Van Life Essentials, Kitchen Edition

(the best curated kitchen accessories for van life and minimal living)

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Before embarking on our trip, we very carefully selected a few key items to help simplify our cooking situation. We feel that most kitchen utensils should either be multi-function or used daily. Kitchens are often a source of excess clutter, and we wanted to avoid that. With that idea in mind, check out some of the favorite things that we use every day in our tidy little kitchen.

The Spoonula:

And why do we love it? This is the humble spatula, perfected. A classic shape takes care of all your flipping and stirring needs, rounded sides match the curve of your pan, and a flat edge is perfect for scraping your skillet clean. It is slightly dished, helping it double as a serving utensil, and it is made of heat-resistant silicone that can take the heat of your kitchen. Lastly, it’s not too stiff yet not too bendy. Pure spatula perfection! It’s our only serving/spatula utensil in the van. No wonder it won the America’s Test Kitchen Shootout. (Also available, the Spoonula XL)


A squeaky clean fry pan after cooking a stir fry.

A squeaky clean fry pan after cooking a stir fry.

We aim to cook meals that minimize the mess (think stir frys and bowls), so having a really good non-stick pan is a no brainer. Combined with the spoonula, we scrape our skillet clean and barely have to do any clean up! That crazy thing is, we spent so much of our lives making due with an old pan with a peeling coating - do your self a favor and get a new one! We did and we’re loving it every day. We’ve been having great success with this Calaphon 10” Fry Pan but also check out this great one from Tramontina.


A compact, 12-cup coffee maker:

After some trial and error, we decided to find a normal drip coffee maker for the van, rather than the extra cleaning effort required for french press. We scoured the internet high and low, searching for a full sized drip machine with the smallest footprint (=more available cabinet space), and this unit from Black and Decker fit the bill! It has has an insulated stainless steel carafe so we don’t have to worry about broken glass in the van, it has a timer so we can set it for early morning alpine starts, and it makes great coffee!


Hydro Flask 32 oz with Flip Lid

We’ve used the same Hydro Flasks as our coffee mugs for over 2 years and they are still going strong. The vessels keep our coffee hot for hours, they’re durable, and the flip lids are leak-proof and convenient. Although a little pricey upfront, the lifespan more than justifies the cost!


Steamed acorn squash in 5 minutes!

Steamed acorn squash in 5 minutes!

The Instant Pot

Pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, veggie steamer, pasta boiler, stock pot, etc. The instant pot is all of these things for us and more! We use it almost daily to cook rice/quinoa, steam veggies, to saute, to boil - in short, it is a second stove top for us that has invaluable versatility. We picked up the smaller 3 quart size which is perfect for the two of us and also saves on storage space. When we move back into a house, we will definitely use a 6 quart for meal prepping! Oh, and don’t forget to pick up the glass lid too!


Norwex Kitchen Towels

This microfiber towels have two specific properties that make them stand out (and justify the extra cost!). The fiber size they use is especially small, which increases the absorbency and ability to remove bacteria when wiping up surfaces. Additionally the material has strong antimicrobial properties, allowing the towels to self cleanse in a 24 hour period. Just use, rinse, and hang dry!


Silicone Wine Glasses

We try and minimize the amount of glass in the van, and we love a good glass of wine, so these are perfect for us! The silicone material is perfect - the glasses are sturdy enough to hold up in the hand, and they don’t absorb flavor. They’re unbreakable. In short, they are perfect for swirling a nice malbec while playing banagrams in the van. (These were originally a Christmas present from Angela - thanks!)


Magnetic Spice Rack

Spices are nice, but organization is better! Get the best of both worlds with these slick magnetic spice tins. We moved our “spice rack” to the underside of our kitchen pantry to gain some space. We were a little worried that the magnets would not be strong enough to hold up while driving over bumpy roads, but after thousands of miles, we haven’t had a mishap! These could easily go on the side or your fridge, or on the side of a cabinet if you add the magnetic base plates, and they add some brilliant organizational flare to any kitchen!


Perfect Trash Can for Sprinter Vans

We bought this trash can because it fit perfectly in the space between our kitchen and the driver’s seat. It’s the perfect size (2.6 gallons or 10 liters) so our bags of refuse fit just fine in the garbage can of any gas station or grocery store. It has a lid to keep the stink down, and the simplehuman liners fit it perfectly. Quite simply, it just plain works great! It will also work great for any bathroom or bedroom in the future.


The Folding Camp Table

This is the table we use for van life and it is just perfect for us. It’s sturdy, lightweight, foldable, portable, and affordable. We typically use it for eating dinner and playing bananagrams!