DIY Thanksgiving in an RV

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DIY Thanksgiving in an RV

DIY Thanksgiving in an RV

Cooking can be a challenge any day while full time RVing, but perhaps never more so than on the most important food holiday of the year: Thanksgiving.

Never fear, fellow full timers, here are some DIY tips to make your Thanksgiving on the road the best ever, whether cooking for one, two or a crowd:

  • De-clutter your kitchen. Stash away the toaster, the fruit bowl or any other items that won’t be used on turkey day. Make sure all your dish towels and oven mitts are clean and ready to go.

  • Clean as you go. Wash, dry and put away pots and pans as you finish using them. Even better, use as many disposable baking pans and serving dishes as possible.

  • Clear out your RV refrigerator and freezer before you shop for the big day. Use up that half bottle of BBQ sauce, and eat the last half dozen olives in the jar. Grocery shop lightly in the week or two before Thanksgiving so you don’t have a lot of extras in your freezer.

  • Slide a cooler under your RV (even a Styrofoam one will do) to store anything from your refrigerator that you can’t get rid of but won’t be using on Thanksgiving. This is also a good option for drinks if you are having guests.

  • Downsize your menu. Cook your favorites only. A couple of days ago my 12-year-old daughter said “Do we really need the green bean casserole?” No, we don’t. We just always have it because, well … we always have it. It’s crossed off the menu for this year.

  • Once you’ve decided on your menu must-haves, plan to cook only your best dishes or sentimental favorites yourself. Buy the rest frozen or pre-made from a local market, restaurant, deli or grocery store. Pre-made desserts like pumpkin pie from supermarkets like Publix or Hy-Vee are a good choice. And did you know that Ben & Jerry’s makes a pumpkin cheesecake ice cream?

  • If you have kids or are having people over, consider that you might have to cook two batches of things like potatoes since pans and stove space are limited. Do as much cooking ahead as possible. For a crowd, consider a potluck approach where you supply the drinks and dessert and everyone else brings a dish. If you’re lucky, one or two friends will even volunteer to bring the turkey.

  • If you are going to a potluck, plan on taking a side dish that doesn’t require cooking, like this yummy creamy apple cranberry salad. “Spruced up” cranberry sauce that starts with canned ingredients like this one is also a great no-cook traditional dish.

  • Go store-bought for an easy appetizer to nibble on while you cook. A simple cheese and cracker plate, or apple slices with store-bought caramel dip, make for a light and easy start to your feast.

  • Make side dishes in inexpensive ramekins, especially if you are only cooking for two to four people. Ramekins are single-sized serving dishes that help you easily downsize a big recipe for a small RV oven. You can use your own recipe, or turn to easy recipes like this one for mashed potatoes (it even starts with frozen ingredients), or this one for sweet potato casserole. Either way, each recipe can be adjusted for the number of serving sizes you need, made ahead, and reheated once the turkey is cooked. Stuffing can also be made this way, in perfect serving sizes. And if you really want that green bean casserole, you could make it in a ramekin, too.

  • The turkey is the big kahuna of the day, and probably the most difficult to cook in an RV. Consider buying one pre-cooked, or even (gasp!) foregoing the bird altogether for a nice pre-cooked ham. Other options include grilling your turkey, cutting it into pieces and roasting it in the oven, or even cooking a turkey breast in the crockpot and the browning it on the grill afterward. If you’re feeling really adventurous and have experience with campfire cooking, you could take a chance and try cooking your turkey over an open flame.

  • Go simple when it comes to serving, too. Buy a cheap or disposable festive tablecloth and napkins from the dollar store, and use Thanksgiving-themed paper ware. Eat outside, even if you have to bundle up a little. Decorate sparsely but festively with a wreath on your door, outdoor lights and a few mums.

And if all else fails, arrange to be conveniently near family or friends who will invite you over for Thanksgiving. After all, one of the benefits of full time RVing is that your house on wheels can take you anywhere!

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Jan Childs


Jan Childs

Jan Wesner Childs is a professional writer who travels full time in a fifth wheel bunkhouse with her husband, 12-year-old daughter, 15-year-old son and a cat named Chuey. She’s also a military spouse whose husband recently retired from the Army. They’ve spent the past 26 years living and traveling throughout Asia, Europe and Canada. Now they are rediscovering the U.S. and teaching their kids what it’s like to be American. She’ll be sharing her DIY tips and advice for full time RV’ing as a family. You can also follow their journey on her personal blog at

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