotting a page to each storage area. Then I tried to envision what I would store in that area. This will probably take a couple of tries as you make revisions. I think what surprised me the most was the actual amount of storage space that is built into most RVs.

KITCHEN SETUP 101 Deciding what to keep is tough and will require some difficult decisions. If you are keeping your house or putting most things into storage, it may be a little easier. You'll have to spend some time discussing your anticipated RV lifestyle. For example:  

  • Do you enjoy cooking?
  • Do you enjoy baking?
  • Do you prefer eating out?
  • Do you grill more than you bake or broil?
  • Do you like to cook complex recipes or do you prefer simple meals?
  • Do you only cook by recipe or are you a "whatever's in the frig" kind of cook?

Answering these and similar questions will help you determine what you need to keep in your RV kitchen. Remember, you still want to enjoy life even if you are simplifying your needs. RV kitchens are notoriously small except in the most luxurious of coaches. There is not a lot of counter space and cabinet space is obviously much more limited than in a house. I think you'll find as I did that it is better to keep those items that can do double duty. In addition you'll want to watch your weight.


Our home dinnerware was the solid, clear glass kind that is often used in restaurants for its durability. We had bought it when we first married over twelve years ago so it didn't break my heart to let it go. Rather than add the weight of stoneware, I thought I was being smart by getting plastic dinnerware (Melmac type). After the first month I hated it. It couldn't be used in the microwave, never mind the oven and it was just generally tacky.

Okay, so the plastic was out. I had always wanted Corelle so that was the next purchase. This kept the weight down, was sturdy and still looked nice. Much better! A lot of folks want to know how many place settings to keep/buy. We opted for four settings initially, enough for us and two guests. We wash dishes after every meal, so there isn't the issue of running out. If we had more company than that, we would either use disposable plates or make it a B.Y.O.P. (bring your own plates) dinner. I moved to a setting for eight when I bought the Corelle since they are light weight.

Silverware was a little different. I bought settings for six, knowing that otherwise we would run out of spoons and knives frequently. We haven't run out so I feel pretty good here. Again, I was sick of the silverware we had, but it wasn't anything to write home about. If you have good silverware, I am sure you will keep it rather than replace it.


You'll still need serving and cooking utensils. I kept my favorite ones and a nice large ceramic pitcher, given to my by my mother, to put them in. Our knives were in a knife block that slid in behind the stove and the back wall. This keeps them handy and stops them from sliding around when we are moving. I have also heard of folks who put dowels in the bottom of the knife block and set them into holes drilled in the counter.

Pans were tough, I loved my pans but they weighed a ton! I opted to buy two sauce pans in lightweight aluminum (with Teflon type coating) and two fry pans. I kept our electric fry pan even though it took up a fair amount of room. We have looked at replacing it with one of the smaller, camping-sized ones, but they are almost as expensive as our larger one.

You'll want an assortment of bowls, but again you will not need the quantity that you have at home. You'll also want measuring spoons and a measuring cup. Coffee mugs and glasses as well - I kept my favorite ones (two sizes of glasses, 8 iced tea size and 4 high ball size) and sold the rest.

I don't bake, so two glass casserole dishes were my concession here. One is square and one is round - they are multi-purpose. We did keep two platters but find we only use one and could actually get by using a dinner plate. If you bake, you'll definitely want to keep your favorite bakeware, once again remembering the multi-purpose rule!

By the way, this is one area where we are definitely spoiled. Our motorhome has a gas grill built into the side. All we have to do is slide it out, hook up to the propane and grill away! no muss, no fuss.


We lucked out with the coffeemaker as well, it sits to the left of the sink in the corner by the door. The rubber feet keep it from moving easily. We have a built-in blender beside that. The blender goes under the dinette seat and my little sugar bowl drops right into the slot! The only thing I have to do when traveling is turn the lid upside down to keep it from rattling so much.

Speaking of rattling, be careful how you place your mugs and glasses. If they're touching, the rattling will drive you nuts if you're in a motorhome. I also use small pieces of anti-slip liner between bowls and plates. A cheaper solution was handed to me when I bought my dinnerware. The cashier used disposable shop towels - like very heavy paper towels but softer - to wrap the dishes. I saved them all and stored them under our dinette cushion (great for keeping things flat). Now I put them between the plates and bowls while moving.

Unfortunately even with the shop towels it is possible for glasses, mugs or small appliances to break. If you happen to hit the breaks too quickly and you do break a small appliance fix it instead of replacing it. This will save you money and you can get the parts delivered overnight using partselect. When you are on the road you don't want to have to waste time waiting on a shipping part.

My crockpot has been a joy to have. It's nice to put something on early and forget it. There is the added bonus of no heat output. We recently added a George Foreman Grilling Machine at the recommendation of several other RVers. We haven't used it yet, but I promise to let you know what I think when we do.

We didn't have to worry about a toaster since the motorhome already had a Black & Decker under-cabinet one that worked well. Otherwise, a toaster would be a must for us - we love both toast and bagels.

You may still want to keep things like an electric can opener (I detest them - still using a hand crank one that I love), an electric mixer, etc.


Some RVers like to buy a stove topper that doubles as a cutting board. We considered this, for one thing it keeps the stove quieter when traveling. My biggest concern was where I would put the darned thing when I was cooking! So far, I have done fine without it - the dining table gives me lots of added counter space. I use an inexpensive plastic cutting board - $2 at the local Dollar Store (more about other uses for this cutting board later).

As I sorted through my many kitchen cabinets, I found a lot of things that I hadn't used in years. These were easy to sort out - unless they were heirlooms. Then I tried to envision how I could use them in other ways. I have an antique Ball jar that now doubles as a vase. My copper pot sits by the door to collect change (great for Laundromat quarters).

The next article will complete our kitchen setup including pantry storage and in future articles we'll cover the main living area, the bedroom and bathroom and finally the outside storage areas (and basements, too). Until then, keep on rolling!

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